Weaving Grief, Nature, and Art-Making

IMG_4108In his poem The Peace of Wild Things, William Stafford wrote about going into nature at night when he felt despair. “I come into the presence of still water,” he wrote, and that calmed him down, gave a sense of perspective. I don’t so much go into the woods at night but yesterday morning I took my despair for an uphill hike. The walk did both me and my sorrow good.

Shortly after beginning the climb a red-shafted flicker shot through the air, landed on a Monterey pine and went up the trunk using not only his feet but his strong, pointed beak. (Flickers are a kind of woodpecker.) I felt privileged to witness this because the flickers are incredibly shy and usually get away from people as quickly as possible.

Father’s Day approaches, and it’s nearly four months since my father died. My favorite aunt died yesterday. Some days my grief defines me. This sorrow is like a heavy stone I pull behind me or I try to slip it on my tongue—big as it is—and swallow. Grief is not a bad thing, just a sad one. It slows me down no matter where I carry it.

Odd how sometimes memories approach of their own volition. Often after a visit my father would walk me out and stand on the sidewalk as I drove away. I’d roll down the window and wave or toot my horn. Many times I said to myself, “Is this the last time?”

My father was a complicated man. Our relationship was not easy. He could be and often was unkind to me. But we loved each other fiercely and shared a reverence for art.

In the evenings when that stone of despair sinks inside me, I go to the table where I make things with my hands, arranging images; I cut, layer, and glue colored paper. Last night I wove these pieces together in an effort to weave myself together. This evening, were you here, likely that’s where you’d find me.

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5 thoughts on “Weaving Grief, Nature, and Art-Making

  1. Beautiful Patrice.

    My father died several years ago. Ours, too, was a complicated relationship. In the end, he gave me more than he took and we shared a kind of love that survived the the struggle. Father’s day is always a sad time, reminding me of what could have been if we had known how to communicate our common ground and share our unique experiences. Perhaps this is the learning – the weaving.

    I am walking uphill today and will watch for the flicker.

  2. I read this today as I take five before going off to the studio and am so touched and moved by the beauty and rightness of these words. I love the images you are weaving together too, the brightness of these pieces, and the metaphor they express, weaving sorrow and joy, weaving past and present, weaving father and daughter. Thank you.

  3. Such a beautiful piece Erin. My relationship with my Father was not an easy one either, and even though he walked on many years ago, he still walks with me and is woven into my life. This practice of weaving is such a beautiful way to work with some of that energy. Last night I was advising someone who is struggling with the challenges of transformation and some depression, to find ways to ground herself through her art….this is a perfect example. Thinking of you, and thank you so much. Catherine

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