Time Expands

Now I am at Ragdale…ahhhh.  Tired and happy after my first full day, totally unpacked, studio set up, kozo soaking for cooking in the morning, after the physical therapy work. The studio is where that happens as well, after the early morning cardio walk portion of the program.  I learned immediately not to wear the fancy running shoes on the prairie in the dewy mornings; they are like sponges. So I am the turtle out among the runner-hares on the Lake Forest sidewalks for the next four weeks (though I did make my fastest time yet this morning. Being out of the city is good for me.)

It’s a very good group of folks, old friends and new.  It seems odd to have only eight at the dinner table, but it’s much nicer for deafened me; I’ve sat talking in the dining room for hours after dinner both nights, able to be part of the group conversation. Today, I even got the inevitable Home Depot run out of the way, accompanied by an artist from Oregon, the only other monthlong resident.  And so it begins (along with hurricane Irene. Stay safe, everyone).

On a downed tree just outside the studio; I saw it from very far below during the last two residencies. The summer’s storms have kept everything green and lush even in late August. The big bluestem is purple and gloriously tall, waving over my head.

Temporal Matters

I am not at Ragdale; my residency doesn’t begin till next week, and ends a week later than I’d planned.  I’m blaming the hard drive crash for having the dates wrong on my calendar, but it’s probably just my brain.

This is good because it will be just a wee bit cooler, I’ll be in residence for optimum milkweed harvest time at the end, I am home for another week to eat my delicious tomato harvest and to make pesto from the big pot of basil (something I have not done in way too many years), and I have more time to practice integrating physical therapy into daily life. Unfortunately I learned this week that I will need to also find ways to do more work on an outside, non-art project during Ragdale time. Regardless, I’m packing and getting excited about the work I will be making, and simply about being in that gorgeous studio. There’s less prep than usual, because I will be coming into town once a week for PT sessions close to home.  Fibers and cooking pot are coming with me, so I can prepare beforehand to beat what I need as I need it while I’m off working on my knees.

This business of shifting bones is strange.  Already, I’ve run a gamut of sensations from the initial grinding pain to over a week of constant hot (literally hot, to the touch) ache in my knees to several days of having both legs feel dull, rubbery and leaden from the hips down. Currently, below the skin, my knees are numb. It’s weirdly interesting to experience. I am working on a lot of other things as well, but mornings are pretty much dedicated to therapy.  I won’t pretend that I don’t have to talk myself into it every single day.

Plants have things to teach us, particularly about time.  Today’s photos are of a ponytail palm I have had for ages. I bought it during a time of heartbreak, and since then, its presence has always enriched my winters. But, last summer I was so overbooked and frazzled that I never hauled it outdoors for its season of light and rain, and when I returned from Penland this spring, it was very nearly dead.  Three of its six branches had stopped producing, and the live ones only had thin, pale shoots left among dead leaves.  In May, I trimmed its roots, re-potted and it, and set it outside in a protected, shady spot.

The viable branches quickly began to re-grow, healthy and green. Just a few days ago, I turned the pot and saw that the branches I thought were dead have each sprouted; not three but four vigorous new shoots. It’s coming back more abundant than it ever has been, though in different directions, forming a new shape.

It tells me things, good things, about rehabilitating my own body.  I write about it here for friends who are now going through painful, fallow times. I’ve been saving its trimmings for a few seasons, and with all the dead leaves I took from it after Penland, I now have a pound of fiber to transform into paper, into something new. When I make that paper, some of it is coming to you.

Double!  And if you look in the center, a third beginning…five new branches.

Getting in the Groove

Taken Monday after several days of therapy.

Those are my knees up there, bent slightly and seen from the top, with some ink marks made by the orthopedic surgeon who finally explained everything to me on Monday.  My kneecaps are not where they should be; they’re supposed to fit neatly into those visible grooves in the thigh bones. Instead, they’ve migrated outwards, so bone is grinding against bone in a location not designed for contact. This isn’t as rare as I was originally led to believe. The great news is that the physical therapist and I can train the leg muscles on one side to relax and the other side to tighten, and they will pull my kneecaps back into the undamaged grooves where they belong. This can actually be FIXED!  Not just “arrested as is. ” That is the best news I have had in the very long time since this all began.

I’ll begin my month at Ragdale next week, and while I am there, I’ll still be doing two hours of healing work each day, commuting weekly to the excellent physical therapist I’m working with, experimenting with a new direction for my work and letting the unknown happen, integrating it all.

Taken in early June, but I just got a copy this week.

And, maybe getting better at blogging; I’ve been incredibly busy. But here’s a blog with nice photos of the Lubeznik show, which I still haven’t gotten back to to document.

Things I thought I would never put on my feet. They are rather miraculous.

Slow fireworks at Lughnassadh

Possibly my favourite place in Chicago.

One of the reasons I haven’t looked forward to blogging the past few months has been frustration with all the medical stuff, with months of limited mobility, and  (I can admit it now) a whole lot of physical pain. But, last week the health care system finally shunted me into a place I can understand and embrace: physical therapy. Right from the start, during my consultation, things began to look up. I learned that, though I can’t heal back to square one, I can arrest this condition, prevent further degeneration, and maybe even improve it a bit. I’m a few days into the daily therapy practice, and I can already feel a highly encouraging difference.

Of course, I’m generating feel-good endorphins, but it’s also simply the action: of the positive energy of contributing to my own healing, of discovering what I can do and how and that I can do a little more each day. It’s not an endeavor that has anything to do with my artwork directly, but it will keep my body able to produce what the rest of me needs so very much.  In remembering that very simple truth (yet again), I’m reminded of my all-time favourite Lynda Barry piece…particularly the aside, “has no memory of having solved this problem before” …and I used to hand out a copy of this to my thesis students regularly!)

I also did all the serious initial groundwork for a fall show of local artists I’m co-curating with Shawn, had a great visit from my old friend and a sweet warm lovely time at a dear one’s big formal wedding, where we were all bathed in purple light at the reception. At home, the summer gardens are full and lush, the tomatoes are ripe enough to begin eating, and now I have a couple of relatively free weeks with only a (possible) bit of teaching, a short road trip, weekly P/T appointments plus another medical specialist, and follow-up on co-curating duties. Otherwise, it’s The Studio and getting ready for an unusual-for-me new experiment / project I asked to be able to do at Ragdale, which will extend beyond my residency.  They said yes. Ragdale always, always, always comes through for me, and I am so grateful and excited to –hey-! be able to step off into the unknown.

Here’s a listing I’m happy about for this fall.  I was pleased to be asked to take this particular show on an out-of-town trial. If you know someone who lives nearby, pass it on. And it will happen in a bindery!

Happy kozo! It’s gotten big enough to begin exhibiting the distinctive bark pattern.