forest for the trees ~ Dina Stander
During chaplaincy internship I had an encounter with a hospital patient who was being treated simultaneously for cancer and severe depression. They had a long stay, so we were able to visit over many weeks. They were an artist and I was the one regular visitor they could talk with about their daily dance, in-patient psychotherapy and brain-targeting radiation, from the perspective of an artist. On the day techs fashioned the specially fitted face mask for radiation treatments, marking their skin with indelible ink to line everything up, exactly, over many doses, we spoke about mask making. About what is shown or hidden, and the maps we draw to make meaning. I'd brought them a postcard I had painted during an overnight shift and they handed it back to me saying, "I wont accept this unless you sign your work." I dug a pen out of my pocket and signed. "You feel how different the gift is now?" they asked. And I did feel it. This is a photo of a small painting from 2020. Today I remembered that conversation and signed my work. It feels much better now.
I have become more sharply aware of the shadowloss accumulating in every corner of my existence, and a growing understanding that my old life has not survived the pandemic, even though I have. The maps I make meaning from are being redrawn in what seems like a surreal Escher-esque ballet. I am not sure how all the levels will connect, whether I am bird or fish. Or what direction the light will come from, or whether swimming or flying will lead me reliably to my own center. And I am remembering to sign my work. When I signed this piece, finally this morning, I could feel myself standing here, now. In the center. For the moment, this is the blessing of enough.