Poetry in Perilous Times (3)

We have not had very much precipitation in the mountains this winter.  We’ve had three big storms that deposited a lot of snow in the city proper and on the mountain.  However, it was quickly washed away with rain at the lower elevations.  February brought idyllic spring-like weather.  While we enjoyed it, we also felt some trepidation.  The summer and fall of 2018 were frightening to us living in this highly forested area.  Fires sprung up in every direction around us.  We were told to be packed and ready to evacuate…but where to, we wondered.  Some of us stashed non-perishable food staples in the car, packed a suitcase, a tent, sleeping bag, bottled water, clothing, important papers, etc.

The smoky skies extended throughout the summer months starting in early July through October.  It was an intense panorama of smoke-filled days and nights.  We wore masks when we ventured out.  Typically, summer is a time to appreciate the lakes and hiking trails, to walk briskly, climb, swim and breathe deeply the fresh mountain air.  Not then.  Honestly, there is a certain dread of the coming summer.  Without a winter of sufficient rain and snow, we pray for our own safety and that of our forests and forest creatures.

I wrote this poem in September of 2018…

When the not-so-far ridges have been obscured
by smoke for months…
When your mind is clouded with confusing thoughts…
When what you once perceived proves to be false
or limiting…
When you sip your morning
cup of tea and place one foot
in front of the other
and say yes to this new day,
you have learned faith.

The smoke hangs on the ridge waiting for
directions from the wind.
The firefighters are out there
day and night manning
bulldozers, helicopters, heavy machinery–
we trust them to do their jobs–
to be wisely directed by those
who understand the nature
of fighting fire in a heavily forested area
with up and down rugged terrain.  We
have to trust them.  We have to trust
and to hold onto faith that everything is
going to be alright…
and until then,
that we can bear it–
be strong
be patient
and live our lives truly
and boldly.

We have to trust that we have
sufficient courage,
to share our gifts and
to proceed
into this new day.
We go forward into the uncertainty
on wings of prayer, hope and trust
and faith
and whatever love looks like today.

Then, I go into the garden to harvest tomatillos.

tomatillos

As of this moment, it is snowing and accumulating.  Yay!  And the rest of March might bring more precipitation.  We hope so.

 

A Sense of Girding Her Loins…

The “me too movement” and the film, Bombshell have drawn attention to the way women have been treated in the workplace (and in general).  The objectification of women is nothing new.  It’s brought forward by the current generation’s awareness of it.  Recognizing that the Equal Rights Amendment has not been ratified by Congress gives rise to the question of what a woman can do to support her own causes, her own life and liberty.  In this country (the USA), women have a great deal of freedom.  Yet, some of us carry an inner sense of oppression.  Is that because it’s in our DNA, something we’ve inherited from generations of oppressed women? Is it a seemingly innate quality of submission?  Consent to be objectified?  A way we win approval?

Two years ago, I made a costume for a local Fiber Arts Show.  I was feeling the grief around the decline of my sister’s health.  I was surveying my own life and the ways in which I was taught to submit to men…my father, my husband, my bosses in the workplace.  I noted how my life was designed around not upsetting the dominant male ego.  And certainly, the disallowance of knowing more than him even when it concerned my body and personal well-being.

At first, I was going to call the costume Ravaged.  Then I decided on Girding Her Loins.  Finally it became Reclaiming.  What was there to reclaim?  All of the qualities of power, courage and strength that a woman gives over to another.  Like–her voice, her own thoughts, her truth, her wisdom, her intelligence, her intuition, her feelings, her free choices, her values and more.

This dress became a tactile representation of something that had been missing in my life.  The expression of  my right to be fully me as woman without shame or self-deprecation.  It has been about claiming my own entitlement to my life without having to deny my own truth and gleaned wisdom.

 

 

 

My Sister

It’s one month past the year mark of my sister, Kathy’s passing.

Kathryn Jane O’Brien, November 17, 1955 -December 19, 2018.

Over the past several years, I have witnessed my sister, Kathryn, up close as she continued her battle with cancer.  I have seen the qualities of courage, strength and love personified through her.  Love being the constant force.

Selfishly, I did not want her to leave.  Finally, with love, I coached her to leave.  As did other siblings.  She fought the long hard fight with great dignity and respect for herself and others.

Once she committed to Hospice care, her capabilities decreased rapidly.  Over the past few years, she had been managing increasing pain, wearing a compression sleeve for the lymphedema in her right arm, having her lungs drained weekly, thoracentesis.  Her open wound had to be cleaned and bandaged daily.  She hardly complained.

A month before she engaged hospice care, she emailed me in the morning to say that she was a “shipwreck.”  I told her “I’m coming down.”  We spent that afternoon together and a few hours the next day.  For the moment, she had regrouped and was going to go continue the fight for her life.

Then, three weeks later, she was done.  She called our other sister who lived nearby, Susan.  Susan cleared out a room for Kathy in her home.  A hospital bed was delivered.

Bandages, swathing, wrapping, weaving
what battle has she returned from, has she?
The wasteland of her body resounding
reflections of an earth in jeopardy.

How does she heal what seems like a riddle?
Which rhyme does she summon, where lies the key?
In such a haystack, is there a needle?
How does she unwind this tangle, does she?

Is there an apology forthcoming?
or a salve of forgiveness to be applied?
Questions in midair, balance beam teetering
spanning a chasm that seems far and wide.

What falling before this Phoenix rises?
resurrection modeled in each sunrise.

 

 

 

“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.

 

Healing as a woman

Hard and Soft.Woman'sQualities

I was inspired to create a dress for an upcoming Fiber Arts Show.  I drew a design.  I purchased a square cut,  woman’s small, magenta tee-shirt and a dress form.  This picture illustrates the final outcome of my process.

Earlier in the year and for several months, I faced some big challenges.  I needed to tap into my courage and presence while offering support to others.  That became the intention for this dress.  A woman is called upon to be both hard and soft.  She needs to be tough while retaining her tenderness.  Woman as warrior, woman as fierce when necessary–woman in charge of her own body, her sexuality.  This art piece addresses the need for a woman to reclaim her birthright–to be a whole human female person.  Some of the embellishments have symbolic meanings.  I’ve written a few words or phrases on the  light pink fabric strips–these are some of the things that she reclaims–sovereignty, her voice, choice, the right to say yes or no,  freedom, connection, health, her body, courage, self-nurture, her right to thrive.  I’m certain that you can add to this list.

Healing as a woman is a journey unique to each woman in any culture and in a world that neither elevates woman nor her sacred tasks.

Writing Prompt:
As a woman, how do you express your hard and soft?  What in you needs to be healed and/or reclaimed?
As a man, how do you honor and encourage a woman’s empowerment?

NoteFor those of you local to Mt. Shasta or nearby, the Weston’s Fiber Arts Show 2018 Reception is today, Friday, the 22nd of June, from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. at Snow Creek Studios Art Gallery on Mount Shasta Boulevard.  There are many amazing fiber artists exhibiting their work.  The show will be on display for approximately one month.  We hope to see you there.

 

Frida Love–Why?

Recently, I purchased a copy of The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self Portrait…Alas Rojas.  Reading her diary, seems like eavesdropping on a very personal conversation in an otherwise quiet cafe.

Her drawings, her actual handwriting, her thoughts, sorrows, loves and fears, revealed to strangers, you and me.

As an artist, I am one of many who love to draw and/or paint Frida.  Her facial features are so distinct, her continuous eyebrows, her dreamy & fierce eyes–a congruity of beauty.  She was/is a figure of renown.  Her style of dress proclaimed loudly “I have arrived.”

Why do I “love” her?  I guess it is because she rose above what could have been a defining obstacle.  Her chronic and intense pain became a platform for her art. However, she did not personify “victim.”  In my estimation, she met her life head on with curiosity, courage and style!

Frida is someone who rose above adversity and created a life for herself.  And, admirably created art to be shared with others.

Wow!

Writing Prompt:
Do you know of Frida Kahlo?
Google her, read about her
and view her art for inspiration.

Frida.03.2018

A colored pencil drawing.
Not nearly  a perfected Frida
…but she’s a great face to practice with.
I’d love to see your Frida drawing/painting!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hard and Soft

hard.soft

One conversation in the fashion industry over the last few years has been about hard and soft…the armoring with clothing while retaining sexiness and femininity.  This fashion trend rides the “edge” for it merges two disparate qualities.  Traditionally, we think of the feminine as receptive, yielding, even passive. Many cultures take away a woman’s power when they disallow that she also feels angry and needs to  have a toughness that surpasses endurance–courage–over the course of her life.  She certainly needs assertiveness.  Sometimes she acquires a grittiness.

Following is an excerpt from a speech by Sojourner Truth recited by Maya Angelou.

 

Writing Prompt:
As a woman, how do you “wear” the hard and soft of yourself?

As a man, how do you respond to a woman displaying anger?