October 2019's Post-it note art from Instagram

Over on our Instagram page, we’re posting a weekly installation from Clare Johnson’s Post-it Note Project, a long running daily project. Here’s her wrap-up and statement from October's posts.

October's Theme: We Both Survived

In August when I drew these I was at a residency in Boise, living a high-ceilinged-house life by the river. There are many reasons why this “I have a house and an art job in Boise” life meant a lot to me, but the one that matters forever is my cousin Ryan. We are, somewhat improbably, friends for life—ours is a deep meaningful friendship and also the kind where me saying things like “forever” and “meaningful” here is going to make both of us laugh at me in a REAL DEEP WAY. He came to my residency-culminating public event on an inconvenient end-of-summer weeknight, prompting happy feelings of touched gratitude in me and also an earnest internal panic of OH GOD NO now Ryan is going to see me READ POETRY. (You can relax, we both survived. My writing made him laugh and made his older sister cry, so I maybe deemed it my most successful reading ever.) To celebrate the magic of living nearby for so much longer than our usual visits, and knowing his birthday’s in October, I invited Ryan and his wife Kristin to choose the post-its for this month. The rest of my years were holding down the fort in Seattle (surprise! I do not carry thousands of post-its on my person everywhere I travel), so they had to choose from what I’d made while there. They each picked a different swimming moment; during that month, work on my manuscript gave way each evening to swims in the parks across the river (or, on some 100-degree days, in the river itself—a sort of thrilling liquid treadmill plus pebbles and fish, if you will). I’d tramp along the bike path in my tiny rag of a towel, past the surfers (!!!) and over a bridge, to my choice of 3 different swimming ponds. This daily excursion led to many observations on Boise (the rollerblading thing is NO JOKE), often later preserved forever in post-it. People and dogs and bikes and paddle boarders and kayaks and surfers and skateboards and other wheel-based endeavors I don’t understand were everywhere, like smallish-city life is some giant urban planning playground. Striding home after a swim I looked up and startled, expecting to dodge this bike—but instead it was a hand—from a guy on the bike—reaching out to high five me about my shaved head. Considering further post-it options, I’m pretty sure Ryan remarked wryly that the big question is how narcissistic do you let yourself get—but I love it when people choose memories we share, so I’m glad they both indulged a little. Kristin went straight for the sleeping porches. Perhaps you, like I, have spent decades assuming sororities have normal college roommate arrangements—albeit in big fancy gender-segregated houses with a cook. WELL WE WERE WRONG. I’d heard the phrase_ “sleeping porch” thrown around and understandably pictured some kind of grandiose-mansions-screened-porch-summer-nights thing, until one night when Kristin and Ryan and I were talking about how they met, joking about our differences and college memories and cozily teasing, random stories. Completely beside the point, she mentioned being on early wake-up duty in her sorority. I needed explanation. “Oh you know, you have to go around waking up the girls who’ve got early classes, tapping them.” Tapping them? Why not set alarms?? “Well....it would wake everyone up.” It took SO MUCH conversational backing up before I believed I was truly understanding her. To my utter confusion, in this context sleeping porches are actually internal rooms where 20 to 40 women sleep in tightly-packed bunk beds, sometimes even stacked 3 bunks high. Trying to wrap my head around the amount of trouble people go to for the privilege of such a living situation SHOOK ME TO MY CORE. And here Kristin was all casual about it, just laughing at me, blithely clobbering me over the head with a tiny piece of knowledge she had never considered to be surprising, or obscure. Ryan chose the final post-it, of a walk we took in the foothills one night after work. I think we were aiming for sunset, but it was a last-minute decision, he trying to squeeze in dinner with the family first and me grasping at one more page of writing. We were a little on the late side and gently unsure of where we were going. Channeling our mothers’ can-do spirit of logical leaping and haphazard optimism in the face of insufficient planning, we charged immediately up the most vertical path. At the top it became suddenly apparent that it would be far too steep down for me to go back that way, and that this was not in fact the top. We were also swearing at ourselves a lot, but in a not discontented way? Scrambling up the dry, rock-hard dirt of each sharp ridge, feeling totally alone in the quiet of a dying day, we’d catch surreal glimpses of other people, tiny pairs in the distance poking up jauntily in improbable places. Some questions became embarrassingly urgent—where did these different paths go? Would any take us back to the car, instead of literally slipping down the cliff we’d walked up? How long before the decisively deepening dark completely obliterated our already limited navigational guesswork...or were My Side Of The Family’s notoriously weak ankles going to be the bigger problem. But here we are, safe and sound in our separate cities now: we made great choices, calm and endlessly amused by our stupid selves, suddenly there was a sunset somewhere, Ryan’s phone had a flashlight function, that ominous green was just a dog with a glow stick, the sunset a sliver in the dark like it was hanging around in other neighborhoods, had its back to us.