Sunday, November 28, 2010

Into December

Dear Ellen
It's the end of November. A year ago you had a brain bleed which took away the Ellen I knew. The tumors were growing rapidly, unchecked by the chemotherapy which had kept them at bay. This was the beginning of the end. I've anticipated this coming time for several months, knowing it would be difficult, knowing the memories would turn dark, knowing I can't escape the emotions. No matter how many walls of defense I've managed to build over the past months I know these next weeks will shake my foundations.

I think of you and what you had to experience and endure. I will never be able to comprehend the emotions you must have felt, knowing you were dying. I watched the changes in your personality, watched you deal with the confusion over the changes in your physical condition and witnessed your acceptance of each. I watched you slip away from me as I struggled to care for you, as I struggled to find the same acceptance in losing you. Each day brought another change in your condition, each hour brought another challenge in simply adapting to what was happening. No matter my will to protect you, no matter my struggle to keep you safe and comforted, I was going to lose you.

I felt so helpless.

Perhaps this is what I still struggle with the most. I couldn't save you.

Such a simple statement to contain such a mountain of emotions to unravel. Where do I begin? Where will December take me?


Sunday, November 21, 2010


Dear Ellen

I am finally home again, safe and sound, now rested, now happy to be back in the routine of simpler things. The show in Philadelphia was a success in many ways, but the connection to friends and the interaction with people seems to be most important to me in these past few shows. I find the messages in these conversations are always just exactly what I'm needing to hear and the emotional connection so beautiful. It's almost as though I sit and wait for it to walk in, expecting it, knowing there will be someone who will share something amazing with me at some point.

Sure enough, the messinger arrived.

A man walked into my booth and looked carefully at each piece of art, leaving and then returning some time later to make a selection. He chose a piece and as we completed the transaction he told me he was touched by my work and was giving the art as a gift to his five year old daughter. He then shared he had terminal cancer. We spoke for just a few moments, but the connection was genuine and touching. There was an understanding communicated through my work to him and through his vulnerable conversation to me. I thought that was the "gem" I'd been anticipating.

I returned home and although happy to be in familiar surroundings I felt somewhat lost, the result of traveling a 100 miles an hour for the past month and then stopping abruptly at the end of the journey. In a funk, I went to the studio to pick up my mail, expecting to find a stack of bills. Instead I found a letter from the man I had spoken with. The envelope contained a wonderful little drawing by his daughter and a poem he had written for me. I found myself dropping into a chair to cry. This man who I had never met had been moved enough by my work to write this beautiful poem. What an amazing gift from a complete stranger. The poem is focused on a small sculpture I had done of a feminine figure hanging upside down by wires, encased in translucent cloth and representing a cocoon, a chrysalis. The title of the piece was "Transformed" and this is his poem:

Star toed, she hangs,
The porcelain pendulum of a chrysalis,
Defying the shell of her spent vessel.

Woven memory,
Love fed new life.
Shadow partnered,
Each movement,
A dance step echoed.
The choreopgraphy,
The serendipity of lives shared.
One so close, another name not needed,
Halves merged without the vestige of separation.
Hear the wings of gossamer unfolding.

Over the many years I have been doing shows as an artist I've had wonderful encounters with people, but never have I been so touched and humbled by such a sweet gesture. It reminds me, again, of what's important. You taught me this lesson through your life and within our relationship to each other. It's the human connection, the threads which bind us to one another, making us whole and truly alive, which live on when we leave this world for another. What a beautiful gift in such simplicity.

So, I turn toward December and the month which holds too many memories.

And I carry these threads as my shield.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Dear Ellen
It's been too long since I've written. I've been working a lot, every day since I returned from Kansas City, trying to produce art for the show in Philadelphia. I'm really not sure how I managed to pull off getting it all together, but the truck is packed to the roof with a body of work created in just over 30 days. I'm on my way, another adventure in front of me, the last show of the year.

My work is changing. For months the pain of losing you came through my hands and into the art. It wasn't pretty, but it was powerful and emotional and it helped me heal. As I worked my way through the summer the work became less about the loss and more about the transitions I was going through. Now I think my work is a statement about who I am and who I want to become. I can't fully appreciate or see these changes in myself, but I can see it in my work. Somewhere along the way I found a determination and resolve I didn't realize I had.

So I'm looking forward to taking this show on the road. I anticipate another interesting and educational experience which will come from the most unexpected source possible. Someone at the show will remind me I know nothing about anything and someone will provide me with an amazing moment of insight. It may come from the same person and it may come in the same sentence and if I'm lucky I'll be paying attention and not miss any of it. In the meantime, this is what I've learned this past month. I'm not fighting to hold on to parts of myself I no longer need. I'm finding a balance between resolve and acceptance and the possiblilties of keeping my eyes open.

It's going to be an interesting trip to Philly.