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Archive for the ‘My Thoughts On This & That’ Category

Packing up my ENCULTURATED WHITE MAN/You Are On Indian Land exhibit into a 26 foot U-Haul over the past winter gave me flashbacks to the last time I worked that hard loading all my “stuff” into a 26 foot U-Haul. The last U-Haul event was with my husband at the time, so many years ago. We were moving from Algoma, Wisconsin to Magdalena, New Mexico. New Mexico was our dream as artists but it was going to take a bit of fortitude and determination. Following is a recall of making that dream happen.

Tamara Ann Burgh

SUNDAY — 4:00 pm, June 21, 1996

GRUELLING (gru’el-ling) — a 26′ U-Haul packed with 100 tons of stuff, two cats, towing a car trailer and two artists across 4 1/2 states totaling some 1700 miles

After three and a half days of squirreling most everything intended into a too small great big yellow truck, my husband, Douglas, and I are ready to say good-bye to Algoma almost 12 hours later than planned. Three very hard weeks of packing, finishing sculpting jobs, sorting, a giant garage sale, trashing, “on second thought I need that” untrusting and cleaning has exhausted us. We are looking forward to simply sitting, sightseeing, and steering for four days or 1500 miles, whichever came first. Silly us.

The night before our ETL, in our empty home, we watch the tail end of the Olympic opening ceremonies. Lyrics to one of the songs by Gloria Estephan, “… when you think you can’t do it, you do!” proves, at least to me, inspiring over the next few days.

26 feet of truck and another 20 or so feet of trailer, we fear the turns. After finally leaving Algoma and saying a not so tearful good-bye to the midwest, we count only six turns across and down five and half states to our home in Magdalena, New Mexico. Silly us. A few short miles down the road we double-check the trailer where the cats are in the car set up with beds, food, water and a cat box. I envy them. The trailer is okay and although the cats look stunned, we expect them to be just fine. Silly us.

Eleven miles down the road, in Casco, the truck’s Service Park Break light comes on and stays on for the next 300 miles despite attempts to turn it off.

SUNDAY — 8:00 pm

We stop south of Madison, WI at a rest stop for a picnic and check again on the car passengers where we find the normally adversarial cats hovered together IN the cat box. Annie still likes us and comes out at our beckoning. Grits, her stress level affecting her judgement, pees missing the box and draining over the edge onto the carpet floor.Tummies full and rested I take charge behind the wheel with fear and trembling. At 35 MPH Douglas says to me, innocuously as possible, “You can go faster if you want to.”

SUNDAY — Midnight

For several hours I have been tested with road construction, fatigue, narrow passages lined with concrete blocks or ravines, uneven lanes, dust clouds, sudden stops, rough roads and tolls. While I drove Douglas intends to sleep but can’t with my constant declarations of “Oh, shit!”. Time to look for a hotel.

“Don’t pull in until you know you can get out. There’s no backing up.” “Nonsense,” I think pulling up to the motel parking lot, “Every motel has a turn around.” I drive all 46 feet of us into a lot with, unbelievably, no turn around.

“I can back up!,” I boast sleepily. “What’s the big deal!” It becomes a big deal for the awkward pivotal point gives the car trailer a mind of its own. Back and forth, back and forth, maneuvering yards of axles inch by inch the rumbling of our diesel engine waking every patron in the place. The motel owner moves his car — courtesy or fear of me flattening it like a pancake? 45 minutes later and we are finally out of there. They didn’t accept pets anyway.

MONDAY — 1:00 am, June 22, 1996

We find a truck stop with plenty of turn around and tolerance for pets. We park next to the big guys to catch a few Z’s.

Can’t sleep so we check the manual under “Service Park Break”. It is STRONGLY suggested the operator take heed as the break could suddenly engage while in motion. Great! 200 tons of stuff suddenly catapulted over our heads.

MONDAY — 2:00 am

We call 1-800-GO U-HAUL and within 20 minutes a mechanic smelling of gas and grease arrives but the “Service Park Break” light fails to show up.

“It was on! 500 miles! We swear!”

He has a crazed look about him and I wonder if he would look that way at a decent hour and a lit “Service Park Break” warning light. He goes home and we rookies decide to have breakfast with the veteran truckers albeit it’s still the middle of the night.

Revived on full stomachs, a gallon of caffeine and peace of mind with a darkened warning light we drive into and through the dawn.

It’s a dogged day through Ioway needing to stop often at rest stops which become stay overs tending to cats as well as ourselves. Thinking the cats would welcome fresh air and exercise, they claw at our backs while we struggle to leash them then run after as they make a beeline to the farthest bush lined edges. They are terrorized by cars, trucks, noise, people, dogs, crickets, daylight, falling leaves . . . It’s no wonder I have never in my life seen a cat at a rest stop. Most cat owners know better.

At an average speed of 45 MPH, hilly terrain and frequent stops it takes an eternity to cross Iowa. The day warms up and cats are brought into the air-conditioned cab along with their pillows, blankets, food and water. The passenger must sit with feet in the litter box.

MONDAY — 5:00 pm

The four of us are exhausted. Cat Grits can’t stand from thirst and fatigue. Maybe too many “it will do you good” walks. She is pissed and won’t drink or eat. We take an exit promising lodging outside Council Bluffs.

The exit takes us down a steep hill we know must be laboriously scaled again in the morning as we haul back up 300 tons of stuff. We suddenly find ourselves on a busy rush hour business district with no promised motel in site and only a small grocery lot large enough to turn in to escape the traffic madness. In extreme stress, much like Grits the cat, we imagine having to wait until late evening and an empty lot.

“Just when you think you can’t, you can  . . . ”

Douglas maneuvered truck and trailer around cars and agitated people finally exiting a busy entry while I stood in the middle of the street holding back traffic. I see lips mumble profanities. “Hey,” I want to yell, “You’re not hauling your house in the trunk!”

We chug our 400 tons of stuff back up the hill. Having, by now, long overshot our six turn maximum, we are getting hardly anywhere agonizingly slow. Our new mantra: “We will stop ONLY if the hotel AND its lot are visible from the highway.” Good luck with that.

A few miles later the Rath Hotel accommodates us with few patrons and enough asphalt to bury Council Bluffs. We re-Christen it The Wrath of God Hotel. The cats couldn’t be more pleased thinking we are finally “there”. No, it’s just Omaha.

A Ma & Pa car repair/restaurant/”antique” shop sits across the street. We have a North Platte potato casserole for a meal and, silly us, buy an unusual pair of S&P shakers for only $3 to add to our 500 tons of stuff.

TUESDAY — 11:00 am, June 23, 1996

After 12 hours of uninterrupted sleep, we board the huge yellow truck on day five of our allotted eight. And it’s just Omaha. “The Long Long Trailer” movie with Desi and Lucy comes to mind. We assure ourselves the good roads of flat Nebraska will help our time. We do, indeed, increase our speed average to a blinding 60 MPH. The roads are relatively smooth and the cats are finally able to rest without their little heads shaking like the dashboard bobbing head madonna. The trailer echoes every bounce jarring us in turn, thus, we feel every bump twice. The cat, Annie, whose life, till now, needed us only to keep her box clean, food available and door open upon request; hugs my lap with her head in my hand attempting to keep her brains from rattling loose and falling into her neck. Grits wedges her head between blanket and seat with her feet pushed against Douglas’ side. “Aw, she loves me,” he says. “No,” I think letting him believe his sentimental notion. “She’s tying to stay the hell on the seat.

We drove into a pounding thunderstorm with strong winds but we avoided stopping in Nebraska until absolutely necessary. It became absolutely necessary. At a rest stop, in the rain, I shoved cats aside and pushed through pillows and blankets and stepped over the still dry cat box to run to the restroom to find the women’s side closed. I reached deep into my memory bank to my assertiveness training classes in Algoma and found the muster to use the men’s side. We are off with everyone repositioned in the truck in less than five minutes.

The only other Nebraska moment is a jammed door lock we fix with a Swiss army knife. Who needs a crazed gas fumed mechanic when one has a Swiss army knife?

TUESDAY — 9:00 pm, Sterling, CO

The air has lost its humidity and we are beginning to smell New Mexico. The change in climate has aroused the cats for we return from a late dinner to find them out from their usual hiding place under the seat now hanging out on the dash looking out the windshield. Maybe they think we’re ‘there’. Silly them.

We decide to drive straight through the day and night to our new home in Magdalena wanting to end this olympic time trial. I am anxious to sit in a stationary chair and watch REAL Olympians trained to tax their bodies, brains and emotions. I try not to think about the job ahead unloading our 600 tons of belongings junk. My arms and legs are littered with bruises and my fingers are still swollen Kielbasa size from lifting a gazillion 100# boxes of books. Beneath the bruises my arms have gotten buff — well, buffer. “See my muscles,” I say to Douglas flexing as the mile markers slowly drift by. I need more sleeveless tops I think to myself.

WEDNESDAY — 2:00 a.m., June 24, 1996; Rest stop north of Colorado Springs

Having bee-bopped to the oldies and eating Jelly Bellies to stay awake, we cozy in between two big rigs to get some rest. The cats, however, are waking up. I steal their pillows and blankies and settle into the car which smells of catnip, to get some sleep. Douglas has been suffering from a leg cramp but finally falls asleep between cat fights in the truck cab with his head over the cat box. The inevitable happens. Both of them. They emptied three days of bowl thinking possibly we were finally ‘there’. Somehow, somewhere, just outside Algoma this trip became about them.

We dump their dump and move on through the rising sun. Coasting south and downhill to New Mexico, my initial 35 MPH timidity three days previous has become a GET OUR OF MY WAY! aggressive 65 MPH allowing the downhill momentum of 700 tons of non-essentials push us on. We’re making good time until the 7,834′ Raton Pass on the Northern border of New Mexico. “This wasn’t here the first time we came down (looking for a house)!” 45 MPH, 35 MPH, 20 MPH, 10 MPH — 200 yards from the summit. People pass snickering, gawking. Yep, we are going to pay for overloading, stop and roll back down. Good thing we had our park break serviced. My heart beats again when the top is finally reached only to have it race on the roller coaster ride down. What was that we told our Algoma neighbors? After all the hard work proving their, “You’ll never fit it all in there” warnings wrong; we looked forward to the four days of scenery gazing. Silly us.

Five hours to go we stop to feed the yellow gas guzzling monster and caffeinate ourselves with the help of an unfriendly attendant in the middle of a nowhere mountain desert. I need all available space to exit the station and have to wait for a young blonde woman and female companion to pull out of the lot. The blonde is driving a red and white 60’s Rambler type station wagon towing a small boat and trailer with South Dakota plates.

There are huge distances between towns dwarfing our block long two story rig, but we love the 360 degree horizon. The refreshing vastness gets the focus off of ourselves. We pass the exit for Cimarron wondering where in the world it could be out there. A couple of days later a tornado would take that exit and devastate the town we never saw reducing homes and the Post Office to kindling. After the storm mail was found across the countryside. It was the first tornado in thirty years.

We cruise past Santa Fe where we hope to spend lots of time in the near and distant future. Right now we just want to get through Albuquerque and home. Unfortunately we have to compete with another rush hour and some of the worst driving we have witnessed anywhere — ever. On the other hand maybe it’s not them, it’s our extreme fatigue and slo-o-o-o-o-w reflexes. When we believe our fatigue can be challenged no more, a traffic jam. Damn! We come to a creeping pace for miles until we finally approach the problem. The blonde woman in the red and white station wagon with South Dakota plates has stalled on the shoulder with the rear of her boat and trailer blocking the right lane. Too bad for her but I am suddenly desperate for a functioning rest stop — men’s okay — New Mexico having too few for weary travelers. At last, 12 miles north of Socorro a rest stop posted with warnings of rattlesnakes. Fine. Bite Me.

In Socorro we are at the U-Haul drop off an hour after hours and we can’t go home as we are driving a Big Rig and can’t turn around on our dead-end street until we shed the trailer. Contemplating our situation we talk each other up and past our fatigue, “We can do it. We can do it. We can do it . . . We can unload the car and back the trailer into that little space!” Meanwhile the Saints of Truckers conferenced and intervened in our favor for the U-Haul Guys showed up!

One, two, three and the trailer was unhitched, the car unloaded by two Hispanic brothers. Either as a macho move or angry for showing up when they had other plans, one brother drove all we owned at mach speed demolition derby style around the lot. “Hey! we have a lot of nice things in there!”

Grits christened our finally ‘being there’ by peeing on my jeans.

Two days later the truck whose yellow will forever symbolize grueling to me, was empty and returned to the brothers. We had way too much to fit in our temporary home but it didn’t dampen our joy at walking an arroyo under the bright sun anticipating many new and wonderful experiences.

As we heard over and over during the Olympic Games, reaching a goal and having a dream requires focus and determination. Nestled in a valley between blue mountains and light flooding our home and studios, we could begin our new journey — to pursue our art with serious joy. It wasn’t about the cats after all.

 

 

 

 

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I’ve been reading a great book A HISTORY OF GOD by Karen Armstrong. Throughout the book
she recognizes mysticism as a constant in the history of monotheistic traditions–Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

My goal as an artist has been to employ mystical elements into my
work. This has not been easy. Mysticism is difficult to explain much
less find sufficient imagery and supporting technique. If one is
exploring an experience with Divine nature and that experience is beyond
reason and familiar symbolism (imagery), how does one go about giving
“it” form? If an artist is able to give form to his/her mystical
experience, is it a universal form or a personal form? If too personal,
the piece of art can not speak to anyone but the maker. This has been my
challenge.

I have three bodies of work–one complete, three in progress–where I
have explored imagery and form that attempts to express my experience
with Divine nature. To me Divine nature is a rational, philosophical,
and spiritual entity. Ultimately, however, the Mystery remains and one
has only subjective experience or blind faith in unexplainable chaos to
rely on.

The first body of work is NATURE CONSCIOUSNESS (complete).

The second body of work is THE ENCULTURATED WHITE MAN (in progress).

The third is a series of eight 18″ X 24″ watercolors. Joseph Campbell
taught about the Hero’s Journey and how the Parzival legend has
influenced the West’s idea of individualism. The myth declares that an
existing path is someone’s else’s path. Each individual has to forge
his/her own path in finding one’s bliss.

Caw Caw Caw: Important Things Happen In the Forest

The fourth is a collection of Gourd Baskets.

Since I began my fine art career later in life, my welcome challenges to find gallery representation for my work. In the meantime, the work and study continue. Karen Armstrong’s book brought up some interesting points that have encouraged the direction I’ve chosen for my art. On page 338 she quotes Albert Einstein who linked mysticism with “true” art and science:

“To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself to us as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms–this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of all true religiousness. In this sense, and in this sense only, I belong to the ranks of devoutly religious men.”

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Before I resume blogging on the pine needle and gourd “crow” basket,
I’d like to share the work of another artist. I met this artist on my
recent trip to Colorado (from home in Arkansas) via highway 400 through
Kansas. The long sometimes monotonous and windy drive was wonderfully
injected with a fresh eyeful of folk art lining the highway.

The folk artist’s name is M.T.Liggett He is an artist with a definite point of view. I respect that he has a point of view and has the courage to display it. He displays is art
contrary to the objections of the townspeople. While taking pictures of the good 1/2 mile of sculptures, the artist drove up in his truck. He
honked a welcome and invited my mother and I in to see his enormous collection of mugs.

I told Mr. Liggett I appreciated his ability to express his politics.
He, in turn, appreciated my compliment but proceeded to tell me the
townspeople will plow it down after he is gone. The amount of work
displayed is overwhelming, but he told me most of it was gone.
Unbelievable. Here are just a few of he pieces.

The artist.

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I’m interrupting my series on gourd basket weaving to share my trip
to Colorado Springs, Colorado. I’d like to say it was a carefree vacation from
responsibilities here in Arkansas, but it wasn’t a mere pleasure trip. I
took my mother there to visit her sister, who’s health is failing.
Though it was an emotionally difficult trip, I was able to balance the
sadness with some wonderfully uplifting experiences. One of which was a
trip to Golden, my mother’s birthplace and hometown.

While in Golden, I had lunch with my art business coach, Alyson Standfield. Alyson and I
had worked together over the phone and internet for several months; this
was our first face to face meeting–it was a real pleasure to finally
be in the same room together–sharing a meal. And what a room . . . our
lunch was in the beautiful TABLE MOUNTAIN INN.

Here are Alyson and I (l) outside the restaurant. I just had to
superimpose another picture of myself over the original–it had to be
the worst photograph of me ever–ever–really, ever . . .

Me and Alyson Stanfield, art business consultant

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tiger illustration

Illustration by Tamara Ann Burgh, watercolor on paper

WOULD YOU RATHER BE A GOAT IN A HERD OF GOATS OR A TIGER?
My first ego response would be “Tiger, of course.”
Goats are clownish, have a herd mentality, can be stubborn–and of all
the animals in the animal kingdom, goats inspire the term scapegoat.
You bet, personally, I’d rather be a tiger!

But if I were to answer based on my behavior and choices most of my
life, I’d more honestly have to answer, “I’d rather be a goat.”
Honestly, most of my life I’ve wanted to be, tried to be and even fought
to be a goat–fought to be part of the herd. Maybe because, growing up,
my family moved every two or three years. I was perpetually the new kid
in school, so most of my attention was focused, not on academics, but
where I might fit in.

Jr. High/Middle school I landed in a tough suburban Denver
neighborhood. At least it was tough for my shy introverted somewhat
backward personality. My neighborhood and bus stop included some of the
most popular cliquish girls in the school. My bus stop was Claudia I.’s
bus stop. Claudia liked to bother me and I tried my best to irritate
her. I was jealous that she was one of the in-group and I wasn’t. She
bothered me for months until out of anger and frustration, I blurted
out, “I choose ya!”–“Choose ya” being the neighborhood lingo for “Let’s
fist-fight about it.” We agreed to fight on Saturday noon behind the
elementary school.

This was a fight I had to win, as I instigated it, and if I lost, I
really would be the goat of the school. So I went to my older brother
asking him how to fight–how to fight like a man–how to fight to win.
He showed me with clenched fist, left to the belly, uppercut to the
chin. Left to the belly, right uppercut, I imitated. “Throw from the
shoulder,” he said. “left to the belly, right uppercut, . . . ” The
next three days I must have thrown a 1000 punches into the air.

Come Saturday, I finished my chores and was ready for the 20 minute
bike ride to the elementary school in plenty of time for my fight date.
But that Saturday, of all Saturdays, my father decided to de-thatch the
lawn. Actually, my father decided his kids should de-thatch the lawn.

11:30 a.m. . . . there we all were, five kids, in a line, raking to
the rhythm of entrapment.
11:45 a.m. . . . The lawn seems the size of a football field and we’re
on our own 30 yard line. How do I tell my father I have a fighting
engagement?
11:50 a.m. . . . There’s a phone call for me. It’s Claudia’s sister. She
tells me, “Claudia can’t fight today, she’s going to the amusement
park.” “Okay,” I say with exaggerated indignation. I’m incredibly
relieved. I didn’t really want to fight Claudia, I just wanted to be
part of her herd.

In my 20’s, I went to Arctic Alaska to meet and live among my
father’s side of the family. My father was half Eskimo. While there, I
lived a semi-subsistence lifestyle (under family tutelage) for several
months in the village of Golovin. Then I moved to Nome where I worked in
the school’s Native Arts Program. Eventually, after five years in the
Arctic, and although I loved it, I realized I was a suburban girl after
all.

In 1998 I was asked to collaborate with a famous artist–an artist I
studied in college. Her projects are large, requiring years of work by
several technicians/artisans. I was one of those artists. It was very
exciting. It didn’t take long, however, before I saw that her definition
of collaboration was bully tactics, subtle threats and master
manipulation. For a long while I didn’t say anything or challenge her. I
let it go; after all, I was learning what it took to be a world class
artist. I was ashamed of myself though when one afternoon I kept quiet
as she humiliated a close friend and coworker.

One day, like so many years earlier at the bus stop, I couldn’t take
it anymore. I didn’t “choose” her, but I did call her on her behavior.
It didn’t take long for her to manipulate me out of the project. One
minute I was “in”, the next minute I was “out.” It was as if I had never
been a part of her herd after nearly two years in the project. It
appears I had become a scapegoat when no one came to my defense.

The sense of betrayal put me into a depression. Once again I was
outside the herd. How could I reconcile a lifetime of effort to be “in”
with such demeaning results? I needed a world view to match my tough
“outsider” experiences. I turned to a solo path and read books and books
and books, looking for wisdom. The most influential being:

Jiddu Krishnamurti

Riso-Hudson (Enneagrams)

Carolyn Myss (Energy Anatomy)

Neale Donald Walsch (Conversations
with God)

Gary Zukav (Seat of the Soul)

Then I came across a story told by Joseph
Campbell (The Power of Myth)
about tigers and goats:

There was a herd of goats eating grass in a valley.
A pregnant starving female tiger approached the goats atop a nearby
hill.

She pounced down on the goats, but overdoing it, she gives birth
and dies.

The goats had scattered but when they came back, they find the
baby tiger
and raise it as their own.

One day, when the tiger was a teenage boy, a male tiger happens
along.

He sees the young tiger and is appalled!

He goes to the boy and asks, “What are you doing among these
goats?!!!”

The boy replies, “Baaaah.”

The male tiger shakes him then slaps him, “Snap out of it!”

He takes him by the scruff of the neck, dragging him to a pond.

The pond is perfectly still. “Look,” he says to the boy, “you
have a face like mine. You’re no goat!”

And the boy, indeed, sees for the first time, he’s NOT a goat.”

The older tiger takes him to his den where he has a freshly
killed deer.

He tells the boy, “Eat!”

The boy backs up and says, “But I’m a vegetarian.”

The tiger, loosing his patience, takes meat and blood and shoves
it into the boy’s mouth.

The boy sputters and gags.

(Here Joseph interjects, “As we all do when we first hear the
truth.”)

And it was here I realized: that boy tiger is me. All of my months
and months of solitary reading was a call to tiger-hood. A call to leave
the herd behind. But I felt I couldn’t be a tiger. I didn’t believe I
had the confidence or the courage. But I also knew that in order to BE
and accomplish my goals, I had to become a tiger. I had to leave the
herd behind. I started paying attention to people who would inspire my
tiger nature.

When I read about Robert
Redford, in an issue of INC.
, an article about a man who gracefully
blended creativity and business; I said to myself, “Now there’s a
tiger.”

When I watched a documentary on the artist Andy Goldsworthy, a
man who dared to think he could earn a living playing with nature;
I said to myself, “Now there’s a tiger.”

When I read about, listen to and watch Rosie O’Donnell, her energy and
aggressive work for unpopular, politically incorrect, causes; I say to
myself, “Now there’s a tiger.”

When I heard about the carpet manufacturer INTERFACE,
their environmental concerns and Sustainable Strategies;
I said to myself, “Now there’s a tiger.”

When I think about becoming a tiger, I say to myself, it will be a
lonelier, harder climb from the grassy valley to the cave, but life must
be, will be, “meatier” there. Besides, I have plenty of tigers out
there to inspire my journey. I say to them, “Thank you.”

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If you drink soy milk, look for the green cap on Silk soymilk
cartons. When you enter the upc code on their website you not only
enter the Green Caps for Green Energy Sweepstakes, they
donate clean energy by increasing their overall green power contribution by 30 kWt hours.

Silk is an ENEGRY STAR product. Their web site describes ENERGY STAR as:

“a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the
U.S. Department of Energy designed to help us all save money and protect
the environment through energy efficient products and practices. With
the help of ENERGY STAR, Americans saved enough energy in 2006 alone to
avoid greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from 25 million cars –
all while saving $14 billion on their utility bills. For more
information, visit ENERGYSTAR.gov.”

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illustration

Illustration by Tamara Ann Burgh, watercolor on paper

I want to be a god. I admit it–although my megalomania is not
entirely my fault. I want a god-like power because, probably because,
I’m too sensitive. Family and friends told me for years, “Oh, you’re
just too sensitive.” Too sensitive. What do I do about such a
declaration? How does one become un-sensitive? Do I just “buck-up?” Do I
“grin and bear it?” And just how does one “buck-up” or “grin and bear
it?”–how is that suppose to feel? I used to think sensitivity is a
feeling, but now I believe sensitivity is a matter of perception. My
annoying sensitivity, I now know, is from what I perceive, what I see
and thus, what I know. And what I know is disturbing. Thus, my desire to
be a god.

Only recently was I able to admit this long held desire. My desire
was triggered by a visit to the chiropractor. I’ve sat in my chiropractor’s waiting room every week for months. Chairs border three walls of his small waiting room with a large
aquarium in the center. Bright fish colors, shapes, movements, and
gentle bubbling create a calming peaceful atmosphere. Most patients
don’t read the magazines scattered nearby, but stare mesmerized at the
kinetic abstractions drifting in pristine water. My gaze would usually
settle on the gentle watery eden before me–until I saw it for what it
was–reminding of what I know. What we all know but don’t like to think about.

One day I arrived to find my favorite yellow fish I had come to know
and love, missing. The receptionist informed me that the two small black
and white fish attacked the helpless though much larger yellow fish
killed and ate the yellow fish; every bit of it. The Doctor, in retaliation, flushed
the bully black and white fish down the toilet. My meditative “all is
well” center of attention in the lobby became a microcosm of carnage. My pesky
too sensitive sensibilities kicked in, again. The yellow fish’s demise
reminded me of what I know. And what I know is: LIFE EATS LIFE.

It just shouldn’t be that every living thing is part of a food chain.
Fleas, ticks and worms feed on my helpless dogs who are minding their own
business . . . until they chase down and kill a chipmunk minding its own
business. If I were a god, my dogs would leave the chipmunks alone,
there would be no fleas, ticks, parasitic worms, chiggers, snakes,
earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, snakes, hurricanes, cockroaches,
diseases, snakes, bullies, tyrants, sociopaths . . . there would be no such thing as organ devouring
cancer.

My father died of cancer. Nothing would kill those insipid mutant
cells feeding on his healthy life-giving cells–-life-giving cells
minding their own business. Radiation and chemo worked for awhile, but
the cancer was like the relentless pursuer alien one sees in
the movies. In the movies, however, the hero destroys the monster. My
father’s body was cremated and my family had an odd sense of
satisfaction knowing the relentless monstrous cancer was finally burned to
death–-defeated. If I were a god, there would be no cancer.

Eve wanted to be a God as well. The Garden of Eden, is for me, a
metaphor for the way my too sensitive mind sees things. For me, The
Garden was not a part of literal history, a place we were kicked out of;
but a metaphor for a frame of mind that always was, is and forever will
be. We were “kicked out” of the metaphorical garden the moment we human
beings became conscious of the horror of life: that life eats life,
that soul containers eat other soul containers. Sheep can’t sleep next
to the lion without dire consequences. Eve wanted to be as God, to keep
things perfectly peaceful–-the way it should be; so she ate the
metaphorical apple. Hey, I’ll take that apple! I’ll eat it whole! Things
are definitely NOT the way they should be.

If I had created the garden, there would not have been a bully
tempting snake in a garden of perfect peace and harmony. Snakes! If any
creature on the face of the earth symbolizes the reality of life, life
eating life, it’s the snake. They don’t even bother to chew! After all,
snakes are only slithery intestines hiding in my garden.

I want to be a god, but since I’m not, what do I do? Do I declare, “I
will no longer participate until things are the way I think they should
be.” Or do I simply bail out? I’m too sensitive to consider the
gruesome details of that possibility. My only choice, as I see it, is to
embrace life for what it is. Not just accept it, but embrace it.
Embrace it all! I believe that by embracing the sorrows and horrors of
life, I experience a kind of madness of the Divine who seems to present
him/herself in clever paradoxes. With the realization that life was
created by a formula that, in my mind, should not have been, I am
inspired to do something “Eden-like” about it: I suspect that that something
has something to do with compassion.

 

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