As a recent graduate of David Kessler’s Grief Educator Program, I am viewing grief differently now: I see grief as the pain of having loved, and view the pain of loss as a catalyst for purposeful action. Harrowing wounds have become my cherished scars. And the life I once saw as ruined due to loss is now a full life that honors my beloved ones who died.
One also needs to be flexible in the ways of viewing things when creating fabricated landscapes. I flipped last week’s cement “sky” upside down to turn it into this week’s land. Then, in Photoshop, I changed last week’s red slate hill into this week’s teal blue sky. Or—if you can imagine moving the horizon line upwards off the picture—this week’s landscape becomes an aerial view over the shore of a calm bay.
“You’re gonna have a great new life, Meena-Mouse,” I told the quivering mouse in the Hav-a-Heart trap as we approached a nice shady spot in the grass by a stream. “You take care of yourself little-one. There’s a food store right over there and if you follow the stream you’ll come to houses nearby.” I held the cage up to examine Meena one last time.
In addition to the Trader Joe’s Organic peanut butter I’d used to lure the poor creature into the trap, I’d fed it oats, bits of chocolate, and blueberries cut in half. I’d stuffed pieces of tissue through the top of the trap so it could have a soft bed. And first thing in the morning I’d driven down off my hill with the mouse in the trap, carefully secured in the passenger seat, so it wouldn’t be caged up any longer than necessary.
The last few mice I’d let loose had frantically clung to the trap with their tiny feet. That had freaked me. I’d had to clunk the trap on the ground several times to get the mouse to drop out, to go free. This time I was prepared for that. But what I wasn’t prepared for was the mouse immediately springing out with a fast flying leap—right into the water.
For this week’s fabricated landscape, I flipped a photo of trees reflected at the edge of my pond. The frame was pieced together in Photoshop from a warm scarf.
Altered Horizons. Due to loss ,everything in my life has been altered, changed to some different reality. Not by choice. After being crushed by grief for so long, it is comforting to create small worlds and set horizon lines that reflect my eye level and personal physical position in the scene. In creating these fabricated landscapes, I can choose and control. I can build stability and balance, if only on my computer screen.
This shot was taken standing on the shores of Kezar Lake at Quisisana Resort in Maine. In Photoshop I changed the colors, and then flipped the image upside down so the water became hills, and the sandy beach turned into a sky. Burning the color from a circular patch in the “sky,” I created a full moon.
We used to dance. When she was very young I’d swing my daughter around under the moon on a sandy beach. On a crowded dance floor, or in the living room, I sang as we twirled together. Now, my soothing nightly grief ritual: humming the old tunes to the ghost of my daughter. One of the songs always brings up images of blithe spirits waltzing around the moon.
Here my moon is really the rock that holds a bug screen down over my garden. Wilted lettuce plants are the dancers. A wave of foamy residue left on the shore by the receding tide becomes my horizon line. The whole scene is framed with the drainage strip that lies beneath my front door, spliced and inverted in Photoshop.
Walt Whitman, in his “Songs of Myself” from Leaves of Grass, wrote, “If you want me again, look for me under your boot-soles.” There, where my feet tread, is where I mainly focus the camera.