Art and the Orphan Archetype
The orphan archetype is one commonly found in artists. It’s because we don’t quite fit in that we are able to fulfill our role of witness, observer, and transformer. If we were truly one with the family or tribe, we would never be brave enough to say what we do. We stand back with the view of the partially disengaged in order to do what we do best – transform life into art..
One place I feel particularly separated from the center is in my role as stepparent. A division always exists within this dynamic. Below is a poem I wrote about this feeling. It arose from when my husband called me from the bedroom to show me some pictures he had hung. These many pictures of his children, year after year, were right outside our bedroom door. There on the wall was a shrine to his children (read as, “not mine”), with no other images. I was so struck by the solidity of all the images, and how I had given up the dream of having my own children.
You don’t have to be stepparent to relate to feeling “cut out” of life in some way. It happens to all of us.
“Pictures on the Wall”
Silly grins of youth immortalized
Alluding to what they may become
All the while serving as shrine and reminder
to what I would not become-mother.
The shrine, in my mind, pulses with life.
It frightens me-
Growing, growing each year as if it
has no desire to stop consuming.
The shrine sits along the wall of bedroom openings
“Mine” on one side
“Theirs”, of course, on the other.
Shrine to his productive capabilities
Where am I?
They speak to me.
Squinty-eyed, they watch me.
While I stand aside,
and I can’t answer “Why”
The rectangular borders disturb me.
I want to dis-configure them. Take them out
I wonder if this would help them understand my
pain at a life that did not fit within the borders.
Rectangles are so solid, firm, and un-forgiving.
Oval frames would have been a better choice, I think.
Rectangles provide too much mass, weight, and posterity
for things that truly only lasted but one moment.
The moment was etched into eternity long ago.
The umbilical cord marked the line in the sand.
They were on their side and I was on mine.
Every shrine shall have its say. On the plaque,
I will scribe, “Here lies this shrine, telling only
half the story.”
I hope this poem is not to depressing of a take on stepparenting. I love being a stepparent, but it can make one feel left alone on the outside looking in. This is what I felt as I looked at those images of my sweet stepkids. We can lie to others, we may be able to lie to ourselves at time, but art always allows the orphan to tell his or her half of the story.