I didn’t know Jane when she was alive, but I was approached by her brother Craig after he had read a piece I’d written on the National Collective website; I was asked to respond to her story.
It was difficult to digest Jane’s story initially, from my first perception of it being so awfully tragic, and such an obvious loss of someone who epitomised light, innocence, beauty. It seems so impossible that somebody so authentic might no longer exist: the qualities she epitomised are so lacking in our troubled society and culture, and we desperately need to honour and protect them.
This led me to thinking about how we deal with such losses in our lives; how we can bring meaning and purpose to our own path, when it continues beyond the path of a precious person we are attached to. The use of art as a means of moving the self through periods when all seems darkest, most obscure, impossibly blocked, is well documented, through the work of art therapy. It is a rapidly expanding sector, with cathartic techniques of self and collective expression being used globally, in multifarious situations. Engaging in creative practise can have massively positive consequences, from the simplest mark-making by a child, to the collective transformation of a community by inclusive artistic activities. Jane exudes from her photos and paintings, a strong energy of having known this, and having embodied it -this movement of energy into form. And it appears that she did it effortlessly; an attribute all the more precious, and all the more lamentable.
The metaphor of the journey for Jane shines, as a means of both celebrating Jane’s energy, life and work, and as a way of bringing a cathartic kind of movement into the lives of those she effected (and continues to effect). Part of dealing with grief, loss, the tearing away of someone we love so deeply -who is woven into the fabric of our very being- is being able to give this grief a shape; we need to play it out through thought, word, ritual. The form of it, over time, will change from the formal, shared realm of funeral and memorial, to the more personalised connecting with memory and lost hopes, and the expectations and assumptions that we all enjoy seeing manifest every day (a child, sibling, friend, growing and living). There now exists a void needing to be named, somehow made into the physical, that we can see it, and somehow understood. The journey too, is now being manifested as a real and constructive ritual: to echo the steps that Jane took; to make her journey for her, imagining her joy and creative outpouring which would have come throughout the trip. Through her dad’s and her brother’s efforts, we are able to share something of Jane’s vibrant determination, of what she was and what she might have been, and to be inspired by that.
I also grieve for the loss of a woman who had this immeasurable potential, and who should have gone on and on in the world radiating this force and beauty. The story of the loss of Jane echoes our current global situation, and the whole history of our terrible conflict between the masculine and the feminine. The very worst aspect of so-called ‘human nature’ where the male cannot transform his want to destroy and oppress the apparently weaker element: the natural world, woman, child. This all-consuming power which lurks in all our institutions and systems of organisation. We live in a time where our global-social awareness of this futile dynamic is awakening, so for that reason we can remain perhaps more optimistic than in the past… But every story, which has been consigned to a statistic, or a few lines on a news website and a grainy photograph- this perfect and unique expression of humanity, is what is enduring and meaningful in our chaotic existence. That Jane is not physically present with us now, doesn’t make her identity less important or potent; she shines on, as does all that is good in the world.
Perhaps we can also be stimulated by Jane’s story to shift our minds a little; urged into making more of what is so obviously an infinitely precious gift; our life, our everyday, our seemingly small and dull choices… We can see from what Jane left behind her, that she was fulfilled in and grateful for her life. This is something which will radiate outwards, through all of us with our many and varied (close and more distant) connections to her. I give thanks for that, and for being honoured with the chance to express something in this forum which applauds her gentle, wise truth. Long may her spirit shine. My heartfelt support goes out to Craig and Graeme in their endeavours to continue celebrating Jane’s meaningful legacy.