Death, transition & inspiration

Last month one of my favourite humans passed away.

Just a little more than 4 months after my canine-son / soul mate Bruno left us, my uncle Brian made that journey after a lifetime of struggling with diabetes.

At his celebration of life the church was overflowing. He had made a significant lifelong commitment to his community, his friends, and his family. His celebration service showed me that the person I knew to be Brian is the same person that we all knew: a hilarious, caring, outspoken, yet humble person. He was a carpenter and fixer and mechanic, he often gave up his own plans in order to help others, never ever complained about his sickness and never bragged about the expert craftsman that he was. He just gave all the time and that was it. He loved the outdoors, his dogs, and his fishing trips. Salt of the earth.

At the service we heard from his childhood friends, his brothers and sisters, and his eldest son. His son’s beautiful speech is one that I will always remember, not just because of his bravery to go up and speak about his father only 6 days after his passing, but also because he ended the speech with a shout out to my dad, who 15 years ago donated one of his kidney’s so that Brian could continue to live.

My dad is a humble person and he never made a big deal about the kidney transplant, but at the memorial service it made me realize that without his kind act everyone in that room wouldn’t have had the past 15 years with Brian. His sons were grateful for the chance to get to know their dad better over that time.

I know this is an art blog, and you aren't necessarily here to read about my family history, but this is all relevant to my art practice. Loss and change is scary, but we all experience it, whether we plan for it or not.

Self Portrait, 2019

Self Portrait, 2019

I have been reading a lot about mindfulness and spirituality lately, and have just re-read a great book by Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth. This kind of reading isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but this time around I found it held different significance from my first read 12 years ago.

One of the beautiful descriptions he gives is about how the universe is expanding outwards, but that at some point the momentum will change and after a brief pause it will begin to contract again (and after that, will start all over again).

Like breathing, every thing has a period of expansion and then contraction; growth and then return to its beginning state. This includes human and animal life, and every living thing on the planet.

I believe that this perspective can be applied towards all things. I find myself incorporating it into my art practice and daily life. Am I on the outward flow right now? Is a certain project expanding or wrapping up? I have found that considering every day things in these terms brings a sense of calm…that things are not arbitrarily chaotic in the world, everything is on its own course, including your life and everything in it.

I have also recently read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. In the story he refers to following one’s Personal Legend, reading the signs, omens and unspoken language of the world around you. I found it very timely and affirming. Near the end of the story there is a part where the main character needs to communicate with the wind, the sun, and the desert and ask them for help. It is revealed that none can help him because they are each pursuing their own Personal Legends, and that “anyone who interferes with the Personal Legend of another thing never will discover his own.” I immediately thought of wild animals trying to survive around humans.

Lastly, I have just begun reading another book from my stack of ‘to be read later’: When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron. In the introduction she includes a quote from her teacher, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche that I think needs to be posted in every home: “Chaos should be regarded as extremely good news.'“ Chaos requires us to change and that means self-reflect and grow. (Marie Kondo might have something to say about that, but I think she would agree in the goal!)

I do believe that concepts and ideas come into your purview as you need them, so I share all of these gems with you, dear reader, for when you experience your own times of loss, change, and transition.

I am incorporating some of these ideas into the artist in residence project that I will be doing later this year at the Roundhouse in Vancouver, and of course as I continue exploring my own art life expansion, including the development of my works on paper & spirit animal series - both of which have their own underlying messages about the state of the universe and humans’ place in it all.

Published March 3, 2019