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  • Stefanie Cohen

Tending Brilliant Seeds

Image Description: Clear glass water-filled bowl with small, shiny, bright multi colored sculptures made of Sculpey and varnish, spilling out onto sage green cloth. Photo by Stefanie Cohen 2022; Sculptures from Stefanie Cohen & Corey Gearhart (frmly Upended Teacups), installation and performance: "The Call", 2018

Greetings from the heart of a snowy Michigan day with countless tiny, frozen, six-pointed crystals landing and drifting together in ever increasing white mounds.

I write, very simply, to send up a little flare from my neck of the winter. To reach out on this cross-quarter day of Imbolc and mark the in-betweenness with you; suspended, for this moment, between winter and spring. Between endings and new beginnings. Here, poised, in the not yet knowing.

In the anticipation and the hoping.

In the quietest stirrings of the seeds, deep in the sleeping but imperceptibly thawing ground.

Over the past dozen years in which my partner Corey and I have been making performance work together, images of seeds have appeared multiple times. We have gifted participating witnesses with the opportunity to plant literal ones in small pots. To imbue them with their hopes and dreams, take them home, and to watch them sprout. We have also offered audience members tiny, shiny sculptures we've made, formed as what might be the seeds of heretofore unseen cosmic flora or the egg sacs of fantastical insects. The seeds themselves holding a mysterious beauty. The potential new life forms only to be imagined.... In many ways, the metaphors of seeds as faith; as intention; as potency have woven their way through our work. And the potential of art itself to sprout new possibilities in us, long after we have seen, heard, felt, or encountered it.

Last year, I found myself in an unusually dark space -- one in which I felt unwell physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I was brimming over with grief, frozen in both panic and what felt to be an intolerable not-knowing, and generally empty and bereft. From within that darkness, I reached out to community and practitioners for help in ways I'd not been willing to do in decades. Among the many loving gifts offered to me and my family, of food, care, time, healing touch, company...I also received music.

Here and there a friend, my son, a student would send me files to songs that somehow offered me precisely what I needed to hear. Over time I added to them, creating a playlist of intentionally placed ear worms -- whispering repeated affirmations of courage, worthiness, and belonging to me through my days and my dreams. I am indebted to all of the artists, creating and sharing beautiful, haunting, fierce, and joyful music. I found each of the messages immeasurably helpful, allowing them to believe in and for me, until I was again able to take the reins.

So here, in my shared (largely neo-soul) playlist is a gift of seeds of promise in the deep dark. Perhaps in one or two is a message just for you:

With love to you,


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