What Does it Mean to Be Whole? by Hayden Michelle

square blog30.jpg

The morning after my family witnessed the eclipse, a second shadow came into view.  I heard words spoken by my neurologist that I was not expecting— a diagnosis of MS.  It is not that I thought I was immune to this or any other life-changing diagnosis.  I know many, one who is near and dear to me, that live with this condition with grace and courage and deep strength.  I know from personal and professional experience in hospice, that change and loss can strike at any time, ready or not.  And I am very aware that there are far worse conditions.  And still, it has stopped me in my tracks.

square blog ms4.jpg

I have been sitting with this for weeks, trying to let it settle into place in the awareness of my being.  I am not wondering, “why”… more, it is that I am contemplating.  “How”—how I am going to incorporate this new aspect of living into the daily flow of raising and homeschooling our children and helping them cope, being strong and balanced in our marriage, available and supportive of my friends, family, and community, and yes, make art. 

square blog ms.jpg

And what I keep coming back to, amidst the feelings of bewilderment, sadness, anger, fatigue and especially fear, is that I will just do it like I do any other not-so-easy thing that crosses my path.  That is what we all do-- we use what we know, and apply it to the new reality.  It is not mysterious, even though it feels daunting.  We just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other, with the self-talk/reminder that we can do more than we think we can do.

mamas smoky trip.jpg

I chuckle to myself, aware that although I have several rote phrases I rely on inwardly when feeling challenged by life, that this challenge is not one that will be going away.   I will have to walk the walk, and pull upon inner and outer resources in new ways.  And relying on others or asking for help is not my forte.  Not so much.  That is why being a social worker was natural for me… I am quite at ease in offering support to others.  Now I must meet myself with the same loving-kindness that is easy to offer outwardly,  and remain open to the gift that comes from this vulnerability, yet again.

square blog23.jpg

The visual and emotional memory of seeing the eclipse in totality was unlike anything I have ever experienced.  As the moon made its’ way across the path of the sun and aligned completely, intensely radiant white light erupted around the entire periphery of the moon’s silhouette.  It was a brilliance which could not even be fully transmitted through photography, yet, thankfully, is forever etched into my mind.  It made me cry, as I felt such profound purity, hope, beauty, and awe that this symbolism was put into form we could record with our own eyes and memory.

IMG_8717.jpg

The eclipse being so closely paired with the MS diagnosis, has made me ponder how to use this as a symbol for healing and transformation as I begin treatment and management of this disease.  Just as I work with fragmented parts to create entirely new entities with my art, so must I apply these principles to living with this disease.  I am deepening my awareness and gratitude for the ability to move, speak, maintain independence, and receive help and support.  I am deeply grateful for the work and dedication of all of the scientists, doctors, and patients who underwent clinical trials in order for medicines to be available for me now.  I know I must take this gratitude and channel it into actively transforming my daily challenges, and hope I can do so in the same way I approach my art… as remaining open to new possibilities of being, new ways of expressing, and courage to share the journey, hopeful that perhaps it may help someone else navigate a difficult part of their trek. 

square blog ms9.jpg

  And as much as I have slipped into feelings of brokenness and fear of my brain/ body/ mind not returning to its healthiest state, I realize I must focus on trust and on the concept of wholeness, just as moon is whole, no matter its phase.  Despite being changed by what we experience, whether it be trauma, illness, loss or any challenge on life’s path, we are all still whole inside.   Thank goodness for that, and for the inner wisdom and vocal loved ones who remind us of that when we need it.  As the light brilliantly surrounded the moon, so am I aware of a fullness of love and compassion in the circle in which I am blessed to be encompassed.   

square blog ms2.jpg
IMG_8688.jpg

The Space Between by Hayden Michelle

This summer has been going by swiftly, full of both activity and stillness.  As the days have gone by, I have had much opportunity for reflection amidst the flow.  I have pondered the relationships between our inner and outer bodies, in mind, biological structure, and spirit, as often what is happening inside our bodies and minds is not registered outwardly.

"The Space Between", (56 x 14 x 7 inches)

"The Space Between", (56 x 14 x 7 inches)

I have thought about how we, as human entities, are connected not only to ourselves,  but to each other, through family, friends, community, and the larger world, and beyond to the universe of which we are a part.   The ripple effect is beyond words and knowing, and I continue to ponder...

"Wings Immortal", (34 x 38 x 3 inches)

"Wings Immortal", (34 x 38 x 3 inches)

I have been especially introspective on how we change as our bodies age, our children grow, and we are faced with the ups and downs of life, being challenged to meet the changes with the grace and tenacity so abundant in nature. 

"Reverie", (16 x 20 x 3.5 inches)

I am grateful for the reminders that surround, and for the presence of loved ones who bring home this privilege of being loved and supported.   May we all continue to support one another in our journeys.

"Become", (35 x 12 x 9 inches)

"Become", (35 x 12 x 9 inches)

Bridging the Gap by Hayden Michelle

Lately, I have been reflecting on the common thread that has been running through my work as I continue to create winged creatures and beings that propel through the ocean.   As I look back over the last year, taking in the experiences that have transpired, it becomes obvious.  It is my need to explore the alterations that come when we experience life events such as death, changes in health, growth of our children, the deepening of relationship within ourselves and with others while remaining rooted to this earth, full of global and community fluctuations and challenges that are never-ending. 

"The Power of Presence", (18 x 18 x 3.75 in), cradled panel

"The Power of Presence", (18 x 18 x 3.75 in), cradled panel

"The Power of Presence", detail

"The Power of Presence", detail

Art-making may start as a way of coping, giving voice to emotions in form and concept that are not easily found in words, and often remains unconscious as I dive into the work.  I take comfort in the deliberateness, exploration, and hard work of creating, and of getting lost in the countless hours of being immersed.  Somewhere along the way, a sculpture morphs into a new being that embodies the symbolism and energy of what is happening in my life as I make the piece.   And I always end up feeling a bit startled by this when it is completed, as there are new teachings in it for me every time. 

"Night Vision", detail

"Night Vision", detail

"Night Vision", (12 x 12 x 4.75 in), cradled panel

"Night Vision", (12 x 12 x 4.75 in), cradled panel

Some days the pieces themselves speak of the meaning, and some days it is the process of making the piece that teaches me.  I learn a lot about my own resistance, irritation, perserverence, relief, discovery, faith, and joy in the making.  That is not part of what I initially expected when making art, but provides me with perspective and insight every time I complete a piece (or choose to “compost” it, letting the lessons learned to transfer to new work).  Who knew that letting go would be such a part of art, whether in the process of making, putting it out for others to view, or releasing for others to bring it into their world.  Good practice for this life, I dare say…

"Linger", (12 x 12 x 4.25 in), cradled panel

"Linger", (12 x 12 x 4.25 in), cradled panel

"Linger", alternate view

"Linger", alternate view

Art has a way of capturing elements which may be deeply personal for the artist, yet open to fresh interpretation by the viewer each time it is experienced anew.  That is powerful, and drives me to keep creating.  I love that phenomenon when viewing others’ artwork, and know how much an impact that taking in of art has on my psyche.  It connects me to the creative energy that resides in us all, strengthens the ability to be with one another, and to feel part of the greater whole. 

"Rebirth", (5.5 x 7.5 x 7.5 in)

"Rebirth", (5.5 x 7.5 x 7.5 in)

"Rebirth", detail

"Rebirth", detail

"Rebirth", alternate view

"Rebirth", alternate view

"Rebirth", alternate view

"Rebirth", alternate view

We all go through daily transformation as our lives change, and my continued hope is that art brings beauty, peace, reflection, and deeper meaning to our lives.  I feel immense appreciation for all those who share in this process in a myriad of ways, privileged to be part of this interconnectedness.  May we all feel supported in our metamorphosis...