Live Virtual Group Session: 12pm EST January 13th 2021

Thank you to everyone who joined us for this session!

We had 24 participants of which 4 were first time attendees. The text was the painting “The Gate” by David Hockney, but the title was not revealed until the end of our close reading session.

All participants were asked to spend 2 minutes to slowly explore the artwork; then we asked them to describe their experience of engaging with the painting. Initial impressions focused on the colors (so much vibrancy and contrast) followed by a sense of closeness that made it difficult to breathe, like in mid-summer when everything is so humid and overgrown and in need of thinning out — an overwhelming aliveness. Others just felt the joyousness of wanting to play or being on vacation. One likened the feeling to being in a fairytale or taken to another land – transported. As the observations deepened (and the narrative thickened), the branches seemed to appear warped and contributed to a feeling of insecurity. The descent of the path led to both open and unopened options (Can you open the gate? Where does the path to the left lead?) and visually contributed to a warped state of mind. One person interpreted addiction/depression versus the greenery of nature. The bottom half of the painting, which is the foreground, felt constrained with a green fence on the right and a wall that insists on descent. The potted plant seemed to represent a restriction to growth. The top half of the painting showed nature yearning to reach up to the light with a tangle of branches seeking freedom. But the trunks of those same trees, in the bottom foreground, were “in your face”.  One person related this place to her time in Kenya where a gate was a symbol often of exclusion provoking the question about what is on the other side, and is it as lovely as what is on this side?

Asked to title the painting, our participants had many different ideas: Branches, Escape, Hope, Serene Chaos, Escape to Paradise, Tenuous Harmony, Go Where It Is Alive, Beyond the Gate and many more. Our final discussion question asked what this painting would leave you contemplating: We don’t control what’s around us, The Light, Confusion versus Structure and Freedom of Nature.

The group wrote to the prompt “Write about a descent,” and five writers shared their responses: “The Impostor” described an ascent/descent of someone having a near-death experience and returning to the body; we were aware of space, motion, and a feeling of being “pressed against the ceiling.” Next we heard of “so much anger, so much dissent/I yearn for a place of solitude. The third writer recognized a gate that separates us from them: “I descend towards structure but perhaps there lies madness.” The bright colors in the Hockney painting contrasted with the fourth writer/reader’s description of seven adjacent homes that generate “numerous arguments over various shades of gray/rotten cedar siding/trimmed in white holds us together.” The group discussed the literal and metaphorical of this vivid description. Closing out the session was a haiku invitation: “Garden of Eden/Perfection’s a bit boring/Go beyond the gate.”

Participants are warmly encouraged to share what you wrote below (“Leave a Reply”), to keep the conversation going here, bearing in mind that the blog of course is a public space where confidentiality is not assured.

Also, we would love to learn more about your experience of these sessions, so if you’re able, please take the time to fill out a follow-up survey of one to two quick questions!

Please join us for our next session Monday January 18th 2021 at 6pm EST, with more times listed on our Live Virtual Group Sessions page.

The Gate –
David Hockney 
oil on canvas
60×76 in.

6 thoughts on “Live Virtual Group Session: 12pm EST January 13th 2021

  1. About a descent~~~

    The noise and confusion is mind-numbing,
    angered voices blaring in my ears.
    Weapons raised and waving in the air.
    So much anger,
    so much dissent.
    I yearn for a place of solitude, of quiet.
    I seek a place away from the confusion and so I walk.

    A path lays before me leading downward,
    a rocky path to the stream below.
    The rushing water ripples,
    welcoming me,
    comforting me.

    It is a place to rest my mind, to recover, to reinvigorate.
    I am ready again to face what must be faced.
    In the descent, I am elevated.

    Liked by 2 people

    • al3793

      …and so I would also walk and chances are I would find my way to a stream where the sound of the water tumbling down the grade would soothe me, pace my breathing and leave me refreshed. The blessing of the journey of descent.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The Impostor
    I died once. Had an out-of-body experience and everything, watched people around my body below me, while I felt pressed against the ceiling.
    I survived, returned to my body and went on.
    But the near-death triggered a depression like I’d never had before. I could count on nothing and I could not describe my situation to anyone. Most of all, I couldn’t explain it to myself. It was as if I had not only been pressed into the ceiling, I had bled through it completely, and emerged in a parallel room, reentered a body not mine, despite appearances.

    Liked by 1 person

    • al3793

      I hear a teller who shares a most unusual story, feeling like an imposter, even to the teller. The irony of being “down” yet pressed above and bleeding through the plaster that presses upon the body contrary to gravity. As I look at the picture I see a tortuous journey that leads to the gate, the branches almost like the alonge of the ballet dancer. The geometry of the wall and the house beyond the gate is such a contrast to the free flow of the tree branches. And yet, what lies beyond is mystery.


  3. Renée Daniels

    Last summer, I watched my 87 year-old father descend into frailty. He became hesitant going down steps, gingerly tapping his foot on the stair before stepping on it, almost as the he were making sure it would really be there.

    Liked by 2 people

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