Death & Perspective

Death & Perspective

When COVID hit New York City over a year ago now, death was no longer an abstract idea. People we knew were getting really, really sick, a few of them died, a few are still not 100%. When the mobil morgue parked just blocks away from our building to handle the overflow of dead bodies, it marked a turning point for me. This wasn’t some bit of horrifying news that I read or heard about, this was happening and it was happening all around me. At the time I was just starting my YouTube Channel and it hadn’t occurred to me to video tape the empty streets, void of cars and humans. I wish I had, but I didn’t.

COVID New York City

Once we had a vaccine and my entire family had been vaccinated, I decided it would be a good time to visit my mother and sister, neither of whom I’d seen in almost two years. It was wonderful to see them after so long. And of course there was the added benefit of being surrounded by dogs…

and flowers…

with lots of great places to take a little walk…

Death brings perspective. None of us are getting out of here alive. Our time is short and it seems to get shorter the closer to the end we get. All the more reason to enjoy things like this bee.

Or the brilliance of these red flowers…

Or the sound of the water rushing over rocks…

or being surrounded by people I love.

Facing Adversity

There are so many things going on that I cannot talk about publicly for a variety of reasons, but all of these things piled up can make life feel particularly challenging at this moment. The specifics are unimportant. Most people are grappling with things they cannot and do not talk about for personal reasons. What I do know is that staying calm in the midst of it all, certainly helps. In addition, I remind myself to take time to appreciate all that I have.

Which reminds me of the story about the man who is being chased by a tiger. There is a cliff straight ahead and all other escape routes are cut off to him. He must make a choice – get eaten by the tiger or jump off the cliff to his certain death. So he does what any reasonable person would do, he jumps off the cliff, but on the way down he grabs hold of a shrub growing out of the cliff’s sheer face. As he hangs on for dear life he notices a single flower growing from the shrub. He marvels at the beauty of this flower while clinging to what few moments he has left of his life as his grip loosens.

This isn’t how the real story actually goes, there are a number of variations to it, though the central theme remains the same – what do we do, how do we behave when things get tough? The above story is how I reconstructed the original Zen story, which features a strawberry and not a flower. My interpretation isn’t about the importance of staying present or the inevitability of death, though both are worthy topics to discuss. To me this is about how we behave in the face of adversity. We think of life as going on endlessly. When excitedly awaiting something, the minutes pass slowly, however our lives are just seconds when compared to the history of mankind. We are all going off the cliff to our deaths eventually, but on our way down, how do we behave? In the face of adversity, can I still marvel at the beauty of this life and the planet I’ve been fortunate enough to occupy while looking for an alternate way to descend the cliff without plummeting to a gruesome death on the sharp rocks below?

When things are tough can I remember to be curious and explore despite everything else that’s going on?

When creating a new project there are a few themes that crop up over and over. One of them is this idea that there is always more going on below the surface. One of my first pieces that I designed, I put a large metal zipper in to signify that what looks like a pretty garden has more going on. Another one of my pieces I entitled, “It’s Not What You Think”.

Bringing this idea into one’s art is something I continue to explore. The layers of the human experience, the depths to which we can delude ourselves, but also the honesty with which we can examine our experiences and hopefully learn from them is the fertile ground we can explore as we create. During this time of uncertainty, with the pandemic raging, the virus mutating, the constant and seemingly relentless drama in the United States, not to mention the myriad personal challenges most of us face, can I still see beauty in this world? Can I still create inspite of it all?

Yes. Yes, I can.

Flower Flash, Sleeplessness & Amazing Photographs

Flower Flash, Sleeplessness & Amazing Photographs

I planned on talking about sleeplessness and that feeling of waiting for sleep to return at 3am only to find that hours have drifted by and not being sure whether you’ve actually been awake the whole time or staring at the ceiling in the early hours of a new day was a bad dream. I promise the whole thing was going to be a lot funnier than how that just sounded. No, really. But then my mother sent me an article that took precedence.

My mother sends me the most wonderful photos, articles, videos, audio files and other uplifting tidbits. Her latest find is from the floral designer Lewis Miller who is responsible for doing “Flower Flash” a creative take on “flash mobs” from a few years back when suddenly you’re walking along and everyone around you breaks into a synchronized, highly choreographed dance for a few minutes before fading back into the daily bustle of life.

Photographs from Lewis Miller’s Website

“What initially began as an LMD experiment to reinvigorate and reconnect us to our craft, turned into a beautiful shared experience in a city of millions. The Flower Flash is our gift to New Yorkers. We began in October 2016. Our goal is to create a positive, emotional response through flowers. Seeing people’s reactions to our Flower Flashes emphasizes the basic goodness in all people and prioritizes compassion and the need for LMD x NYC to carry on.”

Since the pandemic struck, Lewis Miller has continued enchanting New York City with his floral designs, randomly picking spots throughout the city to work his magic.

How fabulous are these?

Sleeplessness will have to wait until next week. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll sleep, I promise.

Flower Flash, Sleeplessness & Amazing Photographs

Here We Are: A City & its People Transformed

Every evening at 7 PM this is how we New Yorkers show our appreciation for those who are putting themselves and their families at risk in an attempt to help the rest of us.

The juxtaposition of the dire and frightening, with the joy and hopefulness that inevitably arrives with spring and warmer weather, is on display everywhere here in New York City, the city that has been my home for almost 40 years.

The mobile morgue just a few blocks from us outside an emergency care facility.

At no time in my life have I been more aware of death. The collaborative song of appreciation, like an orchestra warming up each evening at dusk is yet one more reminder of both the fragility of life, but also the immense beauty of it. People standing on their balconies, roof tops and out their windows to express their gratitude for those who do not have the luxury to do so, is a kind of music that pierces one’s soul.

Downtown Manhattan

Most of us were so caught off guard by the pandemic that has swept through this city that I love, we were in a state of stunned inaction those first few days. Things moved so quickly it all seemed unreal. It felt like we were bit players in a sci-fi horror movie that none of us had auditioned for. How to make sense of any of this. How to continue without letting the fear consume you. And yet we do. And yet we do.

The vulnerability of these tulips caught my attention and I immediately wondered which stitches would best capture their delicate allure. My way of warding off the fear, worry and stress has been to throw myself into work. I am putting in twelve, fourteen hour days and am grateful for my latest obsession. I recognize this is not how others are coping, but it is how I am. I want to do little else. It is a kind of manic need to stay busy, combined with sleeplessness; were we not in the middle of a pandemic, I might even be concerned.

As it is, I am churning out at least one video a day and often more like two. I feel fortunate to have this to keep my mind occupied. I am grateful that my friend, Sue Spargo, agreed to send me the stitches she will be using for her 90-day embellished, wool, circle, project the day before she unveils the next circle so that I can shoot a video, a kind of sneak peek of the stitches she will be using. This project is giving me so much joy, a tiny circle of happiness to brighten each day.

My version of Sue Spargo’s Toned-Down Circle Sampler

Remain safe and #Stayathome.