Monday, January 31, 2022

Art is Where You See It: Cloud Sculptures, Airport Carpet, and How My Senses Came Alive During the Pandemic

Nineteen months into the pandemic, although I was excited to travel to meet our first grandchild and see family, I was anxious since Covid numbers were still not under control and many were refusing to get vaccinated. I don’t like to fly in the first place, and the long delays we had in busy, crowded airports were frightening.

My flight began with watching the raindrops collect on the airplane window, opening my imagination to new ways to perceive the clouds, airplane windows, the landscape, and even the carpet of an airline waiting room. After the poem about the raindrops, another poem came along unexpectedly from my other observations.


Flying for five hours along with a five hour layover in Denver, I had ample “studio time” to write, draw, and paint my awakening thoughts. I always travel with  art supplies, two sets of watercolors, a few brushes and pens that are water soluble. Moving along in the air after being cooped up for so many months, I noticed how much more developed my awareness was than when I last traveled in November 2019. 


I saw art where I had not noticed it before. I began to think that perhaps there were some gains over the covid lockdown, even though the losses seemed overwhelming. During the pandemic, I had kept my creative growth as a priority, continuing sessions with my writing coach, which deepened my ability to express experiences from my everyday encounters. Even though many parts of my life were in lockdown, my creativity and relationship with God were thriving. Now as I emerged from my quiet pandemic patterns to travel again, my senses felt like curious young children. They were new and ready to receive. The ordinary looked extraordinary. Art seemed to be everywhere.


This second poem of my travels that day captures my experience in flying almost 2,300 miles from Indianapolis to Denver to Portland. 


Five hours in the air,

The airplane window and clouds

Had more surprises for me that day

Relieving my anxiety at 35,000 feet.


An empty window seat

Allowing an unobstructed view

Of the flat farmscape from my Midwest home to

The Columbia River and the Three Sisters,

Trio of snow-capped mountains

In the Pacific Northwest.


Reaching for familiarity in the sky

From a bulging carry-on bag,

I retrieved my sketch pad,

Box of watercolors,

Paint brush, small plastic container.

I drew what I saw out the window

And wrote on my sketchpad.


“I believe the clouds are sculptures

In the sky,

Art seen from above.

A surprise gallery

Already framed

By window’s rim

35,000 feet above earth,

Companionship for the long trip,”


Landing with relief in the Denver airport over two hours later, I began the five-hour vigil until the final departure to Portland. Getting lunch, reorganizing my carry-on bag, watching people, and noting my environment, I had plenty to keep me engaged.


I observed the pattern of the carpet on the airport floor, the same one I remembered from the last time I flew. This time however, I drew the simple lines and wrote underneath my sketch, “I believe art is where you see it…even on an airport carpet.”


Whether my senses were on increased alert from traveler’s anxiety or my deprivation from being mostly alone over the past year and a half, or whether my creative practices over those long months had helped me see with more clarity now, this improved perception added fullness and meaning to my trip. I came home with poems swirling in my head, lined up like the airplanes waiting to take off in the three airports I visited. 


I had a visual record of what I experienced in the air and in the airports, vibrant colors and shapes and fresh insights adding excitement to my trip. The things I saw opened me up to new observations, pleasant memories from the past, and ways to illustrate my feelings of the present moment.


The highlight of my trip was meeting our first grandchild and spending meaningful time with our daughter and son-in-law. But the bonus for me was seeing how my creativity had grown during the pandemic lockdown, springing up into art, poems, and writing I could never have predicted.

[See the companion post to this one shared last week!]


{A special note for Jacquie Reed's faithful readers.... Jacquie enjoyed writing as a way to express her insights and share her creativity but also as a way to more deeply connect with the people she held dear. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about the topics in her posts and interacting with her ideas and art while she was living. This post was written and scheduled by Jacquie in the weeks before her unexpected death on November 5, 2021. Her remaining posts will publish every two weeks from now through the end of February 2022. Please feel free to respond with your memories of Jacquie in the comments. May the words she left behind minister to you as you grieve her passing and remember her life. You can find her obituary here.} 

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