West Fulton Retreat, Day 2 June 23, 2014

Ellen Lauren's picture

The Light House

Monday June 23, 2014

 

Midsummer Day, breezy, huge billowing clouds against blue summer sky. As if on cue, the air has turned soft and summery. Waking up to the last bits in the yard from the gathering last night, I pick up a bottle left by the steps, someone’s sweater on a chair where we had gathered by the fire. On the picnic table is the wax candle sculpture from Ann’s birthday cake….Happ brthdayyyyyyy it reads, from Brian’s roaring sculpture. He put 116 candles in it and as we tried to light them all, the surface of the cake blazed into a single flame and we rushed out of the house yelling Everyone! Blow!

 

The surface melted to a hard mess of wax, color, and chocolate. I think at some point someone tried to pull the top off to get at the cake beneath. We ate cherries and apricots instead.  By the morning the sugar had attracted the animals and they’d dragged the whole thing around a bit.

 

Anne had asked for 3 volunteers to meet at 1pm today, and Brian, Ann and I gathered at Anne’s barn to make the ‘living room’. Then we all started together at 1:30. People have begun to show up when I arrive, quietly checking email, making coffee, greeting Maggie and little Sebastian. I think that it would be so different without his huge eyes, tiny tipped nose, and his curiosity in everything.

 

 Brian and I move towards the barn, Ann goes around the back, and as we step into the front, she magically walks opens the back door to reveal the vista, staying hidden behind.  Something about her revealing what we knew was there, makes it more stunning than ever. The connection of the inner space to the outer, the ever shifting light, the breeze, the scent of the June meadow are the beginning of the ‘living room’.

 

Then we go to work moving tables and chairs together, placing the bowl of seeds Stephen had gathered yesterday at the center. I hurry back to my barn on my bike and get a small dhurri rug, which is placed at the other end of the barn under a small table and 2 chairs facing each other. We place a pitcher of water on that table.  Ann, I think, then asks for a line to string across the open back door, where she and Brian hang sheets that blow in the wind and reveal a small white chair, and the same meadow behind it. We are then ready to bring the others in -and when I knock on the barn floor formally; Ann repeats her slow opening of that back door. Silence. The breeze pushes the sheets inward and there is a small sigh as the chair is seen, facing out towards the sea of wild grasses and flowers.

 

Space transforming, the associations with white sheets hung, being ironed, framing space, doorways, timelessness or the past, present and future evoked by 2 doorways with the space between where we sat. These and many many images emerged and Chris recorded as fast as we spoke. Anne had asked that the day be divided into: Part one-2 hours of free associating feelings, images and ideas from what we felt from the reading the day before, and from one another; Part two- the rest of the day continuing reading, listening, following along in the book or not.

 

The depth and clarity of thought and imagery is so moving. We scuffle too over the major issues that have only begun to show on the horizon..are we doing the book? What is the role of fiction in this? Is it a guided linear experience? How do we make that theater in Columbus without this changing light, this new place?-are we reading, are we acting what is the role of a theater company in this collaboration?

 

Tom mentions, that text to us is what space is to Ann. The architecture of space, the architecture of space. We approach them the same perhaps.  

 

At night around the fire some of us speak how ‘old school SITI’ this feels, despite missing so many important voices-D, Kel, Barn- something so right about it. But too, it seems to me to be in territory we are uncertain of, there is a delicacy to the way the day is organized, an intimacy in sharing homes and meals. And we are out of our usual ken. The only music played yesterday came from the birdsong and wind. Training today is a simple yoga class. Woolf’s words spin around my brain, perhaps all our brains, like these silvery filaments, spider webs so fine but strong- calling up such feeling and complex memories.

 

After our free thought 2+ hours, we took a break, sharing food, visiting with Sebastian, making more coffee. All socializing is done in the house, outside the environs of this special world we are building through the experiences already had in the barn’s walls. Never again can I imagine capturing this particular blend of bird and breeze and the scent of sweet grasses as we talk and read to one another.

 

Upon returning, Stephen began from Chapter 14 and we pressed on. He sat in the red chair at the small table, framed by 2 small windows. The red chair remains the constant. Today we continued to explore how to listen, where to listen –but this time, informed by a stronger sense of independence from any right or wrong. People lay on the barn floor; Bondo climbed to the 2nd floor and with legs dangling, listened from the galley. Some went outside to hear the voice comes from inside, I sat in the frame of the barn door and watched the sheets billow back and forth. As the hours passed and the reader changed, so did our activities and stations. Some dozed off in a thin veil of sleep, some became more and more awake, circling the building, some moved chairs to windows to look out, some stood. All afternoon we listened to the Ramsey Family’s life unfold in their dining room. We are moving to the 2nd part, the entre act of the book, the heartbreaking confrontation with Time.

 

Maggie had reminded us that the book isn’t nostalgic. It is the sensation of the fact that you WILL be nostalgic for this time, in the future. It is the realization that this time WILL pass, brought home to her by the birth of her and GM’s son, Sebastian. She understands how quickly these precious days of his most innocent infancy will pass to a place and time when she cannot protect him from harm or heartache. And so it is the meditation and the presence of the feeling of Time, its relentlessness. It took my breath away, this insight and her articulation. Here all over again was Virginia Woolf saying, ‘stay this moment, stay’. But of course it cannot.

 

And so we look to a process that will capture the feeling of ‘stolen time.’ A few more days. Michelle comes tomorrow, and we’ll continue to read, talk, take note of themes and images recurring. There will be a potluck for supper. In the morning, as I said, will be yoga with Rebecca Brown in our barn at the red house.

 

 On Wednesday we will host the community of local farmers and artists and show something. As of the last head count, 44 people had accepted an invitation to attend. They will come, with their kids and peek into a world of Ann Hamilton, SITI, Virginia Woolf in the brown barn. We’ll serve them lemonade, afterwards.

 

These days, like scraps of material from old dresses and shirts, will be quilted into this piece and always present. Even as we loose them in the passing minutes.

 

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ellen