The Soulful, Sonorous Sounds of David

“EVENING”,11×11″,m/m

.

I love David.

I actually am IN love with him.

When I hear the salve of his soundings

It feels like honey in my heart.

DAVID ATTENBOROUGH’S voice has just the right combo of gravitas, innocence, awe, humor, wisdom, silliness and nobility

To allow me immediate rapture regarding any damn thing he says.

Today, that thing was the brand new BBC PLANET EARTH II series. (link is to NETFLIX listing)

I just watched the first episode on ISLANDS

And reveled in the advances technology has made in the ability to capture Nature in such glorious intimacy and power.

Here it is: BBC PLANET EARTH II narrated by my guy: David Attenborough.

Use it as the perfect buffer to whatever-the-hell-it-is we are living through these days.

KOMODO DRAGONS FIGHTING! SLOTHS LOVING! PENGUINS SINGING!

No pretense…sigh.

(except that horrible bird that pretends to be something he’s not and steals the eggs from the mother bird out gathering nest material and then he EATS them slurpily..)

Farmer

installation in private garden,naturally pigmented earth,ceramic

.

If one is a farmer of life
Times of drought tiptoe in.
Rough, old earth workers
Expect such chilly emptiness.
They wait.
Patiently by the fire
With a scrappy mutt
And darned socks
They wait.
Inside illness
As I am
Time is stained by fear;
Will I slide smoothly
Into a new season
Of fecundity?
Will summer sweat be mine again?
Or will I wither
From lack?
The oddest questions
Seek me out.
Really…ANYTHING
With expectation
Is suffering.
I should know by now
That emptiness
Is only
Rest
And possibility
We humans
Dress up
in
Anxiety.
Today, Riley
(my shaman barista)
Decorated my latte
With an artfully drawn frond
Of some sort.
That tiny action
Rose up to grab me
By the heart.
Can we make anything beautiful?
That little flower he drew
Affected me as such
Because it came
Suddenly
Into my anxiety-tinged emptiness
I feared
Might never end.
If the emptiness disappeared
There’d be nowhere
For the Love
To land.

Simply Complicated


my garden

.

When I screw up with a friend I am really hard on myself.

My path in life has been devoted to lifting up the heaviest of metaphorical rocks in my being and having the courage to see, smell and touch the stuff of the dark.

Somehow, I never lost the trail the faint perfume of an innocent, highly charged girl/woman trapped under that weight still exuded.

I found her at last and with oodles of assistance did what it took to dig her out.

I really like her a lot.

She is still revealing herself to me.

It is a damn messy business..getting authentic.

So many costume changes till one finds the right color and fit.

Sometimes I use a telescope..sometimes a magnifying glass.

For all the editing I’ve done over the years.. now, when I find a friend I don’t need or want to edit myself with

All manner of unpolished communication passes between us.

To many people I have seemed complicated in the sense I live a very curvaceous life.

As an artist I know the dark..the light and bright horizonless white of a blank canvas too.

They are the same for me.

The worms and shed skin of a snake are catalysts for curiosity as much as the loamy, sexy smell of dirt under the rocks I’ve displaced.

My life is a lot of the nothingness most pay handsomely for a ticket to once, maybe twice a year.

My life is not a sunny beach

But a swath of sand visited in the early dawn hours after a surprise storm has left large and little treasures strewn every which way.

I must bend down to reach them..not a one has jumped directly into my pocket.

That would be my parting Facebook profile picture:

A woman walking bent over one early morning in half-light; pockets heaving with the damp stretch of treasure.

A little white dog two steps behind tries unsuccessfully to keep it’s feet dry.

Essence vs. Extra

I feel flat in the midst of the turning seasons.

The Summer heat, sense of easy expansion of my energy, stretched out daylight, fabrics like linen and silk, fresh colors of white and pink, exclamations of birdlife and riotous blooming

Shift

To naked trees, involuntary contracting of muscle and mind, dark and frosty chill, vacant garden rows and lots and lots of puffer coats; mostly black.

I know, I know….

So much important work going on under the frozen earth as root systems rest and rebuild and we all hunker down in our dens.

My nervous system is tattered from the long summer of tourists standing in their great width and weight, middle of the sidewalk with heads hang-dogged seeking the security of GPS.

I am powering down and it feels flat.

Rolling down the road today with Emma in her usual spot at the prow of our ship

She relinquished her ever-forward gaze

And turned that beloved face up to me a number of times.

She was feeling nervous about various canine appearances along our way.

She looked up at me with her clear, trusting, present and glittering black eyes

Just to check:

Everything cool? Any need to guard you?

I say: ” Hi Em..Everything’s ok. Good dog..very good dog”.

My heart slows with the medicine of her pure goodness and beauty.

More and more I live inside these seemingly small moments of reverence for life.

Tiny soft furry breathing on my lap

Or her front leg reach mixed with jangling up and down dancey head movements during dinner preparation.

As my heart plumps to bursting I remember these little church moments and take that awareness into the world.

That man in Starbucks jumping up from his comfy seat to run across and get the door for me before I even get there…the purity of this act feels the same somehow.

The bright red chile ristras hung recently on the plaza were the essence of red; indescribably deep and rich.

The feelings I am after have no names, really.

Because reducing them to language is missing the point.

Crafting a life of ESSENCE and not EXTRA is what I am up to as we enter this season of excess..

Here is my front porch winter offering inspired by Scandinavia’s inherent appreciation of less-is-way-more...

How I Keep Getting Up

“RENAISSANCE” naturally pigmented , 10’x3’earth, wood

.

I’m talkin’ ’bout getting up in the morning and rising above the aches, weariness, thoughts of “not-good-for-much today”, undercurrent of hating the world and peeing my pants…

(Gotcha’ with that last one, eh?)

You may be aware MS is often accompanied by this symptom).

My greatest medicine is a way of looking….perceiving.

Our current outer world is uncivil, ill-mannered, divided.

It affects me so much.

I want to shrink away from it all;… MY pain.. THE pain just living our daily lives demands of each of us.

I find myself getting smaller energetically and less available to the barrage of bullets.

.

SOME THINGS THAT HELP ME BE HEALTHY:

.

1. Mental health is just as important as physical health and we can’t survive without it. My definition of mental health means we can easily access a reserve of energy to think new things, live moderately well in the unknown in the company of the natural anxieties arriving moment by moment. KEY word: A RESERVE of life juice. A savings account of self-love. HOW?

2. I put myself next to, behind or near people/beings of character through personal contact, video online, film, books, friends, animals.

3. I create beauty to keep myself entertained; decorating myself and my home and noticing it in others and telling them.

4. Remembering we only really have this moment after all is said and done, I cry, wipe the tears with 2-ply tissue, patch the hole in my skirt, apply lipstick and scent and roll on.

5. Depression finds my chest feeling collapsed. I remember my posture and get comfortably straight then breath into my belly. This creates instant pride in a good way.

6. Too much time alone and I get so bored with myself. Out we go- Emma and me into the wilderness of life. I go fast in my chair and sing stupid ditties into the wind.

7. Eating plants and green stuff is good but a slice of carrot cake with too much frosting is grand medicine.

8. Give something to someone. SOMETHING YOU VALUE to a stranger; a smile, even “Hello” will lift someone else but mostly you.

9. Down time with head under the covers is part of remaining healthy. Just get up before you forget the sound of youtr own voice.

10. Buy flowers. For your own precious self.

11. Remember the strongest truth there is: EVERYTHING DAMN THING CHANGES. ( NATURE points to this reality and the comfort/alarm in it). Comfort is not the goal.

12. Finding the good in the bad starts out being kindof exhausting but this is the most effective way to a thriving life I know.

I would say what keeps me on top of my game the most is subscribing to the philosophy of WABI SABI- the perfection of imperfection. Cultivating a way of looking.. .click here:

Emma Loves Earthworms

detail-ceramic

.

AFTER THE BIG STORM

.

EMMA LOVES EARTHWORMS.

INTOXICATING! BROWN. DEAD.

MOVE ALONG, DOGGIE.

.

CA- 2017

Raven Walking


RAVEN WALKING

I saw a raven walking.
Really more of a strut.
He felt himself fully
Flashing this way and that.
Hysterical children
Bothered him not.
He walked;
Courting no one.

I am like him.
Little need
To bolster my flash.
I enjoy my lot
Taking only as much
Sidewalk
As I need.
I roll on;
Courting no one
In particular.

That raven I saw
Has a black stride
Way
More secure
Than my own.
I did notice
He had
One feather
Slightly
Amiss.

His naturally black eyes
Have no overleaves
Of pretense or posturing.
The swagger he owns
And the flash too;
He can’t divorce himself
From who he is.

I got up this morning
And vacuumed
The dustbunnies
Off my precious
And secret
Self.
When I emptied
The bag
It was less full
Than yesterday.
(Big sigh)

I roll.
Hoping to meet that raven.
“Thank you
For showing me
Your Real”
I shall say.
“Here is some of mine
For you.”

.

Purpose

Apologies for my extended silence.

If I don’t have anything to say, I don’t.

I have been shifting with the season.

In order for new stuff to come in the old has to die off as we all know but I never like it while it’s happening.

Like the leaves, my energies feel brittle and warm from the advent of composting.

I acted as sounding board for a friend conflicted in his decision-making process whether to stay in Santa Fe and continue in business which has been a challenge for the past year

Or to return to his familiar life back east where his income was safe and he knew exactly what to expect.

He was freaked out because he is pushed to the wall time-wise with head and heart battling it out.

His bottom line ended up being “PURPOSE” and deciding what that is for him; recognizing his unwillingness to live the remainder of his life without it.

Putting words to our purpose feels important.

For me, the diminishing capabilities of ambulatory living and even two hands to count on have forced me to welcome the heat of my own leaves which have fallen; on the composting trail to new and fertile soil.

Dirty, messy business to face the need to shift from one identity to the next.

I might say that my past and pre-MS identity and purpose was that of an artist bringing beauty and interest into the world.

Today, I understand that to merely exist with as much awareness and appreciation as I can muster

As well as be a reflection for the miracle that is us

Is my purpose.

Really the same thing I was doing as an artist

Just not “in form”.

After all is said and done

To BE…to exist

Is enough.

I wish I felt more kindly toward that pesky “composting” part though….

A work in progress we are.

I don’t remember Spring every occurring without the “dying to be re-born” part.

Do you?

Yuk. and Yay!

Nature is the Antithesis of Illness

monoprint,30×22

.

I try to keep the energy of my home clean and clear as best I can; clutter, emotional drama, too many colors and textures, unfinished projects and piles of “stuff” all lend density and heaviness to the vibe.

Flowers are insta-clearing agents for me.

They are extremely vital to my well-being and I adore arranging carefully chosen blooms.

Candles and especially the scent and smoke of sweetgrass help hoover out the sneaky slimeyness (sp?) bound to find entry sooner or later.

Sometimes Emma stands rigid on my bed barking at the empty corner of the room protecting me from things only she can see.

My tolerance for staying put indoors is two days which really is pushing it.

I get weird.

My brain curls into armadillo-mode and starves.

Even with all the consciousness I put into “keeping house”

The moment I close the door behind me bound for the plaza or some other adventure

I become light;

Brain unfurls into an un-armored friend and I move from my heart into the world.

Thoughts of pain and weakness and struggle,

Boredom and isolation and severed threads to Spirit

Fly off me like flinty scales

As I lean in to the fresh innocence of a day.

I have a friend in Texas waiting anxiously for what may be the ravages of a full blown hurricane.

Nature has many costumes in her armoire from ferocious to tender.

She demands we must bow to her risking everything if we don’t.

The fact Mother Nature is so much larger than us seems to allow the petty contractions I experience in my physical self to shrink in the light of Her pure and untainted energy.

Suddenly, I don’t feel the identity of “sick or pained or weary woman.”

A slow tear slides down my cheek in undefended humility and gratitude.

I roll on.

Free.

What’s Worth Fighting For?

 

 

Rolling ’round recently I was feeling the effects of the heat and my fading chi.

I entertain myself by asking revealing questions: “What, Cathy,  is worth fighting for if your energy reserves are so low and you had to pick three things?”

“Well…(I answer to my captivated self)

EMMA comes to mind first off.

Then THE QUALITY OF LIFE I ENJOY (creativity,security,peace,connection,beauty)

And then there’d be my HEALTH..which allows my presence of mind..most valued of all.”

It is pretty revealing and important to focus in on what we value

And many ways to fight for the privilege and likelihood of their presence.

Newly hatched Great Horned Owl chicks are now in the park I take EMMA to in the evenings.

I like to go looking under the tree which hosts their nest; bones and feathers of ripped and torn prey the owls have enjoyed lie spread beneath the noble pine.

My friend sent me the photos here which are so gorgeously raw in the primal ways of nature in survival mode.

To protect what we value we can choose to attack or pull back into invisibility-mode , remain hyper-vigilant in extreme self-care or confront the subject.  

Or we can do nothing and risk using up our precious and decidedly finite energy on insignificant dalliances and eventually wonder where that dripping gift of life juice went while we weren’t really paying attention.

 

 

 

Totter

 

 

Some of my very best memories were made during the many weekends I spent growing up at my grandparents’ home.

Summer evenings found me washing good dirt from fattened, sun-warmed tomatoes

Making Caprese salad for our picnic on the porch.

My grandfather had a tiny hibachi grill and tended the charcoal like a lunatic with tunnel vision.

We all waited for his: “READY!”

And sprung into action delivering the steak to him, dressing the table, orchestrating the symphony of a picnic on a mosquito-laden, Michigan Saturday evening.

Five minutes into the cook a low-down dog named Totter appeared;

An ancient Basset hound weighing in at 60 lbs with ears wagglingly dropped to the porch brick.

He maneuvered over to the steak on the grill and sat down.

After a nice long chat with my grandfather he received the first cuttings of meat on his own plate and promptly disappeared as the humans dug in.

Totter loved what he loved.

He loved it so much that it was almost embarrassing to watch his pleasure.

Lately, I love what I love fiercely too.

I let myself be overwhelmed by simple pleasures like an early morning breeze becoming blistering heat in the following hours.  Fleeting, impermanent. Can’t buy it or catch it or collect it to enjoy later.

So much in our world is not a problem!

I am choosing to live there; not with a blind eye to the rest but a conscious choice to love what I love as best I can as much as I can while I can.

Going after a doctorate in loving what I love;

The seven pound press of Emma on my lap, my adjustable bed with clean sheets dusted with Chanel #5 powder, pink hollyhocks under an ancient apricot tree, shared table with good friends, summer flush of my skin, coffee as medicine, a radically pared down life.

God only knows how many years of hours and minutes I used up acquiring..

Knowing that was me not too long ago and noticing who I am now is something to love as well.

The list is inexhaustible of things and people and animals and rocks and potions and praying mantises to love!  

(Just now I loved that I called up the energy to rise up off the toilet when , on first and second try I could not..)

Dr. Cathy Phillips Aten knows what she loves and does so fiercely.

Pigeons and Autism

 

 

In the early morning on the plaza 

A young

Well-dressed

Father

Tried unsuccessfully

To keep up with his autistic child

Who,

Flapping his arms wildly

Made pigeon guttural soundings

Weaving wildly

This way and that.

The Dad

Was close

To  hysteria

Trying to make it

To the street curb

Before his kid

Attempted flight

Not wanting

To leave his feathered friends

Quite yet.

The mom

Was inside a restaurant

Across the street

Finishing her breakfast;

Her stress level

Evened 

With their absence (I imagine).

I was the watcher.

The boy,

With his pre-existing condition,

Seemed free.

I envied his arm-flapping

And calling

To the pigeons.

I wanted to take the Dad to a bar

And leave the Mom

In peace.

The boy

Flew the coop

In my private theater

And 

So 

Did

I.

Hand in hand

We took off

After those glittering quicksilver birds.

The boy

Knew more

Than I

About giving in

To the Mystery.

 

.

.

photo- Dennis Chamberlain

Proximity

I sat down today at my table next to a black man who was sitting at his.

I hadn’t the energy to look up and greet my new neighbor as I normally would.

My wide brimmed black hat acted as a societal shield; eyes hidden from view.

The temperature is 33′ and snow fluffed its way down on my exposed roll to town.  It is almost June.  I dressed optimistically and my nerves are all trying to pull as deeply into the far recesses of my interior as I realize my sensorial receptivity with MS is far more acute than regular folks.

I keep my compass tuned to “normal” until something like this temperature assault reminds me otherwise.

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC kept me company at my table as I apologized to emma for the putrid weather.

I couldn’t warm.

Been out of pain pills 3 days now.

Jaggedy and generally a mess I just wasn’t friendly to anyone including self.

The black man sat stoically with no apparatus or book to hide in.

I snuck looks from under my hat.

He was so still and quiet; somewhat worn but did not exude suffering or need.

I eventually found  a passible body position and  my flesh moved into borderline warm.

Heartbeat slowed and my nerves smoothed.

Hat brim remained dropped insuring seclusion.

I kept feeling the stillness of the man next door.

He was far more interesting to me than reading about fossils or climate change but I stealthily kept the ruse of reading going as I studied him.

Folks around us asked for entry codes to the restroom, settled crying babies and slurped while complaining about the snow.

Eventually, I collected myself and braved connection with the still man; “Would you like to look at this magazine?  I am heading out.”

I suddenly saw his weariness was really loneliness.  He pulled up his radiance and gave it to me as he said just a short: ” Yes, indeed. I would.”

That was all we had together.

But it changed us.

Once again..communion at Starbucks.

Amen.

Tiny Noises

The day Emma and I met for the first time. Finally safe and off the streets of L.A. We rescued one another. Still do.

.

TINY NOISES

.

Emma’s tiny sleep noises

Heat up my heart

And my heart

Melts it’s way

Down to my toes

And my heart seeps

Out onto the damp land

And takes me with it

So-

In the end

There remains  

Just Us.

As Every

Thing.

In Spring.

.

-CA

 

.

Dirt

“PORTRAIT OF PLACE”, earth, bird wing,ceramic,thread, rock,corn husk, 22×22″

_____________________________________________________

.

 

I really like dirt.

I like the word.  It has grit as opposed to “earth” which is good too though it sounds cleaner.

Dirt is dirty.

It smells not like saccharine perfume but  the deep amber oily  droppings of birds and trees and dogs and flowers and rain and snow and sun and fog.

It lay there on the ground all winter with nary a bath; coddling grape hyacinth bulbs and crocus.

Somehow, each year as the sun stretches higher and she lets her hair down in relief

Micro temperature rises tickle the tubers

Of eager daffodils.

They climb out of the dirty dirt

In the hope of catching glinting rainbow light 

Bouncing off the sun’s clean hair.

SPRING!

Everything and everyone gets washed

New.

Our lungs relax and expand into the unarmored ease

Vaguely remembered from a year ago.

Shoulders drop into the sigh of melting stress 

We took on from lack of faith

The Sun would ever warm us again.

The dirt can be seen to move with awakening worms and insects and white roots.

Emma digs her toenails in and with noble effort

Hurls great clods of dirt

Willy nilly.

I wish I could do that.

Maybe roll like  ecstatic porcine  pinkness

In the dirtiest of dirt.

Perhaps tomorrow I will relate to it as “earth”

But today my preference is dirt.

Apricot Night

my living room

___________

.

APRICOT NIGHT

 

Last night Emma and I rolled.

In the deep 

Sort of dark

Dark

We silently skirted potholes.

A restless bird

Given to insomnia

Cawed a weary warning

As we passed.

Venus gleamed.

Suddenly

A scent

Slipped into 

My sphere.

Ahead of us

Dotting black pavement

Were leavings

Of the first blooming

Apricot tree;

Fluorescent.

Impossibly tender and innocent

Tailings

Of bursting bloom

Slipped toward us

Through the night air.

I released

My wheelchair joystick,

Turning 

To let the barely pink gift

Give its’ self.

I lifted my head 

As Emma rustled nearby

And felt my being

Slightly dusted

With something

More than me.

Onward we went

Cruising the dark;

Our pace slowed 

By olfactory arrest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Haiku

bda-2016-7302

 

Deftly, the wide wings

Of hope gave us some shady

Ground to pray after all.

 

.

 

– CA

 

.photo:  Dennis Chamberlain

Yellow

she walks
detail of painting on wool flannel
_________________________

.


YELLOW

Crispy cracklin’
Happenin’
Underfoot.
Sleepy ground
Frosted yellow.
Floating yellow.
Down, down,
Leaves leaving.
Catching air.
Tilting this way
And that.
Slicing through
Air
On their way
To rest.
This yellowing
Of leaves
Takes a whole year
To get the color
Right.
I will wait
For the next round.

When
The yellowing
Leaves leaving
Finally rest;
Suddenly still
Post-flight,
The brown
From the ground
Takes them home.
They surrender
Their yellow
Then brown
And crisp
Their way
Into the folds
Of Mother.

Turning
As they do
Into wallpaper
For worms
The coming Winter
Makes them rest.
In their de-yellowed
Silence
They each dream
in utter
Stripped down
Nakedness
Of yet another season
Of yellow.

The truth is
It is quite impossible
To reproduce
The very
Same yellow
Next year.
It will never happen
Again
And this is why
We must be
The registrars
Of the perfectness
Of the yellowing
They give us
As their gift.
It happens once.
Only once.
And it is we
Who
Must
Remember.

– CA Oct. 2016

The Privilege of Age and Illness

Aten7
untitled,earth,corn husks,stone,ceramic,thread,gold wire, bird wing, 22×22″
___________________________________________________________

.

“WHAT?” you say…

…Two things we run from like leaping deer from forest fire.

This morning on the plaza under the perforated umbrella of trees giving up their leaves

I sat across from an older Native American man who lowered himself tentatively onto the bench.

He wouldn’t catch my eye as is the case with many Natives.

I spied on him peripherally.

Both of us wore disability yet mine was more visible; his gait weary and effortful I had noticed.

We rested on our separate benches..connected in some lovely containment of our personal selves reduced in importance by steeping in and appreciating the change of season.

I sat in the poignant combination of leaves leaving, the powerful infusion of clarity in sky and light, the clip of chill on my cheeks and the reality of sitting in a wheelchair.

“Everyone’s out there working away to make the world go ’round while I sit here; still, silent, empty. I am so happy..so privileged to be here registering how sublime this day is. I have the company of this man sitting near me and we needn’t connect to appreciate the comfort of our shared human journey as frail specimens of sentient beings and examples also of radiant spirits up to the task at hand because we say so.”

Would I have noticed the sensuality, profundity, utter perfection of the various patinas making themselves available to me today

Even 5 years ago?

No.

No.

No..I wouldn’t..couldn’t see nor feel the offerings before me.

I am so very rich.

This wealth I am accumulating comes from my ability to HOLD THE OPPOSITES as I often speak about.

The privilege arrives in my character having the room and willingness to experience beauty in losing/finding, ending/beginning, madness/lucidity, confusion/sureness, trust/betrayal, summer/winter, sitting/walking, silence/talking, hungry/full, chaos/harmony, disappointment/fulfillment, danger/safety.

The old man eased himself with great care off the bench and very slowly shuffled his way to another nearby resting spot easing his way down once again.

I heard him sigh.

In Search of Late Roses

DSC00201-001

A different light visits with the first touch of Autumn.

The highest leaves atop Sugar Maples pink up.

The Aspen trees on the mountain are, each and every one, connected to one another through their root systems.
Essentially they are all one tree.

I had the thought today that we, as humans being are each connected as well but our root system needs some serious fertilizer or maybe piping in the best tequila would soften us all up enough to recognize we can’t live without one another.

I rolled out my door this morning in search of late roses.

They are different in that they are the second blooming cycle of the season.

The color and constitution of the flowers seem more robust and eager to show off.

I can hear almost a crackling around their moxie; almost pornographic in their push of life.

They know their days are numbered as the frosty reaper he be a’comin’ round the bend.

I am a late bloomer too.

All the blonde girls in high school with perfect skin and all the right curves and clothes

Had their bloom.

Now is my day; Wrinkles stack themselves up, one against the other and time is a mean one where gravity is concerned;

But in my chair I go fast. My dog rests calmly, warming my lap as passers by ask to pet her and chat about nothingness..just to connect.

Finally for me, just existing is quite enough.

My purpose is only to love what I love.

Today the late roses have my attention.

Their fragrance is quite complicated. Not full of young notes but something ripe.

Next Page »