Norma’s Cairn

IMG_2717There was Norma walking up the steep road to Jacks Peak Park; I knew who it was because the woman leaning into the hill a ways ahead of me had on bright yellow sweatpants. Norma is a painter; she wears bright paint-splattered clothing when out walking so drivers will see her. Though she’s in her late 80’s, it took a bit to catch up to her so we could walk together. Norma’s the only other woman I’ve seen at the park who wears the red a shade of lipstick I do to go for a walk. We walked and talked about art and life, in that order. Norma works in oils. Her abstracts are no less vivid than her lips.

Mid-sentence she stopped, not to catch her breath, but to say, “Did we walk by the cairn?” “What cairn?” “Yes, we did,” she said looking back down the hill. “I’ve got to go back and say hello.” We turned around; her eyes peeled.

A cairn is a marker made of a small or large pile of stones, an ancient form of place marking—the first cairns come from as far back as the Neolithic period. They are used around the world—from Africa to the Pacific Island—to denote burial places; some have and had ceremonial purposes; offerings might be placed atop and, in other cases, important goods, such as charcoal, were buried beneath. An old Scottish blessing says, “I’ll put a stone on your cairn.”

Norma stopped briefly, turning toward her cairn. I didn’t ask what its significance was, just enjoyed observing her attention to the small assemblage of stacked beige stones. Then she turned back and we continued up the hill.

What might your art be building? What’s beneath the cairn of it? What do you wish to honor, to mark, to express your homage to through word or movement, sound or color?