Archive for the ‘secret suffering’ Category

moving on…

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Before I started to write this, I had to laugh because of how commonplace New Years blog postings have become. I have no interest in making a list, or boring anyone with future plans or last years regrets. But it was with interest that I read a dear friend’s recent post regarding consolidating his many sites and posts from various platforms, all of which he uses to the benefit and encouragement of  himself and others to lead a healthier lifestyle. He is an inspiration and has inspired others, including myself to greater health. His fight has been longer and harder in some respects, but where I see him now and where he has been to get there, I think we see differently. To me, he has moved on and arrived at his destination. To him, he is still ‘getting there’.

A number of years ago, I started a body of work that became , and still is, a long running commentary on living a creative life, observing life and trying to tell a three-dimensional story in collage form. It was an extreme break from traditional art as I had always done, and remains a mystery to most. Every time I try to go back to traditional art as I have done in the past, it’s like putting on ill fitting clothes. I keep making theses art pieces and they continue to teach me, excite me, and interest me … and I have no interest in defending them. I am just compelled to make them. Recently I had the pleasure of a studio visit by a dean and provost from a local university. To my delight and surprise, they got the work immediatly! Even posing the question as they observed some of the works in progress ; when did I know I was finished with a piece? I love that question, because the answer is so universal to bigger moments in life. The answer of course is, YOU JUST KNOW.

During a time in my life when I needed some heavy medication to carry on after a rough patch in life, I asked my shrink, when will I know to go off this stuff? He simply told me, ” YOU WILL KNOW.” As it turns out I knew and remember the very day even after all these years.

Which leads me back to my friend and my title, MOVING ON. The New Year always seems like a perfect time to start over, fresh, anew. But it’s just another day on the calendar of life to me. I see my friend as already having moved on with giant life accomplishments, but only he knows when his moment to stop and MOVE ON will be. Because , you just know…


” In the end, we all become stories.” Margaret Atwood



the spaces in between…

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Forty one years ago I took a cross-country trip from Buffalo , New York to as far as you could get  in the United States –  Hawaii.

It was not planned, possibly very foolish and most certainly under the category of youthful indiscretion at it’s very best. It was exactly what youth is for and all about. I regret nothing. The right trip at the right time with all the lessons I could squeeze out of it without dying in the process. I think we remember these moments better than trips in later years because there is nothing but new adventure ahead, no previous experience to draw on and more importantly, no expectations. Every day was a gift of wonder. National Parks and Forests, a Volkswagen bus, a geodesic dome,  a 30 foot catamaran and any friend who took us in took the place of a house. Life lessons happened on a daily basis. After a few months the country stopped and the ocean appeared. The mighty Pacific Ocean! I thought I would be thrilled. Awed. But we arrived at sunset and to this day my strongest memory of that long travel to end up at ocean’s edge was – loneliness. I felt small, vulnerable, and oh, so alone. Weird, right? I am still not sure why I was so overcome with that emotion, but I suspect it has to do with the space in between. In only a few short months, I had come to some big conclusions about my young life and made some very big realizations. The vast space in between the east coast and the west, the Atlantic and the Pacific, my searching and my finding, my needs and my wants, my past and my future.

It’s funny how we yearn for youth and avoid old age. What we lose in the physical body we gain in spades in our heads and hearts, and that’s the trade off…and I’m okay with that. Those decades of the learning curve of life were long and winding. Little went as planned and much more came from finally accepting. I want to tell those in their 30’s, 40’s  and 50’s that it gets easier in your head right around the time your body says, “this is wearing me out a bit.” To which I say, it’s supposed to. We are all warriors on the road to a final rest.

I love this photo I chose for the blog header. Here I am, some thirty odd years after my first sad encounter with the Pacific Ocean with a very different outlook on it to be sure. And that’s what happens in the spaces in between – we find some joy and peace on the way.

chasing life …

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After I survived my formal education, I went on to many years of art school in the form of a BFA and an MA. What I learned from my art school years, was that ART was a verb, not a NOUN. It is something that runs like a thread through your life – sometimes a tangled mess, sometimes beautifully woven into something that helps you articulate what words could not express.

I have chased life through my art for enough years now to know better than to rush through the time needed to process an idea. In fact, I find myself doing far more processing of late than art. I found this disturbing initially. Ideas and images would come and go as inspiration for a new body of work. An idea would blossom and fade overnight. Even more fleeting was the actual need to physically stand in front of my easel and paint. I found myself going through the motions of creating an entire work in my head. I would visualize standing in front of the completed piece and be quite pleased with the result. All this …in my head. For a while now I have had no inclination to go beyond that satisfaction and have been secretly hiding my ‘painting -in-my-head’ world.

I finally shared my ‘secret’ recently with a close friend who never judges or finds my ramblings in life odd or out of character. Her calm acceptance of my explanation gave me a grateful sense of relief. Then, almost as confirmation, I came across a passage from a marvelous book entitled, Miss O’Keefe, by Christine Taylor Patton and Alvaro Cardona-Hine. The book is a memoir that covers the last years of Georgia O’Keefe’s life through the eyes of her artist/nurse. Here are a few of my favorite passages from this beautiful book.


 … When people asked her did she miss painting, she’d tell them, “Well what makes you think that I am not painting anymore?” She told them she painted in her head, that she could still see the colors inside her head.

“… Art has nothing to do with paintbrushes or ink or graphite or any of the materials that are used to create it; those are just used in an attempt to make the transition from the spiritual to the physical and back again. The magic that is sometimes present in what we call art has nothing to do with those materials. It may have to do with passage, with something made visible by one human being to another.

” We do art a great disservice by having to reduce art to a material plane, to painting, drawing, or sculpture “           


Art has become that thread , invisible or not, that runs through my life. It is in everything I think and do. It is sometimes tangible and other times, like a song in my head for no one to hear or see save myself. And now that I have stopped judging myself over a certain tangible productivity, I get on with following that thread.

when life gives you peaches…

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It’s the end of summer and I can already feel it in the morning air. Mostly I sense it in my head. The change of seasons tends to throw me off my usually steady countenance. Pretending it doesn’t just makes it worse for me as I look for ways to avoid the rocky , unsteady way it makes me feel.

I stared at this lovely, perfect peach for 2 days now waiting for it to hit that point where when I walk past it, the smell becomes  so heady, that I knew today was the day. I will eat this peach today and celebrate the end of the summer season and the coming of the next one. The change of seasons seem to affect me differently than other people, and I’m not sure why. They are like ‘little deaths’. I know that sounds strange and sort of dark, but perhaps that is why I like a climate where it feels like a never ending summer.

Time creeps on us all, and while we wait for the calendar pages to go by, always waiting for the next thing, we should not let those magic moments slip by too fast. Those moments when you can smell the peach in it’s perfect ripeness, and look forward to nothing else for the entire day, wherein you finally get to eat it. In another moment there will be only a pit, and I just might have to shed a tear of joy for how wonderful it was, and then one more for the fact that just like summer…it’s gone.



momma told me…there would be days like this

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We all have them. I had a string of a few in a row. Nothing bad happened, yet I was feeling bad. Crying bad. Could not ignore it and could not get out of the way of it. Felt profoundly bad about the world and all it’s ills and evils. Bad about how it just repeats itself over and over, year after year, generation after generation, civilization after civilization as they rise and fall. We think we learn from history, but it seems of late… all evidence to the contrary.

My usual diversions were not working. Music, magazines, even hiking. I started cleaning closets and getting rid of things, which usually makes me downright giddy. That was productive, but I still remained in a deep blue funk. As it happened, I began to follow closely the rather troubling posts of a sweet , struggling, young woman from my past. We are generations apart, but some of her painful posts and fall downs struck a note in me. I have learned that there is really very little we can do for anyone that they must in the end do for themselves. But there is something about knowing that someone, somewhere, believes in you and can see far enough down the road of experience that …this too shall pass and better days are there for you .  I spent the day thinking about how to encourage her on and at least be mindfully present of her struggle.  I sent photos, quotes, and words of encouragement until I felt I was possibly being annoying. But today I see from her posts that the tide has turned. She turned it herself , as it should be and she has a plan. It’s a good plan. One that involves a cleaner body and mind. A direction that moves on past some miles of rough road and a hurting heart.

What have I learned? I have not learned anything new, but had to be reminded again, that doing something for someone else takes us out of our self absorbed mind. I have no control over the evils of the world, but I can make one person’s life a little happier, and in doing so, made mine better. I feel much better now and it was so easy. We always make things so hard.


knowing when to stop…

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It‘s hard to know when to stop.

There is a movement afoot to lighten our loads. I think we are beginning to be overwhelmed by the burden of our possessions. It’s natural for this to happen when you get older , as with my generation, but I think the young are seeing it too. It’s evidenced in the ‘tiny house’ movement, the move to apartment living instead of home ownership, and the ever growing recycling movement. Recycle, reuse, repurpose.

It’s hard to know when to stop.

Supersze. Big Gulps. Big Macs. Double stuff. Double toppings. Tall, Grande, Venti, Trenta!


It’s hard to know when to stop.

I make art. Lots of us do. It stacks up. Some of it sells, some of it doesn’t. When it doesn’t, it stacks up. How do you stop doing something you are compelled to do? Do you put yourself on an art diet, like you would with food. Simply stop creating certain things that add to your stockpile? Do you limit yourself , like with a tiny house, to making only small works? It’s a quandary for the creative soul.

It’s hard to know when to stop. 

If ancient sailors had not set sails, the world would still be flat.

If Van Gogh had stopped painting, there would be no Starry Night.

If the wheel had not been invented there would be no modern transportation.

If Bob Dylan had stayed acoustic there would  be no Subterranian Homesick Blues.


It’s hard to know when to stop.

There’s no easy answer for those driven to create. I don’t have one yet for myself anyway. Like a junkie, I often wish I could just stop. Lay it down and watch life go by. I even tried it once. It only lasted for a few years, and then it came back in spades, like the floodgates of creative hell. I have learned to pace myself a bit more, but that is mostly a function of  maturity and experience.

It’s hard to know when to stop.

I await a sign. If I went blind, would I sculpt from memory? If I lost my dexterity to arthritis would I fight through the pain and carry on?

If I lost my joy of life, would the creative spark die with it? I have no answers … I guess I will find out in time, because for’s hard to know when to stop. 







his voice…

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Does this happen to anyone else, or is it just me ? When Father’s Day comes around, even though my dear father is no longer with us, I will peruse the Father’s Day cards thinking about him, missing him and contemplating which one I would have given him. Is it just me?

My dad was an A1 father. But of all the things I miss about him, I long to hear the sound of his voice again. Or to hear him laughing. I am certainly not alone in this, knowing other’s miss those familiar sounds of loved ones gone. Still I find myself feeling cheated out of what technology now makes available to us. Instant videos, Skyping, recorded messages and all things that were not available so readily or instantaneously like they are today. I only have him frozen in so many photographs from black and white to color… a few silent home videos from the 50’s, but they are all as quiet as the night.

Now I watch my son with his daughter and remember the brief time my dad had with him, never getting to see him grown, or meet his little girl. Flashes of my childhood came back to me a few years ago when I watched in wonder as my now grown son played with his daughter on the cellar doors at my sister’s house. We used to slide down the cellar doors as a child and I almost broke out in tears as I watched my son and his daughter enjoying this old game together. The generations rolled back even further as I recalled my grandmother singing this song to me when I must have been my granddaughter’s age:







Happy Father’s Day all you lucky people who still have the hugs, smiles, and voices of your dad’s to enjoy. They live on because we remember them with love. I see him in my son and am reminded – TO END IS TO BEGIN

your dragons…

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BEYOND HERE THERE ARE DRAGONS!                                                                                  


This is what old map makers would write at the edges of maps when new worlds were yet to be discovered. When they still worried that sailing beyond known boundaries might have them falling off the edges of the known world. The fear of the unknown was fearsome dragons … proceed at your own peril. Or for the few who could not resist the call of adventure, proceed at your own risk and wonder.

It’s like that with art. You can give yourself a million reasons to quit. I don’t have a gallery. I don’t have a studio. I haven’t sold anything in years. I can’t make a living on it. That guys work is so much better. I’ll never be famous. The excuse list goes on and on.

You quit because you have convinced yourself you are already doomed to failure.

Beyond here are dragons! I will stay in the known, safe world. The world that has already been charted and mapped out – by others.

Making art is much about repetition. The repetition of starting over, again and again. Idea, after idea. Voyage after voyage into the unknown of a blank canvas. An empty sheet of music. An expanse of dance floor. How do you tell your story over and over again, each time with fresh eyes and something new to say? It’s daunting, like peering at the the edge of a horizon, the edge of the map, the boundaries of what is known into that which is yours to discovery.


…” for most art, there is no client, and in making it you lay bare a truth you perhaps never anticipated; that by your very contact with what you love, you have exposed yourself to the world.”  ( from ART & FEAR )

Art has been my life’s education. It has shown me my shortcomings & failures as well as my victories and successes. It’s never deserted me as long as I was willing to go to the edge of the map looking for dragons. And so it is with life. Whether you are living the life of an artist or not, we have to slay our own dragons. Become a mapmaker for your life and go beyond where the dragons are. You will learn far more about yourself than you ever could have imagined.



Teach your children well…

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There was a time in my corporate career when I traveled extensively, both here and abroad. I suppose it was primarily why I endured the commercial art world as long as I did. Plus, it was a great paycheck and I was more than happy to be employed at least in an arts related field. I learned so much about how much I did not know, as well as how much I did not particularly want to know. As they say, it’s all good. I put in my time and have no regrets.
Back to travel and the here and now. My son, his wife and my granddaughter recently moved to Ecuador where they are in the process of immigrating. So I fired up my traveling engines and found a good deal to go see what their new life was going to entail. Like I said, I have traveled extensively, so I’m not particularly scared of international travel, but there is no denying the fact that travel has become a bit of a drag. And I’m not nervous about traveling alone, as that was my previous experience, and I decided long ago that I would travel as often and as much as I could till health or finances dictated otherwise.
Ecuador has a growing expat community of a combination of retirees from many countries looking to stretch their retirement income out and young people who are floating around the globe looking for experience and adventure. The vibe is so reminiscent of what we were doing in the 60’s. Living off the land. Heath food. Living simply. The contrast between the two types of newcomers in Ecuador is worth noting. You have the idealism of youth and the retired baby boomers taking advantage of their years of working and knowledge of how to keep the party going where it is affordable and simple. The young people consider us sell outs to our 60’s values. They can hold that view because they have not been through their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s yet and traveled the roads we have been on. Life is challenging, and meant to be so I believe. Decades of life can wear away at idealistic thinking and beliefs. The world is very, very black and white when we are young. Right and wrong seem clear. Experience, age, and life has a way of putting a thousand shades of grey (as well as some beautiful colors) in between as we march towards later years. I would have gladly taken off on their adventure given the opportunity, and in fact almost did once. Our family almost moved to Haiti had not Baby Doc become deposed leaving the country unsafe for travel. So I am in no position to challenge, criticize or impede their dream.
I often relate one of my pieces of art work from this body of work specifically to what I am blogging about, but as it turns out, almost every piece relates to this. But if I had to choose only one, it must be BUFFALO SUN. Because there is a little pioneer in all of us. We need to give ourselves time and space to play, and space in which the unpredictable can happen. And to reference others; they are expanding their world through travel, finding their happy place, determining what they are willing to give up, seeing the wonder around them, embracing the horror, and in the end…looking for what we all have in common.
Still, I miss them horribly. I regret being at such a distance to not be a fixture in my granddaughter’s life . But in the end, I admire and respect the adventure, after all, I was the role model.


picking favorites…

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An old friend asked me this morning,

“Of all the places you have ever lived, regardless of who you were living with or what was going on in your life, which is your favorite?”

I have lived in many places. Some for years at a stretch, some for shorter periods and have to say there are things I liked and disliked about all of them. I have discovered in all my ramblings that there is no perfect place, but there is what I call, your ‘happy’ place. And there may even be more than one.

I loved Kansas City, where I went to art school and made some of my longest lasting frienships. It was a city filled with art and culture  and a place I grew into adulthood.

I loved Vermont. There is no where on earth more beautiful than fall in the Green Mountain state.

I loved Utah, and it’s rugged beauty.

I loved Colorado and it’s  magnificent mountains and scenery.

I loved New Mexico, and always will. I rejoice when I am there, and cry every time I leave.

I loved New York – NYC – there is no city in the world more exciting.

And I love Texas … as they say …. I wasn’t born here, but I got here as fast as I could


But if a place has winter, I can’t last very long.

Winters with ice and snow that last for 6 months. It’s my lifelong burden … my abhorrence of winter. It started the first time I ever went to Florida during the wintertime in Buffalo , N.Y. I knew there was only one way out of winter, and that was to physically move away from it.

For years I lived where either school, jobs, or fate blew me. Most of those places, by life’s cruel hand were serious winter havens. Places like Colorado Springs, Colorado. Burlington, Vermont. Providence, Utah. Taos, New Mexico. Buffalo, New York. Hamden, Connecticut. Many of these places you will recognize as a skier’s dream. Not for me. I’d rather chew on aluminum foil than go skiing. So it was a shame to waste those long winters in those otherwise lovely places.

Winter and fleeing winter has been my lifelong challenge. I like to think that my discovery of Texas was meant to be, because it came along at  a time in my life when I least expected to move, or to find a partner in life again … and suddenly along came both.

Where you start out in life, may not be where you end up, so it’s wise to stay open to other places and what they have to offer and teach you. I have learned and loved things about all the places I’ve lived.  We are driven to find that ‘HAPPY PLACE”. 

   That place that says to your heart, “I was meant to be here.”

(featured image, canvas collage – HILL COUNTRY HOMAGE, by Catherine Massaro)