The View From Here


hand-painted wool flannel upholstery, 1990
___________________________________________

Been busy filling out forms

With the hope of accessing some support from various places.

There is a veil of toxic smoke

Which literally circles my beloved Santa Fe

As wildfires burn willy nilly.

The general read on the consciousness

Of the population here

Is skittish and snippy and fearful.

And I am right there with them.

Until I’m not.

This girl is getting pretty darn practiced

At shifting her point-of-view

To a life-enhancing one

As needed.

It really has come down to this:

Fear, drama, shakin’-in-your-boots-mentality

Utterly bores me.

It is SO EASY to go there.

So seductive.

Like a religion, almost.

It is what we know best.

There HAS to be another way..

And I’m out to find it.

And find it again..

And again….

….

…..

Somewhere Special


monoprint, 1996, 22″ x 30″
__________________________

Last evening another fire broke out near Santa Fe.

Actually, this one is so close to Los Alamos Lab that they began evacuating voluntarily.

“Been here. Done this… ” they must be thinking.

A wildfire came dangerously close to the Lab a few years ago.

Last evening brought all eyes to the sky

As we saw ourselves smack in the middle of fires burning all around us.

30,000 foot plumes of smoke

From our precious

And now toasted

Forests.

And a small patch of blue

Just above Santa Fe.

One could almost smell the panic

Beginning to grab hold

Of Santa Feans used to basking

In the sweet fantasy

That we live in a ‘protected’ place here in central New Mexico.

By ‘protected’ I mean: “Nothing can hurt us because this is a SPECIAL place.”

Honestly… I am not sure there is room for the idea of ‘specialness’ anymore.

By way of this shared experience of

The impossibly blue skies of Santa Fe

Rendered sooty and roiling with smoke,

We begin to feel not so special after all…

As we stand there in the middle of the dirt road

With neighbors we’d never met

A sense of connection arrives

And we are surprised

At the gift of it.

The Very Sight of You


detail of monoprint
___________________

Seeing as we all are having a challenging time

Finding our way through the threshold at hand,

I often find an odd sort of peace

When I look at crop circles.

The religion of rationality

Isn’t really cutting it, is it?

Don’t get me wrong, here…

I’m all for the solace of order.

It feeds me. Keeps me grounded.

Inspires me. Taunts me.

I say ‘taunt’ as an ‘ordered’ existence is not my natural state.

I get caught in thinking I ‘should’ do this-n-that

Because, culturally speaking, we seem to have chosen the linear mind

As our favorite.

It is essential to me, sure.

But not to the point of exclusivity.

We really can’t afford to be exclusive on any front anymore.

The strange sense of hope,

Confusion and wonder

I get when I look at the perfection of geometric etchings

In the barley fields of a distant farmer

Help me to open

Into ‘something other’ that what I know.

And for that chink in my societal armor

I am grateful.

What, Exactly Is Creativity?


monoprint, 1991, 22″ x 30″
__________________________

A friend asked me this question recently.

It hooked me and hasn’t let go so I thought I’d write about it

Without looking at what anyone else had to say before I began.

Does this topic (or the myriad others I choose)

Have anything to do with MS?

Healing Through MS DEMANDS a holographic point-of-view (is that a non-sequitur?)

For me, creativity is a wash.

I mean: ‘something other’ washes over me, through me, into me

And my mind is like a nest.

All it has to do is get out of the way

And let the eggs laid there, hatch.

The man who asked me this question

Is a plumber-writer.

He has lived his life following the instruction book.

It scares him not to.

He wants to know how not to feel afraid of the unknown where Creativity lives.

The thing is… there is no instruction booklet

If one desires access into where originality, genius, healing occur.

We are alone there.

Takes some moxie to even entertain the thing.

We must love our own company.

To sit still and ask:

“Where am I drawn to go?

Who am I drawn to see?

What mark wants to be made now?”

And then REALLY LISTEN and RISK ACTION.

It tends to be a solitary road, this creative life.

It needs space and forgiveness and fuel for the fire

Because it has nothing to do with a manufactured life.

An INSPIRED life is full of the unknown.

In fact, that is the very foundation of it:

There is NO SOLID GROUND TO STAND ON!

I am always trying to find my sea legs

And it looks wonky in so many ways…

But the thing that continues to wash over and through me

Is nothing less

Than my reason for waking up.

Damsel Ephemera


1991, monoprint, 30″ x 22″
__________________________

One of the best feelings in life

According to Cathy

Is the knowledge I have truly been HEARD.

And ‘heard’ without the filter of another’s desire or expectation about they WANT or NEED to hear..

I’ve spoken here, about my love of dragonflies.

Recently, a dear friend and I sat at a table together

And he presented me with a box.

I opened it and found a fossil

Of a DAMSEL FLY;

100 million years old found in Brazil.

The delicate, glassy wings

And her small, lively little body

Imprinted in limestone

For me

To appreciate

100 million years later.

Makes one stop to think:

What impression do I think I will leave

As my tailing…

To be held, perhaps,

By some curious and maybe wonderstruck creature

100 million years from now?

Will my essence be revealed

There, in the limestone?

Will my bones reveal my strength

And fragility?

My desires?

My dreams?

When I hold this fossil in my hand

The sense of time evaporates

And an almost unbearable intimacy

Rushes in

To suggest

That the purpose

Of this whole ‘thing’

May very well be

What seems at first like the small act

Of noticing GOoDNESS.

Big/Small


“GIFT”, 2004, 14″ x 4″ x 4″, ceramic, steel
_________________________________________

I found a great new physical therapist

Who balances my habit and love of pushing into physical movement

With the ability to save me from myself

By reining me in to avoid fatigue.

She advocates very small movements as she is Feldenkrais trained.

When she introduces me to these new and very intimate moves

Something inside of me is wide-eyed with awe

At the power in this smallness.

I am an American.

We are a space-conquering culture.

I am educated to make a mark for myself;

BIG and even BIGGER, SWEEPING MOVEMENTS are the thing.

Not tiny little wanderings of a muscle

Tucked deep in my torso.

How surprised was I

To slip into the almost unbearable communion

With my very own self

As I moved so reverently

And became so much more.

But…

I LIKE FAST!

I LIKE BIG!

SEE ME! SEE ME, Won’t you please?

No one was there to witness the perfection of that little move my muscle made.

It was mine alone.

It was easy.

It was fun.

No effort-ing involved.

And the result was extraordinary.

I WAS MORE! I WAS BETTER! I WAS STRONGER!

That, I think, is the crux of the thing I’m trying to get to here…

Easy, effortless, fun = very, very fine result.

Who would’ve thought?

Easy, effortless, fun, easy, effortless, fun, easy, effortless, fun, easy, effortless fun..

(Just taking a moment to get used to the idea…)

What’s a Miracle, Anyway?


detail of sculpture, ceramic
__________________________

My mantra for the last few months has been :

ALL I WANT IS A NEW EXPERIENCE OF GOD / SPIRIT / SOMETHING LARGER THAN MY self.

In my life, each and every miracle I have been privy to

Has had the same quality

Of a sudden shift in perception.

Like this:

I am blessed to have a gorgeous woman, Millie who grocery shops for me.

She does this as a volunteer and asks for no money in return.

Today, I said to her as she struggled into my door with bags and sweat from the extreme heat here:

“Millie, if you ever want to stop doing this for me, please tell me.”

“Cathy, why would you say that?”

“Well.. I wish I could pay you as you do this amazing thing for me, go to school full time and take care of all the stuff in your own life.”

“We have love on each other, you and I..”

She silenced me in the best way imaginable.

I went directly from defending against the blessing of her support

To a heart bursting open with the gift of gratitude and love.

Sudden shift in perception.

Indeed.

To many, this may not qualify as a bona fide miracle.

Surely the Pope or someone of his ilk wouldn’t even consider this small instance in the bestowal of sainthood.

But in Cathy’s book of miracles..

Easing into LOVE

When before, I was not,

Constitutes an elevation

The likes of which

The Vatican may have missed

All together.

Action Steps


untitled, 2005, 30″ x 30″, earth, ceramic, wire, pearls
____________________________________________________

Yesterday, I went out there..

Into the morass of governmental servants.

The feel of it was something like previously human human-beings

Wading through pools of silly putty

With the attempt to be civil

Long ago left at the edge of the pool.

We berate out state workers.

They bring with them the cloud of numbness

That gets on us like talc.

After awhile, the exposure to these toxins began to erode my hard-earned clarity

And I made a call:

RING..RING…

“Hello?”

“Hi (dear friend)”

“I need you to tell me that I am wonderful… I just left the Civic Housing office and the people were mean. I am starting to feel worthless and bordering on shame. Can you please remind me who I am?

“Cath.. they have been working ‘inside the box’ for so long that civility went by the wayside long ago. They are just going through the motions to ‘make it.’ It has nothing to do with you.”

“OK.. Thanks. Clearly I called the right person for a reality check. Thanks.”

And onward I went to the County Housing Dept. where I met an angel who metaphorically took my hand and showed me the steps to take next.

She had really fabulous black heels on with a leather (really well done) flower on the top.

She said: “I really like your earrings.”

I said: “I love your great shoes.”

We bonded.

It was real.

It was good.

Want vs. Need


detail of sculpture, 2004, earth, ceramic
_______________________________________

I used to love to consume in the truest sense of an American consumer.

Clothes, desserts, hair products, art supplies, cool stuff everywhere…

This particular bend in my road has other wisdom to offer.

It’s all about what do I WANT

And what do I NEED?

I told you there were riches along the way here…

Just listen:

I NEED some dentistry fast-like..

And I haven’t the funds.

Then the next day I get news of a surprise check arriving which will more than cover the bill.

A need.

Not a want.

Ok… there is this really great collar for my beloved dog I saw.

It’s a want.

Not a need.

The universe seems to support true need. But not so much want.

I’m telling you… this litmus test is very telling when one has few resources.

It feels like a boon

And, oddly, not a bore.

Of course, most of the world lives like this

Oblivious to the pseudo-pain of our fleet of elite, here,

As we all have to scale down

And face the shadows of the emptiness

We have all been trying to fill up

With stuff.

Yesterday was Sunday

And I bought myself flowers.

It was a need for me.

I thought that was interesting

That the qualities of beauty, fragrance, fragility, intense aliveness

Were NEEDS in my book.

The act of arranging them was my church.

I was humbled and elevated at the same time.

I would likely have missed that experience

Had I gone to a store, instead.

Inside the Box of Fear


detail of painting, m/m
_______________________

My modus operandi when I am afraid

Or depressed

Or seriously stuck

Is to disappear.

Not posting here for the last week is a good example.

I made a commitment to transparency when I began this blog two years ago;

To myself, primarily..

And also to you.

I have spoken about ‘hard’ stuff many times before.

It is interesting to me that I am fully aware of the transformational possibilities held in a life’s precious
and painstakingly cultivated identities;

Getting shattered by illness, divorce, death or big, giant loss of any kind.

But when that very shattering happens so close to my own bones;

And the noise is searingly shrill and feels life-threatening,

I am silenced.

The backstory is this: (I am choosing to take you all with me as I really have little left that means more to me than truth).

My grandmother/mother left me a generous inheritance which has sustained me through the sometimes lean years of my creative pursuits.

I have lived with the solace of a financial ‘back-up’.

When I received the diagnosis of PPMS in 2000, I was down on my knees in gratitude for the safety net that money gave me.

As my health challenges progressed, all possibilities of continuing the art career I had established over 25 years evaporated.

My right hand in a constant curl prevents me from fussing around in clay and dirt as I love to do.

I have pulled money out of this trust to survive for the last 5 years steadily enough to have reached the bottom of the barrel.

Here is a part of the story I could just curl up like an armadillo in shame about:

Because of the way I have been reading my quarterly statement from the bank,

I thought there was a certain amount of funding left; not too much but still a cushion.

NOT!

I found out last week that I have enough money left to cover two months of living expenses…

I am sharing this with you because part of making a new life living with disability

Very often includes ‘working the system’

Which is a whole world unto itself.

I COULD beat myself up and just sink into feelings of:

“I should have… or: I could have.. If only..”

But the fact is that I have done the best I could in the midst of my current challenges.

I will now call up the energy needed for stepping forward

Into the shadowlands

Of resources available to me

In support of a life

In partnership with disability.

I am going to take you along with me

As I crawl out of this quicksand.

I am entering the arena of the dreaded: ASKING FOR HELP FROM THE GOVERNMENT!

Me.. capable Cath…

HOW THE HELL DID I GET HERE!!!!!!!!!!!!

Well…. onward I go………

It is my hope that we’ll all become richer

For the adventure about to unfold..

Losing It


untitled, 20″ x 20″, 1999.m/m
_____________________________

This is so good to read out loud:

KINDNESS
By Naomi Shahib Nye

Before you know what kindness really is
You must lose things,
Feel the future dissolve in a moment
Like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
What you counted and carefully saved,
All this must go so you know
How desolate the landscape can be
Between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and rideā€¦
Thinking the bus will never stop
And the passengers eating maize and chicken
Will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
You must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
Lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
How he too was someone
Who journeyed through the night with plans
And the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
You must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till you voice
Catches the thread of all sorrows
And you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
Only kindness that ties your shoes
And sends you out into the day to mail letters,
And purchase bread,
Only kindness that raises its head
From the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for
And follows you everywhere
Like a shadow or a friend.