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Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Before I die . . . .

Candy Chang is an artist, designer, and urban planner who says she likes to make cities more comfortable for people.

She has started an interactive art project called "Before I Die...." in her New Orleans neighborhood on a building which had been abandoned after Hurricane Katrina's devastation.

She says she seeks to transform neglected spaces into a constructive places where we can discover the hopes and dreams of the people around us.

It is also a reminder to ourselves of what is most important to us. She believes the design of our public spaces can better reflect what matters to us as a community and as individuals.

She may be onto something.

The project has, apparently, caught on in neighborhoods around the world.

There are now "Before I Die..." interactive community art projects around the world, including "Amsterdam, Portsmouth, Querétaro, Almaty, San Diego, Lisbon, Brooklyn, and beyond. "

It's a very simple project - including the project materials, which include an abandoned building or wall (with permission of the owner, of course), some sheets of plywood, Chalkboard paint, stencils, spray paint and, of course, different colors of "sidewalk chalk".

You put it up and let people have at it. When it gets full, you just wash it off and let folks start over again. Or, you just wait for Mother Nature to take care of it after a drenching rain or snow storm.

People will come back. Again, and again, and again. Sometimes, writing the same thing, and other times different things.

You really can't take away someone's hopes and dreams. They'll just keep coming back to the wall with them.

This whole concept really struck me after a conversation with my friend, Maria Evans who has a delightful blog Kirepiscatoid . She also writes occasionally for Episcopal Cafe, in the "Daily Episcopalian" section "Speaking to the Soul". Here's her Advent Meditation.

Somehow, we got from talking about "what's wrong with the church" (one of our favorite rants) onto the topic of "impatience" (not a hard jump when you consider the partners in this conversation).

She often takes the mundane or obscure and suddenly - without warning - it becomes an essay or a  litany or a psalm. My personal favorite is "The Order of Service for Doing Laundry"("Rock of Ages, clean for me, Cheer and Tide I give to Thee.").

Maria has, just this morning after our online conversation, written a "Song of Impatience" which she promises will appear on her blog on December 8 - which, of course, is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

Which, perhaps "The Order of Service for Doing Laundry" may well be a better suited match, but you can't stifle the Spirit in these matters.

You might just call some bad juju on your impatient self.

When you read it, please note that the last line is mine.  It goes:
"But I am singing, 'Lord, give me patience*,
       and give it to me now. Right now, right now, right now'."
I can't hardly wait. (But, I think you already could have guessed that.)

I suggested to Maria that I think impatience has to do with our ever-increasing awareness of the limits of our own mortality. I think even little kids have this deep awareness. I suspect impatience is a manifestation of this subconscious or unconscious sense that we want to get everything "in" before we "check out". 

Dreams and hopes and longings can not be stifled forever. They are the working of the Spirit.

So, I had this thought as an online Advent Meditation: What if we started a "Before I Die...." chalkboard project in this cyberspace neighborhood?

It would be a wonderful community effort to name the impatience of our hopes and dreams and longings in this Season of Expectation.

I'll start off the question, and you all write your answers in the comment section of this blog. Hey, I'll even suspend my policy about "No Anonymous Comments" for this project.

Unless, of course, you say something hateful or hurtful, and then I'll erase it faster than you can say "sponge and water" or sing, "Rock of Ages, clean for me, Cheer and Tide I give to Thee". 

Just to grease the wheels, here's what some folk have written:  
Before I die I want to… sing for millions, see my daughter graduate, eat a salad with an alien, see the leaves change many times, be someone’s cavalry, straddle the International Date Line, cook a souffle, hold her one more time, make it in the hip hop, help numerous children, see what I’m like as an old man, tell my mother I love her, make peace with Ohio, abandon all insecurities, be completely myself, evaporate into the light…

Here's mine:

Before I die.... I want to stand on the beach in front of the ocean and sing and dance naked in the moonlight and be completely unashamed.

Okay. Your turn.  Here's  you're "chalk". 

Have at it. 

"BEFORE I DIE........."

I want to ____________________________.

25 comments:

Sister BJ said...

Before I die... I want to conduct a choir of 3 or more parts... prefer something by Orlando Gibbons or John Rutter.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Before I die, I want to see the Northern Lights. And, as per your idea, Elizabeth, if I could dance naked and unashamed while viewing the lights, that would be a lovely lagniappe.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Ah, then you'll really be ready for heaven, Sister BJ.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Mimi - I've always thought we were kindred souls.

Bren Nelson said...

Before I die I want to conduct the Messiah.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Ah, Bren, and then you, too will be ready for the choir of angels and archangels.

Mimi - I thought I knew what lagniappe was but I looked it up just to be sure. It's like ordering a dozen donuts and getting the 13th free. Very Cajun, n'est pas?

Grandmère Mimi said...

Yes, lagniappe is the extra goodie, and I'd thought first of only the Northern Lights, but then dancing nude with the dancing NL seemed lovely.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

'Tis, indeed.

it's margaret said...

Well --I have danced naked on the ocean beach... --and, it was a lovely summer evening in the woods in Connecticut when we saw the majesty of the northern lights and I was with my beloved and you know, I guess I could say we danced naked, but that would only be half the truth...

I think before I die I would like to live a whole three years totally off the grid in some eco friendly way, growing all our own food and then some....

Kay & Sarah said...

I did dance naked on a beach at sunrise once. (said quietly, under my breath).

But before I die I want travel to many foreign countries and sing beautifully.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Margaret - I have also danced naked in front of the ocean's moonlight but I was a Very Young woman. I think it bumps the experience up a notch when you still desire to do that as a "woman of a certain age". That's the "unashamed" part.

I love your dream. But, only three years? Could you go "back" to your "old ways" do you think?

JCF said...

I want to learn what life is for
I don't want much, I just want more
Ask what I want and I will sing
I want everything, everything

I'd cure the cold and the traffic jam
If there were floods, I'd give a dam
I'd never sleep, I'd only sing
Let me do everything, everything

I'd like to plan a city and play the cello
Play at Monte Carlo, play Othello
Move into the White House, paint it yellow
Speak Portuguese and Dutch
And if it's not too much
I'd like to have the perfect twin
One who'd go out as I came in
I've got to grab the big brass ring
So I'll have everything, everything


"Everything", Paul Williams

[My actual list will come later. JCF]

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Kay, etc. - I'm planning a trip to Thailand in March to celebrate my dear friend's 70th birthday. I love travel. Just do it.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

JCF - I love that poem. It speaks so to the heart of the experience of being human.

it's margaret said...

(welllll --I didn't say WHEN I had done it!) (the dance, that is!)

But you are absolutely correct. Perhaps it should be an annual thang! (the dance, that its!)

And --I'm pondering 'the old ways' --pondering, pondering.... my heart desires it. The body..... heh....

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Margaret - Ain't that just the gospel truth!

Stephanie Ivy said...

Before I die, I want to...fall in love, see the Northern Lights, visit Iceland, visit Stonehenge, visit Greece, make a pilgrimage, have children, dance in the rain, throw a giant feast for all my friends and loved ones, go on a meditative retreat, stomp grapes to make wine, see the Pyramids...so many things...

Kirkepiscatoid said...

Before I die, I want to hear a large churchy choral group sing some things I've worked on for "Maria's Canine Messiah." Here are some things I've jotted down...

For unto us a dog is born...unto us...a dog is given...
And tick re-pelll-ent shall be upon his shoulder...
And their names shall be called...
Boomer!  Eddie!  Almighty dogs, the everlasting canines, the Prince of Fleas!

Or how about...

Lift up your leg! Pee on the bush! And mark ye your space, and sniff around the yard!
Then the dogs of glory can go in...then the dogs of glory can go in...
Who are these dogs of glory?  Who are these dogs of glory?
They're Boomie and Ed!

Then Eddie and Boomie can go in...

Or,

All we chase sheep, all we chase sheep.  They run awaaaaaaaaaayyyyyy....
For us it's plaaaaayyyyyyyy....

and if that's not enough...

And the glory, the glory of the dogs, shall be reeee-veeeeee--eeeeel-ed....
And all canines shall see it together....
And the mouths of the dogs...have bark-ed it!

You find the choir, Elizabeth, and I'll let you sub Theo in any of these.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Stephanie Ivy - I, too, have many things on my list "before I die....". I'd have to be at the board every day to put in a new one.

Here's the thing: One of the things I wanted to do was go to Thailand. So, I'm going. In March. I can't afford it, but I'm making it happen - without credit card debt. Just takes careful planning and saving, but I'm going. Waa-hoo!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Kirke - You are too mucking fuch. I see a premiere of you Opus on St. Francis Day, 2012. I think the choir of the Cathedral of St. John's, NYC would LOVE to sing it.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to see my children grow up into a world free of hate and replaced by love and a feeling of always being wanted for the gifts God gave them.

Maria

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Maria - I suspect you'll find lots of people who share your dream.

Muthah+ said...

Ok, I have conducted Messiah--twice. I have composed all kinds of songs and lyrics some publishable and some not. But I do want to go to the Holy Land before I die. I would like to see the Northern Lights but I really don't want to be that cold again. I am not especially fond of the beach clothed or not. But to fly fish on the Green River in Utah or on the flats of the Bahamas wouldn't be half bad.

But what I want to see before I die is the end of all this anti-LGBT crap. It is coming but my patience is getting short.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Amen, Muthah+. Amen.

RevMama said...

Before I die, I want to cast a fly and catch a monster salmon in one of Washington's beautiful rivers. I want to go back to Scotland and stand on the lands of Clan McKay (pronounced with a long "I," not a ling "A."). And then I want to go to Ireland. I want to live long enough to see my daughter grow into the beautiful woman whiooccasionally peeks out though her 5-year-old eyes.