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Arts and Sciences

The greatest scientists are always artists as well.  – Albert Einstein

Saturday morning the Oklahoma University research began in the front yard. The bird netting went up and the capture and release began on the birds who are frequenting the feeding stations there in the front. The research is connected to the Tar Creek Superfund sited work the students had begun in the fall. It was a cool day and a brisk wind made it feel chilly very quickly. Their small quick set-up lab was almost hidden off the road near the woods.

Tisha trucked through all the action bringing 2 bags full of colored ribbons and fabric. The artist she is had turned to sewn art through the years and had developed her skills first with traditional quilting, to styling and making quilts that are true art, the quality of stitching creating visually striking works of art. But now she had been drawn to making ribbon skirts and she had brought her bags of color to begin designing one for me.

Her first design will mirror a skirt she had made for herself, won’t that be an honor to wear one in tandem with the artist she is? The floral print bold on a black background. I loved it the moment she laid it out on the sewing table.

But the second ribbon skirt has the meaning that will tell the story. The story of the sorrow it has been to carry the hope I have for the damaged and degraded Tar Creek. Tisha had grown up in Miami and was born before the acid mine water began discharging into the water turning it as you know that signature color of orange. She had been a child who would not have been able to play there. The vision she had for this skirt begins on a field of turquoise cloth, the color we hope for water, the color we love for the beautiful sky above. The cotton fibers will be striped with ribbons designating first yellow for the sun’s gift of light, followed with the layers she shines upon. Green for the foliage, trees and grasses, brown the rich soils, a true-blue water, then the signature rust and the source of degradation deep in the earth, the band of gray represented the lead and zinc that had been the treasure bringing riches to few and loss to generations who live to follow that mining. All these bands of color end with the single row of purple, the sorrowful color of the Cherokee. Just listing the colors won’t tell the story this garment will carry. Wearing it will almost be the banner for Tar Creek, sort of her Life-to-Death story. All of the colors lay on the color she and I long for the brilliant color of water, the color of water as life. With the design set, Tisha drove back through the birding research to begin sewing.

And my son and I followed her out to meet one of the actors from the New Jersey production of the Picher Project who was driving through purposely for a site visit of the place she had sang lyrics of last spring. Still a student, before our visit was over, it became relevant the visit was not only nostalgic artistically but also a stop for the research capstone on superfund sites she will conclude later this spring. It will be a while before we know the impact or impressions seeing what and how what had been lines in the script lay to what laid before her eyes for real. The first stop had been to Susie’s to meet Susie Stone, a character in the musical, who had been delighted that we might take down the remaining decorations that had been overlooked in Picher from the past Christmas Parade.

While in Picher we linked up with the other Toxic Tour being conducted that day, that one by former Picher resident Ed Keheley, who is currently the resident expert on subsidence at the site. His tour with  University of Oklahoma Geology professors would have taken them to see how much of what was left behind remains, like the bones of the earth exposed.

I would say the Arts and Sciences filled my Saturday and I hope you had a chance to use both sides of your brain as well. We walk in balance that way. We walk in beauty. It surrounds us, and to understand what surrounds us, what lives among us, but also to see it in colors. For me, I will be wearing a banner of such, gently with hope for the future generations to know their Tar Creeks and to keep what harms us in the ground.

“To develop a complete mind: Study the science of art; Study the art of science. Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.” ― Leonardo da Vinci 


Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim

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