|My Africa, acrylic, burlap, canvas - ©2006 Anne Jenkins|
When I was a small child in Africa I had an imaginary friend. I used to potter around having these very earnest conversations with her. I have no idea what her name was or if she even had one.
My godmother, a tough, funny lady from Yorkshire, was fascinated by this invisible friend. I would toddle around our two acres of garden and then off in to the woods chatting away to my imaginary friend and hardly aware of the entourage traipsing along behind me. Close to my heels was my dog, and whenever she visited, my godmother tiptoed close by, chortling happily. Ambrose, our night watchman, who had a special place in his heart for me, followed behind. He wasn’t instructed to, he just guarded me fiercely, nothing untoward would ever happen to his “nkosianne.”
When I grew older my family slowly forgot about my imaginary friend. Ambrose never wavered in his devotion. When I announced I was to be married, he traveled miles to come and inspect the husband to be while I visited home one weekend. He didn’t wax lyrical with enthusiasm. Perhaps I should have taken note, the marriage didn’t last.
Ambrose is no longer with us, hamba kahle my faithful Ambrose, but I am sure he is still guarding me in spirit, and no doubt shaking his head often.
But, I still talk to my imaginary friend. Only now I realize she is my muse. And I suppose she always was - she gave me more than fellowship as a tiny tot. She offered advice when I was going to be the world’s greatest ballerina at age eight, “why not?” and then as I kept growing taller and taller, She muttered, “Well, perhaps not.” She encouraged me to draw and experiment with colour, and slyly “do not keep inside the lines.” She practically held the pen and said “Write, damn it!” as I dithered over whether I could weave words together.
Muses are different things to different people. Some have real people or countries or cities. I have a non-existent friend/muse in my head. Thank goodness. It’s good to have someone else to argue with in your head, than just yourself. Maybe sometimes we have the good angel/bad angel thing going. Note to self, let the good angel win more often.
I don’t know if all creative people do this, but I can have long periods of what looks like inertia. I look as though I am doing nothing. But I am actually thinking a process through, or trying to work out how to do something, or what to do. Or I disappear in to fantasy land to see how it will all end up, or how I’d like it to end up.
All this in the mind experimentation is too much for one person, so an imaginary friend/muse is just what is needed. I’m glad I have had mine for so long.