Separated from our Roots: Offshore by Kelly Ledsinger

There are emotions that are universal, or nearly so. The paradox is that they feel personal and difficult to share.

Oil Platform at Night © Mark Mitchell with CCLicense

Oil Platform at Night
© Mark Mitchell with CCLicense

Kelly Ledsinger shared this poem, entitled Offshore, at our last Open Mic, The Journey. What is most striking about it for me is the honesty and extreme openness of the expression. Some poets rant and rave and amplify their emotions, while others try to forge distance between themselves and their feelings. There is nothing wrong with either approach, but Ledsinger takes another path, uniquely and refreshingly present with her emotions, full of a poetic mindfulness that allows emotion to breathe. It is a brave poet that lays the details of her life before the audience. She paves the way for empathy by sharing first.

OFFSHORE

He rises early and packs his duffle with a weeks worth of underwear and denim. He never really sleeps much before his journey. He makes a thermos of coffee for the drive to the Gulf. It will help him stay awake on those long dark stretches of Texas road

She packs him snacks for his drive, fusses and worries that he hasn’t had enough sleep. She always worries about him falling asleep behind the wheel. She can picture the officer at her door and the widow’s sob on her lips. But they have a son still in college, a mortgage and retirement to fund. So he climbs in the old beat up truck he drives. He won’t leave a nice truck sitting for the Gulf winds, the sea and the sand to corrode. No use in throwing good money after bad he says. He packs his bible, his daily devotional, a small worn copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, Time magazine and a radio.

He likes to listen to NPR and classical music. He knows most of the people he works with will be listening to Fox News and country music. He knows he is different. It doesn’t matter much. He is of an age where what others think matters less. He is his own man as much as he can be without losing his job. He hates working on an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico. But he loves his wife of thirty-three years and their son. He is so proud of his son. He and his wife are having a rough patch right now. But they will weather it like they have everything else life has dealt them. The marriage is their lifeboat in a world of storms and they cling to it with the desperation of the drowning.

He arrives at the Heliport. Gets his duffle and secures his car. He looks around the waiting area as the other men arrive. He sees the young guy who is a vegetarian and who shares his bunk room with him. He’s alright he thinks and doesn’t mind his choice in politics or music. He wonders if the chef is going to make some of that caramelized condensed milk again. That was really good. Twelve hour plus days in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico on a rusty, corroding oil platform. Not much to think about for a week except keeping everything running, staying alive, fresh warm caramel and your wife’s voice on the phone when you call her at bedtime. They announce their helicopter is boarding he lifts his duffle, climbs up the steps of the helicopter. Finds a seat, straps himself in and says a prayer for leaving land.

~

Human beings have experienced separation at the mercy of the sea for millennia. Life requires that parents divide their time between making a living for their children and being present with those children, that explorers and innovators leave behind their homes and those who love them for a time in order to do what they must do. Life is a constant alternation between traveling and putting down roots. It is in planting roots and becoming separate from them that we find out who we are and what is important to us.

Offshore reminds me very much of a famous French song by Faure, called Les Berceaux, or The Cradles. You can watch a video of that song below, complete with translation. It’s amazing to think how little some things change, even as technology creates new experiences.

The Roots We Carry With Us: Synkroniciti’s Open Mic: The Journey

Sometimes journeys and experiences bring our roots into focus. How do we use that vision to improve our lives?

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We had our third Open Mic here at synkroniciti on February 22. It was a wonderful afternoon of sharing and learning from one another. New faces mingled with familiar ones and bonds were forged and strengthened. Things took a metaphysical spin and we all left seeing things a bit differently.

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I began by reading At the Temple of Sinawava on the Virgin River, a poem that related an experience I had almost ten years ago, when I visited Zion National Park and was struck by the eerie beauty and otherworldliness of the area leading to the Zion Narrows, where the river flows from a crack in the rock big enough to admit travelers. One day I will return there to make that hike upstream. It was wonderful to be able to take eight friends, including my husband, who was there the first time, to the place in my mind that corresponds to this place and time when the very rocks were alive. You can go there too, just click here.

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Tuba Sozudogru followed, first with Collection of Memories, a marvelous leather bag put together from materials and objects collected in her journeys between America and her beloved homeland of Turkey. These materials came together over time to make an astonishing whole, including tassels, metal studs, young crocodile heads and feet, and a set of beautiful Turkish talismans against the evil eye. Tuba can carry what she needs today in this vessel made from memories and shreds of her past life, warding off future evil while acknowledging what she has come through and what each piece means to her. There is such power in using mementos and objects that speak of the past and of other places, of the monsters we have conquered and the loveliness we have cobbled together from life’s whirling dance.

She also shared a beautiful portrait of her daughter, who seems as if she will laugh and come right out of the painting. This is Portrait of Love, a celebration of the people that come into our lives to make us better. You can see the care and love Tuba has for her beautiful child, and the colors around the young woman are part of the aura that this mother can see around and associate with her daughter. As a person that sees colors swirling about people all the time, I really enjoyed that aspect of the work. The soft shoulders of the figure seem to reinforce our conviction that she has just turned around to see us and is still in motion.

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IMG_0102Kelly Ledsinger read a very touching and personal prose poem, Offshore, that chronicles the journey her husband makes to the offshore drilling platforms where he works. It was stirring to walk with her and her husband and to explore the feelings men and women have felt for millennia when they are separated by the sea. In even more universal terms, life requires that parents divide their time between making a living for their children and being present with those children, that explorers and innovators must leave those who lovingly tend their hearths in order to do what they must do. Separation has never been an easy thing. Please read the poem here.

Later in the evening, Kelly shared a bracelet she made earlier this year. She stamped the hot metal with the image of a nautilus, a seafaring cephalopod that uses its sense of smell to guide it through deep waters to its mate. This is a lovely partner image to her poem. Many times we artists tell one story over and over again, plumbing its depths for new nuances and richness.

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The spiral shell of the nautilus also connects well with the next work of art, Orion Lowy’s Real Unreal Real Graph, a computer aided meditation on infinity and repetition. If you were within one of these spirals, you might think you were traveling in a new way, but in reality you are just repeating a pattern that plays itself out across the page.

Grade A is a short story that Jane Lowy wrote as a child and reworked from memory years later. It’s a riveting journey that doesn’t let you know for certain where you are, buffeted by heat and by cold in an atmosphere that seems to echo the womb, ending with a moo. It shows Jane’s early gift for spinning a yarn and ending up in an unexpected and whimsical place. What a precocious child to put such abstraction into words!

photo 1I brought out two paintings to finish the evening, Expectation and Out of the Deep Waters. You can read earlier posts about these works here and here. To my great astonishment, Tuba, who had been using her excellent gifts for reading artistic work all evening, led me to new knowledge about these two pieces. They both feature a central figure that represents the Self… in fact myself. The one I painted first, Out of the Deep Waters, shows a being with withered arms, surrounded by a tumultuous ocean and sky full of symbols. Among those symbols is a paintbrush, which is partially bound and guided by a blue rope connected to the waters below. Expectation shows a large eye, open and clear, surrounded by a system of rays or, as Tuba interpreted, roots.

IMG_0063The interesting thing is that I painted Out of the Deep Waters in November, right before making some much needed changes in my diet. Expectation came along in February, after my health had improved vastly. These paintings reflect that change. Also, Tuba’s revelation came at a time when I was feeling that I hadn’t come as far as I wanted to. It was a huge encouragement to me to look at these signposts along my journey and realize how far I had come.

Another thing I take away from these pictures, revealed by that partially bound paintbrush, is that my subconscious is sometimes restraining my creative work, perhaps because it is afraid of being completely revealed. More on this in a later post.

During the course of the evening we discovered that we all either had sensitivity bordering on extra sensory perception, enabling us to see things unseen by those around us, or were close to someone who did. We were a room full of live wires and insulators. By sharing our peculiar and individual visions, we found new possibilities and new ways of thinking. Synchronicity and empathy were operating full forces as we explored how we, individually and collectively, deal with our sensitivity and our uniqueness. We were all so happy to be ourselves.

And, of course, Lisa Sasabuki the cat enjoyed seeing her people. I’ll never forget her running out to meet our guests when I told her Orion was there.

Thanks to everyone who came, and thanks to Ofelia Adame for her lovely photos of the event.

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