“Freefall” Nine Horses descend the falls
When I first began to write the story about the creation of Freefall. I hesitated for the reasons you will read. However as usually happens when I pose a question to the Universe, the answer of “can I” was answered with a “yes” in the form of a sudden contact by a friend.
I received a package from a friend named Colleen Clement, whom I had not heard from in several years. I had met Colleen at my exhibition in Saratoga Springs, NY in 1991. She was very enthusiastic about my art, and we discovered that we thought about things in similar ways. At the time she was a singer who was struggling with her artistic path, and she took great encouragement from my inspiring self-reliance and success with doing what I loved.
I opened the package to find a self-published cd of her newly released collection of healing lullabies called Heart Songs. I was very excited for Colleen, for I knew this was her first release and the accomplishment of a lifelong dream. I couldn’t wait to listen to it. The sound of her magical voice and her songs gave me chills. The third song on the tape was called Waterfall. When I heard it I instantly knew this song was perfect for my painting Freefall. Her words and music left me profoundly moved, for I could see the synchronicity in her sending me the music right at the moment I needed inspiration.
I immediately called Colleen to tell her how thrilled I was about her music and what a profound connection we had made. I told her the story of Freefall.
In 1993 I was exhibiting my artwork in Saratoga Springs NY. I met a retired professional photographer who admired my artwork. The next day he brought several of his photographs of race horses, and one of a waterfall, thinking I would find them inspiring. He had no way of knowing how excited I would be when I beheld the waterfall. For years, I had looked in countless photos of waterfalls for images of horses to paint for my Horses in the Elements Series, but most waterfalls were too sheer and lacked enough definition to depict the natural shapes of horses. But his photograph was the perfect mix of rock and water, with cascading layers of colors and forms in which I could see the shapes of horses. He proceeded to offer me the use of the photo as a reference for a price that was contingent upon me also purchasing the use of several other photographs. I was so excited about the waterfall that I agreed to this large sum.
The photographer told me that this waterfall was significant in history as it is from a place in Iceland called Thingvellir where Iceland’s democracy and the concept of democracy in governing were founded. I found it fascinating that my impulse was to call it Freefall and that the shapes of the horses appearing in the waterfall looked like Icelandic horses with their long, shaggy manes and coats.
Upon returning home and completing the original work of art, I realized that the other images we had agreed upon were not in keeping with my artistic direction and that I had gotten into a financial commitment that was way over my head. I asked the photographer if we could revise the agreement to include only the waterfall image. He was irrationally upset, accusing me of breach of contract and he threatened to sue me should I ever publish Freefall, despite the fact that I had paid him more than he had asked for the use of the one image. Because of this experience, for six years Freefall was in seclusion. Though I sold the original the artwork was never shown. I never heard from the photographer again, and I had all but forgotten the story of where the waterfall existed, so completely did I try to erase the experience from my memory. But every time I looked at it, I wondered what went wrong that such a beautiful things such as that inspiration could be circumvented by misguided ego and misunderstandings.
When I heard Colleen’s song I began to heal. I began to remember the power and the inspiration and the original intent of Freefall. When I shared this story with her, it also helped her face her own fears of publishing her music. We could not deny the truth that we were being shown that good intent will always prevail, and that we must release our fears in order to succeed.
In 1996, I learned a profound lesson about releasing fear when I went tandem skydiving. In a few seconds, while airborne, I learned that to appreciate the experience of free falling, you must release the fear of falling. When I let go of the fear, I realized that though my brain tried to convince me I was falling, I actually felt supported by the onrushing air. It was more like swimming than falling. When I landed safely on firm ground again, I felt the exhilaration of facing my fear and overcoming it. Now I understood the other meaning of the title Freefall and I was ready to release the fear of sharing this beautiful work of art.
That same afternoon I sat in the vet’s office waiting for a check up on my dog. I looked on the floor to see the May 2000 issue of National Geographic Magazine. On the cover was a striking image of a wall of fire. Intrigued, I opened to the story and discovered it was about Iceland’s midsummer celebration. I then turned the page and beheld a photo of a rock-strewn landscape with the following caption: “Iceland’s democracy began in this rock breach at Thingvellir when the Althing, ancestor of today’s parliament, met in 930 AD” I stared dumbfounded at the words, with the realization that this place was where Freefall came from. The message of healing I had received from Colleen’s music was now being confirmed yet again by this incredible sign. It was time to share Freefall.
Code to the horses in Freefall – Nine Horses Descend the Falls