This is a story about the power of human generosity to radiate and create connections.
It's been flowing in and out of my work since 1977 when serendipity brought Lavina into my life. For ten days my husband and I had our lives interrupted by surgery and the specter of cancer. Each afternoon Lavina gave us a reason to smile, lifting our spirits. Watching from the eighth floor hospital window as she fed birds in the vacant lot below, her daily ritual, sustained me.
One afternoon I took pictures from that window because I wanted to remember her always.
I never saw her face or knew her name.
It was several months later, after I recognized her picture in the newspaper, that I learned her name and read her words:
"People think I'm a little strange, but that doesn't bother me.
The birds are always hungry and that's what matters."
Reading her words launched my project. I was inspired to return to my darkroom and look carefully at my negatives. The silver grains on my film held remarkable information even though the pictures had been poorly exposed and the negatives were scratched.
Within the 40 images I recognized the rhythm of life and connectedness, the importance of the unimportant, and perfection in the imperfect. I discovered freedom in limitations. And I saw the essence of life processes: a beginning almost imperceptible, vulnerability and determination, obstacles and perseverence, and finally completion with the possibility of new beginnings. Time made visible.
Eventually I created a glyph, a symbol, to represent the content and meaning of each image.
Since 1979 elements of the story have been exhibited in a variety of forms. The earliest work was limited by the quality of the original negatives; decades later digital capabilities enabled me to clarify the images and continue exploring their content. The slideshow on this page contains all 40 pictures as well as the symbol representing each image.
In 2015 I created Lavina's Gift - The Birds Are Always Hungry a site specific installation at The Commons Gallery, Sammamish, WA. In conjunction with that installation I composed Lavina's Song, the complete story in quasi-musical form.
Lavina’s Gift - Wings of Her Song, a permanent installation on the seventh floor of Seattle’s Swedish Hospital, has become a favorite meditative place for physicians, staff and visitors to stop and absorb this story without words.