The Italian Arc

Back from our residency in Fraine, Italy; time for reflection and harvest, and bending the multiform momentum and questioning forward into our continued work. Rereading my journal from the trip I see a familiar arc, from excitement and anticipation, through the complexity of reality being different than imagined and the confusion of full spectrum collaboration, and finally arriving at gratitude and acceptance. A few quotes and images illuminate this aspect of my experience.

On the first day I wrote, “The beauty of the morning as each rises. Fraine’s glorious one street. A decent sleep on a mattress on the floor. A lightness to the air. I feel refreshed, eager, attuned to the shine and shimmer. Drinking in the rooster’s crow, the erratic tracings of butterflies. My playfulness and holiness, love of the world in the air… They speak of the weight of time, but what of its lightness, the joy of its cracks and weatherings, the grace of its long-standing gaze. We are here to drink in a place together, to filter I through our relational bodies and hope for wisdom.”

Two days later my excitement was tinged with questioning, “Morning’s brightness, the day quieter than the night. Our peculiarities and ways of being, the timing of the five of us getting ready. An impatient urge within me. Perhaps my nature, perhaps a lack of sleep, perhaps a reminder to be gentle, to be clear. How to be fully me within this complex interplay of voices and selves.”

Four days later, on our last day in the studio, there was a sense of a collective journeying. “We dragged ourselves into images and let go. Jesus came by, our bodies were soft and worn, chunky and slow and full of wheat. Memories, hope, silences, and reflections. This is my life. This is what I have chosen. Hunger and peace, weariness and joy. A sense of play and sadness and gratitude. Pelvis, vehicle for bearing it. Tanned skin, the coffee beginning to percolate. Nostalgia, home sickness, butterflies, Italian gardens, hills and hills and roads and walking paths. The tightening of our container became a river, a puddle drying in the sun, clouds scudding overhead. Tracing maps, tracing ribs, tracing attention and shadow.”

For me this arc, and others like it, are some of the richest aspects of collective art making. We change and are changed, things do not go as expected. Discomfort, slack time, inefficiencies, revelations followed by belly flops, false starts, unlooked for beauty, unspoken doubts, risks, mismatched moments, and at times the shared experience of deep ritual or trans-personal flow. As improvisers there is no end state, no finished product, we must make do with the journey, and that means finding ways to navigate all the cul-de-sacs, wrong turns, and one way streets, for they may well prove the roads to wisdom and growth.

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