It is interesting what happens when you not only document your life, but go back and revisit it.
For awhile now I’ve been toying with the idea of writing companion blog posts to compliment by Secret Message Society Zine. This came to me when I was doing an Instagram Live and sharing some of my very first zines ever created. I realized that even years later, I could look at an image or a grouping of words that I had documented in my zine and feel their impact and revisit that moment in my past life that had once begged for such an artful expression.
I also saw in my early zines my desire to share stories around the secret messages I had captured. The early zines are heavy with written stories, but as my zine making has progressed, I’ve gotten away from telling all the stories in exchange for keeping the zine more visual and simple.
As I was mowing my lawn last weekend, I had the thought that some of my blog posts and my zine could be complimentary. The vision I had was of me as a child reading the books which were accompanied with a cassette tape where a narrator read the the story. As I would come to the end of a page, there would be an audio cue that it was time to turn the page. This was the beginning of my love of reading. My favorite memory is when my mom and I made our own cassette tape, featuring the poems of Shel Silverstein in Where the Sidewalk Ends. She read the poems and I made the audio cues to turn the page, with my set of little instruments I stored inside a plastic red drum.
What if my zine could be flipped through in a similar fashion, while reading my blog? An image in the blog post could be searched for in the zine. Secret Message Society Members could flip through the zine like an eye-spy book, and once found, the blog post could be read to further the discussion and offer more developed or alternative interpretations of the secret message.
I quite like the sound of that, so I am going to give it a go.
This also allows me the enjoyment of flipping back through a zine and seeing how I have lived my way into the secret messages. How have they come to fruition? How have they morphed? How have they expanded or propelled me forward or altered my reality? How have they grown me, bolstered me, enlivened me?
Because here’s the thing, they have. They most certainly have. And I never get to publicly speak to the impact my secret message gathering has on the layers of my life because I am onto making the next zine. All the while, I am invisibly, internally changing because of my super sleuth groundwork.
As I flip back through the current zine (you can still purchase it here through April 14) I see a few things that instantly stand out to me. One is the pattern drawing my son did. One day as I was leaving school I saw my son sitting in a line of students in the hallway all waiting on their school buses to show up. He was drawing these intricate line-by-line patterns and I asked him if I could scan it and include it in my zine. It wasn’t until I went to scan the piece that I saw his notation: *Patience on a piece of paper.” Patience as he waited for his bus to show up. I thought of how the artwork drew me in because of how intricate the piece looked in its entirety, but I realized how much time he had spent filling in line after line with marks. The piece was made over several periods of returning to the work. Otherwise known as several periods of waiting.
One morning this week I was trying to fix my broken dryer, when I said out loud to myself, “You always feel rushed because you don’t have patience to see a thing through and give it the time it asks. You don’t give things their proper time allotment. You squeeze them into tiny spaces and demand they fit. You long for patience. That’s what you want. That’s what I want to give you.”
So when I opened the zine today and saw that, and saw my son's handwriting, I thought, “Would you just look at how that theme is continuing in my life? I am still inhaling and exhaling and trying to walk instead of sprint through my life. And here is the very secret message that probably put it into motion. Patience has come up in my life before, but this is a new perspective on it, and I can feel it changing me.
Secondly, there is an image I drew of a third grade teacher I get to work with. She says some pretty incredible things, and one day I wrote down this quote she said about magic tricks. Since magic spells are something I believe in (see my Book of Spells), her use of that phrase intrigued me. Much later, after the zine had been printed, she was in my classroom one day and it dawned on me that I actually had a copy of the zine in my purse. I debated whether I should show it to her because I am never sure if people will be offended of my drawings of them. My people drawings are often a little wonky perspectively (which I tend to like), but I never want anyone to think I purposely drew them oddly. I decided it was worth the risk because I wanted her to know her words mattered to me enough to document them, and I decided the image wasn’t too bad.
I am so glad I was vulnerable and shared it with her. She was very touched, and asked if she could keep my zine. She’d had a rough morning, and she said she needed that - to know that how she was teaching and what she was saying mattered to someone. I told her I felt the same way when I heard her say those words in class one day. I needed her words. They were a sigh of relief that I could be human and spent and fresh out of magic to give. She helped me realize a depleted magician is still a magician. (A relief since I often feel depleted.)
Thirdly, I ended up writing a little about Mr. Roger’s Land of Make Believe in my Make Belief eCourse, and it was so nice to have the image of the trolley to include because I had drawn it in my zine. The Land of Make Believe is a portal I seem to return to cyclically, and so it felt so good to draw the different characters and reminisce on the magic of being a kid and getting to go into Mr. Roger’s Imagine Nation with him. The Land of Make Believe was my favorite part of his show. My first memory of Mr. Rogers was having my half-brother enter our home singing the Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood theme song complete with snaps:
Using my artist as magician skills and drawing and coloring the characters in my zine only solidified the impact and possibilities this fictional realm has for me, (plus it was fun!) It made the connection less airy and more grounded into my real world. Documenting a secret message is like saying, “Something here matters. Permission to stay awhile and revisit whenever necessary.”
It’s why I made the beginnings of a portal map in my zine. Think about which portals (fictional realms) you like to visit again and again.
One final thing, when I cut out the letters for the centerfold, I saved the scraps and ended up orchestrating them into nearly every page of the zine. (Secret Message Society Members, see if you can find the black scraps on each page.)
I put several of them on the page with the quote from The Night Circus about the pieces fitting, because, pun intended, that seemed fitting. It was pleasing to find that all of the scraps had a place to fit in the zine. That trusting my intuition (following the white rabbit) to take the time to cut out all those letters for the centerfold now suddenly made complete sense because of how those pieces tied in with the entire zine. The zine felt complete. There is always something, each month, that makes my zine feel complete. This month it was the black pieces all finding their place to belong.
Thanks for reading the stories behind my zine. If you want to receive the zine, you can become a member here.