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Leaped! - Susan Callahan


You will have to leap




Have you spent time considering the plusses and minuses of a challenge or opportunity? Do you procrastinate waiting for the best answer? Are you afraid you will make the wrong one? Sure, we a do.

I have often been told, especially when I was younger that I “didn’t think things through” that I “leaped” to quickly without weighing the all the options.

Some of that is true, I tend to trust my gut, but I have fallen flat on my face more times than I can count.

This poem by WH Auden truly spoke to me. I like many of his works, but when the challenge was literary allusions, this one Leapedout to me. The image was very clear of what I wanted to create.


This is often me- my thought process speaks to me when I have made that leap. OMG- What did I do? Was this a really good idea?


Here is the poem that spoke to me.


The sense of danger must not disappear:

The way is certainly both short and steep,

However gradual it looks from here;

Look if you like, but you will have to leap.


Tough-minded men get mushy in their sleep

And break the by-laws any fool can keep;

It is not the convention but the fear That has a tendency to disappear.

The worried efforts of the busy heap, The dirt, the imprecision, and the beer

Produce a few smart wisecracks every year;

Laugh if you can, but you will have to leap.

The clothes that are considered right to wear Will not be either sensible or cheap, So long as we consent to live like sheep And never mention those who disappear.


Much can be said for social savoir-faire,

But to rejoice when no one else is there

Is even harder than it is to weep; No one is watching, but you have to leap.

A solitude ten thousand fathoms deep Sustains the bed on which we lie, my dear: Although I love you, you will have to leap; Our dream of safety has to disappear.

— W. H. Auden


Wystan Hugh Auden 1 February 1907 – 29 September 1973 was a British-American poet. Auden's poetry was noted for its stylistic and technical achievement, its engagement with politics, morals, love, and religion, and its variety in tone, form, and content. He was born in York and grew up in and near Birmingham. He attended various English independent (or public) schools and studied English at Christ Church, Oxford. He spent five years (1930–35) teaching in British private preparatory schools, then travelled to Iceland and China to write books about his journeys. In 1939, he moved to the United States and became an American citizen in 1946, retaining his British citizenship. He taught from 1941 to 1945 in American universities. (Wikipedia)


When the theme of Literary Illusions came up as a topic, I immediately went to subjects I knew well, with imagery that I could reproduce easily. These images have often centered around a kitchen scene, or food oriented. But, I take the 20 Perspectives themes as an opportunity to try new techniques and attempts new methods of storytelling.


To me, Auden’s words are full of imagery. I had to really think about which illusion I wanted to explore. Some of the imagery that came to me were his words, tough minded men- I saw an almost cartoon like image of old men with cigars in their mouths. You can look but you have to leap was another image I liked. And in the end, I really wanted to create the leap.



The figure in the center of the image has just leaped off the rocks, she is doing it, about to fall into the waves. The waves are crashing against the rock but she leaped anyway. The fear did not disappear- but she had to leap. Like me in many instances, she is almost prepared- she is wearing goggles (which would do no good upon impact!) She has her hand up in power or defiance of the fear.

We all have fears to face, some more scary than others. This illusion is meant to display a scary environment- open water, waves hitting the rocks. Does the figure know what she is jumping into?

Auden is known for his poetry about love. I think this image could be a metaphor for love, the last stanza speaks of love. I love you but you have to leap. Yes, I have leaped without thinking into love. The waters have been icy cold, dark and fathoms deep. In the end I chose to use the lines of the poem- the sense of danger must not disappear. Would we ever leap if the thrill was not present, sure, but it would be a theme park ride- exciting but very safe.




My techniques include on- demand printed imagery of a female figure and the rocky area she has jumped from. It was printed on chiffon and fused onto felt to give the illusion of depth. More chiffon was applied with quilting lines to create the illusion of a bright sparkly afternoon.




The sky is a hand dyed cotton which I thought also emphasized the present danger to the thrill seeking jumper.





I made textiles to resemble the an active ocean, I wanted exhilaration in the space with waves and white caps, with assorted fibers and threads.


Quilting is done with closely hued cotton threads and metallic threads. I have quilted both from the front of the piece and the back. I find metallic threads behave better when worked from the bobbin.

I had attempted to do a leaping figure years ago, I am glad this challenge allowed me to play with this imagery.

I see myself in the image, I am a mermaid, I am never happier then when I am in the water, however, you will not find me leaping off heights or even into open waters, anymore. But I do, still leap even when there is present danger, just not cliff jumping…….








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