Sunday, April 11, 2010

Mama Awendo's Afternoon

Heal me, oh Lord, and I will be healed....
A good leader that recently entered my journey in a season of hardship drew my attention to a biblical author (Jeremiah) that writes rather nakedly about his inner thoughts and tensions about the place of the Creator in his sufferings. Among the curses, ramblings, laments, complaints, and random declarations of praise and faith, the following statement in the Book of Jeremiah captured my attention; "Heal me, oh Lord, and I will be healed..."(Jer 17:14).

I am in one of those spaces where a piece of charcoal between my fingers is like a cigarette to the smoker, I pretty much know I will feel a bit better when I'm through, and once I get the nudge, I can't shake it.

Sitting on my kitchen table, while they boys were napping, I could feel that inner ache that we all know to well, that accompanies a season of darkness, creeping in. You may know the feeling: It's like as soon as you stop laughing or working, or chatting with a friend on the phone, and your mind is still, suddenly your thoughts return to the loss, or painful event. The feeling is like an unwanted visitor that sits at your table, sipping his tea and never leaving....

Well anyway, this is the space that I was in and I knew I needed some "art therapy" which comes these days in the form of newsprint and charcoal. I pictured in my head a place of serenity, which took me back to childhood, watching my mother, or an Aunt, or a friend's mother hanging clothes on a line. "Mama Awendo's Afternoon" is being occupied by this task; so tedious, and routine and necessary and beautiful, it's almost spiritual.... it is spiritual. From childhood, to this day, I always loved the smell of clean laundry drying in the sun, and I wanted to capture the simplicity and stillness of the task, to give my aching soul relief and magically return to this place in my childhood past when all was safe and happy. Life however in seldom simple or still, and even in this creative process, I found my fingers frantically bending the shape of the stalks of maize, moving the wind to blow just a little stronger than I had planned for Mama Awendo's afternoon.

When I was a younger girl I believed that my pain, and the pain of those around me would be healed by the Creator, this was the deepest expression of my faith. When I was an older girl, like Jeremiah, I felt deceived (Jer 20:1) by the creator, I was not healed, those around me were also still in pain. And so the lesson, I felt was that the deepest expression of my faith was to continue to worship the Creator, in-spite of the pain. And now as a young woman, again in the company of this unwanted visitor, I am drawn to this prayer by the honest Jeremiah "Heal me, Oh Lord, and I will be healed" My heart cannot help but feel that I cannot walk that path again, I cannot trust the Creator to take away the pain only to be failed, deceived and disappointed.

But I don't know, maybe it's like doing the damn laundry. The repetitiveness of the task sometimes feels like it's in vain. I mean, Let's face it, the clothes are going to be soiled again in no time.

Kaskitémahikan (Micheal Hart) is a citizen of Fish River Cree Nation and a social work practitioner. He has written an incredible book about an Aboriginal Approach to Practice, in it he has the following to say about healing:

"Healing is not only seen as the process of recoving from a problem or an illness. Healing is also viewed as a journey; it is something that people practice daily throughout their lives. it is the broad transitional process that restores the person, community and nation to wholeness, connectedness and balance," (Hart, 2002).

So maybe I had it right as a child when I saw Mama Awendo's work as being beautiful for what it was, maybe the clothes will get dirty again, but that's not the point. Maybe the purpose of clotheslines and breezy days wasn't to keep clothes clean but rather to capture the imagination and senses of those around and to inspire charcoal drawings on Sunday afternoons.

Maybe like Jeremiah, I will ask you to heal me, to heal us, Creator, simply because I feel a bit held when I do, and maybe I will be healed.


  1. Hey Fan,
    Your drawings are simple and beautiful, almost "breath-y". They are childlike and raw, innocent and poignant. Which contrasts (yet compliments) in so many ways your writing, for it is heart wrenching and stark.

    Art is beautiful and hard to share, but keep sharing Fan, seeing your heart like this is beautiful, and also healing.

  2. thank you Candice for your encouraging comments and thank you for introducing me to charcoal. I look forward to a lifetime of engaging in each others art!