Saturday, October 19, 2013

Open Letter to Richard Kooyman, painter, and Sonya Lynn Potts, photographer, discussing the Winter Solstice Luminaries that Honor the Deceased at Rest in Kaleva Cemetery.

Hi, Richard Kooyman, 
Last week, we were corresponding about art, and I remembered a tradition of Kaleva, Michigan, a town listed as your home on Facebook. On the longest day of the year, townspeople meet at the cemetery and light over six hundred luminaries to honor the deceased at rest there. I had heard about the custom while having dinner and a beer at the Mushroom Bar in Mesick, Michigan. The woman, living also in the small town of Kaleva, was moonlighting while her business as a photographer gained ground. She gave me her card and rather wish I could mention her, maybe your neighbor, by name. Ah, placing a call to the Mushroom Bar, Sonya Lynn Potts answered the phone, still building her business and taking care of hospitality at Mesick's homestyle bar.

Good hours have been passed studying the paintings you post online, and themes emerge. For example, a series of paintings celebrate fire in the night, usually campfires. The skill you have depicting flame has practical uses. I noticed that one painting of a roaring fire heats your studio throughout the winter. For this reason, I felt it was important to see if you knew about the Kaleva Cemetery luminaries. These are fires lit at sundown, fires that burn by the hundreds in the gathering night of the longest night of the year. It shows up in my mind's eye as an amazing yet soothing spectacle. I would like to see it with my own eyes soon, if not this year.

I browsed around the Internet for more information concerning the observance, ceremony, ritual, rite. I found a brief clipping in an online calendar published by the county. It said as follows:

DECEMBER 21 WINTER SOLSTICE: Celebrated in Kaleva by lighting the cemetery with over 600 luminaries. This tradition is a community effort to light the longest night by placing candles in paper bags on loved ones graves in the Kaleva cemetery. Meet at 4 pm. across from the cemetery on Kaleva St. to help. The beautiful, moving sight can be enjoyed the whole evening, 231-362-3793. 

Ironically, the Ludington paper has an article from 2002 that employs almost the same language. Maybe that's why not too many people outside Kaleva has heard about the event. If the message doesn't change, the message doesn't travel.

I can't speak for painters or photographers; as a writer, it's a possibility to change a message by making it more descriptive, granting it legs to travel. That is the work I undertake today. 

Wishing you the best for Indian Summer painting,

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