• Sue McDowell

Polar bears and Joni Mitchell


It's been a rough few weeks for focus. The good and bad levels of energy seem to be alternating briskly. The good has included great conversations with friends, a ton of enthusiasm for our local art community, the thrill of planning for a big trip, the Women's Hockey team coverage (and medals!) at the Olympics, and the countless times I've realized that I'm healthy and safe and that I'm so grateful for so much in my life. And the bad has been bad - school shootings, the loss of a former colleague, the end of something that has always been an embedded part of my life.

Joni Mitchell's line from Big Yellow Taxi has been running over and over in my head. You know the one,

"Don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what you've got til it's gone.."

A few years ago I realized that what made me mad when someone died was if I *didn't* say the things I should have; if I hadn't told them how much I enjoyed our talks, or working together, or that I admired the way they cared about their kids. I got frustrated enough that I made a vow to change - to slow down - to care about things - to *tell* people I cared. One inner voice whines, "This is tough for a native Cape Codder of a certain age to do" and I reply "Tough!" and then re-commit to opening myself even more. Knowing it'll hurt.

Opening myself to caring about a vanishing species. Opening myself to trying to find a way to inform, to educate, to change our behaviors so the globe we pass on to our heirs is habitable, peaceful, with enough resources.

The piece above is entitled "Dan, 2018"- Dan is the colleague I lost this month. Not a close friend but someone who I enjoyed seeing in our office during the short time our jobs overlapped. In the wake of a school shooting, I found out he had been killed in a domestic event. Along with his two kids. And his wife who apparently was the shooter. I have long gone on record that I think we miss the point when we don't emphasize that the only reason to use a gun is to kill. But I will admit even I"m conflicted around those who really use them to provide food for their families or protect themselves in extreme situations vs. those who are insecure, or pretend they are from a by-gone colonial age. None of the events this month have changed my mind. It is an irony to me that this tension generates the piece above. That lonely bear...looking back at us...over ice that is covering with water. I wish this post were more optimistic. But it just hasn't been that type of month. It's been a month of renewed openness - to find solutions bigger than myself, to try to understand how we can see things so differently from the same location. If Art is anything, it is both a way to explore these themes and to express the struggles we have with challenges that make us human.

Have you found art making a way to heal? a way to process? a way to create during a time when things seemed to be being destroyed?

Peace be with you.


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