The Impossibles (A Memory)

There was one piece of art that I remember so vividly that it feels like a ghost.

First I drew the landscapes. I was obsessed with categorizing landscapes—plateau, prairie, tundra, mountain, swamp, tropical and deciduous forest.

The picture I remember best from the set was a jungle with tall, slim-trunked trees and a pillowy green canopy. It was all in crayon. The landscape was the background and the foreground were the Impossibles.

The animals I created to populate the jungle—and the desert and the flood plains and the rest of it—weren’t real and they weren’t collages of different animals. No ligers, no wholphins. They were improvised, shaped by instinct. Lots of intention behind the shape and color, but not a single thought given to biological function or practical probability. In fact, the more improbable the animal was, the more powerful I felt in creating it, in snipping it free from the paper I’d drawn it on, in taping it in place on the jungle I’d created.

What was intoxicating wasn’t the idea that I can create the world, or I can create life. It was this: I can create something that never was before. I remember how frightened I was of the depth of emotion I’d uncovered in drawing the things. I magneted the pictures to the fridge and then found excuses to pass through the kitchen and reexamine what I’d created. I was hypnotized. I couldn’t stay away.

I can do this for the rest of my life, I thought. I can do this forever and be happy.