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.

.

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.

.

Love Letter

_MG_1384
installation,earth,ceramic,grasses
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Surely none of us is separated by anything other than our belief that we are.

This I know for sure.

It has been a long row to hoe but here I am..Here we are…

This is a note to myself/us/you/me/we…

.

LOVE LETTER

My dearest Cathy,

If time were irrelevant what might I wish you had known the moment you were delivered the label:
MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS?

1. This is a gift carved out just for you. It walked through your door and it is your choice how to meet your visitor. For she is just that- a guest. Beat the shit out of her because she TAKES and TAKES? Spend all your precious time crafting a nest to coddle and sing songs to her? Numb your ears to her attempts to get attention? Feed her incessant need for the red of your blood to augment her less-than-lively flow? I urge you, dear Cathy, to find the messages she came to deliver. Be a partner but never, ever let her lead.

2. Allow the tidal essence of friendships to express themselves. Practice staying in “What IS” instead of wondering why something is not. Stay in Love and take a pass on judgement.

3. Asking for help and accepting it will be the most challenging medicine after all is said and done. Remember what it feels like to give; an opportunity, Grace, a prayer, effortless. Maybe..just maybe this is how it feels to give to you.

4. Live closely with an animal. Preferably one you rescue. Much of your experience of illness cannot be translated into human terms. An animal will “get you” and your bond will steady your heart and spirit when God is nowhere to be found.

5. You are going to be turned inside out. Likely many times over. Remember how much you love the backside of a fine textile? How much more intriguing the imperfections appear? This is you; new, becoming, Wabi-Sabi, magic, intact but in a different way.

6. Become fluent in the language of letting go.
The space revealed is infused with a gleaming, wise innocence you may wish to fill…or not.

7. Your purpose may be unknown to you at times. This can be excruciatingly frustrating. Just EXISTING IS ENOUGH. Don’t waste time thinking about this too much.

8. Perhaps your most important challenge will be to learn how to hold the opposites with grace; My spirit is strong/my body is weak, The world outside my door is challenging/ There are so many gifts available if I do what it takes to connect, I hate the pain and weakness/I am blessed with the resilience, courage, perseverance that allow me to become the woman I am.

9. Your values will keep re-arranging themselves. It helps to make a list now and then to find out what you actually value and where each falls in your list.

10. Find your precious self endlessly fascinating. Then give up the story entirely!

.

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I Almost Missed It

girl1
“GIRL”, 24×4,ceramic,steel
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A sunny and 40 degree morning found Emma and I parked on the plaza early enough to skirt the wandering-in-the-desert tourists.

This is my precious Santa Fe at it’s best;

Stoic Native Americans unloading trucks have driven hundreds of miles to show their jewelry and art under the famed portal

While tiny humans try to outwit gleaming pigeons.

A stogie brandishing fat man hides from his wife on a lonely bench in a far corner.

I didn’t feel like hiding today and pulled close by to a barefooted woman playing violin.

She is a busker; some legitimate street performing licensing having occurred down a linoleum-clad city clerk’s hallway.

Barefoot, she stood lanky and proud in a burgundy floppy hat, layered lace skirts and too few clothes in general.

Her case laid at her feet; open with a clumsy sign hoping we “liked her tunes”.

Always an aura of aloneness coats her

Yet her work ethic is that of a Fortune 500 member; rain or shine, count-on-able.

I have passed her by with the surface enjoyment from a place like the reptile exhibit at the zoo; engaged but not retaining too much and just slightly reproachful for her general oddness preventing any chance of true communion.

Today was different.

Em and I sat there in the sun and my heart slowed way down to meet her music.

There- in bare feet on an early Spring morning a violin master gave me her gift.

No one plays that soulfully and heart-massagingly without intense training.

Yet here she was..oblivious to any threat to her heavenly bubble of divine offering..

I sat there, my lap warmed by a resting dog

And cried from the Grace of the chance de-densifying I somehow achieved

Allowing my being to be washed squeaky clean and made easy.

Twenty minutes later I rolled toward her and dropped some money in the opened case.

There were real flowers and crystals and other shamanic tools of her trade.

I mouthed “Thank you” and bowed my head as we moved on.

Deep sighs of relief and utter contentment mixed with awe at how close I came to missing God.

Tenderness

ten questions
“RAIN” ceramic, nails
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My grandmother urged me to pay close attention

To the utter tenderness of the barely green willow tree leaves

In the three or four days of the year they choose to break the bonds of a tight bud

To grace us with their presence once again.

Every year as what feels like ‘almost a color’ arrives

I seem to need to revisit this poem:

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LOVE LETTER TO SPRING

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

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CA

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Grapes

moon
detail,ceramic
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In my teens I was part of a grape-eating contest.

I won with 27 grapes in my mouth at one time.

Never really won anything else..ever.

I have a very big mouth.

Tempting to apologize for leaving you with that image but I won’t.

I won’t because this post is inspired by noticing

All the stuff I do, noises I make, tidying up I don’t, songs I sing, times I rest my head on the desk (3 so far since starting this post), naps I take, middle- of- the- night fussing around, Pinterest looking, project avoiding;

Everything that happens in a single girl-living-alone-with-no-spying-eyes life.

I just love my freedom.

It has, since I can remember, remained my top value.

I chose it over family,kids, marriage/partnership.

Living in close proximity to another human is something I have never excelled at, alas.

Always, their desires and needs were put before my own (because of me, not them).

I became less rather than more in partnership.

Witnessing my interior landscape has and is my very best medicine.

I have had shame in my life bearing accusations of an overly examined existence

But here I am today..a champion grape- holder-big-mouth

Telling you intimate stuff about my hills and valleys.

The gift of insisting on enough space for my soul to thrive

Has allowed a truly extraordinary life

Underscored by astonishing gratitude

For what I learn

Between the lines.

Containing

visitation
detail of installation,earth,ceramic
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I am feeling very quiet.

The world out there feels bitter; bitter cold, bitter politics, bitter blame, shame, gain…

One of the gifts of living intimately with mortality is a severe lowering of tolerance level

For the seduction in unloading personal woes;

“Woe is me…That bastard politico is going to be the death of our country.”

“I can’t eat this because of this and this and this…” (my personal fave).

“My arthritis, colitis, tonsillitis….”

Entire relationships can be built on the solace of sharing woes.

I want to be a loving container for the hardships my body and personality deal with..a porous container because it feels important not to live as an island unto myself.

I just work not to have my container spill all over those near me

So they have to do the work of showering me off themselves after my departure.

It is challenging to feel into who, how much, what to share and when to start and stop.

I think it takes an acute and generous awareness of tuning to the other person in order to gauge how much is too much. or not enough.

I am a perpetual student.

Recently, I learned that asking beforehand is really important as opposed to assuming anything: “Do you have it in you to listen to me kvetch?”

A generous act indeed.

I do hope I remember next time I want to hold forth just for the pleasure of unloading.

You Look So Good

ten questions
“RAIN”, installation, ceramic,nails,light
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It takes me a boatload of chi to present myself well in the world.

I do it and keep doing it because it entertains me, helps others feel comfortable interacting with me, helps me feel whole, feels like a community service to be experienced as a cool woman in a wheelchair who clearly has some challenges going on but is not victimized by them.

I try to be a piece of art complete with the same garnet red blood you carry in your veins and perhaps represent a way of living in a compromised physical self outside possibilities you are familiar with.

A friend sent me this which interested me as the bike’s purpose is to try to give others the experience of MS which is so personal to each of us afflicted however there do exist some pretty common symptoms.

My temperament is to rise; add light to shadowy stuff.

I work to include the shadow but not hang out there too long.

Some people think I fake my attitude in life as a coping skill.

I’m just trying to create an interesting life by way of placing my attention in groovy places..(did I just say “groovy???”)

See- this is how I entertain myself..

I find myself endlessly entertaining by jove!

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