A month ago today, my dear friend Sonya Scott unexpectedly took leave of this world. She had only been in my life for a handful of years, but she had an enormous impact. Not only that, but she was one of the only women I have met who I have instantly connected with and felt immediately close to. Being with her felt like being at home.
Sonya and I met over facebook--she contacted me in early 2010 to invite me to be in a group exhibition in Sydney, Australia (she was from Australia, which definitely factored into our connection). The exhibition was titled Reality Vs. Illusion and challenged me to flex my conceptual muscles and work with something I'd been wanting to explore for a while--my dreams. Over the months from invitation to the opening of the exhibition, we corresponded regularly, and continued to do so after the exhibition was over. I believe in the package that I sent over with my pieces, I included a pair of my Flower Earrings, as a little "thank you." Months later, I received a package from Sonya containing a gorgeous neckpiece from her Marked exhibition at Gaffa--I was stunned! Not only by the beauty of this piece, but because she had made interconnected links out of chalk. Woah.
That was the thing about Sonya. She was this beautiful, fiery little redhead who was never afraid to try something new, and always did so with this forward momentum. She was a force to be reckoned with, truly. She was proud of her Sydney roots and held on to the edginess that she loved about that place. She was a woman of vision, filling her life with creative people and projects. In Sydney, she joined up with &Company, as well as Gaffa Gallery. She taught, helped create collaborative maker spaces, and created exquisite work of her own that always left you in wonder at how it was made and the beauty and perfection of each detail.
When Sonya emailed me a while ago to say that she would be coming to the States, I was ecstatic. I couldn't wait to finally meet this girl in person! And when we finally did meet, my heart filled with even more love for her than before. We would skype while she was in Seattle, meet up when we could (us visiting there, or she and her partner visiting here), and then skype more when she was in Australia. I was doubly excited when she fell in love with her long-time friend Gabe, who she had been staying with in Seattle, and decided to move to the States. Gabe and my husband got along wildly and I was so excited to have this beautiful person in my life for longer.
The last time I saw Sonya was a few days before she took her own life. She and her husband came to Portland for the day--he worked and she and I spent the day together. We met up for coffee, chatted and schemed. We were working on a collaboration for an exhibition called Co:operation Garnish and had been sharing a notebook of ideas--I would do some ideation, then send it to her, and vice versa. So we were finally able to brainstorm together--about salt, roman influences, trade, neckpieces, etc. We perused Powell's Books and bought matching books on salt, and explored the art area as well. Then had a wonderful lunch at Dick's Kitchen, where she laughed at the "American" portion of gluten-free carrot cake. "I thought I was going to get a Sydney portion!"
We walked up to The Meadow on NW 23rd while talking about the differences between Australian and American architecture. "What's with all the wood houses? You guys are insane! They'll just burn up!" I joked that all the brick houses in Australia look alike (well, in Adelaide at least). At The Meadow we explored the different salts, investigating their structure, crystal size, location, and how they were colored. We tasted vanilla salt, which had many layers of flavor, and gawked at all the labels on the wall of chocolate. Then, we hopped next door to Barista, ordered some tea (chai for her, jasmine for me), and sat outside for more brainstorming. It started raining at one point, which neither of us were prepared for clothing-wise, but we stayed. There was enough tree cover to shield us from too much rain, allowing us to just watch and listen and laugh a bit at how we managed to stay dry.
I will always cherish that day. There are stories from it that catch me off guard now. I'll see something in passing and be transported back to those conversations. As much as my heart has been absolutely shattered by losing Sonya, I try to remember the gifts she gave me. The gift of more critical thought in my work and in my practice. The gift of running (she roped us into a 5K earlier this summer, which pushed me to train like never before). A wonderful friendship with her husband, Gabe. The gift of abundant connections, new perspectives, and focus.
I will be continuing with our project. I am working through the research, which is fascinating and painful at the same time. The notebook has gone missing, so I have written down every little detail I can remember of those conversations. My hope is to live up to her standards, her expectations--her drive and innovation.
There are so many more words I could say, and yet at times it feels there will never be enough.
To lose someone as incredible as Sonya is a hard loss to navigate. And yet, it is all one can do.
I pray that somewhere, she knew how much she was loved, and find peace knowing that now she is finally free from the pain she was in. And each day, I tell me husband how much I love him, and hold him a little closer. I hug my friends a little tighter. And I reach out a little more.
Peace be with you, dear friend. You are always in my heart.