We came from the forest on a merciless afternoon. Each turn revealed few people on the streets, fewer still without kids or dogs taking an obligatory walk to some sliver of park. A man sold watermelons out the back of his minivan on a corner by Flatbush Avenue and if it weren’t too hot to stop, we might have liked some. Instead, we kept driving slowly back to our daily lives, past the open hydrants spewing chlorinated rainbows over the quiet, into the listless air and past the hum of other people’s air conditioners. This is how it was, when I took down the tipi.
The tipi had sat in the middle of the room for a month after its inception. Its very construction was untenable: made of silk and lace it wouldn’t keep out a fly much less the rain. The old rotary phone seated in the tipi’s center, had gone silent, picking up the handset, would yield…nothing. The art show was over, the visitors had become fewer and in all honesty, the pictures had been taken and the memories had been had. The tipi was now sagging under the humidity of a Brooklyn summer, and was riddled, like the rest of the studio, with fleas and maybe even bed bugs. The exterminator, who was suddenly receiving 180 calls a day, was scheduled before we put down our bags. This was our homecoming.
It felt a bit brutal for nature to send us blood sucking creatures to contend with during this heatwave that was extended over our fair Gotham and in hundreds of miles, in every direction. It was too hot and too stupid to argue with nature, so, at a slow pace and with subdued words and comments, we got to dealing with the situation at hand. Each person went to their space to sort, pack and clean. I trained my eye and my heart onto the death of the tipi.
The Soul of A Space
I knew the tipi would come down. I had put it on my to-do list, but hadn’t gotten to it before our trip to Tennessee, so here it was, waiting for me, with no particular nostalgia. Inside my things had gotten jumbled due to daily life with two cats, and frequent visits from those seeking solace. We had been three friends one night, all staring up into the tipi sky, a young, new mother, a short haired goddess and me; three women all lost in their thoughts, sharing their silence. Another time it had been a “we two” where we watched our smoke trails mingle and talked about Iceland. The nights were too many to list, some too private to share just yet. The tipi had served its purpose, had given us an emotional shelter. Was it because we knew it was temporary that we loved it so much? Was it because it had become somewhat permanent that I now took so much glee in carefully disassembling it, stitch by stitch?
When I make an art installation I do a kind of prayer, follow an eclectic type of spiritual path that, combined with practical considerations, create the space. When taking these spaces down I can forget this sacred quality. I focus on the fact that the time has passed, and I’m on to the next. So, my discipline is to take it slowly and to feel each snip of the scissors and the release of each panel, to remember that this taking apart is also mysterious, perhaps alchemical. In the heat it’s not always easy to keep perspective. In extreme heat coupled with minor exhaustion, it can be particularly difficult. I took a lot of breaks and the work continued until the night had fallen and everyone came a little more alive. Card games and dinner happened. The homecoming and the tipi were over somewhere before 3 in the morning. I settled into sleep in another part of the expansive school house loft.
I woke up in a sweat, had gone to sleep in one, too. At around 6AM the morning air called to me with its sweetness. This was the best time of day, the coolest and freshest. It was as if the heat itself wasn’t quite alert enough to unleash itself onto the world, and so in our groggy togetherness I sat on the roof, water by my side, coffee in my hand. I hadn’t told my friends that I was about to leave them. I hadn’t found the words to say that despite their incredible kindness I was finding it too difficult to impose on them any longer. The time had come for me to do something else, to spend the bulk of my time somewhere else. I wasn’t sure where but it wouldn’t be here. The time had come and a minor plague of bugs would be blamed, but I knew this had been brewing. Separations are necessary. Separations are good. They’re as good as building something new and tearing down something old; they’re simply part of life. Without the tipi I had no space in their home. With my plans and vision in place, someday soon another tipi would arise. The next one might be made of solar charging fibers and would surely be weather proof. The next one might even house us all in a different way, perhaps less emotionally and way more practically. Anything was possible now that the tipi was dead.
The key, I reminded myself was that one had been built by us and had existed for us already, this one time. This, meant we knew the path and could give birth to a space of connection again. It would be work to establish that same spirit and function, but it wouldn’t be an unknown experience. The architecture of sticks and the covering made some visceral sense and so did the strength and the weight of our precious tipi moments.
…and this…in completely obscured terms, is what I’ve learned through meditation and studying the basic tenets of cyberspace…more on that in my next post, which will also address the Colorado movie killer. ~with love, Mariette