Apifera Farm - where art, story, animals & woman merge. Home to artist Katherine Dunn

Apifera Farm is a registered 501 [c][3]. All images are ©Katherine Dunn.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Small gestures, lasting impacts

I felt a need to write this after a conversation Friday with a young artist who reminded me of the power of invisible gifts.

Back when I was single, young, and clean, living in Minneapolis, I had a heartbreak I thought would never heal. A boy I loved had left me behind and at the time it felt like all doors were shutting out the sun. Such drama, I know. I remember the first Sunday after our break up I was so despondent, I didn't know what to do with myself. I really needed to do something, anything, to take my mind of my patheticness, and with my throat cold all but over, I ventured out. The world seemed really big, and noisy.

I am not a church goer, preferring to commune in woods or pastures, enjoying the sermons of birds or wind. But in the spattering of church sermons I had attended, I did occasionally experience epiphanies. Deciding now would be a good time for an ephinany, I found myself sitting down in one of Minneapolis' older churches, known for it's historic building and accomplished choir, not to mention a pipe organ.

I fumbled through the various rituals, not really knowing what I was supposed to do, but I was so morose in my pathetic way that it didn't matter. Any movement on my part was good for me in this state, even if it was mumbling words from a Bible I knew nothing about. Even though my cold was mostly over, there was still a little something lurking in my throat, and of course it decided to rumble right as I sat down in the pew. I clutched a hankie to my mouth, holding in my coughs, when what I really wanted to do was just let it rip. I'm sure I was annoying to be near, but as I held my coughs in as best I could, the elderly woman next to me reached over, and handed me a throat lozenges. She smiled sincerely at me, and patted my hand gently. And then she turned away to listen to the minister. It was the tenderest gesture I had had in a week, and it did not feel the least bit judgmental, just a helping hand and a pat as if to say, "It'll be alright." I wanted to cry. I wanted to sit on her aged lap in a fetal position and tell her how safe she made me feel. She thought she was helping out a person with a cough, little did she know my wounds were much deeper.

That moment comes to me often, even though it happened almost 20 years ago. The elderly woman has most likely passed away, but the effect of her simple gesture lives on.

As I was working last week, a little piece of art sitting near my desk, reminded me of a young artist who had recently visited my studio. She had really liked the particular piece, and wondered if I had a print of it that she could buy. I didn't, and we went about other conversation. The young woman had come from out of town to meet me, and explained I was a role model for her. Remembering all this, something clicked in me and I stopped what I was doing, wrapped that little piece of art up and sent it off to her in the day's mail drop. Yesterday, I had a phone call from her, and as she began to speak, I could hear she was crying a little. She was so overwhelmed with the surprise gift, and she tried to convey what it meant to her.

My phone conversation over, I thought of that elderly woman in the church of many years ago. I did not have the words to tell her what her small gesture meant to me. It made me feel loved, and worthy. The phone call from my younger artist friend made me feel loved, and worthy. I am so grateful she expressed this to me.

I guess we all do little tiny things in daily life, and many of those things make huge, lasting impacts on others. I'm so flawed. I was feeling a bit misunderstood when the day began. But after this call, I remembered that I can make impacts on others. And they on me.


artistickitty said...

OH my!! I'm sure that you're artist friend was indeed crying...I was a bit teary eyed for her just reading of your sweet,sweet gesture in "paying it forward". Bless that elderly lady and bless you. ♥ ak

Sharon Stanley said...

Katherine...how odd that you would write this today. Yesterday, I carried the things I had made through the year to a very well attended Trunk Show in the town where I live. I had wanted to get in for years, but they only take a limited number of artists and I had to wait till someone dropped out. I like what I make, but recently I have felt a bit apprehensive about it. The show has well known regional artists and people with a following. My only following usually involves a few calves, chickens and or a donkey. Add that to the fact that I asked my very with it niece how much I should sell something I made and hoped to get $75. for, and she replied "Oh Auntie S I bet you can get $15." and I was feeling pretty low. But then when I set up, a nationally known jewelry maker came to my table and absolutely had a fit over my little item. She was so very kind with her comments and her gesture of kindness not only made the show for me but made the week, month and year for me. She invited me to her studio to see her and offered me lots of very appreciated advice. I was so very humbled by her kindness especially at this time that it has made me want to do more of that sort of thing for others. Your gesture to your young friend will stay with her for a very long long time and I am sure she will pass on the kindness one day just as you did. Bless your heart.

farmlady said...

I believe this so strongly....

"We can do no great things, only small things with great love."

Dogz11 said...


What a beautiful story, what a kind gesture. Actually, it is truly what this time of year is really all about...look how something so simple touched someone in such a meaningful way. You brought tears to my eyes, as you so often do...thank you... I needed this as a gentle reminder...you always have a way of making this crazy world a brighter place.

Anonymous said...

I've been following your blog for more than a year and I think it's the first time I've commented. I guess new is as good a time as any. Actually earlier would have been better, but anyway...

thanks for the story. It's wonderful reminder to all of us. I believe in the power of seemingly small acts.


Mare said...

This happens to me, and thru me all the time...little loving transformative miracles if you have the eyes to see it and the heart to feel it. Thanks for the story. I loved it.

Katherine Dunn/Apifera Farm said...

Hi all- thanks for commenting. I think too I wanted to show that her reaching out in a phone call to someone she really looked up too, touched me in ways she might not realize, at a moment when I needed it.

Blackfeatherfarm said...

Lovely and touching post.I believe strongly in little acts of kindness. The quote I have on one of my walls is -" What wisdom can you find that is greater than kindness."

Katherine Dunn/Apifera Farm said...

Lovely quote..."We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do" Mother Theresa

Debbie Schramer said...

what touching experiences you share, Katherine. it is true, sometimes people who we meet for a fleeting moment and never see again can just heal our souls so much with their incredible kindness. i loved reading about your experiences with these two women. it is so encouraging to hear about such thoughtfulness.


deedledumpling said...

This to me is "Classic Kathryn"!!

I live by two simple rules:

Whatever you give out, always comes back at least two fold.


Always do the right thing.

I try to live by these two simple things. And am blessed.

Tina T-P said...

Kathryn - I loved this post and will pass it along to my friends, if you don't mind.

I still have your Cat Band picture as my desk top at work. It cheers me on those days when I want to pull my hair out because people don't respect my time and space. And it always brings a quick smile of surprise to the tech maintenance guys who take care of my computer.

Happy Thanksgiving! T.

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Thank you for reading! The farm and my art/writing keep me hopping, so might not respond immediately. Thank you for understanding. ~Katherine & Apifera ~