In touch with eternity: Reflections from year three

Judith and Harold, 2014, © Louise Van Schagen

I realize there is a thread here that runs through my annual reflection marked by the day of Harold’s passing (June 20, 2015) . It’s the thread of time and no time; and it is still, for me, the frame within which grief, loss and healing exist. Last year’s post was entitled Living to the point of tears: Two years and no time at all. What I said then still fits how I’m feeling now.

Love through the years

The language of time – which is to say: “two years ago today Harold passed away” – isn’t something that grief respects particularly. Grief is non-linear; setting it’s own temporal rules where memory seems to fade in and out according to some whimsical design that emerges from one’s unconscious suddenly (or not so) bringing with it a presentness of the event at once disorienting and timeless. The compass of time becomes unmoored when the familiar signposts of a shared life no longer exist.

Working with Harold’s archives during a visit from curators Audrey Horeau, Francois Cheval and Thierry Bigaignon in January, 2018.

This sense of paradox — the both/and — such as time and timelessness –is true about my feelings of working each day with Harold’s archive. On the one hand it’s an incredible joy! How blessed and honored I feel to have this body of work and be sharing it with the world and have others coming on board with the same sense of gratitude; for the work and for the man. Exhibitions, print sales, new books on the horizon, a documentary film and an international traveling exhibition in development bring such a sense of fulfillment. On the other hand, I long for him to be here to see it all.

Perhaps the most poignant thing that has been tugging at me recently, has come from the process of digging into Harold’s teaching materials. First of all it’s a daunting task, not only from it’s volume, but really just getting a handle on how to organize it so that it can be shared. But the poignancy comes from sitting with the depth of the messages he shared and how I am receiving them now anew. It seems each page I read, each audio I hear, each video I watch, carves out a deeper realization within me of the essence of his being and a more profound understanding of what he contributed to this world. And with that comes some pangs of regret, a gnawing wish that he could just come back so that I could tell him how moved I am by his wisdom. It’s not that I didn’t express it then. I did. But I’ve learned that doubts and regrets are often part of the process of grieving and I am feeling them now.

And so I offer this passage I came across a few days ago — one of a multitude of jewels;  this one apropos to the topic of my yearly reflection – time and timelessness. The context relates to looking back on the year-long project of his second book and contemplating the process.

Peach Cyclamen, 2000

Each step, each millimeter of space, each pixel, each petal, each leaf was considered with deep love and concern. There was no rush. I wasn’t going anywhere. I was absolutely and fully, totally present, and the picture showed that…And there can be no regrets for that which is built out of love; the love of the work, of the image, of oneself. It seems as if it all happened so fast, and yet it is a good years work. Time is not essential or even a part of the consideration…But as they say, when you’re in the moment, you’re in touch with eternity. It’s the only measure there is, and I don’t even consider it a measure. I simply mean a connection with the eternal — wonderful words to describe the state of our soul. And this is one of the reasons why we are so often out of sorts with ourselves, because we are watching everything from the viewpoint of the clock and the calendar, as though there was a beginning and an ending. There’s a way of measuring, evaluating and judging in relation to the time spent, money spent, product produced and not in the sense of being completely and wholly at one with the moment. Take me away from my goals. Take me away from my destinations. Take me away from my memories. Let me be here, now, in the sweetest place there is to be – which is here, now.

May I learn to live in this place more and more knowing that it is there that I will indeed find you dear Harold.