A New Year

"FINE LINE", 13" x 13" x4", m/m

"FINE LINE", 13" x 13" x4", m/m

____________________

I look at my life as a spiral.

Round and round I go seeming to make the same mistakes and revisiting old patterns I thought I was through with.

But really.. when I really look.. that is not the case at all.

Experiences FEEL similar as I move into that area of the spiral but in reality I’m only coming near it; skirting the thing that feels so familiar but NOT revisiting it at all as it was.

Because I am new.

New cells, new thoughts, actions, values. New. With the overlay of the past, certainly, as a valued mentor.

I can tell I’m new because I value different things than I did at this time last year.

My mind travels different and foreign and intriguing roads.

Last year I wasn’t thinking or caring about the legacy we are leaving kids to deal with.

I wasn’t able to distinguish the ‘heart’ in someone’s eyes as well as I can now.

I didn’t use that as a litmus test for whether I wanted to invest time with a person.

I hadn’t yet felt the full-on love of my dog.

And hadn’t yet said a prayer of gratitude for the clarity I have worked hard for in myself and now count on as a reliable resource.

I hadn’t heard or heeded the call to begin writing beyond the question mark: “Who are you to think you have something to say so publicly?”

Last year I wouldn’t have gone beyond the fear.

Today, I have it in me to do it moment by moment with varying success, but I DO it.

New.

Somehow, in this last year, that spiral I spoke about became my friend instead of an: “Oh no.. not THAT again.”

The friend part came from finally feeling the grace of fluidity in it.

NO THING IS FOREVER.

I find such relief in that.

Except when I don’t.

And that, there, changes too..

The ride is the thing.

Curvy, butterflies in your stomach, full out ecstasy and let’s not forget the flat tires along the way.

I wish you a wide, open road opening into adventure that feeds you and always AAA within sight when the need arises.

Happy, healthy, richly textured New Year to each of you with gratitude for your companionship on the road.

Gift of Sorts

detail of ceramic sculpture, 14" x 4" x 1"

detail of ceramic sculpture, 14" x 4" x 1"

_____________________

Yesterday, I went to have my leg brace adjusted and to pick up shoes I had ordered two months ago that would give me the support I need.

The leg contraption is so wide that regular shoes won’t accommodate it so we ordered a custom extra- wide right shoe.

I’ve been walking around with unzipped boots that feel unsafe and ugly.

Lots of my attention has been geared toward staying vertical.

When the guy opened the shoe box and pulled out the custom wide shoe, it was HUGE because of the added width and REALLY SHINY BLACK LEATHER.

Totally different than the other matte black leather it was supposed to match.

Water started pouring out of the corner of my eyes..

I tried to contain it but it just insisted.

All the tiredness I have been feeling being so careful as I walk and the dashed hope of new and relatively normal looking shoes lending me support just crossed the threshold into a ‘scene.’

I knew the guy helping me felt terrible and helpless and I started to backpedal and take care of HIM…

He left the room.

I let it rip.

He came back in.

I said: “These tears are not about you. I am tired. And disappointed. And really tired. So, don’t take it personally and just let me see the shoe catalog to pick out something else.”

Often times I have this set to my face that is between taking the high road and the sorrow of seemingly unending loss.

I see it in the mirror and it ages me.

When I came home, I looked in the mirror and saw a woman with a slightly puffy face but it was real.

I looked soft.

And spent.

And beautiful, I think.

The more I get real, the more transparent I seem to become.

It could be the new and free alternative to plastic surgery.

Shed a tear..lose a year..

Well, you know what I mean….

Have a safe Eve of the New Year.  See you then..

Joy or Freedom?

"HILL AND VALLEY", 1996, 20" x 5', m/m

"HILL AND VALLEY", 1996, 20" x 5', m/m

______________________

I would have to say that my number one value in life has been FREEDOM.

I know this because of the weeks I spent as a child messing around in the woods behind our house cleaning out the creek to make a better home for the fish.

…And how when my heart is murky and too full of other people’s business, I get in my car and drive. (For the time being..)

…And the curious fact I love silence more than changing it into something else; however beautiful, because it feels like a clean palette where anything could happen and often does.

Someone posed this question to me yesterday, that of: “Were you to be given the choice between JOY OR FREEDOM, which would you choose?”

It is a compelling question, is it not?

We, of the ‘less-than-fully-functional-physique-clan’ will likely take pause as we ponder this.

These two words may mean something quite different to us that the fully abled community.

I like it that the words feel almost from a different language to me.

Previous to the ‘PPMS visitation’, those words had a saccharine quality carrying the fragrance of our national identity as a land of plenty and more of it.

Now, as our world has changed and I have too, the words can be met again with a fresh heart.

They are worth revisiting, from my new body and new mind and reordered set of values.

But I’ll tell you a secret:

Freedom still tops the list for me.

But it wears different clothes.

Exposure

"ABORIGINE", 1996, 40" x 60", m/m

"ABORIGINE", 1996, 40" x 60", m/m

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It is a strange thing to expose one’s self as I have done in the video I just posted to this site.

I say strange because after I went very public with the film clip, I felt the big “V” word: VULNERABLE!!!

Oh, my God, she says.. people can see how I walk and almost cry and pull it together and don’t have it all figured out and the hardware I use and my home and my shiny skin and… and…….

One of the gifts I have been blessed with in this lifetime has been the ‘whatever-it-is’ that allows me to speak up in a way that helps others really have a better experience of a situation they may never face themselves but find it valuable to know something about.

I have been called up to the plate a number of times to speak when others couldn’t or wouldn’t or chose not to.

After I posted the video yesterday, the little girl in me starts in: “Well… who are you to think you have something of value to say?”

So, I told her that I am just a woman dealing with MS who is tired of hiding and wants to make a difference in some way and the way I think I can do that is to tell the truth.

I know people recognize the truth when it is on the table and I think it gives others permission to follow suit.

Away…away from the cultural template of ‘OK-ness.”

It is a messy, messy business..this living- a- life- thing we are doing.

And yet- how utterly riveting the drama is! The whole darn thing is just plain entertaining when you get your pesky self out of the way.

My New Video!

video

I have been working on a short (5 minute) video portrait in which I speak about the changes taking place in my life since I was diagnosed with MS.

This is my first effort toward my desire to begin speaking publicly to schools, hospitals, really any group interested in looking at disability in healthy and ‘non-victim’ ways.

My definition of disability is not just the kind I deal with which is readily visible to all.

I consider disability ANYTHING that keeps one from living a life of wholeness.

Is the MS I deal with that different from the effects of a learning disability or poor self worth or poverty or depression, acute shyness or addiction?

The list goes on and on.. those hidden fractures we cover up to look good.

A huge common denominator is the fact that in all of these examples of living separated from Source (however you define that) one’s mind is infected like a virus and thinks of little else beyond HOW TO MAKE IT GO AWAY.

There are ways to live on the razors’ edge, as I call it, where half of one’s attention is given to the hope of a return to what we considered ‘whole’ and  the remaining intention directed toward looking at ‘what IS’ and making peace.

I have the sort of weird blessing of not being able to hide my disability and the interest in articulating what possibilities exist that have helped to allow a thriving life.

I am a work in progress. A large part of my own healing is transparency.

The video is posted on You Tube as well as here on my blog (see Cathy’s video page).

Please let me know what you think…

I’d really like to know.

Clan

untitled, 1996, ceramic

untitled, 1996, ceramic

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I had Christmas dinner, yesterday, with new friends.

One, I had spent a total of maybe three hours with.

Her husband I had never met.

I thought it rather odd of me to accept their generous offer of taking me to dinner as I don’t REALLY know them and it was CHRISTMAS, after all..

But I did. And I am so very glad.

I keep wondering how it is that a very few times in life (in my case) an entire history of time spent together becomes moot as the ease of an unmistakable KNOWING of a person presents itself and the two of you just carry on in the heightened reality of: “what IS this?” but then again not wanting to dissect the gift.

So you carry on just enjoying the ride.

Occasionally cocking your head whispering to the ‘larger-than-ourselves’ , “THANK YOU.”

Building a friendship is hard work and a time consuming thing so when one gets the gift of a good one just dropped in ones’ lap, you have to take pause…

It has happened to me often enough so I don’t question it.

This ‘thing’ occurs in varying increments in life; sometimes a whollop of recognition and other times the reality of it sneaks in through a smile or written word or touch or kindness given.

Time means nothing.

It is reassuring in that way.

Sometimes, I have not been the best ‘chooser-of-theater-partners-in-life’ so I’m ssssssoooooooo grateful when it appears an outside force seems to orchestrate the meeting.

A gift of the highest order.

An arrival.

Christmas.

Snow Fort

snowfort

When I grew up in Michigan the winters were longgggggggggg…

And grey.

The thing was that we had GIANT snowfalls of two feet, sometimes.

The drifts were spectacular.

When the wind died, I started carving those giant mounds of snow and eventually had an igloo kind of thing.

I created this snow architecture in the neighboring field.

Hidden.

Here, in Santa Fe, we’re having alot of snow but not the fort-building kind.

Those days are past, I’m afraid.

I miss the warm half-light inside my igloo.

It was so quiet yet all the natural sounds were amplified; branches cracking, bird calls, dripping icicles.

I thought I could hear my own blood.

I see now that those days were the beginning of my love of silence.

I seldom listen to music except some Motown in the car sometimes.

If I pick out a CD to play it never seems to match my mood and I don’t want to be drawn away into someone else’s world.

I remember when that’s ALL I wanted… to be taken.

So, these days at home, the most stimuli my taxed nervous system can tolerate is some Renaissance Lute.

It’s interesting how noisy even meditation can be.

So, on this snowy day, I am hungering for that little girl’s snow fort surrounded by yellow winter grasses and a still blue sky, big enough to stretch out in and listen.

Hmmmm….

"WINTER", 1990, 30" x 30", m/m

"WINTER", 1990, 30" x 30", m/m

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I was up a good deal of the night, last night, reading my favorite book, “A JOSEPH CAMPBELL COMPANION, Reflections on the Art of Living.”

It is a very little book but the one that speaks to me loudest after all these years.

The guy had it goin’ on, I tell you.

The real deal.

One thing he said: “It is all about finding that still point in your mind where commitment drops away” has me taking pause…

I am ssssssooooooooo commited to getting healthy.

I don’t think he means drop the commitment?

Rather live on the razor’s edge, maybe?

That place between surrendering completely to the course of this health challenge AND being ever alert and active in moving toward health, whatever that LOOKS like?

Well, with all the question marks I’m using this morning, clearly I don’t have this figured out..

And onward she goes, into a brand new day where possibility exists for answered questions, good chocolate, a surprise flirt or a smile from a dog.

Outside the Box

textile design, 1987, silk jersey

textile design, 1987, silk jersey

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I really had to take a pause when I looked at this photo of one of the menswear designs included in our company’s (“Betes’ de Colueurs”- beast of color..) offerings from our one season of production.

My partner designed the styles of the clothes and I hand-painted the fabrics.

This was in the 80’s in Boston.

I look at this and am quite sure it is my proclivity to swim in unconventional waters which has saved me.

By this, I mean that I am forever drawn to characters of all sorts; geniuses, cowboys, scientists, hermits and prophets along with those who want to remain quite hidden but I see them, there in the shadow.

It’s really just that I’m interested in life…

How awful and miraculous and changing it all is..

There are those living lives that seduce with the sheen of ‘togetherness.’

The mess is hidden.

The juice wiped clean.

God, I am tumbling awkwardly in the dropped and turning fruit under the mango tree..

The scent so rich it borders on putrid.

And yet…

And yet…

Perhaps the wine could turn out to be silken and smooth made from such fruit.

We shall see..

We shall see.

Compassion.. or something

livvy

 

My dog has taken to copying my movements by scooting across the floor while dragging her right leg behind her.

(I don’t actually do the scooting thing as I AM still upright… blessedly…)

When she first started doing this it stopped me in my tracks.

Was it a submissive ploy to get a treat?

No.

She actually picked her right leg (the choice from which she never wavers) to connect with me in this way.

My right side is my weak side; arm and leg.

When she does this, I am often spirited back to the playground in gradeschool when the bullys would make fun of my overbite or propensity to hit home runs when they weren’t.

A dorky friend would always make sure I knew I was great and good and perfect and not alone.

He would always do this with some private sort of non-verbal attempt at kindness.

He was awkward but did I care?

I was NOT alone out there on the playground!

Someone SAW my magnificence!

Or, at least a little courage.

Is there ANYTHING better than that? Really?

To be seen, truly?

I think not…

So, here in Santa Fe, New Mexico, there is a girl and a dog who ‘get’ each other.

And life is good.

Fish

untitled, textile hanging, 1990, 5' x 5', pigment on wool flannel

untitled, textile hanging, 1990, 5' x 5', pigment on wool flannel

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When I was quite young, I often stayed with my grandmother.

Near her house there was a lake and the banks were perfectly brambled and muddy.

I found a secret place there and went with my fishing pole of stick and twine.

I sat there for hours, hidden, watching the bright orange giant carp in the pond lazily weaving through the murk.

Never did catch one on my hook.

But one day, I caught one between my two hands!

THRILLING!

But I was on the other side of the lake from my grandmother’s so I started running with this giant orange creature between my hands outstretched in front of me.

Probably took a good 15-20 minutes of running till I made it to the spigot in the bathtub and filled it up and put the fish in.

My grandmother came home and was horrified. We had a little ‘sit-down’ right there on the edge of the bathtub.

Her point was that the fish was probably missing it’s brothers and sisters and I might want to think about reuniting them.

I couldn’t believe she wasn’t flipping out in excitement over my feat!

I took the fish back to it’s home (in a pail) and am still thinking about that fish today.

It was a very American thing I did.

I saw. I want. I take.

Totally self-centric.

Yes, I know this is a stretch, this metaphor as I was sssssooooo young and didn’t know better but still, I kinda think it works…

During the holidays I feel a similar kind of energy which takes me so far out of the peaceful and almost ecstatic ‘wriggle-watching’ I experienced with the fish as I just plain witnessed the life happening.

That energy VS…

I LIKE THAT.. I’m gonna BUY that.. My friend will LOVE this!.. This is the PERFECT outfit! I’ll look GREAT… I WANT THAT!!!!!!!! Hurry, We’ll be late… Come ONNNNNNNNN…

Last night, when I drove home from a party the new crescent moon was up.

It made so much perfect sense to me to see her there…adding to herself a little bit, night by night.

She was wise to put herself out of our arm’s reach…

Wings

"FLY GIRL", 2006, 13" x 13" x 4", earth, shell, bone, gravel

"FLY GIRL", 2006, 13" x 13" x 4", earth, shell, bone, gravel

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Prayer:

Dear God, give me air
To make lighter
The weight
We all feel
That covers up
The perfection
You gave us
As your gift.

Love,
Cathy

Sit Down

textile designs (shorts,top), silk, 1987

textile designs (shorts,top), silk, 1987

___________________

Yesterday, I had a sobering appointment with a new physical therapist adept in working specifically with neurological issues.

I say sobering because I was able to see the weakness level in my body through another’s eyes.

It really did not match up with the story in my own head.

I have lost ALOT of function. Alot.

I could see the fear in the PT’s eyes.

It always shocks people a little bit to see a woman my age struggling to remain erect even holding onto a walker or turn from her back to her stomach on the table or, for God’s sake, put on her sock.

It all made me heave a big sigh…

Yes, everybody is always taken by my great attitude and I AM blessed to reside closer to hope than despair.

But it was only my dog in the car who saw me weep after that appointment.

It is time to sit down.

Time for the reality of adding more hardware to the litany of support apparatus in my stable here..

The wheelchair. The scooter.

My ego is cast iron.

I am vain and independent and stubborn.

We only change, it seems, when we get in enough pain or fear.

If I fall, I am in deep shit.

I love life too much to chance it.

I really have to laugh at how I write all the time about the unknown and how my creativity has allowed me to realize over these many years that it is that place.. the unknown.. that holds promise beyond anything we could EVER imagine.

And yet we cling to what we KNOW till our knuckles are positively RAW.

Essentially, I am pretty bored with what I know.

If I treat this transition like an adventure, I’ll be fine.

Better than fine.

Real. Supported. Secure. Curious. Real.

Solstice

"YES", 6' x 4', 1995, m/m

"YES", 6' x 4', 1995, m/m

________________

HAIKU FOR SOLSTICE:

***

THAT LIGHT!  She be comin’..

YES, she be very nearby…

AIN’T WEARIN’ A STITCH!

————-

-C.A.

Containment

I have been practicing putting my attention on containing my energy as I go through my day.

That means being aware if I am spreading any ‘sloppy’ energy around possibly affecting anyone in close range.

Am I frustrated? Angry? Numb? Blameful? Overtaxed? Overstimulated? Afraid? Gossipy? Bored?

I see that in any of these states, I want to get rid of it so I often let it indiscriminately seep into conversations or meetings or even my relationship with my dog.

I resent it when people use me as a dumping ground.

But I do it alot, too.

There’s a big difference between times when depth is invited and when it isn’t.

Cathy: pay attention..pay attention..pay attention..

It is probably the biggest community service we can offer.

All Of Us

detail of "BARNACLE", 2002, ceramic, 30" x 6" x 4"

detail of "BARNACLE", 2002, ceramic, 30" x 6" x 4"

When I first moved to Santa Fe in 1989 and enamored of the newness and enchantment of it all (which I’ve never lost, by the way..),

..as the holidays rolled around each year I would choose a church to visit for the Christmas Eve service.

This activity REALLY surprised me as I am certainly not a regular church goer.

But somehow, as the Solstice comes upon us, I hunger for the sacred experienced as a group instead of my usual tendency of prayer in solitude.

I want to sit, stand, kneel next to another human and smell incense and raise my voice and settle into a sweet harmony with my neighbor beside me.

I want the structured time for drinking in the coming light.

It keeps happening each year, this winding down of Nature and in it’s due time, SHE PROMISES TO WAKE ONCE AGAIN!

Thrilling, when you think about it..

As the years rolled by and my yearly ‘church picks’ never really eased my yearning for community of a particular sort during the holidays,

I stopped looking there for solace.

I see that there is a distinct thread of the pagan in me.

I’ve traded the cathedral for a Native American dance in the frigid cold of an early morning.

I sing alot to my dog.

I practice marking the moon cycles with made-up ritual.

I light beautiful lights in my home.

I share a deeply reverent marking of the actual Solstice with friends.

I turn my eye to those less fortunate.

The sorrow I feel is the recognition we have become SO VERY ADEPT in our individuation process.

My life is a perfect example.

But what of it?

Where is the real opportunity to harmonize with my neighbor?

I don’t even know their names….

Leaving a bottle of wine on their doorstep as a thank you for the kindness they’ve extended over the year feels dry and lazy.

I miss the midnight walk through the snow headed toward the lit up cathedral and shuffling into cramped quarters with the dank smell of wet wool and eyes around me softened by the inner truth of the very real presence of some benevolent force much larger than our selves.

What can we agree on and raise our voices to?

Trust

distance

I have been noticing the self-created distance happening between myself and my world.

Not beating myself up here.. just observing.

There have always been two distinct parts of me vying for airtime; the VERY private woman who thrives on and steeps herself in the kind of solitude that feels full of life,

…and the woman who finds the world and all it holds, unbearably beautiful and wants to be IN IT and splash around and hear people’s stories and brush away a tear and have an opinion and speak her truth, and catch some innocence out of the corner of her eye.. or some courage, maybe.. or arrogance or humility..

THE ALL OF IT.

But somewhere along the line I got my guard up.

And I can’t seem to get it down.

I am so very sensitive to the energies of the world at large and all that includes that I get quite exhausted exposing myself to it all.

And inside that truth is another that reads something like: “I just need time to figure this whole body disintegration thing out so just leave me alone until I can put enough pieces of this thing together so it seems like I’m on top of this bear.”

I’m not used to being SO EXPOSED.

I don’t like it.

But when I have lost the energy it takes to withhold the truth from others and myself, I open the door again and make amends to various loved ones and forgive myself for every innocent action and thought even if I imagine it reflects poorly on me.

For the deal is that NO ONE knows how a challenge like this might rest on them until you feel the weight.

In each and every moment there is the choice to collapse or rise to it.

Seems as though when I pull it together to begin again, there is often a big, giant and compassionate hand at the ready to help bridge that sometimes unthinkably broad river between grit and grace.

It has appeared so often for me that I am beginning to TRUST it will always be there… almost as the reward for my reach.

Something like: “WELL DONE, Cath…  You are seen and valued.  Here’s something to ease your heart…”

And then… I get up…and go on.  (With help)

Good Egg

untitled, 2002, ceramic, steel, lgst.= 30"h x 4"d

untitled, 2002, ceramic, steel, lgst.= 30"h x 4"d

A Mexican man works as a busboy at a local restaurant I like.

Every time I see him, I can’t stop watching.

He sort of glows…

He goes about his business ever-so-unobtrusively with an air of serenity I rarely see.

His attention is on the task at hand but who he is as he works affects those around him in subtle but unmistakable ways.

He is beautiful to look at but that’s not the point.

The energy around him is somehow contained and not sloppy, but really generous just the same.

Words like impeccability and integrity come to mind.

He is clearly at peace with the whole deal; who he is as he does his job, the quality of job he is doing, even those of us watching him.

I’ll speak for myself but I am drawn to him because of his quality of ‘owning the piece of ground I walk on’ he exudes and it and there isn’t even a HINT of ego. Just peace and a quiet and radiant enjoyment of the moment.

All his ducks seem like they are in a row.

But I’m sure if I asked him, he’d have another story to tell.

I think that, right there is the POINT!

There weren’t no story doggin’ that man..

He left it at home and had it in him to meet the day..

Fresh, like. Free of content.

And what a gift that was…

Too Much Information

spiral

This article came up today about symptoms which mimic MS:

Honestly.. I wish I had a resident (meaning IN MY HOME) doctor to translate all this for me.

It is just plain exhausting.

I am going to stop right here for today and go shovel the snow and try real hard to inject a little ‘ordinaryness’ into this life.

My mind is dog-tired from diagnostic gymnastics.

Today, feeding the birds feels like damn good medicine.

Virgin Galactic

"FINE LINE", 1999, 11" x 11" x 4", m/m

"FINE LINE", 1999, 11" x 11" x 4", m/m

New Mexico is host to Richard Branson’s big adventure.

For $200,000.00 you can experience 5 minutes of weightlessness and a 1000 mile view as the high points of your voyage from Earth to the edge of outer space and back again.

The plane was supposed to be unveiled to the public for the first time from the Mojave Desert day before yesterday but the flight was postponed due to high winds.

Check out this plane.

I love the over-the-top entrepreneurship of Branson.

He wanted something and went out and made it happen.

The display of this kind of passion and will helps me have hope that there are people out there that care very much about the eradication of MS and all neurological question marks.

And that results from their explorations are soon forthcoming.

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