On August 14, 2002, my mother passed away in Storm Lake, Iowa. After being with her in the hospital, attending her funeral, and cleaning out her home, I returned to Olympia in a somber state of mind. The Silver Falls sculpture symposium was planned for September 3rd and, in light of the uplifting nature of other sculpture symposia I have attended, I decided to attend this one.
When I arrived at Silver Falls State Park, the first person I met was an old friend from previous symposia, Ed Wyand, from California. We ended up sharing a cabin that first night. In the morning, I told Ed that I had had a dream vision of a woman sitting on the ground with her legs drawn up in front of her and with a shawl or veil covering her head. I suggested that this probably had something to do with processing feelings concerning the loss of my mother. Ed said, “You won’t believe this but I had a similar dream vision!” His vision was of a woman lying on her back with her legs bent and drawn up above her, and a child was lying on the woman’s lower legs peering down at the woman.
I decided that I wanted to try to capture my vision in a maquette. I asked Paul Buckner if he had brought any clay with him. When I arrived at my workstation, a new chunk of clay was waiting for me. I proceeded to make a maquette (my first ever), and it was very pleasing. I shared the story behind the maquette with Rich Hestekind when he stopped by to visit. He told me how he had worked through some of his grief over the loss of his father through working in stone. He asked me what sorts of emotions I had as I was working on the maquette. Without thinking about it, I held my arms out in a circle and said that I had feelings of nurturing, comfort and safety. After Rich left, I realized that I needed to add arms to the simple torso of my figure. Then, it felt complete and very satisfying.
For quite some time, I just stared at the figure. Then, I decided to try to capture it in stone. I selected a piece of barite, a dense stone from Alaska, I had purchased from Gary McWilliams at Camp Brotherhood. After chipping away on the stone for a while, I felt my enthusiasm waning. Penelope Crittenden came by, and I told her my story and how I was feeling. She said that different folks had told her that they sometimes found that the real emotion they were feeling was expressed in the maquette they produced.
As I mulled her comments over in my head, I concluded that perhaps the maquette would be my product from Silver Falls. I started to draw some lines on the stone, which would transform it into an entirely different sort of piece. Paul Buckner paid a visit to my tent. He patiently listened to my story and calmly suggested that I could consider doing an abstraction of the maquette in the stone. Yes, that made a lot of sense to me, and I picked up my hammer and chisel and returned to the stone with renewed vigor. Whereas I had ventured to Silver Falls feeling low and with no idea of what I might work on, I departed feeling refreshed, productive, and grateful for the magic that had happened there.
After leaving the Silver Falls Stone Carving Symposium, I decided to stop in the nearby town of Silverton. I had heard that an old friend, Larry, might be living there. We had started together at The Evergreen State College in 1970 and, at one time, had even been partners in the Columbia Street Pub in Olympia. Larry had moved to Hawaii several years ago, and I had spoken to him only once on the phone since then.
I stopped in Silverton and parked on a downtown street. The Silver Creek Coffee House caught my eye, so I headed there. After ordering a mocha, I asked the waitress if she might know a Larry. She said, “Would you mean, Lawrence?” “I suppose so,” I said, “We used to be friends in Olympia.” “Oh,” she said, “Did he run a restaurant there?” “Yes, he did,” I said. “Well, he is in the bathroom,” she responded. I surprised him when he emerged from the bathroom, and we proceeded to have a good visit before he had to run off to take care of some business.
One of the people I sent my little story to, about my experiences at Silver Falls, was a classmate of mine back in Storm Lake, Iowa. She is now a professor at the University of Minnesota, and we keep in touch on a regular basis. Before she opened my e-mail with the story, she went to a website to find the selected daily picture to place on her computer monitor screen. The photo that day was of the middle north falls at Silver Falls State Park!! I thought, “Perhaps I should return to Silverton and buy a lottery ticket.”
A few days after this event, I went out to the garage to do some work on the sculpture. The body and arms were taking shape quite well, and I thought about what I might name the piece when I finished. The title, “Broken Comfort” came to mind. This sounded fitting in light of the loss of the comfort my Mom provided. As I continued to chip away, I pondered the significance of that title coming to my mind, when all of a sudden both arms broke off!! At first I was very distraught and thought that the piece was ruined. Later, when I regained my bearings, I realized that the event was most meaningful and that I should continue working. I trust that the question of how I will treat the broken arms will answer itself in good time.