For me, September is a month for reflection. It’s when the peach fuzz of summer is only an itchy memory, and the cold, dew-filled apple orchards crowd my days: the last harvest of the season. Monarchs, birds, and other creatures begin to move to new locations, readying themselves for the deep freeze of winter, a season which will eventually cover almost everything living in white dust. It’s also the month in which I was introduced to Yoko Ono’s Acorn and ever since, I’ve been falling.
For a year, I split my time between Chicago and Michigan, taking as many weekend trips as I could after my work week was over. There’s something about Michigan, and particularly, my family’s fruit farm, that provides the same contemplative space as Acorn. In “Watch Piece I,” Ono writes, “Watch a hundred-year-old tree breathe. / Thank the tree in your mind for showing us / how to grow and stay.” On the weekends when I was lucky enough to get away, I did just that; it helped to calm and re-center me.
Providing readers a different perspective to look at objects, as well as life, is something city dwellers often need; the city is a place where day-to-day activities become incredibly time consuming and often cut into much needed personal time and space. Ono lives in NYC, a place often critiqued for its 24-hour business. But I think Ono is proof that inside of this “on all the time” space, there is also room for celebration. The city is where Ono makes and shows her art; it’s also the backdrop for many of the snapshots she shares on her various social media and web outlets.
“Sky Piece X” provides such an outlet for those in the city: “The Sky is not only above our heads. / It extends all the way down to earth. / Each time we raise our foot from the ground / we are walking in the sky. // Walk around the city with that awareness. / Check how long you walked in the sky today.” Thinking about this piece while walking through the industrial section of Fulton Market on my way to work changed how I felt amongst all the city grime and grit. It always made the walk more beautiful.
Originally assigned to me as a text in graduate school, Acorn has become necessary in my life; it’s a text I revisit. Released in 2013, Acorn is a printed book, which contains many of the original digital pieces found on Yoko’s website with her accompanying dot drawings. First an interactive Internet event, Acorn began as 100 Acorns: a space where Ono posted different texts she refers to as “conceptual instructions.” True to her activist nature, Ono asked readers to respond to these pieces in the digitally shared space. You can view some of their responses here.
It’s important to note that Ono’s website is titled Imagine Peace. Many people have strong feelings about Ono, particularly with regard to her affiliation with John Lennon. But whatever your attitude is towards her, it’s hard to argue she isn’t mindful. She continues to focus her life and art on a noble pursuit: peace. And it’s clear she wants others to share in her pursuit; she sings, dances, draws, writes, builds sculptures, etc. Her willingness to create art in a variety of medias reflects this openness, and I think, showcases her as an artist who is trying to reach many. In Ono’s world, we’re all included.
I follow Ono on Instagram; one of my favorite posts of hers is a photograph taken 19 weeks ago. It’s pretty simple: a light gray, honey-comb shaped cement sidewalk with two shadows reflected on its surface, the sun high. One shadow is clearly Yoko in her hat. The other is not identified. The caption reads, “I’ve realized that Shadows have no age, race, or tears.” A small, powerful moment, that is both thoughtful and intelligent. Ono is selfless like this: always giving.
And even at age 82, always busy. She recently conducted a Twitter Q/A, held her One Woman Sow at MoMA, and soon, on October 6, in anticipation of John Lennon’s seventy-fifth birthday on October 9, will orchestrate the world’s largest peace sign. In an age where many older artists do not embrace technology, Ono is defying culture’s expectations of what an older, woman artist is capable of creating.
Though I’ve never met Yoko Ono, I am so grateful to this incredible human for sharing her art, her mindfulness, and for asking us to think, both about ourselves and about others. She is the type of artist I want to be, who I hope I am becoming. How fortunate to be living in the world with her.
Featured image courtesy of Ono’s website. Additional photographs courtesy of Acorn.