Embracing Scars and Imperfect Pears

David, Peter and Jubilee are outside digging a place, a grave, for King under the fig tree.  We spied three ripening figs.  David and the kids are going to be at a two day meet this weekend. In  a feminist fail and told them I did not want to dig a grave while they were away. King is still with us but he had another stroke or seizure in the wee hours of the morning.

His days are short and he is JUST a dog, but sometimes JUST DOGS bring a tenderness to the heart that allows unfinished mourning to flow.

We passed the fourth anniversary of the death of my niece in May. This weekend a cousin is finishing packing up her son’s home after his untimely death. Another friend just finished the trial over the wrongful death of her son. It is coming up on the anniversary of one of the death of one of my dearest friends 16 years ago.  Another friend lost both her parents, who were also my friends, in less than a year.   Summer stirs hearts and katydids drone on and on their song of sorrows.

Yes, King is JUST a dog, but he has also been a good friend and a faithful listener. We have cried several times today. We cried for his impending death. We cried for my sister. We cried for my cousin. We cried for friends and their losses. We cried for our own losses.

Life is hard. So are the pears. But life is also sweet. The pears, just barely. Life is beautiful when we release the illusion of perfection and embrace our scars.

2 Definitions & 1 Easy Answer to WHY Folks Are Leaving Your Church: An Artistic POV

We long for a “Simple Faith.”
Mistaking Easy for Simple, we hurt each other.

Shame, not clarity, is the fruit of alliteration, four point sermons, and easy answers.

I am an artist and art is often the grid I use for examining life and faith.  Art embraces and capitalizes upon the use of dichotomies.  I looked up the definition (thank you Bing) and I was surprised to find TWO definitions.   Good art requires the full utilization of BOTH definitions.

noun: dichotomy
1.  a division or contrast between two things that are or are represented as being opposed or entirely different.  Synonyms: contrastdifferencepolarity,conflictgulfchasmdivisionseparationsplitcontrariety
2.  repeated branching into two equal parts.

The first definition included the either/or sentence fragment:  “a rigid dichotomy between science and mysticism.”
The second definition does not.  I have created my own both/and sentence fragment:  “a rigid dichotomy of science and mysticism.”

It behooves us (behoove was fun to use in a blog post!) to consider a large portion of life as befitting (goes nicely with behoove don’t you think?) the second definition, a branching of equal parts.

Consider that orange is the opposite of blue.  Yellow and purple are complimentary.  Red and green sit at six and twelve on the color wheel.  Things get interesting as we leave the simplicity of opposites and explore equal parts and branching. The primary colors are red, yellow and blue unless you are dealing with light when green replaces yellow.   We tend towards either/or when we need to consider the complexity of both/and.   It opens up so many possibilities.

Black is NOT the opposite of white.  Truth is neither black nor white.  Grays make color sing.  Fact and fiction are more closely related than most imagine with fiction often carrying weightier truth than fact.  Fear is not the opposite of faith.   And each of us is unique, while all of us are created in the image of God. 

Our children do not walk away from faith because of evil college professors or liberal agendas.  They walk away because we have offered easy answers, sound bites, and alliterated sermons for life’s problems.

Life is hard.  Truth is complicated.

Asking the right question is as important as having the right answer.   When reality confronts easy answers, foundations crumble, and the lie of “Easy” is revealed.

Wisdom fails when we lie to our children about Truth.  Easy answers are neither loving nor kind.  Easy answers don’t set captives free.

Do you have some easy answers from which you might need to repent?

Consider the friend who lost a child.
Consider the spouse who lost their partner.
Consider the child who lost a parent.
Consider the neighbor unable to pay their bills.
Consider the Other.

 Have you offered an easy answer?  Have  you ever wrap an easy answer in a Bible verse?
I know you have.  We all have.

SILENCE is better than an easy answer.

Yesterday was the four year anniversary of the death of my niece, Lauren.   Death is brutal.  Mourning is brutal.  Well meaning (mean!) people tossing around scriptures and platitudes to make themselves comfortable with your discomfort is brutal..

I have mellowed, ever so slightly, and I am a kinder person than I was 20 years ago, but toss out a scripture as if it is band-aid and kindness takes a hike.

CONSIDER SILENCE.

And while you are silent, listen.  It is possible that in the silence the right question might manifest.

After Lauren died several months past before I was able to paint again.   This is the first painting I did after her death.   It was/is different from what I was or am doing, but it was very important.   This painting allowed me to move forward.  I began with an old painting of the After Lauren died several months past before I was able to paint again.   This is the first painting I did after her death.   It was/is different from what I was or am doing, but it was very important.   This painting allowed me to move forward.  I began with an old painting of the “Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.”  If I gave it a title, I have forgotten.   I will title it again some day, but not today.

Today is a beautiful day. I know because I have the video.

“Time stops. Reality ceases to exist. And yet time moves on. There is a disconnect. It takes a while to catch up. ”

Storms again last night. Wind, thunder and lightning. This morning, in my little corner of the world, it is as if last night’s storm never happened. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and the breeze is cool. But I know that this is not everyone’s reality. 

My sister and Ron were in Wimberly, Texas yesterday helping clean up after the flooding. It rained up river in Llano and they were evacuated before the next round of flash flooding.

So much of life is like this. Death and devastation stops you in your tracks. What was, is no longer. Time stops. Reality ceases to exist. And yet time moves on. There is a disconnect. It takes a while to catch up.

Life, out of time, is surreal. Like living inside a Salvador Dali painting or a science fiction television show. Normal is erased. And yet the world keeps turning. Soon I will look at the news and mourn the loss of others while cherishing the moments of perfection that this morning offers my little corner of Texas.

Tomorrow (May 28th) is the 4th anniversary of the death of my sister’s firstborn. Lauren was killed in a terrible car crash. My sister adopted her granddaughter. There is so much love. There is so much surreality. Memories are sweet and memories are exceedingly painful. Surreality rears it’s ugly head.

“Surreality rears it’s ugly head. I don’t know how to live the dichotomy of life. I struggle to find balance. Maybe balance is the wrong goal. ”

I don’t know how to live the dichotomy of life. I struggle to find balance. Maybe balance is the wrong goal. Maybe juggling is the best we can hope for. A split second in the hand:  joy, misery, hope, loss, love, pain, kindness, anger, memory, on and on and on. Is that what being in the present moment is about? The split second in the hand before it is dropped or tossed away?

The month of May, the losses press and permeates our lives like the lingering humidity after the record breaking floods we are experiencing in Texas.  Everything is a little harder. Emotions are ragged.

“There is no fixing the loss of a child. There are only bearable days and unbearable days.”

I can’t see my sister tomorrow. I am the big sister. I am supposed to (in my big sister mindset) fix things. There is no fixing the loss of a child. There are only bearable days and unbearable days.

Today we try to focus and celebrate Lauren’s life. Tomorrow we mourn. Today is a beautiful day. I know because I have the video.

PS  I have failed to figure out howto attach the video.  I will talk to Matthew Sunflowerman Miller and he will fix it for me eventually.  Until then, I am sorry. It was a beautiful morning with birds singing and a cool breeze.  No indication of the devastation taking place on the other side of town and down river.

When My Time Comes: A Death Fantasy

When my time comes, when death calls, I am going to wander off into the woods on a cool spring afternoon.   I will slip away while backs are turned and no one will know which direction I have taken.   They will assume that I will be coming back, but I won’t.

When night falls and my place at the table is empty they will realize I am gone and get up from supper to find me.   The night will be glorious.  Their food will get cold.  The moon will be full.  The grasses and spring flowers will be in their full extravagant abundance.   The bluebonnets will be past their prime, the paint brushes will still be holding their glory.  The buttercups and the wild array of yellow and white and purple flowers will be crowding the trails.  The dew will be so thick on the yucca plants that they will glow in the flashlight beams.

o one will find me.  They will search for my footprints at the edges of the streams, confident I would not cross the waters.  They will peer beneath the trees and bushes in hopes of finding me curled up asleep.  They will follow paths worn by deer and coyotes wondering if they might be mine.   In the dark they will see eyes glowing back at them.  They will hear snorts and rustling and maybe smell the hint of a skunk.  Occasionally a mosquito will buzz past their ears, but not too often.

As they wander through the night they will share stories and memories and hopes.  As the trails dip they will see their breath on the night air.  They will be amazed at how quickly the air and the breeze warms as the trail rises.   They had never noticed this subtle shift before.   One of them will tell a story about temperature shifts in orange groves from a book they read entitled “Oranges” and they will all laugh that one of them read a book titled “Oranges.”   They will make promises to each other to walk together under another full moon during the darkest part of the night.  They will see things that are not noticeable in the light of the day.   Their hearts will be soft towards each other and they will lean on each other when the trail gets rough.  And, yes, they will poke at the large fire ant mounds and speak of the loss of horny-toads to the ant invasion.

They won’t find me.  Slowly the understanding that I am gone, not lost, will settle over them.   They will speak of how old I was and how many things I could no longer do or no longer do with the same vigor with which I embraced them before.   Stories of my last weeks, the love and art and orneriness will have them laughing and crying.  They will already be missing me even though it has only been a dozen hours since I disappeared.   They will be relieved that I had not been incapacitated or in pain.   They will speak of my life with pride and tenderness, but without pretense.

They will be relieved that, while confusing, I chose to go out on my own terms.  They haven’t given up on finding me yet, but the urgency of the search is gone.   They are preparing for the buzzards, watching the sky for clouds and circling carrion.  They will not looking forward to finding my half-eaten corpse, but they laugh in their certainty that any vulture feasting on my remains will suffer severe indigestion.

When my time comes it will be a perfect spring day.   The mocking birds and the cardinals and the wrens and a lone dove will be calling back and forth.   The woodpecker and the owl and the hawk will be gossiping with the turkeys and the road runner about the white haired woman who put out food when it was cold and wired her tea pots and broken stringed instruments into the trees to house their nests.    The squirrels and the opossums will lament the fruit that will no longer be tossed into the bushes for their enjoyment and the butterflies will mourn the loss of kombucha mushrooms nailed to trees for their drunken nourishment.

When my time comes the only thing that will matter is that my family knows they were wildly and passionately and wholeheartedly loved.  I think I will take a pillow and blanket with me when I head for the woods.  I love creature comforts.   When I am found, I hope they have brought shovels.   They will dig hole and place me, wrapped in my blanket, there to fertilize the wild flowers.   I would be good with them tossing a few stones on the top of my grave like we have done with our deceased pets.   (I don’t like the idea of being dug up.)

When my time comes I hope I have the strength and good sense to take to the woods, filled with the aroma of Texas wildflowers, and lay down saying goodbye to this world and hello to the next.   It will be good to see Lauren and Carolyn and my Grammies.

Post Script
Our 15 year old corgi, King, disappeared yesterday, the last day of April 2015, while he was in the yard with Peter.  Peter was putting on bug spray and when he finished King was gone.   King stays close to his family.   He is, or was, half blind and partially deaf and had trouble with kidneys and his back legs.   Recently he has taken to pacing during the nights.   He is dreadfully thin and we coaxed him to eat with spoons full of lard.   He sleeps on a great pile of blankets to cushion his old joints.   The night before he disappeared he was running through the house like a puppy.   Maybe it was a last hoorah.   Maybe he has just gotten lost.  If he has gone off to die I say is, “Well done good and faithful dog.  Well done.”  I hope to follow his example.

Post Post Script
KING HAS BEEN FOUND!  Twenty-two hours after his misadventure, a bicycle rider found him over three miles away from our house walking around Benbrook Lake.   It is a hard trek to the lake from our house.  I cannot believe he survived the night.  The biker reported him to the gatekeeper for the Army Corp of Engineers property and the gatekeeper called Animal Control who picked him up.   Animal Control was so kind.  Jennifer helped us.  She referred to King as the dog with the bad legs.   We are amazed!   KING is ALIVE!  WELL DONE good and faithful dog. Well done!  Don’t do it again!

My low tech standing desk. DIY!!!!

My low tech standing desk is a porch railing from David’s grandfather’s childhood home in Gatesville, Texas, converted to a plant stand, and now converted into my desk.

A tray is taped to the plant stand, a Walkers cookie tin is taped to the tray. An upside down circular tea tray rests on top of the tin to provide a stable work area for the computer.

A box that held a beautiful fan from china sits beside the cookie tin so the mouse is not so low that it aggravates the carpel tunnel symptoms. The mouse pad and mouse sit on the silk covered box from China (thank you Avice.)

Not quite perfection but dang close enough! It is easy to move from one side of the studio to the other so it is seldom in the way. Oh, the nursing stool I bought, used, 26 years ago helps with lower back issues.  (Sometimes I stand on a wobble board.)

My process, and life, is all about using what is within my reach and not worrying about original intent.

(Plus I can hide chocolate in the cookie tin and nobody will know about it because none of my kids read anything I write!)

I am currently accepting chocolates.

Painting In Her Dreams

The Short Version Of How My Dreams Are Coming True

Once upon a time
Painting in her dreams
True stories
Waiting to be seen

I have always painted.   For many years, only in my dreams.   Those years of dream painting were not wasted, I was working colors and compositions and ideas.  I was preparing for some day.   “Someday” arrived when my mother-in-law found a one day watercolor class and offered to babysit.  I found my heart.

Tiny fingerprints added texture.   Ruth sat in my lap and I painted.  Forrest rocked in the wind-up swing and I painted.  Josiah snuggled in the Guatemalan sling and I painted. Roy nursed in a big pink recliner while I drew and studied composition.  Peter slept on my shoulder and I painted.  Jubilee, our bonus baby, was easy as her older siblings vied for their turn to hold her and I painted.  I raised my children.  I educated my children.  I educated myself.  I lived a full life.  And I painted.  

I believed the fable of the turtle and the hare and I, the Turtle, painted.  Slow and steady would win the race. I built a body of work and then another and another.   Slow and prolific wins the race.  I painted Texas.  I painted loved ones.  I painted my orchids.  I painted my faith.  I painted my prayers. As I painted the paintings transformed from representational images of things to emotional representations of experience.  

Today, I paint hope.  

Tomatoes: Making the World a Better Place!

Some people are avocados.  ONE BIG SEED! 
Some people are pecans.  Two equal halves. 
Some people are apples.  A star divided into neatly arranged pockets of smooth, shiny seeds. 

I am a tomato.  

A messy, mooshy array of slimy seeds that stick to everything,
closely related to the deadly evening nightshade.

The seeds represent the myriad of things that I am passionate about.  One of the things I am passionate about is being a tomato and encouraging other tomatoes.  Society has told us we need to be about ONE BIG THING and society is right, sort of.   Those who embrace their one big thing might change the world.  Tomatoes bring the spice!

As I age (gracefully?) I have come to realize I was focusing on the wrong thing.  I was trying to change my seeds into something they could never be and, honestly, something I did not want.  All those sermons, books, articles, TED talks, and lectures on the ONE BIG THING blinded me from my truth.   I could not see what was holding all those sticky little passion seeds together.  It was never about the seeds!  It was always about the fruit!   It was about being a tomato.  Not even avocados are about the seed!  It has always been about the fruit!  

I was fruitful, but I judged myself as being inadequate with my multitude of seeds.   I looked at others rather than who I was created to be. I compared myself to the one big seed and I found myself lacking.  I was so busy trying to consolidate my seeds that I missed the point of being a tomato.

Firmly planted in middle age (if I live to be 108) I have learned a thing or two and I am calling all tomatoes and multi-seeded persons to UNITE!   Plant the seeds, toss the seeds, collage the seeds into an art project, but embrace your fruit.  Be FREE!

Sometimes human beings need permission to embrace what their hearts have known all along.  Sometimes we wait for affirmation that does not come.   I am going to help you with that today.  Here it comes!

You have permission to be who you were created to be – be it one passion or many passions.

Please, bring your own flavor to the table.  Be fruitful.  

Be fruity!  

Be free from should haves and would haves and could haves.

BE!

Post Script (PS)    Eliminating the should’s is hard. 

 

 It might help to find a journal, 3×5 cards, a spiral, anything to capture the words.  Write down what those voices from the past are saying.  Look at the words.  Get them out of your head.  Decide what is true and what is not.  Truth sets captives free.  Freedom is contagious.   Every little step is a positive change in the world.