An Artist's Quest

Posts tagged “hope

Thinking of Mark

272. thinking of Mark

“The Space between Heaven and Earth” currently showing at the Mendocino Art Center

My cousin Mark died today and I feel compelled to write about him and how I feel. He was just a few years older than me, 57- I think, and he died of cancer that had spread within his body. Mercifully he only knew for a couple of weeks and, I’m told wasn’t in much pain even at the last. That’s comforting, I think, at least comforting to me. He was an extraordinary man, full of wit and wisdom, sarcasm and sweetness. He was one of the strongest, most persistent people I’m sure I’ll ever meet. You see when he was in his teens he began showing the signs of muscular dystrophy, and while the disease weakened his muscles he carried on his life – he lived and learned and loved and though he was in a wheel chair for decades he was fiercely independent and spent most of his adult life advocating for people with disabilities. This paragraph is not enough, no words will be enough, but I wanted you to know, I want you to know he was here on this earth, he was important.

As a sometimes confused and always questioning Christian, I don’t really know what happens when we die. My dad shared his thoughts a few days before his death: at birth we are in one place warm and familiar and then there is a great commotion and we are in another place distinctly different and death seems to be like that, we are in one familiar place and then a great commotion and now to another place. This is a comforting way for me to think of death, as a rationalist I know we are made of cells, and molecules and atoms, particles of dancing protons and electrons. When we die those things still exist in the universe but their purpose is changed, they break apart and reconfigure but are still here. The molecules of Mark’s last breath still float in the air repurposed, reclaimed but here among us just the same.

I watched a documentary awhile back about the Tibetan Book of the Dead. It was fascinating and illuminating. One scene I remember is at the bedside of a man who had just died. The tradition calls for prayers and chants to be sustained around the body for many hours (perhaps days?) to encourage the floating spirit to not be afraid and to not jump into the first living thing to pass in front of the suspended soul – in essence cheering the departed one to reach for a higher level existence in the cycle of reincarnation. Oddly today as I thought of Mark I thought why not try out the strong body of the grasshopper. Wouldn’t it be lovely for him to bound and leap with such strong legs? Besides a grasshopper lifespan is short – within the year he could leap his way into a flitting, flying sparrow and try that body for a while, there is much to learn from the little sparrows strong wings, I’m sure. Three years from then perhaps a wise old owl will suit Mark’s fancy, soaring above us all in the long cool night air. Or maybe a dolphins body would fit well, how playful and lithe he would be let loose from that heavy damn wheel chair.

So just incase, I put the cricket I found in my kitchen this afternoon gently outside and whispered in my cupped hands before I let it go – you’re free now JUMP!


Rocking my World

A friend who is struggling with health issues sent me an email saying she had spent a sleepless night up rocking and asked for my reflections on rocking. Upon my first reading I set this question aside not sure how to answer. This was one email among 225 emails waiting for me after a week away taking my son all the way across the country to college at Penn. While I was away my beloved dad ended up in the emergency room and resulting in a pace maker procedure, this all converged on my fifty-second birthday – my feelings were so balled up – full of worry and concern and unknowing. That is all to say that when I first looked at the email about rocking I couldn’t see how to connect with the query, I had other things to think about. A couple of days later I returned to the email and the following spilled out and I think it has everything to do with enduring, and worry and being and comfort and all the things that make this human journey rich and hard. So for your reflection here is my answer to that email:

Rocking Inspired by my writing it is a collage that combines a drawing of my grandma’s rocking chair that I scanned and printed on Grafix injet film then layered on a wood panel

Inspired by my writing is a collage that combines a drawing of my grandma’s rocking chair that I scanned and printed on Grafix Injet film then layered on a wood panel

The rocking chair for me has always been a comfort zone, from my own childhood sitting on my grandma’s lap she rocking and reading the old oak chair creaking on the wooden floorboards it has been a comfort, a prayer. I have that same chair in my home now rockers resting on the wooden floor. When I had a crying baby my own mama taught me to sit in that chair with my babe and rock and count to one hundred because you can do anything for that long and if the babe is still crying then you start counting to a hundred again because you can do anything for that long. Now I have no babe to rock but my own self needs rocking sometimes and the rocking chair and my mothers simple wisdom come back to me sit and rock and count because you can do anything for that long and then the counting and the rocking clears the mind and opens the heart and you really can do anything you can face anything receive anything be open to anything both great and small, wondrous and worrisome and wearisome. A deep creak, creak, creak like a heart beat like a breath, solid and real something to hold on to something to count on…. one, two, three, four….

PS My father’s pacemaker procedure worked wonderfully and he headed home Tuesday reportedly pinker than he has been in some time and ready to rock and roll. My son is thrilled and thriving in his first week at Penn – it was hard to leave him on the east coast but not hard at all to feel the thrill and joy he exuded as he launched into the solo adventure.

Spring is Tugging and My Heart Wants to Follow


Flowering plum on blustery March day at the Ranch

Flowering plum on blustery March day at the Ranch

Well, spring in Sonoma County comes early and while we are in a terrible drought here at the moment it is raining and blustery which is as it should be. The clouds and sun are in a battle and the wind seems to aid each team equally. Here in my little home the emotions of the moment mirror the struggle of the sun and rain. My only child is a senior in high school and is in the middle place at the moment – hearing from colleges, finding out if he is in or if he is out and my husband is logging in the cost and financial aid into an elaborate spread sheet to figure out if we can pay or not. The coming month is one of deep discernment, of broad projections, of gut feelings. So my household reflects the season – so full of possibility, so fresh with expectation, yet bundled against the wind and rain of uncertainty. This too shall pass, and while at the moment spring is straddling with one foot in winter and one foot in summer, she will decide as she always does to side step firmly into the warm solid days of spring with her toes dipping into summer. And here in my house choices will be made, decisions embraced, and a direction discerned. But right now in the middle place, in the blustery spring where nothing is certain it takes all my will to contain my balance to stay as grounded as the flowering trees, rooted in the earth with blooms bursting and dancing on the breeze, the trees seem to revel in this in between place they are in no hurry to shake off their pink party dresses for the green gown of summer, I will try to do the same.

One Day

This is a drawing I did on my I pad of the picturesque cows sauntering through the Ranch back property.

“Til the Cows Come Home” drawn on my iPad

One day – a whole unit neatly marked by sunrise and sunset, by mockingbird and great horned owl.  One day to work and rest and play. One day to be who we need, want, hope to be. One day to bow and remember, acknowledge and honor. One day – One day – One day.

I was inspired this week by a poem I found (below) on a new app I found from the Poetry Foundation. You can load it on your smart phone or tablet and spin it like a slot machine at the casino, but without the smoke and shabby sense of shame, and instead of a row of cherries and coins you hit the jackpot every time with a poem to read!  Check it out, take a spin you might be inspired too

One Day -By Robert Creele

One day after another—


They all fit.

Home & Disappointment

quilted fabric wall hanging

quilted fabric wall hanging

Well this week has been a bit rough for my little family. My son Ivan, who is 16, applied this winter to the Untied World College.  The UWC, if you haven’t heard of it, is a two-year international program.  Students from all over the world are chosen to get a full scholarship to study together, collaborate together, live together all with the aim of creating world peace one person at a time. My son and 119 other kids in the USA were chosen out of 600 applicants for an interview. Of the 120 kids interviewed 50 were chosen.  We found out this week that our wonderful, generous, smart, delightful son was not chosen.  Of course all of us who know and love him from Bishop Marc of the Diocese of California to his loving grandparents and everyone in between thought Ivan was a shoe in.  But of course the other 119 kids who were interviewed had family and friend just as sure of their place in this wonderful international adventure.  And so my sweet son’s heart is a little broken and of course my heart is a little broken for him. I know in my intellectual self that rejection is not failure, and that trying is important. I also know that other doors will open and other adventures await; but this week none of that is available to the 16 year old heart. My heart was pinched as well to feel his hurt but also by a little note at the end of the rejection email.  The letter stated that there are a few spots left at the Wales campus (his first choice) for those who applied and who can pay $60,000.  Both he and I know that is not possible but a surge of guilt for this non-profit life my husband and I have chosen reared up and grabbed me by the throat.  We have lived a wonderful life at The Bishop’s Ranch in a beautiful place with wonderful people.  This has been a dream job for my gregarious, extroverted talented husband, a wonderful place for me to grow my art and my audience and of course a sweeping open place for our son to grow up.  But here we are at the launching place for him and we have very little in our bank account to show for it. The little devil on my shoulder is whispering in my ear that I have failed him, that in my own selfish pursuits of creative living I am keeping him from his dreams. That red-tailed whisperer reminds me that my own parents worked tirelessly at things they didn’t love to make sure my siblings and I could go to college and provide us with opportunities to flourish.  Of course I know what you are thinking my little angels out there, you and the white winged messenger on my other shoulder are whispering, “Lisa you have provided Ivan with a creative environment to live and grow and flourish and he will find his way”.  I know this to be true but still my throat is clenching and my eyes welling with tears as I listen to the dueling voices in my head.

The good news in all this (I guess this is selfish too) is  I get to have my son home for one more year while he completes his senior year of high school. I cannot open all the doors for him that I wish I could, and I know there are other disappointments ahead, but success and accomplishments await too. Through it all my husband and I will be his home, his comfy chair, his warm hug and always his biggest fans.  GO IVAN!

I worked on this quilted fabric chair piece this week at quilt retreat here at the Ranch.  I used self-made stencils to create the chair pattern for machine appliqué and for the painted details.  I’ll put this on my website soon.