Re-frame

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detail of painting on wool flannel
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The intensity of disintegration around and in me is profound these days.

People are getting divorced, ill, angry, scared, petulant and numb.

The only sense I can make out of the whole thing is that every part of this earthly rearrangement we are in the middle of is helping us give up our addiction to comfort and begin to reacquaint ourselves with the powers as yet unexplored sufficiently.

We as humans and a community of cultures, need this rugged overhaul.

It feels bad. It looks ugly, embarrassing and inconvenient. We’re all in the dark to some extent as our security reserves whether they be physical strength or monetary or closely held beliefs or beloved jobs and the security of home and family expectations are all being challenged.

What used to work just doesn’t.

I keep using my own body as a petrie dish.. the microcosm of the macro; something exciting and terrifying is happening both to me and to us.

We all know that nothing new can happen unless the vase that is filled to the brim (investments, physical prowess, comfort of velcro-ed on beliefs) is emptied.

Then there is a period of drought. Yuk. We hate not being comfortable. I hate not being comfortable.

BUT THEN… then the vase begins to fill.. we re-learn how to re-frame; relationships are rearranged, abandoned or discovered…what seemed an end is just the beginning. I see that my disabilities are not the death sentence I once felt they were but that my creativity is fuller, richer, infinitely wider than before my diagnosis.

We begin to make a difference instead of going after being different.

My own comfort is inextricably linked to yours.

It is a horrible thing that humans don’t change unless we have to.

Now we have to. I have to.

I am just going to trust that everything is as it should be. Fighting it doesn’t work.

Today I’ll just witness the underlying perfection unfolding and leave my judgement and complaints behind.

Just for today.

High-steppin’

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Emma’s preferred gait is equal to my fifth and highest gear in the chair.

Being that her history is that of a California street dog I just try to keep up with all of her 6 pounds.

Her hind quarters are sturdy and strong, stubborn and decisive.

She is my elder. Ten years is seventy in dog so I try to let her teach me as we roll.

Life is all about food as any good girl knows and Emma tells me this by dancing on two feet with front paws splayed wide to the side.

Her eyes turn up and back into her head when I sing which of course makes me feel like the winner of AMERICA’S GOT TALENT.

Green grass gets a similar swoon. My friend says we look alike; the short and mussy hair and the eyes..curious, vital, streetwise, knowing, slightly guarded but willing.

Her warmth is unobtrusively pressed gently into me at all times in the night. I shift. She finds me.

We are rescuing each other in each moment. We live in the privilege of presence with the conviction there is absolutely no more interesting place we’d rather be.

What Is It Like To Be Disabled?

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“NOT NEUTRAL” m/m, 1994, 48x 28″
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The closest I can come to describing my present physical reality

Is to have you imagine that each action taken feels like a six-point turn

To extricate ones’ car from a tight parking place.

The width of the wheelchair demands vigilance sussing out whether it will clear a door jam or cabinet.

My tinny-thin appliances bear the scars of unconscious spacial discernment.

Pulling up pants with one arm as I dress provokes guttural moaning on off days.

Just try it.

Within a more balanced mind set I can negotiate getting out of bed calmly

As I raise up my torso by the grace of my beloved adjustable bed, position the chair, push myself to standing, carefully pivot, lower body into chair, lift legs onto footplate and go forward into the next task which likely demands equal vigilance.

I yearn for nonchalance.

The cumulative weariness this life provokes is so insidious.

So used to being warrior-like in life this feels little different until I realize I must REST IN THE SOLACE OF SILENCE

Not as a pleasure but the only buffer I know to smooth the chalkboard screeching of too much body-centricism .

Perhaps this is why I swoon within the experience of being served a luscious meal in a genteel setting

And thrill in the simple pleasure of rolling ’round with the eyes of a voyeur, Emma rooted in my lap, mind emptying..resting…empty…empty.

Booze

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detail of installation,ceramic,earth
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I just love a good margarita with salt.

Sometimes we just have to take action in the edge-softening department.

This morning Emma and I had brunch on a patio.

I rarely drink alcohol.

Usually it makes me weak and my dad was an alcoholic

So I am cautious in the imbibing department

But today TEQUILA ROCKS!

We sat there in the late morning airy easiness on the small restaurant patio. Just Emma and me.

I felt secretly scarlet ordering as I did before noon:

Chicken enchilada with red chile and the coveted chilled glass rimmed in salt.

Is it dangerous that I want this so much?

Cathy! Get a friggin; grip girl! Drink and be happy.

And I was.

We were.

We sat there just steeping in life -as-it-is.

Two well-behaved girls

Reading the paper..looking at seeds on the pre-autumn trees, eavesdropping..

Oh my..

Life is very fine within my self-imposed veil.

The Gift

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The gift of life is about sharing the gift of life. That is it.

All these losses, brokenness and doing what it takes to re-up into life without “calling uncle”

Have taught me what it all seems to distill down into:

We are here to tolerate, extend compassion, exercise our “get outside ourselves” muscles and recognize our life would not exist worth a damn if we can’t connect and hear the call to another’s need.

I speak with authority.

Many times I felt I had reached “my line”; the marker I thought I could not bear to live beyond.

Thing is- Life keeps calling me back..letting me know I’m not used up quite yet.

Feeling mortality deeply, close and personal is my good teacher as I take little for granted, live wisely when I can and well.

In the past year full time in my wheelchair I have come to know some homeless people by name.

They look out for me and I feel their care as I wheel by.

Recently my favorite hat blew off m head with a gust of wind.

I looked over the guard rail and saw my coveted brim resting 3″ beside the river and within a rocky tangled wildness.

I paused awhile feeling yet another loss.

I rolled on with hat hair but too sad to care.

About 20 feet later I saw a dirty, toothless guy.

“May I ask you a question?” I said.

“Is there a pathway down to the riverbed? My hat blew off and I love it so. Do you think you could retrieve it for me?

“Well…it’s pretty rough down there but I can try.”

Five minutes later he handed my hat back to me.

“You just can’t know how much this means. Please wait here and I will go get you some money.”

My account was so low but I could not give him less than $20.00.

I gave him the folded bill and rolled off soaking in Grace.

The Gift.

Roses On My Doorstep

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Yesterday I woke to these.

No note. No name.

The gift given without need of acknowledgement.

Just given.

Silently left for me.

Who among my tribe knows how deeply the fragrance of a rose infuses the very center of every cell of my being?

This is intimate knowledge.

Is it plain I needed them yesterday in particular?

My transparency leaves me naked.

Did the angel smile a secret smile in the wee hours of morning

And that knowing was all the return needed for their effort?

I lifted those home grown beauties onto my lap

And rolled them slowly over to my center table;

Placed them there to watch over the house and me and Emma.

The fragrance lifted me high.

All of a sudden there was church.

Rescue

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detail of ceramic sculpture
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This week brought me three, THREE! separate instances in which I needed rescuing…omg..

The first two involved my new maxi skirt getting caught in the front wheel of my chair.

Due to muscle loss I list to the right and this seemingly sets me up for disaster.

It was a jolt I tell you.

Thankfully I had ahold of Emma’s leash because we stopped dead en-route.

Couldn’t extricate the tattered fabric so we waited….

Soon I spied a guy half a block away and yelled.

Disability brings the gifts of humility, courage, patience and a great beefing up of the gratitude muscle.

All these fine, fine opportunities (?) to exercise these previously foreign muscles

Gives me the heebee-geebees in hindsight.

I hate needing.

Today’s rescue involved Emma’s retractable leash.

The thin cord has a tendency to get tangled in the wheels also.

Just two revolutions of the friggin’ chair usually necessitates cutting the leash off and heading to the pet store the next day for an emergency replacement which costs, I tell you.

Today I sat awhile in the park stopped dead in my tracks awaiting an angel.

Ten minutes of singing to Emma little ditty tunes brought a lovely couple from Colorado.

He was young enough to bend his knees and crouched there working so very intently trying to free us while his wife and I talked dogs.

Success!

I sent them on their way with deep ooh-ing and ahh-ing of thanks as well as a restaurant suggestion.

We were all better for the encounter.

So strange we cower in corners at the idea of our independence inaccessible

When asking for and receiving help seems to always break away old and overused armor

Exposing a heart still familiar with the Grace vulnerability allows.

This is oh-so-valuable to know

But I am exhausted in the remembering.

Old Man

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detail of painting on wool flannel
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I saw an old man pruning his apricot tree.

He had a holster for tools and wore a mask to guard from the heavy pollen and dust.

The pony tail down his back seemed a prize hard won; brittle and incongruous.

He knew tools. The pruning shears so well wrought I could feel the weight.

Blonde, dirtied calfskin gloves an honest extension of the weary skin.

That apricot had definite age on it. The man moved very slowly in his dance with the tree.

Waiting for the particular call to quietly relieve a branch or two; not without poignance.

The tree held a sacred, studied shape born of restraint and sureness.

This man grows dahlias too..giant poms reaching 6 feet above ridiculous pottery containers.

But who am I to judge? He surely knows the language while I do not.

But I appreciate, by golly.

I see him there saving those few strands of hair beneath the weathered camo cap.

He knows stuff I don’t.

A scholar in the library of his yard. Elsewhere too I am sure.

Tending that old tree with the recipes in his old New Mexican archive.

I want to make him cookies.

Likely a smile is all he’ll receive.

I’ll roll by sometime and tell him his dahlias make me happy.

Tell him the story of Emma, maybe.

Age and illness breed isolation and I know a bit about that.

Such a distance to bridge between us all.

Loving Widely and Well

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“HE/SHE”, painting on wool flannel, 1995

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“Those who are the hardest to love need it the most.”

-Socrates

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Living Truly, Madly, Deeply

cathycrpped
from couple years ago but this is how it felt
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Last night Emma and I wheeled over to a nearby restaurant with an outdoor patio.

The sky was just on the edge of letting go into rain but, once again, Cathy braves the elements and wins.

My good girlfriend met us there.

It took me awhile to settle into the novelty of civility expressed at this fine establishment; really good glassware, tablecloths whitest of white, waitstaff well mannered and reserved until we needed them.

I mentioned “novelty” because I am so used to doing without what used to fit into my life with appreciation but not necessarily the ecstasy electrifying my present self. Nuts and seeds, kale and chicken being my usual fare, the menu here was decidedly hedonistic and my entire being relaxed into the balm of excess: wine! complicated spicing! gorgeous presentation! heavy flatware! no kale! a full sensual workout that left me breathless!

OMG..I love fine dining…

I miss hedonism on every level.

Not a steady diet of any of it but just peppered here and there like unexpected treasures lifted from a virgin beach..

I watched the legginess of the wine…laughed and told tales with my good friend.

My already gorgeous buddy became more beautiful inside the nourishment of impeccable food, gently capable service, loveliness surrounding us every which way. Me too, I am sure.

I wanted for nothing. No coffer was empty.

The bill wasn’t really that much.

Not when you realize the good medicine coating every centimeter of my insides and outsides like liquid gold.

I woke this morning with a softer countenance; weary wrinkles of deprivation smoothed and satisfied.

It never did rain last night.

Holding Tension of the Opposites

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my garden
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I can tell I am in the process of integrating something meaningful

When the floodgates open (so much writing) and are not ready to close.

In the night I tossed on a sea of thought mashups.

Carl Jung was there:


The last fifteen years of Carl Jung’s life[1] were lived against the backdrop of the Cold War—that time in our global history when most of the nations of the world were aligned either with the “West” or with the “Communist bloc.” Intermittently throughout this time the people of the world held their breath as they watched confrontations between the United States and the Soviet Union heat up. During one such tense time[2] members of the Psychological Club in Zurich asked Jung if he thought there would be an atomic war. Barbara Hannah recalled his reply:
“I think it depends on how many people can stand the tension of the opposites in themselves. If enough can do so, I think the situation will just hold, and we shall be able to creep around innumerable threats and thus avoid the worst catastrophe of all: the final clash of opposites in an atomic war. But if there are not enough and such a war should break out, I am afraid it would inevitably mean the end of our civilization as so many civilizations have ended in the past but on a smaller scale.”[3]

It remains easier..more palatable to look outside ourselves and judge, condemn, distance

But the wisdom for me is always closer to home; right inside me in fact.

How do I GENTLY hold the tension of the opposites in my own physical body for cryin’ out loud?

If the thing is that EVERY DARN THING CHANGES

Then why oh why when I am so weak or depressed or frustrated that I can’t just open a friggin’ jar on my own or pour tea without spilling or stop crying

Do I TOTALLY forget that this is not a permanent state of being but just a rung in the laddar-of-life

And the next rung is always, ALWAYS there within easy reach when I am ready?

This is what holding the opposites is in my mind- living with porosity instead of leadenness.

Whether this means political thought or compassion for ones’ self within all life serves up.

“I forgive you, Cathy, for all the things you aren’t

And celebrate you, dear Cathy, for being a woman of strength, curiosity, bravery and perseverance.”

Making Room

conversation
“CLOSE”, 40×40″,2002,m/m
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Someone I love ever so deeply feels quite differently than I do politically.

This has not caused distance in the past because we both respect one another enough to recognize where we do not meet, put a lid on it and walk on in compartmentalized sync.

The realm of FACEBOOK and social media have introduced a casualness to communication as well as the potency of instantaneous gratification in the belonging department.

My beloved person became bolder in their “sharing” of late and my ire was rankled.

Any time my heart starts physically hurting in reactivity I know for a fact that MY OWN UNCONSCIOUSNESS IS REARING IT’S HEAD..

But it is so freakin’ hard to soften enough to feel this, not make another wrong and take responsibility for every iota of our lives.

“This is exactly how wars begin,” I realized.

Here I am a sane and educated woman having a tizzy over another’s beliefs which are not mine; distance, doubt, disappointment ensue.

I must make room! Return to love! Allow! Surrender my rightness! Return to love!!!

Be right or be in love.

Of course I choose love but how to get the reactivity out of this instance and the guy who was rude to me on the street and the decline of my body and how I so easily turn on myself and the barking dog across the street, and, and, and…..?

My quest is for Peace and I feel it’s absence so acutely these days. My nervous system suffers. My dog suffers. Those I love suffer and passers by suffer.

Pema Chodron is a wise Buddhist nun I listen carefully to.

This meditation brings me room. It is an active prayer for the salve of inclusiveness. Practice..practice. No judgement. Practice.

Walking, Falling, Getting Up

saving grace
detail of painting, m/m
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“Most people are lost. Most people are seriously fucked-up. Walking into walls, falling face-forward. I’ve been lost. I’m fucked-up. I’m not saying everyone gets rescued. I’m not saying anyone gets rescued. But we have to be kind. We have to listen. We have to link arms and get through this shit.”

-Marlon Brando

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As I sat with my friend this morning at Starbucks we marveled at the genial presence of one young Irish man behind the counter.

Simon has the ability to take an order, meet my gaze, smile, remember my name, enter the order and keep his attention wide enough to notice if my order has been fulfilled in a correct and timely manner.

All this inside the melange of irritable children and impatient adults loudly waiting in an endless queue.

Simon is worth noticing because even though I am an intelligent and educated, mannered human

I could never do what he can do and does with a mastery I so admire.

It’s not just the mechanics of coffee serving that I speak of.

More the psychic and emotional as well as spiritual machinations he likely is unaware of embodying which impress me.

My friend offers: “It is because he is not American.” Interesting thought. He rises to our attention because he shows himself…consistently and with potency.

All the twists and turns he must travel in such an environment to remain civil, engaged and capable of periodic authentic connection without retiring to the restroom to shoot himself.

He was my teacher this morning. I bow to his tenacity and the effort it takes to make sense when there is none.

To keep our channel open to connection when we are able is a mighty workout for the heart.

My best medicine seems almost always hidden well in the kelp forest of humanity.

Just a slight turn of the current and there it is! The brightest, most colorful flashing fish has got my attention

And I am more.

Enough

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detail,1996,m/m
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I found myself remembering the visceral pleasure of using my entire physical self to create a work of art.

The next moment my thoughts turned to how I seem to be using the exact same refinement tuning skills to adjust the timbre of a simple “Good morning” to a stranger passing by;

The first “Good morning” of my early roll downtown had shades of murky, not-quite-awake-and-present vocalization.

I noticed and raised my vibe a bit and said my next greeting with more clarity, connectivity, presence and purpose.

As each person strolled by me I experimented with allowing more authenticity without pretense.

It wasn’t as easy as it sounds.

But it was not work.

I was inside the same kind of tuning I used to do as an artist-in-form.

Except it seemed so small.. no THING resulted from this work I thought.

A few minutes later I gave up the stealthy shame shadowing my chair

And realized smallness had no place in this piece of art I created this morning.

Who I am had a decided effect..a changing effect on myself and those I interacted with so briefly.

It was like making a mark in a painting and realizing what kind of mark to make next to enhance the first,

Or perhaps change the color;

Maybe remove it all together.

It was…I was surely enough.

Morning Rollabout

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