If someone had told me 28 years ago that my life would revolve around sock monkeys, I would have thought they had confused me with someone else.
I mean, really! As a child, I didn't even play with dolls. Lifting the lid on my childhood toy chest would have revealed, among other things, Lincoln Logs, Pick-Up Sticks, and Cecil the Seasick Sea Serpent. There were board games, books, and tools for creative play, but not a sock monkey in sight.
So, what changed?When I was 35, my mom passed away, and our father sold our childhood home.
As we packed up the house, I found mom's sock monkey in an old cedar chest. He was well-loved and somewhat worn, but I was taken with his engaging grin. So, my family decided that both he and the cedar chest should go home with me.
And, so they did.
I placed the chest at the foot of my bed, and there it sat, unopened, for several years.
One day, as I was deciding what items to gather for a still-life painting competition, I remembered Mom's sock monkey. "Wouldn't it be fun to create a nostalgic tribute to Mom?" I grinned and promptly liberated the monkey from the chest.
Something magical happened when I started to paint the first sock monkey painting. I felt I was channeling Mom's love into the artwork during each painting session. Then, after I finished the first painting, I realized that there were many more paintings, and even more love, just waiting to emerge. It was such a great way to transmute grief into joy.
Have you ever played basketball? If so, you'll know that there are times when you flip your wrist, and as the ball leaves your hands, you just know it's going to land in the basket.
You just know.That's how I felt after completing the first sock monkey painting, so I kept painting! Over 46 images emerged. The entire experience was a beautiful way to transmute my grief into joy.
I love that this experience echoes Mom's actual sock monkey. It's a bit discolored, missing a pom-pom, and some limbs are hanging by a thread. That monkey has seen a lot of life and is still smiling after all these years.
I'll admit that I struggled a bit when I first birthed this series. I was an emerging artist trying hard to be a "serious" painter. And in my mind, serious painters did not paint pictures of sock monkeys. But I persevered as I found that this silly subject brought so much joy and wisdom to my life. They kept me from taking myself so seriously.
Okay, well, most of the time.
From the beginning, I had a Sock Monkey Oracle card deck in mind for each painting. Each card was painted around a state of being. But it would take many years before the words would come.
The pandemic was the catalyst for finishing the deck. During the California lockdown, I had two one-woman shows hanging in galleries. Yet, few saw my work as the galleries closed soon after the artwork was hung. I felt that the forced closure of the galleries was a major course correction from the Universe.
Major!I took a good hard look at my creative work to discern my next course of action, and I was immediately compelled to finish the Sock Monkey Oracle card deck. The text came tumbling out, and the graphic design soon followed. The resulting body of work is a deck that is doubly infused with love, both from the artwork and the text.
The entire experience changed the way I view sock monkeys. The journey showed me that they are no longer just a toy for children to enjoy. Sock monkeys are trusted mentors and friends. They are reminders to be flexible and that guidance can come from anywhere if I just pay attention. And finally, sock monkeys help me remember to listen. Sock monkeys are great listeners.
So maybe you are like me, and you did not have a sock monkey in your toybox. Or perhaps you came to know sock monkeys later in life. Or maybe, just maybe, you have an incredible sock monkey story of your own to share.
I hope you open the box and immediately feel the nostalgia and start something magical. May spending time with the Sock Monkey Oracle inspire you to bring play, joy, and love into your life and share it with others.
Watch Shannon's interview with founder, Brian Westley Johnson, on his show, Soulivity Weekend!