“Truth”

I live in the mountains of northern California.  In early 2018, my sister, Kathy, moved one hour south of me at at a lower elevation.  Prior to moving, Kathy had fought cancer for several years.  She followed her own instincts in treating it.  In January, 2018, she opted for chemotherapy.

Following is an excerpt from my journal at this time.

Angels meet and greet.  Glances exchanged, hearts engaged, hands touch–sisters–when the end is near, the truth becomes clearer.  I couldn’t drive her to her first chemo appointment.  It was yesterday.  It was rescheduled from last week.  Last week, I had a good excuse–a big snowstorm.  My sister, lymphedema in her right arm–swollen beyond recognition.  A warrioress with literal wounds.  A bandage is swathed under her arm and across her chest.  This wound that hasn’t healed–the bandages need to be changed daily.

My word today is truth.  Her word is courage.

I told her that I couldn’t drive her because I couldn’t sit there beside her in the hospital as she underwent this intravenous process.  I wouldn’t have been the best support.  She thanked me for telling her my truth.  If we can’t be straight with one another now, when?

She got her hair cut short.  She asked me to knit her a hat, which I began working on immediately.  I painted her a picture of a woman surrounded by butterflies.  I think that she’s going to make it.  We need optimism.  Truth is, I don’t know very much.  The mystery is here, is in us, is around us, is us.  Nature helps.  I send her daily photos of the nature where I live to calm and center her.  To support her with beauty.

Truth is, some days I think that she’s doing better than me.  Truth is, love is a strange animal–she is always showing up at odd times, giving us opportunities.

Like that night I sat on a log beside my driveway, stargazing.  It was so peaceful, I shut my eyes.  A visiting cat sat beside me.  Out of the shrubbery beside me, a rustle. Opening my eyes, I see a creature emerging.  I can’t name it immediately.  And then,
Skunk.  A few feet apart, we stare at one another.  Neither of us felt threatened.  I watched him waddle away.  Truth is, it felt like love.  Does recognition equal love?

Truth as an expression of love.  I love you enough to tell you the truth.  Is there something that stands in the way of truth?  At least, I can try telling it to myself.  When my parents were in their declining years and the family was in chaos, I began a poem with this line:

“Truth lies in a shallow grave
while perspectives hang out everywhere…”

transformation.

 

In the New Year

2020 feels auspicious.  In the mountains, we are expecting snow and rain, that wintry mix.  I am appreciating winter for a good winter promises an abundant spring.  These days, I am also grateful for the inward time that winter proffers.  Did I use that word correctly?

A little poem, a couplet, that I came across in one of my journals:

A bed of earth below which lays
a startle of forceful green relays
the message that beneath tamped earth
there is the promise of rebirth.

 

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I’ve been painting again.  I wasn’t painting for awhile.  I’ve been grieving three intimate losses in a ten month period.  You might know that grief is it’s own country.  When you go there, everyday life takes on a different sheen.

Anyway, this painting began with a large sheet of watercolor paper (18″ x 24″).  I wrote down my feelings about grief.  Then, surprisingly, emerging from this came my version of “Puss n’ Boots.”  See below.

Blessings to everyone as we go forth.

pussn'boots3

Remembering the Connection

invitation.2019

This is another theme of mine that replays itself.  Truly, I don’t understand how anyone (me included at times) canNOT see that everything affects everything.  When my daughters were young and watching Sesame Street, there was a cartoon that they replayed frequently.  It went something like this…If I pop my little brother’s balloon, he’s going to cry.  Mommy is going to come running.  He’s going to point his finger at me.  I’m going to get into trouble.

An effective example of actions with consequences.  So it is with our earth.  We are invited to share in the beauty and the bounty provided by nature.  And, it’s a wise thing to live sustainably and reciprocate in ways that we are able.  How we impact our planet, “our carbon footprint” for one, affects not only us, but the other creatures with whom we share this earth home.  And also, the generations to come.

This painting invites us into the forest and to receive the healing salve of being in nature.  It is an invitation requiring reciprocity.  Please respect this earth–home to many.

 

Existential Loneliness

polarbear2.jpg

This painting had an evolution…it started off as three women disco dancers, then two polar bears, then a single polar bear with a different landscape and now this rendition.  Finally, I wrote the following sonnet on the canvas as a part of the background in the meadow.  It’s not meant to be legible, only a design element.

One cold night at the beginning of another long winter in the mountains of northern California, I fell into that state of existential loneliness.  I happened to have this painting in process on the wall in front of me.  My own loneliness expanded to include the polar bear at the north pole.  I considered his solitary life, that his habitat is dissolving due to global warming.  There is the real possibility of his extinction.  In writing this sonnet, I connected to the polar bear and as a result, I felt less lonely.
Is that the secret to existential loneliness–to expand our circle to include more of the life that is?

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© by Christine O’Brien

It’s cold and I’m alone again, at night.
The stars, so far away, no comfort there.
Is the polar bear aware of its plight?
Ice floes are melting, does anyone care?

Across the tundra the northern lights dance;
radiant colors blast the starry sky.
If we change our ways, would he have a chance?
“Global warming; couldn’t be helped,” we sigh.

We’re safe in our cozy habitats, home.
The borders of our lives within these walls.
The far arctic circle, his place to roam
outside of our range, his frozen cry falls.

What’s it to us, a whole species demise?
Could it have gone better if we’d been wise?

“Water Water Everywhere Nor Any Drop to Drink…”

When Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, he was surrounded by an ocean of undrinkable water.

The upcoming art show at Siskiyou Art Museum in Dunsmuir, California has the theme of EBB AND FLOW.  It is an open call to artists of any ilk to create something to do with water–“celebrating water in all its forms.”  We have come to call water our most precious resource.  There are those in the world who deny global warming.  There are others who are ready to prove that global warming is without a doubt something we need to face –yesterday!

Drinking tea in the morning is the way I begin my day.  I do like my tea…and a cup in the afternoon or at the end of the day is a pleasant ritual.  What would I do without my tea…I began this painting a few years ago before this art show was conceived.  Now, it has become timely and I think I’ve finished it.  Just a few touches and then it’s ready for the show in July of 2019.  And I am calling it “water, water everywhere…”  Doesn’t she look a bit parched?

water,water2.jpg

Meeting the INNER CRITIC!

The Inner Critic is one of those shadow selves.  The voice(s) that show up to sabotage us in some way.  We want to get focused on a project or try a new creative venture.  That voice might say something like:

  • You don’t know enough
  • You don’t have higher education
  • Who do you think you are
  • You’re going to look foolish

The writer known as SARK, suggests sending the inner critic on an extended vacation (somewhere exotic perhaps?) or assigning it an obscure (yet busy-making) task.  Author, Byron Katie addresses this aspect of self through inquiry “Is that true?”

Recently, I took a long hike on Mt. Shasta contemplating the question of how to address the inner critic. Walking down the road, returning to Bunny Flat, I considered the premise that everything has an opposite.  Why not create a collage of oppositions around what the inner critic has to say.  And, what the inner advocate has to say.  Get out your colored pencils, paint, markers, whatever you have.  Scribble, doodle, use symbols, cut and paste pictures from magazines, etc. onto a piece of cardboard or heavy paper.  Don’t be too neat.  That addresses one of those critical voices right from the start.  Have at it and play.

Everything in you wants to be seen by you.  Giving the inner critic an opportunity to be seen and heard opens a doorway to bring in the balance with the inner advocate.  For you do have within you a fighter for yourself.

Writing Prompt:
Do you buckle under when those snarky voices chime in?  How do you respond to your own inner critic?  If you have an effective response, please do share it under comments.

 

Is this then…

Is this then
© by Christine O’Brien

Is this then what Armageddon looks like?
The face of the moon has turned red.
She peers through a window of gray smoke.
Tonight her expression is one of concern.
Did she realize that things would come to this?
Has the world savior raised her hands, surrendered
and retreated to some far off secret cave, irresolute
about how the story of humanity concludes?

I’ve been praying for a friend for the end of the world.
He literally showed up on my doorstep
a couple of weeks ago.
To paint my house.
I dreamed of him first…
that he would come
that I would ask for comfort
that he would oblige
then want more.
That I would send him away
that his drug-lost son
needed him.
“Away, go away.”

The air quality is unhealthy again today.
Another day indoors
sipping teas and taking herbal remedies
to soothe the throat and lungs.
There are things I have yet to say
to offer to a weary world
the one we continue to create
through our indifference.

Yet…

Even when we rise to smoky skies and
fires that aren’t easily quenched–
Even when the fire is battling back
and only 41% contained
and we are dependent upon
the direction of the wind.
While firefighters use the elements
to battle one against the other
coupled with chemical pollutants
because we are desperate
to protect all that we built
even when we know that life is
transient.

Even when the old dreams go up in smoke and flame
and we finally fall to our knees
and join the world savior in surrender
(for you too are her)
we feel the flutter in our secret heart caves
that something is going to be born,
something better, truer.

We hold vigil
while finding ways to speak
ways to act.
Even while we are uncertain,
we understand that there is now
and we can do this,
for now.

sunset.aug.2018.jpg