When I was a little girl, I remember my dad spent much of his time at home in his office, which we all called his den. My father was creative, and he had many artistic and creative pursuits. He liked to write, he wrote some short stories, he had a love for languages and I remember him teaching himself French. He loved all types of music, playing guitar, singing in the Ukrainian Millennium Choir, and he liked to draw and watercolor paint and of course build things in his workshop.
In his den were bookshelves filled with books about art and writing, ancient Egypt and the one book that would always catch my eye because it had a bright red dust jacket - his old dictionary. I used to hang out with my dad in his den all the time. I don't think a day went by from kindergarten to college that I didn't visit my dad's den, plopping myself down in the big cushy chair next to his desk, or in the small sofa behind where he sat, just hanging out and talking about this and that. But it never was small talk.
He would always be working on some type of project, and our conversations would often start with him telling me some random but interesting fact about something in history, or something about a famous artist, or how a certain hue of a certain color got its name. There was so much inside of those four small walls, it was like he was so many lives in one. That's how I think of people who do a lot, people who have great varied interests and a great quest for learning things. Those kinds of people are truly living their lives, and it's almost as if they are fitting the interests of many different lives into their one single span of time here on earth.
I don't know how some people could not have any interests. That's what makes life, well, interesting. But maybe it was just the way I was brought up. Dad's life style of learning, and his love for the humanities sure rubbed off on me. I think tomorrow will be 16 years that he is gone. Time sure flies. After my father died, my mom cleaned out some of the things in dad's den and had some stacks of books set aside for me to look through to see if I wanted any. She had picked out his art books for me and asked if I wanted anything else. I took the dictionary with the red dust jacket. I remember how he used to say to me, "Laura reach over and hand me my red dictionary," and now looking back, it seems like we pulled it out of that bookcase 100 times to look up this or that. I treasure it.
But what use is a dictionary now? In this age of the Internet we literally have everything at our fingertips, and checking the spelling of a word is only a few keystrokes away. So when the day came that I wanted to try out creating some book page art, I knew that inside the pages of my father's dictionary would be the perfect place to create and keep my art. I can sketch and draw on the pages and then one day, I can pass it down to my own daughters. Maybe one day they will add their own mark to it too, and then pass it down to their own son or daughter.
There is a certain magic in my red dictionary. Filled with words about everything that fills our world, it lived for years surrounded with books about all the things I love, and all the things that stir my passion to create.
And swirled within the space of those four walls, where stories were written, music played, and languages discovered, it now offers itself to me as a canvas - but not a blank one, bare and untouched, but a lush and joyful, spirited palette that with it's smooth pages offer me the memories of each lesson taught and story told by my father. And when I smooth down a page with my hand and touch my pen to the page's surface, through me flows the confidence and joy to create, and within that, I am absolute.