Much like Chris, I won't be contented until I write something about the passing of Karsten Soltauer. And Karsten and I weren't nearly as close as he and Chris were. Though, closeness or the illusion thereof is one of the points made in Chris' terrific blog post. He asks, "how close are any of us," really? "How well do I really know any of my friends?"
That is something I've thinking a lot about since I learned that my friend Kate's partner of nearly fifteen years left her, left us all. A shock like this thrusts the subjects of love, mortality and time into the forefront of our minds, but I've also been thinking about goals, waste, challenges and art.
But, mostly I've been thinking about Kate. And I find myself in awe.
I have no doubt my friend is gutted and riddled with grief about the loss of the love of her life. It's clear to anyone who was around them that Kate loved Karsten with a richness that shined right through her, and he the same for her. Perhaps it is this rich love, in part, that has allowed Kate to harness her mind's power and use it for good. I mean, just read what she wrote in a blog post following Karsten's death:
I think perhaps the key to processing a loss this immense and intense is to embrace the bothness of it: I have never experienced one emotion without the potential for its complement. I am nowhere near the master observer of absurdity that Karsten was, but I have been his student for nearly fifteen years and maybe I can see it a bit more than most. But if devastating loss is a swing to the left from the emotional equilibrium, I sense there is the opening of an often unnoticed rather large area to the right, into gratitude, appreciation, abundance, humor, and moments of joy and peace.
Like Karsten's "Curvature of the Mind" series, as he later named the swirling marbled pieces, there are treasures to be found in the chaos. You just have to really look for them. And pencil stroke by pencil stroke, you shade out what doesn't contribute to the picture you want to remain. But the bothness of it is that just as the oil and water needed to be mixed to make the paper, and the darker shadowing needs to be drawn in to see the colorful image more clearly, so do the dark emotions bring contrast to the lighter ones, and we can seek those out if we choose to. At least, that's my hope.
This perspective in the face of tragedy is phenomenal to behold. The sheer hope she displays here is stunning. In just five short days she's taught me invaluable lessons from 2,500 miles away. Witnessing Kate's public reaction to her partner's passing illustrates to me ways I can better live my life and take in the world around me. This is what Karsten did for Kate, too.
What I have been reminded of, loud and clear, is this: we get to choose how we feel about things. We also get to choose how we behave in the face of tragedy. And for each person that will be different, and that is okay.
I am so grateful to Kate for this gift of insight. Her positivity and outlook during this time is precisely why she enchants nearly every one she meets.
We lost one of the good ones when Karsten left. In his absence is a darkness Kate will never shake, but that allows her wisdom and attitude to stand out all the more. And oh, how she shines.