sky high…beginnings

In January of 2015 Marshall Davis Jones came to speak with my high school Photography classes after the tragic death of one of our students to suicide. Palo Alto has the misfortune of being in a “suicide cluster” for the 15 years I’ve taught there: a tragic perspective framed by Atlantic Monthly 12/2015. Marshall Davis Jones offered a poignant insight. Why? It’s Personal. Walking around my classroom he chanted words of meaning – framed perspectives that truly touched our hearts by sharing insights on things we all shared; technology, relationship, hardship.

Sadly, my own history includes the painful loss of my oldest son from a suicide in 1996. Recently my oldest daughter lamented, this year marks the fact that he is lost to us for more years than we cherished him in our lives. Ryan Brendan Barry was only 19 when depression and it’s pull took him far too soon from us. After hearing Marshall Davis Jones weave his magic of words and creative expression, I went home and wrote my first slam poem. Framing how creativity has buoyed me through trauma and tragedy throughout my life, sky high has become a way of seeing, a way of life for me. I have created this blog to practice the ART of living and learning – sky high. THIS is what it means 4U2B sky high:

Sky High

I took a train to Toronto,
First time alone, rounding Lake Ontario
A three-hour ride to visit my sister –
Ten years older and a suave city mystery.
I was just 16 tryin’ to find my way
Standing tall and ready to play
She toured me ‘round art galleries all day.
Paintings on those walls truly touched my soul
Reaching for belonging was my deepest goal.
She offered me some weed
But I said there was no need.
She called me a square.
My breath stopped – gasping air.
Oooh! That cut me hard
Into my heart a disapproving shard.

But I knew she didn’t know me
Not a square – not a square
But a Rectangle – the shape of
A canvas
The page of a book
Piece of paper for writing
Viewfinder of a camera.
Lookin’ to the landscape
That was my escape
From beatings by drunken father
Pressure of college prep alma mater –
Give me a paintbrush
A pencil or a pen
Shutterbutton click
To express all that’s been
The grief and the rage
The joy and confusion
I AM a rectangle
Of creative infusion!

Then many years later
Mother of a boy fated
To burn through his time
Put a torch to his life
And left us only grief –
THAT cut me the deepest
The square became a hole…
Years to climb up from despair
With no frame to help me care
Until I grasped for the landscape –
The rectangle of sky
To answer pointless question – Why?
Sitting Friday evenings weeping
My grasp of life was seeping
Out the windows of my car at Grizzly Peak
Staring into sunsets over bay cities beneath.
The rectangle of canvas pulled me back to desire
Blue swirls of sky – a sunset on fire
I no longer need escape – but expression of a life:
The grief, the joy, the wonder
Even with his choice a blunder.
From the empty space
A canvas took its place
To frame a view of grace –
Sky high, moon sigh, clouds drawn nigh
Slowly once again,… living sky high.

Drawing high – etched my sadness
Painting high – my madness
Camera high – the wonder
Writing high – my feelings writ asunder.
I AM Sky high!
Everyday in everyway
Lines on the highway
Things my students say
Light and shadow interplay
Art holds me together
All through the fray
ART pulls me apart
So once again,…I can start another day
After loss
After pain
After death
I can only live sky high.

No matter the day
Sun rises with a show!
No matter what passes in these hours
The sun sets with beauty all aglow!
Look up and see beauty all around –
Keep looking up as beauty abounds
Sky high everyday
No matter far or near
No matter the wear and tear
Look up and see
Look up and BE!
I can only live SKY HIGH