I always thought that art was supposed to help people in times of need. There is a famous story in dance history of how Martha Graham’s solo entitled, ‘Lamentation’ not only changed the publics eye of the subject matter that dance could focus on (since before her it was mostly balletic fairy tales) but specifically helped one audience member deal with the passing of her nine-year-old son. The kid was killed in front of her by a passing truck and her friends had tried to help with her grief by making her cry, but she could not. Until Martha and her miraculous spastic cure-all.
I frankly think it looks stupid. I think the music is gorgeous but the tube costume is the dumbest looking thing since whatever it was that Nikki Minaj wore to the MTV VMA award ceremony. You can see her ‘candy raver’ outfit here:
At least Martha’s garment serves a purpose, as the costume is supposed to represent skin and how in grief you stretch within your own skin. I don’t know who is that shade of blue besides a smurf, and I’ve never seen Papa smurf dance like that but I digress.
My point is in regards to the point of art. I’ve always thought it was supposed to help in the kind of times I am going through right now, losing my Dad. But at the moment I can’t hear most songs while driving in my car without a little lyric making me cry. And I already wreck havoc on the road. Best bet is music off right now. So much for the healing power of art.
Unfortunately, I can’t turn the whole world off and I’m in that stage where I see my Dad in everything and everywhere. I know it will help in the future that I have sort of compartmentalized the world into little reminders. For instance, small birds.
If you know my Dad, or read my blog on the Festival of Nations for Alive, you know that my Dad was rather obsessed with a few things: gardening, books about Jesus and oceans/ storms (the scarier the better..about the storms and ocean, not scary Jesus books), Native American culture, and birds. Seriously Dad, why so many bird feeders? It was kind of amusing to see him get so riled up over a type of bird he didn’t like or squirrels at his feeders and running outside to tell them to ‘shoo!’. I think the obsession really blew up when I was in college and I in my selfish way, imagine that in some way he was replacing himself as ‘the father figure’ from me to this large population of hungry nuthatches.
I would like to share a poem I wrote when I was 20 about just that. I think now, particularly the ending, works in reverse for me. Like almost any and all songs, it isn’t really helping me right now but I think it has put the idea in my brain that when I see small birds like the goldfinch or nuthatches I will probably see and remember my dad. And I think that will help eventually. Hope you enjoy the poem.
At the Feeder
By Jessica Ruhlin
My father has never been one
To see God in nature but
I think he’s beginning to see
His long-dead daughter
In the goldfinch at the feeder.
Why else would he stare this way?
And how is he so convinced
it is the same one
everyday? and who am I
to say it is nothing but a bird
Pecking greedily for seeds
that fall to the earth?
It eats as if it has found something,
as insignificant or possibly
larger and more perfect than
The span of its wing
While we perch, looking down
from the kitchen window overseeing the backyard where
On seeing a squirrel
edging toward the oblivious songbird can
Run outside, arms waving wildly,
and shoo the squirrels away.
In this moment I watch him watch the bird
And it seems there is no proof
But this moment in definition;
In a full yellow-feathered belly,
One or more hearts
Beats, sings, breaks
Before it departs.