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Sunday, June 19, 2016

Grief and Landscapes

Mindy Stricke's Grief Landscapes
I am honored to share Riley via Mindy Stricke's ‪‎Grief Landscapes‬ project. Each week, she posts a new story and image from her evolving art project about grief and bereavement. Riley's story within her project is entitled Green Tabasco Sauce.

It all started with a questionnaire about Riley and about how I was grieving immediately after his death. There were questions about him and about physical things that make me think of him. I wrote about his beloved stuffed penguins--Freddie and Freddie Jr.--as well as his love of baseball and of the color green and garlic and Tabasco. From there, she photographed an object in extreme close-up. In this case, it was green Tabasco. The finished product, according to her project's web site is meant to evoke "the memory of the person who died, transforming it into an abstract landscape inspired by the participant’s grief story."

A few weeks before Riley was featured on her website, Mindy emailed the image she created to me. She told me that she had played with lot of different angles to photograph the Tabasco bottle and also tried working with the liquid itself. “The process ended up being a mixture of trying to find the most interesting image while channeling the tone of what you wrote. I was going for some of the gray scale you described, and I liked the serendipity of the pinprick of light in the middle of the image, which is Riley to me,” she wrote to me.

I made the mistake of downloading the image on my phone while I was standing outside the bank causing me to burst into tears. I so love the idea of Riley being that center force of light on some kind of buoyant green sphere. In addition to capturing the landscape that I described in the questionnaire, the image also reminds me of a breast which is also fitting. 

When Riley was a baby, all I wanted to do was keep him alive with my body, as if my body alone could save him from the physical defects he was born with. And when he wasn't allowed breast milk for 12 weeks when he was 15 months old because it was too rich for his damaged lymphatic system (injured during his second heart surgery), I was determined to continue using the breast pump so that I could nurse him again when the doctors said his lymph system had healed. Breastfeeding was the thing I latched onto, the thing that I wanted control over. It seemed we had control over very little and I wanted to decide with Riley when to wean him--not the hospital or the doctors or the situation.

Thank you, Mindy Stricke, for allowing me (and Riley) to be a part of your beautiful project honoring grief. 

All of the people and stories in the series have resonated with me in some way. A sentence or a image or a feeling... They are beautiful and powerful and offer a glimpse into real grief. The more we are open to learning about grief and understanding grief, the more we can relate to each other as humans because loss and grief is as much a part of life as birth and love.

Now go see it and read it. It's worth the next five minutes of your day.