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Week 20 // Mortal Coil


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I received so many likes, shares and comments from last week’s portrait, I have to thank you all. I really never have any clue what other people will think of this stuff when I put it out there. It always feels a little bit risky, and there is always a little bit of “what if no one likes it?” that goes on. I don’t think that ever goes away! My sincerest thanks to everyone for all the support last week and throughout the entire project thus far… this surge of support came to me truly when I most needed it. When I’ve felt really depleted… you guys really gave me a boost.

I’m continuing to explore ropes this week and likely for a few more weeks, as I’ve been so completely lost in the feeling and meaning behind them. There are so many ways to interpret ropes as a symbol; tension, struggle, strain, resistance, support, strength, cooperation, chaos. This week, I wanted to capture the weight of grief… the way it knots up around you, weighs you down, and exhausts you. I have been tired since the day my fiancé died. At first, I could barely function at all. Two years later, I still feel like I am only operating at 60%. There is this other force inside me that is always requiring that other 40% of my energy. Like any emotion, grief needs room in our lives. If we don’t allow it space, it will take it on its own anyway. If we struggle against it, it won’t let up any easier. It will only wear us out quicker, until we are left exhausted and depleted in its embrace. I try my best to remember to leave room for my grief – to respect it as a part of me – but I still fight it sometimes. I’ve been fighting it on and off for the past few months honestly… and holy hell can I put up a fight. Lately, I think I’ve run out of steam and have been leaning into it a bit more.

I’d like to share a little about the tear-stains in this image… entirely unintentional. My camera gear was having issues and I had a very limited amount of daylight left to get the shot. It was also about 100 degrees out that day. And a few other things had not gone my way that day too. Needless to say, after only a few minutes of failing to figure out why my gear was not working correctly – I had a complete and total melt down. Like a five-year-old. It was ridiculous. I messed with it for at least 30 minutes to no avail, and went into a complete crying fit at least three separate times… which at first was about the stupid camera and how hot it was outside, but soon turned into cursing my entire life and how I just want my old life back and how much I hate the fact that this is my life and that I’m stuck “even doing this project in the first place!!” Eventually I did get it all working again, and once I got started, things began to flow a bit better. But the getting there… ugh.

I tell you this for a reason. Because like the journey of grief (and life) – this project is not easy and is frequently quite a battle. Sometimes it takes my breath away and surprises me with incredible gifts. Other times, it is a harsh reminder that I am SO not where I thought I would be at 31 years old. And sometimes, shit just goes all wrong and triggers all my emotions and I come unhinged in a completely irrational way. And that’s where those tear stains came from. I decided to leave them as a reminder of how grieving leaves us feeling exposed, often ridiculous and constantly exhausted. It is such for each of us in this journey of life and death.

8 Comments Post a comment
  1. Such a gorgeous photo! The story of the tearstains says to me that we can’t tell the difference between the tears of daily frustration from the tears of deep, soulful mourning. Our body sometimes reacts the same way.

    I also love the metaphor of ropes. I like them for a reason you didn’t mention. You weave together plain old stems in order to create an object that can anchor a ship. The same plants can be made into fabric, too. The fibers brought together, working towards the same objective, become strong.

    You sound very self-aware when you talk of being 60% present. I remember when I was at that state when my father died. Unfortunately, it took me three years to be able to look back and see that I had been at 60% that whole time. Your insght is a gift, I think. Maybe you come by it naturally, or maybe your art forces you to look at it and deal with it.

    Art is a great way to deal with pain. Can I thank you for your art without being grateful for your pain? That makes me uncomfortable to say, actually. I don’t want to wish such horrible grief on anyone or be trite about it. But I can’t help but be grateful for your art and self-awareness, as I mourn with you for the way that you came to it.

    Sunday, August 3, 2014
    • Beautiful. Your last paragraph especially, so beautifully expressed.

      Sunday, August 3, 2014
    • I love what you added about the ropes – It’s got my mind working about how to use the ropes in another image about strength. hmm! Thank you for writing… Especially the last thing you said. Very seldom has someone thanked me in such a holistic way. It is the perfect way to me, because it’s the same way I feel… thankful for what comes out, but not grateful for why it’s happening. To have someone else feel it too… it really wonderful. Thank you Richard

      Tuesday, August 5, 2014
  2. LOVE THIS SARAH!!! you told me the story behind the tears on your face over the phone, and to me, that just makes this piece even more meaningful and beautiful and complex. I think it says so much that , more than once now, while doing this art project, you have come into situations where your emotions took over and you thought about not doing it or giving up or got frustrated by that – and then sort of realized , that those emotions ARE THE PROJECT – that is the whole point – totally uncensored, real, raw, and honest. You know I love that more than anything, and that is why I love your art. What I also love about this photo is your hair and how it almost starts to resemble the ropes in its thickness and texture – its like a continuation of the ropes and really drives home how much the grief wraps itself up in you, everywhere. This is awesome.

    Sunday, August 3, 2014
    • Thank you Kelley! I am reading this and thinking back to all the many conversations we’ve had about writing… and how I’ve always struggled with being as raw with my writing as you are. Suddenly you made me realize I’m having a lot less trouble with that through my photography, and thru writing about my photos. Kinda cool. =)

      I love what you said about my hair – I had not even thought about that! But it so does kind of blend in with the ropes and I LOVE the meaning you found in that! Thank you!

      Tuesday, August 5, 2014
  3. Great shot, Sarah.

    I’ve been following your blog for just a short while and feel very inspired by your works of art. I feel sad that you lost the love of your life and hope that one day you’ll be able to move on and greet each day with happiness once more.

    No one ever forgets the passing of a loved one, but there comes a time when the grief will not be so overwhelming and I hope that day comes soon for you.

    Sunday, August 3, 2014
  4. I have so loved reading these Sarah. How you portray this so beautifully with words and photos is just so amazing. Sometimes it feels that the grief never leaves us. Still grieving over a loss going on 14 years now although it gets better every day. Praying for your continued healing.

    Friday, August 8, 2014

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