Tears of a Bouncer

ceramic,5×3″

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Richey Rich sits on his old swivel barstool outside the only biker bar in Santa Fe.

It is smack in the middle of downtown having been at the same location for eons.

It it a little scary as the front plays host to the heavy metal of restored Harley Davidsons parked impeccably at measured distance from one another.

Such a show of intent mixed with low-hung choppers and such can serve to accelerate ones “roll by.”

But yesterday, as I was readying myself to hold my breath attempting to avoid the damp beer smell mixed with old sick

Richey Rich asked to pet my dog.

He wore many big silver skull rings and chains and a leather vest with vet insignias and various flags.

Eyes clear, he reached tenderly for Emma.

“My mother passed away not long ago and she left me a yellow legal paper with (pause to wipe his tears)

Forty two things she wanted me to do for her after her death (METALLICA playing in the bar).”

“What were some of them?” I ask.

He pulls out his phone to show me his two tiny dogs.

“This one (more tears) has dementia and the other passed two months ago.”

“Sorry I’m taking your time like this. ”

A giant of a man walks out of the bar, guns his bike and roars away with a wave from Richey.

“No..I really want to hear your story” I say.

“She asked me to take care of her dogs.”

“She told me to be sure to cut and care for her roses.  ALL of them and they go all the way around the house!”

“My uncles, all 4 of them and my Granddad are war heros.  I’m her only child so I got the list.” (tears)

“You have a good heart” I say.

“Mom said if you have a good heart you collect others who do.”

I reached with my good hand for his big paw.

“Bye, Richey…see you soon and thank you. You made my day better.”

“Bye Bye sister.”

This is my kind of church.

Ministry of Mommy

GIRL, 22x5x5″,ceramic

 

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I collect mothers.  And mothering.

Our very first relationship is with our mother and in my case she was was ill-equipped with her first born which has left me trying to fill in the gaps.

What is it that we get from an adept mother?

I think of a big tangle of newborn puppies and see the mothers’ attention to feeding, licking them clean, nipping a neck tenderly to guide one back to the fold;  allowing a certain amount of exploration on their own before she sets a boundary, pressing close and warm.

We learn about yes and no.  Containment, patience,   impulse adjustment.

Most importantly we steep inside the relationship of nurture and learn to trust we are loved and loveable.

I had to teach myself these things and I did it and still do it by collecting mothers and mothering.

My sister filled in for moms’ shortcomings and kept my brothers and me fed and comforted by the presence of a soft, strong, non-depressed, extraordinarily capable caretaker we counted on.  She was brilliant and yet I know it cost her big time.

In my teens I recognized my general dislike and trust of women  and did the work to fall in love with them instead of nixing 50% of the population.

Suddenly, I had female friendships!

My friend Jann is the one who sat beside me for 5 days at the trial of the man/boy who raped me many years ago  (he got 27 years in prison) . My birth mother remained in unnerved and stoic silence.  I didn’t ask Jann to be there with me and frankly barely noticed she was there but the girl just knew it was important and sat her butt down next to me.  She always tells me the truth, showers me with the very best presents sometimes for no reason at all. She supplies accolades for creative risks I take, guides me in the vital realm of lipstick color and crucial style decisions and continually lets me know she is there for me no matter what.  

I have extraordinary people of substance around me who continually reflect me back to myself which keeps me from entering the too familiar downward spiral of doubt planted at birth.

Nature has mothered me all these years with her secret places and pushing up so miraculously into Spring with a bit of light and moisture.

Good men have mothered me extending the safety of their protective arms and efforts.

Emma, my dog just has to look at me and some ancient crack in me is healed.

The sun feels like mother.

After all the collecting I’ve done over a lifetime I have assumed the role of mother-to-self.  All the colors I need are in my paintbox now.

I know exactly how to pick myself up by the scruff of the neck and return to my chosen family fold when I stray.

Licking my wounds is second nature and because of all the extraordinary mothering I’ve created and allowed.

There is enough, no- PLENTY here to extend to others as need be.

I bow to all of you mothers out there doing the most vital job of them all.

 

Bad Ass Branding

 

 

ceramic, approx. 6″h.

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The Georgia O’Keeffe museum here in Santa Fe is our most visited tourist attraction.

Now, why is that?

I often see women with salt and pepper hair standing still on the sidewalk with neck crooked to their smartypants phone searching out the museum.

Often, they are on a pilgrimage to visit an homage to my generation’s heroine in the “got my own life happenin’ and there will be no apologies to nobody” department.

Currently, at the Brooklyn Museum in NY there is an exhibition of Georgia’s clothes (watch short film) juxtaposed against photographs of her wearing the garments.

This woman lived alone in the deep, high desert landscape of New Mexico; no husband, kids, family, even neighbor within sight.

She painted with high attention and knowledge of eroticism-as-a-daily-way-of-being

Yet spent her life denying this was her.

Self-care for her looked like protecting her privacy with the fierceness of a wet-mouthed lioness giving fang.

The lecture I attended yesterday at our museum was a slide presentation of her clothing.  We saw garments hand-sewn (by HAND and not machine) by Georgia herself.

Black was her color and in photographs  she struck poses with full knowledge of what the negative space was doing as well as each perfectly positioned limb, cheekbone and hand.

Underneath the ever-present black dress, suit or trousers were fantastically delicate little off-white blouses with feminine ties, bows and buttons, ruffles.

The woman she wanted you and me to see was quite severe

And yet there, underneath, in the privacy of a lining or slip or underwear

Were rips that had been lovingly mended in the tenderest of ways.

Beloved dresses torn on some desert branch

Were patched like a prayer. (this little blouse became worn at the back closure and you can see Georgia’s delicate reinforcement of two tint rectangles as she extended the life of the  blouse)

I understand now that she lived her life as art; controlled how she was perceived, tending to her deep femininity by secretly keeping finely crafted intimates next to her skin.

As I continue to learn about her I realize no corner of her life existed without the benefit of attention and intention.

She was conscious enough to understand the appeal of the shroud of mystery she concocted. 

Pretty much the polar opposite of a Kardashian.

The thing is that each of these women created extremely effective “stories” about themselves through acute attention to exactly what information and how much the public were privileged to see and kept the rest for themselves.

Through curatorial consistency they both give us interesting stories to walk around inside.

We get just enough to judge, wonder, be inspired or repulsed.

I think their genius has been to leave our interest always  somehow piqued.

 

 

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.

Dirt

“PORTRAIT OF PLACE”, earth, bird wing,ceramic,thread, rock,corn husk, 22×22″

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I really like dirt.

I like the word.  It has grit as opposed to “earth” which is good too though it sounds cleaner.

Dirt is dirty.

It smells not like saccharine perfume but  the deep amber oily  droppings of birds and trees and dogs and flowers and rain and snow and sun and fog.

It lay there on the ground all winter with nary a bath; coddling grape hyacinth bulbs and crocus.

Somehow, each year as the sun stretches higher and she lets her hair down in relief

Micro temperature rises tickle the tubers

Of eager daffodils.

They climb out of the dirty dirt

In the hope of catching glinting rainbow light 

Bouncing off the sun’s clean hair.

SPRING!

Everything and everyone gets washed

New.

Our lungs relax and expand into the unarmored ease

Vaguely remembered from a year ago.

Shoulders drop into the sigh of melting stress 

We took on from lack of faith

The Sun would ever warm us again.

The dirt can be seen to move with awakening worms and insects and white roots.

Emma digs her toenails in and with noble effort

Hurls great clods of dirt

Willy nilly.

I wish I could do that.

Maybe roll like  ecstatic porcine  pinkness

In the dirtiest of dirt.

Perhaps tomorrow I will relate to it as “earth”

But today my preference is dirt.

Selling Sickness

ceramic detail

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If you watch any television at all you have been privy to extra lovely words describing the newest drugs on the market.

It used to be that I could not pronounce many of the drug names I saw but these days I am aware that BIG PHARMA is spending seemingly infinite bucketloads of cash dressing up drugs in psychologically addicting costuming for the masses….yes, you.

Just by altering the sound and meaning of the name of a drug they hook into our need to assuage suffering no matter what.  Sometimes we don’t even need to be suffering but we want the thing cloaked in that magical sounding promise of health.

These are the top 10 drugs advertised on TV:

  • Chantix.
  • Lyrica.
  • Eliquis.
  • Viagra.
  • Humira.
  • Latuda.
  • Xeljanz.
  • Celebrex.

According to Kantar Media, pharma industry spending on direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising totaled $5.4 billion in 2015 compared to $4.3 billion in 2014 – a 19% increase.

So let’s take some of these new names and look at why they may have been chosen for us consumers:

LYRICA – sounds melodic..lyrical..sing a simple song and you’ll be healed!

CELEBREX!  – come join the celebration!  good times had by all!  party down all ye sick ones.

VIAGRA –  genius word hearkening to things like viable, vital, grow, green,  channel, way (root words of “via”)

ELIQUIS-  sounds pretty elegant, yes?  I feel the word “equal” in there somewhere.  Also sort of sounds like “equus-(horse..wild, untamed, vitality)”

CHANTIX-  chanting is a spiritual and/or religious activity to lift our beingness to higher heights and often elicits a pleasant trance-like state.  Yummy.  AND they put a “tix” (ticket) on the end to boot!  Gimmee, gimmee… I want that.  I will tell my doctor this drug is the one I want!

Ok..You get the picture.

My mother died of bladder cancer as well as emphysema in her mid- 70s.  She was a lonely woman in my experience and I believe she used her illness and many doctor visits as  a comforting social life.  Old age does this to us.  Too hard to make new friends, little energy to care for  the relationships we have but DAMN!  Going to the doctor we get to have one-on-one attentive conversations that feel intimate.  We are half-dressed and vulnerable.  We get to be touched physically, feel heard and seen and sent home with possibility of more goodness if we are fortunate.  Attention arrives with illness; whether wanted or not-attention is attention after all.  

Sickness itself has become medicine. 

A mini-antidote for this seems to be choosing to give a little bit of yourself to someone else from a truly authentic place;  to a stranger: “Wow, you look great!”   Someone I’d never met said to me yesterday: “I always see you with your dog.  She looks happy.  Thanks for taking such good care of her” (this from an Hispanic grounds keeper downtown).

“I love seeing a man in a suit” (me to handsome sartorialist).

or really…just a fairly robust “Good Morning” lets a person know in their bones they are NOT invisible.

This is very good medicine in my book.

Down Low

 

ceramic,5x4x1/2″

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I recently celebrated my birthday at a favorite restaurant with two girlfriends.

We were able to go pretty hog wild for a Sunday brunch (meaning the three of us each ordered the petit filet + wine+ apps!).

Now, please understand that the extravagance we three enjoyed was made possible by a dear friend who pretty much represents the new paradigm-of-man; having gifted me generously enough to cover such a meal X three.

He gave me the cash and said my gift was to invite my friends to dine with me and not worry about ordering things that were too expensive as would be our usual “I want that but I’m not going to get it because it’s just TOO MUCH) .

He gave this gift without the desire to be there himself but because he knew how very much pleasure we girls would get.

I mean really….who does that sort of thing???

I was so thrilled to be at that table eating steak and laughing..soaking in the pleasure of “no worry”.

At the end of our meal I needed to use the restroom and said: “If I’m not back in 15 minutes please come check on me” .  I was unsure the handicap restroom was equipped with a toilet high enough that I could comfortably lift myself to transfer out of and back into to my chair.

The seat was just too low and I sat there on the toilet girding my loins anticipating my girlfriend needing to come in to help me.

“Cath?  Are you ok? ” she says outside the purposefully unlocked restroom door.

“I need your help” I say.

This needing help off the toilet is a new piece of the disability landscape I am unfamiliar with.

My inner circle has not experienced me in this awkwardness until this point so we’re all in unknown territory.

I weigh about 135 and it became evident that my beautiful and quite slight friend was not going to be able to lift me.

I took a breath and asked her to go find the owner (who I know and love).

He came into the restroom and I showed him how to put his hands under my armpit and lift.

Up I came as my long coat dropped into the toilet behind me.

All three of us in the restroom were pretty cool and contained.  No drama. No one freaked.  We all just played our unrehearsed parts in this new play.

Alone again back in my chair I washed up and gathered myself a bit before rolling back to my birthday celebration.

I cried feeling this new level of vulnerability.

My friends let me weep a bit without trying to fix me.

I picked up my wineglass and we toasted to the gritty adventure of Life made so sweet cushioned in Love.

Bobby (owner) brought our table a giant dessert of flan, cake, ice cream and cookies.  Standing behind me with his hands on my shoulders I blew out the candle with a wish.

I wished on that candle for God to shower everything good down on all those I love for supporting me in ways that help a girl in quite vulnerable states to go through them only to re-enter the world with a heart so blasted open in gratitude that she feels the great gift of communion in not suffering alone.

I am not alone.

And neither are you.

Suffer.

Ask for help.

Receive help.

Let out the seams of your heart.

Shared vulnerability is the great seam-ripper of the heart.

It is a very good thing.

Questions

detail of “MATCHES”- wooden matches,earth

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The Proust Questionnaire has its origins in a parlor game popularized (though not devised) by Marcel Proust, the French essayist and novelist, who believed that, in answering these questions, an individual reveals his or her true nature. Here is the basic Proust Questionnaire.  This list of questions appears on the last page of Vanity Fair magazine.  Most people they interview answer with sarcasm because sometimes it is hard to know and actually say the Truth as we know it.   Very informative to do this, I found…try it?

__1.__What is your idea of perfect happiness?

The moments I have disengaged from the density and suffering of body-centric awareness into a sense of oneness.. with Emma warm on my lap.

__2.__What is your greatest fear?

Being a burden to those I love.

__3.__What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

Laziness in using my God given gifts.

__4.__What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Disrespect for those in service industries.

__5.__Which living person do you most admire?

My sister, Jennifer at the moment.

__6.__What is your greatest extravagance?

Coffee

__7.__What is your current state of mind?

Humbled and curious with a bit of fear

__8.__What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

False modesty

__9.__On what occasion do you lie?

Most often when I say I’m fine and I’m not.

__10.__What do you most dislike about your appearance?

I like how I look these days except my neck has become wobbly.

__11.__Which living person do you most despise?

DT but I try to remember all of this ugliness is for a purpose.

__12.__What is the quality you most like in a man?

The sense he owns the piece of ground he walks on

__13.__What is the quality you most like in a woman?

Irreverence combined with a healthy, self-examined and solid sense of Self.

__14.__Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

“Isn’t it interesting that….?”

__15.__What or who is the greatest love of your life?

Emma and Livvy.  Dogs.

__16.__When and where were you happiest?

Curiously..I would have to say now.

__17.__Which talent would you most like to have?

Comfort trying to speak other languages.

__18.__If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I’d like to walk.  To have a carefree sense again of my physical existence would be good.

__19.__What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Negotiating the landscape of chronic illness with some Grace and resilience.  

__20.__If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?

Competitive ballroom dancer.

__21.__Where would you most like to live?

Thankfully, I live in the most perfect place for me.  Santa Fe is one of my greatest blessings.

__22.__What is your most treasured possession?

Emma is not a possession yet I value her company and what she teaches me highly.

__23.__What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

Forgetting that everything changes.  Losing my thread to God.

__24.__What is your favorite occupation?

Watching my awareness.

__25.__What is your most marked characteristic?

I really like to smile and connect with people.

__26.__What do you most value in your friends?

The gift they give me of space when I need it.  They seem to do this without judging me.  Even if they do they refrain from telling me.

__27.__Who are your favorite writers?

Mary Oliver, Joseph Campbell, Mary Farr, Anne Lamott

__29.__Which historical figure do you most identify with?

Buddha

__30.__Who are your heroes in real life?

Maya Angelou, all of us who fall down and keep getting up, dusting off and re-applying lipstick.

__31.__What are your favorite names?

I have always disliked my name as it says nothing about me.  I pay attention to people who have a seamless match between the sound and meaning of their name.

__32.__What is it that you most dislike?

Narcissism 

__33.__What is your greatest regret?

I really have just one regret.  I worked with a young woman years ago at a group home for teens recovering from abusive situations.  We connected so deeply and after the months of teaching were over I did not stay connected to her.

__34.__How would you like to die?

With consciousness enough not to miss it.

 

 

I Feel Good

possibility

 

 

It feels so good to feel so good!

There’s so damn much to feel bad about.

So very much that it almost feels a little odd to say how good I feel.

The religion of complaint is fat and overfed.

Things are so bad that the idea the theater of life is on track elicits steely, sideways glances.

But I feel good.

Yesterday, I sat with three other women-of-substance and our conversation was fun, fascinating, inspiring.  Three of us were dealing with MS.  Sort of a no-brainer to think the vibe could have fallen pretty low.

I made the most amazing Paleo granola and ate too much.

My body feels thriving this morning because I needed the fat it seems.

I feel good when I could have felt very bad.

I danced in my wheelchair to a CD a friend made.

Emma slowly blinks her shiny  black eyes as we love one another.

My needs are met.

The snow has melted.

There are indeed conscious people afoot in places that matter and I am one and you are one

And we matter.

The act of disallowing the the easy drop to the familiar negativity swirling ’round us all each and every day

For a million different reasons, often making perfect sense

Is a revolutionary act.

Life lived on the razors’ edge is a warriors life;  sensing when to fight the fight or to surrender to what is takes Olympian hyper-vigilance which makes one weary at best.

Courting the almost unbearable presence it demands to ride that edge with courage, style, humor, intelligence and fortitude is the work of Samurai;

Never recognizable by a nametag but by our nameless acts of resistance to the lure of riding with the common denominator of the dark.

Tides

visitation

detail of installation,ceramic,earth

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I visited with a good friend this morning I hadn’t seen in many months.

She was severely kicked in the knee by a horse and has been recuperating.

The two of us are deeply connected spiritually and with that knowledge allow one another scads of ‘room’ to withdraw, pull the invisible cloak and return as we always do in our own time that often does not match the cultural expectation of what passes for ‘normal.’

Today we sat.

Sharing the vulnerabilities common to those of us ‘gifted’ with the challenges of broken bodies

And the excruciating exhaustion needed to re-calibrate into a new normal.

Neither of us spoke of the weariness as a fixed condition;

More a room at a school we’d rather not attend but knowing that in order to be ok we’d have to make new friends, bear the isolation of beginners mind, figure out what’s safe and not, who’s safe..and not

Learn to use the tools unknown to us, ask the questions we didn’t know we had…

And keep asking.

I said: “I feel strange as I have one foot in this world and one in another in which my personality and identity are not the grail I thought they were.”

She said: “Cathy..your purpose now is to just BE..Roll around town and write and let others experience you just as you are; vulnerable and not…putting one foot in front of the other as best you can.  It is enough.”

After she left, bravely hobbling with her crutch, I dropped my head and closed my eyes in gratitude for the room my friend gives me because she knows about and trusts the wisdom of the tidal qualities of every darn thing; health, politics, happiness, pain, friendship, memory, curiosity, belief etc…

Emma shared her warmth on my belly as I stroked her newly groomed whiteness.

She sighed a deep sigh.

This is enough.

One Sardine

FullSizeRender-1

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ONE SARDINE

Emma ate one sardine.
Last night.
But it still lives.
That one sardine.
Because Emma
Seems to need
A warm
And wet
Washcloth
To wipe her mouth.
I forgot
To provide
This vital tool
And now
We suffer.
Sitting here
Talking to you
With well fed Emma
On my lap;
Curled and warm.
My current environs
Are exuding
A particular
Pungency
Annihilating
The expensive
And coveted
Coffee aroma.
Giggling a little
I write you this tale
Because Emma is my privilege
And as such
Even though
It pains me
To leave you
My dog needs me
To de-odorize
Our morning
together.

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CA 2016

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Dismantling Stoicism

Aten_scan09

I know stoicism well.

My friends each try their best to get me to reveal my rawest states of being

Because they love me and want to know how to perhaps ease my challenges.

My stoicism is learned from early on.

A wee child is very keen on a mother’s reticence to soothe…

Choosing instead to ignore their needs.

My initial displays of vulnerability were met with a confusing, crushing void.

So I tried another tack: tuck my vulnerabilities away and act strong, independent, uber-capable.

This strategy saved my life from death by despair.

Sometimes, I find myself angry and feeling as if my wheelchair is my own personal tank;

“Get outta my fucking way! I have no patience and my needs are too great for me to bear!”

(Reaction clearly amplified by old tapes yet authentic too..).

In oddly lucid moments I see myself as having created a reality in which I am frozen in body yet still powerfully mobile in my chair; my own personal metal fortress keeping people at arms length.

My vulnerabilities feel hidden if I can put myself together well.

“I’m here. Participating. Connecting.”

I am stoic.

Not even close to what I used to be growing up but still…

This blog helps me find my raw center of authenticity.

So do my close friends and sometimes family.

My exceptional therapist continues to be smarter than me and reflect my strengths and poke at my tender spots. All with love.

Emma lying on my lap warming my belly allows me to release armor I hold there to access sweet tears sometimes.

Each time I ask for help erases some stinky stoicism.

Each day I rise and choose to enter life again with new resolve to bear my truth, forgive myself and choose again.

I am all this: stoic, guarded, grateful, courageous, alone, connected, angry, compassionate, impatient, loving, sacred, profane, healthy, sick, in a wheelchair and a ballroom dancer in my mind, insane and elevated.

I am.

I am.

I am.

Dirty Girl

fire1
detail; clay, earth
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In my youth I had such a poor awareness of my own uniqueness.

Growing up is the process of our inner, mostly unformed trove of gathering knowledge

Moving from the innocence of watery, exciting, untested and scary thoughts and ideas sloshing ’round our brain

Eventually settling into the solid geometry of things we KNOW.

As an adult I notice two distinct kinds of intelligence in me:

CRYSTALLINE being the library of linear, geometric, tried and tested knowledge I count on to navigate my world

And the FLUID kind I depend on as an artist and woman interested in evolving.

If I think of a glass filled with water as a metaphor for fluid intelligence; the brain being the glass…

The qualities of water are things like changeable, has depth, unpredictable, can be cool or hot, liquid or gas, ice or steam, healing, vital for survival.

Intelligence which has crystallized has done so over time; beginning as viscous and settling into it’s own unique beauty and precision of it’s resting geometry.

In choosing the people we feel comfortable and safe having the job of governing our country, a majority of crystalline knowledge to draw from in ensuring history does not repeat itself feels important

As well as good dose of the liquid to allow the intuition and guidance needed to shift and flex as we need to within relationship.

My life as an artist has been possible because my mind is weighted toward a more liquid form of intelligence.

It seems human relationships and effective partnerships are often initiated by the draw of the ‘other’

Meaning my tendency toward liquidity needs the balance of the crystalline to feel whole.

Getting there feels so messy..learning and evolving is dirty business..not knowing but wanting to know feels embarrassing and raw.

But then doing only those things I am sure I’m going to be good at may feel calm and without static but awe seldom gets a seat at that table.

I want the magic, the new landscapes, the poetry yet to be written.

To get there I must face the terror of the blank page, constant erasure and re-boot, no library to pull from, no signage to point the way.

Just one foot in front of the other knowing my sneakers will never, ever, ever stay clean.

The Privilege of Age and Illness

Aten7
untitled,earth,corn husks,stone,ceramic,thread,gold wire, bird wing, 22×22″
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“WHAT?” you say…

…Two things we run from like leaping deer from forest fire.

This morning on the plaza under the perforated umbrella of trees giving up their leaves

I sat across from an older Native American man who lowered himself tentatively onto the bench.

He wouldn’t catch my eye as is the case with many Natives.

I spied on him peripherally.

Both of us wore disability yet mine was more visible; his gait weary and effortful I had noticed.

We rested on our separate benches..connected in some lovely containment of our personal selves reduced in importance by steeping in and appreciating the change of season.

I sat in the poignant combination of leaves leaving, the powerful infusion of clarity in sky and light, the clip of chill on my cheeks and the reality of sitting in a wheelchair.

“Everyone’s out there working away to make the world go ’round while I sit here; still, silent, empty. I am so happy..so privileged to be here registering how sublime this day is. I have the company of this man sitting near me and we needn’t connect to appreciate the comfort of our shared human journey as frail specimens of sentient beings and examples also of radiant spirits up to the task at hand because we say so.”

Would I have noticed the sensuality, profundity, utter perfection of the various patinas making themselves available to me today

Even 5 years ago?

No.

No.

No..I wouldn’t..couldn’t see nor feel the offerings before me.

I am so very rich.

This wealth I am accumulating comes from my ability to HOLD THE OPPOSITES as I often speak about.

The privilege arrives in my character having the room and willingness to experience beauty in losing/finding, ending/beginning, madness/lucidity, confusion/sureness, trust/betrayal, summer/winter, sitting/walking, silence/talking, hungry/full, chaos/harmony, disappointment/fulfillment, danger/safety.

The old man eased himself with great care off the bench and very slowly shuffled his way to another nearby resting spot easing his way down once again.

I heard him sigh.

Ninja Or Not?

Aten_scan58
detail of sculpture, steel chair,ceramic egg,earth
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This evening I saw a cloud I liked.

A young and ample brown boy was dressed as a ninja turtle and biting his family while making the strangest sounds…

Off-key musicians really loved their art

And I loved them for it.

I kept my money in my purse.

Sitting there watching my own private theater unfold I felt exceedingly ‘new’ I would say;

That cloud dressed in it’s evening wear was new.

So were the biting boy and the off-kilter players playing.

I watch.

It’s what I do.

Each moment my life-collage is new.

Often I want so much to glue down in place sensations, thoughts, feelings, abilities I think I could never live without;

Take out the GORILLA GLUE and get that thang pasted down for good!

It sounds so nice…

But it would be no fun at all.

A steady diet of comfort and security never get us to the thrill

Of recognizing when the table you’ve used for eons and full of doodle marks

Is all of a sudden set with the gleam and ping of forgotten best china and crystal.

Would I choose a re-do on any part of my life?

No, indeed.

I am here now and I find that biting boy so damn funny it brought me to tears.

I’d love to wear my vintage, torn up cowboy boots again and drive far and wide with no intention other than the thrill of it

But the pleasure I take in remembering how good it was

Wouldn’t be here for me

If I was IN that particular collage now would it?

I am feeling (mostly) smoothly settled in what just ‘is’.

Leaving the biting to the boy…

Gymnastics

_MG_1384
detail of installation,ceramic,earth,grasses
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Watching the girls tumbling their way to notoriety (or not) in Rio

I can’t help thinking of my own history as a gymnast in my youth.

Uneven parallel bars, floor exercise, balance beam were my thing.

Arial walkovers, splits, handsprings.

There is a memory that muscles have from pushing the body to it’s limit

Which remains long after the event.

The heart is a muscle too, lest we forget.

Today, in my wheelchair wondering how Simone Biles’ leotard stays put on her excruciatingly hard won steely rear end

I appreciate the access I still have to

The knowledge of my own interior body.

I get a workout, I tell you;

Lifting my fatigued self up to transfer is a feat.

Similar to a push up on the exertion scale.

Accessing lengths of interior sinew and urging them to work together for a common purpose and

Keeping my heart present as opposed to defended and on guard is an olympic event in itself.

My medal, I suppose, is the peace bestowed on me for being content in the present moment; ever so full of gratitude for the ability to shift tiny muscles to open a can or forgive a past grudge because I must to save myself.

Finding Your Seat

lying down
ceramic, 22×4″
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I’ve been thinking about my 1973 Camaro.

It was yellow with a black interior; bumble bee-esque

But faster.

Taking my seat in the machine was a spiritual experience.

It hung low.

One was asked to sort of bow ones head and curl a bit to enter the space.

When you arrived in the seat you felt held, secure, loved even.

It was a seat that was just given as a gift and one needed to just show up, appreciate and go.

Riding a horse was never that way for me.

I never could find my seat.

Horses are different than cars.

They have a fleshy heart for one thing..alive..breathing moist air.

I bumped along and did exactly all the things I knew to be incorrect; tensing my body, trying to MAKE the horse do what I wanted instead of making a relationship.

This was all out of fear.

I had no fear in my Camaro.

After the last 2 weeks of having to use an unfamiliar loaner wheelchair (mine having motor repaired) and trying in vain to adjust to the lack of support I was used to in my own chair

Today, I took delivery of my newly-motored chair.

I sat down and it did not feel like my Camaro of old

But I decidedly had my seat in this machine familiar to me.

It was not a seat that came with the luxury of provision the Camaro had

But one I’ve had to find and create on my own by trial and error; sit up straight, tuck my tailbone a bit, raise my chest exuding entering life on a positive vibe, tuck in my skirt to avoid getting it tangled in the wheels, balance my tailbones (unequal in position), rest equal weight on both arms, lift chin to avoid victim mode, make sure I have enough back support.

I never had to do any of this shit in my yellow Camaro.

Slip in. Sigh. Smell the good smell. Go.

The level of work most of us have to do in life is the wheelchair mode of finding our seat. Or bumping along trying to be at one with our horse (marriage, kid, illness, job…).

The discovery process of getting to Camaro-esque ease

From a wooden, inflexible gallop

Is the stuff of life.

Adjust, compromise, decide how much you can tolerate, create solutions, never lose hope, ask for help, take the help, enjoy what you’ve got.

Guilt And Shame Are Different

matches2
matches,earth,24×24
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I was in the company of a really good old friend recently whom I had not seen in years.

Our dinner conversation turned to bucket lists and I heard myself say:” My prayer is essentially to have the experience of living in this magnificent body for a time withOUT the experience of shame.”

Long pause at the table as we watch the leggy lines of a good wine creep down the insides of the glass.

She says: “Cathy.. have you ever done anything that would merit being ashamed of yourself?”

“A few times maybe. Youthful shoplifting and stuff like that.”

She looked at me with piercingly intelligent and loving eyes.

This, combined with the good Jew in her came back to me with a “Sooooooooo?”

We talked about Jews and guilt as their go-to weapon and safe-place.

I have shame.

Shame and guilt are different:

Guilt:

a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined.

Shame:

the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another.

My friend didn’t seem to understand why I carried shame if I had none nothing to invite it. She wasn’t that familiar with shame. Only guilt.

We sip our wine happily loving each other, our differences and easy banter always seemingly interesting to one another.

If someone begins to let a little girl know that who she intrinsically IS is inconvenient, wrong, decidedly too different, fits some unfamiliar mold making parenting hard or impossible, NOT PERFECT

Her little cells begin to tremble in the non-safety of it all.

I have that leftover cellular tremble which has my tired mind continually dissecting stuff to dismantle the fucked-up-ness.

Low level anxiety haunts me.

After a lifetime of therapy I consider myself an extremely healthy gal.

Yet my cells still shake a little.

I’d love a rest.

Freedom

hospital
porcelain figures, ea. approx. 6-7″h
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FREEDOM

This evening
A broken man
With a trembling hand
Approached my dog and me
With wet eyes.

He wore dirty camo
and drove a pretty Harley
To shield himself
From a world of noise
No longer sweet to him.

He gently petted Emma
With the tenderest of touch
Only looking to me
To show off his own beloved dog
On the phone.

I somehow knew
He loved that dog
So much
Because he’d lost
The ability to love all of us.

He went to war
But he broke.
This gentle man lost the choice
To love
When and whom he wanted.

I know a lot more
About freedom
Sitting in this wheelchair
Than I did
When I wasn’t.

Today Elie Wiesel died.
He survived Auschwitz
Because he kept choosing
Attitudes that fed him;
And others.

He knew
Our attitude
Is all
We can ever hope
To control.

I know
My attitude
Is all
I can ever hope
To control.

My friend, the vet
Broke
In too many places
To count on his consciousness
To save him.

He paid parts of his mind
For us
To have many
Of the choices we now enjoy.
I roll away with damp eyes.

We are only rich
If we remember
Those who got us here
By staring down
The bogeyman.

I am blessed
Because I know
I can change my mind.
There are those here among us
Without that ultimate privilege.
I bow.

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-CATHY ATEN 2016 July

What does mysticism really mean? It means the way to attain knowledge. It’s close to philosophy, except in philosophy you go horizontally while in mysticism you go vertically. Elie Wiesel

Laurie

disabiliy?
detail of ceramic urn, 20″ d
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In the deep winter-spring freeze I saw her standing there.

On my way to Starbucks I was bundled tightly with Emma warming in the heat near my stomach.

We were zooming fast to avoid the weather when I saw a waifish beauty

Wringing wet with past rain and curled in on herself.

I recognized her because we have passed one another over the years;

I would say: “Hi.”

“Hi.”

That is all.

Except yesterday in the early morning on the plaza as I sat with Emma on my lap

With my fancy coffee

Just perusing

And appreciating

How the city wakes up

She walked up to me.

Shyly and with head down

She said: “You bought me lunch in the winter when I was so cold and sad. I wanted to say thank you.”

“Please sit down” I say.

“I am half homeless. I live with my husband in a tiny trailer parked on some land. It’s ok. A roof….
He was taken to Albuquerque last night because he was having seizures. I can’t visit ’cause I have no car. I am sad.”

Slow huge tears.

I reach for her knee to give solace.

I expect her hand to cover mine but it stays put.

Her nails are dirty.

I feel her so deeply.

She can’t get to her man.

“My name is Laurie.”

“Cathy” I say.

“You are so nice to listen to me.”

I say: every time I see you I feel good. I think you have a very fine heart.”

“I feel the same about you” she says to me.

“Don’t forget you are not alone” was all I could offer as she wandered weakly off.

I wanted to mend her.

I bent my head down and gave love to Emma.

It was church on Tuesday.

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