Resilient. It’s pretty much the word du jour lately as fires and devastation have marked not only our community, but our neighbors, our state, and our psyches. No matter how much “resilience” seems to be the new buzz word before grants and politicians, it speaks to us all because what it says is no matter what kind of cataclysmic event the universe throws at us, we pick ourselves and our neighborhoods up, we help each other wipe the ash out of our eyes, offer a cup of cold water to brace ourselves against the work that begins now, and do it.
I remember a moment in my life where my loss felt so great I found myself kneeling in a dark room thinking this is the moment. I either fall into the darkness of that pit of grief or I sign on to the painful crawl back out of it and into the sunshine. I signed on. South county signed on. The local art community took up the charge and offered a way through the grief; hands-on, heart-on, all-in.
In June the new Lake County Tourism Improvement District (TID) hosted a four-day branding ‘immersion’ trip for Cubic Creative an agency from Oklahoma (of all places). They sent out two of their best and brightest, Amber and Libby, and Brian Fischer and I quickly fell in love with their openness, their desire to see ‘US’ – Lake County – as we see ourselves. Not in the way the news likes to portray us – desperate, less than, scraping by. The true ‘US’ that we see when we see each other, our neighbors and friends out in our communities.
Scrappy, ingenious, intrepid, resilient, gritty, determined, spontaneous, colorful, leading our own charge and heeding our own drummer. That’s us.
I asked local artist and friend Lisa Kaplan to show us the exhibit at the Middletown Art Center, and she insisted that we also walk through the newly reopened EcoArts Sculpture Walk at Middletown Trailside Park as part of our mad four-day dash around the county.
I hadn’t been to Trailside Park in years, since my boys ran track in high school. The landscape jarred my soul, stark from the fires. I teared up immediately as Lisa grabbed my hand and out we jumped from the big black rental car the Oklahomans had been assigned at the airport
We all jumped. We jumped into the moment of seeing the sculpture walk with raw eyes; the eyes of strangers who had come to know and truly appreciate the people of Lake County, the eyes of a local who’d never been to the park before, and my eyes which were immediately transfixed by the art of the heart that stood before us. Sculptures stood proudly amidst young oaks and manzanitas against the resolute blue of the sky.
Resilience… That’s what we saw at EcoArts Sculpture walk. The works of people who love themselves and each other, who were thrust into that darkness of despair, who dug all the way down to the bones of their souls and said “not today darkness”. They crawled out of the pit of loss, red dirt under their nails, ash in their hair, into the bright light of the sun that Lake County has in abundance.
What is art without despair? We’ve heard, the great artists of the past often had tragedy to forge them into the greats we know them as. Such experience compelled our neighbors and friends to create artworks forged by actual fire, sharpened by despair and hope, and a refusal to embrace hopelessness.
They took their loss and turned them into healing and even joy. Strings, sticks, soil, seeds, remnants of things once ‘something else’ transformed into something new and vibrant. Their works pay homage to our environment, sometimes kind and gentle and sometimes fierce and relentless, making homes for bats to come fly overhead and raise their little bat babies, creating shade canopies for people and plants where trees once stood, creating perches for displaced birds, and offering up a silent but buoyant call to come, rest, and restore.
Most of all, the Eco Arts Sculpture Walk shouts resurrection, offers remembrance and gratitude for what once inhabited the land, and our community, by offering up the loss and sadness to the sky with hearts heavy but wide open for what comes next. Rebirth. Renewal. Rejoicing.
Thanks to art for lighting the path for our broken hearts to see the way forward with creation, collaboration, and companionship. We are not in this alone. Thank you to all the artists who poured their hearts out into this work – the four of us who made the walk left in tears. Cathartic, whole-hearted full-circle appreciation that you’d had the courage to look into what was and see what could be.
We got back into the car and silently drove off. Tears in all our eyes, but our hearts felt bathed as if by benediction. Let your heart be bathed by this benediction. The EcoArts Sculpture Walk LOCUS, a Sense of Place is closing at the end of October; don’t miss it. Your heart will thank you for it.