Saturday, November 14, 2015


Pat's wall - the power of inspiration
The world changed profoundly on Friday afternoon.  While I was chatting with my daughter Rosalind on Facetime - she was in her Paris apartment - all hell broke loose around her.  We learned of the carnage and brutality, of the senseless violence directed at people who were simply living their lives, out for an evening at the end of a busy week, in the most beautiful city in the world.

 Rozzie listened to sirens in Paris all through that night. But we, her parents, were far away in a different city - not the most beautiful, but perhaps the most powerful, and we were going to our friend Pat Sachs' art opening in DC.

On the way there, my phone kept buzzing - people were sending text messages - was Rosalind all right - had we heard from her? She was fine, I assured them - but what does it mean? What is fine under such circumstances? The meaninglessness  of violence like this weighs heavily on all hearts.  And what did it mean? What was it for?

 My mind keeps going back and forth between meaninglessness and profundity. The profound loss. The meaningless loss. The profound waste and the meaningless waste. The enormous weight of sadness and fear.  The disconnect between young people living their lives in Paris and the ISIS agenda. The sense that there is nothing we can do to make it sensible or stop if from firing off in all the wrong directions. The sense that we have GOT to make it stop.

Patty's gallery opening was underway when we got there and she greeted me with an enormous hug.  It was an exhibit of new collages - miniatures mounted on several walls.  Pat fashions tiny worlds - she makes tiny places. But of course they are not places at all. They are torn fragments which seem to articulate space and reveal further vistas, tricking the eye and enticing it forwards.

"Come into my studio," she told us after a while, and she took Ben and Helen and me into the back. "This is where I work."

Her studio was small but it had the expansiveness of vision. A wall of different postcards, photographs and sketches ran the length of the studio. Then there was her desk - a beautiful meaningful clutter of art materials.

Pat's workspace

She showed us a box of clippings and torn magazine pages. "I sit with these little scraps of paper," she said, "and sometimes I ask myself is this what my life is about? Is it just about little scraps of paper?  At other times, I find a scrap and want to make it work.  But I get too attached and then I have to let it go.  It's like writing. Sometimes you have to let a piece go because it isn't working."
Pat Sachs showing us her scraps of paper

I've been thinking about Pat and her scraps of paper ever since, and how she assembles them into worlds. They might be tiny worlds but they never seem constricted. She assembles her pieces into a vision with meaning.

Today is Saturday and I spoke to our daughter again in Paris - this morning as well as this evening. Everything was normal outside, she said.  People were in the cafes, laughing, talking.  She saw a puppy and made a fuss of it.  People were out riding bicycles. And yet it all felt false.  Sadness and loss hung over the city.

Saturday is my day off and I wrote all morning.  I walked the dogs with Ben at 2:00 and at 4:00 I decided I'd go to the yoga studio.  I felt a mess. I wondered if I'd make it for the hour and a half of Bikram practice because tears had sprung in my eyes suddenly and without warning all day long.  But yet I should be grateful, shouldn't I? I was not the one dead, nor was my daughter. We were the lucky ones.

 Nevertheless, I  dedicated my practice to the people who had lost their lives in Paris and to those who were trying to survive without their loved ones - those who had lost their former lives.  Shakespeare's words about Mercutio came to mind... "His soul is just a little way above our heads."  I felt these souls were just a little way above our heads, that they were still with us somehow. In my yoga practice, I was moving for them. I was honoring them. It might have been futile but it felt profound.

I thought about Patty's pieces of torn paper. The way she manages to suggest worlds and realities in placing one piece of paper in front of another. The way she makes something profound out of something futile - the way she  takes scraps and assembles them with meaning.

 I may just have to buy this one

I wondered if some of those who had died had helped the others along.  I wondered if they had found themselves in new realities or if they had just become nothing.  Maybe life is just nothing, just a scrap of paper.   Or maybe these assembled scraps of experience and impression hang together and lead elsewhere. To somewhere profound.