A collaboration of two artists takes shape
Amy Wilton and Lena Faber are two artists collaborating on a creative installation. What follows is part of their art project, free-flowing exchange of thoughts in a column.
Lena and I are working together on an art project. Her story, on the verge of believability, became the basis of our future installation, which we are submitting to CMCA’ Biennial Exhibition. It dawned on me that the replication of her car in which she arrived in our Midcoast area must be in the center of the installation.
The next second it dawned on her that the title of the project will be White PT Cruiser.
She also added a subtitle, as was customary in the Moscow newspaper in which she worked, until she left for South Africa … but more about that later. The subtitle was Ground Zero! “From time to time, we all need to return to Ground Zero, our default settings, take an inventory of ourselves and rethink, recycle, reuse, whomever we are,” — that’s what was written in our artist statement.
Recently, the whole world has rolled down to ground zero thinking-rethinking. Lena was about to refuse to continue the project because what was supposed to be a discovery through the art, with coronavirus, became mainstream.
Then I persuaded her to write a column and share her experience of successfully going through ground zero quite a few times in her life.
Lena was a Moscow native and journalist, who witnessed the revolutions of the 90s and several financial crises from their very epicenter while having sole responsibility for two small children.
She stayed at 5-star hotels, lived in different political systems, vacationed at luxury resorts, and one day, after her children were grown, she decided to hike the Appalachian Trail. Then, deciding not to stop, she hiked and bicycled more than 7,500 miles criss-cross the U.S. and met residents of 34 states.
Amy, what do you think will be interesting to write about? About my grandmother from a princely family or about me, also a damn princess (right?) hand-washing baby clothes in the outside tub in winter near Moscow? How I watched Formula 1 from the balcony of a luxury hotel first floor in Monte Carlo or how I almost died here in April 2017, falling asleep at night in the cold somewhere near Belfast during my bike trip from Canada to Florida?
But we should talk about creepy pneumonia that people are getting now with coronavirus, right, not about my trips?
Remember, you mentioned that you healed yourself from chronic pneumonia when you were a teen?
Sure, I just want to say first that it really worked, however crazy it sounds. So back to that night around Belfast or wherever, I almost died, but the very next night, I found myself in a bubble bath and slept in a bed with pink ruffles in Thomaston, at Gale’s house.
I was prepared to sleep in a hammock every night right up to the Florida Keys, but instead, almost every night somehow, I ended up taking baths with bubbles and sleeping in pink ruffles in different houses along the Atlantic coast. People invited me along my way! But don’t let me get off the topic of pneumonia, it’s essential now with this coronavirus.
But what happened near Belfast?
It was one of the few nights when no one spoke to me in the evening, so nobody invited me to stay overnight in their extra bedroom. It was getting dark and cold quickly, I accelerated – this is the best way to warm up. I found a public park, stretched a hammock between two strong trees, climbed into a sleeping bag, curled up, and fell asleep sweetly.
About 2 a.m., I woke up, freezing cold. If I had gotten out of my bag, it would have been even colder, so I stayed curled up, like a very tight little kalach (a kind of Russian curly bread).
I was tormented and couldn’t fall asleep, my bones had already started to freeze from the inside out.
Finally, exhausted, I started drifting off to the country of fairy tales, but out of curiosity looked at the clock, 4 a.m. That same minute I remembered the words of my South African ex-husband, a former military officer who flew over jungles and was taught to survive if he ever crashed. He told me that the last hour before dawn is the coldest. Which means, if I fell asleep at 4 a.m. in such cold, I might not wake up.
I’ve read how people freeze; they fall asleep.
So, I resisted the urge to savor the little bit of warmth that I still had, and crawled out of the hammock, into pitch darkness and cold.
I somehow stuffed everything into my bags, my body stiffening with each second like rigor mortis was setting in.
I jumped on the bicycle and started down the road, our Atlantic highway Route 1, pedaling like a squirrel in a wheel, like a rabbit in a circus trying to warm up. It didn’t keep me warm, but it definitely kept me alive until dawn.
“There must be some gas station soon,” I thought. But no. For miles and miles, there was only forest.
I’ll tell you later how I reached Thomaston, but now we need to talk pneumonia, right? The Nor’ easter began, and Gale, that local lady with the pink ruffles, “adopted” me for 10 whole days. That was like my Mother’s Day gift, even though my children were in different countries, and I was here with a bike, a hammock, and my teddy bear, Bear-Bear. Don’t ask about the bear, it’s another whole story, a Norwegian one.
And you even didn’t get a cold?!
That’s what I’m saying, I healed myself when I was a teen. I was so strict in that process that it seems like I created a sort of reserve of strength that still lasts. I got tonsillitis again and again in my early teens, which turned into chronic pneumonia very quickly. In fact, I have more than that. Before the age of 17, when I went to the doctor and had to fill out the form about previous illnesses, I had to check nearly every box. Now I leave them all blank.
Now means recently? So, you actually did visit the doctor here? What for, then?
Haha. Once I decided to try a beautiful vitamin, believe it or not. And it got stuck in my throat, it would not budge! I drank hot water, but it wouldn’t dissolve! I began to gasp, jumped into the car, and rushed headlong to Pen Bay Medical Center. Red light, dammit, just before the final turn. I stopped, I did not turn! In Moscow I would have turned. Would have waved to the drivers, and they would have let me pass. But I’m an American now, right? So I didn’t wave to anyone, I was just waiting for the green arrow. So I thought I would die here at this traffic light, turn blue from suffocation, but hell, I’ll observe the rules!
There are no exceptions, everyone is equal under the traffic light, no matter if your face turned blue or red, hah?
I flew into the emergency room and was invited to sit down. “Eh eh eh,” I answered and drew my hand across my throat, meaning that I couldn’t talk anymore and could barely breathe.
They quickly rushed me inside, laid me down, and attached me to all the devices you see in movies. The doctor came and said that in 10 minutes, he would insert a tube in my throat. “Eh eh eh, doctor, maybe you hit me on my back first?”
“No,” he says, “Too archaic, we have not practiced that for a long time. I’ve never done it to anyone before.”
The guy was young, shy, but agreed to try.
“Eh eh eh, harder please,” I said.
The pill shifted! They left me on the bed for an hour, to be sure that I was really OK. I chatted with the intern for the whole time. Her parents were diplomats working in … South Africa, and she came here to study.
Wait, back to our topic, pneumonia. Is there space still left in the column?
I researched and analyzed a lot of information from somatic and psychological studies, often controversial, even mystical sometimes. I filtered them all carefully and developed my own healing concept. My medical issues were left behind before I entered the University at the age of 17. It’s like pulling yourself out of the illness, it’s the opposite of accepting and living with it. How else do you get out of endless pneumonia, when you reach ground zero when it couldn’t be worse? That how I also healed my son’s asthma in his early teens. Damn, and then he started smoking!
What I’m trying to say is that in the crazy situation, only the crazy solution will work.
BTW, how do we title our column? The White PT Cruiser?
Sure. Unless you want Ground Zero, hah?
From PanBay Pilot