Aspiring To a Soft Eye

My dog Emma has impossibly soft eyes.

I aspire to have my own eyes reflect a Self as innocent, worry-free, completely untethered from the pesky human will

We worship.

And then worship some more.

In partnership with health challenges as I am

A good deal of “letting go” occurs;

Not so much moving my body from one place to the next doing errands, etc. anymore.

What is left is an extraordinarily luxurious surplus of contemplative TIME.

Often it feels like an enemy.

Undirected, it (my mind) is no more than a juvenile delinquent acting out to grab attention.

I slap it down…

Again and again I put it to bed and lock the door.

But it changes form and seeps cunningly under the supposedly secure separation between us

And searches me out with it’s mysterious odor

That piques my curiosity

And I am gone down the rabbit hole

Again.

Emma does not suffer these human foibles.

Her eyes rest easy and neutral in their socket-nest

Except where food is concerned…

This trait we share.

There seems no distance between her state-of-being and what her eyes report;

She hasn’t the faintest idea how to mask her true self

Whereas we, as humans, are masterful at appearing “other”.

Today, I aspire to meet my dogs noble, unaffected Self

With my own noble, unaffected Self.

Thanksgiving Poem

“Bloom” 3×6,m/m

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THANKSGIVING POEM

I want to say something
About not getting
What you want
Because if all those prayers
Had been answered
I’d surely not be me
And that would be a shame.

The warm press
Of my dog on my thigh
Might have slipped
My attention
As I went surfing the net;
Mindlessly window shopping
For a good-looking hat.

I might have missed
The precious and strong
Grip of my left hand
If my right one
Weren’t so weakened
By the take-away
Illness brings.

What if I actually had
All the independence
I have prayed for
And altogether missed
My heart stretching
With love for all those
Who let me know
I matter to them?

If I had all I wanted
I’d never know
How not having
Helps me know
The very important gift
Of wanting
And cherishing
Exactly what I have.
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-Cathy Aten 2013

Fuck the Fainting Couch

SLIGHT WIND-3’x5′

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In the NYT this morning I read an article on the forever allure of the literary sad woman:

It isn’t just women either..sadness has a cult following these days which is beginning to bore me.

My dad was a soldier.

He never spoke of it and so of course we kids were prone to go digging in his drawers;anywhere that might fill in the empty places regarding his experiences of war.

His top drawer held pins-long bars of multi-colored ribbon. So gorgeous and left in full view of curious eyes. These..he did not hide and I guess this was as close as he wanted us to get to that part of his life.

Pain and suffering and the horrors of war and illness may be different in the hierarchical sense of “whose suffering is worse?”

I think about this a lot as folks often offer a caveat of : “..but your experience must be far worse than mine..I shouldn’t even be talking about my woes to you!”

In my book suffering is suffering. Period.

It makes no sense to qualify the thing.

We humans are sorely lacking in the “HOW DO WE CONNECT WITH ONE ANOTHER?”

It is so hard and so important and we are just very uneducated in our culture about how to healthily make contact with one another.

But we can so easily find common territory we all share by hopping on the SUFFERING TRAIN!

My back aches.
The doctor said:
My neighbor takes…for…
Old age sucks.
I’m allergic to:
I can’t function unless I:
Wow-my whole body hurts today!

These seemingly disparate topics of my dad and how he held his experiences of war and how we, as a culture hold our own suffering

Are connected

In the actual HOLDING OF THE SUFFERING

Does it matter if we try to become a graceful container for our own sufferings?

There are millions of reasons for learning how to contain our personal experiences instead of ‘sliming’ all those around us making it necessary for a total energetic body wash for the unsuspecting compassionate friend.

Let’s all try to find other, perhaps less automatic ways of connecting beyond “through the wound”.

I am training myself to ask :” Do you have it in you to listen to me complain awhile?” Getting permission to “dump” feels respectful and more conscious.

Instead of falling to the lowest common denominator maybe we can elevate the moment into a higher frequency edging toward a peaceful encounter just enjoying one another.

…..

PS- If you’d like to view the image from each post more intimately please click on image and then again.

How To Accept a Compliment and Why It’s Important

A good friend I’ll call Dominic is a master deflector;

Deflector Dominic.

There is no way to acknowledge him and all I appreciate so much about him.

“D..I love your new haircut!”
“Oh, my last one was so much better.”

“D..You were so kind to our waiter. It made e feel that kindness can cure most ills.”
“You should have watched this great new show on TV I saw, talk about kindness!”

“D..your painting these days is exquisite..I love the new palette you are using.”
“It isn’t really new. I’ve used it before.”

“You inspire me.”
‘Just doing the best I can.”

In each one of these exchanges my heart welled up enough to want to bring something to my friend’s attention. I needed him to know I appreciated him in a particular way.

But he deflected the compliment by making himself smaller in some way and my gift to him had no where to land and so the compliment was wasted energy and lost in the ethers.

We all do this at times but some of us can not receive an acknowledgement EVER.

I have gone through many stages with “D”;

FRUSTRATION at the effort I put forward to connect with him in a loving way that gets batted away like a mosquito
ANGER that he does not seem to value my discerning nature and does not seem to believe what I say
SAD he values himself so little that a simple “Thank you” can not be summoned
WEARY that we as a culture believe false modesty is somehow a virtue to be cultivated.

After years of this I want to give up reflecting back to my friend who I experience him to be.

In my teens depression was my constant companion.

I was so bereft of motherly love that I perfected people -pleasing to a high art and eventually lost 99% of the threading of my natural self tapestry in search of that love.

At some point, when I reclaimed enough self awareness through therapy to understand the unhealthy dynamics taking place

I needed to find my way back to authentic CATHY.

How to do this?

I began listening to what my friends and loved ones were saying about me/to me.

I listened for a long time and after awhile a pattern/patterns arose.

Many people mentioned various qualities they noticed in me and I started to believe them.

I began to let their compliments REST WITH ME.

This is how I found my way back to the woman I am today who I consider to be emotionally healthy for the most part and I am very proud I have done the hard work of making space in my life to allow her to rise again like a phoenix. Again and again I rise. Because I choose to.

My invitation to you is to listen for the next compliment offered and recognize you do the giver a great disservice if you do not let that persons gift rest with you with a simple “Thank you so much. I appreciate that.”

Then pass it on.

Thank you for being out there reading my offerings. It means a great deal.

xxxx

That Thing In Your Way…

monoprint,22×30

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….is actually your way in.

I am a product of a fortunate foundation.

Growing up we had money.

It afforded us comfort, freedoms others were unfamiliar with, great educations and we were never hungry..I mean the “for real” kind of hungry.

In these last three months of searching for a replacement caregiver I have had more than 10 young and middle aged women cross my threshold hoping to secure the job.

In more comfortable times I “read” people on an essence level when sussing them out and consider myself a fairly good judge of character using this kind of intelligence.

As I am dependent on MEDICAID the helpers must come through a healthcare agency and then sent to me. Supposedly they have been vetted for drugs,criminal history and had a TB test.

During this search process I needed to look at in a purely rational way:
-can she follow directions?
-is there retention of directions I have given?
-how does my dog do with her?
-is she interested at all in me?
-can she clean, cook a bit, notice if the floor needs sweeping?
-do I need to coach her every micro movement?
-know how to use GPS to find a place?

If I found someone I felt I could tolerate in my home 5 hours/day I kind of jumped at the chance to hire her.

This happened three times.

I was lied to (“I can cook”-NOT), stolen from ( pain pills and amazon purchases), ghosted (“Cathy you are a great woman! I will love working for you…(Gone in the wind..).

I don’t really know anything about poverty. I’d hazard most of you reading this don’t either.

How far could you get on less than 12.00/hr?

What could you eat? Where could you live? Do you imagine you’d be healthy or even kind?

Would you even know who Judy Garland was if I told you I was going to the movies?

Would your skin be clear?

Would you eat from the gas station aisles?

Would you know what kale is or how to measure 1/4 C?

I’ve needed to throw away my disease of judgement and find ways to stay elevated in spirit

Or I will die.

I have a gold-hearted caregiver now.

We are learning one another.

I numb my olfactory sense after she goes outside for a smoke

And let her hug me when I cry from too much pain.

The care and recognition of who I actually am is reciprocated in kind.

We are learning one another.

I almost missed her. Came dangerously close to missing her.

I am grateful we can be a bridge for one another.

Be very, very grateful if you enjoy a life of financial means as my story may never be yours

But on the other hand Carl Jung says “The hand of God is found in the shit.”

We are good buddies.

FYI- if ever you’d like to blow up an image to reveal detail you can click on it then once again to blow it up.

The Dignity of Clean (revised)

What I posted yesterday was so highly judgemental I had to delete it, revise and repost. The places our (my) minds go when desperately over-stressed are sobering..

FULL CIRCLE, detail,m/m

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Three months of trying to find a permanent caregiver has left me craving clean.

I’m not living in squalor mind you but Emma is equally stressed and peeing every which way

And the lighter-colored tile grout is tell-tale discolored from her “outside the box” yearning for remembered regularity and count-on-able smooth vibes in our home.

My dishwashers sliding drawers are tilted so as to keep returning to loading stance even when I shove them back into their rightful place too many times. There is a spoon on the bottom of the dishwasher having not quite made it as I threw it with my one good hand from my wheelchair aiming for the utensil holder. In no way can I bend into the gaping opening of the washer to retrieve the thing. I shove the door finally closed and look at Emma who is keeping her distance.

In overly stressed atmospheres such as I mention I head to the bathroom in a quest for war paint to shift my dangerously smoldering sanity.

On my make-up tray are 6 lipstick bullets. Each standing naked so I enjoy one less taxing movement (opening it), I choose carefully.

For particularly serious transformation I choose a deep berry shade which I usually blot heartily to look less “overt” shall we say but today I leave it as-is because I remind myself of those Woobabe tribesmen who stain their lips deep blue and jump up and down exposing their teeth in hopes of attracting a mate.

I am fierce.

I am also desperate. (I have never really felt close to this state and I am pleased I still feel a modicum of curiosity about it which, I think, keeps me from the psych ward for the time being).

I call my squad.

One goes shopping and brings me a coffee and scone and paper towels for Emma’s pee. And white gladiolas too God bless her.

One gets the mail and takes the trash and folds laundry and tells me how strong I am.

One walks and brushes Emma and helps me think through my next steps to stay alive and makes my bed the way I need.

It is 2:30 in the afternoon.

I head for bed.

The tile grout still betrays the state of affairs around here because there is just so much to do I semi-consciously steer my team away from this scrubbing job because there are more benign tasks on the lengthy docket.

I am childishly taking care of them while they are trying to take care of me.

I drift off knowing the only thing I know:

ALL THERE IS IS CHANGE, FLUX, SHIFT or whatever the fuck you want to call it.

Both Emma and I heave that kind of deep and long surrendered sigh signaling safety and love.

I am loved.

I am very, very loved.

All residual grime in all corners of my life are ok as they are for the time being.

Vulnerability

detail , hand, painted wool flannel

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We, Santa Feans get a bit of a break this time of year as nothing special is happening! No fiesta or art extravaganza or world balloon convention or pet parade or low-rider popping on the plaza to draw thousands of non-residents in search of some life enhancement that isn’t a pill.

For me this means an east roll downtown without the usual tourist human obstacles needing to touch Emma; suffering as they are away from the dogs they had to leave at home.

People are a problem.

I have magic boundary-enforcing tools.

My hat is one.

I can pretty much feel from half a block away that I am approaching someone in the heat of withdrawal; needing a dog fix NOW GODDAMMIT.

It is always the same…We see one another..their pace quickens as a laser intent carves into my sensitive skin.

We get closer to one another and about 10′ away I drop the wide brim of my hat and cut off access to my precious energy reserves (as an Emma pet can turn into a 15 minute convo).

I quietly roll by a disappointed fellow human.

A recent evening rollabout found me downtown enjoying the crisp seasonal turn.

My wheelchair controls are on my right side. My arm is slightly lifted off the armrest as I maneuver. Emma sticks her head in the space between arm and armrest.

All of a sudden just outside my sight range I feel a hand trying to pet Emma.

I made some sort of primal sound as a man cooed and petted innocent Emma.

Just like that it was over as the couple crossed the street with the light.

I realized I was in shock having the uninvited surprise touch of that tender and intimate spot between breast and underarm. It woke up old memories I’d rather forget.

I sped down the walkway and caught up with them.

“Sir? It is always a good idea to ask if you can touch someone elses’ dog. You scared me.”

I rolled away and left him with that.

I thought about entitlement; the fact that little scenario would never have happened were I male.

I was proud of myself for addressing the issue in the moment so I could leave it there and not add to my baggage. I could feel that what I said and how I said it and the fact he was with his lady friend meant there would be life in my words beyond where I said them.

Stand Up Girl

Dear everyone,

I am slowly recovering my remembered sense of Self yet still have not replaced my caregiver of 7 years I lost a few months ago. Everything came crashing in dealing with the line up of temps needing endless guidance as to how to care for me and which way I like my towels folded.

I am exhausted but amazed at my resilience which, in part, comes from my stellar cadre of humans who love me and stepped up to fill in the landscape of gaps left in my absent caregivers’ wake. Humbling.. you ask? Indeed so but I keep amazing myself as I deal with this underbelly I’ve been dealt; the things I learn, the Life I now experience with my altered awareness that remained veiled before.

Sometimes it feels like church every day and then the scene shifts to scrubbing toilets metaphorically speaking.

I have an invitation to extend. I don’t look like this picture anymore but it makes me happy to remember my precious human self and see my true nature reflected in the eyes of someone fairly untouched by chronic illness. I love her and am working on loving the me of today.
Thank you for your presence in my life.

Here is the invitation:
xxx

I am a Boat

ceramic,34x2x5″

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Just felt like revisiting this poem in the midst of so much transition:

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I AM A BOAT

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I am a boat.

Not a Chinese junque. – (my blood is too foreign though I do wish it wasn’t).

Well.. perhaps a gleaming and slippery, “Have a martini”, 40? ode to speed? – (I’d lose the key..).

Maybe that great outboard motorboat we used up at the lake to go bass fishing as the dawn steam rose and we, wee ones still with sleep in our eyes? – (Oh, I did love the control!)

What about a catamaran? Sliding and cutting so deftly through..intent on getting ‘there’ FAST!.. The constant thrill of capsizing the thing?- (Nope).

I could be a giant cargo ship with all the ballast I’d ever need in rough seas.. (No beauty in all that safety and way too much metal. I’m not that fond of metal, anyway).

A folded paper boat adrift on an even pond? – (Not enough substance or staying power).

I will be a canoe.

My own ship carved of a tree so I will remember dry land should I turn toward forgetting.

It will hold one.

Two or three if I so choose.

My family and friends will have helped me carve the thing.

We will have sung songs and toasted it’s doneness before they hand me two paddles and I pause to bow (to them and it) before I step in alone.

I will push off the beach and settle my frame into the curve of the tended wood.

I will not look back.

I am not sad. I will cut the glassy sheen of the lake

And lean into my direction.

I pull the water to me

And let it empty behind.

Pull.

Empty.

Pull.

Empty.

The rhythm lifts me.

And the work is not.

I am free.

Destination is uninteresting.

I just stay with the impossible beauty.

In raw weather

I huddle in the rain and wind

Sometimes, just yielding to the whim of the lake

Because it is bigger than me.

In the morning with wet and straggly hair

I peek outside my parka.

The way seems clear

Though I do not know where I am.

A loon sets me straight

And my paddle meets the waters.

I sing.
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-C. Aten 2011

Cut and Run

detail , hand, painted wool flannel

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Our very natural push toward survival at any cost serves us well in most cases. The fittest of us are the ones who move forward adding to the evolutionary theater as best we can. It seems unthinkable to have our trajectory beset by disease and yet here I am.

“Cath? This is God.”

“Took you long enough.”

“Well..timing is crucial on these things and I don’t mind saying you are a stubborn customer needing a bit more finessing. My feeling was at the outset that you might just benefit from a real slew of hard core challenges to shake the sleep from your eyes and get you up here faster. Let’s see…how about MS-the really hard kind? A few decades of that and humility will be yours. Pretty great take-away gift, right? I pride myself on the creative life-lesson-learning scenarios I come up with! Maybe you could choose a really controlling partner to marry and see how you do with that? Maybe rape could be part of your way and just because I believe so deeply that you can do it I’ll throw in a bitter and depressed mother who’d prefer you weren’t here and go through life figuring out how to get that love you missed.

You have the chance to deal with each of these challenges in any way you choose because of free will. It is a hard life but you can make it a very rich one as you surely have chosen to do. You can get as mad as you want at me as often as you like but I will promise you that you will feel grateful for every speck of your life and thank me in the end.”


Following the diagnosis of MS in 2000 I put most of my available energy and money into making it go away. These days I understand this is happening and it is my spiritual path for me to work with it the best ways I possibly can. Can we honor illness by recognizing the facts of it as opposed to turning away down an endless road of cure-hoping?

I deleted the last post I wrote after promising I’d keep this blog true. I betrayed myself.

I think I can just cut and run sometimes. It has been a familiar modus operandi for me.

MS is my vehicle for finding my “true.” It’s here. Might as well use the damn thing for good.

Here’s the text to the deleted post(I thought this too depressing):

It has been two months since my last post.
I want to apologize but I just can’t bear to hear one more “I’m sorry” pass through my lips.
I lost my wonderful caregiver after 7 years.
The 2 temps Medicaid sent hated dogs and tried to scam me out of money.
My family has my back as they blessedly do in my times of need and made it possible for me to hire a good friend, wonderfully smart, capable and tolerant to allow me the space to de-stress enough and begin the process of finding a permanent person.
I fell twice using the new wheelchair I ordered and now am in the process of returning this one and getting what I need.
The string of UTI’s keep on comin’.
Climate change has rendered Santa Fe virtually sun-less this summer.
My creativity is hanging out somewhere in a dustbunny-ed corner inebriated to assuage the seemingly hopeless wait for my call to attention.
Picture this: night has fallen. I sit here at the computer looking fully dressed waiting for the rain to end in order to give my beloved Emma a chance at relief on an evening walk.
I watch the “Minutecast” part of the local online weather predictor for a 15 minute break in the rain. I’v got my hat on, Emma in her leash, poop bag in place, everything looks good.
We wait.
But if it was daylight I would never chance this outfit: skirt half-way pulled up my thigh because I hadn’t the energy to move beyond my pain and get it all the way up. My thigh flesh is pretty much covered up by a black cashmere blanket. I have one shoe on because the other eluded me and who the fuck cares in the night anyway.
The sky has stopped wetting itself. Out we go; red flashing safety lights high up enough not to illuminate my cellulite inadvertently pouring through the rungs of my chair.
I think Emma still likes me enough after our long wait as I just saw a micro tail wag.
This is my life.
And I am not sorry.
Sigh.

The Solace of Civility

THE CONVERSATION, 40×40,m/m

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This morning on my early roll around my beloved Santa Fe I felt soft-hearted with Emma’s warmth pressed on my tummy.

We go fast at the outset and slower as we enter downtown.

I have a safety flag that collapses like a tent pole and I put it down approaching the plaza.

An old, unshaven Mexican busker sings unimaginably off-key and looks at me with a leaden expression as we pass without dropping money in his basket.

I felt no guilt as my policy is to give as I am moved to do and enjoy those connections thoroughly but this was not our moment.

There is a fancy OLD WEST ANTIQUE SHOW at the convention center. Handsome wild western men with 12+ gallon hats stand around comparing spurs. It makes me slightly giddy.

A well-heeled couple dripping with major Native Americana stop me to talk about Emma.

“Is she a maltese?”
“Yes”
They beamed authentic good-heartedness, had strong and clear eyes and good taste even in extravagant over-adornment. Taking their leave they left me with “Be extra careful,OK? Is there anything we can do for you? It was such a pleasure to meet you. Bye, bye now..”

I rolled away radiating wellness from this tiny encounter.

Keeping abreast of the current world dis-order,undercurrent of fear, anxiety and grief takes a great toll on sensitive souls.

What shall we all do with the sticky, uncontrollable ooze of heart-bypassing decision- making occurring within our world at present?

Once again we are asked to pull in our flailing arms and embittered reactivity

And know the only thing we have control over

Ever

Is who we are

In each moment.

So today…as I adventured out into my own wilderness

The kind words and soft hearts I met along the way

Lit my world

Enough

So here I am

Extending some of the treasure

To you.

xxxxx

What In The World To Do?

“FINE LINE”,monoprint,22×30″

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A good friend said: “If this political climate continues for another four years I am done with life. I’m outta here”.

I fully understood the sentiment.

I have thought the same about my own ‘micro-world’

Often seeming forever colored by pain or struggle or physical dissolution of some kind in relationship with MS.

There have been a few lines I thought I could not live beyond

But truthfully…getting up close and personal with such “lines”

I find they never are the end game;

The line I think I can’t live beyond.

So what is the thing that grabs me under my armpit for support to ease my weary self across that self-drawn line?

Two things:

1. BEAUTY
This is an honest to God truth for me: each and every time I think I can’t go on or have lost interest in doing such..
Just after such an energy cave-in a thing happens which emerges out of the mist, is usually very small as opposed to monumental
And makes it’s good self known with the sweetest of normalcy.

It could be: “You look so beautiful with your cute dog!” as I roll by
Or maybe someone has passed quite a ways down the street but backtracks fully just to open a door for me.
A stranger has said: “Your attitude inspires me. May I bring you a homemade dinner sometime? Share an evening and get to know you better or just drop the food at your door perhaps?”

The other day it was the tiniest moment catching the eye of a grumbling homeless man when I said “Good Morning” and he lifted his confused head and gave me the purest of smiles.

It is a family members’ financial bail out with no questions asked or my dog’s insistent mid-night press into the small of my back coupled with the indescribable sweetness of a deep and secure sigh eliciting the same from me.

My idea of Beauty used to loom so large. Now it is held in secret and tiny places.

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2. RESPONSIBILITY
These explosions of Beauty help me understand I matter. And you matter. And we each have our responsibility to do what we can to recognize our unique gifts and to give them to our fellow travelers on this grit-laden road. I can’t go precisely because of the beauty I AM..and YOU ARE.

Sedimentary Perception

AAA

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My existence in a wheelchair puts my perspective about 2 feet below yours in all likelihood.

My current penchant for going down to the Santa Fe Plaza very early in the morning has the effect of an archaeological dig at times.

This morning I saw deep brown skinned, old Mexican men lifting giant glass containers filled with fresh watermelon juice as they readied their street vendor food cart.

Pigtailed girls ran deliriously after taunting pigeons.

Native Americans sat stoically tolerating the tourist gum-chewing and innocent disrespect; their eyes slightly glazed and hungry at the same time.

I loved my soft awareness with its desire to attach itself to the surprisingly graceful choice the city gardeners made of planting corn in the large pots used to direct traffic.

Perception stayed cool and comfortably low..

Humored by high-heeled, polyester suit-clad women teetering blindly while worshiping their phones.

I could see their crowded thoughts buzzing like flustered bees above their hair.

The stately trees generously buffered the sun.

I was in love with it all; the clear air and green smell mixed with surreptitiously smoking folks trying to get small in their shame and pleasure.

The low down suits me.

All these different levels and layers of perception invisible to the others but carrying wiggling and lively realities unique to each.

How very much we miss by remaining in our familiar territories.

The lower I get the quieter I become.

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Come follow me on INSTAGRAM! I am a beginner but it sure is fun..xx

And So It Goes

“RAIN” installation, clay objects on nails sunk into wall ALWAYS IF YOU CLICK TWICE ON PHOTO IT WILL ENLARGE

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The Ten Rules For Being Human:

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1. You will receive a body.

2. You will be presented with lessons.

3. There are no mistakes, only lessons.

4. Lessons are repeated until learned.

5. Learning does not end.

6. “There” is no better than “here.”

7. Others are only mirrors of you.

8. What you make of your life is up to you.

9. All the answers lie inside of you.

10. You will forget all of this at birth.

11. All of the above will send to to the mental institution if you don’t have a dog or live with a beloved animal (Cathy’s addendum)

Chérie Carter-Scott

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EXTRA! EXTRA!! I HAVE A NEW INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT! COME FOLLOW ME, OK? https://www.instagram.com/emma.and.cathy/

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Mother

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Every year on Mother’s Day I like to check in on myself regarding how much further I have moved on the “forgiveness” track in reference to my own mother.

I feel pretty darn good this year; thoughts of her are more likely to elicit pity edging in to compassion rather than involuntary abdomen contraction.

When my brother came to visit not long ago he brought a photograph of her looking really happy and fluid in her body..relaxed and open.

It was revelatory for us to share that image.

Along my seemingly endless road to emotional healing and freedom I have spent a fair amount of time going to ADULT CHILDREN OF ALCOHOLICs meetings (part of the ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS healing work; those affected by living with an alcoholic but not being one).

This really helped me not feel crazy as most sitting in the room were broken in more places than me it seemed.

There came a time when I chose to stand up and tell my own story. It is vital to be witnessed without opinions or advice flying around uninvited.

The theme I organized my talk around was “RE-PARENTING OURSELVES”.

Now- I know I am not too boring a speaker but I was truly floored by the constant rise and exit of 2/3 of the folks in the room listening to my 15-20 minute offering of some pretty darn vulnerable parts of my life. I was dumbfounded, hurt, confused.

It took me almost a year to understand why those people left.

Having a STORY to live within which includes drama, trauma, the coalescing, super-glue magnet of shared wounding is a club that any one of us can belong to if we choose. Always..within 20 feet or so, one is guaranteed to find someone eager to share their membership to the “woe-is-me” club.

In that room years ago there were only a few souls intent on doing the hard work of healing; hoping to turn in the tattered trauma club membership card someday.

I did not have an adept mother in the nurturing department. So- I have had to learn how to re-parent myself.

I do this by:

1. Keeping my soul tuned to beauty.
2. Taking myself out to eat and reveling in being served a lovely meal and treated like a queen.
3. Trying never to miss an opportunity to reflect someones wonderfulness, beauty, originality,courage,kindness,fineness-of-being back to them so they can really register it.
4. Live authentically..unmasked..appreciating my own and others vulnerability and courage.
5. Praying for help.
6. Understanding deep in my bones my own core of goodness and celebrating it as well as those in my sphere.
7. Really remembering pretty much no one knows what the fuck they are doing most of the time.
8. Remember just existing is enough. I don’t have to DO anything to prove I deserve to take up space on the planet.
9. Smile in recognition of another’s humanity and feel the swell of largess from that tiny act.
10. Emma allows me the privilege of experiencing unconditional love and the opportunity to return it. We are an endless “figure eight” of true love.
11. Who I am is earned…not a given.

Happy Mother’s Day dearest Cathy..I love you.

Friends

A VERY SMALL ROOM

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As I have taken on years
The things I am unsure about
Demand a beginners mind
Whether I like it or not.

Poo Poo the spiritual tests
And life lessons surely needed
For pearly gate entry.
I am bored with keeping myself shiny.

I like, instead, to brush any dust off
the velvet upholstery on the very few
Crimson armchairs
Set up in my heart.

You see…the friends I love
Beyond reason
Each have their very own
Place to rest in my heart.

No one may ever sit
In someone else’s spot.
It must be this way
Because I said so.

When I love a friend
For all the ways
They keep me right
They get a chair.

Because keeping me right
Is sometimes
A very big job..
I am quite complicated (it is said).

My friends cherish my feelings
Or, I feel they do.
They help me remember myself
When I forget.

I am inspired, challenged and tenderized
Sometimes all in one sit-down.
Their curiosity about big Self and little self
I scramble to catch and keep; wear as perfume.

Because, with my friends I am “Home”
I carry a safe place for them as well.
Often you may find me tending each crimson armchair
With the love and respect any thoroughbred deserves.

Any decorations in this room
Are the tears and stories, celebration and sorrow
Precious in themselves-
And held as such.

There’s not much left to tell
But Tequila has been known
To be shared in communion –
We raise a glass to our good fortune.

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-CA

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Nurturance

“TREE OF LIFE”, 28x16x4,ceramic

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My lifetime as an artist dedicated to the authentic expression of creativity

Has had gargantuan costs along with the rewards.

Space and silence, unstructured time and seemingly foolish meanderings

Make up the ocean I swim in.

This way of living has pretty much made me unfit to participate in marriage or raising a family.

Freedom as my top value doesn’t really mix well with motherhood or intimate partnership it turns out.

I am blessed to have made the choices I have made and adore the waters I swim in

Yet, when my family visited last week I noticed a few things:

1. I HAVE BEEN WITHOUT HOME COOKING TOO DAMN LONG-
My brother brought his infra-red grill and cooked us all steak! We had baked potato,salad and wine. We ate off our laps and no one minded. My kitchen was left tidied up. We laughed and talked. I belonged to “the clean plate club”. Every part of me felt tended to.

2. ALLOWING FAMILY TO WITNESS MY DAILY CHALLENGES WAS IMPORTANT-
I need help with so much- cutting up food, making my bed with particular needs, needing to leave a get-together because my energy crashed, walking Emma, cooking, transferring, getting coats on… This is all stuff that usually happens in the shadows or with my care-giver..then I just “show up” looking well and all the struggling to participate in life is forgotten. This time my family “saw” stuff. It was intimate. And very good. It made my heart swell.

3. MY BROTHER along with others FIXED THINGS!-
I will venture to say single women pretty much worship people who can fix stuff. We live with the broken-ness of small and big things too long and get used to the brokenness which is never good. I could build a church around my appreciation of this kind of skill.

4. I REALLY MIGHT HAVE BEEN A GOOD MOTHER-
I absolutely made the right choice for me- that of understanding I needed this lifetime to be about my art career and the reality having little humans to care for would have stirred up resentment at the reality of lending a blind eye my own needs. Plus,the role-modeling I got was not the best which scared me. I saw and felt, during this visit, that had I wanted to I could have been a good mother. Don’t really know how I know that but I do.

5. THE HUGE EFFORTS INVOLVED IN TRAVELING ARE A MAJOR LOVE PRESENT-
Energy exertion toward another when it is fueled by Love is a prayer in Itself. Could be flying or driving across the country, filling up a water glass, paying for a meal, listening intently to what is said without judgement, walking a dog or putting a new roll of TP on correctly :-).

Amen.

It Took Me a Life to Learn

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Things I have learned that are most important to me now:

1. Whenever someone’s behavior triggers me and anger or resentment arise.. It is usually about me and seldom about them. (I hate this one..)

2. The line I think I can not live beyond is likely not it.

3. A smile is my most powerful tool. Free, takes up no space, universally understood, magic-maker.

4. It is way more fun to love myself than run the ragged tapes of self-disappointment.

5. A good scarf, bracelet, earrings or lipstick can elevate my state of being in an instant and act as invisible “fist bump” to people letting them know I care about putting myself together well and entering life with confidence and curiosity. Less victim..more eager participant.

6. Suffering pokes holes in the armor of a heart. Those humans and animals having experienced tenderization in this way are often recognizable to the others immediately.

7. Prayer works only if truly, madly, deeply FELT.

8. Asking for and receiving help has been my hardest thing. Being capable, independent, self-sufficient and not needing is really not the holy grail our culture espouses. I am learning INTER-DEPENDENCE.

9. Really “seeing” another person is the greatest gift I can give. This means, even for just a moment, putting aside all of my own needs, wants, drama, complaint, worry to allow space for the other person to just EXIST in my company.

10. Beauty is available everywhere and always..often in the ugliest of situations. A good life means, to me, adjusting my attitude and awareness in order to access that Beauty.

Dirt

“BLACK MESA”,3×6′, m/m

.

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I love Dirt (capitalization intended).

“Earth” is gentrified Dirt and not what we are up to today..

Did I ever tell you the story of eating Dirt?

I will tell it here again as it is a pivotal tale in my life and you may understand me a bit better after hearing it.

Moving to the New Mexico landscape from Michigan greenery and severely compressed horizon in 1989 stopped being jarring for me after the first week or two.

The place is pretty much space, sky and brown which is a darn sight different than oak trees and suburban lawns I can assure you.

One needs glasses tuned to deeply subtle beauty here; the kind barely visible inside shadows or the dark.

My beloved grandmother, Gonnie, passed away a few years after I moved here and I travelled to Michigan to attend her funeral.

She was born to the upper class but her true “hood” was the garden; roses, raspberries, lilies of the valley, lilacs planted for color and fragrance, tulips and a rock garden.

She pretty much raised me and silently taught me about Dirt and growing things.

Friendship with other women did not come easily to her and I felt the heaviness being lonely can bring

But we adored one another.

When she died I instinctively dug up a pink double-petalled peony plant and carefully bagged the moist root ball cradling it on my lap as I flew home to Santa Fe.

I dug a home for it to live and paused in prayer.

The Dirt was black and impossibly alive

With her.

I put a pinch-full on my tongue

And brought it inside my mouth and, feeling the grit, swallowed.

And cried.

It was the most beautiful form of prayer.

Of course, peonies are much too delicate to live in New Mexico

So..even after my uber-tending

The roots never took

But it really was ok because I have her in me.

Delicate-ness doesn’t last long here.

The place demands courage, resilience, self-sufficiency, silence, reflection on self and other.

If one’s roots can’t push hard enough to get to the elusive water often just out of reach,

You die.

Yes…Earth is gentrified Dirt

And I love them both

More than is reasonable.

My roots were always meant to do the muscular turning and twisting and stretching and yearning and bending and searching

Living in New Mexico demands.

I love delicacy

And am conscious of what it has taken to be in relation to the grit.

….

ps- FYI: if you click on image then click again the full detail of each image I post is revealed. 🙂

What Do We Do In The Dark?

monoprint,30×22

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This winter has been challenging for me.

Bitter cold, schizophrenic wind screaming in the eaves

And way, wayyyyyyyy too many mornings

Waking to cool grey watercolor skies.

Yuk.

My wheelchairs deep tread tires itch

For action

And I spray Chanel #5 on my curly lamb neck warmer

And wear it around the house

Like a weird prayer

For the permission

To outdoors myself.

This week warmth has snuck back in.

And good friends and family are coming to visit!

I begin happy-ing up.

Emma gets ditties sung to her

Whether she wants them or not.

During the long dark

I thought of the longest dark.

Not seriously;

More in a curious way.

I prayed in my bed

Curled fetal

Around a heating pad

I love

More than is reasonable.

I prayed for my athletic and shredded

Nervous system

To fucking give me some peace.

Emma and I make the micro-adjustments

As we lay there-

Needing the primal reinforcement

Of constant contact.

I let myself love crime TV

And try to meditate in the mornings

But I am water-logged in stillness

So inviting more seems the act of a mad person.

One day I screamed into a pillow

Out of vocal atrophy

But Emma got a look on her face

No one should ever see.

In the dark of this winter

My hibernation was

Not a peaceful one.

My friends will arrive soon

And help me reclaim

Undernourished life lines

Connecting me to

The taut and gracious

Brain and body

I let go to seed.

My underground self

Will keep stretching

Toward their warmth and humor

And my complexion will pink.

My own long migration

From the dark to the light

Depends more and more

On Communion

Of any kind

Which,

In essence,

Means not alone.

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