Saturday, March 5, 2011

Grief Flags

I may have made up the title, "Grief Flags" just now. In reality, these are called "Prayer Flags" if you're sorta religious and "Peace Flags" if you are not. My flags are not about prayer or peace, but about loss, so I'm renaming them.

The original Tibetan concept of these things is that you hang the flags out at a certain time of the year (I think February, but I'm not really sure) and they blow around and fall apart for a year or so. The flags have prayers written on them and as they fall apart the words are released into the air where the gods can hear them. If you want to know more about Prayer Flags go here. It makes a lot of sense to apply this to writing to someone lost.

I made some of these to my mom, which is probably a really sacrilegious thing to do, but since I am sorta sacrilegious anyway, it worked out well. For my process, I did pay attention to the color symbolism and order, making something about the writing or design apply to space, wind, fire, water, earth, but otherwise was pretty liberal in how I made and used these.

I felt it was important to sew these a little, since my mom was a quilter, but also important that they be able to shred in the breeze, so there are no knots or hems. I used fabric paint and markers and transferred photographs in places. Everything was done by hand, so this project took awhile.

Fire Flag
This is a picture of my mom in high school.
The music is hand drawn and a copy of Friedrich Kuhlau's Sonatina in C, Op. 20 No.1
My mom used to play this.

(This is not my mom! But, the music sounds like this.)

Through doing this I felt like I was honoring my mother, but also realized two important things that were good for my grief process. The first was that I didn't have any unfinished business with my mother. Everything I wanted to write on these, were things we had already discussed before she died. Secondly, I became aware that even though my mother's death was unfair on many levels: most people don't lose parents at my age and the cause of her death was not supposed to happen and therefore extremely torturous for everyone, I wouldn't have traded my experiences of daughterhood for anyone else's. This helped me move into a place of greater acceptance. It is really difficult not to accept even the worst of circumstances when you realize you don't want to live in another person's shoes.

On a technical note. These flags are holding up AMAZING! There was some discolored dripping from the rain, but not a lot. Very little fading. And they're not falling apart all that much either.

Last Flag and a moment of awareness for me.

1 comment:

  1. this looks like a wonderful project. I generally hand stitch projects; they take longer, but the stitching is totally part of the process.