Craigardan, a farm & arts community in the Adirondacks, published a hybrid piece I created using the flashcards my younger son made to study Spanish for their latest issue.
The age-old symbolism of three pulled me into my studio one afternoon. I wanted to create a collage of three windows or portals or containers of….the Beginning (in it), After (making my way), and Now (the ongoing present) for my personal experience with grief. I was intent on incorporating the flashcards my younger son, Owen, used to master the Spanish language. He was mostly old-school: no to Quizlet, yes to DuoLingo. He hand wrote hundreds of flashcards for Spanish and Mandarin; later, when he entered high school, he created some to learn Russian. He died at age sixteen by suicide in 2018.
I took the red flashcards from the plastic bin without reviewing them, and felt both stunned and awed when I laid them out on my work table. Each one fits with a section of my life since 2018 and the overall piece I’d envisioned. I had to pay attention. I had to pick myself up.
A damaged copy of a Peterson’s Field Guide to birds helped me construct the last panel. I’d bookmarked several pages with drawings of eagles, swallows, vireos, and terns. The Caspian Tern, the largest tern in the world, inhabits shorelines; my baby loved both freshwater and saltwater environments. According to Peterson’s, the bird’s voice is “a hoarse, low kraa-uh or karr; also repeated kaks.” Owen was a skilled imitator and would’ve loved perfecting those kaks to entertain us around the family dinner table.
As long as I keep writing and sharing about Owen, my memories of him stretch to others. There’s durability in that. Latir is the Spanish word for beat/pulsate/throb. I compartmentalize my daily life in order to grocery shop, teach, drive, and so on, but the truth is the loss is a swift current flowing just beneath the surface.
To see the entire issue, visit: The Gardan Journal #07