I think it was my mother who once told me that the thing you worry about most is the thing that likely will never happen. I live by this, in a way. When I start to spiral about an issue or a problem, I remember it, and it helps me wade out of the darkness.
In the same vein, it’s impossible to know the breadth of good that can come from your actions as well.
It’s been almost two months since we Ebbed and Flowed through Santa Cruz, with our kinetic art parade, River ArtWalk, and Celebration of our river, the Tannery Arts Center, and our whole community. I’ve not been able to write about it because ten days before the Celebration, I landed in the hospital with an extremely rare condition that terrified all of us. Six days later I was out, but utterly waylaid. I managed to show up at the Celebration and even to stand upright for almost an hour, and participated in the unveiling of our Ebb & Flow Sculpture and Gathering Spot, spearheaded by the magical Kathleen Crocetti.
But the physical and emotional cost of attending the event was massive. There were so many people, such bright sunlight, so much to see, so many well-wishers, and I felt myself turning inward to protect my soul and my stomach, where my illness was centered. Ten days prior, when I went into the hospital, my first CAT scan sent everyone into a tailspin as it indicated that I should, by all rights, be dying. I wasn’t – but we didn’t know that for a couple of days. What my husband went through, what my friends and family went through, in those first early hours, I can’t imagine. All of it barely filtered through to me, in my pain and delirium. Ten days later, the day of the Celebration, we knew I was out of the woods, but I wasn’t ready for human contact, let alone a wild, wonderful, and joyful party.
But I knew I needed to be there, and wanted to be there, and it was truly glorious to see hundreds if not thousands of people along the parade route, the dozens of kinetic sculptures, and most of all, the stunning Sculpture and Gathering Spot. We energized the whole community around our river, and we created a permanent, beautiful, artful space for everyone to enjoy here on the Tannery campus.
Two months later, after a long and quiet convalescence, I’m mostly healed. I still cannot eat normally, and my energy is low. There is still an angry red mark on my neck from a hurried port that was connected there while I was in the ER. And I still feel reflective and protective and inward-facing and I hope my friends will be patient with me while I continue to emerge.
But in the midst of this, the world has fallen apart. The tragedy here at the Tannery Arts Center is unspeakable, unbearable. All of us who live and work here, steps from where the unthinkable happened, are faced every day with how we put one foot in front of the other. So many of us in Santa Cruz, at the Tannery and far beyond, feel shattered, devastated, terrified, even, sometimes, hopeless. As a mom whose heart is entirely intertwined with those of my boys, I’ve considered running for the hills, and never letting them out of my sight again.
So many of us want to do something, to be of service to everyone who is in pain, to find some light in this utter black darkness. It’s clear, though, that our time for action will be later, that peace and love and grace and quiet may be the right course, for now. But it’s been so hard to be a person of action in the face of crisis and to sit back and be still.
Hard, that is, until I spent a great deal of time looking out the window the past few days. Every time I lift the blinds, I see people at our Gathering Spot. Small crowds, big crowds, mostly Tannery residents, community members, strangers, together, talking, sometimes smoking, sometimes pacing, sometimes staring, even if not seeing, the stunning mosaics that meander around the Spot. I see children playing on the sculptures, adults with their arms around each other as they sit at the tables. I see hearts beginning the slow process of mending, or at least, sharing the pain.
All of us who worked on Ebb & Flow gave that space to this community. It was a gift the Tannery needed, and we couldn’t have known how important it would be when we were dreaming up the project. It’s a tiny thing, in the grand scheme of life, but sometimes we all just need a safe, quiet, and beautiful space where we can sit and be together. If that’s all I can do for now – well, it’s enough.
I will continue to put one foot in front of the other. I will continue to believe that my boys will be happy and safe, and I will do my best to let them discover the world without me constantly breathing down their necks. And I will give this grieving community the same space I continue to need to find our way back to each other. If and when it’s time for action, time to possibly create something else that celebrates the sweet life we’ve lost, I’ll be there. For now, I’m here. I’m quiet, but I’m here.