Friday, August 23, 2013


Today's word is "Quietude."  It is a noun, defined as the state of being quiet, tranquility, calmness, stillness, quiet.
"Around the Bend"

I searched high and low for a single word used to describe "simple pleasures" or the concept of serenity through simplicity.  I didn't find anything that actually meant what I needed to convey.  So, when I was reintroduced to the word, Quietude... it resonated with me.

There was a time, when I ascribed to the fallacy that happiness has a price tag and is found with the possession of a big house, a fast car, hot fashions, expensive jewelry...not that I had these things, but I thought they carried a lot more importance than they actually deserve.  That said, I (by no means) eschew all physical and material pleasures now...  I enjoy my small, wooded home. I delight in driving my vintage (and somewhat unreliable) convertible.  I both create and own lovely, one-of-a-kind jewelry and clothing.  I actively fight the Demon of Compulsive Therapy Shopping.  I am human (and a Taurus), and I sometimes find solace in creature comforts.

"In Flight"
A slow evolution is occurring  though... I am (quickly) approaching the end of my role as an Active Parent (meaning, my child is a minor, and I am responsible for his care and behavior), and easing into what is referred to by some as the "Queen" Stage of Womanhood (more on that another day).  My priorities and needs are changing; frequently, a full turn-around from previous days.

Synonyms for Quietude include:  patience, peace, placid – in addition to serenity, stillness, and tranquility.  That is exactly my most prized (and sought) state of being.  It is what I search for during my daylight hours, and dream of during nocturnal adventures.  It's the place I feel happiest, am most aware, and am content in "My Self."

When I walk through the reclaimed estuary (illustrated in these images), I am similarly flooded with feelings of wellbeing, interconnectedness with all of Creation, and a direct link to our Living Earth.  My heart beats to the calls of migrating geese, my breath keeps time with the swells and dips of the paths, my sight drinks in the color and texture... I am nearly overwhelmed with the explosion of sensory, artistic, and spiritual sustenance.  The estuary is nearly the perfect pabulum for my Muse.  It is a brackish waterscape - cold salt water meeting fresh mountain run-offs.  Neither whole of one, or another, yet absolutely vital for the health of many.
"Flooded Pastures"

The oceans and those bodies who sustain them - the briny cradle of all life - is my "reset button" when I feel beaten down by life's slings & arrows, and lacking inspiration.  No medicine or treatment is remotely as effective as salt water is to my overall health and happiness.  A short visit fills me with purpose and vision and drive.

My Muse drives me to capture the beauty I experience... be it in photography, painting, drawing with pencils, writing, or other means. The act of Creation, fueled by imagination and inspiration, fills me with deep satisfaction and peace within myself... as though the process and product of my efforts have fulfilled a involuntary need, not unlike blinking or breathing or the rhythmic pulse of my heart.  With this act of expression, I feel peace.  A stillness that allows to me absorb even more beauty.  An inner tranquility.  Quietude.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Returned from the Mist

Snowy Tracks (Jan '13)
I've been on a 3 year hiatus (to the month) from this blog.  2010 was a rough year... 2 very beloved, young people lost; chronic illness evolved from nuisance to life changing; economic woes continued to grow; and, the ability to deal with it all diminished to an all-time low.  Since then, we've said good-bye to a long-time furry friend, and both of my husband's grandmothers.  One of the hardest transformations was the conscious letting-go of dreams I've held dear for a decade.  The realization that people and situations change, and with it, our perceived goals must evolve.

I've spent the evening re-reading my previous posts.  What was originally intended as a photography/artistic blog morphed suddenly into a catalog of one catastrophic blow after another.  The world was becoming darker and despite my efforts to capture the beauty around me... my Muse withdrew.

"End of the Tracks"

In the last three years, I've still gone on my photographic expeditions - but less and less frequently.  I've showered myself in tubs of beautiful and unique beads... and created some lovely jewelery.  Most of my glittery stock sits quietly in a corner - wishing I would return to contemplate their colors and textures again.  I've picked up a yarn addiction -- my husband despairs at the SIX giant totes of natural and funky (but manmade) fibers.  I do spend a lot of time surrounded by my hooks and colorful skeins, but even that hasn't  corralled  my attention at suitable levels.

But now - I think it is the time to emerge from where I've been sequestered, and reach for the light of my Muse.  I don't know if she'll take the form of photography, or written word, or painting, or sculpting, or beading, or crochet... or something entirely different.  I do know, that I am happier and feel more "whole" when my Muse travels with me.

Times are still tough.  My health is still fragile and unpredictable.  My job is still  unfulfilling.  People I love keep dying.  Politics continue to manifest in grotesque parodies of what they are supposed to be.  Mean people still suck.  But my Muse and I need to reconnect.  And grow.  And find that bliss that can only be found within one's self and through one's expression.

So... I'm back.  Returned from the mist, like a mysterious and wearied traveler.  Older, grayer, jaded and suspicious - but, perhaps also a little wiser, capable of compassion and sympathy, and genuinely searching for the meaning of "my" life and living it with purpose.

"SAM"  (Seattle Art Museum)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Glimpsing My Mortality

I glimpsed my own mortality Thursday night. 

Late in the evening, nearing my regular bedtime, my back began to hurt a lot.  The pain was like fiery liquid, coursing through my spinal cord.  I've dealt with spinal pain before, it appears to be a part of my ongoing condition, but this changed from the familiar to the scary in a few short hours. 

Normally, these attacks last maybe 15 to 30 minutes.  I usually curl into a ball, and rock back and forth, concentrating on getting through the pain.  The technique I use is very like ones I used in childbirth.  Afterward, I'm absolutely spent.  The intensity of the pain takes everything I have to work through, and leaves nothing for the recovery.

The usual coping methods didn't work, massage didn't work, nothing seemed to work... it was getting worse.  It was spreading around my back to my rib cage and chest.  The pain radiated and pulled from spine to sternum, and everything in between.

After about two hours, I realized this wasn't going to go away and it wasn't "normal" pain.  We decided to go to the emergency room.  The chest pains were very unfamiliar and a lifetime of training told me that chest pains needed immediate medical attention.

While triaging me, they decided to put me right back into a room for an examination.  The first thing they did was hook me up to something they called a "12 Point."  Two days later, and I'm still trying to get all of the glue off of my skin.

They had a terrible time IV'ing me and taking blood.  They said I was very dehydrated.  This was surprising to me.  I take a diuretic as a part of my daily meds, so I make a point of drinking 64 ounces of water at work every day.  They got the IV in on the first shot, but weren't able to draw any blood from the site.  It hurt like hell... I'd never been stabbed on the side of my forearm before.  The blood tech spent more than a half an hour looking for a viable vein on the other arm.  She used hot packs, and went about tapping and rooting around trying to find even a superficial vein she could poke.  The first poke was unsuccessful; nothing but a sluggish spurt.  Apparently, I was clotting up too quickly.  Her second try yielded success. It's taken 2 days for the bruise to fully form.

They decided on some pretty heavy pain killers after my exam and my first blood pressure check coming back at 220 over 58.  The Dilaudid didn't do a lot the first time, so they doubled the dose, up to 2 mg.  Finally the pain, although not gone, was manageable.  I ended up getting one more dose before they released me.  My metabolism being what it is, I was still feeling the residual effects 12 hours later.

The diagnosis:  My gall bladder was being naughty, and possibly my spleen too.  They unhooked me, gave me a prescription for something that apparently counteracts some of the naughty behavior and sent me home.  I was thankful it wasn't a heart attack or something.

So, the next day, I underwent a very comprehensive ultrasound.  

Nothing.  Everything looked normal.  Tentative diagnosis shot to hell. 

So where am I now?  I still don't know what happened to me.  That frightens me more than knowing, I think.  I have a regular appointment with my Rhuemy next week... I'll chat with him about this little episode then (provided nothing else happens between now and then).  Part of me wonders if this is just another manifestation of my everyday pains and troubles.  Is it something I can look forward to on a periodic basis?  I've heard that unexplainable pains and trips to the ER are not uncommon.  This would be my second one in less than 5 months.

I glimpsed my mortality the other day, and I was frightened.  Not because I know my life is a finite production, but because unexplainable things were happening to my body.  Being human isn't for sissies.  I figure being "damaged" goods must be part of my lesson in life.  Patience, tenacity and hope.  If not that, then I don't know why anyone should have to go through this every day... 

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Is It Truly Better to Have Loved & Lost...?

This has been a rough year.  It's about to get even rougher.

I found out, last week, my *almost* sister-in-law is dying.  She's 35. 

Normally, vivacious and bubbly, W lays in a hospital bed now -- too weak to stand, and hooked to a variety of machines that keep her alive and her pain as minimal as possible.  She hurts a lot.  The medicine can't take it all away.  Nothing can take it away at this point.

She's dying as a result of liver failure.  She's been in and out of the hospital for the last month or so.  Each time, we hoped the tests would show us the path to her recovery.  Each time, the tests came back inconclusive.  We know what she doesn't have, but we still don't know why... why her liver failed, why she has to endure the horrific pain, why she's being taken from us.

This week, the doctors told us her spleen and kidneys were failing, and failing much faster than expected.  She is quickly sliding into total systemic failure.  She is no longer a viable candidate for a transplant.  They can do nothing to save her.  She is going to die.  She is going to die within just a few, short months - at most.

My brother, who is a seasonal fisherman, flew home from Alaska last week.  At that point, we still had hope that she could rebound.  J was going to fly back up, in time for the fish runs... but he's going to miss them this year.  He has no intention of leaving W's side.  We expected no different.

J waited a very long time to find his special love - his one love.  It was on his 36th birthday (last year) that, after months, he finally spoke to the tiny red head at the bus stop.  "It's my birthday," he told her.  They went out for the first time that night.  They've been together pretty much non-stop since then.

They're a darling couple.  J towers over her, at well over six-feet tall, by more than a foot.  He's a big teddy bear of a guy, with soft hazel green eyes and a soulful face.  He's quiet, and uses his words sparingly.  W is curvy and bouncy and filled with the zest of life.  She loves to talk, and can engage even the most curmugeonly grump into a conversation.  They are opposites, yet fit together perfectly.  They were planning for an autumn wedding, and getting married on the water.  They both love the water.  W bought a beautiful green dress to celebrate the occassion.  The dress now hangs, where all can see it, in a sterile hospital room.

J sleeps on a cot in her room.  He only leaves for short periods of time, and then, only when someone else can be there with her.  She doesn't want to be alone.  We don't want her to be alone. 

W's mother died several years ago, following a long illness.  J's (and mine) mother has become her surrogate mother, and our family is her family.  She's asked our stepfather to give her away.  She has a way with him... she can tease him until he is unable to sustain his grumpiness.  The affection is both mutual and obvious.

It's a waiting game now.  We wait helplessly for W to die.  We wait with broken hearts - unable to fathom Why!  Why her?  Why now?  It's so cruel.

What will happen to J after she's gone?  I worry about him.  He's always been a loner, but with W's influence, he came out of his shell and interacted with the world more.  I forsee him totally withdrawing back into himself, disappearing from us all for a while, or longer...  I worry he'll never truly recover, that he'll forever shut his heart against any possibilities.  He's so very sensitive - far more than I am.  Sure, I cry easy... I cry at silly commercials, Disney movies and the sign of wildlife who lost their bid against moving vehicles.  But I'm pretty resiliant--I bounce back, with time.  I have a need to love, to pull people close and nuture them... to take in strays and try to help mend wounded souls.  I have to reach out and be touched back.  J doesn't have that same need.

He's my little brother.  My heart aches at this tragedy, at his and our loss of this vibrant person we love so very much... it's so unfair.  But then again, so was the loss of my son-in-law, just a few months ago.  If I were a religious woman, I might wonder why God was doing this to me.  Rather, I simply wonder why.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


Today's word is Persevere, defined as, "To persist steadfastly in pursuit of an undertaking, task, journey or mission in spite of distraction, difficulty, obstacles or discouragement."

It's a little after 3 AM on Thursday, and for the second night in a row, I find my efforts to engage in refreshing sleep thwarted by pain. Given, tonight's aching and discomfort nowhere nears the horrible pain I endured 24 hours ago.  Last night, at this time, I was literally writhing in pain and crying.  Tonight, I hurt - a lot, but aside from not being able sleep, it is endurable.

I've chosen the word persevere because for a person who suffers from chronic, neuropathic pain (or at least for me specifically), there are essentially only two choices.  I can give into the pain, and let it win, or I can get on with my life as best as I can... adjusting, as necessary, to accomplish what needs to be done.

I went to work today, albeit a little more than two hours later than usual.  Several people commented that one look at my face told them it was not a good day, and I hurt.  "Go home and rest," they'd say - meaning well.  The problem with that option is that:
1.) Going home doesn't make the pain go away, or even abate much.  Had I gone home, I wouldn't have slept, and I certainly wouldn't have relaxed at all.  Instead, I would have sat on the couch, watching On Demand and worried about the work I wasn't accomplishing; and,
2.)  Being at work provided a little distraction.  I definitely moved slower and had to fight through several pain flares, but I made it through my day, put out a lot of little fires, provided my department with the level of support and assistance they expect and need from me, and kept my To Do list from growing too much.  I also managed to meet my obligations as Shop Steward by attending a pre-negotiation meeting before coming home for the day.

Another example of persevering, or "getting on with life," are the photographic excursions we go on nearly every weekend.  This economy has severely curtailed most thoughts of a true vacation in the foreseeable future.  These little mini-trips get us out, as a family, to view and enjoy the beauty of our region, afford me the opportunity to play with my camera and are easily modified to meet my physical needs on that given day.  We spend time researching festivals and fairs that are scheduled somewhat locally.  A partial tank of gas and a tasty picnic lunch is all that it costs - and then we escape to the world of pirates, explore sandy dunes, commune with other animals of the planet, and get some fantastic people-watching opportunities.

My life is very different than the life I had before the pain became such a big part of everyday living.  I used to rock climb, and buck hay for my grandmother, and dance the night away.  Now, I sometimes don't even have the strength to carry my camera bag, or the energy to stay up past 9 PM.  I've had to readjust and reassess my priorities... and how to accomplish them.  It's almost like my life is mimicking the economic recession, forcing me to make cut-backs and restructuring how how I use my physical currency.  A big difference is that eventually the financial recession will pass.  My vigor is not expected to return, so the changes I'm making constitute a modified lifestyle.

The important thing is that I persevere.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Word of the Day: Connection

It's been awhile since I paid homage to my goal of posting a word/picture a day.  It feels like the right time to re-start that endeavor.

Today's word is "Connection."  One definition of the word is "a relation between things or events."  I've felt a distinct lack of connection for nearly a decade now.  Connection to my spiritual self, connection to my artistic self, connection to the world around me...

When we moved up to Washington in 2001, I must have forgotten to pack something.  I no longer had an urge to create, or when I did, I didn't know how to go about doing it.  There was something missing - something undefinable, yet tangible.  I'd lost my zest.  My smiles and laughter seemed less frequent.  I felt lost.

Yes, there was depression involved, but the depression was a symptom of the void - not the end result.

About 4 years ago, the absence of spiritual and creative light broke, and a small, faint glimmer pulsed - periodically brushing my soul.  For a while, it was so faint, that only looking back on those days, can I see it.  Nearly 3 years ago, I moved from the suburban hell I'd been living in, out to a far more rural environment.  It was then I truly noticed the first breath of reconnection.

Reconnection to the Earth and my surrounding world.  I've always been a creature of the Earth - drawn to her beauty and bounty.  I now live in a tiny house (a third the size of my former split-level, suburban prison).  It's not special, it's not pretty, it's not even always water-tight... but it's surrounded, no - embraced, by 60 foot tall evergreens, salal, huckleberries, ferns, and bracken.  An abundance of birds visit my porch every day.  I know that I'm sort of "bribing" them with my offerings of suet, berries and nuts - I'm okay with that.  The tiny chickadees sit on bits of wire and decoration, peeping at me.  The boisterous nuthatch hangs upside down on the suet feeder and laughs at me.  The beautiful Flickers brought their nestlings to feed at my porch this year.  The crows socialize loudly as they fly through my yard (how I love them).  I have Stellar Jays, woodpeckers - both small and huge, owls, grosbeaks, waxwings and even a hawk.  I can sit outside (or inside - looking through a window, if need be) and watch them for hours.  I never tire of their antics.  I cannot describe the sense of peace it gives me.
I now live in an area where it's only a stones toss to the shoreline of the Hood Canal or the forests of the surrounding hills.  I have incredible mud flats and estuaries to visually explore, and too many parks and trials to count.  I feel the Earth's pulse in my own, and it is healing me.

Although I am physically reconnecting, my artistic self remained in seclusion and uninspired.  My husband bought me a camera.  Originally, it was just to take pictures of things I might like to draw or paint - but the photography became it's own expression.  I still have so much to learn.  After being silenced for so long, it feels like my artistic self has been given a voice again.

Recently, I've felt my spiritual self stirring restlessly.  I think, perhaps, with the re-emergence of my Earth Self and my Artistic Self, my soul feels it might be safe to come back out.  As is my nature, I've been doing a lot of research and reading and seeking.  I'm beginning to reach out to others, looking for new friendships and renewing existing (and often, yes, sadly under-nourished) relationships.  I am questioning what "I believe" and finding my niche within it all.
And so, with these emerging connections and re-connections, I'm finally coming full circle, back to myself.  It's taken nearly a decade, and I'm not the same me as 10 years ago... but I'm giving myself importance again.  I'm accepting the changes that have occurred, the losses felt so very keenly, and the scars that both leave in their wake.  I am connecting. I am developing and nurturing relations in myself and around me.  I almost feel like a child again, learning how to interact with my world, or a day--righting itself after a particularly violent storm.  It's frightening at times, but it also feels pretty good.

Monday, May 31, 2010


Today marks another Memorial Day.  Today is different than previous holidays.  Today, I "get" it.  I wish I didn't, I wish I were able to naively enjoy a 3-day weekend, family bbq's and what I thought was an adequate reflection on the true price our military personnel pay everyday.

Sacrifice always comes with a price tag attached.  Some of our troops are away from their loved ones for long periods of time.  Children are born and grow up in their absences.  T-ball games and ballet recitals are missed, and only enjoyed through home movies or emailed pictures.  Thanksgiving dinner arrives with one less person at the table, while the family prays for their safe return.  Parents celebrate a milestone anniversary - all smiles on the outside, crying on the inside, that their beloved child is so far away, and potentially in danger.

There is also the "ultimate sacrifice" - the giving of one's own life for the benefit of others.  My son-in-law, Joel, did that.  He gave his life, in service of the US Army.  Not only did he sacrifice himself for his Ranger brothers, he gave up his chance to be a life-long husband and father.  He was overseas and missed his first wedding anniversary.  A week before the tour of duty was over, he was gravely injured.  Three days later, he passed from this world - his family, wife and infant son at his side.  His son will celebrate his first birthday in a matter of days from now.
Why did he do this?  Because he was a US Ranger, because he believed in his country and wanted to serve and protect her, because this was his calling.

To Joel, and every other veteran - both gone and still with us - I thank you.  Honestly, my thanks are truly insufficient, but they're all I have to offer, and they come from the heart.

“True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.” Arthur Ashe