The rain cast silver highlights on golden foliage as I walked into the Hartland Public Library today to view my student Ceretha's art project. It too glittered silver against the library's white walls. She had designed a project based on the translation of the Tao De Jing and created strings of silver cards held together bearing the translation. On one side, the Chinese words; on the other, the English translation. She used the same cardstock to create magnets so children could piece words together and form their own stories.
On our last visit together before her death, I saw remnants of the project scattered among her bedroom and when I commented on it, she passed to me with pale hands, a sample of the milky paper -- gray and smooth from a distance, but with shiny flecks that glittered like mica. She had searched everywhere to find just the right texture and color, a perfectionist when it came to her art.
At the library I studied the wall, the art, Ceretha's explanation of the project: the display a work of art itself. I noted the white satin ribbon, delicate, but providing a foundation that held the whole piece together. So light and fanciful at first, the interwoven strands graced the wall like butterflies that might flutter off at any instant, yet, they had strength. The shimmery work a metaphor for history, religion, wisdom that has outlived many generations.
I went to the storyboard and picked up the magnets, turning them over to read the translation on magenta paper.
Mother, Woman, Origin
I had to smile. A fitting testament for Ceretha. I read them first as nouns and then as a sentence. "Exist light woman" -- don't carry a burden, don't mourn. It may not be the intended translation, but as I stepped back out in the rain, thinking of Ceretha's omnipresent, ethereal smile and the beauty of the work she left behind, I think it is the one that she would have been happy I took with me.
For more on Ceretha's project check out http://ceretha.net/dao/