mysteries and miracles


it was over a shared breakfast of fresh fruit and coffee last sunday, that i flipped through foon sham's portfolio brochure while my mother told the story of how they met years ago. they had shared a workspace together one summer at an artist's workshop and became quick friends. but that's my mother for you. she is the kind of woman who not only tells her life story to the person next to her on line at the grocery store, but is so charming that that person feels at ease to do the same. anyway, foon and my mother were particularly well fit for friendship because of their mutual artistic obejctive that centers around recyling found materials from the environment, such as fallen trees.

as she went on with the history of their friendship, veering from one story to the next (as my mother is wont to do), i paused at a series of drawings he did back in 2009: swatches of wood revealing cross-sections of various types of trees, each laid on white paper with lines of graphite extending beyond their boundries in continuum. as impressive as the intricacy and imagination required to complete these drawings is, i was almost more fascinated by his use of negative space - like he left the viewer to figure out the rest.
elm 15.5" x 23.375" wood and pencil on paper
yew 16" x 24" wood and pencil on paper
weathered beech 15.5" x 23.375" wood and pencil on paper
i got lost in those nagative spaces thinking about my father's cancer. it's over six years now and i realize i write about him a lot, but i'm still trying to figure out his death. maybe it's my long, drawn-out way of grieving (i didn't cry the day he died, which now that i think about it, may have been a more effectively cathartic coping mechanism) or maybe it's my inquisitive nature that always demands an exact answer and squirms at abstract thought. what ever the reason, his passing so young still is and i think, always will be one of my life's greatest mysteries.

my father was inquisitive by nature too. he asked a lot of questions. some people thought he did this to challenge their intelligence. one friend once told me he felt like he was "being grilled" during a casual convesartion about civil war history. really, my dad just loved to learn. he found every opportunity to be a potentional one for learning. so, yes - to settle darwin's debate - my inquisitive nature was definitely nurtured by dad's.

anyway, among his many lessons, my father often repeated one in particular. it was with regards to our actions and the choices we make: you are a tenth generation marylander,  he'd begin our family is like a chain, each generation is a link on that chain. it is your responsibility to forge a stong link that will not break the chain. your actions determine its strength. i am, of course, paraphrasing, but that was the gist of the speech i heard at least a dozen times. when i looked at foon's drawings i thought of that family chain too.

chain links, tree rings.

dendrochronology  is a study of dating based on the analysis of patterns of growth rings in trees. scientists can date the time at which tree rings were formed, in many types of wood, to the exact calendar year from a simple cross-section. tree rings are the result of new growth, with each ring representing one year; the outside rings, near the bark, are the youngest and most tender.

here is when my thoughts go to august. i realize i write about him a lot too. i'm fifiteen months into motherhood and still fascinating by everything i am learning from my son. he is and i think, always will be one of my life's greatest miracles.

in a review of foon's work, one art historian wrote "drawing on his intuition and intellect, he approaches each design with fresh curiosity and play, while maintaining an open attitude toward outcome throughout the creative process. renewal and conjoining underlie a diverse body of work that is increasingly architectural and metaphoric in nature. these themes boldly affirm that disparate entities can form a dynamic partnership. trusting the universe to yield its secrets in small, unpredictable increments, the artist continues to express and inspire wonder..."

mysteries and miracles: disparate entities indeed, but a dynamic and essential partnership.


Sarah McConnell said...

"Write what you know," they say, and you always do it so beautifully. Those mixed media drawings are just so.... perfect! Amazing! I love the connection you draw between them and your feelings for your family.

Petra said...

thanks. what a wonderful post. aside from its topic itself I find is so refreshing to find actual words, in abundance, every time I come to visit here.

Amy S. said...

I can definitely see the wisdom in that particular piece of advice from your father...whether you intend it to be or not, what you do and say reflects on/affects those who came before you, and those who came after. So it's in your best interests to do things and live your life in a way that will have a positive chain reaction instead of a negative one.

Also, I think his death is one of those things that you'll always be wondering "why?" about for the rest of your life. Because in a situation like that, where illness strikes down a relatively young, healthy person, there will never really be a "satisfactory" explanation.

That being said, I applaud your courage in dealing with the situation the way you do, by trying to keep his memory alive in your thoughts and actions and by sharing stories about him. I'm close with my dad, and almost lost him once. I can't imagine how I could carry on after something like that.

lucinda said...

wow, i am humbled by your heartfelt coment. thank you so much sarah, it means a lot.

lucinda said...

the feelings are mutual, petra. thank you for your kind words.

lucinda said...

yes, my dad imparted all kinds of wisdom that i am greatful to have learned from him. :)

lucinda said...

you're absolutely right, amy. kinda makes me think of that Gandhi quote:
“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
and thank you, friend, for your sweet comment.

Ursula said...

Your mother sounds like a wonderful person.
This art is very interesting, I'm always fascinated by anything that draws on our emotions or brings our minds to a particular memory just by looking at it.
I love what you're written about forging bonds with your family. I'm very close with my family but lately my sisters and I have been struggling to get along. Nothing horrible, just usual sibling bickering that makes it harder when you're 1200 km away from one another. I've had moments where I think "what's the point, I'm just going to stop calling" but you're Dad is right, these are the most important links we can make and maybe like the negatives, even when there are kinks and bends, the circle continues and we need to stay connected.

Erin said...

I lost my father eight years ago this month, too young, too soon, still too much of a mystery despite knowing all the reasons. My father was my greatest friend and confidant, and I miss him more every day instead of less. I don't have much to add to your beautiful post other than that I'm so sorry, and I know your pain and I'm just so sorry. There is a beautiful symmetry in tree rings, and this story. xoxo

Rowena @ rolala loves said...

It's lovely that your mother shares such a wonderful friendship with this artist and how viewing at his work helps you recall your father. What he said about a family being like a chain is very wise.


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