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  • I like to scoop a few disparate happenings or ideas and sling it all on the wall of my mind. Then I'll see what sticks and what falls off. Since Christmas, a few thoughts are persistently surfacing. Here they are, but in no order of importance:

    • stars
    • fabric scraps
    • unimaginable suffering
    • guidance

    Let's see how this goes:

    This is my second year leading a pediatric oncology art therapy group at Brenner's Hospital in Winston-Salem. We meet the first Tuesday of the month for about an hour and half. In between those meetings, I spend time here and there, usually while driving revisiting ideas off and on in order to come up with what I think is just the right art investigation for the group. One where each child will need some support but most importantly be able to excel in their strengths. Last year we explored self-portraiture, this year, we are exploring landscapes. I started thinking about the landscape of the night sky and how magical the winter sky must be for young children. There's a whole nightlife they don't get to see in the summer because of their early bedtimes and an uncooperative sun. But in the winter, the chill clears way for a new realm of insight as the sun sinks lower in the sky earlier and earlier in the evening before bedtime.
    That's where the stars come in.

    I really don't know where I got the idea. I'm not going to take full credit for it, but I can't pinpoint a source. I think ideas just scurry around like mice or a renegade gerbil. I strain to hear the soft click of scampering nails until I catch it and make it my pet. I thought about making a wooden frame to demo the project for the kids with paint stirring sticks in the shape of a star. We would then tie fabric scraps together on them to cover the exposed wood. That was really it.

    But hold on, let me back up. Rewind to earlier in December. Even before I caught the idea for the art group. While setting out my decorations on our mantle for Christmas, I became depressed over the big open empty space looming on the wall above the our nativity scene. I fleetingly thought a star would look nice there, but dismissed the idea, because, well, I wasn't going to spend any money on that. There were other things I needed to buy. In my heart, I longed for a star to occupy that dead space.

    After formulating a plan for the large wooden frame to use purely as a demonstration, I knew I needed to modify to a smaller scale for the children in our art group. I wanted them to have have a project to take home to give to their parents. Instead of long paint stirring sticks they would use wooden popsicle sticks. This idea worked really well. The kids positioned the popsicle sticks and I hot glued them in place. We tore and cut a hodgepodge of unmatched fabrics. There were blue calicos to red polka dots... nothing really matched at all. Until they tied the scraps together in knots on their small stars. Bright colors, dangling threads, and ripped seams melded into an unexpected beauty.

    I had brought my large scale version to the hospital to show just as a demo, but hadn't anticipated working anymore on it. But the kids, the parents, my coordinator, they all stopped working on their small popsicle stars to help tie the fabric knots on my wooden frame. For a moment, I stood back. I took in what was happening. I was actually getting my star. The brief, fleeting longing of my heart that was not even a prayer on my tongue was becoming living atom. Parents helped their children, children undergoing and recovering from an unimaginable suffering, tie leftover discarded scraps to form something of beauty. Just for me.

    There's a weighted burden rocking deep inside my chest today. The days since Christmas feel like a horrible, foggy hangover I try to swim out of. Nothing can compare to the magic of the previous evenings of lights, wonder, delightful scents, and heavy tongued treats. I've been procrastinating taking down my Christmas tree, the wreath on my door, the nativity scene, but especially the star. The beautiful star that hangs where the was once dead silence. I don't think I want to take it down. I can't let go of it. I think I'm just going to leave it up all year, with a basket of fabric scraps underneath. That way, if you stop by for a visit, you can tie your knot into my star.
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