The Dignity of Doria

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I keep thinking about Meghan Markle’s mom, Doria.

After all the hullabaloo has passed, her quiet dignity stays with me.

She did not tuck her blackness in

Nor did she shove it in our faces.

She carried herself with an easy and powerful dignity.

She sat there in the pew, very alone, witnessing her baby marry a prince.

Prince Charles took really good care of her; recognizing the challenge of negotiating such an event with out a plus-one. He kindly guided Doria with seeming affection as Camilla stood by.

Today, on my morning roll I negotiated the crowded streets of SantaFe filled with tourist disconnect to my presence on the streets.

I found some quiet shade to do my voyeur thing.

The default posture I see most these days is a marked hunched back and collapsed upper chest.

Seeing this so much makes me feel claustrophobic.

It is a habitual and lazy stance of no possibility; armoring ourselves against the assault of internalized wariness of the daily unknown.

Closing off our chest like this truncates breathing so less Life gets in.

Thinking about this and noticing the same in myself I changed my posture

By rolling my shoulders back and subtly lifting from the muscles in my upper chest while pulling my lower back in toward my stomach a bit.

This is the basic yoga “at rest” posture.

I immediately felt really different as I opened my chest to hope and connection and ease and dignity.

If I don’t put energy into maintaining this posture I can go down the rabbit hole pretty quick.

This seems to be an immediate antidote to “victimhood”

And an invitation to poised liveliness.

It helps me meet the world from a far less “me-centric” place.

Re-Solve

detail,hand-painting on wool

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When I think of “resolution”

Like many of us do at this time of year

The word seems hard and one I don’t actually feel like approaching.

I never keep my word to myself, anyway, in the way of resolutions and feel like a failure.

Wondering how I could use this potent time of the beginning of a new year

And have an intention I’d feel eager about holding and continually re-visiting

I came up with this:

Create an IMAGE in my mind instead of a list of words which would be a symbol for the feelings and emotions I wish to evoke

That hopefully will translate to action.

Just musing about this idea brought forth an image of me;

Standing (no wheelchair) dressed in a butter yellow swirly ball gown (the kind a competitive ball room dancer would wear. I have always had the secret dream of being such…),

My shoulders thrown back as well as my head, arms outstretched in a totally undefended stance.

When I hold this image in my mind I FEEL what the essence of it carries: balance, athleticism, confidence, joy, faith, creativity, trust, Spirited.

Life.

Capital “L”.

This is the “ME” I will be living into this year.

Happy New Year fellow life-wanderers.

In the face of so much ugliness may we do our best to make and share a bit of the beauty we are.

Intimate Observation


painting on wool flannel

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The weather has shifted into raw winter here.

Everyone is bundled and puffered.

An occasional muffled greeting escapes layers of protection and meets my ears.

Emma’s face bravely pokes into the wind like the prow of a Viking ship.

As my beloved Santa Fe slips into the holidays

The stoic and frozen Native Americans sit very still under the portal presenting their offerings as they always do.

They are so beautiful in their contained presence; the antithesis of what is on the news.

The winter, between holidays, is our local time sans too many visitors

So we can see and feel one another easily.

How do those Indians keep sitting there prettifying a tiny piece of sidewalk real estate with blankets placed perfectly

Bordering their neighbors spread?

Where do they go to the bathroom?

Why do they seldom smile?

Over the years we’ve led our lives near one another with me and Em scoping out the plaza and the mysterious Naive American artists nearby, a few hundred feet away.

It calms me they are always there.

I count on their gravitas.

One time this past summer I had the thought to rise before dawn and spread anonomous rose petals all along the sidewalk where they set up.

Anglos can be mysterious too.

I didn’t do it thinking how they’d have to do the work to clean them up.

We all exist side by side with stories about one another

Or maybe not.

But we share air.

A brief look.

A quarter of a smile.

These seemingly inconsequential ocurrances seem meaningless

Yet, here I am writing of them

Feeling a soft and grateful heart.

We never know how the essence of us affects the world of “other”.

Add in the courage of vulnerability or out-loud recognition of those who matter;

Up your game to half a smile

And add a “Hi”

POOF! You got a community.

Freedom


detail painted wool flannel

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On the street recently I met Monica; a lovely butter-colored puffer clad woman of an age who shared with me she had recently paid to have a new small dog enclosed park built nearby.

No small feat what with fencing, getting city approval etc..

I soaked in her uber-generosity as I rolled home.

Since Emma was a street dog in Los Angeles before we met and likely a puppy mill resident before that

Her history of the pleasures of just plain being a dog were severely truncated.

When taken to the new park and let off the leash she was very confused without the familiar thread to her person.

She remained in one place just looking around and yawning from anxiety.

Witnessing the learning curve to enter freedom is really interesting for me as a wheelchair user.

My own learning curve is to continue negotiating constant loss of freedoms

And how to stay free within the peeling away of those I take for granted.

My wheelchair was picked up by the repair company yesterday as it needed over-hauling.

I was grateful they left me with a loaner at least

Though it is far inferior to mine.

Venturing out last night to walk Emma the motor began faltering and I turned around to barely make it home.

Here I sit for at least a week able to use this chair around the house but no more.

I feel like a caged animal having lost my freedom;

A visceral inner howl.

Big STOP.

Each cell of me is wriggling with discontent.

To get through this I understand meditation to be my salve; get quiet..sit down and know there is nowhere to go and deal with the fucking truth of THAT.

Nowhere to go.

Nowhere to go…..

Nowhere to go…………..

I am free.

Who We Are – Who Are We?

hand-painted silk

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A good friend sent this video to me this morning.

I want you to watch it.

I think it is important to see girls and women dancing and keeping their attention WITHIN themselves (zero eye contact with watchers);

None of their fierce, sexy, wild yet contained life force leaking out looking for any kind of approval.

So sure of themselves they are as they stomp and dip..arch and invite..say NO! and then YES!…then NO!

Then Yes.

I am still learning how to harbor my own authenticity

Without shame or hesitation or constant questioning of myself.

So often when I feel raw power coursing through me I pause and look around trying to decipher if I am being perceived as some kind of oddity.

Being an artist served me so well as it was just me in the studio; me witnessing me- very entertaining at times!

Learning ourselves as we truly are with no cultural or familial overlays is hard work.

It is so important to have models of what feminine power can look like.

I gather examples as I go along.

Of course these examples will be different for each of us

But learning how to say a definitive “NO!”

And a really good “YES!”

Just with our bodies

Is a really good start.

Ghosting

“MOON” 5×3,painted wool flannel

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This past weekend was INDIAN MARKET in Santa Fe.

Our small town doubles in size as 100,000 Native Americans from hither and yon set up booths to sell their creations; textiles, basketry, jewelry, carving, beading, etc.

Most years I avoid downtown at all costs during the show as I get so discombobulated making my way through the throng of fast paced and unconscious visitors.

I feel disappointed about this because due to my big chair I must practice extreme hyper-vigilance to avoid hitting anyone and therefor miss out on seeing extraordinary art.

Actually, I am far more interested in seeing the earthen browns of native skin; hard working, mostly stoic and noble faces not terribly concerned with greeting each visitor to their booth with a chirpy “May I answer any questions?” Very contained they sit waiting with eyes averted often-times as they give the visitor a chance to be called to a work..or not.

The artists who exhibit keep 100% of sales. A LOT of money is exchanged these two days in August.

I took Emma for a walk in the evening one night to see what my beloved plaza looked and felt like after the big push during the day.

The sun was resting behind soft clouds and the streets were pretty much empty except for the rows of white tents.

Here and there families were cooking and eating simple dinners together under their tent.

Flute music was in the wind.

A stray coffee cup rolled down the street and a little brown two-legged dressed in her fancy dancing clothes ran to catch it.

A singer far off somewhere lent his song to the night and I loved that I didn’t know what was being expressed.

Emma and I sat there until after dark watching the smokers light up across the street murmuring Indian secrets white people want so much to have.

The emptiness peppered with soft living, eating, storytelling and connecting

Happening in the midst of white plastic tents

Made me think of the gathering of tee-pees I’ve seen in pictures.

Instead of beside a river these tee-pees skirted the street and water came from plastic bottles and not the spring.

Same stuff going on I imagine: prayer of thanks for a good day, rest in the company of family.

An anglo guy walked down the street and his phone rang with the shrill incongruity of a circus.

We rolled home listening for friendly ghosts.

Once Upon a Time…..

….in a dank and dingy Boston South End loft

I had a painted clothing business with my friend Richard.

He designed the shape of our offerings and I produced the fabrics.

I have always cared much more about beauty rather than being cool and edgy

But from our photo above you can likely see that Richard, being the young genius he was,

Ate, slept, thought about, costumed himself in and projected the image of:

Cool.

Arctic cool.

And I wasn’t and never will be. Glad of it, too.

In the end he chose a speedy little London cool girl who loved only black and they swept me out the door.

I never worked so hard in my life as I did in that business.

We made amazing things I think:

silk neckties, handpainted, 1980

All those years ago most of my insecure energy was tuned toward changing myself around to jive with circumstances that provided a sense, any smidgeon of a sense of belonging.

Over time, the fathoms-deep richness I have made my own has come from the practice of recognition where and with whom I belong.

I do this by tuning into my body; do I feel energized, safe, inspired, SEEN by this person?

Or- does my physical self feel nervous, bored, used, invisible, weak, foggy?

This is the simple litmus test I have used to make the long journey from the Cathy above who performed so often and well

To this more authentic version.

The road here has been my hero’s journey; long and sometimes very gritty. I am eternally grateful I have chosen to do the work.

Deep Bow With Tears

hand painted silk robe

________________

 

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’’ Be thankful for every heartbreak, for they were planned. They come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then leave. Their purpose is to shake you up, tear apart your ego a little bit, show you your obstacles and addictions, break your heart open so new light can get in, make you so desperate and out of control that you have to transform your life. And you do. ‘’

-unknown

 

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Good Work

 

politics

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” A DIAMOND IS A CHUNK OF COAL THAT DID WELL UNDER PRESSURE.”

 

  • Henry Kissinger

Church At Starbuck’s

choosing healer
“CONNECTED”, 5’x30″, painting on wool flannel
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This morning

Emma and I wheeled our way to town.

I said: “GOD? I really could use a miracle. The world is scary and I don’t want to shut my heart down. Just tell me something….SOMETHING to keep the fires burning in me, ok?

Amen and all that..” as an unwarranted, snarky bit at the end.

A giant convention about languages is in town and has peppered the streets with humans of all shades and dress and language. National Geographic-esque in the best sense.

We weave to and fro to Starbucks.

Approaching the outer entry I see through the window a man leaping from his table inside to open the door for us.

“THANK YOU!!” I gush at him. We have a moment.

Settling in at a table to read the Friday paper feels just right joining the cacophonous early crowd.

Strangely, today I like the noise.

Emma has all her needs cared for and licks cappuccino foam from my finger and settles in for a snooze on my lap.

A lovely woman comes up close to me and breathlessly asks if she may sit.

She says:” I wear oxygen tanks and I see you all over town. I got up this morning and took pleasure in dressing well to go out in the world instead of staying home as I always do. I see you looking so chic and friendly and almost happy and thought if she can do it so can I. It was you who gave me the courage to come out today and I wanted you to know this from my heart.”

I reached for her and we cried.

She quickly rose breathlessly and disappeared into crowded throng.

Her eyes were so directed, present and bright with urgency as she spoke to me.

It was Church at Starbuck’s.

Girl Power Giddy Up

addendum 2
hand-painted silk
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I love seeing a woman poised and articulate and well put together according to her unique coloring and features.

When I saw Hillary standing there last night all secure in herself and rooted deeply like an ancient tree

I knew something of what it took

Not to throw a glass at the man next to her.

Her chin was kept raised just so…

Just a bit more might have approached arrogant.

Michelle treated us recently at her last state dinner to the parting gift of toned and sturdy shoulders bedazzled in a column of gloriousness

Wearing her trademark grace and invitational smile.

Most often I wear a hat scooting round my beloved Santa Fe

Yet today I wanted my short hair available to the wind;

Today…I took some of that grace and rootedness and composure and elegance and intelligence and articulateness and poise and tolerance and sturdiness and security in Self

I witnessed being modeled before me by women in power

And I wore it myself.

And it was very, very good to be a woman.

N.E.U. Abilities

scott2
detail: painted wool flannel, 1990
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Let’s come up with a new and cooler manner to reference “DISABILITY.”

N.E.U. ABILITIES……. NEW and ENVIABLE UNDERBELLY ABILITIES (ie…those things we can do only after we are forced to do them but knowing them kindof makes everyone else envious).

Yeah…I can’t walk, drive, use my right leg or hand, I use a wheelchair, need help shopping and keeping my home clean and dignified

But I CAN:

* Trust my intuition more than most-

* Know that in a good number of cases a crystal cave lies just inside the armored-up heart of the homeless person you just passed by while inadvertently securing your wallet-

* Pick myself up out of despair pretty darn quick-

* Have learned firsthand the importance of welcoming and educating myself to be INTER-DEPENDENT over INDEPENDENT which always seemed the sexiest but really isn’t.

* Edit my life like a lioness with class by only having those people, foods, objects, time expenditures in my life which I consider mutually beneficial.

* Know how to rest and do it.

* Live a very simple life that may seem small to some but is anything but.

* Have a low toleration threshold and respect it.

* Know the sacred act of what it means to “CHOOSE LIFE” and sometimes do it moment by moment.

* Feel amazed by how my values have re-arranged themselves throughout my journey of partnership with MS.

* Say I have healed most if not all my personal shadow places within my family and am deeply in love with each of my siblings.

* Forgive where it was called for thereby freeing my own precious self.

* Fall in love with myself. Friggin’ finally.

* Tell myself: “Don’t give up before the miracle” and really, REALLY wait it out.

* Consider space and depth of authentic connection with others and nature to be my highest and most cherished values.

* Be quite sure that staying in the present instead of future or past thinking is the alternative to plastic surgery.

* Know for sure Dogs ARE God..not just God spelled backwards.

Prince

look
painted silk
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A teacher I cared deeply about at one point in my life taught that there are those among us who function fully from our PERSONALITY, ESSENCE and the widest UNIVERSAL part of us.

PERSONALITY= the theatrical part of us we use to function well in the world around us.

ESSENCE= our “soul fragrance”. The information we can pick up about another person without knowing much about them at all.

UNIVERSAL= The ultimate life force we each carry and are connected by. The rare few have ready access to this.

Most of us seem to have access to one or two of these but rarely all three.

We know who these people are intuitively. They are fishers of men. We are hooked by their innate charisma and ease in their unconventional skins. They ooze a laser life force we can only hope to embody someday.

The current Pope, JFK, Picasso, Marlon Brando, Maya Angelou are a few who come to mind in my estimation.

Authenticity, fearlessness, conviction, old-soul wisdom, somehow outside of time, leadership, ability to grab the populous by the scruff of the neck and shake us.

My sense is that PRINCEwho passed away today falls into this category as well.

Some rarified air surrounded him.

He seemed skilled at protecting his gold so that only every once in awhile we were gifted by the symphony that was him.

We are richer for his keeping us company for awhile.

Rest now…We were moved by you.

Black and White

fine line

I have a penchant for black skin.

Really, maintenance people of all types…

Spending so much time at my Grandmother’s home growing up

I took to hanging out in the company of “the help”

Which meant gardeners, cooks and housekeepers.

Sylvia took up a lot of space in the kitchen.

The smallish greasy room in the back-40 part of the house was my idea of heaven.

She, in her comforting enormity sat me down at the yellow striated formica table and cooked me up the best dang hamburger.

I loved Sylvia. And Bessie. Tom and others through the years..

I remember their soft, poufy blackness. So inviting to me. Safe. Warm. Comforting how their skin curled around me in a non-claustrophobic hug. A real hug. True. Unafraid.

My Grandmother rung a bell to announce readiness in her dining room to be served.

I hung my head. In shame.

These people I loved were reduced by a soul-sucking tinkle of a glass bell.

We all withdrew deep into our chests in order to brave the fucked-up-ness.

All I could do was lift my small head to them in a squeaky thank you as they, in their invisible cloak served me.

All I could do was look them directly in the eye so they’d feel known.

Tom, the gardener and the others travelled over an hour by bus each morning to arrive in time to tend the grounds.

I saw my Grandmother count more on him than my ineffectual grandfather.

The very skin of these fine friends meant safety to me.

They were IN their skin; honest, hard working and full of extra love for some rich folks pasty white lonely kid.

To my Grandmother’s credit she cared for their families, supported them financially and outside the dining room valued them almost as family.

I sensed something contained..lovingly held private..never indiscriminately shared about these fine black souls.

Now that I know better how to love myself some of these same qualities are mine.

I’ll never have the depth of their skin though…

But I can remember..

And let you know just how it was.

It was complicated.

But I must honor them.

Curiosity Is Innate

chair1
hand-painted upholstered chair
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I’d have to say that my ability to remain curious no matter what is perhaps my greatest medicine.

As an artist I thrived inside the cocoon of privilege allowing infinite room to micro or macro-shift from one thread of mystery and interest to the next.

In my studio alone no one punished or chided me for a stupid or preposterous idea.

Yes, there were great costs generated from this past chosen lifestyle of mine.

The million dollar take away has been the template carved into my soul

For how to find the goodness, inspiration or provocation in each and every moment.

I believe we are each born with the impetus to want to know no matter what.

The first time we hear “NO! Bad girl!” as we test our vocal range or pull that red tablecloth down closer to us on the floor to check out the color and shatter glasses and plates

Or make a painting with our own shit on the wall

We begin a long pilgrimage toward a tidy life.

Most of our energy goes toward controlling everything and everyone so no room is left for authenticity or error or surprise.

We know what we know and we like it.

My retention of the gift of curiosity gives me the space to be surprised at my resilience, moved by strangers’ kindness, find peace in solitude, know my worth for just being, consciously work with my own reactivity as my teacher, greet what I deemed ugly and intolerable with respect and space, find beauty in the ordinary..

My prayer is for us all to re-awaken our innate curiosity for ourselves, our environment and those we share it with and each other.

My Grandmother’s Closet

addendum 2
hand-painted silk, 1987
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My grandmother had a fancy dressing room.

Wall to wall closet, built-in vanity with lots of french-style mirrors, inviting drawers and surface area for potions.

Painted a lovely sage green and carpeted in this soothing color

I crept in there barefoot to sit my young self down in the tufted swivel vanity chair

And take a good, long, private look.

I saw a chubby, acned girl. The distance between that little me and her gowns hanging there in the closet was so great it silenced me on all levels.

So…I opened the golden lipstick tube and proceeded to primp.

I painted, slathered and slipped ever-so-carefully into too many yards of crepe de chine in emerald and scarlet and butter yellow trimmed with gold.

I brushed my mousy hair with sterling hair tools and dabbed perfume behind my pink ears from cut crystal bottles.

Dreaming of dances and be-jeweled darlings dipped by suitors while waltzing

I stood there looking….

Taking a tissue I daintily touched up the corners of my dreaming mouth painted red

And stepped away from the mirror.

I closed my eyes to feel the future kisses and fine stationery as I opened invitations finely calligraphed.

Suddenly smelling hamburgers cooking downstairs

I hurriedly took off the gown, pressed it smooth in the closet to avoid detection and washed my face well.

Running down the stairs to hug my grandmother I knew I had forgotten to delete the strong perfume.

But I didn’t care.

I knew she knew.

She knew so much and loved me still.

Excuse me while I go paint my lips…..

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.

I Love to Swear

stigmata1
detail of hand-painted textile, 1986
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As the lover of words I am..

Swearing with authority is just plain good medicine.

I pity those who choose to deny themselves

The rip-roarin’ juice a confidently chosen “FUCK!” can deliver.

Often, these words are carriers of cultural or religious stains,

Tainting the utterance with a dampness effectively destroying their inherent power.

Most of the time they arrive unconsciously like an involuntary muscle spasm

And we are slightly alarmed at the fierceness that is ours.

My Episcopalian self

Most times stays hidden and curled

But when I swear she immediately pounces

Dressed in her starched and uber-white Sunday best

With some self-flagellating weirdness in her right hand

And offers it up to me.

I used to take the thing with my head lowered in shame.

Now I walk away.

Turning from her with my face hidden

My mouth curls into a slightly diabolical expression

Of intense but slightly dirty pleasure.

My eyes glitter.

I walk on.. straight and solidly contained.

I love the whole damn mess.

Watching

gettingdressed
painted silk jersey, 1987
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In the heat of the day I rolled to the plaza.

My ice collar was concealed beneath a gauzy white scarf and my wide-brim panama hat gave me portable shade.

I parked beneath a venerable tree with the distinct voice of nonchalance

And surreptitiously watched lovers take selfies.

Peppered amidst the masses were other watchers; heads barely swiveling, secret smiles, seemingly static.

A dirty man played his guitar with all his attention on the playing and none directed toward his open case before him.

I dropped change there to acknowledge his focus.

He never looked up.

I loved that..

Smooth-skinned children chased pigeons flashing for a mate.

The man who dresses up like a real mountain man in leather, furs, beard and raggedy hat

Was still in his regular seat even with this heat

Waiting to have his photo taken

For a price.

All the watchers were smiling secretly still

When I felt my ice collar had melted to my own body heat

And I knew I must go home hurriedly

So as not to succumb

To the savage heat of the day.

I rolled

Rather out of control

Past grumpy fathers

Imagining a different Father’s Day.

Smiling still, I enjoyed the movie.

Giving Voice

my sister

I came across THIS recently.

Seeing this girl brought up so many feelings.

If she were a boy the sounds and moves she makes would never provoke the judges to widen their eyes in abject awe.

I feel my own inertia acutely after witnessing her;

Decades of whittling my voice into a pleasure tool rather than a leather n’ lace biker chick or tractor driver or country western singer or championship ballroom dancer or flower shop owner or marine biologist or long-distance trucker or riverboat captain or desert wanderer (each of these voices and many more, known and not, are in me somewhere).

How smart of me to have chosen to settle into an artist’s life.

There has been room for all my voices in the privacy of my studio..alone with all my “friends.”

The women in my life ARE warriors.

I AM a warrior.

We are so graceful in wielding our swords most of the time

Which is the very thing that gets us in trouble.

We make ourselves smaller in the service of “wave-smoothing”

And because of that we don’t get to go on the full ride.

I am going into my bedroom to make that sound this tiny girl makes at the end of the video.

I will make that face she makes too.

(buffering this, of course, into a pillow and behind closed doors).

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