Monday, May 2, 2016

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Celeste Roberge's "Rising Cairn" sculpture in front of the Nevada Art Museum in Reno. (Photo: Greg Patterson/Flickr)
In the past month this image has crossed my social media feeds multiple times with the caption: "the weight of grief- an illustration of the physical feeling of grief."  At one point, Landy's cousin thoughtfully directed the photo to me suggesting that it might fit on my blog.  I thought I might tackle what this sculpture evokes for me and agree that this blog may be the perfect place to explore that.
The sculpture is actually called "Raising Cairn" and the artist Celeste Roberge derived the name from the cairns of Europe, the piles of stones used to mark spots of significance whether roads, burial sites or borders. Admittedly, Roberge did not intend for the sculpture to depict the "weight of grief."  In fact, that interpretation was made by therapist/counsellor, Janette Murphy, who posted this picture online with the above-mentioned caption and from there the picture went viral. When interviewed this week about the viral photo and the alignment to the experience of grief,  Roberge said that she welcomes the interpretations and believes individual meaning enhances ones connection to the art.

So how do I feel when I see this picture as it relates to my own grief?  Well, it feels more representative of how unavailable I believed others were when I was grieving.  I saw my family (our parents, siblings and extended family) grieving and pained.  Like this sculpture their rocks were wrapped around their heart, protecting it from the outside world and unavailable to me. I watched as they struggled with the weight of our son's death; how could they support us, how would they make sense of our experience and reconcile how it had changed us? If we were not the same then our relationships were also transformed. People seemed immobilized in our presence or unreachable and not from any lack of effort or due to their shortcomings but because while they appeared weighed down by stones, in juxtaposition I felt hollow - we were misaligned.  My stones were not stones at all but rather boulders.  If I were this same wire representation I would have a boulder in my middle and one on my back and the rest of my wire shape would be hollow.  The boulder in my centre ~ my despair, isolation, hopelessness, heartbreak and my grief.  The one on my back ~ my guilt, shame, bitterness, and fear.  If that hollow structure represented my self and my grief following Flynn's death, how could all that empty space, held to it's shape by simple wire, move those two large boulders?  In truth, had I even wanted to move them?

It is the eve of the anniversary of Flynn's birth and death and now I know that eventually I did move the boulders.  Not the same boulders that accompanied that hollow shell that represented me after Flynn died, those boulders changed in shape and size and so did my ability to carry them. That hollowness is merely a hole now and not the entirety of my being.  Writing about carrying boulders evokes a monologue from my favourite movie, The Rabbit Hole, and Dianne Weist's character when she talks about her grief as the brick in her pocket.  That imagery resonates with me and has since I first saw the movie - maybe that is how I have changed, over the past 14 years the boulders have moved from within me to become the rocks in my pocket:

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