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A Walk About Town from the Monterey Herald: Imagination Migration

On the cusp of realizing there was something wrong with my foot — yes, for regular readers, another something — I took a long walk through wide-open land. That walk was the focus of last month’s column. Sometimes a person takes a walk. Other times a walk takes a person. That day, I was the one who’d been taken. Remember the last time you fell in love, the uncontrollable ecstasy of it, how it feels as if every cell in your body is being rearranged, how all preconceived notions previously held in your mind take flight? Out on the land during my solitary walk I got rebooted, redesigned, uplifted, and enlivened.

My dear longtime friend Lorraine died recently. I feel her absence in every movement I make. And so much is troubling these days. The Palestinian people are being slaughtered. Every day I worry about our country, stunned that a man who led an insurrection against us could become our president again — he’d be the first American dictator. Then there’s my foot, another thing, small by comparison, that weighs me down. These worries get me out of bed most “mornings” at 3:30 a.m. I know, we all live with difficult things. But the walk I took, the last walk for who knows how long, well, it temporarily righted me. But feeling righted happened before Lorraine’s death. Now I just feel the loss of her.

I want to tell you a little about Lorraine. How to put someone who is so alive in my heart in the past tense? She was a very creative person, deeply spiritual, committed to her community. As both an artist and a teacher, Lorraine blended dance with her love of community for decades. She was a fine writer, too. First, she was my student, and we wrote together for a couple of decades. Over time we became close friends who continued to write together.

Imagination Migration is a made up of 200 roughly footlong, two-dimensional birds. (Photo by Patrice Vecchione)

In January, despite finding it nearly impossible, ill as she was, she came to a poetry reading I was a part of. Afterward, we sat together while the other chairs got cleared away. Like schoolgirls sharing secrets we huddled together as others enjoyed the wine reception. And our secret was love. Everything outside the bubble of us was only a distant chatter. For that little while, my world was comprised of only Lorraine. We held hands. Tears came and went.

Driving home later, I was felt an unequivocal certainly that whatever we are called to do in this life, we’d best do it. Or I best do what’s calling me. As never before, I felt my expiration date approach. The poet Theodore Roethke wrote, “What falls away is always.” That January afternoon was the last time I saw Lorraine. We left each other a few voicemails after that.

The last day I’d gone walking, I’d felt a new imaginative something enter me. Inspired by the awareness that Lorraine’s life was being shortened and the grief of losing her, I felt called to create an art installation, something I’d never done before. It’s called Imagination Migration.

The walk had made clear to me in a new way that in order to solve our problems — personal and global — the imagination is essential. That was something Lorraine gave me — her vivid imagination. We need to think differently about many things in order to come to new understandings and to arrive at revelatory — imperative — solutions. The old way of doing things is insufficient; it’s not working. Lorraine asked her family and friends to not be sad. But so far, my imagination and my heart aren’t capable of that.

Imagination Migration is a visual story of transformation and hope, a belief in possibility and fortitude. It consists of 200 roughly footlong, two-dimensional birds. Once I began drawing and cutting, I realized that it would be impossible for me to do the project alone — so many birds! So I asked for help which is hardly my favorite thing to do. More people raised their hands than I could even accept. Friends as well as people I’d never met took my bird outlines home and cut them out for me — 20 here, 30 there. Neighbors helped —adults, a child, and a college student. I hosted two art making parties in my sunroom and backyard. People cut out birds and decorated them. We shared lunch.

Imagination Migration will appear on the café walls of Sweet Elena’s Bakery, 465 Olympia, in Sand City, from March 22 – May 29. (Photo by Patrice Vecchione)

Some of the birds have pencils in their mouths for the stories and poems they’ll need to write about their journeys. Others are wearing necklaces that map their direction. Some carry pictures of flowers they’ll miss while they’re away from their winter homes. Brilliant blossoms fill the mouths of others. Wings are streaked with gold. A flock will be flying above mountains dotted with houses and another flock will fly above a glittery ocean on which sailboats glide.

Whatever holds you back from your own boldness, your own truth, whatever grief or fear grab at you, whether you can walk around the block or not, let it all take flight, at least for a little while.

Though my grief over Lorraine’s passing has me in its grip, I imagine her birdlike, taking flight upon a page of sky, expanding her gorgeous wings.

Imagination Migration will appear on the café walls of Sweet Elena’s Bakery, 465 Olympia, in Sand City, from March 22 – May 29. This is your invitation to the opening reception March 23 from 3 to 5 p.m.


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