Eat the Art
From March 9, 2020
Dear Friends --
This will come as a surprise to a grand total of zero of you, but it must be said: you all are extraordinary witnesses to some of the most beautiful moments ever witnessed. Since our Find the Beauty During Lent Challenge began nearly two weeks ago I have received dozens of glorious dispatches from the front lines of wonder:
Photos of spring blooms standing watch over the mighty Pacific -- colors competing for eternal bragging rights.
This song, which propelled a dear friend much farther than she knew she was ready for on her morning run.
A picture of my nephew, with a grin probably as big as the mighty Pacific.
A story a dad told me, which captured a recent bedtime moment. Get this: there's a young pajama wearing son out there who just days ago put down his almanac of random facts after reading that quartz vibrates 32,768 time a second, and then looked up at his dad and wondered if it's a coincidence that this number is a power of two. Who is this kid? All I know is that he's BEAUTIFUL and please let him be in charge of the eventual mission to Mars.
A treasured friend from my Seattle days who wrote to tell me that she and her family are now daily making note of small moments that deserve to be named and thanked, each one more beautiful than the next.
Should we mention the mighty voters of South Carolina? We haven't done politics here yet, but it might be time! There's plenty to cover here, so we'll save that for another post.
Ok before getting to my own beauty post, a quick update for those here who come for the cancer, and stick around for all the rest. Here's the latest.
I began round 10 of Foxy back on February February 26, and guess what -- it wasn't terrible. My forever fabulous friend Dale -- who dropped who knows what to fly out to be near for the Return of Foxy -- might even say it was a tiny bit of a vacation. Our theory is that I've been on such a prolonged break perhaps my beleaguered body was strong and ready for the fighter jets to do their work.
Dr C tells me we'll do 13 rounds before scanning again, and round 11 begins on Wednesday. So life moves along through it all -- long phone calls with friends far away, Connor and Lucy making good progress with their hilarious teenage days, work days made memorable thanks to some of the most remarkable colleagues anyone could ever be privileged to work alongside, and times to unpack all of the hardest parts with treasured souls who generously reach out and ask if they might join me on the mountain for a spell. There's always room on my path for those conversations. Always.
And of course, my days have been full of your postcards of beauty. So I thought I would share one of mine.
A little over a year ago, Connor and I had a chance to spend a couple of days in Chicago, one of our favorite cities. We had a Ferris Bueller like Saturday to play with before catching a flight home, and agreed a fast tip of the hat to the Art Institute was in order. We arrived about an hour before it closed -- enough time to see the highlights, but maybe not enough time to linger. As we bought our tickets we spotted the audio tour rental area, and oh what a dilemma. Was the audio tour rental worth a fast visit? Of course we both agreed: when in doubt, always get the audio tour. Which means, truly, always get the audio tour.
After paying tribute to Seurat, Picasso, Hopper and so many other masters, we eventually made our way to the second floor to take in the modern wing, where things get all kinds of modern. These are the rooms where it sometimes becomes more challenging to sort out what's art and well, what's a light fixture that needs repair.
Anyhow, we wandered into a room where one corner was filled with thousands of small wrapped candies. Ok for sure this is art, we decided. Or maybe a place where the guards stashed treats? I mean, maybe? Oh wait. We had an audio tour. So we both started listening and within the space of about three minutes both of us shared one of those "Stop it this might be the most amazing thing we've ever seen" faces that happens every so often. As it turns out, we were gazing upon Felix Gonzalez-Torres's "Untitled," which we learned is a tribute to the artist's love, who passed away years ago from HIV. The mound of candies wrapped in multi colored cellophane wrappers is meant to always weigh 175 pounds, the weight of his partner when he was healthy. But here's the magic: patrons lucky enough to see this art are invited to take a candy, and savor it. See the sweetness, then taste it.
Eat the art.
It was easiest the best tasting art we've ever seen. And yet -- yet -- all around us were fellow museum visitors who completely missed the true beauty before them. They didn't have audio tours, and gave the pile of candies one of those "oh how interesting and yes all kinds of important" gazes that art aficionados like to give. But they MISSED it. Connor and I started picking up candies and practically tried to beg all the non-audio tour people to take one so they could see what we were tasting, but incredibly, we got no takers. And actually a few scowls. We tried explaining that part of the genius here is that every evening the candies are replenished to get it back to that 175 lbs state, but still no one would indulge our joy. So we pocketed a few more candies and headed out, renewing our pledge to always get the audio tour.
Fast forward many months to last fall. I was sitting with a dear friend at the Cal/Stanford football game, and she asked me one of those questions you get to ask mountain climbers:
"You seem so healthy and ok. Is it odd to be sitting here among all these thousands of people and no one would know you're sick?"
"Yes, sort of," I replied. And then we both, practically in unison, said: "Actually I wonder who else in this stadium looks normal, but who's actually carrying some kind of agony? That's the real mystery."
You all are very smart so you know where I'm going with this. Each of us moves through our days with a chance to draw closer to those along our path, and we all have ears to hear each other's back stories, cellophane wrapped magic full of both joy and sorrow. But if you don't ask the questions, pause to listen, marvel, and then ask even more questions, you'll miss it. You'll miss the surprise, the sweetness, and the genius miracle that in the telling of our stories, each of our own piles of candies is replenished.
And there's not much more beautiful than that.
Invest in the audio tour. Eat the art.