Connected

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Written January 22, 2014

The fall of 2013 presented an interesting shift for our family. We now preside over an empty nest. We were prepared for this transition particularly since Drew has been counting down toward it since he was a junior in high school. And, having been through it twice before, the transition itself moved along without a hitch so no biggie there.

There is one difference, however. We’re REALLY empty nesters. Past years of kids moving to college and living out on their own still allowed for weekend visits – them coming home or us visiting them. This time around though Drew is 700 miles away. Add that daughter Alexandra moved to Seoul, Korea (that would be 7000 miles away) and son Calvin started making noise about moving to Brazil (5000 miles away…sigh) and you get a glimpse of our empty nest situation.

To steal a frequent saying from Drew – It just got real.

And so I do what I always do when shifting. I make art.

I created this piece as a temporary installation in the upstairs hallway of our refurbished home. This wall indentation used to be a gray, metal electrical box filled with myriad outdated wires and fuses. When we pulled it out and saw the bead board underneath, I immediately embraced its potential as a space for changeable art pieces. Joel didn’t quite share the same vision nor the embracing part, but alas, I put a frame around it, painted it, and waited for the inspiration.

I asked each of the kids to give me a word that would embody where they were for their share of this family transition. Alex’s was ‘hopeful’, Calvin’s ‘vision’, and Drew’s ‘excited’. Then I pulled together symbols that I knew would represent where they’ve been and where they’re going and wove them into our connecting web. The goal was to embody their individuality in this process of moving into the world, to support them as needed in their pursuits, and yet offer an anchor whenever it was needed.

For Alex in the top right corner, there is a gold coin with a red ribbon for wealth and abundance, a cupid for love – mostly of self, Wonder Woman with a red jewel on her forehead and a small key nearby to remember that the key to her strength is her intuition, and a soaring Tinkerbell to capture the freedom and joy of youthful play. The jolly Buddha with gold wings sits below her space. A reminder that happiness always arises when she remembers she has the wisdom of the divine within.

For Calvin in the bottom left corner, there is a printed piece of The Battle Map, a computer game he has created and programmed. This is surrounded by things that make a video game complete such as a charm for the music, a chess piece for the strategy involved, dice for the element of chance, and a Monopoly pooch for moving through play. All of this can be applied to his created game, but it is also a metaphor for life in that all elements need to be present for wholeness. His key is attached to his word with its meaning encompassing both inner and outer vision. And he always flies with ease and lightness when he is centered and balanced, hence the spiral with gold wings in his space.

And Drew, top middle, has a purple Ting pop cap in place to represent his strong connection to our extended family in Wisconsin. Hanging to the right of that is a charm with a spoon, fork and knife for his culinary pursuits. Next and a tad difficult to see is a phoenix bird charm. He recently got a tattoo of this image and thus has another bold reminder to welcome change and manifest its outcome with grace. The pirate is actually just a reminder to have fun and play dress up once in awhile which Drew does not typically have trouble with at all. His wings are attached to a charm that reads ‘be yourself’ – a mantra to take to heart for his first venture from home where he can uncover who he really is and still stay true to his core.

You might notice the owl charm hanging in the center of the web, roughly Fort Wayne on the gold-outlined map. That would be Joel and me. Wise old owls at home base, holding down the proverbial fort, watching in the shadows.

The three lines of bluish beads that flow from the center owl are representative of the real rivers that are near each of our homes starting with the St. Mary’s, St. Joe, and Maumee that come together in Fort Wayne. For the sake of art, those morph into the Wabash River near Calvin, the Hudson near Drew, and the Han near Alex. More importantly though, those rivers carry love among and between us – love for each other, for adventure, and for self discovery.

Mixed-media creation with acrylic paint, fabric, found objects, gold wire, and beading. Completed August 2013.

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Regina Leffers McCaleb, Ph.D.

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