Life took a strange and dark turn 2 weeks ago, and I left Florida to fly home. I went home to be with my oldest friend as she entered a very dark period of her life. She has lost someone very dear, someone who was dear to me as well.
During the past weeks I have watched my friend navigate very troubled waters with a strength and grace I did not know she has. You can always learn something new about anyone, no matter how long you’ve known them. She has become an inspiration for me. Life throws unspeakable challenges at us, but I’ve learned a lot from my friend’s deep, still waters.
Along the way I’ve finished reading The Paper Garden, a biography of the 18th c. female artist, Mary Delany. The author, Molly Peacock, was known more for her poetry than her prose, until she wrote this book. The book is so popular now that the British Museum has had to limit access to Mary Delany’s paper collages in order to preserve them from the sudden rise in people requesting to see them.
My friend has been an artist since before I met her. Growing up together, she painted and drew while I wrote things and dabbled in handwork. Later she began sculpting and got her fine arts degree in that medium. This quote from The Paper Garden makes me wonder where my friend’s artwork will go next:
Black pigment is made from charred organic matter—and that includes burnt bones. This chilling fact contributes to the black background of Mrs. D’s Rosa Gallica… Not that burnt bones necessarily produced the pigment that Mrs. D. used to create the black backgrounds of her flowers—her pigment could have been made from tar, pitch, lampblack, pine soot, anything charred to get a noir so deep it looks as if it came from the mouth of Hades. But whatever the composition of the dry crystals she ground with a mortar and pestle, then mixed with liquid and adhesive, its source is something burnt. Carbon. Organic. Ashes. Is being burnt a requisite for the making of art? Personally, I don’t think it is. But art is a poultice for a burn. It is a privilege to have, somewhere within you, a capacity for making something speak from your own seared experience.
So, for me, regular life begins to lurch along once again. I am back in the Bahamas with Bob, in a beautiful spot that we have not visited before called Great Harbor Cay. When we left the harbor for a short sail yesterday, three dolphins found us and played in our bow wave.
The sunsets have been stunning, the Bahamians are the friendliest people I have ever met, the cruisers have been pretty friendly too, and Bob is letting me rest. The days are warm and slow.
My biggest wish is that my friend could switch places with me. I would take a couple weeks of her grieving and the growing responsibilities she has taken on to care for others in her family, while she could spend some time here– healing. Life is so thoroughly unfair….