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.

How I Keep Getting Up

“RENAISSANCE” naturally pigmented , 10’x3’earth, wood

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I’m talkin’ ’bout getting up in the morning and rising above the aches, weariness, thoughts of “not-good-for-much today”, undercurrent of hating the world and peeing my pants…

(Gotcha’ with that last one, eh?)

You may be aware MS is often accompanied by this symptom).

My greatest medicine is a way of looking….perceiving.

Our current outer world is uncivil, ill-mannered, divided.

It affects me so much.

I want to shrink away from it all;… MY pain.. THE pain just living our daily lives demands of each of us.

I find myself getting smaller energetically and less available to the barrage of bullets.

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SOME THINGS THAT HELP ME BE HEALTHY:

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1. Mental health is just as important as physical health and we can’t survive without it. My definition of mental health means we can easily access a reserve of energy to think new things, live moderately well in the unknown in the company of the natural anxieties arriving moment by moment. KEY word: A RESERVE of life juice. A savings account of self-love. HOW?

2. I put myself next to, behind or near people/beings of character through personal contact, video online, film, books, friends, animals.

3. I create beauty to keep myself entertained; decorating myself and my home and noticing it in others and telling them.

4. Remembering we only really have this moment after all is said and done, I cry, wipe the tears with 2-ply tissue, patch the hole in my skirt, apply lipstick and scent and roll on.

5. Depression finds my chest feeling collapsed. I remember my posture and get comfortably straight then breath into my belly. This creates instant pride in a good way.

6. Too much time alone and I get so bored with myself. Out we go- Emma and me into the wilderness of life. I go fast in my chair and sing stupid ditties into the wind.

7. Eating plants and green stuff is good but a slice of carrot cake with too much frosting is grand medicine.

8. Give something to someone. SOMETHING YOU VALUE to a stranger; a smile, even “Hello” will lift someone else but mostly you.

9. Down time with head under the covers is part of remaining healthy. Just get up before you forget the sound of youtr own voice.

10. Buy flowers. For your own precious self.

11. Remember the strongest truth there is: EVERYTHING DAMN THING CHANGES. ( NATURE points to this reality and the comfort/alarm in it). Comfort is not the goal.

12. Finding the good in the bad starts out being kindof exhausting but this is the most effective way to a thriving life I know.

I would say what keeps me on top of my game the most is subscribing to the philosophy of WABI SABI- the perfection of imperfection. Cultivating a way of looking.. .click here:

Purpose

Apologies for my extended silence.

If I don’t have anything to say, I don’t.

I have been shifting with the season.

In order for new stuff to come in the old has to die off as we all know but I never like it while it’s happening.

Like the leaves, my energies feel brittle and warm from the advent of composting.

I acted as sounding board for a friend conflicted in his decision-making process whether to stay in Santa Fe and continue in business which has been a challenge for the past year

Or to return to his familiar life back east where his income was safe and he knew exactly what to expect.

He was freaked out because he is pushed to the wall time-wise with head and heart battling it out.

His bottom line ended up being “PURPOSE” and deciding what that is for him; recognizing his unwillingness to live the remainder of his life without it.

Putting words to our purpose feels important.

For me, the diminishing capabilities of ambulatory living and even two hands to count on have forced me to welcome the heat of my own leaves which have fallen; on the composting trail to new and fertile soil.

Dirty, messy business to face the need to shift from one identity to the next.

I might say that my past and pre-MS identity and purpose was that of an artist bringing beauty and interest into the world.

Today, I understand that to merely exist with as much awareness and appreciation as I can muster

As well as be a reflection for the miracle that is us

Is my purpose.

Really the same thing I was doing as an artist

Just not “in form”.

After all is said and done

To BE…to exist

Is enough.

I wish I felt more kindly toward that pesky “composting” part though….

A work in progress we are.

I don’t remember Spring every occurring without the “dying to be re-born” part.

Do you?

Yuk. and Yay!

A Woman Eating Alone In A Restaurant

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One of my most satisfying pleasures is to go to a favorite casual restaurant or coffeeshop and enjoy being there alone.

It continues to surprise me so many friends are too uncomfortable to take solace in this simple joy.

I know…we have these ancient imagined stories reeling in our heads like: “How pitiful to see her there without a dining companion”, or “Can’t she get a man?” or just “How sad…”.

The key take-away words are: ANCIENT, STORIES, IMAGINED.

It is 2017 girlfriends.

You know you are good company.

Take yourself to lunch!

Here’s how:

1. Pick a casual place you know..maybe off hours to start.
2. Bring a book..forget your phone.
3. Smile on entry as you are seated.
4. Ask for a different seat if you don’t like where you are put.
5. Be engaging with the wait person: “Do you like this wine?”
6. I always imagine wait people dislike seeing me sitting alone because their minds are on money..less $ for table of 1).
7. When I first started going out to eat alone I just had to fake it because it was too weird but I took my mind off the strangeness by appreciating how lovely it feels to be served, the clean and sparkling glassware, nobody to take care of as far as entertaining a dining companion, just a deep pause in a fast life just for me.
8. Try not to go too far down into your book to make it impossible to connect with other interesting people.
9. Relish your own interestingness.
10. Lately, I go to a hotel downtown with an outdoor patio open to the street. Very casual at happy hour. I sit with Emma and have a margarita…no phone..no book..I just people watch. In just a few visits I have met astoundingly interesting people. It feels super comfortable because it is a hotel and not terribly strange to see a woman alone.
11. I always tip VERY well and make the experience different than the waitperson expected. You will be treated like royalty next time you go! PROMISE!

a tidbit from OPRAH- click HERE.

Keeping an Eye Out

detail of painting,m/m

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Rolling downtown I pass a bank of windows; eternally sparkling clean.

Who works here? I have wondered… recognizing a level of integrity gleaming in the midst of, shall we say “other”.

One day a lovely woman about my age ran out the door flagging me down.

“I’m Sheri. I see you pass by here so often and wanted to introduce myself”.

We had a spirited conversation and since then, as I pass her window I turn to wave and she does too.

So fun to expand my community in these seemingly little ways

That aren’t so little at all.

Bladder infections are visited on my weary physical self on a pretty regular basis as a pesky MS related take-away.

Needing to get out of the house yesterday I pulled my remaining energy together and ventured forth.

Approaching Sheri’s window I lowered my hat brim and scooted by without my usual acknowledgement in her direction as I hadn’t the inclination nor energy to bring up cordiality.

Today I had enough juice to resume our greetings and she emphatically held one finger up asking me to pause and wait.

She came outside and knelt down in the heat to even her eyes with mine;

“Are you ok? You didn’t seem ok yesterday. I needed to check on you.”

Instantly I dropped into the safety and comfort of having been seen and registered with curiosity and compassion by another of my species sharing minimal history.

This felt miraculous to me.

I told her so.

We basked in the incredulity of the gift of communion in a surprise visit to church on a Santa Fe back street one day in September.

Nature is the Antithesis of Illness

monoprint,30×22

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I try to keep the energy of my home clean and clear as best I can; clutter, emotional drama, too many colors and textures, unfinished projects and piles of “stuff” all lend density and heaviness to the vibe.

Flowers are insta-clearing agents for me.

They are extremely vital to my well-being and I adore arranging carefully chosen blooms.

Candles and especially the scent and smoke of sweetgrass help hoover out the sneaky slimeyness (sp?) bound to find entry sooner or later.

Sometimes Emma stands rigid on my bed barking at the empty corner of the room protecting me from things only she can see.

My tolerance for staying put indoors is two days which really is pushing it.

I get weird.

My brain curls into armadillo-mode and starves.

Even with all the consciousness I put into “keeping house”

The moment I close the door behind me bound for the plaza or some other adventure

I become light;

Brain unfurls into an un-armored friend and I move from my heart into the world.

Thoughts of pain and weakness and struggle,

Boredom and isolation and severed threads to Spirit

Fly off me like flinty scales

As I lean in to the fresh innocence of a day.

I have a friend in Texas waiting anxiously for what may be the ravages of a full blown hurricane.

Nature has many costumes in her armoire from ferocious to tender.

She demands we must bow to her risking everything if we don’t.

The fact Mother Nature is so much larger than us seems to allow the petty contractions I experience in my physical self to shrink in the light of Her pure and untainted energy.

Suddenly, I don’t feel the identity of “sick or pained or weary woman.”

A slow tear slides down my cheek in undefended humility and gratitude.

I roll on.

Free.

“Can You Help Me?”

“WANTON” ceramic,steel, 7x4x4

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This evening in Santa Fe is perfection in the cloud department.

I was rollin’ feeling very fine and then-

Emma adventured into a tangle of chairs and such.

Her leash got stuck in a number of places.

I carry scissors in case this too familiar scene is un-get-out-able

But I didn’t want to spend heftily for a new retractable leash

So….

ME to a benign-seeming stranger: “Can you help me?”

Now- I should know better than this because it has happened so often.

The energetic reaction I got from this person went from: “Oh my god…this wheelchair person needs something from me” and “I am late for the theater and tired of shelling out cash to the needy” as well as “WAAAYYYY too much need in the world! I can’t help EVERYONE!”

She displayed frustration, fear, impatience and displeasure.

Of course these are the stories I told myself from reading the energy evident in those nano seconds before I remembered to

TELL HER WHY I NEEDED HER HELP!!!

At which she relaxed and became my evening hero.

I wanted a cocktail when I got home..

Exhausted from the chaotic mess of an evening.

I am in my chair so things are not physically demanding but the psychological navigating that needs to take place sometimes leaves me breathless. My job is really to educate people about how best to be with me; attempting to foster a positive and fairly natural connection with a marginalized part of the population.

I like doing this but today I needed a good kvetch. It is often challenging to take care of myself AND those around me too.

Solitude

 

 

 

Day in..day out my life feels the chink of the whittler’s knife.

A little bit of “doing” falls to the floor at His sure carvers hand with each stroke taken.

After awhile the emptiness in me becomes the substance;  the main event

And I’d want it no other way.

That’s not really true- many times I long for levity and ease, projects and adventure with others of my ilk.

Solitude is my freedom.

My safe place.

The tree of Life.

I feed my mind constantly with TED talks and books and film and….and….

Inspiration seems to arrive only after layers of knowledge, information and images are laid down in a huge sedimentary aggregate

Which gets fed into the circular and swirly digestion

Occurring within my particular solitude.

Often I think not a damn thing is happening .

And what is my purpose after all?

These are bad questions.

They are constipating at best.

Most of the time, like this morning on the plaza

If I just give myself over to solitude

It heaps my coffers up with gifts.

I suppose it’s not really solitude when surrounded by all  manner of folks milling about

But I was in a funk and feeling bored in my aloneness.

A little boy and lovely mother came walking near  me.

I had been watching a very blonde little girl in expensive frilliness assaulting pigeons with confident bombardment of white bread bullets.

The approaching African American mother and child were taken aback when the white girl charged them and paused to hand the boy a slice of bread then swiftly ran back to her personal pack of pigeons.

The boy was a sensitive child and hid behind his mother.

She gently showed him how to tear the bread and give it a good toss to gathering birds.

He tried a few times but was frustrated at his feeble toss.

He wanted to give up.

His mother spoke gently and held his tiny hand to ensure a good throw.

A glittering bird came and ate it.

The boy’s body opened into a bloom of success and excitement at the result of his actions.

Again and again he threw the bread.

Ten minutes later they left the portly birds and I felt the privilege of witnessing the plumping up of a little boys’ confidence in himself.

All I did was surrender into space and be drawn into life happening.

It doesn’t feel insignificant to me.

I smiled and rolled on.

You Are Me

monoprint, 30×22

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Suffering is the great equalizer.

It really is a pisser

But it truly is the thing that moves humans from “me”

To “we”….

Back and forth-  me, we, me, I see you, me, you are just like me, me, Oh yeah- I know that one too.

I have seen that often the eyes continue to carry the gravitas of current, post or by-proxy suffering.

I have it, Emma has it, the old man selling from his street cart has it.

Trump doesn’t have it.  He’s escaped so far.

His eyes are dulled by confusion but that’s not the same.

He is comfortable in his separateness and makes decisions from there.

You can’t watch a movie or read about suffering and have your DNA really shift like the in-the-flesh kind tends to do.

When people approach me I can tell who has some sense of personal suffering;

Assistance is offered instinctively..

Like a prayer or blood donation.

This is how the suffering ones heal..

We reach for others.

Without thinking we reach.

We do it over and over

Because it is the very best way to heal everyone; ourselves and other.

Lots of those burdened by wealth have avoided suffering

For awhile

And that is a shame.

The suffering smell bad to those unfamiliar with the rigors of rising.

Nobody signed a contract to rise again after a bout of suffering.

We can always choose.

Eyes dim in the turning away from suffering.

Souls too.

There is a cost to avoidance.

A weird and rare light comes to the  ones who actually dance with suffering;  Christopher Reeves, Roger Ebert, His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Suffering is not a bad thing.

I have learned/am learning that in the middle of it..if I remember there is only just the present moment

I can get through pretty much anything.

And am so very much richer for it.

In the middle of it I hate God.

I mean, like REALLY!

She blasphemes…

But afterwards when I extend my hand to another and feel her soul get washed in the relief of “not alone”

I see the wisdom.

Can I put “soul washer” on my resume’?

What’s Worth Fighting For?

 

 

Rolling ’round recently I was feeling the effects of the heat and my fading chi.

I entertain myself by asking revealing questions: “What, Cathy,  is worth fighting for if your energy reserves are so low and you had to pick three things?”

“Well…(I answer to my captivated self)

EMMA comes to mind first off.

Then THE QUALITY OF LIFE I ENJOY (creativity,security,peace,connection,beauty)

And then there’d be my HEALTH..which allows my presence of mind..most valued of all.”

It is pretty revealing and important to focus in on what we value

And many ways to fight for the privilege and likelihood of their presence.

Newly hatched Great Horned Owl chicks are now in the park I take EMMA to in the evenings.

I like to go looking under the tree which hosts their nest; bones and feathers of ripped and torn prey the owls have enjoyed lie spread beneath the noble pine.

My friend sent me the photos here which are so gorgeously raw in the primal ways of nature in survival mode.

To protect what we value we can choose to attack or pull back into invisibility-mode , remain hyper-vigilant in extreme self-care or confront the subject.  

Or we can do nothing and risk using up our precious and decidedly finite energy on insignificant dalliances and eventually wonder where that dripping gift of life juice went while we weren’t really paying attention.

 

 

 

Georgia and Me

inspired by Georgia O’Keeffe’s “BLACK DOOR” series, ceramic,earth,bone, 30x30x4″

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I attended a lecture this morning hosted by THE GEORGIA O’KEEFFE MUSEUM by a woman who served Miss O’keeffe as librarian, housekeeper, companion and eventually caregiver as she became blind.

To hear her tell it, O’Keeffe was quite the toughie; prone to acerbic delivery in conversation and the non-mincing of words.  She was a challenging broad, shall we say.

We most often hear of Georgia in her prime , modeling unfettered independence sans family and expected norms of behavior

As she gifted the world with her way of seeing; lifting and shoving us all off the comfort of our familiar.

During the lecture I became self-reflective listening to this woman’s stories of Georgia aging often without grace;   frustration, bitterness uncontained, not so friendly or even less welcoming than her healthier days.

Access to grace is very hard won in the company of pain, fatigue, dissolution of body, mess and overload of general living stuff.

These things I am beginning to know.

Used to be that even when I was overly tired or weak I could always pull up grace enough to ensure my intimates worry about me was eased and a conversation could be had without the back round screech on the blackboard I could hear in their minds, concerned for my welfare.

Sometimes I sit here and Grace is cruising around town in her cherry red restored convertible Thunderbird with the top down miles from me.

I know not when she’ll return.

She never follows my orders.

This is when things get a bit lonely as I have very few I trust to visit myself upon when overtaken by our inevitable corporal dissolution.

I pull the covers over my head.

You think you’ll not be touched, I know.

It is a surprise how primal and naturally gritty and inconvenient just below the surface of normal we are.

The greatest gift those who love me can offer is   S…P…A….C…E…

With no judgement.

And the knowing that all we each can count on is change.

I might be nicer tomorrow.

Or not.

Or I might be.

And that would be nice.

For everybody.

My comportment is now quite unreliable.

It is what it is.

If you see me without a painted lip you’ll know to perhaps steer clear.

If I hadn’t the juju to pause and apply…I likely don’t have it for you.

Totter

 

 

Some of my very best memories were made during the many weekends I spent growing up at my grandparents’ home.

Summer evenings found me washing good dirt from fattened, sun-warmed tomatoes

Making Caprese salad for our picnic on the porch.

My grandfather had a tiny hibachi grill and tended the charcoal like a lunatic with tunnel vision.

We all waited for his: “READY!”

And sprung into action delivering the steak to him, dressing the table, orchestrating the symphony of a picnic on a mosquito-laden, Michigan Saturday evening.

Five minutes into the cook a low-down dog named Totter appeared;

An ancient Basset hound weighing in at 60 lbs with ears wagglingly dropped to the porch brick.

He maneuvered over to the steak on the grill and sat down.

After a nice long chat with my grandfather he received the first cuttings of meat on his own plate and promptly disappeared as the humans dug in.

Totter loved what he loved.

He loved it so much that it was almost embarrassing to watch his pleasure.

Lately, I love what I love fiercely too.

I let myself be overwhelmed by simple pleasures like an early morning breeze becoming blistering heat in the following hours.  Fleeting, impermanent. Can’t buy it or catch it or collect it to enjoy later.

So much in our world is not a problem!

I am choosing to live there; not with a blind eye to the rest but a conscious choice to love what I love as best I can as much as I can while I can.

Going after a doctorate in loving what I love;

The seven pound press of Emma on my lap, my adjustable bed with clean sheets dusted with Chanel #5 powder, pink hollyhocks under an ancient apricot tree, shared table with good friends, summer flush of my skin, coffee as medicine, a radically pared down life.

God only knows how many years of hours and minutes I used up acquiring..

Knowing that was me not too long ago and noticing who I am now is something to love as well.

The list is inexhaustible of things and people and animals and rocks and potions and praying mantises to love!  

(Just now I loved that I called up the energy to rise up off the toilet when , on first and second try I could not..)

Dr. Cathy Phillips Aten knows what she loves and does so fiercely.

Those French People

Donna’s roses

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My sister lives in Portland, Oregon.

It is quite hip there.

She gave me the gift of some bath soap which I sadly came to the end of recently.

I loved it.

Used it far beyond the point any sensible person would have let the ugly remains go.

Navy blue and camel striped.

Square.

Wonderful scent.

As natural as you can get as far as soap goes.

Very little lather which says something of the political correctness of it I think.

Being soapless as I was I rolled into my favorite store, ARRAY.

Being there is like taking a pain pill; every darn sensation, thought, imagining that doesn’t fit into your personal life puzzle gets annihilated just by crossing the threshold.

I headed for the soap display.

There were many, many natural varieties to choose from.  Tom, the owner buys the best of the best.

They were squared off , most of them.  Lots of corners.

 Nestled in the rich display were two sensually shaped sort of elliptical seed -looking soaps.

They were French.

Both enticingly unboxed and asking to be touched and smelled.

So I did.

The scent was straight out of a wildly chaotic explosion of a French country gardeners offering.

It fit in my hand like a nesting bird.

My grandmother used a black soap made in Spain sporting similar curves; MAGNO soap.

The following morning my French soap lathered up so darn much I stretched my neck up and started laughing at the pure excess.

It is extremely 1% of me I know

But a girl’s gotta be a girl

As much as humanly possible.

I spent the rest of that first day with my new French soap feeling perfectly gorgeous.

I decided this will be a new tool in my daily regimen for armoring up to meet the world the best way I know how.

Purposefully choosing utter excess quite consciously to begin my day allowing myself that extra secret little buffer to keep my precious essence intact amongst the incivility and mayhem.

A shield of scent and pleasure known only to me.

A clean and sassy little samurai am I.

This Is The Body

my hands, photo by Gay Block

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This is the body I find myself in.

Magazines say crepey skin is the beginning of the end and we, of the female persuasion should stop doing whatever it is we are doing and go get something-or-other to alleviate this disastrous calamity so as not to visit it on our neighbors.

Also- poor elasticity in the facial skin is a byproduct of living that needs to be hidden.

I haven’t had a manicure in years and god forbid I ever have to visit a hospital for any foot disease where someone is up close and person with my precious darlings called feet.

Come to think of it…I only used to worry about clean underwear for a hospital visit but the list these days is far too long for my feeble mind to actually pull up.

Is it wrong to love myself so much?

Just “as is” ….?

Clothes are always discounted with the “as is” written on the tag.

Flawed.  Holes.  Imperfect.

Sometimes I think it is weird I don’t use every atom of energy I have to try to walk again.

It is a big fuckin’ loss not to walk.  Or drive.  Or get up off the floor.

If I spent my life longing my heart would constantly be moldy from sopping wet tears of glass-half-empty.

Yesterday, I took myself out for dinner.

I made up my face, smoothed Chanel #5 on my neck and grabbed Emma and we had a fine glass of wine with an only fair pizza.

My own company was very good and periodically I told Emma how beautiful she is and what a good dog.

Not once did I dally in the crepey skin worry.

One of the perks of wheelchair use is that there is no chance of any wobble post wine consumption

And as I rolled by other diners on my way out a table of four stopped me:  “We’d like to buy you a glass of wine if you’d let us”  a man said.

“Oh how lovely” I say.  “I just finished a wonderful dinner and am on my way home but thank you so very much.”

“We have been chatting about how lovely you look and how happy eating dinner with your dog.”

I knew the underlying communication was the wheelchair + the alone part.

I have a great life because I say so.

The hard part is ensuring I expend energy only on those things that add to my life force but I don’t wait until I can get a manicure or have the anti-crepe cream to get out there.

Even

 

untitled, 40×60,m/m

 

 

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My yesterday began being scrunched and loaded into the long and lonely belly of an MRI machine.

We are trying to discover the source of pain in my tailbone so pretty much all of me had to go in the tube before my pelvis got to the picture place.

My…the air was good in there..

I’m serious.  A bit beachy… fresh with a tad of humidity.

I am not claustrophobic.   That is good.  The tech people were visibly relieved.

When the giant jackhammer noises began I was glad of the earplugs.

I knew I’d be in there for half an hour at least so I pulled my consciousness in and quieted my breath.

I felt very even throughout the test; never moved a muscle.

Curiosity is my main bedfellow these days and I thought: ” Interesting noise” and “Weird sensation” and “Why am I so calm?”

Later the same day Emma and I rolled our way to the park.

Same feeling:  Even.

The light was heavenly and the kids were gyrating at the pigeons like always.

I met some people I really liked a lot and looked up at the sky in gratitude as I do.

The evening had the same quality of curiosity I carried into the MRI machine.

One of these experiences was not better than the other, I noticed.

I found this realization curious.

Pigeons and Autism

 

 

In the early morning on the plaza 

A young

Well-dressed

Father

Tried unsuccessfully

To keep up with his autistic child

Who,

Flapping his arms wildly

Made pigeon guttural soundings

Weaving wildly

This way and that.

The Dad

Was close

To  hysteria

Trying to make it

To the street curb

Before his kid

Attempted flight

Not wanting

To leave his feathered friends

Quite yet.

The mom

Was inside a restaurant

Across the street

Finishing her breakfast;

Her stress level

Evened 

With their absence (I imagine).

I was the watcher.

The boy,

With his pre-existing condition,

Seemed free.

I envied his arm-flapping

And calling

To the pigeons.

I wanted to take the Dad to a bar

And leave the Mom

In peace.

The boy

Flew the coop

In my private theater

And 

So 

Did

I.

Hand in hand

We took off

After those glittering quicksilver birds.

The boy

Knew more

Than I

About giving in

To the Mystery.

 

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photo- Dennis Chamberlain

Proximity

I sat down today at my table next to a black man who was sitting at his.

I hadn’t the energy to look up and greet my new neighbor as I normally would.

My wide brimmed black hat acted as a societal shield; eyes hidden from view.

The temperature is 33′ and snow fluffed its way down on my exposed roll to town.  It is almost June.  I dressed optimistically and my nerves are all trying to pull as deeply into the far recesses of my interior as I realize my sensorial receptivity with MS is far more acute than regular folks.

I keep my compass tuned to “normal” until something like this temperature assault reminds me otherwise.

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC kept me company at my table as I apologized to emma for the putrid weather.

I couldn’t warm.

Been out of pain pills 3 days now.

Jaggedy and generally a mess I just wasn’t friendly to anyone including self.

The black man sat stoically with no apparatus or book to hide in.

I snuck looks from under my hat.

He was so still and quiet; somewhat worn but did not exude suffering or need.

I eventually found  a passible body position and  my flesh moved into borderline warm.

Heartbeat slowed and my nerves smoothed.

Hat brim remained dropped insuring seclusion.

I kept feeling the stillness of the man next door.

He was far more interesting to me than reading about fossils or climate change but I stealthily kept the ruse of reading going as I studied him.

Folks around us asked for entry codes to the restroom, settled crying babies and slurped while complaining about the snow.

Eventually, I collected myself and braved connection with the still man; “Would you like to look at this magazine?  I am heading out.”

I suddenly saw his weariness was really loneliness.  He pulled up his radiance and gave it to me as he said just a short: ” Yes, indeed. I would.”

That was all we had together.

But it changed us.

Once again..communion at Starbucks.

Amen.

Look Away

“Nerve” monoprint,22×30

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Staying abreast of world news

Leaves me feeling fractured and weary.

“Look away” friends say.

“Save your sanity and keep your mind a stress-free zone” is such an appealing idea.

I try it for awhile and do stay edited down to bare bones informed.

Turning from the crackling drama to the brightness of morning;

My morning.

This morning.

And yet the “mourning” for civility, clear-eyed confidence, and empathy-extension stretching beyond the little “s” self 

Remains.

Looking away “out there” never

Ever

Mends my soul.

When a new and unfamiliar numb appendage or pocket of pain 

Presents its ‘self in my body

Just telescoping my attention outside the thing

Still leaves me feeling bedeviled.

The only way out is in.

THE. ONLY. WAY. OUT. IS. IN.

Meaning:  I have found that for me, the alleviation of angst occurs only when I shift my gaze from the perceived source (drama, illness, confusion)

To the “Cathy” behind and between all the stuff I am so sure is TRUE.

The witness Cathy.

The Oceanic Cathy instead of just the “wave-in-the-ocean” Cath.

From here, all is good..perfect even.

It seems the only way we gain entry into this ocean is through suffering.

I hate suffering.

But I love being able to find my Source and steep in Her.

I hate suffering.

But I found Love and peace because of it.

But I still hate suffering.

Easter Redux

TREE OF LIFE, ceramic, 26x4x4″

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I wrote this 2 Easters past but liked it enough to offer it again:

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I just returned from a midnight roll with Emma; full moon.. me dressed in gratitude to the dark (meaning: just socks but no shoes, hair all sticky-outy, shawl range-ily wrapped round my dubious outfit).

Emma doesn’t care.

I obviously don’t care either. It was the adventure of the thing.

This past Sunday all the Catholics were out on the Santa Fe plaza in high church regalia in a Palm Sunday processional.

The head man swung incense to and fro followed by the ecumenically outfitted ..followed by the general public waving palms..

Emma and I watched.

I had to go home and google Palm Sunday.

I’m really keyed into this time of year because I know something about what feels subjectively like crucifixion and the journey of return.

My urge to be free finds me looking to all religions for keys.

It seems to help me very much to bring the Jesus stories in very close as metaphors and relate intimately to his teachings.

Surely my way is only that: my way. All I ask is for you to read here with a modicum of curiosity and forgo showing me the highway too soon.

By way of Easter time, Jesus is nailed to the cross and has to just hang out there with what is.

He has lost the luxury of his own will and by default must look inward for salvation.

His suffering goes on and on and on and on.

The agony is witnessed by those at his feet.

As his consciousness dims he pretty much gives up all “Woe is me” and “Why me, GOD?”

In favor of final forgiveness and surrender into Death.

But then…

after a little rest and recuperation

He RISES!

Not just good as before but better.

You may think me sacrilege but variations of these same transitions play out in my own life and I’m pretty sure a good number of you experience them too.

MS has shattered me, crucified me, wrested my trusty will from me.

It seems foolish to lend a hierarchy to suffering; (yours isn’t nearly as gritty as mine).

Divorce annihilates who we were..loss of job or spouse or child or fortune; addiction, depression, jail time, surgery, disappointment or betrayal.

Hell..even a bad break-up leaves us bloody and wrecked.

All our cells are called to re-assemble into some alien pattern and no friggin’ instruction booklet is included.

We’ve all just gotta hang there on the cross till every damn one of our precious numbing agents, blame-games, uber scavenger hunts for relief and distractions from what IS

Are used up.

Man, this can take a loooooonnnnng time.

And we die.

Metaphorically speaking.

We die to who we thought we were even though we thought we were pretty damn great and it looked like we had all the tools we needed to cut through the pain and discomfort..

HA!

Not.

After all that foll-de-rol we go through writhing in our suffering we need a big time Siesta with a capital “S”..

Three days is really not long enough (says me..).

I really do hope Jesus had a few margaritas to chew on in that dark cave..

Of course there were the intimates there to help him do his re-entry by moving the rock because not a one of us can do this ourselves.

I repeat: NOT A ONE OF US.

Released–he rose again.

And I have too..lighter, happier, less dense, more curious.

My neck is saggier but hey..the costs of war and time…

I am pretty raw as well. Naked to the wind.

Sometimes haphazardly dressed. Sometimes Chanel.

The Shattering. The Reconciliation. The Return.

Happy Easter to every darn one of us magnificent, brave, beautiful, beautifully human, humans.

We are the miracle.

We rise.

Investment

detail of painting

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Fairly soon following my diagnosis of MS a very good friend divorced me.

She said my burgeoning needs were “..pulling on her” (this after I asked if she might go to the hardware store for me).

The break-up email said she still wanted all my fun stories we shared but not the other “stuff”.

I really was devastated by this and responded that I felt she was way more invested in my health situation than I was.

She agreed.

Our friendship was irreparable.

Sometimes we don’t even realize what we are invested in.

We are invested in where we put our attention most.

I used to be heavily invested in a poor sense of self esteem.

Deeply confusing anger and disappointment were my bedfellows.

I was too fucked up to know how to love and care for animals or even be with young children then.  They always knew.

My art career, freedom, being nice, attractive, connected to Spirit,  fairly ‘normal’, safe(having a back door at all times), avoiding conflict are some places I put an inordinate amount  of energy in the past.

I now give energy quite differently.

My attention goes toward Emma, creativity, fostering peace, keeping my body running best I can, curiosity about human nature, space, stellar friends, remaining authentic, gratitude and remaining in the present.

We are invested in where we put our attention most.

When I remember how many years I have put into knowing my own neuroses well enough to have the power to let them be more in the back round (never do they go away altogether) and not the drivers of my life

I heave a weary sigh.

I have put so damn much of myself in the bank account called “get healthy”.

But I did.

And I am.

Truly a life’s achievement.

A very fine investment.

Investing in worry over my state of being;  things I can’t do anymore, all the ways my life has changed in soul-searing ways is not a good investment.

What’t the return on that?

Black moods and being a magnet for dark energies of  all sorts.

Emma is snoring here on my lap.

I put my attention further on her and feel her warmth on my thigh, the mini tail wag of  a dream, her trust in me to choose my company to digest her dinner, her sleek white softness. 

Feeling my attention she wakes to lift her head and check to see if I am still here.

Some dividend.

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