Marched Out

 

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A palette of texture and color I worked with.

Sadly, much of March was “another month, another drug.” I’ve now spent nearly nine months ‘testing’ drugs, and still: the original condition continues unabated. The March drug not only does not work, it brought on some full-blown panic attacks, something I hadn’t experienced before. They were scary, quite physical and exhausting. Luckily, now that I know what the hell is happening, I am able to shut them down before they truly begin. I also discovered (by accident) that I was prescribed (and am still taking) a second med for a different condition that was, in fact, a side effect of one of the earlier ineffective drugs. This was never mentioned, and when I brought it up, I became truly cognizant of the term ‘mansplaining.’ I’m fed up, and have left that doctor. I have an appointment in a few days with a new primary care doc, who, though still within the same big-pharm-driven system, is a woman. Meanwhile the arthritis has invaded three new locations. I hate writing about this all almost as much as experiencing it, so hence: no-blog March.

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There were a lot of these lovelies mid-month.

Those oddities aside, there *have* been good things: it *is* spring and things are popping up in the gardens and the daffodils and hyacinths are blooming and the early trees are beginning to bud. I’m watching and waiting and hoping to see my milkweed return. We humans have new phones and can text each other, which is another blessing.

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And I did get into the studio to to finish up work for ZIA Gallery’s spring exhibition: Of Materials, Fiber and Book Arts. And I did go out to the opening reception, which was nicely busy and bustling. I enjoyed seeing a number of old friends, and meeting several new folks. It was all quite lovely and a rarity these days. The show runs from March 19th – April 30.

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And since it’s been announced, now it can be told: my single ‘outside’ project this year will be participating in Hand Papermaking magazine’s newest portfolio, which pairs established (old) artists with emerging (young) artists. Though we haven’t met in person yet, I’m working in collaboration with Katharine Lark DeLamater, who’s been just great. Exciting!

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And of course there is Vivi! Vivi! Vivi! She came through a March of difficult teething like a champ; her milk teeth just didn’t want to let go. For awhile she had double teeth and a cartoon – crocodile grin, till the baby needle teeth were forced out. Often they broke first; I found shards of little teeth everywhere and her frozen chew-rags were spotted with blood. None of the other pups I’ve lived with went through that; usually, it’s simply been a process of noticing a milk tooth gone, and then seeing the bud of the adult tooth emerge. Though she had (cute) cranky moments during the process, usually just before nap time, she remained a sweet pup no matter how much her mouth irritated her, and now she has all her growing adult teeth. She also did great on her last day of puppy school, even though we had missed the two previous sessions. She even did some things she hadn’t practiced, walking up and down ramps, and past toys and open bags of treats, which truly impressed me.

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She is a happy, funny little dog, very bright and inquisitive, and no matter what is happening out in the world or inside my body, she brings joy (and she and the rest of our pack bring comfort, too.) Tomorrow, she’ll be six months old.

Ragdale, bit by care-full bit

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I am very, very slowly settling in at Ragdale, in increments. I am not sure exactly what happened, but Sunday night, while coming downstairs after just finishing the packing, there was a sudden sharp stab of pain in my left knee, then another as I descended to the next step. So, I led with the right foot, brought the left foot down to the same stair, repeat, repeat. Monday morning, it was still that way, a nuisance but not a real problem. Paul kindly carried everything to the car while I loaded. Just as I was ready to leave, simply standing there, the knee completely gave out, felt like it wanted to bend the wrong way, swelled, and would not support my weight.

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After a little while and a little testing, I knew it was a sprain; I’ve had too many of them, and know what they feel like and what to do. So I contacted Ragdale to ask which room I was sleeping in; having had an ankle sprain here, I knew I didn’t want to spend the next couple of days stuck in bed in the tiny Sewing room. Yep. It was. So I stayed home Monday, leg elevated and iced and arnica-slathered, while e-mails flew back and forth, and the Ragdale folks (Amy and Jeff) came up with a lovely solution. The Beech room and the little Barnhouse studio (just a few steps away from the house itself) were open for the first week; I could have them, and then move to the Sewing room and out to my beloved Meadow when I am able.

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So I came up yesterday afternoon, hobbling and wearing two knee braces (one atop the other), and here I am. Since I have wireless and room to elevate the leg and (later) stretch in the Barnhouse studio, I moved into the Sewing room so as not to make extra work for housekeeper Martha, who I really like. Cheerful new resident liaison, Eddie, moved my stuff upstairs for me, and a single box of paper, small book-hulls and binding supplies into the studio; the rest is still in my car, waiting till I heal more. I brought hanji too; sitting and keeping the knee elevated seems like a good opportunity to do some joomchi. I had a great, sweet visit from my homie Chef Linda (who loves animals like I do, and loved Chance too.) So far I’ve done little but R.I.C.E., re-think, and today, I treated myself to an hour with Bonny, the excellent, strong-and-sensitive-handed massage therapist who visits when there are a group of residents who need her. It was wonderful, and she helped the knee and oh, all those other arthritic locations immensely. I’m very, very, very glad to be here and so grateful to Ragdale for always, always, always making it work, whatever happens…I’m sinking into its benevolence like you sink into a good pillow after a hard day, and I’ll truly be home when I’m out on the prairie. Soon!

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The HUGE ice pack that Linda found in the freezer. She tucked that pillow under my leg yesterday (and suggested renting a golf cart if it doesn’t heal quickly!)

New moves, letting go.

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(I’ve been writing this in wee bits, off and on during breaks, for well over a week, then vacillating about publishing.)

Last week, I turned down three more teaching-related things (one even had a residency attached.) It’s a little odd still. I’ve traversed the better part of the past five years by swinging from lovely offer to lovely offer as if from vine to vine, only rarely interrupted by application processes. It’s been grand, and I’m very grateful.

Even though I’ve been fortunate to be able to detach from the application-oriented push push push and the cult of busyness that is standard in the arts, it’s still become too much. As we head into fall, only the work for two more exhibitions needs to be ironed out (and finished), two public talks, four openings, and then: I let go.

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Indigo sprouting future indigo.

There is some sadness, because I do love much of that life. Will I return? Retire? At the same time, there’s a feeling of elated anticipation each time I say, “thank you, not this year.” I’m not sure where I’m headed. I think of the Smiths’ observation as they left the U.S. to travel at random: “spiders fall to float – they start a strand of web, then jump into the void hoping the air currents will carry them to the other side. If they don’t, they crawl back up the web and fall again and again until they reach the other side.” I’m ready to float, and it’s not necessary to know exactly where the other side is. I’m most interested in what I might discover on my way there.

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Not-knowing has made blogging problematic. What’s ‘worth’ sharing while floating? Then I read this fine interview with Regin Igloria. Particularly the section on walking, but also the whole, resonated with my current questioning and challenges like the remembered hearing of a gong. Following the project on social media extended the vibrations. So, I decided to write:

Since I came home in late August, there’s been another arthritis flare, in a new place. I’ve been prescribed another round of p/t soon (well, in HMO time.) But p/t alone isn’t enough now. This year, I need to learn to move in new ways, until those ways become ingrained, my default mode. When I’m focused on  deadlines, on teaching, when I’m hurrying, I’ve had a lifelong tendency to completely forget my body even as I zip around, totally dependent on its capabilities, particularly its flexibility. As that keeps changing, I no longer know my body. I know I can do the un-learning and re-learning, but it’s a long process. When arthritis first arrived, it took a full year to learn to walk without turning my feet out without thinking about it. Now, I need to do all that I do without twisting my spine: all day, every day, every activity.

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Ragdale ear down, the original; it lasted two years, and it will regenerate.

For awhile, I despaired of this year’s milkweed harvest. It takes at least a month to get into p/t. Then I decided to rehearse / train for the harvest on my own. It feels a bit like doing a perpetual robot dance, turning my entire body with my feet before bending forward, instead of swiveling at my waist, all the while working to override a lifetime’s physical instinct. I slowly worked up to moving mindfully while bending and bending to weed the garden: the dress rehearsal. Wednesday, on the equinox, I drove up to Ragdale and went for it.

It was slow, slow: gazing around, planning my path, wading through the towering dense bluestem, pausing and plotting each move. I fell once, early, afterwards remembering to stop, breathe, look, enjoy. Walking round the meadow, gathering up the small piles into one huge one, then carrying that to the shade of the Meadow Studio porch was the roughest patch. On the porch, I accommodated my skeleton with a bucket to sit on (and one to collect the trimmed leaves) and a sequence that let me work by bending only forward or side to side (which is still ok to do.) I paced myself, and got the job done with only a small amount of residual stiffness the next day. I feel absurdly proud and pleased, as if I were a beginning athlete, a casual jogger who’s just run in her first race and completed the distance. (My reward was an absolutely perfect long, paced studio day the next day.)

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Out in the world:

Here is a radio broadcast, with an article and images of the Embarrassment of Riches show. I can’t hear it, but the images make me even sadder to have had to miss the reception and panel. The fabulous Chicago Artists’ Month exhibition Words | Matter is heating up! The website is still-expanding (eventually all the artists will have a dedicated page) but it’s live. This and this are two events I’m participating in. I particularly like the Toni Morrison quote in Eileen’s description of my talk. There’s more coming up, but not online yet. Neither is the exhibition in Utah, but the print catalog arrived, and it’s a nice show.

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Last but not least, hooray for just one of Aimee Lee’s many fall undertakings! I’m impressed. Happy super moon eclipse to all.

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Progresses

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A visit to ZIA and my part of Anne’s current back room installation.

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Accommodations.

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I like the light.

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Building with the landscape and an eye to the work’s eventual deterioration.

It’s been a full, fine marathon. The summer studios became operational instantly, and I realized that they had already evolved to accommodate the back arthritis I didn’t consciously know about before this year. I have things with wheels so that full buckets don’t have to be carried; instead of attaching a hose, I use a milk-crate stand for draining the beater so full buckets don’t need to be lifted up from the floor. The studio transforms like lightning now from beater room to production to wood shop to reasonably comfortable seated task space. I still keep looking ahead to next year as I work: not only the garden but the studio is in full glory in the summer and I’ve never yet had the opportunity to use it for the whole season.

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These eyes follow me, like living with an owl (I would like to live with an owl). Chance has become a sweet calm studio dog, just wants to be with me, stays out of my way as I do my working-dances, but observes everything. Often, when I bend down to the floor, there is just the lightest touch of his nose sniffing the top of my skull. He apparently approves of what happens in – or exudes from – my head while I’m in studio mode. He will occasionally do a full-body twitch when a machine is turned on, or when big things move as the space (frequently) changes shape, but he reacts no more than that. These things would once have sent him into a fear-frenzy. Now he will even take a good long nap while I am at an extended seated task like casting ear-fungi.

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Whatever I get done today finishes the studio time this session (sigh), tomorrow is packing and shipping two shows and a few last-minute outside errands, Monday to pack everything and square away, Tuesday, load and road.

Goodbye June

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We have no grass because we have Chance of the Giant Feet. It’s hard to document, but the bulk of the Milkweed Farm is all along this side of the garden behind the existing plants, from the young kozo at the right to the alley. There’s a bit in the opposite bed and scattered around in a few other locations as well. A friend came earlier in the month and took away lots and lots of plants for her new yard; I dug out last year’s hollyhocks and moved them to the other side of the house where they can duke it out with the equally persistent orange day lilies.

Just checking in, so I can feel like I’ve kept up by posting something before June is over. I don’t feel like writing about the health issues, but though I’ve finally discovered a drug I can take for one of them, suffice it to say: they are continuing. aaaaseedlings2

The packed upper-center rectangle shows the milkweed seedlings before thinning for transplant: hundreds. I’ve unsuccessfully tried to plant milkweed before, so did not at all expect these seeds to be so viable.

I DO feel like writing about the momentous 10 days the country just went through, from our worst to our best. It was a time of important revelation for me in a macro and micro sense, but right now there is no time to give that the justice it deserves because of my agonizingly slow writing process. I am into the flurry-of-deadlines-I-am-not-prepared-for stage as I get ready for (and worry about) this summer’s teaching road trip and the exhibition shipping dates that precede it. aaaaseedlings3

How it had to be accomplished. Looks easy and comfortable, no? It wasn’t…but it will be worth it!

One thing I did accomplish: the bulk of what I hope will become the Milkweed Farm is in place; just a few more transplants into available nooks and crannies and with a bit of luck, next year there should be a fine home harvest. It was so ridiculously physically difficult to do that I made a decision: next year will be a year off to focus on rebuilding health. (With ‘off’ meaning: taking on nothing beyond a day’s drive away.) aaaaseedlings4

Mostly milkweed, mixed in with some annuals culled from around the yard: they appear to be thriving. (Yeah, they’re probably way too close together, but that’s how I roll…)

Out in the world, the Summer 2015 issue of Hand Papermaking arrived and looks great.

Seasonal busy-quiet

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This year’s ‘farm’ – three types of tomatoes (one a late variety, so that I can be home to enjoy them), two types of peppers; along the fence, dill, lemongrass, chives and marigolds to protect them all.

It’s been raining and raining. Wednesday we had a break, though it was quite unseasonably cool, but that day was taken up by many strange errands out in the world. Yesterday, we had another, and the temperature went up a bit; I got to spend the day in the garden, and got the vegetables and herbs planted, finishing the last of the porch herb pots just as it began to rain again. Today is a grey, misty maybe.

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Only a wee bit of the massive hospital p/t rooms.  I’ve spent a lot of time here the past couple of months.

During the rains, I’ve been: trying to keep up with the currently lengthy p/t sessions, Chance training (and Chance-curing; he was ill for three days, recovering now), working on the horrendous state of the house (with not much effect in ratio to labor), dealing with upcoming shows (one of which I dropped the ball on, badly), and some new health issues (annoying and time-consuming only.) When the rain stops, my brain and body are all about two things: garden and health. I’ve finally been given the green light to walk again, after new required shoes and lessons from the therapist on how to walk now (I’m to build up distance – and pace – very slowly.) I’m only up to ¾ of a mile, but it feels so good.

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The snazzy (and least costly) ridiculously expensive running shoe color on an actual sunny day.

Mostly, it’s garden. I’m totally absorbed, and there’s much to do. As small as it is, it’s also the most land I’ve ever had, and the only patch owned. It always makes me marvel at the abundant and tenacious life in the concrete-bound city, at the neighborhood as ecosystem. An amazing assortment of plants have wandered in and volunteered to stay over the years and I’ve now been living and planting here long enough to see some of my own contributions travel around.

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Volunteer tulips that showed up as a single tiny plant about five years ago.  There were no bulbs in this patch of soil, so they must have propagated by seed, which is supposed to be very difficult. There are no purple tulips anywhere nearby, so where they came from is a happy mystery.

One of the unpleasant things about the city is all the chopping back that has to be done to maintain (even to my haphazard, untidy standards) a small yard; I would love to live somewhere where things could just grow and grow and grow. (But then I’d need a motorized office-garden chair.) The other not-great aspect is neighbors who use copious amounts of chemicals and weed-poison sprays, which is why my tomatoes and peppers and most of the herbs are grown in pots.

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The smallest spring garden center purchase ever, before planting; the veggies and herbs that didn’t survive the winter, plus one perennial I just could not resist: the native wildflower called prairie smoke (which I have never actually seen growing on the prairie.)

That’s my quiet current world: running out to do equal parts of clearing, planting, dividing, chopping back and relocating plants when the skies let me, and happy with it. And apart from walking on my own, there has been an increasing series of loose-leash, treat-laden, and actually fun walks with Chance; I’m hoping we’re over a hump. We go a little farther each day, and I hope soon our walks can be combined and enjoyed by both of us. The neighborhood lilacs have been sending out their ribbons of scent on the wind, and when we can be out, it’s grand.

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Just outside the kitchen: basil pot, spicy oregano, purple sage, cilantro / coriander pot (self-seeded), summer savory, rosemary, lemon thyme, tarragon…

Out in the ether-world, perhaps in a bit of a stretch, I was surprised when the Exo-studies appeared on a basketry site, (thank you!) And out in the physical world, as of early this week, there was only a single spot left in my seven-day August class at WSW. There are still spaces left at Peters Valley and the Morgan!

May Be This Way

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I always love Anne Hughes’ installations. I like this one even better with the duct dots above.

The ZIA opening reception was very, very nice and warm. A surprising and diverse group of long-ago and newer friends attended (including one person who actually saw the announcement in the newspaper rather than on social media. Think of it.) I appreciated the support, and also had a very fine time catching up. I had no time to take more than a couple of quick snapshots afterwards. I remember sheepishly posing for tons of photos, but have only seen three. This shot by Linda M. Barrett is the absolute best of them (it’s one of the things she specializes in, and she did direct me a bit -“To your left. Chin up now!”- which is part of her work and it shows. In the others, I was somewhat sad to see the arthritis so blatantly visible, affecting my posture.)

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On social media, Linda appropriately captioned this with the hashtag: scale is everything!

I got the new work onto the site a few days after the reception.  My hands-down favorite piece in the new series sold. Here is the series, and the news page will link you to a couple of other new works. Done! I also showed some older works and Anne made a great selection from ZIA’s inventory, so it’s a substantial grouping of works.

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For the month of May, my main preoccupation will be nurturing: the gardens and continuing to school my body against arthritis (Chance training goes without saying, and it’s been going well.) Let that be a warning regarding the content of the next few blogs (and most of the rest of this one.)

Monday after the opening was my first garden day. I sat on an upturned 5 gallon bucket to rig a support around a burgeoning peony. Afterwards, I simply could not rise, so I slid off the bucket and scuttled, crablike, to a place where I could grab the house to pull myself up with my arms. That was a bit of a shock, especially since working while standing has been so very much better. I definitely need my body to be functioning more than that.

Last Friday, the day before the ZIA opening, I ‘graduated’ from the spine portion of p/t, with a good, workable and flexible routine. This week, we began to focus anew on the knees, with the added perspective of the spine issues. The therapist gently but frankly reminded me that arthritis is a degenerative disease. So, I need to keep a better grip on it, and I’m very glad to be able to take this time to get there. The hospital p/t will end in mid-June with a blended back-and-knee routine in place, and I’m researching a few additional options to complement it. Meanwhile, yesterday was a beautiful t-shirt warm day, and after a good, calm(!) session with Chance, I did the exercises out in the back yard, and the mat work on the deck, looking up at endless clean spring blue, breathing it with the movement.

Then, the rest of the day in the garden, with this mobility solution, which worked nicely.

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This tiny strip of garden got trashed and made even tinier when the big fence went back up, while I was at Ragdale last fall. Dormant plants were chopped out and tossed into a pile that was under snow when I came home. I found them during a late-December thaw and just threw chunks of roots into the garden or the vegetable pots before it (immediately) snowed again. Yesterday I pulled off dead material and re-planted the ones that had sent up shoots, while clearing up the first of 8 garden spaces. Bits of everything survived, even indigo (!) and I think I see new growth from the young kozo, whose branches were randomly snapped off. Life is good in all its forms, though it might not make interesting blogs.

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The space is one of the few places in the yard that gets all-day sun, so it’s important. 

Out in the world, I was very, very sad to read about the passing of Jane Farver. While at Spaces Gallery in Cleveland, she was a fantastic early supporter, who not only helped me to see the immense value in following my own odd winding path, she also shored it up. I am definitely not the only artist so influenced; she will be missed.

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Blooming for Jane.