Program(me) Notes

 

The program in which I share about Vernon’s connection to Waterloo Sunset was broadcast in the UK on Wednesday and is available to everyone online now. If you have a free half hour, please take the time to listen. Here is the link.

I didn’t know what to expect really. I knew a few other people would be sharing their thoughts on the same song, Waterloo Sunset, but I could barely remember what I had said that day.  I knew the producer would make it all make sense somehow, and she did a wonderful job, weaving the stories with one musical thread. Each story was interesting and touching in its own way. It was an honor to be part of such a beautiful show, and I loved how it came out.

Something remarkable seemed to happen when I realized that Vernon’s story had been released over his home island. (And he was singing too! Did he ever think in a million years he would be singing out loud, let alone on the BBC?)  It was a new sprinkling of the ashes, so to speak—a way of returning Vernon to the place from which he came, but in story and in song, for others’ ears to hear. It was as if it was no longer my story but something else—something different, told in a way that I could not have done alone. The homing pigeon returns. There was a new feeling of release for me, which filled me with an odd feeling that I can’t escape today. I suppose, other than this blog, and the speaking engagements I’ve had, I knew his story had reached a greater audience—but they weren’t an audience I could see. I just have to trust it went where it needed to go. I received some lovely notes on here and on Facebook from British strangers, who were moved by Vernon’s story.  One kind person wrote these to me on Twitter:

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It makes me realize how American I really am…I forget that living here. I don’t know how people grieve in the UK because I didn’t live there as a griever. Of course, I also know that over here, each person grieves as they live: in their own fashion. Vanessa told me that after her parents had listened to the show, she thought they would be able to move forward in their own grief. So if I was involved for that reason alone, telling his story this way was a good thing.

I’m grateful. I’m sad. But also I’m grateful.

 

 

Budapest

Last August, when Vernon was in hospice, my artist friend Ty Clark wrote the following post on his own website. (Original post here) He had been doing a residency in Budapest, but was following our journey from that distance. I only recently realized the impact that Vernon’s impending death had had on him at the time. (And he told me that after hearing his story, another Hungarian artist had created a painting series based on pigeons.) It’s always amazing to me to hear how Vernon impacted others around the world, even in his compromised state—yes, even in death.

BUDAPEST: DAY 11: IT ALL COMES TOGETHER.

It is 11:15pm in Budapest.

My mind is swirling, my heart is weeping, and my eyes are watering my cheeks.

I can hear the wind outside, which means I can feel life around me.

My focus of thought the last few weeks has been revolving around Cosmos in Chaos: The Harmony of Spirit and Matter. Tonight, those thoughts have come to an abrupt defining moment in time. I wrote this poem the day before on the bus after a few hours in the studio as I made my way to the far reaches of Budapest.

All things reaching, striving, breathing,

noticing each other,

all things know harmony,

all things wish for light and life,

balance and air,

wind and touch and taste,

dirt to skin, lungs to dust, blood to water, ocean to song,

all things know.

The husband of a friend of mine is very near the end. She and I met through art and social media, close to 12 years ago (maybe). She happened to be connected to a few dear friends on mine from over the years and we hit it off, due to our love for creating. We had the chance to share coffee and conversation once in San Diego, discussing all things life and art. She is a few years older than myself, which is a rarity, most of my friends are quite a few years younger than me. A few years later, after we met, she ended up moving to England where she met and fell in love with her soon to be husband.

On May 23rd, 2014 her husband was involved in an accident on his scooter while riding back home to the family after a day of mountain biking and good conversation with a close friend. He suffered a broken pelvis, femur, jaw and arm as well as traumatic brain injury. I never had the opportunity to meet him in person. We had emailed back and forth a few times as when he was working on a Kickstarter project for a Font book he was creating. We never did hop on the phone, something I was looking forward to, I know we had a lot of similar loves in the world of the arts and music. He had a son that he brought into the new family when they married and a few years later my friend and her husband had a beautiful daughter together, making their family equal the number four.

(That is a quick historic overview of my friends story, since I have known her.)

Over the last 2 years I have payed very close attention to her wonderful blog that has chronicled their story and journey post-accident. He never returned home since the day of the accident. For the last few years he has been in hospitals recovering and declining and never fully recovering his old self.

The vulnerability and honest emotion she shares on a regular basis is as true and real as our blood and tissue. A rare glimpse into what we all feel, see, show and hide deep inside ourselves. Sharing the things that most people are too afraid of releasing into the air.

Cosmos in the Chaos: The Harmony of Spirit and Matter…….every second of the day, I think on these words. 

There is a reason I am sharing this story tonight. I came across a video that she posted today from the hospital room  where one of his friends sang “Fake Plastic Trees” by Radiohead to him. (He was moved to hospice this week because his body is in sepsis and his organs are shutting down.) His son sat close by watching his father, she and her mother held each other across from them, at one moment she leans over and kisses his face whispering words that arent heard on camer. I don’t understand their pain. But I feel the suffering and the love, both equally powerful and refining on their own terms. My tears pour down my face and I watch, singing quietly, swallowing hard and also recognizing a pure feeling of love in the looks on the faces, in a spirit on the screen. I am in awe of the perseverance of her story, standing by him the last two years, pushing through the extremely difficult moments and there were many, only to be surprised by extravagant bursts of joy filled moments along the way. She honestly and wittingly writes of every emotion as she welcomes you into their story. You can visit the blog here: http://sansoxygen.com

Here is the video: Fake Plastic Trees:

Where and why do these roads intersect?

We are born into this world from womb and water.

We leave this world through ash or soil.

The Cosmos may welcome us, bringing us from the chaos into things unimaginable.

Our spirit exits in this world to become one with the Creator.

For these reasons line plays such an important and defining role in my artwork. Our story fills in the moments between the first mark and the last. Straight, crooked, up and down, sloppy or perfectly straight. All stories are different and many stories converge. As lines cross, touch, cover or cross out, they are reacting like our human stories. Moving across a sea of open white or a river of rushing colors. Tonight I realized a line that has come across my own has taken me to a thin place here in my room in Budapest. In a moment, through a song, through a face, my world and the divine have met; for only a brief moment. They met, and I am now different. I am again new, and changed. Tomorrow I will paint these thoughts in the studio, and listen to “Fake Plastic Trees” while my emotions, through prayer, will lift up Allison, Vernon, Maki and Justine.

“He who works with his hands is a laborer. He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.” —Francis of Assisi

-1:35pm the following day.

My morning took a little while to get going. I read for a few minutes, spent time in solitude and prayer. I knew that my day working in the studio would be heavy, so I needed to be prepared. I created a playlist that I titled “Cosmos in the Chaos”, that held some songs that I felt reflected my thinking and the world of Allison and Vernon. You can listen here: COSMOS IN THE CHAOS PLAYLIST.

My time working today felt like a 16mm film. My hands, heart and head felt scratched and dusty, flickering through the chaos moment by moment. I knew that I needed to be obedient to the work. I think I did just that. Madeline L’Engle sums up my time today.

“In art, either as creators or participators, we are helped to remember some of the glorious things we have forgotten, and some of the terrible things we are asked to endure… The artist must be obedient to the command of the work, knowing that this involves many hours of research, throwing out a month’s work, of going back to the beginning, or, sometimes, scrapping the whole thing. When the art means even more than the artist knew they meant, then the artist has been listening. And sometime when we listen, we are led to places we do not expect, into adventures we do not always understand.” – Madeline L’Engle

This video is from my morning session. After reflecting on these things I created the piece for my exhibition here in Budapest. “Cosmos in the Chaos: The Harmony of Spirit and matter: When All Things are Made New Again.”

Thoughts move heavy from this chaos,

the electric rush of rivers swarm,

the heavens breathe down from the cosmos.

as gravity holds us to the dirt,

the journey moves onward

in search of sweet harmony

between the spirit and the matter,

to the sea,

to the sea.

 

Check out more of Ty’s paintings and musings here.

 

 

BBC Showtimes and Info

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It’s just a few days until the BBC 4 Radio program (programme) that I got to be a part of will be broadcast on the British airwaves. I was asked some months ago to share about Vernon’s connection to the Kink’s song, Waterloo Sunset, which happens to be 50 years old this very year…just like Vernon! Click here for all the information on the program. If you are in the UK, the broadcast times will be 9:00 and 21.30. For listeners in other countries, the recording will be posted on the Soul Music webpage for our convenience. Some of my friends in the UK have already informed me that they’ve heard my voice on the trailers…which is rather exciting and certainly strange for those who weren’t expecting it. (None of them were.) 🙂

Our friend Ian McGlynn’s song will be included today. It’s still available for your listening pleasure (or donation) here. It’s an extra special version of an already meaningful song.

And here is the original classic:

 

Pavement Pictures

A photo taken two years ago and one taken last week…(both in Laguna Beach.)

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“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”—Oscar Wilde

Who’s Counting?

“The future came and went in the mildly discouraging way that futures do.”
― Neil Gaiman

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It’s 6:15 am on Friday, May 12. I remember when we used to count Fridays as notable markers, beads on an the abacus of time. “It’s been five weeks since Vernon’s accident…t’s been 16, its been two years, etc”…all tethered by Fridays. Stringing the Fridays together, they gave us a framework that reminded us how far we’d come, even though no clues were given on how far we would have to go. Eventually we moved to the same street that Vernon had been hit at the corner of. Every morning, as we waited at the stop sign, before left-turning across “ground zero”, we’d silently think about it, but especially on Fridays, when I’d say it out loud. I still do that sometimes, but I’ve lost track of the number. There are too many of them.

Like parents of newborns, there seems to be a code of counting the weeks that only other parents of young ones understand: “How old is your baby?” The answer might be, for example: “seven and a half weeks”…or “15 weeks.”

I used to wonder why those parents couldn’t just round it up for the convenience of others. Just say three months already! Of course when I had my own, I understood. So much change can happen in a week, I wouldn’t want people to undervalue a single moment of what we’ve been watching in this child’s development. 15 weeks is different than 16 weeks. Or so it feels in the thick, slow, always-vigilant early days.

Then we move to months: “How old is your baby now?” …“Oh, 14 months.” Ok, that’s just ridiculous—why can’t you just say a YEAR? …..Because it’s not a year. Those extra two months have been counted in spoons, watchfully, heartbreakingly. Eventually, the parent comes out the other side, into the greater society of counting their child’s age by years and half years (or if the child insists, quarter years.)

So here we are…now 6:35 on another Friday. I’ve forgotten the number of weeks now, but I’m sure I could figure it out with little effort.* It’s two short of three years. Three years! Every May is heavy with an underlying awareness that the milestone of “the night” is rolling around again. Like a birthday, this brings some extra reflection and mood swings (for all of us). It’s been a tough month…as it should be. The greater the loss, the more honor it deserves. And it was a very great loss to this family.

While we are on the subject, Maki’s half birthday is in three days. He’ll be 15 and a half: old enough for a driver’s permit, just short of sweet 16. And Justine turns seven in three weeks. We celebrated her fourth birthday soon after the crash. I keep trying to remind her that she’s six still, holding on a little longer. But now so close, that begins to seem pointless. Lets just round up already. I am 45 (and a half, more or less.)  We keep ticking through these Fridays, growing up together.

*PS…It’s been 154 weeks, officially, today. Wasn’t that hard to do the math, after all.

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A special cover of Vernon's fav song 'Waterloo Sunset' by friend and singer/song-writer Ian McGlynn. All proceeds support Vernon's recovery! Donate what you can and download a beautiful song in return.

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