Inside this box grief resides. Fifty four years of letters and photographs tracing a distant but loving relationship between father and daughter. And then he was gone. Layer upon layer of remembering shifting between the now and distant past. Reaching into my own sense of deep time within a lifetime of memories. Sitting on the outside of the box the trace of a ghostly whale sings its haunting song before carrying what was Dad's life deep beneath the waves. The whale marking a sea burial fitting for a marine biologist.
The process of making THE BOX brings me up close to my grief in a way thats active. I need to 'do something' with all that love and up-side-down messiness of family life. He has been absent before but not like this.
So I bought a box, a cheap unethical box from The Works found some letters, notes from my fathers hand. I needed to feel his touch the trace of his life force from hand to paper. I photocopied them, pasted some PVA glue to the box and stuck the letter face down. Impatient for the glue to dry, (you are supposed to let it dry properly) I started to gently rub back the paper using a damp cloth very carefully, softly. Attached to the wood was a transfer of my fathers letters. Such a simple process that felt like magic. Letting the box evolve on its own I found photographs, the poem we read at his funeral The Ocean, Nathaniel Hawthorne, imagery of a minke whale and a ghost orchid. Each layer revealing something else beneath it. As my fathers face emerged from beneath the surface (through the process of wiping away the paper layers on top of the image) it was as though I was uncovering something new, a great truth, a secret, as though I was bringing him back from the grave.
The letter, a postcard, the Kent estuary, a quote, the poem, a minke whale, a stamp, an orchid, a family portrait, sailing the ocean, a young man, a young man with daughter on his shoulders, an oldish man, WhatsApp messages, a hand, his hand in my hand, Porgies the Rhodesian Ridgeback, a glass of champaign, a still life.
Working creatively with grief, surprising moments can happen. In the absent space a person leaves they can feel present. It is an intuitive and imaginative process. Images and symbols appear that you were unaware of before you started. Whilst making this memory box a whale appeared. A powerful symbol of wisdom and truth that I can work with in my creative grief practice. Making the box and reflecting on the process revealed something about my relationship with my father that I didn't know before. If I let grief work through me it gives shape and meaning to my experience of loss.
I can take forward the idea that my fathers wisdom has been transferred into the body of a whale, swimming boundless and free in solitude across vast stretches of water.
And it makes the impact of the loss easier to live with.