Saturday, January 1, 2011

Pursuing My Father - Part 2

Last night our cul de sac had their annual New Years progressive wine and appetizer wander, from house to house. This is my favorite non-family social event of the year. I've written here many times about our neighbors and the amazing fortune that placed so many good people all in one short street. Last night was the first time I've seen some of them since my father passed away on the 11th of December. As so often happens to me, I split my awareness when talking with people, and so part of me had several deep conversations about loss or about my painting - subjects my neighbors brought up, genuinely wanting to know - and another part of me was overwhelmed once again that even in a festive event, with a crowd around us, we could connect this way. For instance, Julie wanted to know what I was painting now, and was interested when I spoke about the pursuit of my father by painting dream landscapes from my childhood. Later John pulled me aside to share his sorrow over my loss, and listened while I spoke about Dad's last months. He had lost his own father a little over a year ago, and his empathy was genuine and immediate. Jeff and Catherine also listened, and understood the way the grief will probably jump out at me at unknown and unexpected moments.

This morning I began the first of these dream landscapes, and things just fell onto the page. Mom had mentioned sycamore leaves to me several days ago, and that's what triggered the whole sequence of thoughts that led to this understanding. I can find my father in these landscapes, and I have wanted to paint these forever - it's why Hundertwassser and Filer get under my skin, because their paintings are dreamscapes to me. So this is the first. Landlocked Sycamores, a place the dog, Dallas, and I would run to after school nearly every afternoon. Between those two trees was the gate to my inner and outer world, my teenage sanity.

And as I drew the dog and the place came into focus, I was overwhelmed by the loss of my father, knowing that he, like this precious memory, is a place. He created a huge, safe, important place where we grew up, and where I lived without question and almost without knowing it. I wept.

I am grateful for these combinations of events and memories that will help me reconcile this loss. I'm even more grateful for the people in my life who create the places where it can happen, from Dearest, who has understood better than anyone what I need during this time, and who has been RIGHT THERE where I need her every moment, to my mother, who is dealing with so much more loss and gap than I am, to my neighbors, with their warm hearts and listening.

Happy New Year, friends, family, loved ones. We are rich even in our loss as long as we have each other.

3 comments:

linda said...

tho i don't feel i fall into the categories you wrote this too-or maybe i do tho we have never met-i wanted to wish you the most creative of new years, a year full of time for the heart-mind you express so vividly on the page, for the time you need to process your grief as it quietly turns into something soulful that will never leave your side, to the wonderful love you share with everyone near and dear to you. i too feel fortunate to have met you and hope we too will connect over our art in ways that are expansive and compelling for us both. happiest of new years, steve

susan said...

The beautiful trees really are very much of a gateway to another world and time. I can see them and feel the powerful gait of Dallas as he rushes toward that place of delight. It's so very hard to lose someone we love so much, someone whose very existence has defined our entire life. I'm so glad you're painting these magnificent images from your heart and deep history. I'm glad too you have your dear wife and good friends to support you now and always.

Steve Emery said...

Linda and Susan - your thoughts and comments here lifted my spirits. I am lucky in family, neighbors and friends both near and far.