In my blog, I make it a point to be candid about my influences and the sometimes frenetic life of a mother/artist/writer. I have not had an entry for two weeks because the latest issue is nothing short of tragic. Two weeks ago, a mother of four (my ten-year neighbor--until the family moved in January) was murdered. She was beaten, stabbed, strangled, and drowned. After an almost two week investigation, the police arrested her husband.
I live in a tiny neighborhood in a small community for whom these events have been devastating. I have personal sorrow over this. This sadness includes watching the pain that others are experiencing as they grapple with not only the questions of a spiritual/emotional nature but also the uncertainties of physical requirements. Four children, besides being parentless, are displaced from their home. Family businesses are at stake.
I cannot begin to catalog the atrocities that stem from this singular attack. The ripples, of which I am but a small one, fan out in all directions. I was struggling to confront my new novel and embrace my paintbrush before this happened. Now I am paralyzed. How can I make meaning out of the unimaginable? How can I do something so frivolous as telling a made-up story when the gravity of such a reality is on everyone's mind? If I, a casual friend of the family, am feeling this much anguish, imagine the anxiety and grief of the close friends, the blood relatives, the church, the community. My children feel it. How can I talk to my own children when I don't understand?
But, this is not a singular event. According to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence, there were 120 domestic violence related fatalities in Pennsylvania in 2007 alone. Multiply the pain of my community by 120. Multiply that by the number of years it takes a community to heal. In the past, I have done workshops at the local shelter that houses and transitions survivors of domestic abuse. In the time I have spent there, I noticed what appeared to me as a deficit of women from upper/middle classes. Domestic violence knows no class boundary. What is the stigma that keeps these women from self-preservation? I don't have answers. What I have is question after question looping through my brain.
And yet there is surety amidst the chaos. The sun will rise. I know enough about my own inner processes to know that when I find my voice again--and it may take some time--this tragedy will inform my art. How can it not? Art is the computer through which I personally process the world. The results? I am not talking about heavy-handed message or great social activism here, though that is possible and certainly within my reach. But there will be nuances--some so subtle that I, as the author or painter, might not be aware. For this I am grateful. Because of this, I know that art is no little thing, and I have to make no apologies for being an artist when humanity is flailing. Guernica, anyone? I am not Picasso, but I know that I have to be the transformation I wish for those who are in mourning--and art can be a great converter. Good art or bad. It doesn't matter. It is the action, steeped in optimism and intent, that transforms pain into purpose, into beauty. Maybe that will be the motivation that allows me to make that not-so-trivial first stroke with my paintbrush.
*Please click on the link to Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence to find out more including the article "31 People Die in 31 Days During Deadly Wave of Domestic Violence in PA". Also Click to Empower . Your click will provide a dollar toward education and job training programs which will help to financially empower survivors of domestic abuse.