Every now and then it hits me. She’s gone. I will never see her again. I will never hold her hand with those arthritic knuckles that made them resemble gnarled tree branches, misshapen and yet beautiful. I will never get another email from her containing silly videos or stories or photos and it is during these times that I feel both overwhelming gratitude that I had a mother whom I loved deeply, and unspeakable pain that grips my throat and clenches my stomach. That she went quickly and did not suffer is something I constantly remind myself. Still it’s tough. She was my mom. It is a loss unlike any other that I’ve experienced.
One of the most difficult things I’ve had to learn in life is to hold two seemingly opposing ideas and/or feelings and allow both to be true and valid. I miss her and am grateful she went quickly, yet there are times when I am overwhelmed by the pain of losing her.
Mom and Richard at her birthday party
Over the years this idea of two opposing forces has taken shape; a person I love has views I hate, yet I can still love them. Someone does something hurtful, yet I can forgive them. I do something hurtful and so I must make amends and then do the painstaking work of learning to forgive myself. And on it goes. Two seemingly opposing things held in each hand, both are true, even though upon first look they seem to cancel each other out, they do not. They co-exist and in that co-existence there is peace.
There are moments that feel impossible and others that fly by unnoticed. Mostly I’m exhausted almost constantly, as though a perpetual scrim has enveloped me, making everything feel heavier, cloudier, more difficult to sort through. It’s not terrible, just different. This is grief, I’m told.
This morning is one of those heavier moments. Maybe it’s because it’s Tuesday, and Tuesday and Thursday mornings are when I post something on this blog. Often I would refer to a video or story my mother had sent me that made me smile and I’d post it here for all of you to enjoy. But there will not be any more videos or stories from my mother and as much as I accept that, I still feel a tightness in my throat, a constriction in my chest, an overwhelming sadness. I remind myself that she lived a long, often beautiful sometimes difficult, complicated life. A life with long tendrils that reached so many. This is grief, I’m told.
When my mother died I was in Africa. At Stanley’s camp in the bush in Botswana, to be exact.
We had spotty wi-fi, but it was enough to be able to communicate with my siblings. It was enough to make me feel connected in our grief.
But then we flew to another camp, deeper in the bush, which had no wi-fi at all. I wasn’t able to reach anyone, and so other than my husband, I was alone with my grief. It was a tough few days, and yet those days were also filled with the excitement that can only come from seeing a leopard bounding up a tree, crouching in front of a bush and then leaping so fast the naked eye can barely keep up, to kill a squirrel. Or the joy and amazement of coming upon a pride of lion: two males, several females and half a dozen cubs, before hurrying off to make one of a half dozen flights before eventually arriving back home in New York City.
Upon our arrival home (it took us almost 40 hours) I had to deal with an array of technological problems, one of which was my computer that had crashed on me the third day of our trip. I am just now beginning to post videos of our African Adventure, with a new video coming out every day for the foreseeable future. Making these videos, in many ways, has been a life saver. It’s somewhat methodical work that is also wonderful as I am seeing all the footage I took of our amazing trip. Traveling is always a joyful experience for me. I love to travel, just as both my parents did. My mother’s death has only made me more intent on traveling as much as I can, while I still can.
As my mother lay dying I called every evening and my sister held the phone to my mother’s ear so that I could tell her about seeing a blackback gorilla charging, and the baboons that were intent on sneaking a treat from the expansive breakfast buffet, and the hippo that came close to our boat in Zambia and how the guide told us his open mouth was the first warning sign and when asked what the second warning sign was, he said a hippo with open mouth running towards us, which was exactly what he was doing!
My days were filled with excitement, even elation as well as overwhelming sadness. It was a lesson in holding two seemingly opposing things in either hand and having both be true.
So I shot a video yesterday because I was feeling a little down and wanted to try and jolt myself out of it. I also went to the gym, rode a bike for a half an hour and then decided it would be a great idea to sprint on the tread mill for a few minutes only to stop after just five because I thought I was going to either puke or faint, take your pick. I’m pretty sure this falls under the TMI category, even though it is an accurate description of what happened. In any case… I was feeling a little down or as I say in the video, I was in a funk.
And then I compared what I was feeling, to a petulant child or a very loud, bossy color, like red or magenta or turquoise blue, which can easily take over a project if you’re not careful. I call those colors divas. And here’s the thing, divas are great, especially in small doses. If you have too many divas all together they start fighting and that just never ends well. So anyway I talk about all of that and then I talk… well you can watch the video.
Except that after I shot the video, uploaded it and posted it, I thought – I hope no one thinks this is a commentary on depression or some of the really awful things people feel and go through. Because I wasn’t doing that. This was a comment on that feeling of having lower energy and just not feeling as I typically feel. I have experienced depression and this, feeling in a funk, doesn’t come close. So I just wanted to clarify that.
Whether it was the exercise, talking about how I was feeling, getting a little stitching done on my improvisational stitching piece despite feeling a bit down or the fact that our next trip that we’ve been planning was looking like it might not happen, but then we did some more research and are thinking that maybe it will after all, or maybe it was a combination of all these things, who knows? Anyway the upside is that I’m feeling like myself again. You know, energetic and basically pretty upbeat. I also had a lovely afternoon with a dear old friend and took a little walk on the Highline. All of this taken together cheered me enormously.
To sum up: Radical Self Care. I didn’t intend to embark on a day of radical self care, but that’s essentially what I ended up doing without meaning to. (However one could argue that sprinting to the point of vomiting or fainting does not fall under the category of self care, so there’s that.)
So what’s on for today? A little reading from Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations is in order and then, who knows?
Detail of “Drifting Continents” by El Anatsui ~ Brooklyn Museum
The detail above is such a wonderful example of perspectives. As we were walking through the show, I overheard someone exclaim, “But it’s just a bunch of metal tops!” And I thought – and we’re just a bunch of cells and water! But step back and we are so much more. I am always thinking about things in terms of neurology and autism. Our culture tends to see autism and those who are Autistic as less than, but if you move away from this thinking, there is great beauty. (I write about all of this in much greater detail on Emma’s Hope Book.)
Here is another view of the same piece ~ “Drifting Continents”
The beauty of the piece is in both the details and in the magnificence of it, as one steps far enough away to view it in its entirety. Below is a detail of the piece, Gli (Wall) which greets you as you enter the exhibit.
El Anatsui ~ Gli (Wall), 2010 Aluminum & Copper Wire
A part of Gli (Wall)
It is majestic…
Gli (Wall), 2010 El Anatsui Aluminum and Copper Wire
Gravity and Grace… what a wonderful title for a show that exemplifies both.
To view Ariane Zurcher Jewelry and more perspectives on art and design, click ‘here‘.
Welcome to my store!
Please browse and look at our patterns available. We also offer Workshops! ~Ariane