Cole Farrell

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Say it with Flowers

We bought flowers too far from Stonewall. We were lost. Duane Reed, CVS, Duane Reed, a different CVS? Aric’s internal compass is unflappable in the Midwest, but two hours after our arrival in midtown Manhattan, we were fully stuck.

So we bought flowers. Two little bunches of them. These flowers are important; we told the man with our eyes. These are grief flowers, for a very deep grief. Aric fumbled with his wallet. The man wrapped the flowers in heavy paper (SAY IT WITH FLOWERS!) and Aric and I took turns cradling the bouquet like a child for the remaining blocks; two dumb bunches of flowers, lighter and heavier than you can imagine.

Outside Stonewall—we found our way, finally—barricades from the previous night’s vigil had been pushed into bunches. Tonight there were 40 people outside. No barricades necessary. Maybe a few, to keep people from stepping into the street. Police officers in bulletproof vests with very big guns made us feel more protected and more aware of the possibility of danger.

People in the small crowd were taking turns introducing themselves or saying a few words. Name, Borough, tears. Hugs from strangers. The deep joy of being a queer person suddenly surrounded by other queer people. Shame for being joyful, here. That kind of joy comes to an end faster than a life can, or 49 lives.

A boy named Daniel announced that he was from Long Island. He was very drunk. I’ll never, never, never forget the names of the victims, he said. I’ll never say another mean thing about anybody, ever. He was shouting. Everybody wanted to believe him. Everybody wanted him to stop shouting. Cops. Guns. This is a peaceful place tonight.

More introductions. More hugs. A pop-up community fluent in the new vocabulary of trauma. We will never forget, everybody says in turn. Their names, their lives. We are angry and hurt and heartsick with grief. We don’t know where to turn. All of life has become the moment from the Amy Hempel short story where, after an earthquake, a teacher encourages her first grade class to yell “BAD earth!” at a broken playground, “because anger is stronger than fear.”

Before we leave Stonewall, before I toss our flowers onto the pile, Aric gently removes the thick outer paper from the bouquet, rolls it up, and puts it in his backpack.


Say It With Flowers paper

That flower paper sparked something in me. I decided to spin the pattern of that paper into 49 little pieces of art, each one dedicated to one of the victims in Orlando. It was something to do with my hands when my hands felt so powerless.

As a visual artist, I am an infant, still learning to crawl. Most of these pieces were traced, but I can see my hands becoming more steady. I see smudges and smears and full-blown fingerprints, none intentional. I can see the little moments where I let go of control and was better for it.

I’m excited to share it with you.

Say It With Flowers Title Card

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Comments

Meghan Zick says:

This is so beautiful, Cole. And making ART?! Makes my heart happy. I miss you, friend.

Cole Farrell says:

Captain Gingersnap! I miss you too. I was just thinking of you recently.

Do you remember the shoebox you decorated with marker and sent to me (along with D.I.V.E. friends) at Camp Barbee? There’s nothing I love much more than receiving mail, and it still stands as one of the greatest pieces of mail I ever received.

Art can change the world! You just figured it out before I did.

Meghan says:

Mr. Bojangles!
I vaguely remember the decorated box..lol, my art has evolved a little since then! I still have some sweet, thoughtful letters you sent to me in college. They are treasures, as are you.

Barb says:

A beautiful tribute to the Orlando victims, Cole. Love and hugs coming your way. Barb

Cole Farrell says:

Barb, I can always trust that you’ll be present and have something positive to say. It means so much to me! I’m thankful that I’ll always hear echoes of your voice in my writing. And I appreciate the hug!

Kelley says:

Beautiful, Cole! I love seeing artists use mediums that are new to them. This is so so good. You’re on a good journey. Continue to give yourself grace along the way. (ps have you read The Artist’s Way?)

Cole Farrell says:

A good journey, indeed. Thanks always for your kindness, and the reminder about grace. We will finish The Artist’s Way eventually!

Anita says:

A special post from a special person. Love your writing Cole.

Cole Farrell says:

Thank you, Anita! Xoxo.

Cole , I remember you from Catalina pool. What a beautiful flower you have become. I am so glad that you are living your true self. I feel your pain and as a mother of a gay son I pray for love and safety to the LGBT community.

Cole Farrell says:

Hi, Diane! Thank you so much for being so kind.

I think often about people like you and my mother, especially since the Pulse shooting. As a gay man, life can be difficult, but I can’t imagine the worry that you go through when you have a child that society has somehow marked out as “other”. I’m sure it involves a lot of worry and trust.

I’m glad you reached out. Lovely to hear from you!

Lorie Furfaro says:

That’s just Beautiful Cole, it brought tears to my eyes. I’m glad you were there at that place, to remember all those who’s beautiful lives that were taken too soon. This world is just so angry. Thank You again for your beautiful words & thoughtfulness.

Cole Farrell says:

Lorie, you are so sweet. I didn’t mean to make you cry! You’re right that the world is angry, or can seem angry, but I think there’s enough of us with lots of love in our hearts. We can triumph, but we gotta stand up.

Thanks so much for your kind comment. Miss you!

I’m a friend of Aric’s from high school… what a heartfelt post and a beautiful project!

Cole Farrell says:

Hi, Dayna! Thank you so much for reading, and for your comment! Aric told me about your move to Korea and that you love adventure and books and coffee. Sounds like you and I would be fast friends!

It means a lot that you swung by. I hope we meet in person someday!

Betty says:

My heart hurts for families and friends of all the victims! I pray that the world will someday realize that hate will lose every time. Your words and illustration are beautiful.

Cole Farrell says:

Thank you so much, Betty. You are so right: hate always loses. I pray the same thing often.

I hope you are well! I miss seeing your smiling face.

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