Stand Up Girl

Dear everyone,

I am slowly recovering my remembered sense of Self yet still have not replaced my caregiver of 7 years I lost a few months ago. Everything came crashing in dealing with the line up of temps needing endless guidance as to how to care for me and which way I like my towels folded.

I am exhausted but amazed at my resilience which, in part, comes from my stellar cadre of humans who love me and stepped up to fill in the landscape of gaps left in my absent caregivers’ wake. Humbling.. you ask? Indeed so but I keep amazing myself as I deal with this underbelly I’ve been dealt; the things I learn, the Life I now experience with my altered awareness that remained veiled before.

Sometimes it feels like church every day and then the scene shifts to scrubbing toilets metaphorically speaking.

I have an invitation to extend. I don’t look like this picture anymore but it makes me happy to remember my precious human self and see my true nature reflected in the eyes of someone fairly untouched by chronic illness. I love her and am working on loving the me of today.
Thank you for your presence in my life.

Here is the invitation:
xxx

I am a Boat

ceramic,34x2x5″

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Just felt like revisiting this poem in the midst of so much transition:

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I AM A BOAT

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I am a boat.

Not a Chinese junque. – (my blood is too foreign though I do wish it wasn’t).

Well.. perhaps a gleaming and slippery, “Have a martini”, 40? ode to speed? – (I’d lose the key..).

Maybe that great outboard motorboat we used up at the lake to go bass fishing as the dawn steam rose and we, wee ones still with sleep in our eyes? – (Oh, I did love the control!)

What about a catamaran? Sliding and cutting so deftly through..intent on getting ‘there’ FAST!.. The constant thrill of capsizing the thing?- (Nope).

I could be a giant cargo ship with all the ballast I’d ever need in rough seas.. (No beauty in all that safety and way too much metal. I’m not that fond of metal, anyway).

A folded paper boat adrift on an even pond? – (Not enough substance or staying power).

I will be a canoe.

My own ship carved of a tree so I will remember dry land should I turn toward forgetting.

It will hold one.

Two or three if I so choose.

My family and friends will have helped me carve the thing.

We will have sung songs and toasted it’s doneness before they hand me two paddles and I pause to bow (to them and it) before I step in alone.

I will push off the beach and settle my frame into the curve of the tended wood.

I will not look back.

I am not sad. I will cut the glassy sheen of the lake

And lean into my direction.

I pull the water to me

And let it empty behind.

Pull.

Empty.

Pull.

Empty.

The rhythm lifts me.

And the work is not.

I am free.

Destination is uninteresting.

I just stay with the impossible beauty.

In raw weather

I huddle in the rain and wind

Sometimes, just yielding to the whim of the lake

Because it is bigger than me.

In the morning with wet and straggly hair

I peek outside my parka.

The way seems clear

Though I do not know where I am.

A loon sets me straight

And my paddle meets the waters.

I sing.
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-C. Aten 2011

Cut and Run

detail , hand, painted wool flannel

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Our very natural push toward survival at any cost serves us well in most cases. The fittest of us are the ones who move forward adding to the evolutionary theater as best we can. It seems unthinkable to have our trajectory beset by disease and yet here I am.

“Cath? This is God.”

“Took you long enough.”

“Well..timing is crucial on these things and I don’t mind saying you are a stubborn customer needing a bit more finessing. My feeling was at the outset that you might just benefit from a real slew of hard core challenges to shake the sleep from your eyes and get you up here faster. Let’s see…how about MS-the really hard kind? A few decades of that and humility will be yours. Pretty great take-away gift, right? I pride myself on the creative life-lesson-learning scenarios I come up with! Maybe you could choose a really controlling partner to marry and see how you do with that? Maybe rape could be part of your way and just because I believe so deeply that you can do it I’ll throw in a bitter and depressed mother who’d prefer you weren’t here and go through life figuring out how to get that love you missed.

You have the chance to deal with each of these challenges in any way you choose because of free will. It is a hard life but you can make it a very rich one as you surely have chosen to do. You can get as mad as you want at me as often as you like but I will promise you that you will feel grateful for every speck of your life and thank me in the end.”


Following the diagnosis of MS in 2000 I put most of my available energy and money into making it go away. These days I understand this is happening and it is my spiritual path for me to work with it the best ways I possibly can. Can we honor illness by recognizing the facts of it as opposed to turning away down an endless road of cure-hoping?

I deleted the last post I wrote after promising I’d keep this blog true. I betrayed myself.

I think I can just cut and run sometimes. It has been a familiar modus operandi for me.

MS is my vehicle for finding my “true.” It’s here. Might as well use the damn thing for good.

Here’s the text to the deleted post(I thought this too depressing):

It has been two months since my last post.
I want to apologize but I just can’t bear to hear one more “I’m sorry” pass through my lips.
I lost my wonderful caregiver after 7 years.
The 2 temps Medicaid sent hated dogs and tried to scam me out of money.
My family has my back as they blessedly do in my times of need and made it possible for me to hire a good friend, wonderfully smart, capable and tolerant to allow me the space to de-stress enough and begin the process of finding a permanent person.
I fell twice using the new wheelchair I ordered and now am in the process of returning this one and getting what I need.
The string of UTI’s keep on comin’.
Climate change has rendered Santa Fe virtually sun-less this summer.
My creativity is hanging out somewhere in a dustbunny-ed corner inebriated to assuage the seemingly hopeless wait for my call to attention.
Picture this: night has fallen. I sit here at the computer looking fully dressed waiting for the rain to end in order to give my beloved Emma a chance at relief on an evening walk.
I watch the “Minutecast” part of the local online weather predictor for a 15 minute break in the rain. I’v got my hat on, Emma in her leash, poop bag in place, everything looks good.
We wait.
But if it was daylight I would never chance this outfit: skirt half-way pulled up my thigh because I hadn’t the energy to move beyond my pain and get it all the way up. My thigh flesh is pretty much covered up by a black cashmere blanket. I have one shoe on because the other eluded me and who the fuck cares in the night anyway.
The sky has stopped wetting itself. Out we go; red flashing safety lights high up enough not to illuminate my cellulite inadvertently pouring through the rungs of my chair.
I think Emma still likes me enough after our long wait as I just saw a micro tail wag.
This is my life.
And I am not sorry.
Sigh.

The Solace of Civility

THE CONVERSATION, 40×40,m/m

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This morning on my early roll around my beloved Santa Fe I felt soft-hearted with Emma’s warmth pressed on my tummy.

We go fast at the outset and slower as we enter downtown.

I have a safety flag that collapses like a tent pole and I put it down approaching the plaza.

An old, unshaven Mexican busker sings unimaginably off-key and looks at me with a leaden expression as we pass without dropping money in his basket.

I felt no guilt as my policy is to give as I am moved to do and enjoy those connections thoroughly but this was not our moment.

There is a fancy OLD WEST ANTIQUE SHOW at the convention center. Handsome wild western men with 12+ gallon hats stand around comparing spurs. It makes me slightly giddy.

A well-heeled couple dripping with major Native Americana stop me to talk about Emma.

“Is she a maltese?”
“Yes”
They beamed authentic good-heartedness, had strong and clear eyes and good taste even in extravagant over-adornment. Taking their leave they left me with “Be extra careful,OK? Is there anything we can do for you? It was such a pleasure to meet you. Bye, bye now..”

I rolled away radiating wellness from this tiny encounter.

Keeping abreast of the current world dis-order,undercurrent of fear, anxiety and grief takes a great toll on sensitive souls.

What shall we all do with the sticky, uncontrollable ooze of heart-bypassing decision- making occurring within our world at present?

Once again we are asked to pull in our flailing arms and embittered reactivity

And know the only thing we have control over

Ever

Is who we are

In each moment.

So today…as I adventured out into my own wilderness

The kind words and soft hearts I met along the way

Lit my world

Enough

So here I am

Extending some of the treasure

To you.

xxxxx

What In The World To Do?

“FINE LINE”,monoprint,22×30″

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A good friend said: “If this political climate continues for another four years I am done with life. I’m outta here”.

I fully understood the sentiment.

I have thought the same about my own ‘micro-world’

Often seeming forever colored by pain or struggle or physical dissolution of some kind in relationship with MS.

There have been a few lines I thought I could not live beyond

But truthfully…getting up close and personal with such “lines”

I find they never are the end game;

The line I think I can’t live beyond.

So what is the thing that grabs me under my armpit for support to ease my weary self across that self-drawn line?

Two things:

1. BEAUTY
This is an honest to God truth for me: each and every time I think I can’t go on or have lost interest in doing such..
Just after such an energy cave-in a thing happens which emerges out of the mist, is usually very small as opposed to monumental
And makes it’s good self known with the sweetest of normalcy.

It could be: “You look so beautiful with your cute dog!” as I roll by
Or maybe someone has passed quite a ways down the street but backtracks fully just to open a door for me.
A stranger has said: “Your attitude inspires me. May I bring you a homemade dinner sometime? Share an evening and get to know you better or just drop the food at your door perhaps?”

The other day it was the tiniest moment catching the eye of a grumbling homeless man when I said “Good Morning” and he lifted his confused head and gave me the purest of smiles.

It is a family members’ financial bail out with no questions asked or my dog’s insistent mid-night press into the small of my back coupled with the indescribable sweetness of a deep and secure sigh eliciting the same from me.

My idea of Beauty used to loom so large. Now it is held in secret and tiny places.

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2. RESPONSIBILITY
These explosions of Beauty help me understand I matter. And you matter. And we each have our responsibility to do what we can to recognize our unique gifts and to give them to our fellow travelers on this grit-laden road. I can’t go precisely because of the beauty I AM..and YOU ARE.

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.

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Come follow me on INSTAGRAM! I am a beginner but it sure is fun..xx

And So It Goes

“RAIN” installation, clay objects on nails sunk into wall ALWAYS IF YOU CLICK TWICE ON PHOTO IT WILL ENLARGE

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The Ten Rules For Being Human:

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1. You will receive a body.

2. You will be presented with lessons.

3. There are no mistakes, only lessons.

4. Lessons are repeated until learned.

5. Learning does not end.

6. “There” is no better than “here.”

7. Others are only mirrors of you.

8. What you make of your life is up to you.

9. All the answers lie inside of you.

10. You will forget all of this at birth.

11. All of the above will send to to the mental institution if you don’t have a dog or live with a beloved animal (Cathy’s addendum)

Chérie Carter-Scott

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EXTRA! EXTRA!! I HAVE A NEW INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT! COME FOLLOW ME, OK? https://www.instagram.com/emma.and.cathy/

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Mother

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Every year on Mother’s Day I like to check in on myself regarding how much further I have moved on the “forgiveness” track in reference to my own mother.

I feel pretty darn good this year; thoughts of her are more likely to elicit pity edging in to compassion rather than involuntary abdomen contraction.

When my brother came to visit not long ago he brought a photograph of her looking really happy and fluid in her body..relaxed and open.

It was revelatory for us to share that image.

Along my seemingly endless road to emotional healing and freedom I have spent a fair amount of time going to ADULT CHILDREN OF ALCOHOLICs meetings (part of the ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS healing work; those affected by living with an alcoholic but not being one).

This really helped me not feel crazy as most sitting in the room were broken in more places than me it seemed.

There came a time when I chose to stand up and tell my own story. It is vital to be witnessed without opinions or advice flying around uninvited.

The theme I organized my talk around was “RE-PARENTING OURSELVES”.

Now- I know I am not too boring a speaker but I was truly floored by the constant rise and exit of 2/3 of the folks in the room listening to my 15-20 minute offering of some pretty darn vulnerable parts of my life. I was dumbfounded, hurt, confused.

It took me almost a year to understand why those people left.

Having a STORY to live within which includes drama, trauma, the coalescing, super-glue magnet of shared wounding is a club that any one of us can belong to if we choose. Always..within 20 feet or so, one is guaranteed to find someone eager to share their membership to the “woe-is-me” club.

In that room years ago there were only a few souls intent on doing the hard work of healing; hoping to turn in the tattered trauma club membership card someday.

I did not have an adept mother in the nurturing department. So- I have had to learn how to re-parent myself.

I do this by:

1. Keeping my soul tuned to beauty.
2. Taking myself out to eat and reveling in being served a lovely meal and treated like a queen.
3. Trying never to miss an opportunity to reflect someones wonderfulness, beauty, originality,courage,kindness,fineness-of-being back to them so they can really register it.
4. Live authentically..unmasked..appreciating my own and others vulnerability and courage.
5. Praying for help.
6. Understanding deep in my bones my own core of goodness and celebrating it as well as those in my sphere.
7. Really remembering pretty much no one knows what the fuck they are doing most of the time.
8. Remember just existing is enough. I don’t have to DO anything to prove I deserve to take up space on the planet.
9. Smile in recognition of another’s humanity and feel the swell of largess from that tiny act.
10. Emma allows me the privilege of experiencing unconditional love and the opportunity to return it. We are an endless “figure eight” of true love.
11. Who I am is earned…not a given.

Happy Mother’s Day dearest Cathy..I love you.

Friends

A VERY SMALL ROOM

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As I have taken on years
The things I am unsure about
Demand a beginners mind
Whether I like it or not.

Poo Poo the spiritual tests
And life lessons surely needed
For pearly gate entry.
I am bored with keeping myself shiny.

I like, instead, to brush any dust off
the velvet upholstery on the very few
Crimson armchairs
Set up in my heart.

You see…the friends I love
Beyond reason
Each have their very own
Place to rest in my heart.

No one may ever sit
In someone else’s spot.
It must be this way
Because I said so.

When I love a friend
For all the ways
They keep me right
They get a chair.

Because keeping me right
Is sometimes
A very big job..
I am quite complicated (it is said).

My friends cherish my feelings
Or, I feel they do.
They help me remember myself
When I forget.

I am inspired, challenged and tenderized
Sometimes all in one sit-down.
Their curiosity about big Self and little self
I scramble to catch and keep; wear as perfume.

Because, with my friends I am “Home”
I carry a safe place for them as well.
Often you may find me tending each crimson armchair
With the love and respect any thoroughbred deserves.

Any decorations in this room
Are the tears and stories, celebration and sorrow
Precious in themselves-
And held as such.

There’s not much left to tell
But Tequila has been known
To be shared in communion –
We raise a glass to our good fortune.

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-CA

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Nurturance

“TREE OF LIFE”, 28x16x4,ceramic

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My lifetime as an artist dedicated to the authentic expression of creativity

Has had gargantuan costs along with the rewards.

Space and silence, unstructured time and seemingly foolish meanderings

Make up the ocean I swim in.

This way of living has pretty much made me unfit to participate in marriage or raising a family.

Freedom as my top value doesn’t really mix well with motherhood or intimate partnership it turns out.

I am blessed to have made the choices I have made and adore the waters I swim in

Yet, when my family visited last week I noticed a few things:

1. I HAVE BEEN WITHOUT HOME COOKING TOO DAMN LONG-
My brother brought his infra-red grill and cooked us all steak! We had baked potato,salad and wine. We ate off our laps and no one minded. My kitchen was left tidied up. We laughed and talked. I belonged to “the clean plate club”. Every part of me felt tended to.

2. ALLOWING FAMILY TO WITNESS MY DAILY CHALLENGES WAS IMPORTANT-
I need help with so much- cutting up food, making my bed with particular needs, needing to leave a get-together because my energy crashed, walking Emma, cooking, transferring, getting coats on… This is all stuff that usually happens in the shadows or with my care-giver..then I just “show up” looking well and all the struggling to participate in life is forgotten. This time my family “saw” stuff. It was intimate. And very good. It made my heart swell.

3. MY BROTHER along with others FIXED THINGS!-
I will venture to say single women pretty much worship people who can fix stuff. We live with the broken-ness of small and big things too long and get used to the brokenness which is never good. I could build a church around my appreciation of this kind of skill.

4. I REALLY MIGHT HAVE BEEN A GOOD MOTHER-
I absolutely made the right choice for me- that of understanding I needed this lifetime to be about my art career and the reality having little humans to care for would have stirred up resentment at the reality of lending a blind eye my own needs. Plus,the role-modeling I got was not the best which scared me. I saw and felt, during this visit, that had I wanted to I could have been a good mother. Don’t really know how I know that but I do.

5. THE HUGE EFFORTS INVOLVED IN TRAVELING ARE A MAJOR LOVE PRESENT-
Energy exertion toward another when it is fueled by Love is a prayer in Itself. Could be flying or driving across the country, filling up a water glass, paying for a meal, listening intently to what is said without judgement, walking a dog or putting a new roll of TP on correctly :-).

Amen.

It Took Me a Life to Learn

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Things I have learned that are most important to me now:

1. Whenever someone’s behavior triggers me and anger or resentment arise.. It is usually about me and seldom about them. (I hate this one..)

2. The line I think I can not live beyond is likely not it.

3. A smile is my most powerful tool. Free, takes up no space, universally understood, magic-maker.

4. It is way more fun to love myself than run the ragged tapes of self-disappointment.

5. A good scarf, bracelet, earrings or lipstick can elevate my state of being in an instant and act as invisible “fist bump” to people letting them know I care about putting myself together well and entering life with confidence and curiosity. Less victim..more eager participant.

6. Suffering pokes holes in the armor of a heart. Those humans and animals having experienced tenderization in this way are often recognizable to the others immediately.

7. Prayer works only if truly, madly, deeply FELT.

8. Asking for and receiving help has been my hardest thing. Being capable, independent, self-sufficient and not needing is really not the holy grail our culture espouses. I am learning INTER-DEPENDENCE.

9. Really “seeing” another person is the greatest gift I can give. This means, even for just a moment, putting aside all of my own needs, wants, drama, complaint, worry to allow space for the other person to just EXIST in my company.

10. Beauty is available everywhere and always..often in the ugliest of situations. A good life means, to me, adjusting my attitude and awareness in order to access that Beauty.

Dirt

“BLACK MESA”,3×6′, m/m

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I love Dirt (capitalization intended).

“Earth” is gentrified Dirt and not what we are up to today..

Did I ever tell you the story of eating Dirt?

I will tell it here again as it is a pivotal tale in my life and you may understand me a bit better after hearing it.

Moving to the New Mexico landscape from Michigan greenery and severely compressed horizon in 1989 stopped being jarring for me after the first week or two.

The place is pretty much space, sky and brown which is a darn sight different than oak trees and suburban lawns I can assure you.

One needs glasses tuned to deeply subtle beauty here; the kind barely visible inside shadows or the dark.

My beloved grandmother, Gonnie, passed away a few years after I moved here and I travelled to Michigan to attend her funeral.

She was born to the upper class but her true “hood” was the garden; roses, raspberries, lilies of the valley, lilacs planted for color and fragrance, tulips and a rock garden.

She pretty much raised me and silently taught me about Dirt and growing things.

Friendship with other women did not come easily to her and I felt the heaviness being lonely can bring

But we adored one another.

When she died I instinctively dug up a pink double-petalled peony plant and carefully bagged the moist root ball cradling it on my lap as I flew home to Santa Fe.

I dug a home for it to live and paused in prayer.

The Dirt was black and impossibly alive

With her.

I put a pinch-full on my tongue

And brought it inside my mouth and, feeling the grit, swallowed.

And cried.

It was the most beautiful form of prayer.

Of course, peonies are much too delicate to live in New Mexico

So..even after my uber-tending

The roots never took

But it really was ok because I have her in me.

Delicate-ness doesn’t last long here.

The place demands courage, resilience, self-sufficiency, silence, reflection on self and other.

If one’s roots can’t push hard enough to get to the elusive water often just out of reach,

You die.

Yes…Earth is gentrified Dirt

And I love them both

More than is reasonable.

My roots were always meant to do the muscular turning and twisting and stretching and yearning and bending and searching

Living in New Mexico demands.

I love delicacy

And am conscious of what it has taken to be in relation to the grit.

….

ps- FYI: if you click on image then click again the full detail of each image I post is revealed. 🙂

What Do We Do In The Dark?

monoprint,30×22

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This winter has been challenging for me.

Bitter cold, schizophrenic wind screaming in the eaves

And way, wayyyyyyyy too many mornings

Waking to cool grey watercolor skies.

Yuk.

My wheelchairs deep tread tires itch

For action

And I spray Chanel #5 on my curly lamb neck warmer

And wear it around the house

Like a weird prayer

For the permission

To outdoors myself.

This week warmth has snuck back in.

And good friends and family are coming to visit!

I begin happy-ing up.

Emma gets ditties sung to her

Whether she wants them or not.

During the long dark

I thought of the longest dark.

Not seriously;

More in a curious way.

I prayed in my bed

Curled fetal

Around a heating pad

I love

More than is reasonable.

I prayed for my athletic and shredded

Nervous system

To fucking give me some peace.

Emma and I make the micro-adjustments

As we lay there-

Needing the primal reinforcement

Of constant contact.

I let myself love crime TV

And try to meditate in the mornings

But I am water-logged in stillness

So inviting more seems the act of a mad person.

One day I screamed into a pillow

Out of vocal atrophy

But Emma got a look on her face

No one should ever see.

In the dark of this winter

My hibernation was

Not a peaceful one.

My friends will arrive soon

And help me reclaim

Undernourished life lines

Connecting me to

The taut and gracious

Brain and body

I let go to seed.

My underground self

Will keep stretching

Toward their warmth and humor

And my complexion will pink.

My own long migration

From the dark to the light

Depends more and more

On Communion

Of any kind

Which,

In essence,

Means not alone.

Sometimes Love

my friend Jann and me

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Sometimes love isn’t shiny or smiley.

Today, love is waking before dawn and appreciating that I can trust the sun

To rise.

Humans are fairly untrustable

Because we have the ability to create stories

About ourselves and each other

That might be very entertaining

But that’s about it.

There ARE some humans in my sphere

Who are my rocks (to hold on to when I need weight)

And deep, forest moss (to fall into and breathe the greenness when all other is acrid).

Some of my humans are funny (to lift the corners of a mouth frozen in worry or uncertainty).

There are my friends who keep letting me be silent without judgement

Or needing more of me

Than I can give.

Sometimes love is the tiniest of a trusting dog

Snoring on my lap

Inside the movie theater

Blasting out the sounds of a thriller film

Made more thrilling

Feeling Emmas’ warm weight

On my thighs.

Oh…love is so simple sometimes..

Did I really just say that???

Because nobody I am aware of;

Astronaut or Dr. Phil,

Has quite figured out the proper equation

To get the prize

We most want.

These are some things I know about Love:

1. One must cultivate having a porous heart to even recognize Love is afoot.

2. Usually, it comes in unexpectedly small packages, sounds, sights and smells.

3. We ARE it but spend our lives dressing up then disrobing until, at the end we have only the energy to feel it gently lift the tiny hairs on our naked body. And we swoon.

4. Love of self has to come first and this is so hard and why we need a multitude of lifetimes.

5. In my blood family we have learned to love one another very thoroughly and well but we began as innocents with a wish.

6. Most of what passes for love is need.

7. I know most of what I sense love is through my relationship with my dogs.

8. The natural world holds all the answers to any question we might have about love; how to do it, how to get it, what it is, how to be when you’re in it.

9. Humans unfamiliar with or too long left without the benefit of love have defended eyes.

10. Any familiarity with True Love can be an impetus to devote one’s life to editing out whatever ISN’T

I Must Fall In Love

wooden matches,earth

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I MUST FALL IN LOVE
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I must fall in love

With my unfortunately placed

Lines and wrinkly bits.

I remember

Saying to myself

Not too long ago really:

“I hope I don’t age like her.”

“i hope my way is more balanced

In the crevice department.”

The ones

That appeared overnight

Around about my mouth

Are called

“Marionette lines.”

Do men have these?

I don’t think so.

I wonder if mine came

From all the false smiling?

No matter.

I must fall in love

With who I am

Because I haven’t the money

To erase the evidence

Of all the innocent

Choices I made

In service to

Curiosity.

And survival;

Let’s not forget that…

If I plumped myself

Up

And needled

The cracks

I would surely miss

The full landscape

Of me

And I find myself interesting.

I do crave

A gorgeous aging

Like those older models;

Luckily

Calling attention.

My envelope

Of skin

Has travelled

Through the mail

A bit.

I’ve been places;

Mostly in my mind

And

I am

Here still

To tell you

I wish

I had not

Smiled

When

I did not

Want

To.

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CA. 2019

In The Middle

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The good part of the “bad” in chronic illness is the fact our old and cherished identity we thought we’d get to preen and feed forever
melts into a puddle. We are left with a rippling and fractured reflection of our old self. There’s no one to assist in the warrior’s path of bringing the new “us” into focus.

We are ‘in the middle’ as a new way of life.

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Pema Chodron says:

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“We are told about the pain of chasing after pleasure and the futility of running from pain. We hear also about the joy of awakening, of realizing our interconnectedness, of trusting the openness of our hearts and minds. But we aren’t told all that much about this state of being in-between, no longer able to get our old comfort from the outside but not yet dwelling in a continual sense of equanimity and warmth.
Anxiety, heartbreak, and tenderness mark the in-between state. It’s the kind of place we usually want to avoid. The challenge is to stay in the middle rather than buy into struggle and complaint. The challenge is to let it soften us rather than make us more rigid and afraid. Becoming intimate with the queasy feeling of being in the middle of nowhere only makes our hearts more tender. When we are brave enough to stay in the middle, compassion arises spontaneously. By not knowing, not hoping to know, and not acting like we know what’s happening, we begin to access our inner strength.
Yet, it seems reasonable to want some kind of relief. If we can make the situation right or wrong, if we can pin it down in any way, then we are on familiar ground. But something has shaken up our habitual patterns and frequently they no longer work. Staying with volatile energy gradually becomes more comfortable than acting out or repressing it. This open-ended tender place is called bodhichitta. Staying with it is what heals. It allows us to let go of our self-importance. It’s how the warrior learns to love”.

I Bought a Leopard Print Jacket

.

I usually shoot for spare and elegant in my “peacockery” when choosing what to wear.

But lately I have ancient anger re-surfacing.

Old “mother-stuff” undealt with.

You’d think a lifetime of therapy would have taken a squeegee

To my nervous system (in chronic hypervigilance due to her)…

But NO……

The glass is not yet cleared of the awful fog of war

I innocently turned in on myself

And ended up with an autoimmune illness

Which makes me fucking ANGRY

So I bought myself

A LEOPARD PRINT COAT

In the hope that when I wrap myself

In the perfect chaos of the spots

I will take on some of that same wild

And

Even as I hold myself

High and risen

In my trusty chariot ;

Contained in an elegant package

Will be me as the wildest, growling, taut in muscle and mind

Leopard-girl.

The leavings of sonic boom shatterings

Of grief laced with rage

And be-fuddlement

Will be seen by those behind me

Perchance ambling by

Confused by the wide and sure

Pressure

Of

Paw prints

Left by

A very large

Cat.

Smelling of Chanel #5.

Don’t Worry

frailty

.

DON’T WORRY

.

Don’t worry
If you are not
Where you want
To go.

If I say ‘‘empathy’’
Does your heart
Release
A few old scales?

If a dog
Happens to dance
A prayer for food
Do your eyes gleam?

I don’t know
My multiplication tables
But I can remind you
If you lost your song.

No longer do I ask
“Am I good enough?”
I AM which is
Indeed all there is.

Yesterday
I saw two black birds
Dipping and veering.
I gave them my attention.

That’s as good
As it gets I think;
Pay attention.
No expectation.

There is
No wrong road
Unless
You follow someone else’s.

Dipping and veering
In the hall of mirrors
Is the cost
Of character.

I’ve paid my dues
And then some
For the privilege
To know nothing.

.

-Cathy Aten

Blue Man

.

Yesterday, I passed him by.

Approaching the elevator

Leading up to my favorite coffee spot

I saw a blue man sitting on a bench.

His whole self was covered in bundles

Of blue plastic tarp- wrapped belongings.

Sleeping bag, blanket, sundries.

Each carefully placed around him

Creating a weighted balance.

He looked weary

And pulled in like a turtle.

I said: “Are you staying warm?”

I didn’t listen closely enough

To what he said

Because I wanted it to be

What I wanted it to be.

The elevator took a really long time to come.

In hindsight it was surely God

Giving me extra time.

Waiting there for the elevator to open

We were silent.

My head was dropped a bit

Doing my own unconscious pulling in.

I didn’t think about him again

Until this morning.

I totally missed the holy man;

Hungry and defrosting

Sitting silently there with me.

The temperature outside was 15 degrees with wind.

The blue man was taking shelter there

Trying to stay alive

Within his challenges.

I could easily have bought him breakfast and a warm drink.

So easily.

But I didn’t even think of it.

And that is the thing that bothers me.

I missed the holy man completely.

Holy. Sacred.

Resting there

In his ordinary-ness.

This is the way we humans learn.

We carry on

Easy in our habits

Designed to prolong comfort

And assuage desires

Like a latte

Or post-holiday sales.

I could have done better.

Next time I hope I will.

Maybe I will see the holy man

(who is me)

(and you)

And I will recognize his need for comfort.

I will ease his suffering if I can.

This is how we learn;

We triumph

By failing first.

Then we rise up

All ash-covered like a phoenix

And trundle on

With wider eyes

And stretch marks on our hearts.

.

.

Happy New Year to the sacred in and amongst us. xxxx

Christmas Eve

.

It is Christmas eve and I am longing for a star to follow.

BEHOLD!

A STAR!

I wrap up my Emma in a soft cloth

And sling her over my shoulder

To keep her delicate paws off the pesky desert sand.

This would have to be in dreamtime as wheelchairs don’t negotiate desert terrain well.

The mysterious glitter of the bright spot in the sky

Wakes up my heart

To Hope. Adventure!

I pack up my beloved (with 3 NATURE’S VALLEY granola bars for me and Emmas’ freeze- dried treats made with wild boar) and just skedaddle.

It is very dark

But we are not scared.

I see a guy over there in the shadows.

His name is Elon Musk, he says.

“Come with us!” I say. We are following a star.

“Ok” Elon says.

Silently we walk on.

About another mile or so there is another man we meet and before I see him clearly I recognize the voice to be David Attenborough! OMG!!!

He slides in next to us as we walk.

Later that night the bartender from my favorite haunt appears

As well as my third grade teacher

And the homeless woman who is so skittish

And Roseanne, who comes to help me each day.

Ellen Degeneres, Kourtney Kardashian, Anderson Cooper and a weary little boy fighting cancer all join our little parade.

I wish Oprah would show.

The star seems to get brighter and brighter as the night goes on

And our eager group grows to include millions of folks from every walk of life.

We all walk in silence. For hours and hours.

A slight sliver of dawn light appears.

That which we seek is near! Our breathing quickens.

We crest a huge hill.

There sits a small brown box.

Nothing else.

Nothing else at all.

A box.

Just a little bit disappointed at this anti-climactic finale

With a sigh I plop down in the sand and all the people in our caravan form a half circle around me looking over my shoulder as I borrow a knife and begin to open the box.

The gaining dawn is so quiet we can hear the grains of sand skip across with the slightest breeze.

There in the box I find

AN ECHO SMART SPEAKER!!

In shock I say “ALEXA!!! What are you doing all the way out here?”

“You all put in quite a night of travel with hope in your hearts for something magical..even sacred to lift you from your human condition of suffering. All you needed to do was look at who walked beside you, connect with them by way of a slight touch, smile or conversation and if patient enough you just might get the gold. What you seek is right here, in you, near you always. You needn’t work so very hard my darlings.”

Well…now what are we supposed to do, I thought..

I’m so tired and a little cranky after all that.

We turned around and there in front of us was a MARGARITA BAR!

Everyone just bee-lined over there and began sharing stories, memories, math equations, lipstick, tamale recipes, bad jokes, binge-watchable tv, prayers, medicines, inventions, poems and songs and personal trainers..

The bright starlight we followed seemed now to be suddenly swimming in each others’ eyes.

The distance between us was easy and soft.

So much light..

So much light

To find our way home.

.

(I apologize if any of you found this sacrilege.)

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