My 1973 yellow Camaro
Felt like sex.
Opening the door
I bent low
And slid into
Impossibly sweet
Black leather smelling
Just slightly sour
From good living
But mostly the fragrance
Intoxicated me.

In this car
Everything was low down.
I sat low.
The moulded seats
Held me there
As we took the corner;
The road pulled me down
Deeper into the black seat
As the turn was taken.
I was released
In the end
And we carried on
Down the road.

I smoked back then.
In my mind
I was both
Under the radar
And lit up-
Like Christmas
In poor taste.
My bad girl
Was very alive
And hungry.

That girl
Landed me in jail.
There was no way
I could even
Approach slow
In my yellow Camaro.
She had needs.
Fast was one.
I let her go;
Took the bit out
So her mouth was soft
And she went.

I had a cell
Quite to myself
But I could hear the drunks
Just over the wall.
I had my dress on
That I wore in court.
I ate American cheese
With the rest of them
For three days.
They jeered
When they heard me pee.
The lights never went off.

One morning
They came.
Their precious door
And ushering me
To the front gate.
That metal swung out
And I walked
Into the mist of
Too early
In the morning.

No one
I knew
Was awake.
So I walked.
Tasting freedom.
It was far sweeter
Than anything
My Camaro
Ever gave me.
I bought a used Fiat
But kept wearing the scent
Of that particularly fine
Sense of Freedom
That one time
Was mine.


-Cathy Aten 2014

Preserving Dignity


I put a huge amount of energy toward keeping my boat aloft so-to-speak.

The challenges of keeping myself up as a functioning human include strange and complicated physical activities a person not challenged by chronic illness should count their lucky stars they can not even imagine,

Along with just the every day grooming, brace tightening, one- handed makeup-putting-on, one-handed showering, pants-pulling-up and typing..

With all that there is the whole spectrum of psychic machinations I must negotiate;

Like the ping-pong motion of being aware of the weariness my family/friends must feel having had to lend me all kinds of support over such long periods of time

And the immense gratitude I feel.

Have I thanked everyone enough? Do I have the energy to do what I want to do for them?

What about staying in touch with people on a regular basis? Making sure I give my dog the best life I can is a must.

Thankfully, my fabulous caregiver keeps my lovely apartment clean and tidy which helps my mind stay clear.

I know my neighbors wonder at my reticence to interact most of the time. How could they know what it has taken for me to get out the door some days? I have just so much juju to go around. I almost feel feral at times; long periods not speaking to anyone, accompanied by my own thoughts which are very interesting at best.

I get into trouble if I don’t stay connected

But I need to protect myself so much.

It is a life of walking fine lines.

Fine, fine lines.

One minute I’ve got the perfect balance down

And the next I’m lying in the dirt.

Dignity comes with a LOT of perseverance.

Thankfully, I am good friends with humility.


detail of sculpture


“As you proceed through life, following your own path, birds will shit on you. Don’t bother to brush it off. Getting a comedic view of your situation gives you spiritual distance. Having a sense of humor saves you.”

Joseph Campbell


Thirty Four

“CONVERSATION”, 32×32″,m/m


Yesterday I decided I would count how many times I judged someone or thing.

It isn’t pretty what I found.

34 was my number.

I judged the weather, my complexion, my caregiver for forgetting something, my dog for needing to go out too early, my wheelchair for running out of a battery charge, the weather again, my mother, my self again.., my disorganized everything, the worms eating my aspen tree, my self, my choice of films, the fly pestering me, the government, that horrible color red that women seem to think they need to look powerful…

You get the picture.

I judged myself for not being the best team player at times. I judged God for playing hide and seek. I judged Summer for arriving too early.

My neighbor’s motorcycle roars too early.

I should have meditated.


The stupid government took away my food stamp allotment.

The ANTS!!!

There is some weird juicy thing that happens with judgement of ‘other’.

We get to fee ‘better than’ and that is seductive.

We absolutely know we are RIGHT.

And that is a very dangerous thing.

Byron Katie has a fabulous tonic for judgement.

She says: “Ask yourself: IS IT TRUE?” (there are actually 4 questions she uses).

Is the motorcycle making too much noise in the morning? Well..for ME it is too much noise but in reality it is just doing what it does.

Are the ants invading? Not really. They happen to include my home as part of their daily wanderings.

Am I not a good team player? Is that true? Well, actually I sometimes AM a great team player and sometimes not.

This line of questioning softens life up markedly and gives me much more room.

Substance / Sustenance

2014-04-19 12.53.36


As my life seemingly narrows I feel the literal SUBSTANCE of life more keenly.

By this I mean the distinction between the airy, more ephemeral qualities inherent in what might be called “lite living”; facebook friends, community aquaintences, peers, fellow travelers all…

Recent re-connection with old high school and early college friends after 40 years has brought to light the reality that energetic ties once made with heart, soul recognition, and shared tribal membership cards still hold actual DENSITY I can literally feel.


How is this possible?

Is this just a wish of mine? Some dream of how I’d like it to be?


Case in point:
My dog Livvy has behavioral issues (unlike the rest of us). She is uber-protective of me and barks at any approaching neighbor or unfamiliar person. She bites if someone gets too close to me. All this has my friends walking on eggshells and me turning away from people to avoid chaos which keeps me more isolated than I am already. This behavior has escalated in the last year.

I have consulted with a couple of trainers and an animal communicator. They each gifted me their services which was a great boon as I was going insane.

The general feeling was that she was in deep pain which I knew as she would wake in the night sometimes screaming out from a knee which repeatedly dislocated.. She needed surgery which I could not afford. We were both stressed and sad.

One trainer told me I ought to think about euthanasia as it was too hard to find a new home for such a dog and the stress level was costing both of us our quality of life.

A friend stepped in and offered to pay for the surgery!

It was truly a miracle as I owe my dog so much and was unwilling to give her anything but the most loving care I could muster.

Today, she is happier and out of pain, less barky and clearly relieved. The surgery didn’t fix everything but her demeanor is far more serene
and mine is as well.

What is this kind of support worth?

I am still musing over the miraculous generosity of my friend as well as her knowing how very much easing my dog’s life would translate to easing mine.






I heard a hummingbird hurrying.

She wore a glittery cloak

Leaving little gleams behind her;

Too busy to chat.


The song she trilled

Sounded decidedly thrilled!

The red thing hanging there

Was the prize.


Hovering. Hovering there.

She hadn’t quite decided

If the perfect time had come

To slurp at the sugary joint.


But then!

By Jove, she lit into the place

With the speed of a cheetah

But dressed for the ball.


When she rested there

On the rim to eat

The stillness was so deep..

I stopped breathing.


As she lifted into flight

Veering impossibly left

I found myself

Jealous of her strong heart.


– CA 2014

Re-Mothering Ourselves

sculpture detail, ceramic


The advent of Mother’s Day left me feeling both wanton and peaceful, oddly enough..

My mother is probably the one thing I haven’t approached writing about here.


Well- Our relationship was broken. She went in to it broken. I broke along the way. Lots of other people in my life were/are affected by that very brokenness.

She died a number of years ago and I felt relieved.

Her last words to me were: “I love you darling.”

This, after asking me if I’d like to lie down on the couch with her and make up for all the lost time…..(I was 46 and we had barely touched each other physically in my lifetime).

Makes me both want to cry and vomit.

So it goes- mothers. daughters.

If we didn’t get it when we deserved to, should have, expected to receive the very basic level of foundational support a little being needs to thrive

What do we do as adults trying to be adult-like?

Because of this foundational lack I make big messes in my life at times.

I used to wear the damp and impossibly weighty cloak of shame wherever I went

And I’ve said “I’m sorry” way more often than “I love you” but I’m making up for that now.

These days- after a lifetime in therapy doing the excruciating work of separating myself out from her

I am at peace.

Yes.. let the bells chime across the land!

I am at peace.

I forgave her. Forgave myself. Still at it.

That is the ‘re-mothering’ ticket to peace- forgiveness.

Still don’t like her. I understand her better. I left the thing she slimed me with at the side of the road to fertilize something ‘other’.

I walked on- am walking on wearing red lipstick and a softened and much lovelier face than I ever thought I could get to. The one I grew up with was so terribly hardened.

It’s all EARNED.

Not a given.

I decided to celebrate myself this Mother’s Day.

I’ve done a very good job.


detail, ceramic,earth



1. No more struggle

Whatever arises, train again and again in seeing it for what it is. The innermost essence of mind is without bias. Things arise and things dissolve forever and ever. Whatever happens, we can look at it with a nonjudgmental attitude. This is the primary method for working with painful situations.

2. Using poison as medicine

When suffering arises, we breathe it in for everybody. This poison is not just our personal misfortune. It’s our kinship with all living things, the seed of compassion and openness. Instead of pushing it away or running from it, we breathe in and connect with it fully. We do this with the wish that all of us could be free of suffering.

3. Regarding whatever arises as awakened energy

This reverses our habitual pattern of trying to avoid conflict, trying to smooth things out, trying to prove that pain is a mistake that would not exist in our lives if only we did the right things. This view encourages us to look at the charnel ground of our lives as the working basis for attaining enlightenment.

Excerpted from Three Methods for Working with Uncertainty, Pema Chödrön, Shambhala Sun, March 1997


“PUSH”, 18x18x10″, ceramic,wire,wood


I wrote this in 2009 and seem to need to post it each Spring:



We thought it would never come.
That dripping, pungent, just-waking- up
Season of LIFE!
It hides, teases, burrows down
So far that we forget-
Forget the wild heartbeat that comes
With the lover at the door.
Old thoughts of circumstances long gone
Have no place here.
All is washed clean,
Naked to the promise
Of every thing spanking new.
And so, what shall I choose
To adorn myself for you?
Nothing secondhand, NO!
For me there will be butter yellow
Like the grasses by the roadside.
Perhaps a deep brown
With the scent of new rain
Behind my ear.
Of course, lest I forget
A shirt the shade of
The inside of that orchid
I saw on your desk.
The door will open
And there you’ll stand,
Crackling with the promise
Of a thunderstorm.
Wild, navy blue clouds
Demanding my attention.
“Come in”, I say, slightly unnerved.
Nothing seems familiar, everything new.
I leave the door open,
So all this blossoming, and greening and thundering and light
Has no question it is welcome
To change us, release us
From all we know to be true,
And leave us spent with awe
For all we thought we knew.

-Cathy Aten Easter 2009

Five Power Tools

detail of installation, ceramic


Yesterday was tough.

I have to know how to find my way back to OK without thinking about it too much.

Here are some of my ‘go-to’ power tools:

1. red lipstick

2. breathe into my belly and exhale more than I think I can

3. re-connect with innocence (I rub my dog’s belly)

4. forgive myself and everyone else

5. count on everything to change- always- all the time.. period.



vulnerability 1
“TREE” 12×12″, m/m


For many years I have had an old but interesting branch wrapped pretty tightly in white lights which I’ve loved to use as evening ambient light in my home year-round.

In one of my moves it gave up the ghost and I found this ready-made one at RESTORATION HARDWARE.

The original impetus for this came from Martha Stewart in her glory days.

This particular kind of light makes me really happy with it’s nod toward something magical, innocent and out-of-the-ordinary. Somehow- I’m not ok when I dont have it.

I had this image of myself as this tree the other day as I wheeled downtown. Picture a Quantum 400 wheelchair carrying a 4′ tall tree with bare branches.

If I went by something that interested me the lights would begin to glow slightly. Passing by, they would go out.

I saw a lovely jacket in a window..slow glow.

There is my friend I haven’t seen in so long! ..Lights blaze to life!

This coffee is so yummy…little activity over there in the top branch.

I think about that cool thing I learned from someone’s Facebook post…comin’ alive.

It crosses my mind how my highest accomplishment is the circle of friends I share my life with- those standing with me on an often gritty road… the whole darn tree shines it’s heart out and just won’t quit.

Why Do We All Need An Audience?

detail of installation, red earth, ceramic, plants


I spend most of my time alone.

Or rather..with the non-humanness of Livvy-the Dog.

We are a connection-crazed culture posing in selfies and tweeting and ‘liking.’

This blog allows me a semblance of connectivity wider than what often feels too narrow a life for me.

Books are voices which get me front seats in any theater I choose. I am thrilled, outraged, comforted, titillated, inspired and created anew sometimes.

I sit in my recliner/lift chair and think about stuff.

Thankfully, I am easily entertained and today’s tiny brown ants trying to help each other carry a huge something-or-other to somewhere-or-other reminded me of my old ant farm I loved so..

And then I thought about how Steven Hawking thinks AI (artificial intelligence) may be the very demise of us all.

After that- I took Livvy for a roll downtown to get a Starbucks and saw a weird (and wonderful) guy in the park all dressed up in mountain man clothes, hat, fur things dangling, suede full length duster coat in conversation with a Republican.

It was so great!

On our way home we smelled some divine fragrance coming from a pink tree and a stranger in a car smiled and waved.

Are these things better or more for sharing them with you?

Actually, the ESSENCE of the experience gets slightly greyed down from the sharing in a way. But a communion is born because I give it to you consciously and with full awareness as a gift..

I suppose it has to do with who I am as I write.. I am not sure but it feels like food for thought.

I will likely keep those musings private if that’s ok?