T.S. Eliot said April is the cruelest month. I suppose it is for the dead, those who can no longer enjoy the lilacs. But most of us aren’t like Eliot. We don’t sympathize with the dead. We choose to stay in our own shoes, glued to one perspective, and maybe in that regard we resemble the inanimate.
This past weekend, I got to spend three lively days with artists, musicians, and writers at a place called the Rensing Center in Pickens, SC.
Because I’d experienced a few early-month stressors, I didn’t know how much help I could be — I was going to be voted in as a new board member — and when I left for the 5-hour trip on Thursday, I wasn’t eager to go. Yet, as soon as I got out of my little car and onto the farm porch of a sister board member and close friend, I knew I would be fine. After a glass of wine and a long conversation, a few tears and a lot laughter, I realized the weekend would barter honorably: It would give me what I gave.
I tried to give it my best without forced enthusiasm. In return, I met and fell in love with a dozen people, from 10 months to 92 years old. An artist community is what we are passionate about building, with residencies and workshops among other events, but we are an artist community already as evidenced by our three-day commune where we cooked local food, talked about our art, hugged babies, cleaned a lot of dishes, moved a studio, drank, discussed the environment, books, film, love, theater, politics, houses, religion, and music.
We made plans that didn’t happen. We didn’t have time to make a bonfire down in the pasture or play a game that Mari created as a clever spin on Pictionary. We didn’t hike to the waterfall and we didn’t weed the garden. In those ways we inadvertently empathized with the dead.
But we did smell flowers, chop vegetables, sing, laugh (even at my miserable little stressors), stayed in the moment and did a little planning–mainly for meals and during the board meeting. For my non-heroic “best” I received perspectives from a Chicago photographer, two Portland sculptors, a writer from Boulder, a Charleston composer and an Atlantan woodworker who makes the occasional boat.
Like an exciting springtime affair after a lover long gone, I came back feeling alive, creative and ready to take on this month that began with unemployment and a patch of skin cancer — each of which can be fixed and soon forgotten.
Spring is kind when you’ve traded your worries for a red pair of Toms or something different you find in the new grass. They don’t even have to fit.