“Living is art. Breathing and heart beating is music. Seeing is painting the world with our eyes. Touching is sculpting the shape of everything. Life is the most intense art of all.”
One of my Adventure goals was to experience as many beautiful things as possible as I travel through Europe. And wowzers have I been blessed to bask in the presence of so much beauty. My eyes have seen incredible sculptures, paintings and architecture. My ears have heard world-class musical performances. It seems everything I look at or hear is touched by the Art Gods. I’m in awe of the talented artists that can create something outside themselves which connects and speaks to another person. It’s practically a super power when that connection occurs across time and space.
I’ve written at length about my love of music and its role in my grief recovery. So, brace yourself, this post will focus on art and poetry.
I’ve found it fascinating how art, music, and poetry have the healing power to express the words the grieving heart can’t. I first heard about art therapy from the cancer clinic. They hosted regular art therapy sessions for patients and their families. We never attended any. But the idea lodged in the nooks and crannies of my gray matter, and resurfaced on my spring trip to Europe. It was there I met Art Therapist (and talented writer) Jennifer Clissold. We discussed the value of creating art and the role that creation plays in the healing process. Jennifer insists that artistic ability is not required for this. It’s the experience of creating and letting yourself go that is important.
I sometimes wonder if my newfound passion for art and poetry is because I spent so long drowning in the ugliness of cancer and grief. Perhaps some of the world’s most beautiful art was someone else’s therapy. Maybe their artistic genius was in their ability to share their pain. Maybe we respond so strongly because they’ve made us feel that somewhere, somewhen, someone tapped into our souls and knew what we were feeling. What if their art is their message in a bottle that tells us we are not alone in this thing called life?
Finding beauty in art is subjective, no matter the medium or its creator. I’m not an artist, but my camera captures the colors and fleeting moments in time that speak to me. Since losing Dan, I’ve found that I’ve become more sensitive to the art created by others. I’ve collected artwork for years but now discover paintings and photographs that stop me dead in my tracks and can bring me to tears, make me laugh out loud, or just get lost in wonderment.
One of those pieces is this one by my friend and fellow W, Susan Gentile. “I don’t title anything I do,” she told me, “but I did write Loss and Found on the back. For me, it is an artistic expression of my heartbreak, my “blues” and then the rise to having my heart whole again – through a tangle of paths, thoughts, and emotions.”
The art that was always part of her life faded into the background when her husband got sick.
“Then one day, during that first year without Tom, I decided to go to The Boise Art Museum again. I think that small act was a big healing moment for me. It felt normal, comforting and it made me think of something other than Tom, loss, and grief. It reintroduced beauty to my existence.”
Just like her artwork, the words it reintroduced beauty to my existence move me in a way I can’t describe, yet immediately relate to. I kinda want to get stickers made that say this. Then I can put them on all the people, places and things that have brought beauty to my existence. But that would be A LOT of stickers and would get messy. Okay, so maybe that’s not my best idea. Moving on.
Poetry is a new one for me, so please excuse me if I go a little Fan Girl on you. Despite spending most of my college years studying 17th-century prose and poetry, I’d never fallen in love with it the way I have other art mediums. It wasn’t until a friend re-introduced me to poetry earlier this year that I found its real power to inspire, connect and heal. (Thanks for that, Tommy!)
“If a poem hasn’t ripped apart your soul; you haven’t experienced poetry.”
Edgar Allen Poe
I’m awestruck by the poets who wield words the way the masters applied paint to canvas. Each word, like each brush stroke, is powerful unto itself, but magical when combined with the others. Much like the songs stacked in my playlists, or the paintings I’ve collected, these poems have the power to move my soul. There have been many moments in my travels where I’ve said out loud, “I wish I were a poet and could write the words that do justice to the beauty of this place.” (FYI, if you have poet friends and they hear you say this they will challenge you to write. I don’t think my Ode to Single Malt or naughty limericks were quite what they had in mind, but I got that homework assignment completed. Booyah.)
So while creating my own poetry clearly isn’t high on my list, I’ve been blessed to find poets who write the words my heart needs to read. J.M. Storm’s collection, In My Head, was the only hard copy book that made the packing list to come with me on this trip. And, despite having never met, he did manage to get in my head. I found his work shortly before Dan died, and his words carried me through some of the darkest moments of my grief. I’ve written notes and doodles all over the margins and covers. I’ve even jotted other poems I’ve found along the way. I can’t imagine a day without flipping through its pages. (I <3 you Storm!)
And even if all that amazing art, music and poetry has no deeper meaning than pure entertainment, life wouldn’t be worth living without it. Whether you are grieving or not, I wish you an existence full of the beauty, magic and healing that they can bring you.
The Wandering Widow
Live Now. Dream Big. Love Fierce.
Special thanks to Susan Gentile for allowing me to include her thoughts and artwork, and to Jennifer Clissold for her insight on Art Therapy.