Autumn is when aged leaves wither to make room for the new growth that is to come. Because of this, every fall, along with the bountiful harvest, I especially find myself deep in the hustle to prepare for the following year. I’m busy meeting deadlines, drafting reports, developing the skeletons for potential projects, and organizing the details in order to be ready for the abundance that is making its way to our table. The days flow into each other and I have difficulty keeping track of time. This sometimes means forgetting my birthday, until my husband reminds me. In my youth, like many of us, I counted down the days to my birthday, but now, it is confirmed that I am, indeed, of that age when I easily forget.
I arrived in class on the evening of my birthday, greeted by a wave of exuberant cheer and the smell of pizza and paint. Our Village had thoughtfully thrown me a surprise birthday party.
The conversations that take place in quiet
From as early as I can remember, I was a child that depended on my hands to make sense of the world around me. I grew up building and crafting and making things. I built animals, people, and dwelling places with lego. I organized my rock collection and named each of them with an accompanying key code. But when I became conscious of how art has the power to evoke conversation, (whether it be a private conversation with oneself, or a conversation between the work of art and the viewer, or between the work of art with the creator), I fell deeply in love with it.
With the mid-autumn buzz, I thought perhaps we could slow it down a bit. I brought in some mandalas for us to color. With the set patterns, the residence could relax their minds by simply enjoying color, free of the need to consider composition, shape, or concept. While working on these meditative pieces, we turned the volume of the music down low, and quietly welcomed in the season of harvest.
"Working on these mandalas have slowed me down. I’ve noticed that I am calmer in my everyday life." - Joe Buffardi
As Peter sat quietly, focusing on his work, I ask him if he’d like to begin taking morning walks with me. He answered, “Ask me later. I’m concentrating.” This amused me a great deal since Peter is one of the most enthusiastic storytellers of the bunch. We listen to his various tales as he teases the residents playfully as he watches the rest of us work. When our sessions first began in February, he would come to visit with us, but showed no interest in participating, claiming, “I don’t do that art stuff.” Months later, he warmed up to art, and now, we’re asking him to tell us the secrets of his technique and color.
Through the art medium of social practice, one of the greatest lessons that I’ve learned through this residency is to allow things to develop organically while working with people, just as I do in the studio. This is a simple task in the studio when I am alone and dealing with my own artwork and ideas, but in working with people, it’s been something that I’ve had to consciously embrace. Perhaps it’s the pressure of needing to “be a good teacher”, and somehow feeling like in order to be one, a schedule and routine must be implemented for maximum efficiency.
Once I began thinking of a teacher as one who helps unlock potential in another, it helped me to let go and allow the work to take its course. I would be there to serve as a single oar, swaying the direction of the boat here and there, but trusting in the other oars and our river to carry us toward open ocean.
As Greek Author Nikos Kazontzakis said,
Part of my project is to document their stories, but I’ve been stressing over how to approach these oral histories. I’ve invited some of the residents to interviews, but they have not seemed to be comfortable with it quite yet. So, I learned to let it go, and further examine my method. And then one day, they began sharing their histories in depth.
And all on their own time.
Mr. Nguyen joins us from time to time. And although he prefers not to partake in our creative projects, he will bring various objects from his house to show and tell. He often brings photographs, and has a collection of precious stones which he makes into jewelry. He also has a collection of photographs of the moon, some of the photographs which he has generously gifted to us.
As we perused through Pedro's photo album, he told us about his earlier days as a medical assistant at the Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC), where he would spend time with the children in the cancer center. For Christmas, he magically appeared as Santa Claus for them.
It’s amazing what can happen when we learn to let go of expectations and trust in the flow of Life. Life takes care of itself and pulls us right along.
**The season is here, Friends. It’s time to harvest the plentiful fruit that has sprouted from the seeds we’ve sown together. **