If Gary were alive…Indigo Dusk would still be on my wall. This painting always reminded me of our escapes to Santa Barbara. Something about the deep blues in it recalled the nightscape sky of the old movie theater in the downtown core. We saw a number of films there over our years together. The last one was “The Titanic” just six months before his death.
When we uncrated the canvases Gary had painted in Vancouver while we were working on a film up there, our home came alive with color. We placed Indigo Dusk over the deep purple couch, the centerpiece of our living room. It popped out against the hand rubbed wall finish. Some days the downward cascading blues reminded me of the driving rain from my Muskoka summers. Thick cords of water streamed angrily past the cottage windows as if the sky was sobbing out all its sorrow. Most days, I focused on the slashes of orange, yellow and white. They represented hope to me.
I loved that Gary had returned to painting and was using his creativity to help him cope with his cancer diagnosis. I wish now I had taken more time to ask him about each of his works. I know the story behind several of them but we never discussed Indigo Dusk. I’ve found hope works best when you don’t ask questions. Sometimes we confronted the sorrow that came into our lives with his illness. But like my relationship to the painting that hung on our living room wall, I more often focused on the brighter colors. I needed to hope he would go into remission. I needed to hope our lives would someday be occupied by the normal concerns of living…not the concern of whether or not he would live.
We can escape into art and we can escape through it…as creator or as observer. Gary escaped into it and eased his aching soul by painting out the light and the dark. I escaped through it by focusing on the bright side as much as I could, trying desperately to find the gift or lesson in every moment of our journey during those last three years together.
I gave Indigo Dusk away before my move back to Los Angeles. It is somewhere in Toronto on the wall of a moving van driver’s home. His wife loved art and that piece felt like something I would have been dragging back with me. I wanted to travel as light as possible for my return. This was to be my fresh start. So I gave it to him, happy that it would have a home where it would be appreciated.
However, we cannot simply walk away from our past and leave behind the burdens we carry. I learned that the hard way. They follow us until we renegotiate our relationship with them. I’ve never watched the last film we saw together again, but when I stepped on the dance floor in Miami in May this year for my first major competition, the past came rushing up. The music for my waltz began. It was the theme song from The Titanic. I made it through…barely…as the notes of My Heart Will Go On filled the room. My feet, wrapped in satin-strapped heels, tried to follow my dance instructor’s always steady lead, but my heart was sitting in pieces in a movie theater in Santa Barbara.
In that moment, I had a choice to make. I could fall apart and stay stuck in a past that no longer served me or I could find the gift. Heading into the first dance of that day, I had been extremely nervous. In spite of years of high-level athletic competition and a year as a professional figure skater, somehow this meant more. Maybe because dancing is my way of witnessing for myself that my heart has gone on.
Perhaps the song was Gary’s way of saying he was watching and proud of the life I had rebuilt. Standing there in my glittering gown, I realized that if I could make it through that waltz with the music of the past playing then I could make it through any of the remaining dances. I wiped my quiet tears, found my center and chose to be fully present for the experience I was having in the here and now.
Today’s blog was written for KOTA Press, an amazing website by talented artist & writer, Kara Chipoletti Jones. Check out her KOTA Press blog which features creative and artistic posts by Kara and other wonderful writers on healing from loss. Thanks, Kara, for all you and KOTA Press contribute.