Loving A Dog

eyegaze

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LOVING A DOG

Have you ever
Had a dog lie on your chest
And lick away the tears
Without stopping
Until she decided
You were well soothed?

Have you seen
A dog’s eyes go wet
And impossibly soft
As you apologized
To one another
For not knowing
How to do everything
Exactly right?

Did you ever feel
The wild glee
From a wiggling thing;
Her fur transmitting
Ecstasy zooming at you
There, in the same door
You left from
Just hours before?

Have you ever, ever heard
A lovelier dance of need
As tiny feet
Purposefully placed
In a sort of
Circular fast-track
In the deep of the night
Imploring you
To understand
The urge to pee?

I ask you-
Have you lain awake
Too long
To drink in
A dreaming dog
Softly snoring there
In the crook of an arm
With a warm press
Into your awake skin?

Do you sing to her?
Little ditties
In a secret language
From a place
In your heart
Saved
Only for communion
With
God-in-form
Who happens to be living
At your address?

Do you wonder
How you got so lucky
To laugh
That hard
When her GPS
Locates a dead snake
And she rolls
And rolls
Wanting
The potent perfume
As her take away?

Have you seen
Her muzzle going grey
As the years
Of healing you
Are taking their toll
And arthritis creeps
Into her bones
As she wears
The wisdom
Earned
Figuring out
Exactly how
To love you best?

Did you ever imagine
How the privilege
Of the love of a Dog
Might bless your life
And turn it into
A literal church
Complete
With all the grime and gifting
Available
In any Life
Tuned
To the Sacred?

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-CA 2014

Good Neighboring

12_BeachSands
“BEACH SANDS”, overall 5’x5′, wood covered with sand from Florida beaches
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I feel weird saying I actually have little experience being a neighbor.

Where I grew up in suburban Detroit there were huge lawns separating all of us.

We waved in recognition but that was about it.

In later years my proclivity toward privacy and space had me in various apartments and houses with the anonymity of urban life or the luxury of space in the country.

I love where I live now perhaps more than any other address.

A good deal of that comes from learning how to be a good neighbor.

I have to. I want to.

It is challenging. It is a joy.

We are 30 + folks living here together. Very together.

This is a senior housing development dedicated to those in need. We have spectacular landscaping, high ceilings, good tile floors and a garden patio out back.

The architects were foxy folks who understood the leanings toward isolation in the over-50 set and proceeded to use the parking lot as a sort of plaza. Pretty much everything said or done out there is known to all as each of our living spaces front the buildings.

This can be good and not-so-good.

Tolerance is really the numero uno virtue here. Some people I jive with and others I have never spoken to.

Each neighbor I know is a character (like me!). We are all a little set in our ways with age on us.

These good people have tolerated my dogs incessant and alienating barking as well as my own reserve in taking part in much of anything since I’ve been here for various reasons.

They must have some rich stories about me which likely have been spun before.

There is immense kindness to be found. And decided indifference.

We have varying aesthetics which challenges the artist/minimalist in me but so it goes.. We are a group of people living fairly intimately together and have to make it work.

I relax my control issues and begin to recognize our little enclave represents the microcosm of the macrocosm;

If I start behaving like my needs and desires are all that matter I am no better than the multitude of conflicts being waged in the world.

Living well closely together demands a hyper-vigilance born of some recognition that my neighbor is my brother..I watch out for him/her..am affected if something goes wrong..share happiness in their successes. I enjoy their beingness and try to tell them so.

I am learning these things.

We all must guard against our own self-importance.

That works for one. But not for two or the multitude.

I Saw An Old Man

containment1
detail of painting, m/m
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I guess I could be called a mall rat these last few weeks.

It intrigues me to watch; watch humanity being human.

Today I saw an old man. H was resolutely pushing an empty shopping cart for stability.

He walked slowly but he had some sass inside his wrinkly and frail self as I witnessed him cutting between empty tables in figure eights.

Every now and then he would stop to take a pill.

I couldn’t take my eyes off him for some reason.

“Give him something.” I heard this in my head.

and again: “Give him something.”

How weird… such a strong impetus to act and a somewhat unusual request I thought.

Well… I felt inspired to go home and do my own exercises after seeing him..too alone, exerting himself beyond what he could comfortably do, got all dressed in clean clothes and got himself out there in the world to choose life one more time.

I rolled over to him and said: “Sir- you are really covering some ground here and you inspired me to go home and exercise.”

He looked alarmed and dismissive as he cupped his ear and shook his head and moved on. He was deaf. Too deaf to understand my words.

I felt his solitary courage so deeply that my heart almost cracked.

Where did this empathy come from in me?

I didn’t used to care. Went about my days like a giant sucker- feeding on life with the intent of plumping myself up.

That man was a pathetic nuisance not too long ago.

Today he is my teacher.

Do we all have to break in order to feel ourselves in one another?

Self Care

liv

I don’t want to write this post.

But I have to as I am committed to an authentic dialog with myself and you all as well…

Living with my beloved dog has become an untenable situation for me.

She is a rescue dog and came to me 4 years ago. She clearly had been yanked from her newborn puppies and over time I witnessed her terrified of moving or rustling sheets, brooms, dark men with hats. I trust you can put the pieces together; bad man wielding broom and scaring the shit out of a wee creature with linens as another weapon..

Living with her has taught me so much..so very much. She has loved me purely, heroically, consistently and tirelessly. When I cry she lays on my chest and licks the tears away until I am soothed. Only then does she leave. Her love of me and the fact she feels my state of being so acutely takes a toll on her. She has become progressively more protective and this has manifested into aggression; incessant barking when we are approached by other people and she now has bitten too many.

I have had extraordinary support from the best dog trainer alive and rescue dog organizations and angelic friends stepping in to help me/her achieve serenity. Livvy has been operated on to ease her dislocating rear leg pain, given a full blood work up to see if there were underlying causes for her aggression.

I have had to recognize my own part in the inability to perform and unknowing exclusion of proper training.

Self care is essentially about choosing LIFE.

And choosing it again..over and over.

In the way that says: “I value the gift I have been given of life and I will vote for my self and choose to protect this precious life-force in me.

There are no rescue organizations able to accept an aggressive dog such as Livvy. She is decidedly bonded to me. Her protective and fearful barking has limited my connections with other people so that my life is getting dangerously narrow. Stress is an absolute killer for MS and my nervous system can not afford the constant pull between wanting connection with people, compassion for Livvy, worrying about the disturbance we cause (we were kicked out of a mall the other day for barking).

I see my only option is to put her down and I am so very heartbroken….

Searingly sad and grateful for the chance to love deeper than I have ever loved. Grateful for the feeling of being protected as this is new for me. Blessed to have Livvy as my best teacher; she with the shiningly present eyes and boundless adoration for my very flawed self.

Roses

photo
photo credit: Barbara McDaniel
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Our wisdom is all mixed up with what we call our neurosis. Our brilliance, our juiciness, our spiciness, is all mixed up with our craziness and our confusion, and therefore it doesn’t do any good to try to get rid of our so-called negative aspects, because in that process we also get rid of our basic wonderfulness. We can lead our life so as to become more awake to who we are and what we’re doing rather than trying to improve or change or get rid of who we are or what we’re doing. The key is to wake up, to become more alert, more inquisitive and curious about ourselves.

– Pema Chodron

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The Turn

generosity
textile design, wool flannel
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“TURN SOFT AND LOVELY ANYTIME YOU HAVE THE CHANCE,”

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– Jenny Holzer, artist

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Structural Integrity

onebluesquare
“ONE BLUE SQUARE” 5×5′, m/m, 1994
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The machinations of my mind have turned toward the themes of prayer, words and intention these days.

I understand that a prayer is just naked and ineffectual if the words are not connected to truly raw and authentic feeling.

This certainly has pretty immediate results (whether I like them or not) when I get demanding or even rageful at God: “God- you have GOT to show up RIGHT NOW..I’m serious here..”

I have been interested in the work of Dr. Masuru Emoto for a number of years. His experiments have rocked the world with his microscopic images of frozen water. Words and pictures are projected at water as well as music played: Love, hate, heavy metal, Bach…

A frozen sample from each container is then explored under a microscope. The structure of the water changes dramatically.

A more recent experiment using rice continues his remarkable discoveries. Three jars, each containing white rice are labeled: THANK YOU, IGNORE and FOOL. The subject pauses each day projecting the thought of thank you and fool on each of the 2 of the containers while ignoring the third altogether.
Here is what the containers looked like post-experiment.

I am going to do my own experiment and will let you know the results.

When I spoke about thriving the other day and re-visiting Dr. Emoto’s work I understand the structural integrity forming in my body as 85% water is the very energetic surge of strength I experience.

And it’s not just in my head.

Out of the Mouth of a Babe

dad
hand-painted silk neckties, 1987
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Some things that are broken need fixing.

Some things don’t.

I think we are all attuned to the antiquated cultural systems we live within; political, economic, religious, the ways we eat and educate etc.

That need to fall, morph.

Stuff’s not workin’ and it makes one numb because really- how much can just one person do?

I came across this article in the NYT by a youngster named Peter Thiel.

Here’s a snippet:

Even for a self-made billionaire, Peter Thiel has strong opinions.

Having founded a conservative/libertarian newspaper while a Stanford undergraduate, he earned a law degree from that school, and then quit his career to co-found PayPal, a payments company that set out to undermine government-issued currency. When that didn’t pan out, he sold PayPal to eBay for $1.5 billion in 2002.

He also co-founded Palantir, a data analysis company that struggled for years and is now valued at more than $9 billion. He was one of the earliest outside investors in Facebook, and now manages a global hedge fund and a venture capital fund.

Mr. Thiel spends much of his time agitating to change how we educate people and create economic and technological growth. In his book “Zero to One,” written with Blake Masters, Mr. Thiel argues that society has become too rule-oriented, and people need to devise ways to think differently, and find like-minded individuals to realize goals. That, he says, is how you move things to novel discoveries and markets. This recent conversation has been condensed and edited.
Q.

What is one idea you’d like people to get from your book?
A.

We’ve built a country in which people are tracked, from kindergarten to graduate school, and everyone who is “successful” acts the same way. That is overrated. It distorts things and hurts growth.
Q.

What’s wrong with it?
A.

There is a strange phenomenon in Silicon Valley: Many founders seem to have some kind of Asperger’s, are bad at understanding social cues. What does it say about our society when they are the innovators, and normal people basically learn to conform?

If you are a banker or a lawyer, someone in one of the elite, high-paying professions, creativity and growth are typically something that happens someplace else. That was supposed to be enough. It completely blew up in 2008.

I, myself am an incurable optimist and proud of it.

My experience has been that absolutely nothing seems to change until we feel what isn’t working so personally and searingly hot and close that we lust for a shift toward Life.

This happened and is happening with my health challenges; The person I was now wasn’t

And I had to make myself anew.

Thank God because this version of me is far superior to the past girl.

I feel excited that the world is a fucking mess. Anything less would have us living in the same fetid milk-toast atmosphere for eons.

I hear and feel people finding their passions, myself included.

I am lifting my glass to the shattering! The ugly mess of it all.

Because I’m here to tell you that ain’t the end of the story………..

One Word

1039
ceramic arrowhead, 4×3″
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I have a word.

One word that I use when I need to up the ante’ in the strength department.

If my legs won’t fill with vitality to allow an easy transfer from chair to wherever

And I begin to slip into the downward spiral of “can’t”

I try again with the addition of my word.

My word is: THRIVE.

Every time I call in this juju..

I mean EVERY time- it steps in and fills in the empty place I can’t quite get to on my own.

I use it in any situation I feel myself caving.

I must treat this word like sacred ground and not mess around with using it when I don’t REALLY need to.

Thus- she is there when I need her.

Words matter.

How we say them matters; safe voice? or demanding? or insecure or wanton?

Holier-than-thou? or even and curious? Supplicant? or humble in our need?

When I say: “THRIVE” it is said as a statement. Like I remember that state and call it in to use all the magic for my moment of need.

After awhile the ‘thrivingness’ becomes my back story and informs my life like a constant shower of glitter

Without the mess.

But messes do happen for me

And then I once more count on my word.

Thrive on, Cathy. Thrive on.

I Went To The Flyfishing Store

radio
painting on wool flannel, 5’x5′
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I went to our local fly fishing establishment looking for feathers to be-deck my wheelchair.

The front door was really heavy to open and I had my dog on my lap.

She got squished as I bent forward to pull it open.

No one took notice of us weaving through the heavily merchandized racks and rods and hats

On our way to the feathers.

I know exactly where they are as this place has been a secret go-to spot for past projects in lieu of Hobby Lobby which I will never enter again because they are horrifyingly exclusionary and we must vote with our purse, dontcha’ know?

There was a gaggle of guys gathered ’round the checkout counter, shifting with great intent from one foot to the other.

They were in their church of choice; telling tales of eddys and snagged line and the one they missed and the perfect cast.

Livvy and I looked at rooster plume and small fur treasures. There were sparkly dyed lines and the natural pluckings from the breast of pheasant and wild turkey.

Great wildlife sightings were had by all!

Those fly fishermen zealots were enchanted with themselves and didn’t notice us down lower and ready to pay.

I was enjoying the display too much to bother announcing myself.

Then, a young lad outside the circle of fisher kings noticed me.

I can always tell someone who has had a whiff of illness or disability or crisis in their life

Because they react with no hesitation and jump to the ready to assist with a pleasure and recognition (by me) seemingly born of experience.

“Here- let me help you get a clear path to the door.”

He goes before me parting the displays interfering with my path and sweeps the door open with a genuine pleasantry.

There seemed to be no hurry to return to the riveting regaling the men were casting about at the counter.

That young lad saw me. And he stepped up.

And I saw him in his compassionate and kind self.

And now I am here to tell you the tale.

Fortune

Aten_scan07
“BLACK MESA” 30″x5′, m/m, 2004
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It scares me when I find myself talking/thinking about death a lot.

A prayer I repeat often goes: “God..please burn away everything unreal and let me live in what is left.”

This is a “be careful what you ask for” kinda’ thing I can assure you.

Where does fortune come into this conversation?

I feel fortunate to be on the “MS Path….” (capitalization intended). Not to wish this hell on anyone but for me- my prayer is being answered.

My nephew shared this link which rocked my world.

I need reminding daily that what I experience as real in my daily life is pure projection.

I’ve/we’ve got this body-thing going. It’s GREAT! Then it’s not. Then it’s really not. Then it’s great again.

What’s the deal? What shifts?

Why did I write write yesterday that becoming engaged in a project which captivated my attention made me want to re-up into life again when before every damn thing felt too hard to bear?

A SHIFT IN PERSPECTIVE! YIPPEE!!

Death? -Life
Ugly and weak? -unapologetic in my vulnerability
Sick and tired? -leading a blessed life of contemplation
Victim? -warrior
Addicted? – discovering the empty place needing attention
Can’t drive? – wow..this rolling around town is so fun
Tired of being too tired? – I’ve taken care of people all my life and seem to need ALL THIS SPACE NOW.
This life feels too small and it’s closing in on me… (see link above)

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Feathering

staycurious

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I have a panel covering the back of my wheelchair which is carpeted with roses. The best fake flowers I’ve ever seen, actually.

The initial impetus for creating this was multifold:

1. VISIBILITY- keeping Cathy alive while everyone in cars is texting, phoning, philandering. I began my tenure with the power chair feeling very vulnerable on the road so I tied a bright orange scarf on the back (to match the tall safety flag). After awhile the scarf faded and tattered. Looked depressing. Yuk. Needed something new and different.

2. ROSES MAKE ME HAPPY- It was all about me back then…

Two years ago I created my current roses-on-the-back-of-my-chair but now we are heading into Winter and I saw I must create a new. seasonally appropriate panel.

Over these last couple years I saw that the roses enhanced my life in surprising ways.

Beyond the visibility quotient they acted like a bridge; people commented on them, felt free to talk to the wheelchair-girl because an ax murderer was unlikely to have roses so readily displayed, ya’ know?

Kids squeal. I smile. The parents and I start a conversation that turns into exchanging cards and the recommendation of a website about MS and BEHOLD! They have just contributed to a disabled person, the kids got to be near me and have a non-scary experience and I got a fun. stimulating, informational conversation and leave feeling less isolated.

OK- so what can I do for the winter?

I decided to make a shield design purely out of FEATHERS! Aztec, Native American influences..

How fun! Can you imaging feathers taken by the wind as I roll? Bright colors like hot pink and yellow will help keep me alive.

When I am in ‘project-mode’ I WANT TO STAY ALIVE.

Rollin’ down to the fly fishing store today to check out the feather aisle.

Dressing Down

thinking
hand-painted silk, 1987
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As I was getting dressed this morning I realized that I would need to dress down a bit.

The reason for this being a visit to the Santa Fe Water Department to apply for economic assistance. Water here is pricy and I do my best to conserve but the bills are still higher than I can afford.

And so.. I realize from past experience hunkering down for the long wait in some gross, green flickering florescence with my sisters/brothers-in-need

That I can’t look rich.

Or even good.

My life has been blessed with a great education, family of means, all the perks of the 1% I suppose.

The fact that I love beauty, fineness, thought provoking anything,

Appreciate a good hair cut (an angelic friend gifts me each month! Can you imagine??!!!),

And enjoy presenting myself as a woman who appreciates style

Is a downright no no at any governmental assistance agency.

When I first applied for Social Security years ago I was counseled to pretty much dress like a bag lady, not shower for days, wear no jewelry or make-up and not smile.

I got the point: If you look good you can’t REALLY be in need.

This mind set is something which shadows me constantly.

Looking put together in the water department today with my hand out likely will not add to the likelihood of success.

Out in my world rolling around holding myself as a woman who is not a victim to her circumstances is supported by a myriad of un-intentional connections

As folks seem interested in chancing to chat with me.

This is great for me and them.

I am quite sure it would be a different story were I smelly and dressed in tatters.