I am losing a beloved friend. More accurately, I am losing the richness of a relationship formed by years of mutual treasured recollections. I am becoming the bearer of our shared memories. Like cascading water, or richly colored leaves in autumn, my friend is gradually releasing all her remembrances into the care of those who have loved her. In the process of her fading recall of our shared laughter, creative collaborations, struggles, concerns and griefs, my own memories become flattened, bereft of the dynamic balance of her vivid and lively retrospection.
Ironically much of her work from our graduate school days involved the subject of memory. She created magical combinations of photography, words, and paint, which echoed the value of collective remembrance through multiple generations. Memory was the thread that wove her work together, giving unity to sometimes disparate subject matter.
The same was true in our process of collaboration. Neither of us tried foresee the direction our collaborative work might take. Sometimes we worked in absolute silence; sometimes we audio recorded long conversations. We took rolls and rolls of photos. We wrote in each other’s journals. We drew on the walls. Every venture was an adventure into unknown territory. Our collaborative process wandered step by step, mark by mark toward a resulting image or form we could not have pre-imagined or executed in any other way. One day we decided just to play a game: you make a mark, I’ll make a mark. No talking. Our varying paint strokes wandered all over a large sheet of paper, like a labyrinthian treasure map.
Now I no longer have a map into the labyrinth of her mind. The treasure was and is our friendship, whoever holds the memories.