For more than a year, I’ve been playing with hearts…artistically.
I didn’t know when I started that I was working on my own heart in ways words couldn’t express, but my hands, given the freedom to do so, could.
First by cutting and ripping pieces of paper and forming hearts or broken hearts or mending hearts in collages.
Then by drawing hearts within hearts within hearts, smaller hearts nested, protected by the larger ones. All open hearts, sometimes naturally, sometimes broken, jagged-edged.
Months ago, my dad, an artist, who I often show my not-like-his creations, noted, “Your hearts are changing.”
No longer broken and dark, but open and bright, filled with light.
I noted that the same had happened inside me. Somehow. Inexplicably. I had only a few weeks before returned from a most difficult stint in Palestine. In that place of deep brokenness, my heart returned to me, to the world, brighter and more open, willing to take in the hurt of the world only long enough to send the pain out buoyed by the light I had found in myself.
After that, I went a few months without creating anything. When I started again, my hearts made their way into otherwise abstract drawings of intersecting ribbons and swirls and strings of beads. I don't know why.
Last month I spent a few days alone in a cabin in the woods. I spent my days walking, watching, writing, drawing. Noticing the spider webs everywhere glistening in the sun, watching a spider in my screened-in porch devour one spider…and then another… I could only draw spider webs. Imperfect webs of connection against blurry backgrounds of creation. No hearts.
Almost 2 weeks ago, I was on a very different, and equally rich, retreat, spending time with the Benedictine sisters in Erie, PA, and a number of other wonderful women. For the first time since my previous retreat, I felt the impulse to draw. Again, webs. But this time, each web I drew had strands of silk that formed one heart, or a few. Ever since my sojourn into the woods, I had been paying attention to spiders and webs. They, or at least one, had been demanding my attention, biting me in inconvenient places (including inside my belly button) on more than one occasion (Side note: this was when I learned that lemon juice helps to soothe the itching and the swelling of spider bites when over-the-counter creams do not).
In Native American traditions, according to Jamie Sands, spiders represent “the infinite possibilities of creation.” Perhaps my spider was reminding me, not so subtly, that I had some work to do: weaving love into the web of my own creations.
After yet another bite (I hope the last), my webs have not simply contained hearts, but been made of hearts within hearts within hearts.
I created my last simple drawing a few nights ago. Bewildered by the troubles of our world, I started the web, first with the strands that met in the center, all bright colors. Then the strands that connected one to another around and around and around. In hearts.
Shortly after I began, I heard shouting in front of my house. Reluctant to leave my heart-growing endeavor, I went out on my front porch and saw two men who seemed to be attacking, one even beating with a stick, another.
One of the attackers, curly light brown hair, striped blue and gray shirt, saw me. “Call 911!” I didn’t understand what was happening and took another moment to take in the scene, trying to process what I was seeing. After a few more seconds of shouting, the man on the ground stopped resisting, thankfully conscious and, as far as I could tell, unharmed.
“He tried to steal a purse,” Curly told me, breathless. It had happened at a bar a few blocks from my house. “Call 911!” I dialed the number and handed him my phone. My pregnant neighbor had come out to see what was going on.
As the self-appointed doers-of-justice stood and the accused sat on the ground, my neighbor and I talked and watched. The accused stood up, the other two vigilant, ready to subdue him again. The accused asked me for water.
I noticed he was sweaty, his kelly green t-shirt nearly soaked. I wanted to give him water, but equally wanted to remove myself from a situation I still didn’t fully understand.
He asked again. I hesitated.
He ran. They chased. He only made it across the street and a few houses down.
My neighbor and I continued to watch as another man arrived to stand guard, now three surrounding the accused. Then the police came. The men from the bar left. An ambulance arrived.
I went inside, not knowing if the accused left in a police car or an ambulance.
I resumed the web of hearts.
Strand by strand.
Color by color.
I knew that what I could give to the world that night was a representation of the world I wish to help create.
Not fine art, perhaps, but sincere.
A simple vision, so difficult to manifest in 3-D.
I have to believe it’s possible.
I do believe it’s possible.
Tonight, I was reminded that I am not the only person who believes this.
We can create a web of love.
Linking us one