As the pandemic rages on, we have all had to face many readjustments. It has been months, now over a year, of seemingly endless loss, and grief. Our lives, our outlooks, our hobbies, everything has shifted in major ways. Some of us have looked to the outdoors for relief. Nature is often a soothing balm for humanity's wounds, and it is easy to socially distance when you're outside- or to avoid others all together.
While many people found new hiking trails or biking paths, Maud, a Tennessee artist of multiple disciplines (including axe throwing) found something that perhaps many of us would not expect- a cemetery.
Maud began walking through a cemetery in the neighborhood where they relocated recently, visiting its grounds every day. Maud found catharsis here, working out emotions and thoughts in the still and quiet company of the tombstones. This unassuming cemetery began to reveal itself to Maud and they found themselves drawn to its residents, gently curious about who they were, and what lives they lived.
The more Maud studied this place, and got to know it, the more they contemplated death, grief, and how we pay tribute to those we bury. Maud was stuck with a deep desire to express their experiences in this graveyard- to honor its residents, and all of the grief that has passed through on their behalf.
The result is the photos you see below, and a beautiful written reflection by Maud themselves.
I'm so honored to present to you-
"A Season of Grief"
"I have thought a lot about grief over the past year. We all have. It’s one of those universal, inescapable realities of humankind. Much like love, grief shapes the course of every single human life. It maps the geography of our lives.
The ways in which we grieve vary though, not just between countries, continents, and cultures, but between each individual person as well. There are studies on how our brains respond to grief, how societies respond to grief, how our cells and immune systems respond to it.
There are endless books on grief that range from the psychology of grief to the science behind it to how to cope with your own.
It is, by its very nature and our own, inescapable.
We are intertwined and we always have been. Despite this unshakeable bond, it is also human nature to run away from grief. We spend our lives trying to ignore it and distract ourselves from it.
2020 changed that, the pandemic changed everything. Not in my lifetime has anything created such widespread, universal suffering. Very few humans alive have been untouched by the pandemic in some form or another. With over 90 million deaths worldwide, it has altered the foundations of our lives, our societies, our relationships in incalculable ways.
In my own life, the changes have been vast and I’m certain I will be working through them for years to come. However one of the biggest and most meaningful changes came in the form of almost daily walks through a cemetery. I truly believe I’ve experienced the entire gambit of emotions in that cemetery. I’ve wept there, laughed so hard I cried there, fallen in love there. It has
become a safe haven for me in ways I can’t begin to describe.
But me being who I am, a collector of lost and discarded things, it wasn’t long before I started collecting the flowers that had blown into the woods, or been run over, or thrown away. Someone had taken the time to place these objects on their loved one’s grave and finding them scattered around like trash felt to me like a betrayal. Not to the person, but to the meaning and purpose of the flower itself. they are, by their very nature, a visual manifestation of someone’s grief.
And so I collected them. Day after day collecting these tiny reliquaries of grief. It wasn’t long before my handful of flowers became a bag of flowers that became a box of flowers. It’s hard to describe the protectiveness I felt over these relics of someone’s grief. I wanted to give them a new life.
I always knew I was going to create something with these flowers, but i didn’t know what. So I just kept collecting.
In Early December, I picked up my first poinsettia and it dawned on me that I had collected a flower from every season. And then it was as though the weight and magnitude of the past year condensed into a single point. A Season of Grief. We have endured unrelenting trauma, pain, isolation, suffering, anger, fear and grief through every single season. A year. We have all lived through hell.
But there has also been beauty scattered throughout it. We endure these hells because of the love around us, the beauty around us, the small acts of kindness from strangers, the love of our pets, a good meal, reconnecting with old friends, and on and on and on. We are suffering, on a global scale, but we are also making it, too.
And so I stood there, rooted to the spot with a dirty white poinsettia in my hand weeping about it. About all of it."
You can view and purchase some of Maud's beautiful portraits and prints at their website here.