As my friends and acquaintances know, I haven’t been crazy about living in Northern Virginia for the last couple years. I won’t get into the many many reasons behind my distaste, but suffice it to say that 1) I absolutely cannot stand the traffic, and 2) I don’t feel a community for artists exists (try as half-assed Meet Ups might).
As my friends also know, I gripe about the second reason quite a lot. Many a daydream has been shared of a life in Asheville or Seattle; somewhere where art is ingrained in, respected, and almost expected of its residents. Instead of wasting time wishing for a life that may never happen, I made the decision to plant some creative seeds here in Northern Virginia.
So I turned to the craft and art I know best – crochet. I decided to yarnbomb the chain link fence on an eyesore of a bridge I drive over on a daily basis. The idea of seeing the yarnbomb every morning and evening was certainly appealing, and knowing that many accessed this ugly bridge daily when walking to and from work also played a part in the decision making process. I picked flower patterns, armed myself with zip-ties, and planned bombing times when I knew traffic would be low.
Knowing Reston’s strict laws on appearance, and afraid they would be taken down immediately, I put up three flowers at first. A week later 3 more. And a week later, a few more, until there were 12 beautiful, glorious yarnbombed flowers on the ugly rusty bridge fence. When I and a couple friends were hanging up the last few, someone walked past and asked us if we had been the ones hanging the yarn flowers on the bridge. He thanked us for adding beauty to his daily walking commute. Selfishly, it also added beauty to mine – driving by the flowers always put a smile on my face. No matter how bad my day was, I could drive home, see those flowers, and feel a little less lost and a little more hopeful.
Not unlike Icarus and his hubris which whispered for him to fly closer and closer to the sun’s blaze, I grew too comfortable and confident that the flowers would stay. Yesterday, they were gone. Although I knew from the beginning their removal was a strong possibility, it still stung and made my heart sink. Now only the exoskeletons of the zip-ties remain; a mere ghost of the flowers which once grew on the rusty urban fence.
Since yesterday, I’ve been working through various stages of grief; being bummed, but trying to work through those feelings to find the silver lining. Trying to accept my Northern Virginia life and hold onto hope that I can create the life I want to lead here. I’m wholeheartedly trying to make it to the 5th step of Yarnbomb Removal Grief.
When it’s been removed, your heart will drop. Your eyes will well up with tears and you’ll have to use every ounce of self-control to stop yourself from crying, screaming, and throwing an adult temper tantrum. Don’t fight it – this is a perfectly normal and appropriate reaction. You must accept the fact that they’re never coming back and this loss is out of your hands.
After about a half an hour of fighting back tears, you will instantly become incensed. Do they know how much time you spent picking patterns, choosing color schemes, crocheting the yarnbomb, and then carefully sewing it on the bridge? Certainly they must not – only a monster could carelessly cut through your hours of carefully planned and well-intentioned works of art.
After the anger subsides, you’ll reminisce about the good times. Sounds of the exhilarated laughter you shared with your friends when hanging up the yarnbombs will drift in and out of your mind. You’ll fondly remember the first morning you drove into work and saw your work proudly shining in the morning sun. These memories of joy may cause you to repeat steps 1 and 2 a few more times before finally moving onto step 4. Don’t fret – this isn’t a setback, it’s a normal part of the healing process.
Accept that this is out of your hands. Accept that you will never see your work again, and it will probably end up in a landfill somewhere (silver lining: the environmentally conscious side of you is pleased you gave up acrylic yarn cold turkey). Accept that on some level, you knew that this was a possibility. Accept that some people just want to watch the world burn.
Depending on how many of your yarnbombs have been removed, you may never see this step again. As this was my first yarnbombing experience, and first removal, I haven’t yet given up my foolish hope on a long lasting installation. You can rebuild! You can re-experience the elation of doing something nondestructive, exciting, and borderline illegal. And maybe next time it won’t sting as badly if (when?) it gets taken down.