4 April, 1999, Easter Sunday
Some young friends came to see the site today. I was quite happy about this. I don’t go to church and the interesting Easter celebrations happened on Thursday and Friday and I was invited to Dana’s house for Pondele (Easter Monday), so I was free to entertain my young friends from Prague who had ventured this far east.
Eva knew Gwen from their time in Bremen Germany and the two thought it would be fun to visit me, the site and of course, have some delicious country food. I was pleased to welcome them. The day was lovely and we were all grateful to escape the confines of the city and to breathe in the wide horizon of that southern plain. Ludvik was not at the station, so we could not enter the little museum; but that made no difference. Gwen and Eva expressed a desire to simply “be” on the place. On the drive from Brno, I gave them a brief history lesson and explained a little about our artistic “excavation.”
As always, I felt a rush of excitement as we turned the bend in the rutted country path and saw the field. The scale of the work, although enormous, nevertheless seemed dwarfed by the vast open space. I could see the goat and her new kids pacing along the outside of the fence as we parked. She was always looking to see if I brought her a treat. We three stretched out of the car and trudged out on the early growing epka, rape. I have always reacted badly to the English name of that crop.
As we neared the installation, we were delighted to see that the oats had sprouted in Oli’s Fields of Life! (This was especially meaningful for me today, because Oli had recently been in hospital. Her health was failing, partly as a result of the ten years she had been imprisoned for her political activities.) The earth was continuing to swallow the paper footprints, and the mother and daughter spirals were all but gone. If the weather permits, we shall fly over the site later this week to photograph the brown spirals of naked earth that have replaced the paper ones. Eventually though, the epka will grow taller and obliterate all of those marks.
Walking, looking, touching, smelling–we enjoyed the sunny day and the subtle privacy we enjoyed out there in the open field. Somehow, we found ourselves sitting on the earth near the embryo. Eva, unknowingly, was sitting at the very edge of one of the FIelds of Life. We talked for a long time-maybe an hour or more, sharing our experiences as women do. Age does not matter; we are equal in the telling of our lives. In that circle of the ancient rondel, in the ancient healing place where we suspect that women’s lives may have had the same value as men’s lives, if not more value, we three sat and talked. Eva shared her pain as a survivor of abuse; Gwen talked of the challenges of relationship, of making a life far from place of birth. I recalled my happy’s and my sad’s. The exchange was a perfect way to mark the last time I would be on the ground at this site. The first time was a silent conversation with Dana, my contemporary, a crone; the last was a women’s sharing with maidens. In between I was the mother of the project. The site experienced all three Ages of Woman during the time it allowed me to work there.
I was touched when Eva asked, “What does paper mean to you?” She thought that was a perfectly natural question. It was. Yet, no one had ever asked me that. I reflected about the very feminine (for me) process of making paper: planting, harvesting, cooking, transforming the nebulous pulp into something usable. I remembered women artists who were not permitted to work on “valuable” canvas with “valuable” oil paint, but had instead been allowed to create “trivial” watercolors on paper. I thought about the women here at Tesetice who gathered plants and pounded the grains into meal to bake into bread–not unlike the gather, cooking and pounding process required to turn stems and leaves into paper. It was a good to express the meaning of the paper I had made for this project–paper made from castoff bits from the studio, recycled prints, recycled draft pages from my dissertation, straw from kitchen gardens near our studio here in Herspice, weeds from Dana’s yard in Brno and from mine in California. This paper is a real celebration of women’s work, ancient and modern and a statement of FIne Art.