In this small haven on the North Sea, green leaves are turning yellow; waves rise and fall with a thundering murmur; hot drinks like chai lattes and caramel mochas warm you up after walks through the cold winds. October is slipping away in later dawns and earlier dusks. Next week is Independent Learning Week, when classes are suspended to let students study, work on papers, and (in ordinary times) travel.
Now that I’ve had a month to settle in, I want to keep exploring the roles of maker, cultivator, and collaborator in my artistic work. After having so much fun with the Summer of Faerie project last summer, I longed to do another creative collaboration this autumn. I reached out to some artist-friends from The Habit and St. Andrews and invited them to join me.
Here is the full description and prompt for the project:
Project Title: Thresholds
Prompt: In her Rabbit Room article “Weathering the Books,” Rebecca D. Martin talks about reading books seasonally, and names The Fellowship of the Ring (especially the chapters up to Bree) as perfect for autumn. In honor of that beautiful thought, I invited some other artists to do a collaborative project.
The theme is thresholds: physical or metaphorical, small or great, looming ahead, just underfoot, or behind you. I took this definition of “threshold” from the Cambridge Dictionary:
1) The floor or entrance to a building or room
2) The level or point at which you start to experience something, or at which something starts to happen
3) The point at which something starts
Threshold synonyms: brink, verge, dawn, door, doorstep, doorway, edge, entrance, gate, inception, origin, outset, point, still, start, vestibule, point of departure, starting point
Medium: Anything: creative nonfiction, academic essay, fiction, poetry, visual art, theatrical script, Spotify playlist, etc.
The collaborative part: Once some people expressed interest, I arranged partnerships. Each individual came up with three “artifacts” or stimuli for their partner: concrete, physical objects such as “the color red, an iron key, and the smell of earth,” or “the taste of cinnamon, sound of a cello, and fog.” These “artifacts” didn’t have to appear in the final result, but they gave everyone a place to start.
Several artists took the challenge, and now that we’ve exchanged “artifacts” and had some time to work, I’ll start publishing the results here. This first contribution is three poems by Aaron Stephens. Aaron’s partner was Kori Morgan, who gave him these artifacts:
- A tree with a trunk that grew up at an angle
- An orange ball cap dropped on a hiking path
- A windmill statue in a vegetable garden
He responded by capturing the beauty of a woodland with profound clarity and brevity that gives many phrases the emotional resonance of whole poems in themselves.
On our own
Lost in a
Maze of trees
On paths blazed by
Neighbors as blind
When I saw you
Step on a baseball cap
On the park trail.
An old orange hat
And I thought,
‘The hat was on the path
Now the path is on the hat.’
A new aroma
Finds my senses.
A patch of lavender
Hiding, waiting for me.
You found me.
So I prayed,
‘God, make me
Walk more carefully.’
White Birch trees
Straight and ordered
Sentinels of Law
Wild Beech trees
Revelers of Gospel
Through the leaves
Of the Beeches
Down The Path
Aaron Stephens is growing more tenderhearted toward his wife and three children. Favorite color: blue. Have you had a dream that started before you were asleep? Have you had one so funny you laughed yourself awake? Aaron’s life has been like that. Just when he had settled into fearful religiosity, Jesus showed up like a belly-laugh for his soul. Find him at: aaron-erin.com.