Remnant #11: Pilgrimage

"At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can." ~Frida Kahlo~

The whole first year after my mother died, I wore a metal bracelet with these words engraved on it, every single day. It was a reminder. A prayer. A promise.  Frida was already important to me for many years when I was a teenager, and had reemerged as "Saint Frida" to me during the two years I'd navigated my own husband's affair and our painful divorce. Our last anniversary together, lucky number thirteen, we'd spent the day at the Philadelphia Art Museum at Frida's exhibit there. I stood and wept before "The Two Fridas" and he held me, knowing why. The pain she experienced over Diego, and how she survived, directly tied to my survival. Then, when I lost my mother, I returned to her images of despair and felt kindred to her and everyone who suffered. The first year of my bereavement, I wore the bracelet. The second year after, I got a silver runt of a kitten with a big personality and named her Frida Kahlo.

I turn to Frida's art when I am broken and find comfort in the way she articulates pain for me, without a word being spoken. I turn to Frida's art when I am thriving and notice the lush, verdant life in her work--the whole world blooming. I turn to Frida's art when I am deep in my own creative wilds, as I am right now, hiding completely underground while my fourth novel manuscript burns through me. Yesterday, I visited her exhibit at the New York Botanical Gardens and I told my friend who wandered with me, "This feels like church." And, it did. When we got to her painting, "Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird," imagery of which will, in a week and a half, be forever tattooed under my skin, my eyes teared up and I wanted to freeze the moment--the whole day--the whole story of what Frida means.

But, my story with Frida is always evolving. All I can do is watch it rise and flower and fall away and return, knowing that she is a gift, belonging to no one and everyone all at once.