Sorrow is how we learn to love. —Rita Mae Brown, Riding Shotgun If sorrow is how we learn to love, then let us learn. Already enough sorrow’s been sown for whole continents to erupt into astonishing tenderness. Let us learn. Let compassion grow rampant, like sunflowers along the highway. Let each act of kindness replant itself into acres and acres of widespread devotion. Let us choose love as if our lives depend on it. The sorrow is great. Let us learn to love greater-- riotous love, expansive love, love so rooted, so common we almost forget the world could look any other way.
Where does creativity begin? In one of the biggest projects of my life, the poem above was the first seed. It was planted on May 31, 2020 as I read the daily post sent out by the extraordinary Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer. I returned again and again to these words over the hard months of that first pandemic year. Then, last fall, as I stood in front of the paintings of sunflowers, irises and almond blossoms at the VanGogh Musuem in Amsterdam, the words erupted inside of me.
The sorrow I felt looking at VanGogh's last painting- Roots, unfinished because he shot himself later that day- was so intense that I had to do something. What? How could I "choose love" in the face of this long-ago tragedy that began to haunt me? I began to write music: love songs of lamentation for this tragic genius whose art continues to echo across the centuries to open our eyes to wonder and beauty. I wrote and I wrote, each solo piano piece emerging as a response to both Vincent's life and his art. Quickly the idea sprang up to create a multimedia production, wedding music and image together, that I would offer as a memorial across the centuries to VanGogh on the anniversary of his death on July 29, 2022.
At some point this spring, I had a deep and moving conversation with Rosemerry and then it occurred to us: she could also write poems in response to both the images VanGogh painted and the music I had composed. And so a trio was born: a contrapuntal conversation across 130+ years and two continents: musings and meditations on nature, dreams, death, grief and most of all, hope and love. Our online salon, Love Letters for Vincent, was broadcast on July 29th at 10 am PDT. It was a heartfelt communal ritual of creativity where we shared Vincent's images, Rosemerry's poems and my piano music-- and the audience was also invited to write their own love letters to Vincent, The response was so incredibly heartening. "A completely life changing experience", wrote several audience members. "I have no words for the beauty, power and depth of this masterpiece" wrote another. Many urged us to offer this program to museums around the world, a suggestion we are eager to embrace.
As we created Love Letters for Vincent we discovered a process that has brought us both delight and joy in the midst of darkness and sorrow. You can learn about this on The Art of Creative Collaboration Video (click here to watch) as we gave a behind the scenes look how our project unfolded. We will continue the conversation with a three week online series, Mornings with Vincent, August 15, 22 and 29 from 10 am - Noon PDT when we offer tools for accessing your own creativity. Click here to learn more and register.
In the coming months, the sixteen solo piano pieces will be transcribed from my scrawling handwritten notes to truly legible music I will share for others to learn. A recording date is in the works, and Rosemerry and I have created a campaign so that we might create both an audio album and a video of both the music and poetry together. Donations are gratefully received here. In the meantime, below is a sneak peek of some of the pieces of this suite.
You can also read all of Rosemerry's heart-opening and unbearably beautiful poems in the file below..