Piecing together Connie's sky

Last Thursday, my friend Jill Salahub wrote a post that stopped me in my tracks. It was about love and grief and fear, the pain and healing of forward motion. It was about being human and as I read it, I felt absolutely connected to her, as if her post were a sort of Kirtan chant and all that was needed now was my response.

Maybe it felt that way in part because Jill’s post was a response too. She was writing so openly and honestly about love and grief in answer to a post by Connie Hozvicka, “Piecing Together The Sky Grows & Grows.” Piecing Together The Sky is a project that grew out of Connie’s grief over the loss of her dear friend, Uncle Johnny. She’d taken a picture of the sky right after hearing about his death, and she was struck by how ever-changing the sky is, how it seems stable and still but in reality it’s completely different from one minute to the next. Unpredictable. Unreliable. Like life.

Connie couldn’t stop looking at the sky, feeling oddly reassured and held by it. She took more pictures. She invited others to take pictures and send them to her and over 300 people responded. They shared their own stories of loss. Connie made a video called Piecing Together The Sky in honor of her lost friend and then, moved by the overwhelming response to her call, she extended the idea, inviting bloggers all over the world to post pictures of the sky and write about the people who have touched them, the loves they have lost.

So Jill answered Connie’s call and I’m answering Jill’s, though not to talk about who or what I’ve lost. What stopped me in my tracks when I read Jill’s post was her willingness to share, to open herself up completely and show us her truest self, and especially that she did it in response to Connie’s revealing of her own beautiful, aching heart.

If I were looking for proof that we are all connected, that we do absolutely hold each other’s hearts in our hands and that sharing our stories heals and empowers us, could I ask for more than this? (Of course, I don’t need proof. I know it in my core, a deep down cellular knowledge that we join together in order to survive; we love each other in order to thrive.)

We are technically beyond the date of Connie’s invitation to participate and receive a copy of her beautiful painting, but somehow I think that’s better. I love the idea of all of us together, willingly connected, holding each other’s hearts in our hands, quilting together the pieces of Connie’s sky because in the end, of course, it’s our sky too.



  1. Clare Flourish on August 6, 2012 at 3:09 am

    We are all connected, because we have within ourselves all the possibilities of being human. When we see another person, we have in ourselves that person’s experiences, and they have ours. The way to be normal and acceptable and all right is to stop trying.

    • j on August 6, 2012 at 11:17 am

      “The way to be normal and acceptable and all right is to stop trying.”

      Now that is an empowering thought.

  2. Mary on August 6, 2012 at 9:48 am

    I am sorry, but I cannot connect these two things. I need to keep them separate. I dearly love taking pictures of the sky, in particular of clouds. But it is what I do to take a break from the grief. Being creative with photography is my escape.

    • Estrella Azul on August 6, 2012 at 10:57 am

      I can understand that, for I am somewhere in between the two… depends on each situation.

    • j on August 6, 2012 at 11:16 am

      No need to be sorry! You’ll notice I didn’t choose to write about grief.

      I think it’s very common for artists to use their art (Connie used both photography and paint) to help them through difficult emotions, especially intense loss. Certainly I have written my way through grief many times. But how we move through our sorrow is a deeply personal thing. I’m not advocating everyone take pictures as a means of dealing with pain (unless that works for you).

      What I am celebrating here is Connie’s willingness to reach out, and the over 300 people who reached right back. My own pull to respond was huge. I felt so connected to Jill and the feelings she was expressing, and Jill felt so connected to Connie… I think that ability we have to empathize, to respond compassionately, even with people we’ve never met, is a beautifully human thing. Ordinary magic.

      • Jill Salahub on August 6, 2012 at 3:03 pm

        “I think that ability we have to empathize, to respond compassionately, even with people we’ve never met, is a beautifully human thing. Ordinary magic.” Amen.

  3. Estrella Azul on August 6, 2012 at 10:55 am

    I think it’s within human nature to forget this sometimes, but yes, we do hold each other’s hearts in our hands. And I love how connected I feel every single time I come over here.

    • j on August 6, 2012 at 11:18 am

      Aw, thank you, Estrella. <3

  4. Something Good « A Thousand Shades of Gray on August 6, 2012 at 3:03 pm

    […] Piecing Together Connie’s Sky from Judy Clement Wall on her blog A Human Thing. Yes, I am slightly biased here: Judy talks about […]

  5. Jill Salahub on August 6, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    I am so humbled and comforted by this connection, by you and your open-heart. When something like the grief from loss or the beauty of the sky touches us, we soften, and in that tender moment of sadness or joy or both, we open our hearts and know that we are connected, that we are not alone. So much love to you.

    • j on August 7, 2012 at 6:12 am

      ” in that tender moment of sadness or joy or both, we open our hearts and know that we are connected, that we are not alone.”

      Yes. xox

  6. Rita on August 6, 2012 at 7:27 pm

    Love. Just love. xo

    • j on August 7, 2012 at 6:13 am

      Thank you, Rita. Every now and then, there is a post I need to write. This was one of those.

  7. Pam on August 6, 2012 at 7:39 pm

    I spend so much time noticing the sky–maybe it’s my farming ancestors, maybe it’s just part of being a dreamer. I always want to notice how the light looks, what the clouds are doing, where the moon is, which planets I can see.

    I’ve never connected it to grief, but noticing the sky (& taking photos of it) does connect me to a sort of dreamy yearning that is both sad and joyful. It’s a beautiful thing.

    • j on August 7, 2012 at 6:15 am

      Once, a friend who had moved far away from me said, “Look up. We’re still sharing the same sky.” We laughed because it was corny, but it helped somehow. Corny or not.

      It is a beautiful thing.

  8. Connie on August 6, 2012 at 9:38 pm

    Judy, this is so beautiful. You are so beautiful. Thank you for piecing together your part of sky.

    BIG Hugs,

    • j on August 7, 2012 at 6:19 am

      Grief is, to me, the hardest emotion of all. It undoes us in ways we can’t predict, and even when we think we’re through it, it can sweep through us, powerful and unexpected, at the oddest times. I love that you gave people the opportunity to share their stories with you, honoring the ones they’ve loss. That was a gift.

      Thank YOU.

  9. Milli Thornton on August 7, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    Beautiful words and pictures. And connection.

    • j on August 8, 2012 at 11:42 am

      Thank you. And yes!

  10. K on August 7, 2012 at 7:11 pm

    Those pictures of the sky are amazing. I think it’s a very human thing to look up at the heavens and be reminded of how large the universe is compared to us. It seems almost as if we are insignificant–yet we (as humans) all share the same sky and all gaze at it with the same questions.

    What those questions are, of course, are completely up to you. ♥

    • j on August 8, 2012 at 11:43 am

      Well said. And yes, the smallness of me is something I often think of when I look at the sky. Instant perspective (in the prettiest, grandest way).

  11. Nina on August 9, 2012 at 8:27 am

    Hi! Very nice post and especially love that photo of the birds!

    As for FB, I recently learned that it’s great to “like” a FB page as your page, but only “likes” from personal accounts increase the number of fans. I know it’s all dumb, BUT if those numbers matter at all, we can all help each other by fanning as personal pages. What I do is usually like a page as both ME and my fan page. But, from my personal page, I unclick “show in newsfeed” since I don’t want to see everyone’s updates in BOTH streams.

    I know that was really confusing. Maybe you know all that already! I’ve only had a page for a month so I’m still learning.

    AND FINALLY, thought of you while packing for a trip this weekend. Bringing Tiny Beautiful Things which I meant to read a few weeks ago. Now it’s finally that book’s turn at the top of my list!

    • j on August 9, 2012 at 8:52 am

      Actually, I think I followed all of that, which resulted in me liking you from my personal page. <-- Filed under "Sentences I never saw myself writing a year ago." 🙂 Honestly, the reason I will probably never be a true internet rock star is that I'm not comfortable with the numbers game, and I think you need to be. It stresses me out completely, and I start thinking about the wrong things, chasing an audience rather than writing from my heart about the stuff that matters to me. I so admire people who can pay attention to, but not get caught up in, stats. You are clearly doing that, rock star! 😉 Maybe I'll grow into it. Although I've had my FB page since launching this site, I haven't been sure what to do with it. I'm only just now realizing... it's another place to play. (Which is why I go there more now. When it was "my business page," I never wanted to visit.) I haven't actually read TBT yet either, though I suspect I've read the majority of letters and responses already. Before I interviewed Cheryl, I went back through the archives. Still, reading them in a collection, and without the pressure of an interview I wanted to get right... I'm looking forward to that. For the curious, my interview with Cheryl Strayed-as-Sugar (which takes the form of a very personal essay) is here. http://usedfurniturereview.com/2012/02/16/sugar-love-dispatches-from-a-coming-out-party-by-judy-clement-wall/

  12. Nina on August 9, 2012 at 10:26 am

    Oh, I totally hear you. I wouldn’t say I’m comfortable with the number piece. BUT, it DOES exist and I guess I just accept it. Still, I don’t worry about that stuff TOO much. If I did I’d follow back every Twitter follower, etc. And I don’t! I try to keep things authentic to my interests and authentic connection. (As much as possible, of course. Nothing is exact with this stuff.)

    • j on August 9, 2012 at 11:12 am

      Well, for what it’s worth, from the outside looking in, you NEVER smack of smarmy (or any other kind of) self-promotion. You’ll be my example of how awareness doesn’t have to equal blechy. (Technical term.)

  13. Chris Edgar on August 9, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    Hi J — yes, this brings up for me a common experience I have of looking at the sky and realizing that nothing I could accomplish could possibly equal its magnificence. This helps me let go of the constant focus on achieving things from time to time. 🙂

    • j on August 12, 2012 at 8:36 am

      I was recently talking about this with my mom, actually, how much of my time has been spent trying to fit in “one more thing,” or worrying about what I couldn’t fit in. I’ve spent August trying to get “wordless,” very, very present. One of the most interesting, wonderful and unexpected side effects has been a more generally accepting attitude. There are only so many hours in a day. Only one me. And so far, never has one of the things I didn’t accomplish resulted in, oh, say, the world’s stopping turning.

      I love your thought when you look at the sky, Chris. I have a feeling it will now be mine as well.

  14. Weekend Reads « Visible and Real on August 25, 2012 at 2:03 am

    […] Piecing Together Connie’s Sky From A Human Thing, this is a beautiful response to a response, circling around truth, community, and impermanence. Read the post, and enjoy the lovely sky images. […]

  15. […] an internet connection – I felt so very human and so connected to Connie Hozvicka, to Jill and to Judy. I think it’s within human nature to forget this sometimes, but we do hold each other’s hearts […]

Leave a Reply Cancel Reply