Last Saturday, a group of us sat around a big wooden table in an art room in the Westchester Community College Center for the Arts, practicing writing stories of things that touched us or shocked us as fast as we could and all in one long, breathless sentence. Before we started, we practiced sitting with eyes closed for a time, allowing the body to be present, allowing ourselves to really be aware the breathing and the mysterious life in us that links us with the distant past and with worlds beyond us. We tried writing as we had meditated, allowing everything to happen, accepting what arose knowing that no thought or feeling was final. A few people decided to read out loud what they wrote and we were amazed at the beauty and life in what we heard. It seemed extraordinary evidence that we have the rhythm of story in us just as surely as the rhythm breath–and more: There were places in a couple of stories that opened up and let through a flash of pain and majesty of the greater human story, of loss and love and going on. It was quietly thrilling, like seeing the moon and stars through the parting clouds. I came away recognizing how important it is to be with others and exchange with others. Through others, we can recognize our own deeper possibilities and finer qualities–we can glimpse something real.
In the afternoon, full of the sense that there was everything to be gained by leaving my winter-imposed solitude and seeking out the work of others–and work by living humans, not museum pieces–I drove down to Manhattan. Braving the icy wind off the Hudson and the sense that I don’t know anything about art, I walked around the art galleries of Chelsea. I came to a full stop at the show “Regions of Unlikeness” by the artist Celia Gerard at the Sears Peyton Gallery. Gerard’s abstract, geometical works in black and white have the power of making a viewer stay. “It’s amazing how they unfold,” said my friend, and I agreed. The triangles, spheres, and cones open into landscapes and unknown worlds in deep space. What is really uncanny about the works is that they unfold the viewer, waking up the energies in the body and opening the mind and heart. I felt like I could see and feel the ongoing search in the work, and it had the effect of calling to search along with the artist. Gerard’s work woke me up, yet made me feel very concentrated and still, like looking inside a vast crystal or up at a mountain, or inside myself. It gave me a feeling of nostalgia for places I have never travelled, a longing for a quality or state that is still unknown yet essential…home.
“I want to unfold/ I don’t want to stay folded anywhere/ Because where I am folded,/ There I am a lie….” These lines by Rilke echoed through my head as I drove home from Manhattan last night, and this morning when I woke.