Posts Tagged ‘kukla’

04.16.21

Posted on: April 16th, 2021 by jmbroekman 2 Comments
16 hearts
side view of 16 hearts
head one view of 16 hearts

On why I hate this day.

If I were to play favorites with the days on a calendar, this one would be at the bottom of my list. It wins the prize for being the one day I’d like to wipe off the calendar altogether. Grief does that. It binds meaning to arbitrary dates during the year. This is the day, 16 years ago that my sister died. I will never stop missing her. Though the edges have become a little less sharp, the hole she left is as big as it ever was.

Destiny.

I think a lot about how the trajectory of a life can change in an instant. The war changed the direction of both of my parent’s lives. The path of each of my nieces’ lives changed fairly dramatically when their mother died. I wonder if who we become is inevitably and profoundly altered by the events we run up against. Probably.

But what if we are each planted on this earth with a specific destiny, and these events that change the route of our lives are in fact a course correction? Maybe we really are exactly where and who we are supposed to be at any given moment in our lives. These thoughts bring to my mind the movie It’s a Wonderful Life. Clarence shows George Bailey all the ways that the events in his life shaped the person he is, and how vital he is to his community – how much may have been altered had he not put one foot in front of the other all those years and against all those setbacks to his dreams. Maybe there are specific lessons I was put on this planet to learn, and grief is just one part of my education.

Running a marathon

Months ago I read an article by Alex Hutchinson about how COVID-19 was like running a marathon. He wrote: “It turns out that, if you ask yourself “Can I keep going?” rather than “Can I make it to the finish?” you’re far more likely to answer in the affirmative.” This may be good advice in general: keep going, put one foot in front of the other, and eventually you will get wherever it is you are headed.

Whether grief is a marathon or a sprint, it will probably always suck. But as the young people will tell you: it is what it is. And while I would still like to erase this date from the calendar, for all that it reminds me, it is after all just another day on a rock hurtling through space.

The images included with this post are from a book I made this week for my sister. It includes 16 hearts – one for each year of her absence

Remembering

Posted on: September 7th, 2017 by jmbroekman 2 Comments
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0907-remembering azaleas

Top: I was once a teacup, mixed media on board;
Above: I was once a branch of azaleas, mixed media on board

Remembering my sister on her birthday

My sister was born on this date 64 years ago. So today I am remembering her.

That’s not exactly news. I am always both keeping Kukla in mind, and simply remembering in general. Remembering is always at my core. Whether elusive or more tangible, I believe memories and remembering are what completely shape and form who we are every step of the way.

Layers of remembering

Even though I don’t make narrative work, thoughts about memory, and remembering, have always permeated my paintings, prints, and collages. My work is always layered, and the pieces that sit below the surface, like the fragments of experiences that are lodged in our bones, play an integral part in building the ultimate artwork. I may start something as a drawing of teacup, or by putting down an azalea red ground; eventually that teacup will be obliterated, and the painting will become blue or green. There will, however, still be this one tiny bit of that red that shows through. And that sliver may be what makes that painting. The thing that makes it work, makes it interesting; it’s what catches your eye – that fragment of memory. So what came before, the experiences, the layers that lie below the surface – they are what make the present possible, the work what it is.

There is a story in the Talmud, that goes something like this: We each have an angel who walks besides us, and before we are born, our angel teaches us everything we will need to know to live this particular life. Then, just before we head down the birth canal, the angel knocks us between the nose and the upper chin, and we forget absolutely everything we’ve been taught*.

The seeds of that wisdom were already planted, and they are there inside our body. Guiding us along our journey here on earth. I wish my sister was still around; I know she would be as fascinated by these ideas as I am. Happy Birthday Kukla, wherever you may be flying.

*Side note: if you would like to read more about this phenomenon/idea there is an interesting examination/discussion of it here: http://www.aish.com.

04.16.17

Posted on: April 16th, 2017 by jmbroekman
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I am still trying to get it right, always.

In my more evolved brain, I realize this is an impossible task: getting it right. Whatever “it” is, and whatever “right” is. In April, when the days are longer and the moments of spring peek out from under the leftover snow, “it” is the darkness of memory. “Getting it right” is not letting it get me; an endeavor that appears to be a lost battle. No matter how I try to avoid it, or ignore it, or pretend it no longer exists, grief has a way of slamming me up against a wall every year at this time.

This year I tried giving in to it. I cleared my calendar/schedule, and allowed for some uninterrupted time in my studio, where I worked on writing my sister a letter, by way of a painting. Though I didn’t manage to finish the letter/painting, I did find a certain amount of calm and peace in the process. And I spent a lot of time with her favorite color: purple.

Fifty shades of purple

Purple, it seems, comes in an infinite number of shades and variations. I wonder, did Kukla prefer one that leaned toward blue, or one that was more rose colored? I spent the better part of this past week mixing at least fifty shades of puprle for my sister. It made me think of how hard it is to define what color any particular lilac bush is: is that the “true” color lilac? When I look at the image of the painting on the left – the result of all that purple mixing – it appears more blue than purple; and I suspect there are those, including Kukla, who might argue with me about whether or not you could call this a purple painting.

While I’m not sure I got any of “it right” – the purples, the paintings in general – throwing color and paint around did at least keep the grief, if not at bay, at least in some kind of manageable perspective. The fact that little purple flowers are popping up all of sudden, helped too. I still miss my sister with all my heart and soul, and am beginning to accept that longing as simply a part of what life has handed me. Now the key is to integrate that understanding into my being with some grace.

And special thanks to my friend Debbie Schmitt, for bringing me a box of pansies yesterday, which added to my purple arsenal, and inspired me to get out my watercolors and start a new batch of flower drawings. ‘Tis the season.

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09.07.15

Posted on: September 7th, 2015 by jmbroekman
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Another painting for my sister

And another birthday for which she is absent. I have little else to add to what I’ve already written about losing her. The longing does not go away. Nor the anger. And yet, as my friend Jeffery so poignantly said the other day, we are all heading toward the same destination: either a box or an urn. Some will get there more quickly than others. All of which begs us to find ways to relish the beauty and splendor for whatever limited time we have here on earth .

04.16.15

Posted on: April 15th, 2015 by jmbroekman 1 Comment

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Painting Pitchers for Kukla

There are few words to describe what I am feeling on the eve of the 10th anniversary of my sister’s death. Ten years. How is that possible? A decade that feels at once like both an entire lifetime, and one short breath. I still miss her as much as ever. I guess I always will.
Morning Addendum – with thanks to my friend Janet’s comment. Here is an image I will keep in my line of sight today. Back in the day, when we all lived in NY; Janet would end up in my Montague Street apartment after running over the bridge from her Pell Street apartment, in need of a sweatshirt and token for the trip home; invariably, my sister would arrive home from work, and knock on my door to see what I was making for dinner. No matter what I suggested, each dish more appealing than the next in Janet’s view, none of it was ever terribly enticing to my sister. Janet and I have laughed about that for years. And today that picture in my mind’s eye makes me smile. Thank you Janet.