“Polka dots can't stay alone. When we obliterate nature and our bodies with polka dots, we become part of the unity of our environments.” - Yayoi Kusama commenting on The Obliteration Room
In the summer before my Mother took her last breath, I found myself sitting with her on the back porch of my childhood home, looking out at the lush garden that she tended to so meticulously.
By this time, she was in a wheelchair, having suffered for nearly 15 years with a neurodegenerative disorder that the doctors couldn’t diagnose. She had slowly lost mobility in her legs, her torso and her arms, but her spirit remained as resolute and enigmatic as ever. I had just arrived home following a traumatic ending to my first long-term relationship, fragile and confused. She turned to me and said, “This may not make sense to you now, but you’re going through a coming of age right now; a time when the stars and planets are aligned in such a way that you’re going to experience some of the most difficult transitions and revelations of your life.” I took a deep breath, still feeling resentful, unable to fully receive the wisdom of her words.
"The Return of Saturn" by Talenthouse creator Mandala Tales
In the weeks following my mother’s death, I drank and smoked and partied and cried, doing what I knew how to do to cope, in some fraught dance between avoidance and acceptance. I found temporary solace in a silent meditation retreat, and then jumped on a plane to London to be with a dear friend - an attempt to lose myself in a vast city full of endless distractions.
I was numb, yet painfully aware of the blinding brilliance of being alive. The creeping edge of loss darkened my fingertips as I took another drag of my cigarette and prayed silently to let the grief wash over me. I’d seen what the pain of death can do to some people; how it can steal the light from your eyes and sharpen your tongue. I wasn’t going to let that happen to me.
"Millenium Bridge" by Talenthouse Creator Roger Cracknell
On a bright, cold, November afternoon, my friend and I skipped down Millenium Bridge, delighting in each other’s company and the thrill of being young and alive in London. We were on our way to Tate Modern, tickets in hand to take in prolific artist Yayoi Kusama’s latest exhibit. I’d been made aware of Kusama’s work through art blogs and photos online of her - now - very Instagram-able Infinity Mirror Room exhibit. I was fascinated by her spirit and resonated with her process of relying on constant creation as a way to cope with debilitating mental illness and melancholy.
Though stunning in its own right, it wasn’t the Infinity Mirror Room exhibit that struck me, but instead, a stark white space, with walls and furniture splattered in brightly coloured polka dots - The Obliteration Room.
Prior to entering the space, we were offered our own polka dot stickers to place at will within the room. I stepped through the doorway, and was immediately overcome by tingling sensations starting in my hands and running down through my entire body, both electrifying, and disorienting. With my gut heaving, I leaned onto a chair covered in spots, and lowered my eyelids, seeing blue, red and green spots floating in the darkness, as the sensation moved up into my chest, wrapping around my heart and lungs and spilling out of the corners of my eyes.
I breathed deeply, overwhelmed and letting the tears fall silently and openly as I continued to make my way around the room, stopping now and again to support the weight of my body on a couch, a wall, a doorway.
It wasn’t until I was outside again, in the sharp cold of the London day, that I realized I hadn’t felt this way since I’d held my Mother’s hand as she took her last breath; sensations forged in the inexplicable understanding of what it is to be a mortal being on this planet, forever connected to each other within this physical realm, and beyond the veil.
In the hours before I sat down to finally write this piece, I was suddenly overcome with the scent of my Mother’s perfume wafting through my room, an experience that hasn’t repeated since the night of her death.
I said hello. I thanked her. I cried. And, the words poured out of me.