Full Moon

Today, I am off to Chicago to see my sister and her family.

I’ll be back online Tuesday.

Tonight is the full moon and it seems to be having an effect on everyone I know.

FRACTIOUS is a word I’d use to describe the state of affairs out in the world right now.

Drama, worry, indecision everywhere.

I had a massage yesterday after denying myself that pleasure for too long.

It was with someone new so there was a bit of that weirdness before you begin to learn someone.

I disrobed and started to try to get up on the table.

My leg wouldn’t lift and so I tried to lean over and roll myself into position.

After about 5 minutes I got there but my gown was all tangled underneath me and this was when he came in.

He said: “Did you have a bit of trouble getting up here? I heard a bit of moaning.”

I burst out laughing as the sounds I utter are quite inaudible to me when I am concentrating really hard to attempt a physical challenge.

I’m telling you, humility is the best invention around..

If I didn’t have that, there is a good chance I’d be very alone and angry.

The moon governs tides and it’s gravitational pull acts on our 90% watery selves.

I use these times of full moon to let go of what doesn’t serve me anymore.

I give it over to her and she takes it gladly.

I almost see some sort of sly smile as she seems to know what I let go of makes room for ‘other’ which has NEVER ONCE failed to excite, inspire, intrigue or satisfy me.

I am feeding her my PRIDE at the moment.

Take it, dear moon, and leave my heart a little more undefended, a little more open to innocence without judgement.

Magic


“GOOD MEDICINE”, 2005, 20″ x 12″ x 5″, ceramic, granite, giant porcupine quills
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How can food act as such a neurotoxin, I ask you?

I was rolling around in the world just fine and then had brown rice pasta the other night for dinner.

BAM!

Cathy wakes up close to paralyzed.

When food affects me in this way it takes 48 hours to leave my system and I can literally feel my body reawakening inch by inch.

This morning I am whiney and angry and bordering on scared.

When my body shuts down like this I can’t stop myself from thinking this is the way it will always be.

I am so far away from God and Grace this morning that I am asking for magic.

Magic… are you out there? Can you hear me? Will you send me some hope-in-a-box? What foods will you have me eat to sustain me and make me strong? Can you hear me? Is my voice too small this morning? Could you put on your hearing aide as I haven’t the energy to amplify today.

(I guess Magic has issues as well… comforting, somehow.)

A Friend

Intimacy means very different things to me now as a 55 year old woman than it did as a teenager.

What do you make of it when an email arrives with the message an old friend from high school is very ill and you remember having so very little substantial conversation with him; couldn’t say you really knew him at all… but you KNEW him and LOVED a part of him and recognized him in some weird way?

Lately, I have more and more recognition of those people I call my TRIBE.

Those few I know without knowing anything.

That probably makes little sense but we’re talking about being connected to people in ways other than through normally perceived avenues like shared history.

My sense is that there are people we could have as lovers or mothers or grocery store checkers that pass through our lives with the intent of unmasking us in some way or lighting a fire under our butt or perhaps helping us remember the best of ourselves when we forget or even showing us who we are NOT.

These recognitions feel so intimate to me.

Their purpose is far beyond my knowing but I trust them and am glad for the contact; the benign, lovingly supportive and gut wrenchingly challenging all.

Salmon Swimming Upstream


“SALMON SWIMMING UPSTREAM”, 1985, 5′ x 5′, pigment on wool flannel
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I remember painting this textile so many years ago and giving it this title because I had no idea how I ever painted such a thing; complicated, otherworldly, beautiful, never-could-do-that-again-if-I-tried.

It made me think of how no painter I have ever experienced has been able to reproduce on canvas the light of the sun flicking off water.

Perhaps EVERY painter has tried this.

But there are just some things too much larger than us to think we could ever tie it down in 2 dimensions.

Salmon fighting to get back to their nesting grounds is another one of those ‘too much bigger than us’ events to try to comprehend.

I look at myself and all those dealing with a chronic health challenge in the same way I see the salmon; WE ARE DOING WHATEVER IT TAKES TO GO HOME TO GROUND FAMILIAR AND SAFE TO US.

No matter if we stop behind a rock where the eddy is softer and we are out of the ferocious current for a moment or a week or a few years.. we rest there.

And then we go out there and fight the fight once again.. on our way home.

For us, home may mean so many things.

We may run out of steam an the midst of the journey and just stop the fight and surrender to the wiles of the gods of the river.

Or the stamina needed to keep on keeping on may be ours and we make headway.

Or, if we are really fortunate, we sense that we are like the turtle and are ALWAYS at home and the journey is decidedly dependent on our point of view.

That right there has been the jewel in my crown so far in life..

I really am getting it that my existence is 100% dictated by my attitude.

Does this mean I don’t get pissy and frustrated and retreat to bed for days at a time sometimes?

Well, no… I am still here in the flesh with every cell of me calibrated toward finding home and a lot of the time I only have the strength to make it to the bed.

And that perceived passivity just kills me sometimes.

Until I get it that it is just an eddy behind a rock in the stream and I remember the last time I hung out in one I was better and stronger and ready to reenter the stream.

Rest, reenter, rest, reenter… smart moves.

Good Birthday


“BLACK MESA”, 1996, 3′ x 7′, m/m
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My birthday is actually way back in February but it was snowing then.

And I told my good friend that what I REALLY wanted as a gift was to go with her to Christ in the Desert Monastery.

Since yesterday was her real birthday, we made the journey together.

It is a LONG drive there over 13 miles of washboard road and I just don’t seem to have the stamina to make the whole trip alone these days.

Believe me, I have tried, but I get to the halfway point and have to turn around.

So, my friend driving was a fabulous gift.

The place is my top spiritual haunt.

If I have to find God in a hurry, this is where I go.

It has nothing to do with the fact it is a monastery.

It’s the place.

And the journey.

The last hour of the drive is along a rushing river with the road often one lane and curving round perched high on a cliff.

The sage is out now and the air was clear and bright yesterday.

You see stuff you’d never see in the city like where we stopped for lunch: a giant tree had fallen long ago and there happened to be a deer which unfortunately met it’s demise in that moment.

My dog found the remains of skeleton and fur and was ecstatic.

It was weird to see that moment marked like that.. what are the chances?

We had a perfect picnic off the tailgate and felt very blessed.

We saw hawks and wildflowers and red,yellow and green rock cliffs.

Not a human sound anywhere.

The chapel at the end is extraordinary.

It is a lovely form of communion to share a previously private experience with a friend.

Prayer alone is one thing. Prayer in good company is another.

I loved our day. It felt fun and full and tender and fulfilling.

I think the biggest healing part of the journey is the experience of leaving all the habitual static of my life behind for a day; all the drama and familiar worries and concerns about the future and unanswerable questions and other peoples’ ‘stuff’ that seems to stichk to me like glue.

For the day, I am free.

Art of Containment


untitled, 2007, 14″ x 4″ x 2″, ceramic, STEEL
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This sculpture actually has a pouch in it like a kangaroo.

I have been practicing the art of containing my energy when I am out in the world to make sure I am being very deliberate when choosing to be in relationship.

Am I having a bad day and sliming everyone around me with my own private hell?

Or am I feeling so good that I indiscriminately make sure that everyone knows?

Perhaps I am tired and slogging through a day subtly pissed off at everyone and thing until I can be home to rest.

Even just getting out of the car after hearing a favorite song and still so IN it that I miss the curb completely.

The almost boredom of an ‘even’ life can send me into a dash to stir things up by complaining to a friend about something that didn’t matter a hoot to me an hour ago.

And so… I am practicing containing my energy so as not to cause more of a ripple effect than I intend to.

Everyone has enough of their own personal theater to think that they are always happy to add mine to their mix.

I am just experimenting with how it feels to have my life experience and be VERY choosy and aware as to how I spread it around.

This is sort of hard, I am finding.

But the core of it feels very right and good.

Posturing


textile design, 1988, silk
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The art world is made up of a lot of what you see pictured here.

It is a huge dose of a way of being most of us can relate to because we have it too.

I want you to see me in a certain way so I present that face to you all the while I have my authentic self hidden beneath a good make-up job or pretty smile or so many letters after my name.

You can push the posturing thing in the aesthetic realm or just as effectively by playing victim to anything at all.

A finely tuned ‘woe-is-me’ story has the same effect oftentimes.

I am not minimalizing peoples’ pain and suffering as I certainly have my own share.

What I am trying to get to is the idea that art posturing and illness posturing are seductive because they each do a great job of LOOKING LIKE they draw people closer in but really they are like a cheap, synthetic cologne you might buy on a grimy street in New York.

They both act as a cover.

In the art world, the objective is to be seen as way cool and immune to the horror of the utter precariousness of the fact you are only as fabulous as your last body of work and you are beyond caring what anyone thinks of you.

In reality, the act of creation is an invitation to BE SEEN and taken seriously on some level for most.

It says more about ‘I CARE DEEPLY’ than ‘Who cares?’

In the illness realm, rattling off symptoms and medication and doctor’s names and more symptoms often has the effect of the drone of a beehive; our audience numbs out while trying to support us with a gracious modicum of compassion.

But really.. what likely is underneath the drone is a frightened, exhausted and vulnerable human being not knowing how to find a way to tell their truth.

The attention we all get from the drama of the speaking of human frailty is supposed to take the place of the true connection we might actually get if we said how scared we are.

I am tired of tolerating my own and others’ posturing.

This is a very good sign, I think.

Too Fast


“BIG SWEEP”, 1999, 30″ x 30″, m/m
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I spent the best part of the night in the emergency vet clinic the other day.

Olivia was screaming as she jumped on the bed or lying listless far, far away from me as she slept only to wake me by wrapping herself tightly around my neck.

Something was very wrong.

Turns out she was constipated.

And I know why…

I am not happy about relating this story but I am confessing rather than self-flagellation.

Turns out that I have been so enamored of the speed my new wheelchair tops out at that I’ve been enjoying myself a bit too much and forgetting to stop and smell the roses, so to speak.

Olivia has been so game in keeping up with my pace and her little body looks so trim and buff that I thought she was enjoying the whole thing.

When she seemed tired I would pick her up and she’d ride proudly in my lap.

But how, oh how could I have been sssssssoooooooo dense that I didn’t give her enough time to do her business?

I am mortified at the realization I put my piddly need for speed over her basic bodily functions.

I saw what I wanted to see; my beloved dog finally getting to take a long walk with ME instead of the dog walker.

A dog who looked alert and happy for the adventure of it all.

And one eager and beside herself to go out and do it again and again.

The heartwrenching thing about the critter I live with is the fact that she keeps forgiving me for all my failings.

No matter what, she looks up at me with impossibly alive eyes and wagging her butt as she waits patiently to do the next thing with me; whatever it is.

I am grateful for another chance to hone my love into something more fine tuned toward her well being.

My Home


textile design, 1990, pigment on wool flannel
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HOME
.
.
What is that lovely thing
.
Meeting us at the threshold?
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All of me in colors.
.
.
.CA 2010

Next Chapter


untitled, 2005, each = 30″ h x 5″, ceramic
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Lately, I feel as if I’d like to crawl deep into the layers of a form like this.

I am not sure who I am as a woman after so much damn time with MS at the helm in my life.

I am sick of my life being so ‘body centric’ as I move toward health.

Where is the woman in here??????????????

The flirty girl who can feel the heat of a good man.

I almost wish someone could shake me out of it…

The ‘it’ being the almost perpetually neutralized state of survival and ‘fall down / get up,’ and pills and hypervigilance while walking and the work it takes to re-create a life when the other one fades.

I want to feel those fluttery butterflies in my stomach as I appreciate a beautiful man.

I really need a jolt out of this sedentary life.

I just noticed that almost every sentence in this post begins with an I. “I want. I need….”

Perhaps this is a sign I am bored with this particular piece of my healing and the next one needs to include some female-enhancing elements.

Maybe some wooing and carnal pleasure.

IS THE GIRL STILL IN HERE????????????????

Secret Lives

“TERRITORY”, 1997, 50″ x 40″, m/m
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There are those of us who, when ill, demand care.

Others pull into their cave and use any and all energy to tend to themselves.

I fall into the later category.

It is a little bit of my upbringing; the be seen and not heard thing.

Sometimes it gets a bit extreme and I spend days in bed sleeping and reading.

A friend of mine who also deals with MS has a husband who wants a life, too.

She tells me of the extra strain on her to make sure his needs are taken care of.

I recognize that because I live alone, I am able to make ‘drop out’ choices as I see fit in my own healing.

Sometimes I am just hiding and I do tend toward isolation at times.

It really is a privilege I claim at this point.

I often feel that full out participation in this culture of excess and noise and blaming the other guy is a good reason I now deal with my health challenges.

Not all of it but part.

My nervous system is not tuned toward the lowest common denominator we all tend to move toward when more than one of us are gathered.

My intermittent ‘cave-time’ leaves me markedly ready to rejoin society from a stronger position.

One from which I see I can make a difference.

So, in the end, my disappearances are a vital part of my ‘get healthy’ tool kit.

I have to be vigilant with myself to avoid the trap of denial.

When to PUSH THROUGH the utter weakness and depression and when to do cave time?

I really have not the answer as it is a moment-by-moment thing.

But I am getting pretty good at leaving the shame behind as I do whatever it takes to reclaim health even if it looks antisocial.

I love people.

And it seems possible I am being given the grace of time and space to do a little make-up homework in the ‘loving Cathy’ department.

Not Neutral


“DANCE”, 1992, 4′ x 3′, m/m
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The deadliest mode of being I am aware of is that of NEUTRALITY.

For me that means you haven’t even picked up the sword let alone walk the razor’s edge.

In the case of illness as well as anything else in life, the Gods need SOME kind of direction.

Because I lived for so long attempting to smooth out wrinkles and load up the room service trays of various hungry people, I could not distinguish a sword from a 2 x 4.

This does not a warrioress make…

One marker for health, in my book, is the ability to walk on that finely hewn metal edge as a fully electric being as you keep your wits about you enough to bob and weave according to the shifting balance point.

It pays to have some training in yoga and breathe deeply into your belly.

And also take a few liberties like having a good friend below with the mattress unfurled should you need a soft place to fall.

But Albert Camus said: “LIVE TO THE POINT OF TEARS.”

And I have begun to appreciate the salt content in the recipes I use for living.

My Wheelchair Is Fast (finally)


untitled, 1980, 24″ x 5′, pigment on wool
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Ok.. I know I was moaning about my wheelchair’s capacity to go faster than a crawl.

Number one: Did I ever in my wildest dreams imagine I would use the words ‘my’ and ‘wheelchair’ in a sentence in my lifetime?

NOT!!!!!!!!!

Number two:   Is it really fun to have figured that out ?   By gum…  the damn thing really goes at a clip!

YES, Indeed………..

I figured out that there were different ‘modes’ one could set the chair to and I inadvertently had mine set to the aged and decrepit mode.

AND NOW!!!!!!!!!!!                    NOW I GO FAST!

I drag the dog behind me…    (not really).

I went online and found a cool safety flag because, interestingly, I think I want to stick around for awhile.

I am taking my own advice and tuning my point-of-view towards adventure instead of some weird and ‘take-me-down’ kind of experience.

The best advice someone gave me when it was time for me to get a walker was this: “Cathy, just look at it as support, not a sentence.”

And I see now that I very much like the feeling of support after a lifetime of trying to do it (the life thing) alone.

Allowing support is a fine thing, actually.

I am looking at myself as part of a mangrove forest.

One small part of the whole with the knowledge that without me, the symphony and perfection of the root system would ring a sour tune.

Undefended Heart


“DIVIDED”, 1984, 5′ x 5′, pigment on wool flannel
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My body feels bad when I move through my life defending myself from stuff like the bad man staying with my landlady who kicked my dog yesterday (because she bit him on his shoe),

Or when I look at all the stuff I have to do and make excuses,

And then there’s the whole ‘MS thing’ that I defend myself against constantly.

Food is another issue for me as I am sensitive to so much that I now live in a borderline malnourished state because I am pretty much afraid to eat.

And I take pills to fend off symptoms that put a crimp in a life of freedom.

Then there’s the people that want to ‘fix’ me and know someone who has MS who was cured by traveling to Bolivia.

I’ve defended myself against the reality I needed a wheelchair for a long time.

And the amount of support I DO need is a constant source of alarm until I actually relax into it and receive the gift.

Does all this sound bitter?

Perhaps..

My heart feels so broad and able to recognize benevolent energy coming toward me when I put all the armor in the closet.

One benefit of dealing with a chronic illness is the fact that I haven’t the energy to keep my armor all shiny and ‘at-the-ready’ anymore..

And so.. I am rendered undefended.

And so have a better chance at love…

Layers


“SNAKE IN THE GRASS”, 1980, 4″ x 6′, pigment on wool flannel
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I remember creating this piece as a sort of record of my day.

A diary entry if you will.

Revisiting it after all these years I see that things are not all that different.

There is still that snake in the grass in the form of MS which, back then, was probably something like a headache keeping me from a date. (bottom layer)

Still have attention on various relationships which need work or are doing great. (man, woman, ladder)

All my primary symbols making early appearances:  ( turtle, 4 directions, ladder, bullseye)

And all the big questions are still rolling around in my brain. (spirals at top with opening toward the heavens ready to get the answers)

So, what IS different?

Mainly my point-of-view.

I can shift it fairly easily these days into a place which feels full-of-life instead of living at the effect of all the cultural and personal overlays we are all at the mercy of.

Until we’re not.

MS = death sentence and incurable… OR… MS = change to be addressed and managed while holding hands with POSSIBILITY.

For goodness sake.. aren’t we all a little bit bored by all the stuff  WE ARE SO SURE WE THINK WE KNOW?

The state of boredom is a very powerful one if we let it be and not cave into abject lethargy.

Making a Mark


detail of painted wool flannel, 1990
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Cave paintings have always enchanted me.

I am drawn to the idea that people almost have it hard-wired into them to leave a mark of some kind.

I was here.

Just in case there was ever a question.

I have witnessed myself painting my own hand and spreading my fingers wide as I pressed down and held the palm there for a moment as I pressed.

I have left my handprint on more than a few works of art I’ve created.

It just feels good to do it.

As you see here, I added a stigmata.

I remember doing this fairly regularly under the guise of; ‘I like how it looks graphically,’ but of course, the underlying reason was surely that there was a part of me in pain whether I was admitting it or not.

Leaving some sort of mark on the world has always been a desire of mine.

I see now that it may not be through my creation of painting or sculpture as I no longer have the physical capability nor the desire, actually.

So, I wonder.

Not incessantly, but I am curious how my creativity and desire to be the person long ago in that dark cave intent on leaving her mark will surface now in my life.

For all my talk of remaining in the present moment I should take my own advice.

And why? WHY, oh why is it even a subject I lean into?

Who can know these things….

And who wants to?

Best to just let the mystery unfold as it will and watch with interest.

Mark or no mark.. I am here.

Friendly Skies


untitled, 1999, 30″ x 40″,m/m
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My brother Scott, the Southwest pilot, had an overnight in Albuquerque yesterday and drove his sweet self up to see me.

He arrived in his fabulous captain’s uniform, all white and proper and responsible.

He looked so great.

I had that puffed-up, proud feeling I get when people I love are standing smack in the middle of life in ways they’ve fought hard for and were born to, it seems.

He wanted to know if there were things he could do for me.

1. Tie up recyclable cardboard boxes and take to trash.

2. Put pot of pansies outside.

3. Unbox new toaster oven and cut down boxes.

4. Sharpen knives.

He says: “Are these the same knives I sharpened the last time I was here?”

“Yes,” I say.

“Cath.. I’m not going to sharpen these. You need new knives. (20 years old..) Do you have a ROSS DISCOUNT store in this town?”

“Well, yes we do.”

“I will buy you some new knives. Maureen (sister-in-law) bought some the other day for $5.00. REALLY good ones.”

My brother NEVER refuses to do things for anyone when they ask so I know that it is time for me to get new knives.

I love how people in my life who love me keep me modern.

Perhaps it is more to assuage their own horror?

Whatever..

Doing life alone would be a sorry state of affairs.

And no fun what-so-ever.

Precious Humanity


“GOOD GIRL”, 11″ x 11″ x 4″, 1997, m/m
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I’ve been practicing forgiving myself the last few days; for not being more fit physically, financially, spiritually, etc, etc..

It is those moments of doubt that I seem to totally forget my own courage and resilience.

My interior theater-of-life is peopled with a wide array of characters.

I know I am in good shape when I start to get BORED by particularly overdone and overused scenes.

The costumes are decidedly threadbare in the scene where Cathy doesn’t trust herself to go out and be big in the world; be seen, make a difference, GET OVER HERSELF!

There is an exhibition at MoMA right now that should not be missed.

The artist, Marina Abramovic’, is a master in performance art.

In this, her current work, she sits in a chair in the middle of a gallery with an empty chair opposite her.

Anyone in the audience may choose to sit in the chair opposite her for as much time as they desire.

Not a word is spoken.

Just two human beings being together in silence.

The photographs of the participants are worth their weight in gold as they are all of US.. all the precious players in the big theater of life.

See how magnificent we are…

The Practice


“TEMPLE”, 1994, 60″ x 40″, m/m
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Getting healthy is a practice.

I’ve made it my spiritual practice as it seems fitting and that’s usually what I do with conundrums I can find no reason or rhyme for.

Here’s how it goes in the densest of times:

I had a beer last night.

Because I FELT GOOD and it is SPRING and the evening air was soft and intoxicating.

So… I took it further and imbibed.

And then I had another because it was so fun.

And today I cannot walk.

I already know the results that come from alcohol and sugar in general but does it seem to matter that I have already learned these things?

They say the definition of INSANITY is knowing the outcome of a situation but going back in expecting a different result.

It is easy and familiar for me to let the BIG FAT JUDGE out of his room at times like these.

But at this point on my road FORGIVENESS is the thing.

TENDERNESS and FORGIVENESS.

And onward we go..

A good poem:

“The Practice” by Kim Rosen

Not the high mountain monastery I had hoped for
The real face of my spiritual practice is this…
The sweat that pearls on my cheek when I tell you the truth.
My silent shriek in the night when I think I’m alone
The trembling in my own hand as I reach out,
through the years of overcoming,
to touch what I hoped I would never need again.

Voice

“PERCEPTION”, 40″ x 60″, 1992,m/m
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.
THE COYOTE
.
.
A coyote howled.
.
My chihuahua growled in sleep.
.
I want that rawness.
.
.
.
CA 2010
.
.

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