Perhaps you have seen this print on the wall of my office.
It was given to me by my friend Carey, to remind me of our friend Briar, whose departure from the planet was untimely. We had about seven months from diagnosis to death with dignity, but since we had some warning (one small gift with cancer) we were able to squeeze a lot of life into that time. We made a list, and her community stepped up to help tackle the jobs, small and large. Most of the jobs were collaborative completions of projects that Briar was working on or had hoped to get to soon, and since she was an artist, the projects ranged from building little mock birdhouses out of old books to laying pavers out in mosaic style in her enormous and wonderful garden. The most public facing part of that list was this glorious piece of silliness right here, the Ankle Deep Water Ballet.
When Briar told me that this was on her unusual list, I said, “I’m going to focus my talents elsewhere for you, but I’m pretty sure that this will get done.” And it did, thanks to a group of dedicated weirdos motivated by love.
She passed a few weeks before the performance (we all knew this was likely) and, as an audience member, watching my friends embody this last and largest artwork for Briar I was flooded with joy and grief. This was not our memorial, but it was an experience brimming with big feelings for us all.
I don’t think it was her intention for the piece to be quite so moving, it was just a vision she had that was totally inside the realm of other goofy things we have done together — I guess this makes more sense if I tell you that I met Briar at Burning Man. She once “married” a young man who stepped out of a porta-potty there to find his “bride” waiting for him with the preacher and the congregation all set to go. Imagine his bewilderment, delight, and ultimate heartbreak when the marriage dissolved at the end of the night… was it all a dream?
Yes. Part of a collective dream we are co-creating every day, enhanced by people willing to find and nurture beauty and silliness and laughter wherever and whenever they can. Briar was special, but so are all of those gorgeous people who put on the blue bathing caps and splashed around in that wading pool for her; and so are you, and so am I.
Briar was also part of the project of advancing the option of human composting as an alternative to burial and cremation. She donated her body to the cause, and was part of the small cohort whose remains proved the concept and cleared the way to make it legal in Washington State. She was a passionate landscaper who wove living plants into her art, so an ecologic returning to soil is a most fitting end. We didn’t get her compost back because she was part of that study, but I like to think that she is still nurturing beauty with her material remains.
I know for a fact that she is nurturing beauty with her spirit.