Visitation


detail of textile, pigment on wool flannel
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When my brother, the fabulous captain in the fleet of Southwest airline pilots

Comes to visit

He knows to prepare.

He has to do stuff.

He’s done it all his life;

The thing is.. he knows how to fix pretty much everything

Which really makes it impossible for him to just kick back

BECAUSE THERE ARE JUST SO MANY DARN THINGS TO FIX!

He cruised through my list in short order

And one of the items was to take a photo of my fabulous new BRUNO mechanical arm

Which lifts my wheelchair into and out of the car.

My brother-in-law wanted to see it in action.

So I stood there with the controls

And the chair attached just so.

Because it was a weird enough situation

Inviting a family member into the strange world of disability I live in

And because my brother and I just naturally make things fun,

I decided to ham it up and behave like I was at a car show

And introducing this new and wonderful model everyone should have.

My brother says: “See here..even a WOMAN can do this!

Even a WOMAN WITH MS!”

And we both collapsed into down deep gut laughter.

It was a moment I’ll always remember

Because of the ease with which we moved from awkwardness

Into silliness

And a cherished memory.

It really isn’t just mechanical things he fixes.

The peril of too much “NO”


detail of painting
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An important aspect of my healing has been to get comfortable with saying “NO.”

There have been many, many layers and shades of this monumental (for me) lesson.

My varying degrees of functionality make it a challenge for me to say a distinct “YES” to invitations.

But, in my mind I am often the eager life-liver of old

For whom the reining in of energy expenditure

Was uninteresting at best.

I watched myself say no to a dear friend’s art opening the other night.

Yes, I did have something else important to me going on

But if I really had my wits about me

I would have skipped it.

In truth, as hindsight,

I now have the backstory built in

That goes like this:

“There will be too many people in a small space

And it will be exhausting to negotiate.

I feel too fragile to have attention on me as ‘the disabled one.’

I don’t want to see any ‘pity faces.’

She will understand if I am not there.”

Each of those concerns are quite true.

But the bigger issue is that I am left after the fact knowing I did not support someone I love deeply

When I could have.

I missed a shining moment in her life.

And I will never get that particular chance again.

And my heart hurts.

I know she may be disappointed I was not there

And I also know she is OK with the fact

Because she loves me

And we do that for each other; two women who gift each other with the freedom to BE.

However, I became aware

That there are just those times in life

Where the only thing to do is push through

Because THE SHINING PLACE

Is what we’re all after

And there is muck in the moat

To be crossed.

Saving A Life


“CLOUDS”, 2001, 10″ x 24″, m/m
________________________________

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.

© Mary Oliver.
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.
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..And We All Fall Down…


detail of monoprint
___________________

I grew up in a suburb of Detroit

Which housed the army of those employed by the automobile industry.

‘Cars R’ Us’ was our motto.

We drew them

Screamed over them

Dreamed them

Loved them

And hated them

As the case may be.

That industry affected us Michiganders differently as individuals.

My family was wrecked by the alcohol

That ran in the blood

Of the decision makers

Trying to appear jaunty and carefree.

Even so..

I ended up having cars in my blood, instead.

Detroit is in what we call a ‘decline.’

Artists, like me, often prick up our ears

When we hear such words.

It means nothing less than OPPORTUNITY.

We know how to take the dregs of something

And juice it up.

And so I have an odd take on the landscape..

Which extends to my own body, too,

IN DECLINE.. as they say…

When something as we know it

Changes, dies, falls down, is blown up,

A vacuum is left

To be filled, created, remade, re-thought.

That space was never there before

So the possibility never existed till it did.

And THAT kind of thinking excites me

And keeps me curious

And steppin’……

Women With Tread


untitled, 2000, 24″ x 4″, ceramic, steel
_____________________________________

I take a class with 4 other women which meets a few times per month.

I am not quite sure how to describe what we study as the topics are wide and varied.

Suffice to say it is lively, intense, thought-provoking…

Really, the word PROVOKING

Might describe our small clan perfectly.

Certainly NOT easy

But the kind of women you want beside you

If you happen to be in a blinding storm.

Women with tread.

We usually meet for two hours at a stretch

And after yesterday’s gathering

I was hungry, energetically spent, challenged, peeved, awed,

And most importantly,

I was grateful for the quality of women in the room with me.

We are not there because we like each other.

Hackles are raised fairly often

And we wonder what keeps us pulled to show up

When we know we’ll have left some cherished identity

We wore like jewels

In the wastebasket

Along with the damp kleenexes

With the DNA

Of five students

Eager for a life

Of freedom

From everything we are not.

But really..

What else is there to do?

When freedom is the call.

And in order to get there

All the murk

And sludge

Of making a place for ones’ self

In a world addicted to the junk

Of fitting in

Has to be removed.

I wonder what will be left?

One thing I trust

Is that this quest is worth every bead of sweat.

Another thing is that these women

Will back me up

No matter what.

They would sew me a dress

Should I find myself naked.

They would string a necklace of

Shells and feathers

So I would be sure to feel pride

In the woman I had become.

Equinox


detail of painting, m/m
______________________

The word equinox literally means ‘equal night.’

The ancient Egyptians built the Great Sphinx so it faces the rising sun on the vernal (Spring) equinox.

This is a good time to think about balance.

I like the word: “COMPORTMENT.”

It feels like a very old word but I’m not sure about that.

It means ‘behavior’

And I think of the word when I see the Japanese people in their sorrow and utter grief

Over losing the life they knew

Just a week ago.

What do BALANCE and COMPORTMENT have to do with one another?

In my mind, I am pretty darn sure

That had the events in Japan

Happened on our soil, instead,

They would be held in a very different way

By the American population.

We, here, do not know much about containing our state of being.

We are exuberant and messy

In our efforts to wring every drop

Of individualism out of us

In fear someone might take it away.

The Japanese have exercised other muscles.

Not to say either is better or worse.

But witnessing a population

Suffer,

Taking care not to slime their neighbor

In the process

Causes me pause.

Really, the golden rule I follow

Which is truly my most potent medicine

Is the rock solid knowledge

That for every contraction

There is an equal expansion.

It usually does not come on my timetable

Which is unfortunate

But, it does come.

This morning’s example is my arm and leg

Which happen to be in periodic spasm.

I hate it.

I’m edgy and it just came out in a phone call with a friend.

Slime, slime..

This afternoon my body will be different.

Or it won’t

And tomorrow it will.

The point being

The Universe has a self-correcting

Button somewhere

Which creates balance.

We may want it NOW

Or never at all.

But today,

It soothes me

That there is a larger intelligence

Than mine.

The Shattering, The Reconciliation and The Return


“GRID”, 6′ x 3′, m/m
____________________

I am interested in being with people who have been shattered.

It seems like GRACE is a virus

And it recognizes the tatters

On the clothes of a divorcee

Or a father who has lost a child

Or a job

Or his home.

Perhaps it is a teenager torn apart over a lost first love.

Maybe the passing of a beloved pet.

Could be you had a belief and knew you were right

Then, in an instant, you had to concede that you weren’t right at all.

A tsunami may have taken your entire town

Or a diagnosis spoken in the hushed, almost embarrassed voice of a doctor.

A SHATTERING, to me, is any experience we meet

Which makes it impossible to go back

To who we were before the thing happened.

We are shattered.

We do not have the comfort of the carefully constructed identities we have used as ballast.

That palette is gone.

We must find a new one.

Become new.

Or not.

There is the crux of the thing:

People who have experienced some life-altering event or thing

Have something very important in common:

They have been given the opportunity

To crawl in the closet and pull the blanket of denial over their head;

Which could mean a multitude of ways of checking out:

Drugs, drink, sex, suicide, numbness, illness, depression, work… the list goes on and on..

OR – They / we / I could CHOOSE LIFE

Which means a virtual unknown many times.

But the CHOICE is the thing

Which marks those I want to be around.

It is a modern-day stigmata;

A holy mark which hurts

And won’t go away

But acts as a constant reminder

We are here.

We matter.

We ARE THE MYSTERY.

This shattering-thing

Is only figure-out-able

Moment by moment.

Never by careless hand fulls.

If we choose life, living, uncertainty

An interesting thing happens on our RETURN..

The road is peopled by faces we seem to recognize

Who seem to SEE us

For the GRACE attached to our tattered jackets.

We all of a sudden walk into our TRIBE.

And somehow never ever feel alone again.

I have no idea how all this works.

That is the very mystery of it..

But I do know it has to do with having a shattering,

Meeting it at the door,

Inviting it in

And offering it tea.

Us and Them


detail,earth,ceramic,nails, 2006
_______________________________

I have been tossed this way and that waiting for my soul to speak up

Regarding what is occurring in Japan.

Everything that surfaced felt colored by fear

Or denial

Or numbness

Or compassion,

Separateness,

Overwhelm,

Awe,

Anger,

Relief,

Curiosity,

Paralysis,

Love,

Terror,

And relief again..

The very humanness of me was/is

So relieved it wasn’t me.

I am saying this out loud only because it is the thing I most don’t want to admit.

The fact is

That it WAS me,

IS me,

And likely,

In the not too distant future

WILL BE me.

I will be the one walking exhausted beyond

Any weariness I’ve yet come through

Walking down a gritty road

Missing my beloved dog

Who I cannot find

And holding a shiny tea kettle

Fresh from my clean kitchen

Of an hour ago

Looking for water

Or food.

I am not a ‘dooms-day-er’.

Just a woman in love with life

As I know it today

And yesterday.

But who’s to say

We’ll get another day

Like today?

BMS and AFMS (before MS and after MS) was just like that.

Without the radiation or the 30′ wave.

But I am different

Because I had to be.

I know the terror of losing identities we are super-glued to

And I know what it takes to make new ones.

It is an arduous

And lonely road.

But along the way there are those who will offer you water

And a safe place to rest your weary head

As we all try to wrap ourselves around this new

And unfamiliar world.

My biggest and most constant teaching

Which MS doles out moment by moment, it seems,

Is that this particular road is not meant to be taken alone.

And so…

Even when we recoil at the thought of appearing

‘Less-than-knowing-it-all’

We have to bow our heads

And say: “Can you teach me what I need to know?”

And bow again

In gratitude

As the stranger walks on

With a cup of water

For our neighbor.

Rocking


untitled, 30″ x 30″, 1998,m/m
_____________________________
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HAIKU
.
Someone in Japan
.
Lost their tears to a big wave.
.
I will give them mine.
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.
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-CA
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.
.

Hush, Mummy…


detail ceramic sculpture
_______________________

Growing up being ‘mothered’ by an extreme narcissist was work.

Every part of me was in hyper-drive

Trying to figure out how to get her love

Or how to get away from her.

One lasting parting gift she left me

Is the tendency to experience a conversation in 3-D.

A hologram might be a better description.

The front side of a seemingly simple exchange

Also (in my experience) has a back side;

An up and a down as well.

I trained myself

Out of self-preservation

To ‘read’ minute pauses

And barely detectable inflections

Or a sort of baseline kind of jitter

In order to decipher the truth of a thing.

It was all to feel safe;

To have as much information as I could glean

In order that I might be able to feed her

The thing she wanted

And get the love

I needed.

I do this hyper-vigilant screening of conversation even today

When I don’t need to

Or want to

As she is passed onto other pastures.

It is a valuable skill

And I trust myself in it

Except all the times I am wrong

Which really aren’t that many, actually.

I get exhausted by this sensitivity

And yet..

It has kept me alive and swimming

With the rest of you

And for that, I am grateful.

Secret Place


“FOREST THROUGH THE TREES”, 2002, 40″ x 72″, m/m
_____________________________________________________

A friend told me yesterday that she really hesitated before calling me to ask if she could stop by as she was in the neighborhood.

I really felt for her as I have put up very distinct boundaries about disturbing me at home.

I have ALWAYS had what I call ‘a secret place’ in my life

To go to when I need to feel safe and ok just as I am.

In my youth it was a grassy field

Rimmed with huge trees

I would lie down in

And be lost to the world

And protected by the spirits of the place.

I’ve had forts in my youth

And a few as an adult.

I have my special and sacred ‘go-to’ places in New Mexico that never fail to soothe me with their particular salve.

When my friend mentioned her trepidation in even approaching me

I really understood

And had to look at the question:

‘Am I becoming a dyed-in-the-wool weirdo?’

Have I been challenged by a faltering physical body for so long

That I am more comforted by aloneness

And a sort of ‘secret life’

Than exchanging breath with the life happening beyond my driveway?

Have I made my home the secret place du jour?

There are two parts to this line of inquiry:

Yes,indeed.. I need a safe and nurturing place to heal.

And

Yes, I do believe when I really look, that I may have lost some muscles in the social interaction realm.

I guess the trade off for me

Is the fact that one of my greatest and most necessary choices in my own healing has been to lessen the cultural ‘static’

Which seems to severely affect my nervous system.

I see that pulling out of usual levels of cultural participation

Makes people around me nervous.

But I can not really worry about the results of my choices

Except to make sure they cause no harm.

I see that there is a bright and mostly shiny

Woman behind the eyes looking back at me

From the bathroom mirror.

She seems to exude health

Until she reaches for the wall to balance.

My choices seem to be serving me

And a great litmus test I use for health

Has been to watch to see that the secret place only holds my attention

For just so long

And then I must emerge

And tell all the tales

I’ve heard, there in the shadows;

The songs sung to me

The drawings in the sand.

Willow


detail painting, 2000, m/m
__________________________

One of the many gifts my grandmother gave me

Has to do with the willow tree.

Each year as I was growing up

So often in her company

She stopped me and took my arm and pointed to a tree.

“See there..” she said.

“See just the barest hint of yellow on that tree?”

(We were standing in an inch of snow on the ground)

“Each year, that little tiny bit of yellow will be the signal that Spring is coming again.”

“Pay close attention to the branches and you will catch the very FIRST tender green of leaves.”

“Make sure you stop and really look,

Because that impossibly beautiful yellow-green color

Only happens for a day or two every year

And is very precious

So you want to make sure you don’t miss the show.”

And I never have.

The ‘good stuff’ always seems to happen in a wink

So we don’t have that much time to wallow in the goodness.

Point Of View


detail of painting, m/m
_______________________

Out of the mouths of babes

Comes the wisdom of the ages.

Look here.
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Welcome Shift


monoprint, 1992, 22″ x 30″
__________________________

Some important info I did not include in yesterday’s post regarding the FIVE WISHES template for a ‘ friendly’ living will:

It is accepted in most states but not all and you can go here to get all the low down.

__________________________

Sometimes I just get so tired of the smallness of living a life that feels so body-centric.

Of course, we know in the broadest sense that the world is held in grain of sand…

But there are days when I just have to say YUK!!!!!!!!!

I WANT THE DAMN BEACH!

I am so tired of mySELF!!!!!!!!!!

SomeTHING.. SomeONE please take me OUT of myself.

I need relief from pills

And healthy food

And finding the higher ground

And fighting to put on a damn sock

And waking up stiff and bent

Instead of lithe and willowy.

So I sometimes go to science.

It isn’t really as entertaining as vodka

But it works for me.

Taboo… Boo Hoo


detail of sculpture, ceramic, earth, gold thread, bone
___________________________________________________

You may have noticed that I am choosing not to post each and every day as I have in the past year and a half.

It feels better right now to give myself a bit of a break from any sense of ‘have to’.

New Mexico has been called the ‘land of manana (tomorrow)’ by more than a few.

We have that reputation because construction workers show up

A full week after they were supposed to

With just a slight shrug as an explanation

And mail has been known to be delivered a decade past the postmark.

What has my attention these days is something called FIVE WISHES.

It is a template for making out a living will.

I am going to talk about this for a few reasons.

#1. Nobody does.

#2. Everybody I’ve spoken to about this in the past weeks is hungry for the information
and the opportunity for a little air-time on the subject.

#3. The weirdest thing is happening.. I am finding the process FUN.

#4. It is deepening the relationships I have when I open up the subject.

#5. EVERYBODY seems to heave a sigh of relief.

#6. The energy I was using up to NOT think about these things is freed up for other stuff.

OK… before we go any further- I am NOT even close to any notion of throwing in the towel.

Living with chronic illness and especially a progressively debilitating kind

Really comes with the raven sitting on one’s shoulder

Reminding us moment by moment to feel life deeply

Because the one constant we share is change.

I happen to love life.

Not always, but my nature is to be more entertained by beauty

Than other choices I might have.

Because of that predilection to want a beautiful life

I can not turn away from Death.

So, I am finding this template of FIVE WISHES

A very do-able and interesting project

Toward sussing out

A beautiful life.

As an example: a very good friend

Has spectacular style

And she knows me better than most.

I asked her at our regular Sunday evening dinner if she would do the flowers for my memorial should I pass through the pearly gates before she gets there.

I told her what I wanted and she said yes and it was a fun and sort of funny conversation.

I feel good having had it.

It prevents the possibility of too many carnations getting near me (which I hate).

Anyway.. the conversation opened up a newer level of intimacy to be sure.

Dying before you die..

Some wise person said that.

It helps one live, I’m finding.

Space


I like to sit in churches.

When no one else is there.

Not because of any kind of ideology

But because I love beauty.

There is a particular one that I visit pretty regularly

Made of adobe.

It is not big.

I go there to feel the silence.

By ‘feel’ I mean just that.

The interior is uncluttered by the usual Catholic paraphernalia.

It rises two stories

And only a very few beams obstruct the open space.

The pews are simple and hand hewn.

The altar just simply ‘is’.

I go in and pick a seat.

I look around for awhile

Noticing the bird activity just outside the clerestory windows above me.

I feel clean in there.

Clean from the inside out.

Something like my natural self

Without all the overlays

Of expectation, desire, greed and disappointment

Arises.

I like her.

Very much.

I remember her.

And why should she be waiting for me here,

In the second pew to the left

On this particular day

Of the week?