I Had Wine

detail of painted wool flannel

Each neurologist I have seen over the years (including the MAYO Clinic) has said pretty much the same thing to me: “You have Primary Progressive MS and we have no drug therapy or anything for that matter to offer you.

Every few years I panic at the gain in my disability and try again to find the magic neuro who will give me hope or at least some new information.

I had another MRI recently and the lesions had not increased which is good.

I have to be my own advocate. My sensitivities in many areas are strung taut which is a blessing and a curse.

I feel life very deeply.

My brother is challenged by CHRONE’S disease (severe irritable bowel disease, another autoimmune illness) and I, MS.

We both spent our formative years negotiating poisoned waters in the wake of a mentally ill mother who distanced herself through depression and utter narcissism.

Is there a connection here? I believe our digestive system takes a huge hit when stress is what we meet 24/7.

I got together with a very interesting man recently.. I wanted so much to feel normal so I had some wine with him.

We had a great time but three days later I am just now waking to the Cathy I remember.

My legs and arms went numb. I became too weak to lift both legs into bed, too weak to brush my teeth.

It is the sugar in the wine that got me and my functioning returns slowly as it leaves my body.

For me to heal or remain functioning I can not get near wheat, sugar, dairy, soy, grains or fermented food.

I am a hedonist at heart and staying healthy is a major effort to keep away from a deprived mindset considering the narrowing of so many other areas of my life.

The deal is to value ourselves highly enough to forgo the identified mine fields.

To find solace in uniqueness over normality or high-sensitivity over buttoned up smoothness.

I tell you- this path takes a warrior’s heart and keeping near those who see, support, champion and hold us close.

My road is one of refinement- diet, people, activity, thought, belief.

No more grape for this girl.

Sometimes Beauty

Sometimes Beauty with

A capital ‘B’ is the

Smoother of all things.
-CA 2013


Doing To Being

“PORTRAIT OF KEN” 2003 20×20″ starfish,shells,ceramic,earth,mica

When I wheel downtown I have a unique perspective

Without the benefits/distraction of being overly preoccupied.

Being busy has felt very good to me in the past.

It has also ravaged my nervous system at times.

The thing is- having one’s mind fully occupied with stuff leaves little room to notice or befriend the street musician or see the sheen of the Native American’s long hair in the sun or the opulent hanging planters on the plaza or my dog ecstatic on a roll in the grass.

Are these things insignificant?

Do you judge me and think I could be using my time in more fruitful ways?

Do you envy me this room to notice?

These thoughts are companions of mine as I negotiate this shift for I both judge myself and am grateful.

My gaze has shifted to a new perspective 2 and a half feet south.

Here- I see the skateboarders with appreciative eyes

When before they were invisible

And even obstacles.

I used to turn from the street musician

Because he wanted something from me.

But today the tune he played stayed with me all afternoon

And I turned around to drop him a good tip..

One that didn’t embarrass me.

I tipped him well because he lifted me

And added to my day

And was VERY good at his craft

And clearly having a darn good time doing it.

Now, we are connected.

We see one another and wave.

Not because of the cash I left him.

But because I saw him sitting there and let him know I appreciated his offering.

I saw him sitting there.

You Are Too Sensitive

fine line
detail of painted wool flannel

All my life acute sensitivities have generated both creativity and contraction.

Creativity and the innate reaching quality of this as the cherished side of the gift of feeling deeply

And contraction because sometimes what I feel (hear, see, taste, touch) is too loud, horrible, divine, beyond my understanding or capacity to contain that I have to curl in.

I came across this test recently which us ‘sensitives’ don’t need but others may find of interest to help in the process of living with us. It was drawn from the complete article here:


If you can relate to six or more of the case scenarios below, (or parallel ones you imagine in your mind), you are probably among the 20% of the population that has been gifted with this heightened level of sensitivity:

1. While others usually interact socially with many people at surface levels, you prefer to connect with just a handful of people but at very deep and meaningful levels.

2. While some merely watch movies, you participate in them on an emotional level nearly akin to the characters themselves, and use the ending credits after movies to transition from the world on the screen, back into the world around you. Oh! And did I mention we always bring tissues?

3. While others seem to move through public education with no problem, you feel oddly out of your element restricted by the ringing bells, the buzzing florescent lights, the deadlines on assignments, the superimposed pace, the lack of creativity.

4. While some may only notice the “lovely” sounds of birds, you can’t help but to decipher the tone of the bird calls and realize that they are not lovely at all, but distress calls, in which a larger bird is targeting the fledgelings of another for its next meal!

5. While others can enter a room without having its details faze them, you notice everything from the stain on the left curtain panel, to the cooking smells from the previous meal, the texture of the couch upholstery, its temperature, lighting, how close the traffic sounds are, and any residue tension lingering in the air from the argument that transpired in the room before you even entered it.

6. While others can run with the monotonous rat race at urban speed, through multiple tasks, rush hour traffic, complaining bosses and many co-workers, day after day, year after year, your constitution is more suited to working at your own pace, in peaceful surroundings, or you may become rattled.

7. While most will just walk by a crying child being ignored by its mother in a supermarket cart without incident, you feel your heart beating faster as you’re compelled to relieve it of its discomfort.

8. While most people can go from work, to shopping, to socializing in a single day without even blinking an eye, you find yourself needing to pace yourself and take time to recharge in between stimulating activities or events.

9. While most people can rush through an art museum ingesting one work after another in a short amount of time, you prefer to take time to absorb the essence of each piece at a more gradual, thorough pace, usually involving connecting with the emotional make up and mind-set of each artist.

10. While most people can go through lovers like fashion styles, your erotic encounters are whole person experiences with someone you love, leaving you feeling as if the whole room is spinning, and in need of recovery time from your intense lovemaking before you can participate fully in the next activity.

What Is That Thing?

“RADIO” 5’x5′, 1980, painted wool flannel

In the past few weeks a couple friends from my olden days have resurfaced

To swim with me..beside me

On my own migratory journey to who knows where?

There I was- swimming my course like a lovely sea turtle;

Just slowly moving forward- pulled by some invisible thread

When ALL OF A SUDDEN… these two friends from my past are swimming there at my side..on the phone and we are talking..

Like old shoes we slip into the safety and comfort of something ineffable which has substance and waited there for us to recognize that thing once again.

How can one go for 35-40 years with no contact and pick the thing up like it had no break in continuity?

Certainly, an action of re-connection needs to take place for anything to happen at all.

I tip my hat to these two as it was their reach that rang me up.

This takes courage, I think.

There is the chance of rejection. Worse yet- disinterest altogether.

Yes, the stakes are high but possibility is higher.

And when the contact is made a new thing is born

That feels miraculous and restores hope and reminds one to remain open to the mysterious ways

Of being human.

The River Enterer

detail of monoprint

My life has been filled with taking the path less trodden.

These choices I’ve made come with costs, to be sure.

I can’t seem to stop leaving the house without a map.

Why is this?, I ask myself.

There are easier ways.

Paths with porta-potties along a manicured and tended forest trail..

But I seem to find it more interesting

To crawl over that boulder (metaphorically speaking)

To see what’s on the other side.

You see- I am bored by what I know.

Which makes the shadows and unknown terrain

My friends.

Sometimes I wish for a palanquin;

Because I can no longer go

All the places that call me.

I might surprise you

One day,

Phoning you up

To take hold

Of a corner of the thing…

My curiosity

Grabbing me by the scruff

Of my neck,

Stretched taut

At a whiff

Of a white flower

Over there,

Beyond my grasp.

“Even When It Sucks It’s Worth It”

oil on plaster, 11x11x4″

I watched a documentary called UNZIPPED about fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi and all the ins and outs of putting out a collection.

It is an unusually honest, funny and poignant film which depicts the creative process in all it’s grit, grime and glory.

The quote above were his last words of the film following reading the rave reviews he received for the completed collection.

I find it interesting to see what makes me cry as I don’t do it often enough and seldom over challenges I face in my daily life.

More often than not I cry when my heart just gets too filled up and has to spill over.

I cried these kinds of tears watching this film as I remembered the old Cathy who got inspired driving her truck into the desert one day long ago, finding a deposit of green earth which she gathered and brought back to the studio.

This earth would inspire 10 years of art; the thinking, discriminating, the making, intuiting, the photographing, the showing, the selling.

I love that I made these beautiful things.

It was always the process of the making which made me feel more alive.

I think this love of process keeps me on top of my present health challenges and all that comes with them.

I remain curious.

Curious about content, the biology involved, emotional and spiritual geography and how I can make it all a thing of beauty.

You see- the same or similar muscles are being engaged now as before.

My work of art is seemingly my life now.

Sometimes successful..sometimes not.

Even when it sucks it’s worth it.

My Hands

photo credit: Gay Block


These are my hands.
They have made both good and hopeful love.
They’ve coaxed night terrors from a dog
And curled in upon themselves
So hard
As to wake cramped.
These hands have prayed belligerent and beseeching prayers.
Fine and common meals have been made.
Black eyeliner and red lipstick
Precursors to an exhibition
Of art both sublime and something less.
These lovely hands are mine
Because I baited fishing poles
And threw back the fish.
Sometimes I gutted those fish on the driveway
And loved the color and shapes I found inside.
These hands have thrown one wine glass
At a man
And missed completely.
They have signed unread contracts
And penned love letters
Unfortunately unappreciated
By anyone but me.
I love my hands
Because they have been strong
And now they aren’t.
I love that I still love them.
I love them still.
-Cathy Aten 2013

Real Deal

the fall
detail of ceramic sculpture




I Love…

monoprint- 30 x 22″

Now that I live within rolling distance of downtown Santa Fe

I got myself in gear and went.

With dog on lap we cruised down the street navigating pot holes and curb cuts with a grade that made me tremble.


Tourists everywhere (high season here) and art shows on the plaza.

We headed for Starbucks, got a paper and deftly searched out a quiet corner which, on the holiday was a city building

As they are the only people who still have grassy knolls in the drought.

Livvy rooted in the greenery and I sat and looked up into a giant cottonwood tree and felt so very fine.

My motto has been of late: DONT’ GIVE UP BEFORE THE MIRACLE

And I sat there and drank the whole gorgeous thing in: my home of 25 years and the twists and turns of cultural friction and precious humanity which exist side by side, the incomparable blue of our sky, the characters and creatives squeezed into every corner, enchanted gardens peeking through old mud walls, the stoicism of the Native Americans selling jewelry on the plaza and the intrepid skateboarders alive in their risk-taking.

I sat there and loved it all..

I loved my family for being patient and supportive of me.

I loved my friends for having to change as I keep changing.

I loved my dog because she knows my heart and finds me worthy.

I loved my own particular journey in life because it is LIFE! with all her grit and grime and questions and secrets and silence and symphonies.

I loved the man who jumped up from his table to open the door for me

And I loved how I felt when another man shook my hand and his felt capable and friendly and sure and soft and strong.

I loved my latte because I shouldn’t

And I loved the woman in high heels because I couldn’t.

We sat there in the shade and watched the world go by and I wondered if my life had become narrow and boring as I remembered a very good friend is having her art opening this week.

I used to be her with all the labor and planning and publicity and exciting build-up before an exhibition.

And now I’m not that anymore.

I am a different woman now; my sensitivities still acutely tuned.

Perhaps more so…yes, it is true.

This shift I love as well…

Because change is all we have after all.

We can choose to love the change.

Or, at the very least we can shake hands.