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
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.
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:
A photo taken two years ago and one taken last week…(both in Laguna Beach.)
“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”—Oscar Wilde
“The future came and went in the mildly discouraging way that futures do.”
― Neil Gaiman
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.
Here is a post I put up on my Groundbreaking Girls website last week. It happened to be National Widow’s Day. Don’t feel bad that you didn’t know this. It’s a new thing, I think. And new widows are the first in the know—given the responsibility of spreading the news. I don’t know if there is a Widower’s Day on the rise…or whether it is something they would even want. ANYWAY…here’s the post (and a little art history.)
“Being creative is not so much the desire to do something as the listening to that which wants to be done: the dictation of the materials.” —Anni Albers
Anni Albers (1899 – 1994) was a German textile artist and printmaker. She is perhaps the best known textile artist of the 20th century. Rebelling against her comfortable upbringing by choosing to become an artist, she attended the modernist Bauhaus school, where students lived with challenging and impoverished conditions. For a woman, there there were very few options for further study after the foundation level so she entered the woman’s weaving workshop, but she quickly embraced the process and materials of an art form that she would come to revolutionize. While at the Bauhaus, she met her husband, Josef Albers, who would become a master instructor at the school as well as one of the foremost artist/educators in the world. Anni eventually became the head of the Bauhaus weaving workshop herself.
When the Nazi party pressured the school to close (which it did a year later) the couple were invited to move to America and teach at Black Mountain College in North Carolina. Though the Albers had never lived there, they embraced their new chapter of life, sharing their understanding of modernism and art to a new generation of American students. Over the years, they continued to make their own art and collect others’, rarely making work together but always encouraging each other’s creativity with deep understanding.
In 1949, Anni Albers became the first designer to have a one-person exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Albers’s design exhibition at MoMA began in the fall and then toured the US from 1951 until 1953, establishing her as one of the most important designers of the day. Through her long life, she continued in her passion for design as she wrote books and moved into the field of printmaking. She is credited for establishing Design History as a legitimate area of academic study.
Artist’s Note: Did you know that today is National Widow’s Day? Neither did I, till a friend let me know. Since I’m a widow myself, I thought I’d look up “widows in the art world” for my painting inspiration. Anni’s name came up. Josef (who was 11 years older than his wife) died in 1976, leaving Anni as a widow for 18 years. The two of them were famously close colleagues, having met in art school when they were young, enjoying a deep intellectual understanding with each other. I didn’t meet my own husband till I was 35 and he was 40, but we had both been educated in our own art colleges, and were still making when we met…and then, of course, after. I recognize the closeness of having two like-minded individuals making a life together. Especially, I think, as artists, its a rare thing. And yet, they weren’t making things together. They each had their own area of interest. My parents are like that too. My dad is a painter and my mom is a printmaker…and I admire the together/apartness of choosing to live that way as a couple. Like Josef, who developed two important alphabets through the Bauhaus, Vernon was a type designer too. I miss him. That’s why I chose to paint this picture from a photograph of Anni and Josef together. I imagine they were intrinsically entwined.