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.

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’?

The Camo Men

detail of painting

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Santa Fe celebrates July 4th by hosting a gargantuan pancake breakfast on the plaza put on by the city.

Think doughy and haphazardly flipped disks on chalky paper plates.

The din of human dining takes place amidst the trash of a throw-away culture.

Watching the men set up for tomorrow’s event just really heavied-up my heart.

I knew the busker who often sings so friggin’ badly in the early mornings will be displaced.

I am challenged by his attempt at entertaining yet he pushes out these crude lyrics with his emphysemic throat, extremely tone deaf,  day after day destroying my peace.

Me, me me…..

While the pseudo celebration of independence is marked in one way by incomprehensible amounts of ingested  undercooked batter

My vet friend with the shitty voice awaits a chance to sing to us again after the partying is all over.

Singin’ for his supper, he does.

I am quite sure his closet only contains camo.

He bugs me so much and I hate that he does as he is so broken.

And alone.

With few giving him the time of day.  

Including me.

My low-down life in my trusty wheelchair allows me the privilege of up close and personal contact with many of the challenged souls trying so hard to re-enter normal

After they went away to some god-forsaken place and put on their boots and walked out to serve us each morning

By braving the scariest of the scary in the name of freedom.  Ours.

How the hell could you not break?

How could you see what they saw and keep all your ducks in a row?

Could any of us sing in tune having lived through bombs and sanity blasting visions of lifeless friends crumpled just beside you?

They need us now.  They need us not to turn away from their weirdness.

Please join me in helping to do something for the broken among us.

Eye contact, a dollar dropped, a real smile…even proximity.

Reign in your judgement (this admonition to me) .

Look the broken camo -men in their brave, veiled and wounded eyes

And drop your head silently in gratitude for the freedoms we still enjoy

Which come at such a cost.

We never really thanked them.

Then eat your pancakes if you can.

 

 

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.

The Leavings of Love

painting on wool flannel, 6’x6′

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I have found that for me-

Any Love I have ever had the privilege to experience;

Be that in communion with human, animal or mineral

Is still very much alive in me.

If I feel deeply into the variety of ways I have been touched by Love

It seems like I have had my giant Crayola coloring sticks in hand and whatever my beingness needed in all it’s pesky genius unconsciousness  was conjured by me and delicately drawn into form, endowed with hue and tone and particular energy-  all imagined by me.

I interacted with that picture I created until my own needs were met 

And then a great rain washed the markings away leaving the shadow of the thing and either a whiff of the scent of communion

Or maybe the full on perfume.

I don’t desire to see my ex-husband  again in person as I have not the ballast to remain in love with myself around him.

Yet, there is love there still.

I had a mother unskilled at mothering.

Recently, I uncovered the very alive love between us hiding under my unresolved bitter blame and disappointment.

She has passed yet this love has the quality of organic substance; the ocean of which we are a wave; utterly and deliriously neutral.

In my experience..the leavings of Love are immutable…indelible.

I have loved trees and canyons; my ardor these days moves toward a particular globe willow.

It doesn’t feel that different than my love for my friend or good dirt or my own Self.

There is a sense of hierarchy but I’m likely mistaken.

What I speak of is not “happy” love or “joyful” love or really any label-able type what-so-ever.

It just is.

And seems to stay alive in me; either growing or remaining as is.

It  blossoms with attention, intent, reverence. 

Neither a gladiator nor wall-flower..

We are in it, of it,

It.

 

 

Girlz

 

detail of painting

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My girlfriend came over the other night with sushi and wine.

Her partner was off playing poker .

We were slightly giddy having so much fun;

Like two youngsters pulling something off on unknowing parents.

I sat there with her and felt the adventure, safety, pleasure and communion

Of two good friends building a fort together;

An adult fort with wine and raw fish.

Dim light and confessions.

I just love being an adult!

This  does not mean I have thoroughly matured.

My friend is smart.  Beautiful in her wide and capable leadership capacities.

She is fed by beauty.

Considers vulnerability a necessity for the role of warrioress-in-life.

Which she is.

When we are together there is a satisfying mixture of creativity, tenderness, capability, revelation, a tinge of sadness that comes from not needing an anesthetic to ward off how rugged is the world,

Fun, authenticity and freshness.

I say something like this to her: “I feel unsure of myself as I write my blog from such vulnerable and imperfect places sometimes.  I wonder what people must think and feel embarrassed in my exposure of self.  Then, on reflection I am quite sure if I am feeling or experiencing something I am pretty sure I’m not the only one.  I have to think there is solace for some in this.”

My friend keeps her interested and appreciative eye on me .

I am seen by her.  Truly witnessed in all my transparency.

Wine and raw fish….perfect.

 

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.

For A Father

 

 

A lovely couple from Dallas approached me in the plaza to ask about my hat.

They both wanted the exact same shape I wore and I guided them to the location of the shop as I continued mesmerized by the flashing pigeons at my feet.

I received a call later in the week from my friend at the hat shop wanting to get a photo of my chapeau and correct measurements.

In the midst of our ensuing conversation surrounded by the best of the West in the way of both custom and ready-made fine felt and straw headwear at O”FARRELL HAT COMPANY (my handsome friend Scott measuring for a custom hat with the weirdest piece of equipment ever!)

Three strapping young men walked into the shop.  They took up space in a big way.

The tallest one went directly for a work-of-art hat displayed prominently by itself on a stand at the desk.

It was embellished with very detailed scenes of western life over 1/2 the surface area in a breathtakingly intricate way.

In his broken English the young man asked the price as he grabbed it by the crown and Scott gently showed him how hats should be picked up by the brim.

The guy puts this great hat/crown on.

He stands taller and poses for his silent friends to shoot a photo.

I saw pride, adventure, courage and maybe a little bit of fierce resolve.

But I could have made that up.

“We are from Ukraine” he says.

Coming to the end of his English he slowly took off the hat and placed it with care back on it’s stand.

He reached in to his jackets inner pocket and pulled out something which he handed to Scott.

Like a wave of heat the three men were there …and then quickly gone.

Scott showed me what he had been mysteriously given.  It was a brass medal which had the patina of age bearing a curious insignia.

We both felt something of significance had happened.

I asked if I could research the medal.

It is, in fact from the 1950s and used to be attached to the beret of a Ukrainian Special Forces paratrooper.  The Ukrainian trident national emblem is displayed on the disk.

Why did this strapping young man in the company of his friends give this object to Scott and just disappear?

Since The Ukraine has been such a hotbed of conflict for so long I had the thought that the medal originated with this man’s father as it dated from the 50’s.  

If I were to pick a representative for what visitors unfamiliar with the United States might think FREEDOM looked like it might be Scott; dressed in his cowboy vest, fine  hat, mysterious , quiet renegade attitude and all else marking him “epitome of Western guy”.

What if the Ukrainian man’s father dreamed of freedom?  Visiting us here where we enjoy freedoms unknown to most?

My mind weaved a story that the three guys had finished their stint in the army and came here, to the States…to the West.

The young man gave the best representative of freedom; Scott, his father’s medal as a way to honor his Dad; making sure he did indeed get a chance to visit the U.S. and feel the salve of being free. He chose Scott as the final landing place of this treasure.

This is my imagined story and I am a romantic.

Whatever transpired it felt mysterious and was clearly an important mark in time for  the young man/men from Ukraine.

And me.

On Spirituality and David Lynch

 

 

“LAYERS”, 5’x5′ painting on wool flannel

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I’ve been talking a lot about God it seems.

A good friend asked me recently to describe what spirituality is for me.

You know you REALLY know something if a simple explanation  just rolls off your tongue and the other person’s eyes go wide and they say: “OH YEAH!!!! OF COURSE! How could I have not known this?  So simple.”

Not.

Well… I talked for maybe 10 minutes and stopped as my friend began to twist his eyes in a knot and almost break his forehead with wrinkling up in confusion.

I could not describe my experience well enough to transmit the essence to him.

How could I explain?

Mentioning PEMA CHODRON and JOSEPH CAMPBELL are choices I made in the beginning.

Their experience of living in the Sacred seems similar to mine.

Still, he asked me:  “I want to know what YOUR experience is, Cathy.”

Frustrated, I kept ruminating on the subject and came across this tiny bit of a film (4 minutes) called MEDITATION in which the film director DAVID LYNCH speaks very briefly on the subject at hand..  click here.  This snippet is from the full length film MEDITATION streaming on NETFLIX.

You can tell he knows of which he speaks as it takes zero energy to access his words and grok the thing.

I thought since God was making more of an appearance here of late you all should have a clue what that is for me.

A Dog Named Lavender

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Cruising yesterday I came upon a marginally sane seeming older gentleman

In deep conversation with Lavender, his soft brown companion.

Hearing this dog’s name slide from the character on the other end of the leash made my day.

Lavender is a boy first of all…

In my own disability isolation I have caught myself being that weird person I remember scoffing at

Not too long ago;  intent in out loud communion with a furry non-human.

More and more I could care less if people hear my renditions of “OLD MCDONALD HAD A FARM..

..AND ON THIS FARM HE HAD A DOG-GONE SPECTACULAR DOG NAMED EMMA…EE YIGH EE YIGH OH….”

I am unsure of when the tipping point happened for me to enter the world of white -dog -middle -aged -woman -land

But I never want to go back.

I watched the wierdish guy and his friend Lavender

And I was quite sure no party or book or music or human could hold a candle to the heart-plumping privilege

Of a dog constantly reminding him of the simple, pure, innocent, intelligent, silly, soft, loyal parts of his own human self which get so covered up in muck.

I just love how much of my life these days literally IS church…

Nowhere to go.

Just the act of paying attention gets me there.

Really, there is beauty, I find in everything…with very little work I might add.

If we had no duality, which I confess I am currently squirming under the weight of..

I’d never get the full-on pleasure from my encounter with Lavender.

It was worth the suffering it takes to disengage and detox  my soul from humanity in the throes of seismic shifting.

Fortifying Faith

“BLUE”  painting on wool flannel, 50″x30″

 

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I haven’t had much to say for awhile and I just let that be rather than trying to push it.

My physical self has been particularly challenged of late which affects my ability to be fully present with anyone or anything.

Letting my consciousness soak in abject body centricity is bordering on hell for me.

This morning as Emma and I rolled downtown I prayed: “God..I miss you.  I haven’t felt you for awhile.  Are you still there?  Can you show me a little something to help me remember I am not alone?  I feel so dry and brittle.”

Just reaching in this way lifts some of the body-centric density and a lightness comes.

I sing to Emma in gratitude.

I practice smiling a bit to see if just that little direction can pull the rest of me forward to meet it.

At the counter to order coffee I meet a lovely young woman..Rita.  Emma loves her without reserve; licking her hand and wagging furiously though we had never met before today.

I tell her she was profusely gifted by Emma’s rare overt love display.

Rita is from Nepal we learn.  I feel her pure and innocent yet courageous heart.

We say goodbye and I settle in to read National Geographic.

My coffee arrives and I am told that Rita has paid for me as a gift before she left.

I drop my head as my heart wells with tears in gratitude for God showing up in the guise of the pure loveliness of a dark haired girl from Nepal.

Kind Regard

“BLUE ” 11 x 11″ m/m

 

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Early morning cruising my beloved Santa Fe streets

On my way downtown

I often pass a store owner

Enjoying a smoke on his front stoop.

For a long time we just beamed at one another;

A sparky recognition of something a tad elevated

From just a normal human recognition.

I think he is Iranian.

He has big teeth and always shows them to me.

Yesterday the early springtime warmth allowed a more intimate greeting:

“Madame..I wish you good day.  You nice lady. I being good boy..no troubles here..all very good.  I wish you good day.  I good.”

My heart deflated at the realization he felt the need to assuage any fears I may have harbored due to his nationality.

With my good hand I reached out to touch his arm and matched his toothy greeting as best I could.

God was very near. 

 

Pink

aten_scan21

drawing,22×36

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I saw a pink river

Yesterday.

It wound it’s way from Moscow

To Alabama

And Antarctica too.

That river was wet

With nastiness;

Yet

To sink teeth

Into the neck

Of it’s prey.

But yesterday..

I sweated pink.

I cried pink.

A new voice

Arose in me;

Sounding primal and pale pink

From disuse.

My thread of pink

Was woven together

With wrinkled and weary elders

Having given so much

And now

Urged to do it

Again.

If the god of pink

Asked what yesterday was about

I’d say: “Everyone matters.”

Trying to pray

For divisive dictators

And coming up short

I turn once again to 

The pink river

Running a brand new marathon

With no end

In sight

And my sister beside me

Shoots me a nasty glance

And I laugh

And dip my head

Into the oncoming storm;

Grinning still.

Pick a Word

squirm

monoprint  12×12

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A friend told me she would pick one word as her touchstone for this new year.

No resolutions.

Just one single word to live in to.

Today in Starbucks Emma and I sat calmly reading the paper, sharing cappuccino foam and the comfort of fellow New Year’s Day inhabitants.

Suddenly a man pushed the front door open screeching some odd song with the intent of making himself known by all.

He wouldn’t let us ignore him.

Next, a disheveled yet familiar store owner who, in the summer sits outside his poster shop (outer wall lined with dying pointsettas) with a scary pit bull and the morning newspaper scattered about his feet so customers must step over the mess to enter

Abruptly sits down with me to finish his breakfast saying: “Are you ready for the Trumps?”

Aghast, I form the words “I don’t want to talk about politics”

And he tells me I could just as well have said no

Slinging his messy breakfast in the trash with a “harumph” heard far and wide.

Somehow the disenfranchised have donned the mantle of entitlement in a large way recently.

Right then I chose my word.

GRACE.

For me this includes civility, patience, containment, empathy, compassion, good manners, waiting for the miracle, prayer, kind boundaries, keeping my word, turning everything seemingly unhandleable over to God.

The Sacred Invitation

creation
“FINE LINE” 11x11x4,m/m
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I have a little bit of experience with hopelessness.

Along with many others my heart is seared by the resultant seeming chaos ensuing post-election.

I say “seeming” because in all my chronic illness has taught me,

After all is said and done I really am sure of nothing.

When I saw DT’s face of weighty humility and what looked like fear sitting beside Obama in the White House

I took hope.

Not a one of us knows for sure how we will react under the deep press

Of recognition: THERE IS SO MUCH AT STAKE!!

For DT- a world beyond self.

For me- the fact my reality is dependent on my attitude alone.

These realizations have the capacity to alter everything.

The possibility is the invitation of Grace.

Grace is not bi-partisan

And is equally available to everyone.

Are we able-to-respond? RESPONSIBLE?

Or lazy and apt to assume another will likely step up in our absence?

My partnership with chronic illness is a life saving/altering tether

To my truth: I CREATE MY OWN REALITY;

Today that means I have the capacity to effect change in my own perception of well-being;

I breathe, my dog looks to me in trust for direction, my siblings all are arriving for a family reunion tomorrow after flying across huge swaths of continent to be together, my voice is here on this blog without restriction, the strong winds of Autumn reflect change as they always do.

Every time, as I deal with this illness I approach a time which I feel I haven’t what it takes to go beyond

I surprise myself and I DO GO BEYOND!

What I imagine to be my line is never my actual line.

I/we are so much bigger/wider/resilient than we think we are.

The really horrible fact is that we never know our own power and effect

Until we are asked to step up.

I can not think of a more sacred invitation.

Yellow

she walks
detail of painting on wool flannel
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YELLOW

Crispy cracklin’
Happenin’
Underfoot.
Sleepy ground
Frosted yellow.
Floating yellow.
Down, down,
Leaves leaving.
Catching air.
Tilting this way
And that.
Slicing through
Air
On their way
To rest.
This yellowing
Of leaves
Takes a whole year
To get the color
Right.
I will wait
For the next round.

When
The yellowing
Leaves leaving
Finally rest;
Suddenly still
Post-flight,
The brown
From the ground
Takes them home.
They surrender
Their yellow
Then brown
And crisp
Their way
Into the folds
Of Mother.

Turning
As they do
Into wallpaper
For worms
The coming Winter
Makes them rest.
In their de-yellowed
Silence
They each dream
in utter
Stripped down
Nakedness
Of yet another season
Of yellow.

The truth is
It is quite impossible
To reproduce
The very
Same yellow
Next year.
It will never happen
Again
And this is why
We must be
The registrars
Of the perfectness
Of the yellowing
They give us
As their gift.
It happens once.
Only once.
And it is we
Who
Must
Remember.

– CA Oct. 2016

A Name

chair1
hand-painted wool flannel upholstery fabric
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Today I have been thinking a lot about how challenging it is to sit all day long. I miss my old body so much sometimes.
The following is a chapter from the book I am working on:

A NAME

I never really could get behind my given name, Cathy. The vibe doesn’t fit; too suburban, innocent, not enough gravity. Don’t like the sound or shape of it. My parents told me the choice was between Cathy and Sandy. We’re talkin’ pretty white bread here. I am not white bread. More a complicated mix of unusual but healthy flours mixed with dates and pecans..dark and weighty in that yummy way and satisfying in the mix of ingredients unafraid to have their say is how I’d describe myself if I were a bread.

I host a vague but persistent recognition that my preference was to have been born black. My positive associations with black – skinned people began in early childhood as I was enveloped lovingly in the safety zone of pendulous folds of fat and bosom belonging to the housekeepers who tended my grandmother. The tall and dignified gardener, Tom treated me as real. We talked dirt, bugs, compost and birds sometimes.

I knew I was loved. We laughed so often and sang and got down low and really talked and listened. I was given time. I felt precious. They made me greasy hamburgers in the back kitchen; so good that all the world’s problems seemed fixed and life was very fine.

Later in life I noticed the blacks’ center of gravity was lower than most white folk. They seemed closer to the ground. We white folks are too often firmly ensconced in our heads. They strut or saunter. We stalk.

I suppose I also relate to their lives of “performance.” Give the white folk what they want, how they want, when they want and only then get paid. Get up at 5 and feed the kids then get thyself to the bus, travel over an hour, serve the white man/woman and do it all again the next day. With a smile.

During our days together it was these kind and emotionally adept people who did the connecting, the relating I desperately craved. I owe them so much. I really did feel my life depended on my performances within the family. Be good or be gone.

My dancing skills are very wooden except for my hips. On a vacation to the island of St. Lucia in college my girlfriend and I rented a jeep and adventured to a restaurant high in the damp, jungle-y hills outside of town. The patio looked out over the sparkling sea.

Following dinner a reggae band appeared. They were sort of scary with outrageously long dreads and a dour countenance as they went about setting up. We girls crossed our legs and pressed down chastely on our cotton summer dresses. The evening sky turned very black.

Dinner ended. The two of us sat nursing a drink as the music began. Many of the staff began to dance. All the white patrons sat very still and uncomfortable in their exposed frozen physicality meted unto each through eons of repression.

Two native islander waitresses I recognized from the evening came over to us, suddenly grabbed our hands and pulled two acutely reluctant white girls onto the dance floor.

What else could we do but move? After awhile I noticed other staff coming out from the kitchen to watch. I had dipped so deeply into the reggae-zone that it took me awhile to see their attention was directed towards me and how my white hips instinctively knew the down-low language of their native music. We all danced long and hard. After the fact this was thrilling to me; movement as bridge to “other”. But it wasn’t really so “other” as it was in ME. It’s surfacing surprised me..shocked me even.. I held myself as a very bad dancer up until this point.

Many folks choose to change their name at some point if their given one proves unsatisfactory. A wise person or guru sometimes does the choosing and surrendering into that name is part of the spiritual journey… “Durga” (unattainable), “Chandra” (moon) “Ravi” (sun) are some Santa Fe names I’ve heard.

I’ve always respected the Native American naming way. It is a very complicated process so I’ve read but I am drawn to the thought only one person within the tribe may use a name at one time and as life goes on two or three name changes often occur; “Starblanket”, “He Who Combs”, “Panther Passing Across”; all real and enchanting Native American names.

I would like my name to be: “Fly Girl”.

Not like the act of flying around with wings or motor.

“She be fly.”

More like that.

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Vulnerability

Aten_scan07
“BLACK MESA” 3×6′,m/m
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The green park I take Emma to each day is an oasis in my town;

Big grandfather elm trees grow amidst luscious and well tended lawn.

All dogs are supposed to be on leash and recently I reminded a woman of this park rule.

“Excuse me..this is such a great park for us dog lovers, isn’t it? It really is an on-leash park, though..” I say.

“No.. You just have to know your dog really well. Don’t worry so much.” the lady walks off in a steely huff.

Today, I see her and she says: “Are you in a better mood?”

“It’s not about my mood. It is very scary to have dogs I am unfamiliar with charge us. I don’t know your dogs and you don’t know mine. It just feels very stressful and unsafe to me.”

Again..”You must know if your dog is mean then keep him on the leash..otherwise it is fine. Seems like you don’t know your dog to me…”

OK.. my hackles are up and I am trying to keep my center and see this is going nowhere fast

So I say: “I can’t have this conversation with you” and turn to roll away.

Yelling now: “NO WONDER YOU ARE CRIPPLED!!! You don’t understand how things work around here. I hope I never see you again.”

Well…this altercation was so stupid but somehow some of it got to me as I rolled away. I felt the full force of her vitriol blast me. Even if I was well aware it wasn’t all about me my tears arrived just the same.

The whole thing made me think of how we as a culture treat the highest of gifts we enjoy- FREEDOM.

Quite a number of us feel quite entitled to have what we want, when we want it and if this protracted view of freedom is challenged? Well..duck is all I can say, my brothers and sisters.

Sometimes life is just too friggin’ nasty and access to empathy is cut off.

Here I am in a wheelchair telling this woman it scares me when her dogs charge us.

She seemed incapable of relating to my experience..only her own.

“WE” is so much further down the evolutionary road than “ME”.

Thoughts On Autoimmunity

creation
“THIN LINE”, 11x11x4″,m/m
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It is a sure bet this post will meet with numerous nay sayers

However, I am an authority on my own body, mind and spirit

So I can speak freely about how I hold this health challenge of Multiple Sclerosis for myself.

Every moment of my life I’m not lazy I use for fodder to BECOME;

Become more than I was yesterday.

By ‘more’ I mean closer to God, I suppose.

I want more of that glowey thing I noticed behind the eyes of Christopher Reeve, actor and Roger Ebert, the film critic.

They both are mentioned here because I was pretty familiar with both of them before they faced the monumental health challenges they did.

Before their deaths the presence of light made itself known behind their eyes and in their being.

How did that happen?

I believe I know something about this phenomenon.

Three times as many women as men are diagnosed with autoimmune related illnesses.

Essentially, autoimmunity signifies our own body attacking its’ self; working without the ability to distinguish ‘safe’ from ‘enemy’.

In my case my body does not recognize the insulating covering of my nerves as ‘me’ and attacks it.

Self attacking self.

Genetic disposition aside I am very interested in this physical ‘self vs. self’ idea manifesting in me.

If you haven’t noticed..we women are pretty hard on ourselves in our culture. It is an ancestral wheel of being seen as ‘less than’, paid as ‘less than, spoken to as ‘less than for so long that we now are so sure of that fact that our bodies no longer recognize us as US. We aren’t a safety zone even for ourselves.

If I was God and wanted to give Cathy Aten some way of healing her propensity to beat up on herself, self-flagellate till blood drips down her back (metaphorically) live in shame most of her life because she had this fucking old mother tape running which said she was not quite good enough the way she was

I would visit MS on her!

If I were God, I’d give Cathy this gift because it would be such a big wallop she couldn’t NOT deal with it. (Or she could succumb but how interesting is that?)

And by dealing with it she would have the chance to see who she really is away from her mother’s ideas of her.

Cathy would know her courage under pressure, creativity against all odds, humility in the face of one ego death after the next.

She would watch her compassionate self replace a frustrated and armored soul.

She would see what’s left after having to give up most of what she thought made her HER….and like what was left.

Her leadership capacities and authentic voice could be heard, sacred connections to the natural world uncovered.

A new devotion to kindness and recognition of forgotten souls opened her.

Through her relationship with this ‘self attacking self’ Cathy would burn all the parts of her that kept her separate from people and instead take the chance when it felt safe to show her ‘real’ self which feels very vulnerable but is her best chance at LIFE with a capitol ‘L’.

I have lived with this ‘teaching challenge’ 16 years now.

I love myself.

I didn’t before.

I am grateful…

Really, really tired but grateful.

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