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December 02, 2014

Where Did Art Start For You? - Melanie Ray, Storyteller

In the days leading up to GivingTuesday on December 2, 2014, we are sharing stories from artists in the ArtStarts community. We asked them, "Where did art start for you?" It's a question that asks us to reflect on our own lives in order to see where along our journey our passion for the arts was sparked.

What is GivingTuesday?

GivingTuesday is a movement for giving and volunteering that takes place this year on December 2, 2014. Taking place each year right after Black Friday and Cyber Monday, GivingTuesday is proof that the holiday season can be about both giving and giving back. GivingTuesday is the perfect time for the world to come together and show how powerful humanity can be when we unite to give on one day.


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Read storyteller Melanie Ray's memories below and share your own story at

Where did art start for you?

For as far back as I can remember, my father would take us for drives on Sundays. He worked during the week, and I think it was to give his mother a break. He and my own mum divorced when I was very small - less than five years old. I have few memories of that time. This one might be a third of my entire collection.

I am in a car, kneeling on the backseat, looking out the rear window. What I see now in my mind’s eye is the narrow, round-edged horizontal bar of light that is the outdoors bumping along beyond the glass, surrounded by darkness - my vague impression of the car’s darker interior. My sister was there - on my right side. She and my Dad both tell me now that it must have been the old black Austin, which I liked for the little amber plastic arrows that popped out of the left or right side of the car whenever Daddy made a turn.

What we saw outside through the rear window jumped about some, because we were on a dirt road.  Daddy liked to get out of the city. I felt happy, not that I’d have known as much then, but the memory radiates a wordless content.

I am aware of Ariel beside me and Daddy behind us at the wheel as parts of what I am in, but the moving scene out the window has most all of my attention. I know it has my sister's too; we are not giggling at all for a change. We are both fascinated by the endless stream of trees, poles, fences, rocks and dust whizzing into view either side of the narrow road, then never quite ceasing to go slower and slower, get smaller and smaller, blurring in the distance, leaving us behind, motionless on the backseat. As I watch this stream, it gradually comes to a halt as Daddy slows down; then it slews to one side as he turns the car at right angles to the road we were on.

The whole window is now filled with a small waterfall on the other side of the narrow road. I see clearly for a moment the water tumbling over and under mossy logs and grey rocks and tall ferns, splashing at last into a ditch. The various greens, the sound (could I actually hear the water falling?) are so pretty, the shadows, the sparkles of water, the shape of it all framed in the window. It makes my heart big. And then it too starts to recede, as all the rest had, but because it faces our car squarely on, or because I am only looking at it now and not the dust billows and telegraph poles to either side of us, it just gets smaller and smaller at the end of a lengthening ribbon of road. The details dissolve into a green sparkly shape that holds the memory of what I saw in that first moment, love rising and rising in me as I looked. The love included my sister;s own pleasure in that waterfall. We shared it without a word.

But words rose in my mind unbidden, steeped in an intense clarity. "I must tell someone!" Not my sister, or my Dad. Someone Else. Someone Not There. I wanted to find a way to re-create that rear window vision so the “someone” would feel exactly what I’d felt,  the pleasure of eye and heart, in movement, in green light and shadow, in water hitting stone and wood. The feeling grew in strength as the waterfall grew smaller. Everything in the car seemed a bit far away, muffled, soft, as the water sounds had been soft.

Like a taste in my mouth it was, that longing to tell someone - a longing as compelling as loss, but without the pain.

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