lean back, breathe
some deep deaths; when you hear
Love’s voice, awaken
Leave it all
at death’s door, then step through.
Today is here
© 2017 – Laurel Archer
Rest – Oil Pastel on Raw Canvas, 9×11
Featured Photo, detail of the same.
© 2017 – Karen Epp
What this is about: Simply it’s about Lent — this long stretch of the Liturgical Calendar that fills the 40 days before Easter Sunday. And it’s about trying to open an inviting space during this Lenten season to listen, to consider, to pray.
I have and maybe you have too, given up things during Lent, but for the last few years I have been more inclined to engage with something in a purposeful way letting that lead me through the long weeks. Last year a friend and I picked six birds and just hung around with one each week and then wrote bird poetry. (You can read some of those pieces here). I must say, I had such an enjoyable Lent.
This year I asked a friend who is a visual artist (Karen Epp) to share the weeks of Lent with me. We schemed together and mapped out a way to create collaboratively through the weeks of Lent — what you read/saw above was our first week’s creation!
We have chosen 6 words, one to consider each week: Rest, Open, Proposal, Watch, Presence, Release. This week, we worked independently with the word, Karen creating in response to the word and I writing a poem. Next week, Karen will lead — creating in response to the word Open and then passing that creation on to me. Then I will write, referencing her artwork of the word Open. The third week, I will lead, write a poem and pass it to Karen for her to create in response to it…and so on.
If you are curious about the process for each of us, please read on…
Karen on her process: I truly enjoyed the noticings and listenings to what stirred in me as I thought of what rest is. I was drawn to a book I have by Abraham Heschel on the Sabbath and he shared some beautiful words that seemed to sit alongside my own inner words of what rest is. Heschel’s shared about rest being much like art and I found that comforting. Here are three of those quotes: “Labor is a craft, but perfect rest is an art.” “The Sabbath is a day for the sake of life.” “…Sabbath was given to us by God for joy, for delight, for rest, and should not be marred by worry or grief.”
Then the ruminations that were settling into me on rest were: watching the splendor of a sunrise or sunset, walking along the shoreline of the ocean, a lake or river and listening to the water moving; these are moments when I am more fully present and remind me of what rest perhaps truly is.
The actual piece of artwork was difficult for me spiritually. I enjoyed how freely I was working, but as I continued, the piece became less and less about the stirrings I had been having and more about trying desperately to make those stirrings work.
Waking up the next day, I painted over everything. There was turmoil and time spent listening. It continued this way, like a tide going in an out, becoming rougher in a storm and more gentle in the listening. Then as I spent some more time imagining Jesus with me, I realized just how tightly I was holding onto the worry and fear. This is when the original image of a river came back to me simply…
Laurel on her process: The poetic form is an adaptation of a Diamante. A simple form that compares one word to another. In this poem, the word Rest, is compared to Enter and then to Freedom.
As I sat with the word rest and what it meant as I came from the Ash Wednesday service – I couldn’t help but think of ‘Rest in peace’ – that phrase to bless the dead. Those two words following after Rest, seemed to ask for the diamante form.
My poem went through several iterations. To me, the early work is seldom good, but necessary. As I look over my coil ring notebook where this work is done, I can feel myself reaching …and feel the inadequacy of the earlier versions. They start boxed in, straight, tight with my own control and slowly as I reach farther, risk more, the poem gets closer but it never feels quite done.
The word rest, almost always takes me to Hebrews 3 & 4 and the phrase “Make every effort to enter that rest” 4:11 – this perplexing paradox capturing all the effort that must (seemingly) be exerted to finally exhale and let go… the poem wrestles between death and life and to me the black lines interweaving blues and white in Karen’s painting manage to convey the balance that perhaps my words could not manage on its own.
So, although these two projects were done completely independently, they fit together, give to each other greater breadth and more depth.
Thanks for reading along.
Laurel and Karen