Spring is here and so it seemed appropriate to use a sprouting seed metaphor. I am sitting in my dining room, looking out the back window at the lilac bush that is in full bloom. It is always the first on the block to bloom, with my next door neighbor's following so that we have a solid three weeks of delicious lilac smell to enjoy each spring. This year is a little bittersweet as it will be my last one to sit here with this view. In a few days, I will move all my worldly good out of this house and into a storage unit in upstate NY. I have rented this house for two years during which time I will live in Newfoundland (mostly) and upstate NY.
I will have the option to move back after two years but that seems unlikely. It feels clear to me that this particular phase of my life is coming to an end. You could call it my New York City phase, in which case it would include the entire 34 years that I lived in the city. Or you could call it my Sunnyside phase, which means this house for almost 20 years - raising my children, homeschooling, numerous art projects, divorce, and the kids moving out on their own. It's a lot! This beautiful house is a family house - it wants to hold a family - so it is time for me to explore some other ideas, places, options. The people moving in have a daughter just about the age that my son was when we moved in. And so it goes.
Do we ever really know which is the end and which is the beginning? The faded bloom or the seed? And do we ever really know how long it takes for those seeds to germinate? We think we know. We want to know, but I don't think that we have a clue.
This fact came home to me in a big way just this week, appropriately enough, as I have been packing and cleaning and clearing out 20 years of stuff (more really, since some of it has travelled with me for a long time - just found a box of sketchbooks from the late 1980s!). An old friend and colleague called me out of the blue and told me that his boss saw one of my artworks that is installed at Bellevue Hospital Center in Manhattan. It was a project that I did nineteen years ago titled K2tog (Knit Two Together) . I remember it clearly because I was pregnant with my daughter. It also was the first time I thought about knitting as something more than a way to make things - knitting as community, as a bond between people and cultures, a shared language and shared experience of making. The project involved me collecting swatches of knitting and stories of learning to knit. I thought that people coming to Bellevue - people from all over the world - might need to remember that they share more than just illness with everyone else. So I collected the swatches and stories and combined them into one piece that is still there, still encouraging people to stop and look, read, remember this simple idea - we are not so different from each other.
Anyway, his boss saw the work and totally got inspired by the message. It so happens that his boss is in charge of art and cultural programs for the city hospital system. A few days later, I was sitting in his office, talking about how I might make some new projects that bridge cultures and tap into the way making things with our hands offers us a feeling of power and value. It makes us feel good at a time when we really need to feel good. I left with the mandate to come up with some ideas and, with their support, we will make them happen.
It took 20 years for that particular seed to bear that particular fruit. If I had made that work with any kind of expectation of what it might bring next, how sorry I would have been when the calendar flicked along, like in a cartoon where the pages fly off in the wind, and nothing seemed to be happening. It is simply impossible to know when or what or where. In a way, thank goodness for that.
Yes, thank goodness the world has other plans and ideas, and thank goodness for projects that take nineteen years to develop. As I sit here, looking out at the lilacs, I see that, for one thing, I needed to do all my yoga therapy training in order to really make this art project be what it needs to be. Who knows what else needed to happen, but perhaps I will find out as my new ideas begin to sprout.
So, what is the end and what is the beginning? Finishing one thing, starting another - are the lines between them really that clear? And can we have the patience and the trust needed to let it happen?