myth and poetry

mythopoetry Scholar


Matter & Beauty
Mythopoetry Scholar Ezine

Beauty And Loss
-Elizabeth Fergus-Jean


This is a brief story of how beauty is often born out of loss. It is in many ways a common story, for it is about how one moves through the grief of losing a loved one. This story begins when my mother died.



In late 2000 I lost my mother. Her death was unexpected, and I was totally unprepared for it. I had thought she would live a long life like her mother had, well into her 90’s, and I had taken my mother’s life and our relationship for granted. I assumed she would live at least another twenty years, especially since she was in such good health…or so it seemed.  So when I received that phone call, the one we all dread, from my stepfather telling me my mother had just had a massive stroke, I was at a loss. Stunned. Stilled.

I missed my mother. I spent countless hours rummaging through boxes that contained her old snapshots and clothing. I wanted to hold her in my hands, and smell her fragrance that lingered in her clothes.  


In one of the boxes I came across a stack of old gloves. There were lace gloves, long black leather gloves, gloves that spoke of a more formal time; a time when women dressed for every occasion. I was captured within my imagination wondering where had my mother gone wearing such lovely gloves? What had she said? What dress had she worn to accompany them? Was she shy? Flirtations or talkative? And now with my mother no longer here, I will never know the answers to my questions.

I am moved to put on this pair of gloves, to feel my skin against the dense cotton where her skin once was. I want to try on her life, see how it fits – but I quickly discover my hand is too large. I can’t fit into her gloves; I can only fit into imagining her life.

Still longing to hold her, I decide to place her image upon the glove. Now with the glove and her image before me, I begin to meld the two together within my imaginative memory. Delicately beading around the image of my mother, honoring her story, of who she was and the life she lived.


Slips, Blouses and Girdles – oh my!

To console my grief I continued working with images of my mother and articles of her clothing. I stitched her images onto her clothing, and as I did so I found myself stitching counter clockwise, perhaps in my unconscious attempt to turn back the hands of time. With each stitch I reached back into my mothers memories and linked them with my own. Holding her dearly within my heart, I pieced together fragments of her life, sewn together with my memory of her. Weaving the threads of her life together with my own, I pieced together a life re-membered.

slip        blouse        girdle

Loss revisited

I discovered that this process of reimaging my mother’s life to be a healing one, and it made me want to revisit the loss of my father, who had died when I was 20. I began reopening the boxes that I had kept that contained the remnants of his life—snapshots, odd bits of clothing and linen, love letters—all in attempts to rekindle my memories of him.

Dad’s Coat

Over 30 years have passed since my father suddenly and quite unexpectedly passed away. I’ve come to discover that although my grief no longer paralyses me, I still miss him terribly. I wonder in what ways we are similar. Of course, I have no way of knowing, but there is something that stirs within me, to see if I can find my father within my own image.

I came across one of the only articles of clothing of my father’s that I had – a raggedy old green coat. There was an odd familiarity about this coat, I knew I had seen it before. I rummaged through some of the old photos I had of him, and there it was, snapshot after snapshot, Dad in his green army coat.

Funny dad, making all kinds of silly gestures, and I wondered, do I do that too? How am I like my father – how does he fit within my life after being gone so long – and how might I be carrying parts of who he was in my very being?

And so, I tried on his coat and his mannerisms, seeing how much the two of us were alike. Playing with time and memory – fusing the two through image.

dad & me

dad &  me

Wedding Gloves – the only way they would fit

Boxes and boxes and boxes … they all had remained sealed while my parents lived, and can now never reveal the secrets that could be unlocked by my parent’s tellings of the stories they once held. Yet as I sat with their objects surrounding me, I began to imagine the stories of their early lives. Through my visual voice I now weave their Imaginal stories. Who knows which are more authentic, mine or theirs?

I tried on their clothes; I tried on their facial gestures, wondering how they would fit within my life after being gone so long. In one of the boxes I came across my mother’s wedding dress, including long lace gloves that matched her gown. I longed to try them on, and as I carefully tried to slip my hand into one glove, once again my hand was much too large. I longed to imagine what they would look like on my arms. And so, making them fit the only way I knew how, I photographed myself in her wedding dress and overlaid the gloves on the image. Although I can’t fit into her gloves, I can fit into imagining her life through these participatory pieces.

 wedding gloves, the only way they would fit!


Perhaps I should have stated in the beginning that I am a maker. I am happiest when I am using my hands. I explore and express my experience of life through my visual voice. I do not attempt to make beautiful objects; rather, through my work I attempt to express beauty in lived experience. In this instance, the objects that I have made express the beauty of my parents’ lives. Beauty and loss, so intertwined.

How am I like my mother? My father? My grandmother? What can I learn from the objects they left behind? As I imaginally warp back in time to snatch glimpses of who they were, I return to create new stories, my stories now. Working with fragments of images and clothing, I have woven the threads of their life together with my own, piecing together lives re-membered. In the end, I am left with the shadowy territory of how we shape our lives with these shards and fragments of memory. It is enough.

...................******* ******* *******Mythopoetry Scholar Ezine******* ******* *******

Elizabeth Fergus_jean, MFA, PhDAuthor Bio
Elizabeth Fergus-Jean, MFA, PhD is a passionate artist, a committed educator, and a much sought after speaker and presenter. She has taught in a wide range of educational venues, most recently in the Media Studies and English/Philosophy departments at Columbus College of Art and Design, and in the Humanities Program at Pacifica Graduate Institute. Her recent publications include Illuminating Letters: Paintings and Essays on the Kabbalah (Art & Psyche Press), and two essays on teaching, “Till We Have Faces: Image as Psyche”in Reimagining Education: Essays on Reviving the Soul of Learning (Spring Journal Books P) and “Teaching Personal Narrative” in Teaching Photography I: Tools for the Imaging Educator (Elsevier P).

In addition to her scholarly writing, Dr. Fergus-Jean’s artwork appears on the covers of numerous international journals and books, is frequently exhibited nationally, and is held in numerous public and private collections. Her artwork explores stories that emerge from culture as potent sites for the engagement of mythic material and the archetypal resonances found within our lives. She lectures nationally on creativity, visual thinking, archetypes in media, and personal mythology. Visit her website at and before you go, enjoy the following presentation, "Veils of Remembrance".

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