Friday, November 21, 2014

I Miss My Mom

Nothing Prepares You

“Nothing prepared me for the loss of my mother. Even knowing that she would die did not prepare me. A mother, after all, is your entry into the world. She is the shell in which you divide and become a life. Waking up in a world without her is like waking up in a world without sky: unimaginable.”
--Meghan O’Rourke

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Part Of Me, Blurry But Still There

“The people we most love do become a physical part of us, ingrained in our synapses, in the pathways where memories are created.”
--Meghan O’Rourke

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Last Night by Luke Pearson

A devastating grief dream by illustrator Luke Pearson... without the haunting visuals, it reads like exquisite poetry.

This kind of dream--or even daydream--should be familiar to those of you who have lost someone precious. I had tons of these dreams after I lost my family.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Five Stages of Grief






It's that time of the year again for me.

Graphic design by Witchoria

Monday, November 17, 2014

What It Feels Like: A Need For Sighing

“The first systematic survey of grief, I read, was conducted by Erich Lindemann. Having studied 101 people, many of them related to the victims of the Cocoanut Grove fire of 1942, he defined grief as ‘sensations of somatic distress occurring in waves lasting from twenty minutes to an hour at a time, a feeling of tightness in the throat, choking with shortness of breath, need for sighing, and an empty feeling in the abdomen, lack of muscular power, and an intensive subjective distress described as tension or mental pain.’”
--Meghan O’Rourke

In Goma Sushitsa, Bulgaria, a mother grieves over a picture of her late son.
Photograph by James L. Stanfield, 1978

“How to Help Someone in Sorrow”
By Howard Whitman

Most of us want to be helpful when grief strikes a friend, but often we don’t know how. We may end up doing nothing because we don’t know the right — and helpful — things to say and do. Because that was my own experience recently, I resolved to gather pointers which might be useful to others as well as myself.

Ministers, priests, and rabbis deal with such situations every day. I went to scores of them, of all faiths, in all parts of the country.

Here are some specific suggestions they made:

1. Don’t try to “buck them up.” This surprised me when the Rev. Arthur E. Wilson of Providence, RI mentioned it. But the others concurred. It only makes your friend feel worse when you say, “Come now, buck up. Don’t take it so hard.”

A man who has lost his wife must take it hard (if he loved her). “Bucking him up” sounds as though you are minimizing his loss. But the honest attitude, “Yes, it’s tough, and I sure know it is,” makes your friend feel free to express grief and recover from it. The “don’t take it so hard” approach deprives him of the natural emotion of grief.

2. Don’t try to divert them. Rabbi Martin B. Ryback of Norwalk, Conn., pointed out that many people making condolence calls purposely veer away from the subject. They make small talk about football, fishing, the weather — anything but the reason for their visit.

The rabbi calls this “trying to camouflage death.” The task of the mourner, difficult as it is, is to face the fact of death, and go on from there. “It would be far better,” Rabbi Ryback suggested, “to sit silently and say nothing than to make obvious attempts to distract. The sorrowing friend sees through the effort to divert him. When the visitor leaves, reality hits him all the harder.”

3. Don’t be afraid to talk about the person who has passed away. Well-intentioned friends often shy away from mentioning the deceased. The implication is that the whole thing is too terrible to mention.

“The helpful thing,” advised Rabbi Henry E. Kagan of Mount Vernon, N.Y., “is to talk about the person as you knew him in the fullness of life, to recreate a living picture to replace the picture of death.”

Once Rabbi Kagan called on a woman who had lost her brother. “I didn’t know your brother too well,” he said. “Tell me about him.” The woman started talking and they discussed her brother for an hour. Afterward she said, “I feel relieved now for the first time since he died.”

4. Don’t be afraid of causing tears. When a good friend of mine lost a child I said something which made his eyes fill up. “I put my foot in it,” I said, in relating the incident to the Rev. D. Russell Hetsler of Brazil, Ind. “No, you didn’t,” he replied. “You helped your friend to express grief in a normal, healthy way. That is far better than to stifle grief when friends are present, only to have it descend more crushingly when one is all alone.”

Fear of causing tears, probably more than anything else, makes people stiff and ineffective. Visiting a friend who has lost his wife, they may be about to mention a ride in the country when they remember the man’s wife used to love rides in the country. They don’t dare speak of peonies because they were her favorite flower. So they freeze up.

“They really are depriving their friend of probably the greatest help they could give him,” Pastor Hetsler commented. “That is, to help him experience grief in a normal way and get over it.” Medical and psychological studies back up the pastor’s contention that expressing grief is good and repressing it is bad. “If a comment of yours brings tears,” he concluded, “remember — they are healthy tears.”

5. Let them talk. “Sorrowing people need to talk,” explained the Rev. Vern Swartsfager of San Francisco. “Friends worry about their ability to say the right things. They ought to be worrying about their ability to listen.”

If the warmth of your presence can get your friend to start talking, keep quiet and listen — even though he repeats the same things a dozen times. He is not telling you news but expressing feelings that need repetition. Pastor Swartsfager suggested a measuring stick for the success of your visit: “If your friend said a hundred words to your one, you’ve helped a lot.”

6. Reassure — don’t argue. “Everybody who loses a loved one has guilt feelings — they may not be justified but they’re natural,” Rabbi Joseph R. Narot of Miami pointed out. A husband feels he should have been more considerate of his wife; a parent feels he should have spent more time with his child; a wife feels she should have made fewer demands on her husband. The yearning, “If only I had not done this, or done that — if only I had a chance to do it now,” is a hallmark of grieving.

These feelings must work their way out. You can give reassurance. Your friend must slowly come to the realization that he or she was, in all probability, a pretty good husband, wife, or parent.

7. Communicate — don’t isolate. Too often a person who has lost a loved one is overwhelmed with visitors for a week or so; then the house is empty. Even good friends sometimes stay away, believing that people in sorrow “like to be alone.”

“That’s the ‘silent treatment,’” remarked Father Thomas Bresnahan of Detroit. “There’s nothing worse.” Our friend has not only lost his loved one — he has lost us too.

It is in the after-period, when all the letters of sympathy have been read and acknowledged and people have swung back into daily routine, that friends are needed most.

Keep in touch, Father Bresnahan urges. See your friends more often than you did before. See him for any purpose — for lunch, for a drive in the country, for shopping, for an evening visit. He has suffered a deep loss. Your job is to show him, by implication, how much he still has left. Your being with him is a proof to him that he still has resources.

8. Perform some concrete act. The Rev. William B. Ayers of Wollaston, MA told me of a sorrowing husband who lost all interest in food until a friend brought over his favorite dish and simply left it there at suppertime. “That’s a wonderful way to help, by a concrete deed which in itself may be small yet carried the immense implication that you care,” Pastor Ayers declared.

We should make it our business, when a friend is in sorrow, to do at least one practical, tangible act of kindness. Here are some to choose from: run errands with your car, take the children to school, bring in a meal, do the dishes, make necessary phone calls, pick up mail at the office, help acknowledge condolence notes, shop for the groceries.

9. Swing into action. Action is the symbol of going on living.

By swinging into action with your friend, whether at his hobby or his work, you help build a bridge into the future. Perhaps it means painting the garage with him, or hoeing the garden

In St. Paul, Minn., the Rev. J.T. Morrow told me of a man who had lost a son. The man’s hobby had been refinishing furniture. When he called on him, Pastor Morrow said, “Come on, let’s go down to the basement.” They sanded a table together. When Pastor Morrow left, the man said, “This is the first time I’ve felt I could go on living.”

Sorrowing people, Pastor Morrow pointed out, tend to drop out of things. They’re a little like the rider who has been thrown from a horse. If they are to ride again, better get them back on the horse quickly.

10. “Get them out of themselves,” advised Father James Keller, leader of the Christophers. Once you have your friend doing things for himself, his grief is nearly cured. Once you have him doing things for others, it is cured.

Grief runs a natural course. It will pass. But if there is only a vacuum behind it, self-pity will rush to fill it. To help your friend along the normal course of recovery, guide him to a new interest.

Volunteer work for charity, enrollment in a community group to help youngsters, committee work at church or temple are ways of getting people “out of themselves.”

If you and I, when sorrow strikes our friends, follow even a few of these pointers, we will be helpful.

From The Art of Manliness

Saturday, November 15, 2014

"Cymatics" by Nigel Stanford

"Cymatics" by Nigel Stanford from his newly released "Solar Echoes."

BEAUTY: Sculpture AND Furniture--The Haas Brothers

The Haas Brothers, Nikolai and Simon, are twins creating furniture, lamps, vases, objects, and art in Los Angeles. In both method and presentation, the Haas Brothers (little brothers to actor Lukas Haas) interpret their ideas in quite a unique way. I love their zoomorphic chairs, lounges, ottomans, and stools covered in ethically harvested fur from Iceland (the "Beast" chairs are especially fun with their horns and cloven feet!). The dripping, organic brass creations are assembled from an amazing invention of their own design, a hexagon tile made from brass; the fact that they can create such fluid shapes from such a rigid little material is a wonder. And they also make a line of Accretion Vases with layers and layers of glaze and slip built up so as to resemble cilia in lungs. And the lamps they make look like water splashes frozen by a high-speed camera.

The Haas twins signed a deal with Versace to create bespoke products and collectors are snatching pieces up at six figures, but the brothers are still very much on the fringe of things, conceptually speaking. At Art Basel in Miami this year, they showed their interactive installation "Advocates for the Sexual Outsider." The overarching philosophy of the piece and of the twins themselves is anti-shame and pro-sex. Simon is gay, Niki is straight, and they both see sexuality as something that is expressed by every human being, and that being uncomfortable with sex or feeling shame about one's sexuality comes not from an innate sense, but is imposed by external forces who have an interest in controlling people's minds and behaviors. Just read their marvelous statement at the entrance to the piece:

Below is the entrance to the piece: a stylized vagina covered in ruched leather flanked by stylized bronze erections leads to a private, curtained "den" filled with brass and ebony sex toys, and objects and art that support the brothers' refreshing, sensible no-shame policy.

Simon, seated, Nikolai, standing, are the Haas Brothers.

Friday, November 14, 2014

BEAUTY: Photography--Patrick Joust

The eerie photography of Patrick Joust captures an urban and suburban landscape most of us rarely see. While the world is sleeping, his camera prowls at night capturing neon signs and street lights reflected in puddles for his series Up All Night and Darkness At The Edge Of Town. Lonely, evocative, and beautiful....

Underwear Graffiti At The Gas Station

I stopped for fuel at my regular gas station the other day and looked down to see a little spot of white graffiti on the cement. Upon closer inspection, I discovered a rather cute drawing of a pair of men's traditional fly front briefs. I liked the drawing but I liked the incongruity of it in front of the gas pump even more...apropos of nothing...

Photos by JEF

Thursday, November 13, 2014

It Sings

The European Space Agency (ESA) have released audio of the comet upon which us little ol' human beings just landed. And it is not what you would have expected... trilling, gurgling, bubbling...

From the ESA description:
"Rosetta’s Plasma Consortium (RPC) has uncovered a mysterious ‘song’ that Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is singing into space. The comet seems to be emitting a ‘song’ in the form of oscillations in the magnetic field in the comet’s environment. It is being sung at 40-50 millihertz, far below human hearing, which typically picks up sound between 20 Hz and 20 kHz. To make the music audible to the human ear, the frequencies have been increased in this recording. Original data credit: ESA/Rosetta/RPC/RPC-MAG. This sonification of the RPC-Mag data was compiled by German composer Manuel Senfft ( Thumbnail image credit: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM – CC BY-SA IGO 3.0"

Vincent's Ear

German artist Diemut Strebe references Van Gogh's self-severed ear in a project at the intersection of art and science. To create a "portrait" of Van Gogh, she cultured cartilage from Lieuwe Van Gogh, a living descendant of Vincent Van Gogh (he is the great grandson of Theo, Vincent's brother). The cartilage was grown around a 3D printed ear based on the shape and calculated measurements of Vincent's actual ear seen in the only known photo of the artist. Strebe figures that this living organism should last about 80 years. A microphone allows visitors to "speak" to Vincent's ear--speech is translated into the pops and clicks of the sounds of neurons firing.

This reminds me of the amazing self-portrait bust by Marc Quinn made from his own frozen blood which I wrote about here in a post of artist self-portraits.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

"Blood Bank - Calpa Remix" by Bon Iver

I am in love with this bouncy, dance-y yet slightly dark version of Bon Iver's song "Blood Bank" brilliantly remixed by Carl Palmquist (Calpa).

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

BEAUTY: Illustration--Owen Gent

I'll let the evocative work of illustrator Owen Gent do the talking for me in this post...

Top to bottom: excerpt from Five Winters; excerpt from Siren; Into The Woods - excerpt from Five Winters; Lifted; My Heart; The Longest Night

Monday, November 10, 2014