Prompt #101 of The Isolation Journals - Beauty Hunting
Raven was asked to be a part of The Isolation Journals by her dear friend and creator, Suleika. The Isolation Journals began during the coronavirus pandemic, and from their community of 100,000 participants. Each week they send out a journaling prompt from some of the world’s most renowned writers, celebrated artists, inspiring community leaders and unsung heroes. A few of their contributors include Maggie Rogers, Rachel Cargle, Jon Batiste and Elizabeth Gilbert. Raven has thoroughly enjoyed following the prompts throughout this time and was honored to be featured in this past week's journal. View her prompt below and on The Isolation Journals here. Feel free to also view Suleika's book Between Two Kingdoms available for pre-order here.
A few years ago, someone I loved was struggling with addiction, and I found myself reckoning with my own deeply ingrained pattern of codependency. It was a turning point in my life. People say that beauty can come from the darkest places, but when you’re in a dark place, making something beautiful can feel impossible. How do you even start?
I began with a simple practice of going into my studio, thinking about how I felt, and playing. I started with color, choosing ones that matched my emotional palette for the day. As I put paint to the surface, loosely weaving the colors together, I found myself somewhat unconsciously constructing a nest. Yes, I know—with a name like Raven, it seems too obvious. Yet the symbol of a nest has grown to mean so much to me through this process. It’s such a perfect representation of life—messy but beautiful. One painting turned into a series, then the series turned into a storybook for children.
Since then, other objects have taken on meaning and helped me in difficult moments. Just this morning, I came across a new one. I was out for a walk with my scruffy rescue pup, Willie, and I was feeling anxious and a little trapped. I’m an extrovert several months into quarantine, and as I wandered, I was actively asking myself, “Am I in a funk?” I kept on, avoiding the talking trap of the grey-haired man who sits on his porch smoking cigarettes.
I came to the white house with big white columns, the one with the overgrown front garden. I stopped to stare at the lily pond, flowers blooming from an old moss-covered fountain. I wanted to peek through the foliage; I wanted to magnify it, to spread it with two fingers like a static image on a screen, to get a glimpse inside the flowers.
At that moment, a man came down the stairs, and I burst out eagerly, “Excuse me, sir! Can I take a closer look at your fountain and flowers?” I could tell he wanted to say no, but he reluctantly agreed. I opened the hip-high iron gate, and Willie and I stepped into the garden. The lily, which burst from the thick water between leaves the size of watermelons, was so heavy it was leaning over. I bent down to take a closer look and I noticed the petals were like tissue paper, soft and pink, the light behind them revealing how delicate they were. The wiry yellow stamens looked like tentacles surrounding the stigma, like an inverted cone, so strangely flat. This shape probably inspired some sci-fi character, I thought to myself. I was taking it all in, getting lost in the flower, getting lost in thought, getting lost in myself.
It was then I noticed the feeling in my chest—the tightness, the feeling of being trapped, of maybe being depressed—had eased. It felt like I’d opened up.
Think about the last time you looked at something and noticed a change within—studying a painting, an animal, a flower, a piece of fruit, what you saw through a window. Write about what you saw, and what you felt shift.
You can repeat this practice of paying attention, noticing an object, and seeing what it helps you see—maybe daily for the rest of the week.