I am very excited about showing my mandalas this month at Unity of Olympia. Last weekend a whole group of friends hung over 100 mandalas in the sanctuary and foyer. It is amazing to think that since I began my journey, being diagnosed with a neurological disease called Multiple Systems Atrophy, I have filled 19 journals with writing and drawings and drawn over 800 mandalas.
I started when I was told I did not have long to live. Between 8-10 years is average, but I have never considered myself average. I am expecting an extraordinary outcome. When I would start a new journal I would draw the first page and the last page because I figured if I did die mid journal I wanted my last page to be filled with love and joy.
My drawing could not be contained in a journal, so I began using watercolor paper. My preference is 300lb cold press, but to afford that in the amounts I was using became expensive, so I experimented on different weight papers in both hot and cold press. I had never used hot pressed, snubbing the perfectly smooth paper for the bumpy rough paper that absorbed the color in such fascinating ways, but I am leaning toward hot press right now.
I have tried every permanent ink pen I could find and have settled upon an old set of Rapid-o-graph pens I have had for years. Metal tip, refillable and the promise of a smooth deep flow of black ink that really does it for me.
The introduction of color is new for me. I had turned away from color after discovering Sumi-e ink and brush, and for many years only painted in black and white, but after being diagnosed with this wacky brain dis-ease, color calls to me. I had to find some way of painting that was not going to include containers of water because I spend a majority of my time now in bed. So I have settled on Tombow watercolor pens.
I paint every day. I know that painting these mandalas are healing my brain. The misfit proteins are beginning to unfold from their errant origami shapes, to return to their original template to act as a key in a lock, to be able to pass through those important neurons that control really important details of life like remembering to breathe and the beat my heart. It appears that once the connection is lost it is lost. So far it has only disconnected from things I can work around, adding an occasional tube here or there and taking medications to try and help certain symptoms.
Actually it is ice water, mandalas and my family’s love that help the most. Plus, I am a Religious Scientist, not Scientology or Christian Science, which is why the organization changed its name to Centers for Spiritual Living. A vague name, but you know something is off if you have to spend the first 5 minutes explaining what you are not. It is a New Though Organization, think Oprah, or change your thinking, change your life.
It is because of my belief that we can heal and create that I say I was diagnosed with instead I have MSA. In no way do I claim this disease. I do claim the color as it absorbed in to the paper, the repetitive patterns and circles that fly out of my hand like some kind of message I am receiving from Spirit. Sometimes I feel I am catching the prayers that are being said and capturing them on the paper.
When I was diagnosed the doctor said to arrange for Social Security Disability, make an initial contact with hospice and asked if I would donate my brain. That was three years ago. I had my first symptoms of MSA 13 years ago, that is beyond the expiration date for this disease, which causes doctors to reassess the diagnosis. I would expect them to ask what my secret was. A special vitamin? A trip to John of God? But no, only a perplexed look and then they something like, well, maybe it is Complete Autonomic Failure, which actually sounds a lot worse than MSA, but does come with some additional time, but not much. And revisiting what to name what is happening to me it does not change the fact that I am now in a wheelchair. It is pink so that is good, but it is still a wheelchair.
When I cannot sleep I paint. It is almost dark in the room and these paintings are done to slow my mind. I left the Catholic Church went I was a teen, but old rituals die hard and my Mother did say that once you are a Catholic it is burned into your soul. I take my pen and make the first circle and mark the four directions; in the name of the Father, the Son and Holy Ghost. I begin following the design that seems to appear before my pen. I can’t really claim these dark mandalas as mine, I am always surprised to see what has transpired during the night, some heavy and brooding, other flowery and light. Occasionally a pen has rolled into the covers, releasing its color into the sheets and onto me. I find splotches of color in random places on my body like I am finally turning into a mandala myself.
I started this post to invite you to see some of my work next Friday evening. The mandalas are very different in person, a photo cannot capture the energy that seems to make them expand and contract. The other thing I want to say is this is the first time my mandalas are for sale, and if you can’t make it Friday, you can buy them on my website. Each one is so different my suggestion is to tell me what colors you like and let me chose for you.
Please let me know if you are reading my posts, my stats reflect lots of traffic but no one leaves a message. Too startling? Boring? Poor sentence structure?
The mandalas are up all of June and Unity is open each afternoon for viewing so stop by and check them out.
In grace and ease,
I want a teddy bear. I asked for one for my Birthday last month but no bear arrived. I think it is because of my specific request regarding a teddy bear that is keeping it from coming to me. I am a one teddy woman. I found my first teddy on a high shelf at the Rexall Drug store in Lakewood. When my mom got it down for me to see I hugged him and knew he was my bear. Just the right size so his head rested over my shoulder. A firm, almost weighted, butt that I could cup close to me. He was dark honey brown. His fur was not really long and fluffy, or too short and stiff. He had floppy arms and legs, no fancy articulation for my bear. He had a real bear expression with kind eyes that seemed to be able to look right into the heart of my little 4-year-old self. He was a bear of substance and worth.
Tim arrived that Christmas and I never let him go. I slept with him, told him all my secrets, he was the perfect companion. When I was older I went to summer camp. No stuffed animals were allowed at camp. So my Mom sewed Tim inside a pillowcase and he became a very suspicious looking bumpy pillow. I had Tim on my bed until we moved from our farm about 13 years ago.
We had sold the farm, found a new condo closer to town and Chuck and I had pretty much gone through everything in the barn and house before I began having severe abdominal pain and ended up having surgery and a long hospitalization. The date for the move were already set, the house sold and our friends and family all came to the rescue and helped Chuck pack up the rest of our stuff and move into the condo. In some box, somewhere was Tim. I am still looking for him, thinking that certain box is still safely packed and he will return.
I keep thinking I could buy a bear that was like Tim, many have come close, but I have not found him yet.
Did I say this blog post was about finding a bear? I meant to say my little brother died. My little brother who had recently married and adopted his wife’s three grandchildren, walked into the woods and put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger. The reasons are dark and deep, secrets that could no longer be kept, darkness that he somehow kept buried inside until it became too much.
He was the kind of man who always carried his gun and believed in his right to do so. So that gun was right there with him in his time of overwhelming emotional pain, so easy to reach down and have a solution right there, so final.
I continue on with my own disease which will eventually end my life. Living each day to the fullest, I have no concept of what it would be like to want to end it. I also do not know the depth of my brother’s pain and my story is very different than his. But I do understand how precious life is and what demons he was dealing with that caused him to leave in this way.
He loved his family, rescued horses, loved trail riding and jeeps. He was a big bear of a man, a quiet guy with sparkly eyes that seemed to look right into your heart.
It is after midnight and I just woke up my dear husband to go out to the kitchen and bring me some rice pudding. In grief we all search for something to fill the giant hole that cannot be filled. So tonight I am looking for my lost bear and eating pudding. If I allow myself to dig a bit deeper, I realize I am looking for my lost brother too. My bear of a brother, a man of substance and worth is gone.
Welcome to my blog. Here I will write about all things Cathy.