I buffer the tendency to become myopic with winter’s descent
By keeping some attention on the big picture.
It helps me immensely.
Each of these photos carries the essence of the place.
Even if I have not been there in person
I can feel some of it.
I have been training myself to live in what I call ‘the in-between.’
As physical faculties diminish and cherished identities fade
My attention goes just to the side of what I used to focus on..
It is happening naturally and without effort
As what was interesting no longer holds a sheen.
The tone of your voice or exactly when someone’s eyes glaze over
Are my lighthouses now.
Why have the birds stilled just now?
Who is the ‘I’ when I moan: “I can’t stand myself today”?
We see only what we choose to see, are familiar with or that which is most obvious often because we haven’t had the inclination, need or time to go further.
Now I do and I am.
I found these photographs of snowflakes that help me know I am on the right track.
I have been to my initial Mayor’s Council on Disability meeting.
As the newest member I came with the nervousness of any newcomer to anything;
Will I have anything to say? If I say something will I look stupid? Will I be able to find a valuable place here?
I loved the meeting as these are folks giving of their time and expertise to effect change.
There was a LOT of experience in the room.
I was surprised how often I opened my mouth and was not the least self-conscious about what was going to come out.
I found my presence to be of value just because of who I am and not what I know about ADA laws, guidelines etc.
I offered up my own personal awarenesses of disability and possibilities for implementing change.
I left feeling visible and valued as a new voice.
I felt hope in the community of others; the power of two or more.
Disability is isolating but no more than life in general when we keep ourselves cloaked in imagined fear or reticence or doubt.
The unknown is only the precursor to the known
But immediately after the known we move into the UN-part of the equation.
Makes me fall deeply in love with grey… the space between.
I am a watcher.
I stay quiet most times and look.
I look at women a lot because I know them best as I am one.
There is a particular transparency that I notice in women/people who have done what it takes to look inside and do a bit of housecleaning.
The dust bunnies of sorrow, regret, desire, pain and disappointment have been seen and tended to;
Not to say they are swept away and forgotten..
I mean tended to. Seen.
Really seen there in their respective shadowy corners.
When this happens there seems to arise a lovely gravitas mixed with leprechaun-lit creases,
Each of which have voices
We all want to hear!
Oh- the singing… (click on link)
Click this link to see a simple miracle.
Stairs by architect Arthur Erickson.
I am honored to be in the company of my fellow awardees as I know what it takes to keep showing up here in a conscious, informative, courageous and sometimes fun way.
In the more than 2 years I have been writing I continue take pleasure in this process which often feels little different than all those years of creating art in form.
For this- and your continued support I am truly thankful.
I live with a stuffed raven mounted on my wall. I love him. Always have.
Ravens as an animal totem in many cultures signify mystery, introspection and creativity; wisdom we can cull from the shadows.
He keeps his mercurial, black eyes on me which is at once soothing and disconcerting.
I gave him as a gift 35 years ago to a beloved friend.
Last year I called him to ask if I could live with the raven for awhile as I knew he was in storage at the time.
I did this because I wanted to ‘keep death on my shoulder’ as Carlos Castenada had been urged to do by his teacher, Don Juan.
My understanding is that Don Juan felt that living a full and conscious life demanded looking at death intimately before that threshold is reached; to use death as a reminder to really live whatever that means for each of us.
And so- I have been letting Death guide my life for awhile now; not planning on transitioning all that soon but intent on living.
I have spoken before about the process of filling out THE FIVE WISHES which is a living will template legal in many states.
The process of actually completing this has taken me quite awhile not because it is difficult (can be done in 15 minutes ) but because I needed the time.
This week I sent off both the completed form as well as directives for my memorial service (in sealed envelope not to be opened until I pass) to my 2 chosen people who I have charged with making any medical decisions for me if I can not. I put another copy in my files.
Our culture is so wacko about ‘death talk’ that I fully expected this process to be tedious at best.
IT WAS SO MUCH FUN!!!!!!! How weird is that?
It was fun to say what I wanted and freeing to know what that was.
It was fun to decide the tone of my memorial; choose specific people for different tasks, pick music, place, disposal of remains.
My ‘memorial letter’ is really a love letter to my family as well as to myself; Making my desires available to them alleviates any question marks and, I hope, allows the process of sending me off to be a poignant one rather than an experience of undue stress.
It is a love letter to me because I got to set the energy of a very important part of life- that of death. I steered away from anything rigid or morose and invited people’s hearts forward in celebration of a life well lived.
I love the process of facing death.. not facing it down but having a conversation.
It is a fine, fine teacher.
I’ll tell you a story:
Once upon a time I attended a workshop to learn calligraphy. Part of the experience included sitting alone at a desk with paper placed and brush dipped in ink, poised to begin.
I waited silently for the instructor to enter and stand behind me, unseen.
He gently reached over my shoulder and took the back of my hand with a feathers’ touch.
He guided my hand and arm to make the calligraphic symbol.
As this seemingly simple teaching unfolded, a flood of energy washed through me unlike any I had ever experienced. It felt utterly perfect and full and inclusive and translucent and I was left moved far away from any worry or complaint about anything.
It lasted perhaps 1 minute.
I was changed after this experience.
And I wanted more of it.
In spiritual terms it is called transmission when something of the teaching is transmitted to the student through the teacher.
I thought that it had everything to do with my teacher and so I set out to see if I could stay in contact with him after he left New Mexico and perhaps learn how to have more of ‘that thing’ I had bumped up against.
We exchanged emails over a period of 6 months or so.
He invited me to his home in California.
Here was a scholarly, traditional and revered teacher inviting me- the lowly student- to his HOME!
I was so honored and thought I would be foolish to decline.
And so I went.
He was there to pick me up at the airport in his long beard and traditional Japanese robes.
We drove to his home where I was to stay for a week assisting him in the studio and taking in what I could through osmosis.
I had visions of Koi ponds and tatami mats and spare living spaces punctuated with ikebana floral arrangements.
What I got was a lumpy futon with dirty and torn sheets tossed unfolded on the bed, a wife with her claws at half mast and a moldy and damp, half-lit basement studio.
I had brought my most beautiful ceramic piece as a gift and I think of it now standing tall in the dining room of a household rife with dishonesty and tension and a drama in which I ended up making myself sick in order to take my leave.
What did I get out of this insane experience?
Am I sorry it happened? Certainly not.
Today, it always gets a good laugh the few times I’ve had enough courage to tell it.
What it taught me is this:
We all have places in us which are seemingly tied up with pretty bows; places which seem to inspire others, lift people up from one level to the next and leave them better and more, places where we think WE KNOW.
Those we label teacher and guru and president and priest
Seem to have more of something we feel we lack and so we hold them in high regard, revere them and want what they have.
The danger is in moving in too close; close enough to have left our powers of discrimination with our shoes at the door.
My nervous system stood up and cheered at the whiff of ‘special student’ cologne this guy sprayed my way.
There ARE parts of him I’d call enlightened,
Just not all of him.
I got this lesson loud and clear and lived to tell the tale.
It has helped me be gentler with my own and others deep humanity.
Mostly, it has helped me know that I know nothing at all and if I think I’m RIGHT about much of anything I’d better eat my humble pie and be glad for the meal.
It is a precious journey, this human one.
My guiding mantra today is “PULL BACK A BIT AND BE CURIOUS”
I chose this accompanying image as it feels complicated and dry.
Like me today.
I woke with heavy tears behind my eyes and vestiges of a bad dream involving the well-being of my dog.
I found it necessary to handle the question marks concerning what would happen to her should something happen to me.
She is my family.
I also have been lax in checking in daily with my designated friend who agreed to check in on me if she does not get an email in the morning.
Meeting the daily challenges of a life in partnership with chronic illness withOUT a partner are daunting at best.
No one would ever know unless they chanced to live it.
A friend brought me dinner as I was out of food.
We sat and I told her of my worries.
We solved both concerns by her agreeing to the two tasks at hand; she will take Livvy if something happens to me and I will check in with her each morning trusting that if she doesn’t hear from me by noon to investigate.
I cried again after she left but the old dryness was gone; instead, my heart was ripe and ready to meet life with curiosity and eagerness once again.
I felt clean.
My face looked very beautiful in the mirror.
It is that sharing thing…. transparency with those one feels can witness and likely respond without projection and therefore judgement.
A rarity and sacred ground to me.
My friends are my extended family web and I feel their silken threads almost invisibly attached but when truly needed, their tensile strength pulls me up and I am lifted.
The act of publicizing my penchant for parking lots as I did in my last post generated enough private and concerned response that I thought I’d address it a tad further.
The state of creativity has been my safe place in life.
That means that no matter what else was/is going on around me I trust my ability to drop into the ‘well’ (I call it).
The qualities of a well are these: distance to the water, the journey to get there, darkness, mystery, fear, curiosity, nourishment, surrender to the unknown, possible treasure or death.
Both life and death are held there.
Artists worth their salt step forward even with the big question marks.
My having chosen a life with creativity at it’s core has meant finding ways to ‘clear the decks’ so-to-speak,
Before I set sail.
My parking lot visitations stemmed from the need for peeling away all costuming and revealing my tender underbelly on a regular basis.
This in service to creating art far from the ‘so what?’ variety.
Somehow-the anonymity of the practice of parking-lot-sitting has allowed me to get familiar with my natural self in way that weren’t happening at home or in my studio.
Studio time was for making the things I was inspired to do as I sat invisibly in cafes.
Sometimes, the avenues we choose to shield ourselves become destructive and soul-diminishing (alcohol,sex,food)..
My way seems weird even to me but I really don’t care..It serves me, hurts no one and I am better for it..
In moderation, of course.
If you see me there please leave me there as my startle reflex is frighteningly low…..