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From Here to There

December 16th, 2003 · 1 Comment

At the end of August, the girls and I went to see Art in the Meadow at Blakely Harbor Park on the island. All I knew is that a friend involved with public art had recommended it to me. I imagined I would find some tall rusted sculptures standing in a bunch of grass; that’s what public outdoor art seemed to be to me.

Yet when we arrived, with the park all to ourselves on a quiet weekday morning, we were surprised. Instead of obvious sculptures made of metal or stone standing on platforms, the meadow was like a maze, a mystery, with the works woven into the land, integrated into the trees and hidden behind the horticulture.

Artists had carved paths through the weedy abandoned field, where once a mill town had been a century ago. They had painted a pile of logs, accenting some red, and they had woven vines of roses and blackberries into shapes. Pieces of color (plexiglass?) hung in an old apple arbor, where once honeymooners had stayed, casting enchanting shadows beneath the bent boughs, with stumps as seats. I could imagine many lovers lingering there for a while. We walked on paths of pine cones and sun-bleached shells around slender alder trees. We discovered art hanging from branches above our heads, red, green and gold, and planned in the paths beneath our feet, textures to hear and feel.

I think my favorite creation was Shirley Wiebe’s “From There to Here”, a woven metal piece – the only metal one, I think – with a shape suggesting either a boat or a basket, of native tradition, or maybe even a fish skeleton, a backbone with ribs. The piece was placed beneath a tree, on the bank of a creek. It was the first one the girls and I saw. To find it we had to take a winding path cut through blackberry bushes and other growth, often watching our feet to keep from tripping on tree roots or shoots of vines. The sculpture and its placement at the edge of a path and at the edge of a creek spoke to me about past and present, transport through time and space, between two media, two cultures, two histories.

As we left the park that day, my brother Jim came into my mind immediately. He was retarded, brain damaged as a baby by a tumor, and what he enjoyed most in life were simple pleasures, like walking. How he always liked to walk in front of us whenever we went anywhere as a family! He passed away four years ago, four years ago today, so I can’t see him walk any more, but in my mind I can remember. I can still see it now, the way he walked, in jeans and T-shirt, wearing down the soles of his blue Velcro shoes in sharp inward slopes, always insisting he would be first. He always liked to lead the way whether we were hiking through the Olympic Rain Forest or stretching our legs around the neighborhood at home.

I thought about how much he might have liked Art in the Meadow, what a fun adventure it would have been for him. And I saw him there, almost as if he were still alive, walking on the path ahead of us, trying not to trip on the weeds and roots, taking the lead, making the way, exploring before us, going ahead.

And I realized that that’s exactly what Jim did. He went ahead of us. He led the way. He’s already gone from Here to There. And now he’s waiting for us to catch up with him.

Tags: journal

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Julie Leung: Seedlings & Sprouts // Dec 17, 2004 at 8:41 am

    Ashes to ocean: a final goodbye to my brother

    Yesterday we released my brother’s ashes into the Pacific Ocean. Jim died five years ago this December, after suffering three brain tumors in his young life. (I’ve described missing him at Thanksgiving, on his birthday and the anniversary of…