It is such a fragile thing. This thing called “Making Art.” We chunk the phrase around like throwing a shovel into the back of the truck, and yet, when you stop to think about it, Making Art is … yes… such a fragile thing. Perhaps if we still had to gather and mix pigments from the earth and the plants, paint our scenes on carefully tanned hides… or if we had to carve our own flutes or stretch our own drums… or even if we had to spend hours in a dark room to get just the right light and image on the plate… perhaps then we might speak with more respect of this thing, this Making Art.
Mike Beck wrote a song called “Living in the Arts is a Dangerous Game.” All artists want to surround themselves with other artists, those who are working hard at this fragile thing, dancing this intricate dance, and whining about it. One of the dangers of the community is that very often we get emails that say, “Attached is my latest song. Give it a listen and tell me what you think.” Or, “Here’s the poem/story/painting I’ve been working on. How am I doing?” Or would you read my 80,000-word manuscript or listen to my nephew’s attempt at Tuvan throat singing or come see my daughter’s first tap recital or tell me I am wonderful while also showing where I am missing the mark? And so we read the manuscripts, critique the fifth draft of the poem, listen to mp3s recorded in the living room, though some of us might draw the line at throat singing. We do it because we need the community, need them to read that eighth draft of a manuscript, to save us from ourselves.
Once in awhile something comes along that makes us glad to be part of that community, that makes us glad we said, “Sure! Send it on!” Something that finds the fragile, delicate balance.
Upon my first viewing of Bravo! I knew that Ken and Betty Rodgers had found that still point, found the moment that every artist aims for. They gathered some incredibly fragile threads and wove them into something that is more than documentary. They carefully pulled threads of brotherhood and war, personal story and pain, memory and horror, the distant past and the reality of the present, history and healing, collective and individual, facts and humanity, young boys becoming men, sanity and salvation… the two hour film carefully blends all of these elements, without losing momentum or power or that easily shattered thing that is truth within many personal stories told together. Each man of Bravo Company represented in the film becomes a real person to the viewer… so much more than a talking head, someone who was interviewed. The war becomes real, so much more than a collection of 77 days in history. The viewer begins to live inside the siege at Khe Sanh… and understand why we all should have the knowledge of those events as well as what happened afterward to the boys who were there.
Ken and Betty did not let one of those threads break. Each one is part of the tapestry.
And it is such a fragile thing.
Amy Hale Auker writes and rides on Spider Ranch, Prescott, Arizona. Though she is a Texan, she’s fallen in love with the rocks, trees, and live water in the Santa Maria Mountains. Her first book, Rightful Place, won the 2012 WILLA for creative non-fiction. Her first novel, Winter of Beauty, will be released later this year. She posts about writing and riding on her website www.amyhaleauker.com.