The day started with an email from Harvey Schwartz, my filmmaker friend whose enthusiasm for this project has never flagged:
Have a magical event today!!!!
Harvey (in Idaho)
I had just enough time to shower before I drove off to pick up my friend Janelle Bighinatti at the bus station…I’d offered to pay her way if she would document the reception for me with her eye for beauty and SLR camera. To my surprise, she said yes. So a bunch of us converged upon my tiny studio apartment. I started working myself into a tizzy when I realized that the cooking couldn’t be rushed, and I wasn’t sure how we’d get the chairs and tables set up in time for the reception. But my friends calmed me down, and we got everything done with time to spare. Janelle and I even headed down to the air-conditioned Avenue Bread to freshen up beforehand, laughing ourselves silly over shots of fizzy kombucha.
We set up camp on R.’s front lawn, across from the bench. I had no idea how many people to expect, so we put out 24 chairs, two picnic blankets, and 2 tables for the potluck. People started arriving around 6 pm, and I was surrounded by hugging, smiling, congratulatory friends, neighbors and their dogs including Buster and Reggie. My nephew Jethro showed up wearing a bright blue shirt in honor of the knit line.
At around 7 pm, I got up on the ice chest for visibility purposes, and thanked everyone for these transformative years in their neighborhood. I said that they were going to unwind the line tonight instead of me because they were the Art.
I demonstrated how to unwind the line, and then I passed the hose reel off to the first volunteer, my brother Nate. Violet and her little brother Owen, their mom Jen, Gail, Renee, Claudia, Don, Paul, Daydre, Jeni, Ron, Prentice, and more lovely neighbors, friends and family all grabbed onto the blue rope behind the hose reel and we began walking together down Taylor. It was as if the line had become animated and was floating down the street, connecting us all.
John did traffic control duties, stopping cars on busy 11th street so that we all crossed in safety while my Dad kept an eye on the tension of the line. As we passed the fancy condos near Chrysalis Hotel, a group of people on the third floor balcony let out a loud cheer.
Soon we had made it all the way down to the boardwalk, taking turns unwinding the hose reel as we went. Everyone insisted that I put the end of the rope in the water, so I gently untied it and dropped it into the Bay. It lay there floating on the surface of the water like a blue worm. Sort of anti-climactic, I thought, but the best was yet to come. Suddenly, the floating dock rocked and I heard a loud splash. My dad was in the water swimming vigorously, pulling the line with him! He swam into the path of dancing light made by the setting sun on the water until the line was completely extended about 20 feet from the floating dock. All of us started laughing and applauding spontaneously while the floating dock lurched precariously. It seemed as if we might just come untethered and float away like a penguins on an iceberg but thankfully that didn’t happen (because I hadn’t bought event insurance!)
We all headed back up the hill, taking turns winding the hose reel up the hill together. My friend Vanessa struck some fabulous poses in her little dress while cranking the reel.
The engineers in our midst seemed especially attuned to the hose reel’s mechanics. “It is completely useless, and I love it! That’s high praise from an engineer,” one confided in me. At 14th Street, the line got a nasty line in it, and a bunch of us gathered around to untangle it, the messiness bringing us together.
Then John sprinted uphill with the hose reel the rest of the way, and we all converged around the food again…There was plenty of it, and hardly any of it ran out. We lingered in the sweet glow of community…One of the neighbors came up to me and told me how inspiring it was to watch me knit. She said that everyone has to find their own path of unfolding and she hopes to find a similar project to undertake. I advised her to just be open, and told her that I didn’t have any idea what I was getting into when I started the project.
Another woman named Tracy told me that she was the one that gave me the ice cream a long time ago. It was strangely gratifying to know that I had made an impact on people that had barely ever talked to me at the bench. A man in a straw hat told me that his pastor had worked my knitting project into a sermon so he decided to come and experience it for himself. (The older gentleman who had unwound the line with me on July 16 turned out to be the pastor of St. Paul Episcopal Church). The project was finally complete. My senses were flooded with the beauty that I had just witnessed. As we put the chairs and tables away, a rose sunset filled the sky with more longing than I could ever hold…
And now, I’ve finally emerged from stacks of dirty tablecloths, dishes, and photographs to share with you the closing celebration of “For Longing.” I’m still processing the completion of this project which has been my constant companion since 2012, the line that ran through these 3.5 momentous years of my life: unemployment, the monastery, return to Bellingham, and the rebirth of my art in community. And now, when I come home every day, I squeeze past a hose reel in the hallway, parked as if awaiting its next adventure. And there are many more I’m sure, but for now, dear friends, this one has come to an end.