The Ancient One

Most of July and all of August have been weeks spent reflecting and being in a state of melancholy, with little sleep between the passing of one day and the arrival of another. As if storm clouds linger close by, ready to erupt at any moment into a torrent of challenges to blind my sense of direction. In the meantime September lies before me as an unknown terrain yet to be explored or its chapter written and while there are no guarantees; each day to which I rise, is a gift not to be spoiled and this is especially true, because the last six years have been a challenge.

After a two-month hospital stay in the spring of 2003, which required a subsequent four and a half year recovery, stage three cancer was discovered and appropriately dealt with. This was followed eighteen months later by a heart attack and thirty days afterwards was compounded by an unscheduled open-heart triple by-pass surgery in January 2006. Yet after all this, I remain standing, unsure if I would be able to face another major challenge.

Finding solace with the Ancient One
Grizzly Peak, Berkeley, California
Digital duo-tone photograph, December 7, 2007

No longer as resilient or defiant as before, I come to identify with the old tree I christened the ‘Ancient One’ when I first came upon it almost two years ago. At that time I felt an internal urge to return to an area with which I had identified during the period when I had my heart attack and the open-heart surgery. It was in those thirty days when a three-day period produced some of my most personal work. These images of fallen twigs, leaves and other fragments of nature gathering upon the ground under a soft rain, returning to earth in the cycle of ‘dust to dust’, were foreshadowing my own destiny. Had I not intervened two days prior of my scheduled death, much would have been left unfinished and unsaid. To this day I feel closest to these images then all my other photographs combined.

Since the day of my open-heart surgery when I cheated my demise unknowingly, it feels like Death is seeking revenge. Playing shenanigans with my mind and emotions in a game I know it will eventually win. But for now this tug of war continues indefinitely and like the ‘Ancient One’, I shall stand strong, despite feeling hollow at times. Though today I am a former self of the past, whose body now is scared and beginning to shows its age, I shall rise each day, contemplating upon creativity, and in doing so create art by which I shall be resurrecting my identity.

Postscript: When the time is right, I will share with you the images in which the heart and soul became one with the mind.


Chrissy Gibson said...

Egmont, I love reading your blog.... your writings are so descriptive. I do hope that your "internal" wounds are healing also. Much love xx

Bobbi Studstill said...

I believe art truly *does* save lives - and perhaps yours is saved because you still have so much to share. I think you are an amazing artist and a truly generous person and I wish you the best - in health, life and art.

Bobbie Altman

As you know, I am well aware of what comes from a close encounter with death - the doubts that arise from being so shaken by one's own mortality and how that can then affect one's relationships not just to others, but to one's work. The questions come fast and furious- "What's it all about?" "Why bother?" "Who gives a flying fig?"- and continue to fuel the fires of doubt. But you have found the perfect image with which to fight that fire - the Ancient One - this massive tree, a huge part lying broken/dead near by, but yet still standing strong, alive, growing, breathing, creating its own beauty by just being - that's you, Egmont. You've captured the essence of this tree and it has become a part of you.

Trudi Sissons said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts here. I was reminded of Man's Search for Meaning (Viktor Frankl). It gave me strength to know you choose to rise each day from the spirit of gratitude. Regardless of past circumstance, it does provide some comfort to know one always has that choice.

layers said...

thank you for such a thought provoking comment on my post. I am glad we made such a connection.
Trees often show up in my paintings. The tree may be 'ancient' and beaten up a bit, but it is still there and more 'beautiful' with age.

layers said...

please excuse my confusion over my comment posting this morning--- I just realized I typed out a comment and then the wall painter arrived and I don't think I clicked on "post comment"... my first comment had to do with art of healing--- did I send this to you already? anyway, right after 9/11 I wrote an article on the art of healing and read a number of books for the article and there really is a powerful connection between art and creative thinking and healing one's body and mind.

Monika Wolf said...

Like Chrissy, me too, I love reading your blog. It's like sitting next to you listening to your words.
Is it actually this long since you've had your surgery? Oh man, it's almost like yesterday when you told us... still have that photo of you in mind! My best wishes to you! Definitely... creating helps!

Eva said...

Thank you for the insightful comments to my post about a lost painting. After reading what you have been through the past six years, I can understand why any lose, be it small, would be something that would resonate strongly with you. I too have had some physical and emotional challenges the past four years, so I can relate in a small way to your post and your wonderful photograph. I found you through a link on “Layer’s” blog and I am grateful. You are extremely talented and I am looking forward to exploring both of your blogs.

John said...

I came by way of Donna at Layers...also.

You are a warrior and a lucky one...my best to you. The photo of the tree is lyrical soft and bold...I remember seeing an Avedon retro in Berkeley twenty some years ago - simply fantastic.

At the time he had completed the series on his terminally ill father....that combined with fashion and portraiture. Wonderful exhibit.

I grew up in San Francisco, moving to NYC in 83. I intended to stay in NY only a few years. Life and art have their curves. Regards. Great site.

gunsan said...

I aam reading your blogg and enjoying your artwork, but I am bad on commenting, sorry!!
Thanks for your comment. Well, it does not look like this always. I am moving my bookshelves to get room for a new TV, 37" LCD, and it is really a little funny because I seldom look at TV. That's because my hearing is so bad. Now I will get a hearing aid, so I hope it will be better.
Better than TV though, would be to rest by this beautiful old tree. Have a nice weekend Egmont!

San said...

Hi. I came over from "layers." You have a beautiful blog, especially your header image, which is haunting. As is your image of "The Ancient One," and your reflections on all it evokes for you.

Tenacious Tess said...

That image is perfect for this. Your writing touches the soul.