Last weekend I built an apothecary in a cedar grove. I dressed myself in silk and wool, covered my eyes with a mask of branches that limited my vision downward and played the role of a shaman named Dr. Good. “Patients” participated in the process by writing downaches and pains of the heart or mind – spiritual burdens. Once they finished writing, they removed and pocketed a numbered portion of the chit and deposited their identically numbered burden in a jar. They had instructions to return in a few hours to receive a “prescription” and remedy for their heartache. Many people visited me in the grove as the installation was part of the LoFi Festival at Smoke Farm in Arlington, WA. When I started this project last spring, I had no way of knowing how much more connected I would feel to the grove and to so many people who began as, and remain, strangers. I am altered.
In my typical habitat I teach young children, volunteer quite a bit and generally look for opportunities to be helpful. These are my ways of connecting. As a jumping off point for this work, I wondered if I could be useful, if I could deeply connect, by making an offering of time, tokens and undivided attention (if only for a few moments) anonymously with strangers.
I found that I felt profoundly connected to people in the space and to the space itself. Though I could not see outward, I could see light, my writing and feet. I could see that people stood in the space quietly with me even after they had given me their burdens. I could hear everything. I heard how people quickly become silent in the space. I heard slow shifting and breathing. I heard people collecting their prescriptions. I strongly sensed that we were mingling our vulnerabilities and each longing for connectivity while trusting this remarkable place to keep us safe and allow this exchange – this connection.
I was and remain overcome by the candor expressed in the burdens. I hoped participants would bring me heavy woes, I specifically asked for them, but I felt surprised nonetheless by the outpouring. I was also overwhelmed by the sheer number of burdens and the time a considered prescription and remedy required. I originally thought I would make short replies, attach a remedy and quickly move to the next burden. Not the case. In fact, I was able to answer and return less than 50 prescriptions during the time I had at the festival. I actually quit taking burdens for a while with hopes of catching up but it was quickly apparent that I would not be able to. Someone offered the good solution of taking the burdens home and making prescriptions available on my blog. It was an excellent solution as the anonymity (on my side) stays fully intact and that, I believe, was an essential element to the success of this project.
And so, for the next couple days, I will post the remaining burdens and prescriptions. If you were at the festival and hoped for the token remedy to accompany your prescription, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for instructions.
Thank you for visiting and for participating. It was magical.
-Wyly (aka Dr. Good)