Sunday, October 2, 2011

Waiting............... the completion of the 108th chair!

Yes every sense of the word. I am filled with so many emotions right now that I was not anticipating, as I completed sculpting the last of the 108 ceramic chairs that comprise the installation piece Waiting aptly as I await turning 58 years old in a few days. Completing them feels like a landmark to me in many ways. Sometimes, it felt as though I would never finish it. I have ridden the roller coaster of life during this span of time that I was waiting and working and experiencing the creation of this piece, as it paralleled my life. I began sculpting the first few chairs left handed as I awaited the third surgery to repair the torn cartilage in my right wrist. I continued to create chairs in waves and spurts of energy and momentum, many times being side tracked by things happening in life, as things often do. Sometimes I felt as though I was derailed. I used the chairs as outlets of sorts, a voice for some of the things I was going through. Each chair, and sometimes groups of chairs, have names on the back, commemorating what was happening at the time, both trying times and times of joy. It feels satisfying, cathartic, sad, empty, proud, grateful and some other emotions that I can't quite put names to yet. I suppose I was more involved in the piece than I even realized, although I felt very connected to it every moment of the way. Often a love/hate relationship of, "how many do I have left", "isn't it over yet", "I don't want it to end", "what comes next" , and "wow I can't believe I stayed with it and actually did not abandon it when it felt like I wanted to give up". Sometimes it felt tedious and sometimes it felt like solace. There were times that I questioned myself about why I felt compelled to created Waiting. I felt self doubt about whether or not  I could actually follow through with it and not just give up. I am proud of the discipline I had to see it through to the end. I still have to fire them and find a place to exhibit them, but as I put the last finishing finger stroke on the last of the 108 chairs, I felt like crying. Dumb huh? But that is how I felt. Butterflies in my stomach and a bit shaky, or was it too little sleep last night as my mind raced at full speed or too much coffee? Or am I just feeling the completion of a piece that I set out to do, to birth, not really knowing where it was going. I am still feeling a rush of emotions. Just having finished it feels like almost enough, although I know that once I fire them and collect all the found objects that I have been gathering all this time, which will each find their proper place on the throne of each chair created especially for it, things that I have collected that have marked my time, it will feel even more complete and satisfying. When I install it, in its to be decided gallery home, once I find one, and see it in its entirety, I know I will once again feel weak in the knees from pride and emotion. How was I to ever anticipate the feelings that creating and finally finishing this work would gift me? I finished the last three chairs today in my studio by the lake, and now I sit here writing as I look at the still reflection of the trees in the water, with the air filled with the chill of autumn and cacophony of birds echoing through the quiet. I feel so small as I sit in the shadow of the large Washington evergreens, yet so full inside, despite my shakiness. I suppose I did not believe in myself enough to think that I would follow through with Waiting. I suppose that is what waiting is partly about. Not knowing what to expect, not knowing what comes next, not always understanding what and why things are happening now, or why things have happened in the past, but knowing that this is all part of the ride. I will pack these last chairs carefully and lovingly like cherished china dolls, as they make their ride back to the kiln in Portland, to enter into their next incarnation. Someone last week was telling me about salmon, and how they signify the life cycle and returning home at the end of their journey. The last three chairs are entitled, Returning, Upstream, and lastly, Home. I pick up a dark soft feather that just fell from a bird that has passed overhead. I suppose the birds are gradually beginning their journey south as the winter will be soon approaching. I am sitting with my fleece hoodie on the dock feeling it too. Beginning to feel the call inward. The water looks like glass, yet the things reflected in it seem distorted anyway, yet I recognize them. I look for clarity. I continue on, not knowing what the next piece of clay will become or reveal, or what the future holds for me, as I continue to return upstream home, to myself. Once again, I hear the words of Mary Oliver pulse through my mind. They seem to have taken up permanent residence in there and I am happy for that. I hear the words of Journey, which seems so appropriate to me today, so I visit it once again. Each time I read it with anticipation, as if I am hearing the words for the first time, although I know them like old friends. I never tire of them. I welcome them, as they create a place of comfort for me, as sense of coming home to myself.

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice --
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do --
determined to save
the only life you could save. 
~ Mary Oliver ~

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