May 18, 2011

We live in rural Nelson County, Virginia – a community with a tradition of support when one of the many faces of trouble knocks at the door. Six months ago, a close friend was diagnosed with stage 4 throat cancer.The oncologists had little to offer. A specialist took a look and told Phillip about an untested procedure he developed and for which he felt Phillip would be an ideal candidate. Phillip signed on for an arduous 6 months of radical chemo and radiation. Today Phillip is cancer free. The rare happy ending. Phillip is an uninsured artist and knee deep in debt.
Over the years a template of support has evolved and we pulled it out for Phillip and his family. In his life, Phillip has touched many lives throughout the county – as soccer coach, musician, sculptor and friend. I knew a benefit would draw a crowd.
A few phone calls quickly brought 8 of us together, ranging in age from 23 to 62. We roughed out a time line for an evening that would include food – lots of it, a series of cake walks, an auction of art and services and music by 3 local bands.
We met weekly over the next month, coordinating sound equipment, parking, art donations, food and clean-up. In communities across the country, artists are asked to donate work for all manner of causes. Ours is no exception. Each potter, sculptor, painter, and musician responded with quick generosity. I considered the stereotype widely held about artists – that we are reclusive, self-absorbed loners. Here we coach soccer teams, volunteer in the schools, show up at county meetings and help get out the vote; what Gary Snyder refers to as “the real work”, modeling both creative and social responsibility for the next generation.
The next generation went to work getting up a web page, designing and printing posters, doing radio spots and organizing volunteers.
The evening was magical. My wife, Linda, emcee’d the evening, weaving a mysterious blend of healing circle and block party. Young and old danced, laughed, ate and told stories until the last song faded. Out came mops, trash bags and many hands to take down and haul a couple of truckloads of music equipment. Outside, unable to let go of the night, friends leaned against car doors talking under the moon.
Tired and overwhelmed, Phillip was aware that he had offered us all the gift of celebrating our community with him and each other. I recalled a wise woman telling me, “the tumor is the messenger; the healed and the healer are one.”
A lot of money and love was raised that night. We woke the next morning, knowing as if for the first time that art, music and community are essential to the work of being human. That healing is possible and that when the chips are down- and for each of us sooner or later the chips will be down – all we need is love.
Keep the faith. Kevin


About kevincrowepottery

I am a wood-fired potter and live in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains near the Tye River.
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