Saturday, February 2, 2013

from January 13

A friend who is a filmmaker has asked me to document the cranes: the making and sending out, and how it makes me remember my friend in whose memory I am making them.  I hesitate to talk about how things make me feel.  I want to present a sunny picture of my life and work and these don't make me feel sunny in the least.  Truth be told, they make me very, very sad, but the sadness is part of working through my grief, and the making and sending out is also part of that.  Suicide is the most difficult thing I've ever been through.  It seems more difficult than my parents' divorce, which was horrific, but at least both of my parents are still here and I can talk to them.  I still do talk to Papatya.  Sometimes I shout at her.  Sometimes I ask her questions.  I tell her that I miss her and I wish shed found another way out of what was bothering her.  Occasionally I feel like she talks back to me.  Sometimes this is good; sometimes it is more than I can process.

Since October I have made 14 cranes.  I gave 5 of the first to family members.  They were hand-built, thin slabs of porcelain I put together.  Then I folded paper cranes and coated them with porcelain slip.  They are lovely and fragile; too fragile.  Six broke.  I need to make them heartier, but their fragility also says something of this process of grief and recovery.  Experience and refining and testing and taking tentative steps.   Of the three surviving porcelain paper cranes, I have one that I'm keeping, one ready to give, and I gave one away the first of January.  Giving the cranes to her family was something that I needed to do for them and for myself.  I didn't quite realize what I was working up to- the monumental memorial project of 1000 cranes to be distributed near and far, given to friends who knew her and hung in places she loved for others to discover.  Now that I know what I'm doing, my feelings have changed somewhat.  Sending them away will be easy.  Hanging them will be slightly more difficult.  Giving them to people who knew and loved her reduces me to tears.

Early in January I saw my friend Elizabeth.  She has been a mentor to me- I've joked that I want to be Elizabeth when I "grow up".  (If I'm not grown up at 38, I wonder, when will I be?)  She has encouraged my work in pottery and photography, my spiritual development, my parenting and marriage.  She moved recently to take care of her parents, and I've missed her tremendously.  Elizabeth was also a part of my knitting group.  In a letter after Papatya's death she wrote "knitting. . .is the perfect way to quietly and peacefully be with my father.  That enjoyment is a great gift that both you and Papatya have given to me and for which I will always be grateful."  It felt right to me that she be the first person, outside of Papatya's family, to receive a crane.

I had not seen Elizabeth since Papatya's death.  Giving this to her, though I so wanted her to have it and to tell her about the project, was overwhelming.  She reminded me that Papatya's life and spirit was one of creativity and encouragement, and that this fit well her legacy.  I hope, as I move through this project, that I will take on her creativity and encouragement and will transform my grief into joy in remembering her life.

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