STATE of Mind - issue 2

August 12, 2017

SILVIA HEYDEN (1927-2015)  

Inspiration arrives in the most unexpected places. This past week, one of my closest friends from college berated me for not having read Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist. I decided to pick it up at the local used book storebecause he said it was "life changing," and I, for one, am always looking to be changed.

The Alchemist is full of gems and teachable moments, but the one that stuck with me the most was one from the beginning of The Shepherd's journey to find his treasure. After talking with a palm reader and feeling more confused than ever, the Shepherd is sitting with a book and a bottle of wine and contemplating his two paths. He can either stick with the one he knows, the path that will lead him to the love of his life, or, he can hop a boat to Africa.

While thinking about this, he is approached by an old man who he assumes is homeless. The man asks for a drink, wants to look at his book, and tries to chat, but the Shepherd is completely disinterested. Until this one moment, when the old man bends over and writes some things in the sand: the names of the boy’s mother and father, the name of the school he had attended, and the name of his lover. The boy is shocked and suddenly realizes that this old man he'd been trying to dismiss for the better part of thirty minutes is actually some kind of signpost, guiding him in the direction he needs to be heading. This old man has some things to teach him.


Silvia Heyden revealed herself to me in a similar way, except that I was sitting behind a 30 year-old floor loom, losing my mind over how difficult the machine was being. I was even more terrified by how little patience I seemed to be able to muster. While waiting for my weaving mentor to appear and solve all my problems, I noticed a gigantic stack of old Fiber Arts Magazines that were piled on a shelf behind my loom.
Mostly from the 80s, the magazines were full of prolific weavers I'd never heard of. Women practicing one of the world's oldest art forms, making truly original work, and many of them doing so in obscurity. Most of it was great, but the moment I saw Heyden's work I fell hard and fast. Her tapestries were so vibrant and full of life that my eyes struggled to register if they were somehow moving. I was instantly calm and excited. I used my phone to take photos of the feature on her, in some crude attempt to capture beauty, and sat in my car reading about her online for nearly an hour. The next time I saw my weaving mentor I mentioned that I'd been obsessing over Heyden for seven whole days, and with a twinkle in her eye, she said, "I'm not surprised."
I know it's easier said than done, but I'd like to give you a gentle nudge toward openness. There's so much waiting to reveal itself, and whether it's written in the sand for you, or hiding in some old magazine, you'll be better for seeing it.
When my daughter Edla gets into a book, she is into it. We read it multiple times a day, and soon I've memorized the entire story and sometimes read it to her with my eyes closed, turning the pages on cue. So, as you can imagine, it's so lovely (for me) when she gets hooked on a fantastic and visually stunning book. Enter: Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis, our new bedtime soundtrack. I first came across this book when Alela Diane (one of my favorite musicians) posted about it on her Instagram. She reads it every night with her daughter and it was just the endorsement I needed. I love Carson Ellis' work – her book Home is another favorite in our household.
Du Iz Tak? is about a small spot in the forest where things are always changing with the seasons. Bugs come and go, plants grow and wilt, forts are built. It reminds you that everything is in flux at all times, and that it's ok because something wonderful is around the corner. The images are gorgeous and full of wonderful details and Edla and I never tire of looking at them. It's written in a made up language – a bold choice for a kids' book. We actually forgo the written words and I tell my own story with lots of details, but, I think once Edla is older and has a better handle on language, we will revisit and she'll enjoy the new made-up words.
In each STATE of Mind, we want to show you what's inspiring us in the hope that it inspires you too. This week, I'm just a mom who is excited about a bedtime story. Sometimes it's just that simple
Taryn Simon questions boundaries between the personal and the political, the state and private, home and abroad, secrets and known truths, documentation and mystery. Listen to her TED Talk, and fall down the rabbit hole as you will.
“On the defunct language of nautical flags” may not sound like the most interesting thing you’ve read lately, but trust us, it's fascinating. Read "At Sea," by Merritt Tierce in The Paris Review.