Sunday, July 31, 2011

Elizabeth Alexander's "Praise Song for the Day"

Each day we go about our business,
walking past each other, catching each other's
eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.

All about us is noise. All about us is
noise and bramble, thorn and din, each
one of our ancestors on our tongues.

Someone is stitching up a hem, darning
a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,
repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere,
with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum,
with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky.
A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin.

We encounter each other in words, words
spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,
words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark
the will of some one and then others, who said
I need to see what's on the other side.

I know there's something better down the road.
We need to find a place where we are safe.
We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain: that many have died for this day.
Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,
who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges,

picked the cotton and the lettuce, built
brick by brick the glittering edifices
they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.
Praise song for every hand-lettered sign,
the figuring-it-out at kitchen tables.

Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,
others by first do no harm or take no more
than you need. What if the mightiest word is love?

Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to pre-empt grievance.

In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,

praise song for walking forward in that light.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

What was old is new again!

Happily I am back to work in the studio working on commission paintings. Specifically a horse picture for a young lady that is long overdue. Soon I'll be making the phone call to tell her father that it is ready.

Also on the docket is Detroit Artist Market's Small(er) Show that I have a few pieces in. I encourage you to go to the opening reception Friday, 5 August 2011 from 6-9pm. The entire group show is work under 8x8 inches and under $250. Should be interesting! The show runs through the month of August.

In addition I have a list of my own making that seems to get longer all the time.  I'm glad of that as there seems no shortage of ideas to explore. Although, while I feel that there is much to make I often wish I could have the freedom of travel to be able to collect images that inspire me from other places. It is sometimes hard to create in a vacuum. Moving about helps trigger my mind to ideas. This restlessness proves that I'm getting better.

The farther I get from the last doses of toxic chemo (15 June) the better I feel. My eyes have returned to normal. My finger tips are still problematic but ever so slowly growing healthy nails. My taste and appetite have returned with gusto. My physical strength is still in need of improvement so my studio time is limited to 3-4 hours/day. Yet in that time I'm happily spinning my own visual yarns. Now, if I only had a story for some of this folly! Well, then again the finished artwork will probably tell me what the story is! At least I hope so!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

the eyes have it

Here are those hot summer days that have us all drenched in sweat and complaining.  It's good to be alive if we're complaining!  I'm happy to report that my eyes are well enough for me to drive . . . freedom! Yipee!  My fingers on the other hand are still looking ghoolish and horrid but at least they aren't any worse. It will take a long time for new nails to grow.  I can see evidence of it which gives me hope!

My strength is returning as well, although I'm still only in the studio a few hours a day.  I'm so happy to be working, facing a canvas trying to solve colour and composition problems.  It sends me into the best kind of cathartic craziness of what to do next with paint and brush!

The new blocks I've been making with painted textures and line work from my scribbles I now want to make in larger versions as well.  There seems to be a stream of ideas now that I've got a bit of my legs back under me!

But in looking around and in listening to others advice and stories I'm shocked to find out that there is a corallation between paint and cancer.  Most noteably for contract painters there seems to be a higher risk of contracting colon, prostate and other types of cancer.  I had no idea that the painting profession held such a statistic.  A friend told me this news and wondered, rightly so, why there weren't large signs of warning in the paint shops to make everyone aware of the danger.  Two of her associates that worked as paint contractors have passed within a year of being diagnosed.  They had worked in my house just last spring!

Perhaps we've been perceiving all the dangers of posions for our bodies in modern life in the abstract and not in the day to day reality of our working life.  Just as I was told that I was a candidate for ovarian cancer because I was a childless woman.  Who knew? 

Most of the contract painters I know would probably dismiss this news as piffel as the modern paint products do boast low VOC's (volitle organic chemicals), but still it is worth keeping in mind that whether we like it or not there is some poison risk when working with things not nature made!  Before my diagnosis I'd be the first one to have said that being careful was "nonsense"! 

Well, even with this new knowledge, I'm just as stubborn as my paint contractor brethren.  I'm going to keep painting!

Saturday, July 16, 2011


While I may not be ready to do handsprings and cartwheels off ladders with a paintbrush handle gripped between my teeth I do have help!  The most amazing, wonderful help anyone could ever have.  Throughout these long months of existence while on chemo I have been priviledged to have the love of my husband and girlfriends that have helped me beyond measure.  As I regain my physical strength, I am fortunate to have wonderful women paint associates that can help me with commissioned painting projects.  For this I'm truly grateful.   Our combined abilities enable all of us to share in work and fun as well.

  The idea of how much I'm helped occured to me this morning while putting on a belt.  The simple help of a belt to hold up your trousers.  I never wore a belt much.  I used to wear my work jeans at the waist or sliding down my hips until they became so paint encrusted they could almost walk on their own.  Wearing a belt now that I've lost weight helps me and makes me feel a bit androgenous too. Come to think of it now that I don't have any of my female bits I feel somewhat androgenous.  Not that I ever was a girly, girl or a tomboy, but it feels liberating to not be held captive to the moon cycle anymore.  I feel more like that child that could pretend to be a boy pirate with a wooden sword stuck in my belt making some scalliwag walk an imaginary plank.  And I know my band of merry cohorts will have my back and help me sieze the day!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Early on I had made a prediction that after the initial months of chemo I would be hale and hearty by July.  Well, July is here and I must eat my words.  Partly due to unforseen issues that came up with my eyes and fingers and partly from my overzealous nature to be back to a strong version of myself.  I'm not ready to go out into the world and paint.  I fooled myself a bit.  I'm getting better but I'm not able-bodied yet!  I'm felled by a side effect from the eye meds that tank my blood pressure, making me weak.  This too shall pass once I'm off the diuretic for the eyes.  My eyes are better, but I wait for the day when I won't take anything, then my body will know how to mend itself.  That's the magic of being alive.
   In the meantime I plot and plan my world of artistic folly in scribbles and mucky paint from perches conveniently placed about the house!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Detroit Artist Market Small(er) Show

Some of my new paintings on 6"x6" tile blocks will be featured at The Detroit Artist Market Small(er) Show is opening 5 August and running through 27 August 2011.  Opening reception 6-9p Friday, 5 August 2011.  Come see "wee" artwork for affordable prices!
   Contact DAM at 313.832.8540

Friday, July 8, 2011

artful resting

  I still must type everything large sized because my eyes are still hazed by the side effects of chemo.  Its becoming a powerful nuisance after weeks and weeks, taking tablet after tablet.  sigh!  I just keep telling myself, that "this too shall pass!"  It's just being damn slow about going!

  This past week my mister and I got to spend a few days at a lovely home in Toronto's historic area.  As my mobility was limited we didn't set our sights on doing much more than a wee bit of exploring and eating well.  That was the best part, splurging on the most amasing food.  And there was lots of it to be found in the smallest of places.  You needn't go to some grand place to find good food.  I'm happy to say that we ate food that will remain in our memories.  It certainly helped take the sting out of my limited capacity.  Even a blind man can appreciate the smell and taste of delictable nums!

   Before we left for our "mini break" a shop in Northville, "Starring, the gallery" held a soiree for it's "First Friday" series featuring my artwork.  There was a great turnout and I'm pleased that some of my new work sold well.  It was very encouraging for me to carry on!

   Also, before we left for holiday I finished one new painting.  A graphic piece taken directly from a scribble out of my sketchbook.  It's called, "Ladder".

   Now, back at home I'm ready to start the next portion of chemo.  I won't be getting the nasty drugs that I have been getting but the "study" drug that everyone seems to be raving about, Avastin.  I will be getting this drug administered in my port every 3 weeks for 15 times.  I'm told that it has no discernable side effects.  I hope so.  Hope is always my word of choice!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Without Complaint?

 How to tell you about the past few days without complaining is a bit difficult. I hate complaining as it doesn't really serve a purpose, but I do admit that getting vexing situations off one's chest does feel better and usually satisfies frustration enough that "you get over it and get on with it!"

In this particular saga, the ongoing riddle of why my eyes are hazy, making it hard to see, and why my fingertips are bulbus with yellow lifting nails, swollen and sore, their are answers needed. The most obvious answer why is that all of this is a side effect of the chemotherapy drugs. In my case these drugs lodged in the retina of both my eyes and in my fingertips. Sometimes I think that if I were equipped with a spigot I could turn, I could siphon off the toxins like dispensing a beverage from a giant urn from the firehall "all you can eat" breakfast!

At first I was told that the bulbousness of my fingertips called, "clubbing" would be permanent. The next day a different specialist told me that it was reversible over time. You can imagine which one I chose to believe. And how angry I was that I wasn't told that this could be a possibility as a side effect from cancer treatments!

In the cancer rhetoric it is always mentioned that the patient is on a "journey". This is no journey but, at least for this week a roller coater ride of mis-information, speculation and medical staff that spends most of their time putting out fires. Alot of the time because there are so many cancer patients. My complaint is that no one tells you the possible side effects because, as they say, "everyone goes through it differently". Yet there are commonalities. Most of the helpful information I have received came from anecdotal tales from woman going through cancer treatments. Their advise was much more soothly to help me know what do do on my own. Simple things too that took the fear out of the unknown. Most woman I know can cope with anything if they know the choices. They can then own the information and make it work for them instead of being in the mysterious darkness of the fear of illness and death. We aren't going to die. We are going to live until we die. There's a huge difference. Don't define my life by the label of cancer, define me by my orneriness, my lust for life and my art!