Me and Emma

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See me.

See Emma.

This is Peace.

She usually rides along with me on our adventures flattened on my lap

Just calmly looking around at everything.

The extent of her reactivity is a slight heightening in muscular tension and brightening of her eyes.

Her age (8-10 yrs.) seems to have given her enough time to see and do most of what she had on her bucket list

So now she seems content in my lap just lookin’ around at stuff, sleeping, eating extremely gourmet meals and being her perfect self.

She is my teacher.

She rests so deeply.

Appreciates adoringly.

Is so curious in a magnificently contained sort of way.

She poops and pees regularly and without drama.

Stays close but never in a cloying way.

Keeps herself modestly well groomed.

Patient with my endless human denseness.

Grows uproariously ecstatic rooting around in large expanses of dewey, green grass smelling like a symphony of her species.

Dig, dig…pee..pee..look at me!…pee…pee…

Back on my lap we cruise until someone stops us; “OH! That dog is so cute!!”

Touch..pet…cooo….pet..pet.. (Cathy gets impatient..)

I must share.

We roll on.

Life is extraordinarily good.

So good…so good.

Singularity

Attitude Adjustment1
monoprint, 30×22″
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We see moral and social conventions as inhibitions on our personal freedoms, and yet we are frightened of anyone who goes away from the crowd and develops “eccentric” habits.”

-Maria Popova

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Many years ago an acquaintance spied me sitting at a local cafe. He came up and said: “You are always alone.” Following a few less loaded pleasantries he left my table clearly still bemused.

I’ve never forgotten those few moments and am still learning from them.

He left me and I felt pink from shame.

But also there was the unapologetic part of me who knew the salve of the singularity I so often choose. It has saved me time and time again.

Alone is not the same as lonely.

The art of being alone is just that; an art.

Choosing singularity is natural for me and always has been. Being in the company of others reduces my access to the “space between the lines” I meander when engaged being the voyeur-in-life I cherish.

I watch. I listen. I allow Life to be it’s organic self.

My days are unstructured enough that I need not live the Cliff Notes version of anything. I let myself be IN IT…OF IT.

I am a gatherer. An archaeologist. A deep sea diver and a beach walker.

Treasures EVERYWHERE! (given the space to appear..).

I love the people I love.

AND I can be who I am with them in large part due to the most important medication I take: Silence and singularity.

Past intimate relationships have proven mountainous challenges to my nervous system; did I say the right thing?.. compromise graciously?.. remember that?.. praise enough?… stay present?.. give what was needed? expected?….

My “man-picker-radar” is not evolved enough to have chosen partners amenable to my eccentricities.

And so- I am mostly easy, content and grateful inside the single life I lead.

You may think this is a case of “Love what you’ve got and shut up about the rest of it” but I assure you I DO love what I have. It feeds and supports me as no other life could.

Does that make me weird?

Attached To Aspiration

girl1
“GIRL”, 24×4,ceramic,steel
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I keep wanting to be more and better…

More adept dog guardian, better friend and sister, kinder to myself, conscious more of the time, serving more, living more, thinking more, taking better care of myself, writing better….

Desire…desire is a shady bedfellow.

On the one hand evolution is dependent on the reach.

A need arises and we up our game to fill the vacancy.

The Buddha said all suffering stems from desire:

“Suffering is a big word in Buddhist thought. It is a key term and it should be thoroughly understood. The Pali word is dukkha, and it does not just mean the agony of the body. It means that deep subtle sense of unsatisfactoriness which is a part of every mind moment and which results directly from the mental treadmill. The essence of life is suffering, said the Buddha. At first glance this seems exceedingly morbid and pessimistic. It even seems untrue. After all, there are plenty of times when we are happy. Aren’t there. No, there are not. It just seems that way. Take any moment when you feel really fulfilled and examine it closely. Down under the joy, you will find that subtle, all-pervasive undercurrent of tension, that no matter how great this moment is, it is going to end. No matter how much you just gained, you are either going to lose some of it or spend the rest of your days guarding what you have got and scheming how to get more. And in the end, you are going to die. In the end, you lose everything. It is all transitory.”

Henepola Gunaratana, from ‘Mindfulness in Plain English’.

Grabbing, grasping….we want and we want for the red carpet to keep on rolling so we can keep on strutting..taking selfies to make a decided mark in time that says: HERE I AM! I DID THIS! I AM UNBROKEN, A WARRIOR-IN-LIFE STILL! CATCH ME IF YOU CAN!

Then we break.

That whole deliciously ordered and insured finery of a life we made breaks.

Then, and I think only then do we begin exercising our heart instead of our biceps; pushing our pink heart way the hell beyond where we ever imagined it could go.

And this new topsy-turvy gym membership we never signed up for is the new landscape we face.

The workout regimen is made up of things like humility, surrender, patience, stillness, prayer, gratitude and acceptance.

None of these are bankable in themselves but over time a fine silken web gets woven and lends it’s strength to the re-creation of each as needed.

There is a kind of gorgeousness born of Brokenness.

It is a choice we never have the privilege of choosing until we break.

God help us all.

Canary

Aten7
24x24x3, earth,clay,ceramic,thread,raffia,bird wing
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My present life circumstances direct me toward coddling my nervous system.

In Santa Fe this coming weekend is SPANISH MARKET which is a huge tourist draw and rightly so.

This morning I scooted downtown earlier than usual in order to miss the tsunami of sensation seekers; realizing the booths would be in the process of set up and the workers attention on their tasks.

The air was cool and soft. Noise level low, ambient activity purposeful and non-static generating.

Dog walkers, parents seeking benign diversion from constant hyper-vigilance, Emma in my lap.

I settled. Sent my roots down. Closed my eyes behind sunglasses and began to concentrate on my breath.

In love with depth: deeply in……..deeply out……deeply in…..

Suddenly I felt a new energy in my sphere. A scruffy man carrying take-out breakfast wearing thick magnification eyewear sat down at my table.

“Why the chair?” he says rustling aluminum foil.

I chose magnanimity only because he had the courage to ask that question straight out of the gate. I found that interesting.

“MS.”

“OH…I used to take care of 6 people with Parkinsons’ and I really helped them. Supplements were the key and……………..
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“I just don’t have the energy this morning to have a conversation so I am going to go find a quiet spot” I say after awhile.

He keeps up his diatribe as I roll away… eager to avoid silence.

Finding quiet again I sit and attempt to get to peace once more.

I realize so many people I love are at this very moment out there in the world working; at the effect of a lengthy queue of scruffy bespectacled conversationalists where I had to deal with just one.

I say no to this and no to that and no once again and then comes a yes but lately those yeses feel lonely and seek more company.

Describing myself as a canary-in-the-mine feels apt.

This heightened alert my body knows too well is the one underneath the coping skills of us all:

The raw preciousness of the gift we are which is LIFE.

But the “other” is Life too.

Just breathe.

Just breathe………..

The never-ending journey to “YES”

Confusion

boys
hand-painted silk men’s robes, 1988
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“The only reason we don’t open our hearts and minds to other people is that they trigger confusion in us that we don’t feel brave enough or sane enough to deal with. To the degree that we look clearly and compassionately at ourselves, we feel confident and fearless about looking into someone else’s eyes. ”
~ Pema Chodron

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I have been watching myself react to people whose opinions and beliefs do not match mine.

Of course, I am so sure I am right.

It feels so slimily delicious to be right.

Someone posts on Facebook that THIS is courage but THAT is not.

My hackles rise. I want to wring the person’s neck and say: “How do you know what you know? Are you very sure what you know is the truth?”

It is a courageous act to not know.

“I don’t know what to do to help you. Can you please help me know what to do (what you need, what to say, how to support you)?”

Not knowing leaves us raw and exposed; lacking the delicious armor of being absolutely sure of our convictions.

But really…do you know the courage it takes for me or anyone for that matter to re-enter life each day with the challenges we each face?

No…we just can’t know another truly so we must inquire into their reality and bear the confusion of not knowing.

My penchant for watching myself, witnessing Cathy in all her costumes can seem like navel-gazing to others. I know no other way to self-correct my unconscious places. If I don’t know they are there I can not address them and this continuous looking refines my essence.

This is how I make room for you.

On Kindness

colorado1
24×24′ M/M, 2001
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We’ve come to see the emotional porousness that kindness requires as a dangerous crack in the armor of the independent self, an exploitable outward vulnerability – too high a cost to pay for the warm inward balm of the benevolence for which we long in the deepest parts of ourselves.
– author unknown

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Yesterday I spoke at a fundraiser for an organization close to my heart- COMING HOME CONNECTION.

They were there for me as I began to negotiate the challenges of a body unable to cut up vegetables, prepare a meal, clean a house, make a bed, etc.

As intelligent as we understand ourselves to be it remains impossible to know what to do when Life-as-we-know-it shatters and we must begin again. COMING HOME CONNECTION has the answers and I felt honored to speak on their behalf.

As I wheeled over to the location of the fundraising event (about a mile) I saw the entrance to the building atop a huge staircase.

The building sits on a very busy traffic corner and I sat there in my chair looking longingly up to the entry door. A wave of vulnerability washed over me as I imagined all the cars buzzing past me watching me in my conundrum.

I calmed myself and waited.

Within a few minutes three ever-so stylishly- dressed people approached on their way to the event.

I asked if they might find out if a handicapped entry existed.

They took off with such purpose on the mission that I was left sitting there on the street corner breathless in the wake of their eager kindness.

Suddenly, I felt safe and all vulnerability vaporized in this seemingly small moment of just being SEEN in my need.

This, I thought, is the salve for societal ills; the arrival of a “WE” consciousness when before there was just ME.

My new friends came back within minutes and guided me to the entrance allowing me access.

We entered and were taken through the industrial kitchen as folks moved chairs out of our path and smiled the genuine smile of those eager to serve in some way.

Independence is our societal drug of choice. Not to need is looked at as the apex of our shared American existence; Capable at all costs..Survival of the fittest…

I am witnessing something very different; the shift away from my cherished and dependable independence toward the fertile ground of interdependence.

This new garden I live in grows not pride but Grace and Gratitude..

I am so much more because of it.

My Name is Emma

Charo (1)

The Santa Fe Animal Shelter named me CHARO when I got there last week. I was so tired from running on the streets of California where I hail from.

A nice person on the sidewalk offered me some food and I was beyond hungry so I decided to trust the lady. Her voice was slow and soft as she drove me to this place that was so noisy and scary with too much barking. All of a sudden I was in another car in a crate driving for a long, long time. (Santa Fe exchanges dogs with other shelters. We have an abundance of big dogs and California has many little dogs in their shelters so we trade out)

My teeth were really hurting and I was limp from using up all my courage.

We got to Santa Fe and this guy in a white coat looked so worried when he saw me. I have some years on me and scrounging for food and water on the streets was all I did. My skin and hair looked pretty bad I think.

The white-coat guy said everything would be ok and the next thing I remember is waking up with most of my teeth gone and my female parts altered in some weird way. I was sore.

I started to feel a tiny bit better after awhile. Drank a little water and listened to all the sounds in the room. The white-coat guy kept poking his face in to check me out.

A different and gigantic man came and opened my cage and gently picked me up. He knew all the right words to say, how to hold me and I liked him.

We walked a ways and then he put me in the arms of Cathy.

She bent down to whisper hello in my ear. Then we just sat there together for the longest time. My body felt her respiration slow and drop into a soft place and I relaxed too.

She sang a little song. Her voice wasn’t that good but I thought the effort was nice.

Cathy took me home. She first named me SQUEEZER but that wasn’t my name; too cute. Don’t get me wrong.. I AM cute but there is more to me than that and Cathy saw it. I am a survivor. My step is high and proud; almost regal. I am fast and smart and wise and calm.

My name is EMMA; nothing hard or cute or inventive..The sound arrives like the song Cathy sang to me when we met..

Like a prayer.

Sedimentary Perception

AAA

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My existence in a wheelchair puts my perspective about 2 feet below yours in all likelihood.

My current penchant for going down to the Santa Fe Plaza very early in the morning has the effect of an archaeological dig at times.

This morning I saw deep brown skinned, old Mexican men lifting giant glass containers filled with fresh watermelon juice as they readied their street vendor food cart.

Pigtailed girls ran deliriously after taunting pigeons.

Native Americans sat stoically tolerating the tourist gum-chewing and innocent disrespect; their eyes slightly glazed and hungry at the same time.

I loved my soft awareness with its desire to attach itself to the surprisingly graceful choice the city gardeners made of planting corn in the large pots used to direct traffic.

Perception stayed cool and comfortably low..

Humored by high-heeled, polyester suit-clad women teetering blindly while worshiping their phones.

I could see their crowded thoughts buzzing like flustered bees above their hair.

The stately trees generously buffered the sun.

I was in love with it all; the clear air and green smell mixed with surreptitiously smoking folks trying to get small in their shame and pleasure.

The low down suits me.

All these different levels and layers of perception invisible to the others but carrying wiggling and lively realities unique to each.

How very much we miss by remaining in our familiar territories.

The lower I get the quieter I become.

Moving From Person To Presence

dad

These are hand-painted silk neckties I did as part of my history working in the fashion industry. 1986.

I worked in a giant, dank, dirty loft in the South End of Boston when it was hard and raw.

I went to work each day and stretched silk on a 5 yard table, mixed dye and dove in.

I have always felt myself more in the process of creating rather than the final product.

This proclivity is still the case and serves me so well as I negotiate disability territories.

If I tend toward end-product thinking: whether I will walk again, regain old stamina or ‘heal’….

The downward spiral of comparison grabs be and takes me down.

If, in fact I stay inside CURIOSITY (hmmm…my physical self is tired and I must lie down and miss the movie I planned to go to– instead of shaming myself about being not-count-on-able I will lie here in gratitude for the honeysuckle seeping in through the window. Clearly, I needed rest instead of stimulation in this moment. How great my body let me know and did not stay silent.)

My end result now IS the moment to moment adventure…not becoming something/someone.

Being still and quiet with what is.

When I look at these neckties from long ago I remember the feel of the thick dye as I painted it onto wood blocks to press into the taut white silk..

The cacophony of co-workers around me playing horrible metal music and smoking, talking fashion, makeup, photography for an upcoming fashion show

Faded to black.

Only I remained…

I don’t remember the check I got when all was said and done.

Healing means something very different than I imagined.