The Solace of Civility

THE CONVERSATION, 40×40,m/m

.

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″

.

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.

.

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

.

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.

.

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

Dirt

“BLACK MESA”,3×6′, m/m

.

.

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

.

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.

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.)

Dude..I Been Through Some Shit

.

Last night I got so friggin’ sick of myself that I had to raise my frequency right quick.

I went directly for the sassiest red lipstick I have and applied with a brush (this method takes more time and signifies some adventure of note is about to take place.)

Keep in mind my Michigander roots embrace anything that feels like “weather” with a weird kind of anticipatory glee..

It was really cold last night but a sparkly, deep and dry cold with no wind.

I bundled Emma and myself up so we looked incredibly well put together in our winter wear, locked the door behind us and headed out.

I love how I can entertain myself out of depression by creating an event.

We headed downtown in search of Christmas lights; my red safety flashers creating a pink pool of light behind my wheelchair.

It was late-ish and little was open so we headed to a favorite hotel bar I knew to be cozy with a real fire and decorated lavishly for the season. A single woman never feels weird in a hotel bar and often Emma provides an easy conversational entry should I be inclined. Last night was just for us though.

Emma and I sat there quietly for over an hour soothed by the fire and a lovely glass of red wine.

It is too laborious for me to remove all my outerwear when in a restaurant and I am pretty heat tolerant so I sat there still bundled, sinking into thoughts of my rich life.

My sister tells me she is amazed by my resilience.

I am too truth be told.

Suffering can be an end-point or an impetus.

Some people make a religion out of it.

Granted, hardship is a way to connect; we all experience it to varying degrees. There will always be someone in agreement with how hard life is.

What we do with our suffering determines our state of being and quality of life.

If suffering is a constant companion there exists the danger of becoming too familiar with that frequency and settling in for the ride.

In the distant past when I attended support groups I found attendees comfortable in the habit of suffering.

I am fortunate to love my own company and be more interested in creating my own entertainment when need be.

Shifting my frequency ever higher on the spectrum is a skill I practice as my best medicine. I began learning about this in practical ways from this book:
Power vs. Force by David Hawkins.

In Dr. Hawkin’s work the example I gave above had me moving from the stasis of APATHY up the frequency ladder to COURAGE as I took action.

Here is a good beginning entry into his work.

Can -You -Copia?

.

What is a cornucopia anyway?

This is my Thanksgiving morning conundrum.

.

cor·nu·co·pi·a

noun
a symbol of plenty consisting of a goat’s horn overflowing with flowers, fruit, and corn.
an ornamental container shaped like a goat’s horn.
an abundant supply of good things of a specified kind.
“the festival offers a cornucopia of pleasures”
synonyms: an abundance, a profusion, a plentifulness, a profuseness, a copiousness, an amplitude, a lavishness, a bountifulness, a bounty

.

Following a weird but vivid dream I was prompted to ask a friend if I had ever disappointed him in the past in a big way he might never have told me.

His answer really isn’t the point though..

Not one of us can claim never to have initiated disappointment in another…duh…

Many folks who love me look at my life and wish I had an easier ride.

If my life had not included a narcissist mother, alcoholic father, divorce, rape, illness, blah..blah..blah..

Would it have been “better”?

Easier, by god yes indeed..

But better?

We each have our laundry lists of suffering..some seeming more dramatic than others

But suffering is suffering.

If I had had an easier ride would I have disappointed fewer people because of less drama? Would I have had more of my wits about me to conjure less hurtful, unconscious behavior ?

What IS a good life anyway?

My definition is this:

A GOOD LIFE IS MADE BY AMPLIFYING THE GOOD.

This morning’s example is this: Petting Emma’s neck I have a wave of tidal love recognizing the fragility, strength, soft and noble beauty I have snoring on my lap.

I am being my own horn of plenty;

With my breath I blow the awareness

“I CREATE MY LIFE”

Into the thing

And the tears turn to diamonds

Because I say so.

(Sometimes it takes some heavy breathing..just FYI.)

.

.

I give thanks to you, my dear readers who give me the gift of witness. You keep me real. xxx

Cheer Up

“MOON” 5×3,painted wool flannel

.

“Be of good cheer.”

A common greeting for the holidays we are about to enter.

It seems like this year something other may be called for?

Just the word “cheer” sets me on edge somehow.

Please don’t stop reading here as I promise this is anything but a depressing post…!

A girlfriend of mine recently posted something on Facebook revealing her mood which included tinges of grief, some ennui, immense gratitude and, what I felt was a lovely recounting of her early morning prayer/meditation peace and quiet.

She goes up on her roof each morning in the hill country of Texas with her cup of coffee and peruses the world; her inner one and the outer as well.

Someone on Facebook left her a comment: “I wish I could cheer you up.”

My friend reassured her that she had spent a perfect and peaceful morning thoroughly enjoying the quiet, contemplative time she had gifted herself.

Is it better to be of good cheer?

Maybe the friend would have felt easier in her bones if she witnessed an abject display of wide smiling, false-fineness and presumptive communion; common faces of holiday cheer.

My point here is that authenticity is a true gift we can give ourselves and one another particularly this year.

This holiday season feels more potent in a pagan sort of way.

“On every world, wherever people are, in the deepest part of the winter, at the exact mid-point, everybody stops and turns and hugs, as if to say, well done. Well done, everyone. We’re halfway out of the dark. ”
-unknown

The mysteries of the Dark, the preciousness of Light, the bitter chill inviting us indoors to sit close to those we love warmed by fire.

Quiet, stillness, gratitude, reflection, Nature sounds and smells, recognition of our needs being met and extension of loving care to those not so fortunate…

In this season these are the things that enrich my soul.

From the outside there may be no perceivable “tell”.

So Much Isn’t a Problem

monoprint,22×30

.

It’s weird that grappling with health gone awry or the nauseating politics of the day

Scratches the same strange itch;

The one that says we are better for being in the fight.

The horrible pseudo-holiness sewn into feelings of self-worth

Stemming from actively participating in the fray

As opposed to very quietly witnessing

Seduces us.

The adrenaline rush of acute pain

And screeching disbelief in flawed human behavior on display of late

Feel similar.

Are we really better for being in the fight?

Reading about it, talking about it, going to every doctor, taking every new pill

Or is there more potency in just the recognition of WHAT IS

FOR THE MOMENT

And using our own finite energy reserves

To attempt just a tidbit of elevation

Of our own personal energy frequency;

Maybe lift ourselves up a tad

Out of the mud.

Love ourselves enough not to succumb

To the lowest common denominator

As tempting to our nervous system

Out of habit

As this inclination may be.

Today I will practice

Not involving myself so much in the dramas of the day in my body and in the world.

I will trust in the intelligence I understand to be

So much larger than me

And use any extra energy I have

To keep myself uplifted

And through this state

Perhaps be of service to others.

Good Question

detail of painting,m/m

.

.

Sometimes when I am asked: “Cath..how are you?”

I don’t really know.

My landscape is so varied and I skip between optimism and being a realist

Almost moment by moment.

Isolation becomes my safe place

Until I get so sick of myself I remember

Connection with vulnerability, humor, sass, curiosity and adventure

Light me up.

I have a friend who forged a relationship by bombarding me with questions.

It was shocking, endearing, sexy and courageous.

I love being asked things…almost anything actually.

I sense people shy from any intimate query around me

Perhaps afraid they’ll get more than they bargained for?

If you wanted to know me these are some questions I might welcome (always with the option of saying I can’t or don’t want to answer that right now!):

1. What was the best thing that happened to you today?

2. Did you see, hear, read something particularly great?

3. Were you lonely today at all?

4. What is it like for you to get ready in the morning?

5. What scares you?

6. What is the best thing about MS? The worst?

7. Do you miss your old life? Would you go back?

8. Who would you invite to a fantasy dinner party if you could have 6 people of your choosing, living or dead?

9. What do you think is your best, not so good quality?

10. Do you like your voice?

11. What do you think your hands say about you?

12. Who is a hero for you?

13. Is there anyone you have not forgiven but are thinking about it?

14. Are you friendly with your body?

15. What stories do you think people tell about you without really knowing you at all?

Saved

“LIGHT”, 6’x4′,m/m

.

Reflecting on what I wrote in my last post about Freedom

This sentence just kind of stopped me: “The health challenge of MS saved me.”

Now- What the hell does that mean?

I had to go back and really think about it myself because this tidbit of wisdom just sort of snuck out unbeknownst to my consciousness at the time. (often I write stream-of-consciousness which is how I learn
where I need to put my attention).

“Saved from what?” I asked myself.

Change, challenges and particularly crises are bitter pills.

There are many reasons freedom is my top value (theme of last post); first and foremost in my youth I lived with the mother-message: “Cathy-do NOT bypass me with your energy! ANY of it..sexuality, creativity, gregariousness” ..et al.

I have forgiven her for this psychic compression of me because I now am strong enough to call up compassion for the lure she sucombed to, needing to punish SOMEone for her unhealed shit.

Being a stubborn human as I am I guess I needed a giant wallop of a gritty scenario to push up against to realize my Self (capital “S”);

To release all the armor, protective measures and survival strategies I created to ensure I allowed myself the experience of my essential self.

THIS is how the challenges of MS have saved me…my perseverance has shown my innate knowledge of and loyalty to doing what it takes to RETURN TO MY ORIGINAL SELF.

What I offer you here is the privilege of coming along on my ride in all of its unvarnished WABI-SABI wonderfulness.

Often not very pretty

But very, very real.

This level of vulnerability seems in short supply.

I try to remember if it is true for me then it may be so for others.

I call it a privilege because whether you judge or champion you are privy to the mechanics of a woman BECOMING.

My observations and exposure here are of huge value to me as I have the benefit of a computer screen between us as a buffer allowing intimacies perhaps too timid to appear face-to-face.

Thank you for wading in these rippling waters with me.

Profoundly less lonely.

And way more fun.

xxxx…

The Loveliness of the Little Good

STORMY WEATHER, 44×44,m/m

.

The title for this post came from the David Brooks article I just read referencing the new documentary on Mr. Rogers.

There were so many weird things about Fred Rogers to make fun of if you weren’t a kid:

His voice made me kind of want to attach a jet engine equipped with mega-doses of testosterone to his voice box to make him talk faster.

To me, he seemed too slow, too overtly gay, too simple and at first blush, too patronizing of children.

He was a fun object of ridicule from my generation

Because we didn’t need him so much.

We were not the ones to be confused as to why the adults would not let us swim in pools containing black people.

When Kennedy was shot we were reduced to stoney silence in the face of all the adults breaking around us; The salve of Mr. Rogers was for those smaller than us. We had nowhere to turn.

I saw the documentary and realized every single syllable, inflection, clothing choice, topic discussed

Were intentionally chosen

To foster his one mission:

TREAT CHILDREN AS THE HIGHLY INTELLIGENT AND FEELING BEINGS THEY ARE.

He spoke slowly and put his face close to the child.

No question was stupid.

“Mr. Rogers..can I be sucked down the bathtub drain with the water?”

He replied softly and evenly: “No, Bobby..just the water goes down the drain.”

Phew.

He gave up his desire to enter the ministry in lieu of understanding he could be of service to his chosen congregation of tiny people in other ways.

He was not gay as his measured and intentionally soft voice suggested but married to a lovely woman who supported his unwavering attention to how best to use TV as his educational tool of choice.

Disability, racism, divorce, death, step-parenting, illness, loneliness, single parenting, riots, bullying, shyness…..each of these topics Fred Rogers approached with the assumption kids were very ok with the truth if presented kindly and without the slime of patronization.

In an interview I read, the black policeman character Mr. Clemmons said that once Fred Rogers had leaned in quite close and looked him in the eye saying: “I like you as you are. I wouldn’t want to change you.”

Instead of feeling the vulnerable expression maudlin Mr. Clemmons said he felt truly seen and loved.

He never forgot it.

When I roll around my neighborhood in my wheelchair and, with intention, extend a small “Good Morning” to most I pass

I get to see the seeming shock a verbal invitation to join in solidarity, if only for a moment, from a stranger can elicit.

It is my version of “I like you as you are”

And each time I see relief

At this tiny recognition

Of our shared

Shuffle

Down a sometimes very gritty road indeed.

My Dad

monoprint,30×22

.

I am not really sure my father really wanted to be one.

He excelled in his job as a top gun at General Motors Styling;

Winning “BOSS OF THE YEAR” as I remember.

His iconic signage developed way-back-when for all the GM dealerships is still used today.

Having kids in the 50’s was just what people did.

I doubt many couples asked themselves individually or together whether having children was something they consciously wanted to do.

My dad was fairly awkward in the role of father.

He brought home a new car every few months to try out as an executive perk

And had a workshop to retreat to where he made amazing things like plaster castings of the huge Northern Pike we caught in the river nearby or hammered brass weather vane or our astoundingly lovely dining table.

He was quiet.

Private.

Lonely, I think.

My mother hated anything corporate so he tucked that part of his life under his hat when he pulled into the garage every night.

Then he drank.

A lot.

So we four kids got a half-Dad at best.

He was not a soft place to fall.

When he died at a young 51 I felt relieved.

When he was alive, as the eldest I slipped into the role of “psychic umbrella” in order to ensure my siblings and myself a future

Because living in our family was some scary shit.

But Dad left a profound and positive legacy to me.

He taught me to trust myself with tools. He supported my art talent. We silently worked together making stuff and that quiet camaraderie is the fathering I remember best.

My two brothers, without much modeling, are magnificent fathers and I am in awe of this miracle.

Willing and Conscious fathering and mothering are unequalled in importance.

A deep bow to Dads doing their best.

To all of us doing our best for that matter.

Gathering Evidence

.

Whatever the story we have concocted

There will always be someone out there who will validate our opinion.

It feels so slimily good to gather evidence for our belief in what is true

But to what end?

A well placed ” I told you so?”.

Is this the gold we are after?

Chronic illness is a lonely affair.

We can invite friends and family and God

To come in close

And witness our sufferings AND triumphs

But essentially,

We live within our own concocted truth.

I say “concocted”

In light of the fact I experience my level of suffering or grace is altered

By the story I tell about it

And the more people I can gather around me who agree

Set my experience in stone – good or not-so-good

RIGHT QUICK.

For this reason I have avoided MS support groups.

It feels so very lovely to share agreement

Whether that be in the realm of health or politics or religion or sport.

Yippee! We are not alone!

Except we are.

In the most important of ways.

We create our lives

By choosing where to put our attention.

My sense is that I continue to thrive

In the largest sense of the word

Because I am familiar with how to approach a blank canvas; having done this very thing thousands of times in my career as an artist,

I understand how to create and not stop until it feels right.

I use these same skills as a bridge to each and every “next moment”.

In the end they even out to quite a lovely life.

This is true for me.

I do not need your agreement.

Knees

“ONE BLUE SQUARE”, 5′ x 5′, 1991, m/m

.

This is one of my favorite works of art by Bruce Nauman.

The medium is beeswax and the impressions are of “five famous artists”.

I respond to it because it makes me think of the physical action of prayer; from the coolness of standing tall, our physique erect

We are drawn to break at the knees which instantly introduces vulnerability.

Surrendering to gravity the elevation of our brain comes down closer to the earth.

Physical height is halved and we perch awkwardly on our knees and toes.

This is not a power position in the sense of combat.

I am part of the 1% and therefore fortunate beyond measure

But there have been times where I have needed to ask my tribal extended family for help.

This kind of “asking” is very different than leaning into a partner or family or a bank for help.

This “ask” (I’m speaking of my recent crowd-funding project for Emma)

Is the type of need that heats up your knees;

Praying there with a shattered, fat ego broken in pointy shards spread around chaotically.

Actually, I feel sorry for those who have yet to experience this particular kind of deep dive

Because the loss of altitude changes one.

The vertigo kneads heart muscle on the way down.

The support I received allowing Emma to live longer from so many, known and not

Leaves me with faith;

In myself knowing how far I will go for love.

My heart is now embroidered with threads to you; I am not alone

So I must release this unintentional default mode (which feels so sticky sometimes).

Thank you for extending Emma and me your stellar and comforting company along our shared road.

I feel you there in the gift of witnessing me here.

We are good together.

Steven Hawking Is So Sexy

“FINE LINE”, 11X11X4,M/M

.

I say “IS”

Because he’d want us to remember what he taught us about black holes and such:

That matter just gets gobbled up and redistributed

“…like burning an encyclopedia. It changes into smoke and ash so actually still there but harder to read.”

Yeah…as he aged his teeth jutted out and he looked crumply

But few of us turned away, did we?

No.

We watched carefully in awe as his devoted students fed him.

We read about his jokes: to prime minister he says: “I deal with tough mathematical questions every day but please don’t ask me to help with Brexit”

And trying out what it feels like in zero gravity for fun.

We heard him say “..anyone who boasts about their IQ is a loser”

And listened as he explained string theory to us toddlers.

He lived sooooooooo widely

And punctuated the gravity of his challenges with a grin.

Absolutely disarming!

Knowing he had that grin in him made it seem like he’d be open to a hug if I ever saw him in an airport.

I wish I could have been his dinner companion just once.

The crip jokes we could tell!

He told us in interviews that even though he is physically disabled he tries not to be spiritually disabled too..(grinning).

So- to me his beautiful mind, unhidden vulnerability, sense of humor, humility, kind of adorable crumpliness, love of women (he had a number of big loves in his life), intention to distill math and science mega-thought into words we toddlers could grasp instead of just writing for his colleagues , his mixture of warrior and leprechaun spirit and a sassiness that just popped out at times

Makes him very sexy to me.

I love you, Steven Hawking.

Next Page »