My recent sojourn to Boston is over, but while I was there, my husband and I went to the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) to see an exhibit of prayer flags sewn by people all over the world and sent to Boston to provide hope after the Boston Marathon bombings in April. The exhibit, called "To Boston With Love", is on view through July 7.
Prayer flags come from Buddhist tradition. Special practitioners paint prayers onto the flags, which are then strung together and left outside to flutter in the breeze and send the prayers heavenward. The idea to send healing prayers to Boston in the wake of the explosions came from Berene Campbell of Vancouver, Canada, who worked with Amy Friend of West Newbury, Massachusetts to bring it to fruition extremely quickly. The project was publicized and organized by the Vancouver Modern Quilt Guild whose web site provided directions and ideas for making prayer flags and whose members took on the responsibility of gathering flags from around the world and getting them to Boston in time for Memorial Day
My husband and I didn't know what to expect when we arrived at the MFA, but we were quickly steered toward the Shapiro Family Courtyard. The courtyard was enclosed when a new museum wing was added. It is light and airy and surrounded by views of natural greenery. Strung across the expanse were approximately sixteen hundred brightly colored flags, each 6" x 8" and tied together by knotted binding. It was as if the world were holding hands above our heads.
The most popular motif was hearts--so many hearts in so many forms bringing so much love to the city. But there were also birds and rainbows and motifs from the stitchers' home countries. I even found a string of flags from Colorado. The exhibit materials said that there were flags from Canada, Brazil, France, Australia, South Africa, and Japan in addition to all 50 states.
This is my favorite flag--an embroidered outline of the city skyline showing Boston landmarks old and new--such as the Longfellow and Zakim bridges, the Hancock tower and our beloved Citgo sign which marks the last mile before the finish line of the Boston Marathon and where many people were stopped, unable to finish the race.
I also liked this flag. "See Jane Run." That's just what people did--organizing a "last mile" run a few weeks after the bombing so that the people who were turned back were able to finish the race.
It was nice to see so many people looking up at the flags, taking pictures and finding a way to process this tragedy. The courtyard rise three stories tall and although we were indoors, with the light and airiness of the room, you could almost see those prayers flying out to comfort the city.
Thank you to everyone who contributed to this wonderful exhibit. I wasn't in Boston for the marathon this year, but I had friends caught up in the craziness of the man hunt in Watertown and felt the fear, hurt and betrayal keenly. This exhibit is a reminder of all the good in the world and it will help our city heal. Thank you.