Jes Lee

Day 28

There are times when you are doing something, and suddenly you realize that you are on your path. That you are doing what you are meant to do, at least at that very moment of your life. It is overwhelming, and you realize that you will go to great lengths to be able to continue doing what you are doing, but you feel a sense of purpose.

Today was an art day for me. In so many more ways than I expected. 

I started out volunteering at Banfill like so many normal Thursdays. After my shift was done there, I went to MCBA where I volunteer to take photos of their exhibits. There are many times I go and there are other workshops and things going on in the classroom while I am there, and today there was a flurry of activity. I soon discovered that it was the Combat Paper residency during the Week for Peace event. Since MCBA thought it would be good to have some photos of the creating, I got to nose around and check out what they were doing, and I got to meet some amazing people.

First of all, Combat Paper is doing a very amazing thing. Veterans have a chance to come to a supportive place, and in a very cathartic way, to take their military uniform, cut it, destroy it, run it through the beater, and then turn the resulting pulp into a beautiful sheet of paper, a fresh, creative start. Taking something that stands for destruction, and turn it into something of their own. For some it is an awesome experience. For others it is very bittersweet. Watching it was happen was so powerful. I was honored to be able to take some photos of them working. 

As they were cleaning up for the afternoon, I got a chance to talk to them, and ended up telling them a bit about my Waiting Ribbons project and the quilt I ended up making as the last piece of the show. The quilt used up John’s duffle bags and many of his uniforms. They asked if I could bring it, so I’m planning on bringing it tomorrow. I chatted with one of the artists for awhile and discovered that he was over in Iraq at the same time John was. We talked a bit. It is so hard to describe, but there was so much that wasn’t said, that was just understood. You felt that way with everyone there. It was amazing. He gave me a book that they are bringing around on their tour called Warrior Writers: Re-Making Sense. He told me to share it with John. I know it will be hard to read. I am anxious to start though. I got pretty choked up when he gave it to me. Honestly, I cried most of the rest of the time I was there, finishing photographing the exhibit and driving home. 

It was, and still is very emotionally overwhelming. I am honored to have been able to meet them and to see what they are doing, and to have them ask to see what I made. As I was leaving, I realized that being an artist really is what I am supposed to be doing. I love what I am doing, I love taking photos, I love volunteering at MCBA, and it keeps leading me to so many different things. It is so hard to describe, but as I left, even though I was crying, remembering  a lot of feelings I hadn’t for a long time, I had this huge sense that everything was as it should be. 

Many times, as an artist, you doubt yourself, you doubt what you are doing, you doubt that it can make a difference, you doubt that it will be seen or heard or felt or read, or touched. You doubt that anything you do will matter.

Today, I didn’t doubt.

There will be other days that I will doubt, and I hope that I can come back to this post and remember the feelings I had today.

For now, I’m going to enjoy this feeling as long as I can, knowing that I am doing what I am supposed to be doing.

The rest of the evening I spent with my husband and some very wonderful friends. We walked around the Walker Art Center, saw The Quick and the Dead exhibit, wandered the sculpture garden at night, had a wonderful dinner with lots of conversation and wine. 

Everything felt right.