liv chair

In my creative life I am very familiar with the essential part of the process which looks like a big nothing most often.

I have called it ‘gathering.’

It is almost embarrassingly at the opposite pole from the familiar achieving and goal-oriented ways of being our culture celebrates.

It took me many, many years to learn to trust what seems empty; time, no ideas, no movement to speak of on any level.

As my life has become my art I am looking at how that gathering/waiting time looks like epic TV or film watching, looking out the window, sleeping or reading or big, giant swaths of what seem like nothingness.

I trust this nothingness.

It is not nothing.

SOME thing is asking to be born/created/thought and if we choose not to live a regurgitative life

We wait.

Patiently or not we must wait.


There is a good kind of waiting
which trusts the agents of fermentation.
There is a waiting
which knows that in pulling away
one can more wholly return.
There is the waiting
which prepares oneself,
which anoints and adorns
and makes oneself plump
with readiness for love’s return.
There is a good kind of waiting
which doesn’t put oneself on hold
but rather adds layers to the grandness
of one’s being worthy.
This sweet waiting
for one’s fruits to ripen
doesn’t stumble over itself
to be the first to give
but waits for the giving
to issue at its own graceful pace.

2014 © Toko-pa Turner (www.toko-pa.com) |


Rude Pendulum Swing

detail installation, ceramic, sand

My fabulous sister was here recently and I was dealing with both a bladder infection and the beginning of what ended up being shingles (PLEASE get vaccinated for this if you have not already!).

My nature is tuned to survival and soldiering on; presenting my best self when I have the stamina and interest to do so.

Thankfully, this is most of the time.

My history is not one of infirmity.

My sense of myself is of a woman with an extremely strong constitution.

All this body-centric attention I have had/am having to exert is so foreign to me.

I hate it.

It goes against the grain of my creative leanings toward airy communion with my muses.

When my sister was here I kept the ‘shingles thing’ secret.

I was embarrassed to have so much going wrong with my body at the same time and wanted to just be normal and have a great sister/sister visit.

We had that times 10 (in my mind).

When I watched the PRESIDENT’S STATE OF THE UNION address last night and saw him end with attention on the veteran deployed 10x and now severely disabled

I felt the energy of the entire country soften away from our brains and into our hearts.

The purposeful focus on this man was not maudlin in the least.

I’m not sure how he did that exactly because it could easily have gone that way and surely it did for some.

I felt the bridge Obama was trying to make:

This wounded man has kept moving toward Life no matter what.

Change , evolution, revolution, healing all look very, very messy on the way toward whatever it is they will eventually become.

I notice that a profound opening always takes place in me following the BIG MESS preceding it; spiritual in nature.

I sensed Obama was asking us to take heart in the natural qualities of process

And not to give up on ourselves before the miracle; personally, professionally and politically.

We, as a nation are no different than me- muddling through the raw and gritty roads needed to be travelled on the way to something smoother with new and unimaginable landscapes.

Am I Happy?

detail of painting

Going after happiness is our cultural right.

And certainly a privilege

As most of us are not dealing with utter survival

Which leaves little time to even wonder:

“Am I happy right now?”

I have that luxury of time.

I believe I use it well.

I think about things like:

‘What is the thing that makes me want to keep living life?’

CURIOSITY is my answer.

I am so very curious about life; how, what, why, when…


My answer is that I am both happy and sad. All the time.

This seemingly strange combination of opposites;

The awareness of them as constant bedfellows


Which is invaluable to my peace of mind.

I can hold the opposites

And this holding leaves some sort of preciousness in it’s wake.

Curious, no?

Laying Down Identity


“In illness, you’re suddenly not yourself anymore. The question is: Are you going to cling in panic to some idealized self that no longer exists? Or are you going to cross the threshold and acknowledge that you’re on a journey, though you don’t know to where? You haven’t chosen it, but now you’re different in some way. This is one reason physical illness shows up as a turning point in so many spiritual biographies or as the catalyst of shamanic initiation. It’s a profound shock to the system. It dislodges you. You look in the mirror, and one of the unfortunate ill stares back. But in a way, you could say that disease also abrades away, painfully, all of these superficial ways in which we judge our worthiness, even life’s worthiness. Our worthiness, as in: “Am I strong, beautiful, competent, undamaged goods?” Or life’s worthiness, as in: “Life is good only when it makes me happy, or aggrandizes me, or favors my enterprise.” But who’s bigger, you or life? There’s a Rilke poem Robert Bly has translated: “This is how he grows – by being defeated, decisively, by ever greater beings.” by Marc Ian Barasch


ceramic, 14×3″

My amazingly supportive sister and a very good friend gave me the gift of choice for Christmas.

Inside a tiny box wrapped with a perfect red bow was a gift card from AMAZON.

My sister said in the card she was giving me the “gift of choice.”

I had not realized that choice about so many things falls away with the onset of illness, disability or any kind of ’emergency’ living..

For me- the choices to move the way I desire, eat what I want, dress in the clothes I’d choose with buttons or zippers, work out hard in a yoga class, drink wine, get bodywork, spend longer than an hour with friends, give dinner parties, travel, buy things that lift my spirit and keep me healthy (flowers, candles, nice clothes, expensive supplements, girly potions, books and magazines, go on road trips, wear cowboy boots while driving my truck) have fallen to the wayside one by one.

Life is jammed with a good deal of “I can’t” due to financial, physical, emotional and over-taxed nervous system reasons

So CHOICE is a luxury which softens the iron gates and lets me cross the bridge into self-nurture.

Most of the world is pinned into the cage of survival with no psychic energy left over to even think about such things so make no mistake- I know my privilege.

Beauty is essential to me but not nearly as accessible as it once was.

But my deep need to live a life of beauty forces me to find it elsewhere.

Which I am very good at, thankfully.

I can find beauty anywhere. And do.

But given the gift of choice, a fine smelling face moisturizer that actually works

Feels like treasure… (this I bought with my gift card!).

These seemingly little things help me stay out of despair

And give me strength to engage with the world in service, pleasure and purpose.

Perhaps to add a bit of beauty as I am able.

Tread Softly

detail of installation, ceramic, earth, coal
detail of installation, ceramic, earth



This new year I wish to tread softly on my path

And learn the grounded power and acute attention of a wild cat.

I have the desire to disturb as few blades of grass as a lithe snake

Purposefully carving her organic road;

Enjoying micro-movements of muscles

All working together in Grace.

Speaking of Grace- the trusting, innocent eyes of my dog are those I strive to see my world with.

I want to care for my clan with the fathoms deep depth of an African elephant.

My voice wants to carve sweet somethings through heavy airs.

My skin begs to exude a perfume as yet unknown

Instead of the intermittent metallic notes of judgement and impatience.

My heart imagines itself lying there, quite open and pink;

Oozing nectar ready as food for those who have none.

I want to tread softly through this magnificent forest;

My attention missing nothing…


Not the horror nor the Grace.

I will use my wild cat eyes and ears to try my best to take it all.
-Cathy Aten 2014