Carved Out

Originally published in The Other Journal, October 2018

The day after my ex-husband and I separated, I came home and saw all the empty spaces where we used to share life—the matching desks now parted, the picture removed from the wall revealing the marks where the nails didn’t find the stud. In that moment, I realized how tangible my divorce would be. I realized that divorce would physically reshape my life. I began to rearrange every last piece of furniture. At one point, I had a living room of only chairs. I began going through the closets, attempting to evict one-by-one the ghosts of our collective life. I pulled down a box of printmaking materials I had not touched since college. I had always intended to return to a creative practice, and for many birthdays my ex-husband gifted me with paper and blocks as encouragement. But it wasn’t until I found this box all these years later that I picked up a carving tool. Retrospect taught me the similarities between my life feeling carved out and the visceral carving of block.

Each block became a new marking of time, a new marking of my acceptance or resistance. As my life was reshaped, I also became the arbiter of each block’s space. The blocks offered me spaces I could fill with my own meaning. I made loose sketches on paper, repeating them even more loosely on the blocks. As I carved, I cared less about perfection than about the satisfaction of the sharp tool meeting the soft linoleum. The tools dulled; they skipped and cut unevenly. I sharpened them and tried again. The mistakes are a part of the process.

My friend, who I once labeled the patron saint to all those divorcing, would remind me that at times you have to move your body, carry it with you, and keep going. You find practices in your life that you can use to create meaning, and you trust that a new life is being built in the midst of the one that is falling apart. Making these prints was my way of trying to live in that tension. I did not labor to create sketch after sketch after sketch to get a carefully crafted image. Each print became an act of living in the present moment, an attempt to continue with rather than in spite of those carved out spaces.