Wednesday, October 12, 2016

walk and talk elemental festival

Judy Martin presented her metaphysical talk to appreciative gatherings on both days of the festival.   Afterwards, many attempted to match her slow gait along the river walk in Kagawong, Manitoulin Island Ontario Canada.
Elemental Festival 2
Manitoulin Island Canada
October 1  (4:45 pm and October 2 (1 pm) 2016
What follows is almost the complete text of her talk.

My daily outdoor walk is a rhythm, a routine, a line of steps.  My foot steps are like stitches.  I am sewing myself to this place.  I am connecting to my rural area and my life here on Manitoulin.  To turn this into an art project, I began to mark each walk by moving a square of white cloth into a basket.  My walk is 1 km to Cricket Hill and 1 km back home again.  1 km is 1250 steps.

Big projects attract me.  I like to be absorbed in a piece for years, allowing it to be part of my daily routine.  I am making a 1 km path with marks like running stitches that represents my footprint and my gait. 

On May 3, I was unable to do my walk as my left leg developed so much pain.
On May 19 I began to sew instead of walk, using up fabrics that I have collected and saved over my life time to sew 1 km of patchwork.  I thought that this will be a fabric piece about my daily walk but also about my sewing practice and used a chain stitch method to create half square triangles.  I began to love admire the strong chains that were coming forth and sewed every day rather than walked every day with cloth I have collected for 40 years. Each piece of cloth has its own story. (father’s hospita gown , silk from commission etc)

The cloth seemed like a luminous halo that represented my life.  My walking piece was morphing into a life path.  Virginia Woolf said:   Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end.

This project became less about my daily walk on Manitoulin and more about an accumulation of moments of life itself. A long orderly path of cloth purchased for projects, some made, some not.  A life of stepping over and through hurdles and burdens, joys and unexpected visions.  My leg kept me from doing the walk on the road, but not from sewing the road.  The path I was piecing had to do with mortality and summing up and about stitching my Self together. 

I couldn’t bear weight on my left leg to make the steps but I could sew a soft cloth path that was giving me strength.  Van Gogh said that colour has power over line.  Line may be the language of reason but colour is sensuality itself. Making a path of memory and colour with the sewing machine’s walking foot, resting my painful leg. A path that shows how it FEELS to be alive.  

On May 31 Ned bought me a cane.  
On June 5 the leg broke.

My left femur just broke with spontaneous spiral fracture.  A clean break, it was mended with surgery with a titanium nail from hip to knee, inserted into the bone marrow so that the bone would grow around it.
I needed to heal.  A way I have used to self-heal in past was to make bundles.  When my mother was dying, I started to wrap things and found the action of wrapping very therapeutic.  The gesture created a real material object, but the motion of it took me beyond it. The slowness, the time, the touching, the moving arm gesture, Touch is the mother of the senses. I started to use those white squares and wrap the white sweet clover that grows on our beach in July  It grows as tall as a human and smells very sweet.  My husband would bring me up a tall stalk that I would then break and bend to make them small enough to fit within the white squares.  I thought, here are the foot- steps of my path.
It was my daughter who said they looked like bones.  

The walking piece had morphed again.  I am using the chain sritched luminous halo cloth triangle-squares to space the foot-steps / broken bones  / running stitches together in a long line, not 1 km yet, but getting there.   This project shows faith in the future and faith in myself.

Working with materials reveals me to myself.  I understand my life and healing through making. Eastern cultures believe that the act of joining small pieces together embodies a wish for a long life. Physical and spiritual are combined in my path.  The bone wrappings might represent the body, but they also yield a mystery.  What is inside?  What is inside that wrapping we wonder.   Is it the spirit?

The chains of half square triangles, dark and light, red and black, old clothing and new velvet are sewn together only to be eventually split apart.  When split, they show that they indeed joined.   When strung together they make a strong chain and give space for the body-mystery to move along.

Step step step.  My body – spirit steps into the future.  Over and over and over, every day, every day , every day.  The birds and the clouds in the sky, the ground beneath my feet, the ditches that change through the seasons, the neighbours that I smile greetings at, we all move along it. 

I use my cane now.  I do my shortened daily walk, moving through pain.  Not thinking but moving.  Just being.  This piece is not narrative.  It is essentialist.  It is about being.
As you walk this path, go slowly.  Match my gait.  Stay one metre away from the person in front of you and notice your own experience of walking along this river.  

No comments:

Post a Comment