Posts Tagged ‘people’

“You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.”

― William Wilberforce

Night Lines graphite on paper 8x10

Night Lines
graphite on paper
8×10….

…Back-tracking ….an aside that is part of the story…….

Beatrice was my grandmother’s housekeeper/maid. Beatrice cleaned house, washed clothes, helped cook and care for my grandmothers 9 children. Beatrice only had the one daughter, LiliMae, born about the same time as my aunt (circa 1924). Beatrice would bring her to work with her six days a week until she was old enough to attend school. Hence, LiliMae and my aunt grew up together.

I do not think LiliMae went very far in school for as Beatrice became too old to continue with the heavy daily work, LiliMae took over and when my grandmother died, she stayed on and worked for my aunt and other members of the family including my own.

The family took good care of Beatrice and continued her salary until the day she died and then paid not only for her funeral and burial but that of her husbands as well. LiliMae stayed in the run down rented shotgun home of her mothers, married a good and kind man and continued working six days a week. My aunt and Uncle took care of all her extra needs whatever they might be. This was all quite normal in New Orleans where slavery was still alive and well just hidden under the veneer of social correctness.

LiliMae, being 1 or 2 years older/younger than my aunt (I never knew for sure) was in her late 70’s when I arrived on the scene in New Orleans. Still working for my aunt but only every so often as she was quite frail and arthritic from all the years of hard work. LiliMae’s husband had long since departed and my aunt was “taking care” of her in the sense that she would take her to the grocery or just go buy groceries for her or to the doctor if LiliMae could not go by herself, and of course as tradition demanded, she continued her weekly salary.

With my arrival and the fact that my aunt was now getting a regular month stipend and had more opportunities to go out and spend her money in the social circles, she turned the care and feeding of LiliMae over to me, proclaiming in the classic southern princess tradition, that she “just couldn’t take it any more”.

Yes, LiliMae was a bit of a pain, a 4-foot 3-inch scrawny whirlwind of a woman, an incessant talker and complainer, she reminded me of my maternal grandmother, but I always had a tender spot in my heart for her and her plight in life and her ability to continue despite any and all obstacles thrown at her.

So once a week I went to see LiliMae. Now this was a very big thing for her and when I arrived she would come out of the house, before she would let me come in, and loudly make sure the entire neighborhood knew who I was and what I doing there and the fact that I (“a white girl”) was taking care of her “black ass” as she use to say. This would continue on for several months until LiliMae’s knees gave out and the doctor suggested a knee replacement. Medicare took care of most of the cost and my aunt (or rather Nan) paid the rest. The recovery was slow and so home health care was needed. But something else was going on and it was two months later when the second of the home health care agencies quit because LiliMae was beginning to prove to be “too difficult to handle”, that I realized there was a serious problem. I took her to another doctor and after some test she was diagnosed with bi-polar dementia. I managed to find another agency to help out and make sure that LiliMae was taking all the correct medications, to do her exercises so she could get out of the wheelchair, but it was becoming a downhill battle.

Of course I kept my aunt informed of everything that was going on except the fact that before her surgery, she had me take her to the bank one day and added my name to her account in case of an emergency. She said I was the only person she could trust not to steal her money. LiliMae knew my aunt larcenous heart very well and I could not, in good faith, tell her of this occurrence. Over the years LiliMae had managed to set aside over $20,000 from her salary and gifts and whatever, and she was afraid my aunt would take it all back.

A year passed and by this time my sister had her hooks deep into my aunt and along with my first cousin Nora they decided that LiliMae was a “family” concern and that “thank you very much” but she would take over now, and boom!, that was that. My relationship with my aunt was strained at best at this point and with my hands being tied and no voice in the matter, I stepped back.

One month later they, the family, put LiliMae into a State-run nursing home. My aunt being the closest thing to a living relative signed the papers and walked away. Within a week my aunt had made arrangements for all of LiliMaes possessions to be sold at auction. I do not know what she did with the funds.

No one asked me about anything, so I waited out of curiosity to see what was going to happen. Two weeks passed and my aunt called me saying, “The nursing home wanted to “talk to you”. When I asked about what she responded, “I have no idea”. I knew she was lying through her teeth as she always did when she did not want to face anything difficult. So my aunt and I went to the nursing home and we discussed the financials, I explained the situation and said of course I would turn over the account to the state for her care. My aunt never said another word except “well that’s taken care of”.

I would visit LiliMae once a week until she no longer recognized me; the home had put her in bindings to keep her from hurting herself, she was heavily medicated, and she would nonsensically rant to anyone who was close. My aunt never mentioned her name again; it was like she never existed.

LiliMae died of a heart attack about a month after I stopped coming to see her, I received a note from the Home saying they wanted me to know since I was the only one who ever visited her and that she would be buried next to her husband.

I laid a flowers on her grave and there was, like most things those days, a sad finality to it all, and perhaps I was the only person who shed a tear.

 

“We are all exactly where we are supposed to be, doing what we need to do at any point in time.” Unknown–

Paper Play 7 mixed media on paper A4 (8x10)

Paper Play 7
mixed media on paper
A4 (8×10)—

 

 

The story continues……….

If bridges were burning behind me, I did not notice, but the smoke did cloud my eyes for a while as I moved forward in life. Once the air cleared, everything was bright and new again, another door opening, leading me forward and my heart beat with anticipation as the plane landed on that cloudy and humid day.

New Orleans has such a unique pervasive smell. It envelopes one like a favorite old blanket in need of a good wash. Centuries of stale beer, urine, fried oysters, and mold have saturated every brick with an empyrean scent, one known only to those who were shaped from the muddy waters of this city’s embrace. Of course there was also the dampness that always hits you in the face, forcing you to breathe though a wet sponge soggily saying: Welcome Home. That is, if I was going to call some place home, this was as good a place as anywhere, better, because here there were open arms waiting to embrace.

Embrace is a mild word as my aunt and uncle consumed me with love and affection, and plans. I would live with them until I found a place, I needed a job, I needed to meet so and so, I needed clothes, “my god” my aunt said, “what are you wearing, you don’t own a stitch of decent rags!”

I found a wonderful one bedroom in an old Victorian and then I hit the pavement looking for work. My first cousin crawled out of the woodwork offering to help me find a job as she had an employment agency. I agreed even though I knew I would never meet her standards or that of her clients. She reminded me of her position, the favor she was extending and how difficult it might be for someone of my character. I smiled and continued looking on my own.

Fortune lead me to the doorstep of WSMB AM Radio and a position as a receptionist. This pleased my aunt immensely and was considered an acceptable position, since one of her sisters and a brother had worked in radio. The work was simple and I had the pleasure of meeting every big star that came into town.  It was a small station and overall only number three in the market but they had a stellar morning show that was entrenched in the number one slot for morning drive time. My cousin would call once a week with a job offer for me and I would say I have a job and she would say but this better; and I would say but it pays less, and she would but it’s what you should have. I would then politely thank her and hang up, shaking my head.

My life was going along quite nicely. In my spare time I was writing for my aunt again, and her talks, installations and speeches were gaining popularity within the social circles she traveled. My relationship with my aunt and uncle took on a deeper closeness that is difficult to explain. To say I was wrapped in the comfort of love, feeling protected, strong and secure would be an understatement.

Within 2 months, I was promoted to continuity at the station and a month after that I made a proposal that would change the course of my life.

The station had a problem slot: afternoon drive-time: 2:00 pm to 7:00 pm. They were last in the ratings and everything they tried failed.  I listened to all the noise, the talk, the discussions going around and one day I walked into the manager’s office and said, ” John, why don’t you put a woman on the air.”

He laughed and said. “That’s never been done, and who would you suggest?”

“Me”, I answered.

There was silence and then he said, “bring me a proposal and we shall see.”

I bravely said, OK! And as I walked out of the office I was shaking but smiling. Three days later I presented the who, what, why and the benefits of putting a woman on the air, mainly me, in a 10-page proposal. The station manager smiled and said. “We’ll let you know.”

Three weeks later I was called into the office and told that the only way they could put me on air was if I had a 3rd degree engineers license so I could work the “board”.  OK, I said and went out, got information, learned it, took the test and came back with an endorsed license in hand.

Within a week I was on the air and within a month the ratings rose to put us in 3rd place.  The station thought it would be better if there was a duo so there could be more repartee, and we went though 6 men who refused to play with me, only wanting to get rid of me and take over. Then Richard came along, 20 years my senior and a veteran in radio with that unique deep voice.  We were magic and a star show was born. Within weeks we were number one in the afternoon drive time and I became the first woman on-air in the city of New Orleans. My aunt was especially ecstatic since a lot of my conversations were about her eccentricity without ever mentioning her name, but all of her friends knew and her popularity soared along with mine.

However, I was not recognized for that accomplishment because our greatest competitor and the number 1 station in the city, decided to fight back by putting a woman on in the morning drive time slot and she became known as the first woman on-air and received all the publicity. Simply because the morning time was the highest earning sales time slot. That was fine with me, Richard and I held onto our number 1 position for the afternoon, I became a star and advertising for our show increased exponentially to make our show extremely profitable for the station. I was asked to MC numerous charity events and special events like the Summer Pops. No matter where I went, there was free food and drink, people knowing I would mention them on the air. I got to interview every big name star that came into town, and aside from Richard’s and my repartee, up to date music became our signature. No other station could touch us.

I rode this lovely train for over a year and then I received a phone call, out of the blue, that would set me on an unexpected path that I would follow for the rest of my life.

 

I have been remiss in my Blog for I have been assisting my husband edit, design, finish and publish his second book called “The Aestrah Cycle”.  I also quit my job, did not want to -but was left with no choice; and after nearly a month of searching I finally was offered a position I am ecstatic about, and will talk more on that subject later. For now, this is the press release for the book titled The Aestrah Cycle……a most excellent read available in soft cover and for Kindle.  Rather exciting!

Cover for the Aestrah Cycle --Design and layout by C. Gordon-Harris 2014

Cover for the Aestrah Cycle –Design and layout by C. Gordon-Harris 2014

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 23, 2014

New Mexico-based author E.L. Harris has announced the released of his second novel, The Aestrah Cycle. Harris, a free-lance writer for 45 years, traveled worldwide extensively, and has used his skills to create the story of a matriarchal-dominant society pre-recorded history hidden deep in the Amazon jungle.

Based upon the legend of Las Madres de Sombra – the Mothers of Shadow – Harris introduces the reader to a society where men are mere herd animals bred for work and pleasure. Without a developed male consciousness, the women of Aestrah rule with a ruthless hand, guided by a word-of-mouth history and prohibitive laws. The story follows one female who begins to understand the inequity and seeks to bring about the dawning of male consciousness.

The Aestrah Cycle seeks to shed light on today’s repressive attitude towards women, especially in those parts of the world where women are regarded as little more than property. The reasons, Harris theorizes, is really nothing more than payback for centuries of matriarchal rule. The Aestrah Cycle examines the rationale for much of today’s turmoil as part of a cycle of growth and development that eventually could lead to a society less gender-based.

The Aestrah Cycle is now available as paperback and Kindle e-book, from Amazon.com. Harris’ first novel, Wings of the Fly, is also still available at the same location and deals with the South American cocaine wars of the 1980’s in Peru and Columbia.

He is currently working on a third book, So Simple A Name As Eden, a novel of the Galapagos Islands.

For more information, contact Harris at scribester@q.com.

 

http://www.amazon.com/Aestrah-Cycle-E-L-Harris/dp/1499672713/ref=sr_sp-atf_title_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1403559081&sr=1-1&keywords=The+Aestrah+Cycle

“ …and a new day will dawn, for those who stand long, and the trees will echo with laughter.” Led Zeppelin

Girl with Bird (2008) conte crayon on paper 22x24

Girl with Bird (2008)
conte crayon on paper 22×24—

 

The story continues……….

Funny how when I look back on my days in the Galapagos, I never realized at the time that I was the only woman running any kind of boating operation.  There were lots of women there doing wonderful things from scientist to photographers, shop owners to hotel managers (there really were 2 hotels!), it just all seemed natural.

So, there I was managing 2 boats and an all male crew of fifteen.  Actually I gained the respect of the captain and cook of both the boats and they in turn kept the unruly crew in line, I only had to intervene a few times.

Six months after my arrival construction began on “the road”.  Steps would be built down one side of Baltra Island and up the side of Santa Cruz Island; a small makeshift ferry would unite the two landings.  At the top of the stairs on Santa Cruz Island homemade “buses” would carry the tourist across the island down to the bay.  The road was poorly built to begin with, using red scoria as a base, which under the heavy rains would melt into pools of rusty-red giving the impression of a bleeding wound in the land.

Better material over time would be brought in, better busses enabling more traffic; and with more traffic came the first murder, the first rape, and the first outbreak of measles. A jail had to be built for the drunk and disorderly that the potential of tourist dollars attracted and at the same time little bars and restaurant sprouted up hoping for its share of new source of income.

Our business was booming, the company growing in fame and fortune, which made Capitán happy and kept him completely off my back, which made me happy. I went out with the one of the boats whenever I could but mostly my work became managerial with the exception of meeting each group of tourist as they arrived and getting them settled either on the boat at Baltra Island or bringing them across land to pick up the boat in Santa Cruz depending on their scheduled tour.  I fell into a routine that would vary only slightly from my morning meet with the milk truck from the highlands to afternoon coffee with the Port Captain who was the highest authority in the land.  Those afternoon coffees were most pleasant conversations on just about any topic. The Captain turned out to be a former math teacher of mine, I did not remember him, but he said he always remembered me as “La Dorada” (the golden one).  The nickname took and it was by that name I came to be known and respected.

Evenings were either spent at my house with a good book or with friends on one side of the island or another, good conversation, wine, food and laughter melted the nights.

Two wonderful years full marvelous adventures, some heart breaks, much joy, unique and fascinating people both natives and tourist from all walks of life filled my experience file and gave me great joy.! I felt I had finally found a home, a place where I could stay forever, a place where I was just one more different person among many strange and different people.

That was unfortunately an illusion.  Unbeknownst to me, the money Capitán was making off the two boats was being re-invested (with the help of a few associates) into the refurbishing of an old cargo ship into a cruise vessel that would enable him to carry 125 passengers at a time for one and two-week cruises. During the last trip into Guayaquil for a re-fit, I was invited to dinner with him and his new partners.  The people he would be working with on the new ship and the people to whom he had just sold the business along with the two smaller boats.  I was informed I could stay on with the new owners or join him and work on the larger cruise boat.  It would mean leaving the islands and living in Guayaquil. I told him I would give it some thought and let him know.

The new owner of the island business was an Englishman married to an islander. He was a fanatical re-born Jehovah Witness zealot who had harassed me every chance he could get on the islands for my manner of dress, mainly shorts.  Although his wife and I were friends, I could not tolerate this sanctimonious man and his died in the wool religions convictions.

The writing was on the proverbial wall and I certainly did not want to work on a large cruise ship.  Never liked the big boats, and I did not want to live in Guayaquil. So I searched around the island for alternatives and was offered a position at the Darwin Station, which I thought I might accept, until the nightmares began.

The first dream came and I saw myself lying in a coffin, peaceful, but there was terrible sense of foreboding and I was afraid.  In the second dream I saw myself standing next to the coffin looking down at myself and I was crying. Again, the same sense of foreboding and fear.  In the third dream, I was standing next to the second me with my arm around her shoulder, as we looked at the first me in the coffin. In the dream I told the second me, in a very sad but comforting voice: “It’s time to go now.”

I turned in my resignation the following week, contacted my aunt in New Orleans who screamed “yes!, yes! Come!” Within the month I was on a plane bound for Louisiana.

 

 

 

“When stars collide, like you and I, no shadow blocks the sun”-  The One by Elton John

Blue and White, 2007, graphite and ink on paper- variation of Correggio's "Jupiter and Io"

Blue and White, 2007, graphite and ink on paper- variation of Correggio’s “Jupiter and Io” —

 

An Aside to the Story………..

I have reached an age where I can look back over my shoulder and see with great clarity the illusions of the past.  Recounting the highs and lows of ones life is like skipping a stone across a deep, clear pond.  The ripples from the collision of stone on water are ever expanding across the depth of untold passions, ambitions, desires, driving ambitions and a myriad of emotions running the gambit of human sensibility.

Some of those deep pools were the men that traveled though my life.  They came and they went, some gentle rain showers others thundering storms, none stayed very long, all of them wanted to control me, to harness the magic.  None understood what I needed but I cared for them and loved them all with great passion, and they loved me. Perhaps I was too complicated, too different; perhaps because I never formed a strong attachment or perhaps I used them as much as they used me.

All of them except for Barry.

He was an engineer on a British Schooner called the Golden Cachalot.  A hundred-foot beauty with a crew of 25 dashing young, bare chested Brits and 25 passengers looking for adventure.  The day she sailed into Santa Cruz Bay everything changed; for she was the opening door allowing larger vessels, more tourist which in turn changed the islands and its inhabitants.

We met by chance, both of us unloading shipments from the monthly cargo ship.  It was a bit of magic from the start, an instantaneous attraction, an all-consuming passion. My year-long relationship with Barry was something out of a corset-buster romance novel, glorified onto a Cecil B de Mille production.   Two stars headed on a karmic collision course, which would rip both our hearts to shreds.

When it was time for the Golden Cachalot to head back to England for re-fit, Barry looked for a way to stay in the islands or in Ecuador. Many jobs were offered to him, but in the end he decided to go back with the ship and return on the next tour.  I was wickedly in love and bravely waved him off, my heat aching at his leaving but secure in the knowledge he would return.

Life has a way of changing the course of every river and mine was no different. When the Golden Cachalot returned, he was not onboard. He had sent a letter with one of the crew, explaining how it was all just an “island romance” and how he made a mistake and he was moving on with his life.  At least he wrote me a letter, more than most would have done, and left no other choice I no longer looked to the horizon for sails.

Six months later another British passenger brought me a letter from Barry. This one was very different; this was the letter girls dream about receiving. This letter begged me to come to England, said he could not live without me, said he loved me, said he was a fool…….

In the days before Internet as we now know it, I sent a cable with the date and time my plane would arrive; I would go and see if his words were real.  Before I left, just about everyone on the island gave me money and their personal shopping list, so I left with minimum clothes and empty suitcases. I planned to be gone a week.

Landing in London two weeks after I sent the cable, he was there to meet me…..so wonderful.  He took me to his parent’s home where I would be staying; they welcomed me with open arms.  He would be staying at his apartment on the other end of town, as it was nearer to work.  I thought it was a bit strange but perhaps this was the proper way to do things.  I arrived on a Friday and we spent a glorious weekend together. Monday morning arrived and his parents left saying they were going to visit a friend and would be back the next day. Barry came around noon and I fixed us lunch.  He then began to tell me his story and I thought this is how it feels to buried alive.

He had made the biggest mistake of his life sending me that letter.  He did not have the courage to tell me not to come when he got the cable. His mates had convinced him I was just after a British citizenship and nothing else, that I was not of his class, I was too good for him, I would be miserable, that I really did not love him.  He had met another woman who looked a lot like me and knew I would love her, she was living with him for 6 moths now and they were planning on getting married. Seeing me again he said make him realize deep in his heart he truly loved me, but there was nothing he could do, nothing he could change, things had gone too far and he begged me for my forgiveness.

And then he cried.

If my heart was broken with his words, my soul was ripped apart with his wretched tears, and all we could do was hold each other, for when stars collide there is nothing left but a bit of fairy dust.

I did my shopping and returned to islands ahead of time without any stories to tell, diving back into my work, my life. To this day I remember him with great love, pain, and an occasional tear for another life, another path that might have been.

“Reality lies in the greatest enchantment you have ever experienced.”― Hugo von Hofmannsthal

Shadows, 2014, oil on canvas, 76x50 cm(30x20) -

Shadows, 2014, oil on canvas, 76×50 cm(30×20) –

The story continues…….

An overview:

The memories and smells of the Islands rise up and smack me in the face occasionally.  Triggered by some inconsequential, word, sight, smell, it would be as if I was there again in the moment, time traveling back to the land that was apart from time itself.

Anyone who has ever lived on an island knows the feeling, a core memory of belonging to the land, standing still in time as the rest of the world ceases to exist. The memory of Galapagos held no exotic scented flowers or wide white sand beaches, these “Enchanted Islands” as they were known held a course, barren, raw, base memory of salt, sweet rain, baking bread, stale beer, urine, coffee beans drying out on metal rooftops and the unforgettable odor of freshly slaughtered beef in the sun. A memory of ingenuity and strength enabling survival.

Since I was already a permanent resident of Ecuador, and an accredited “Guide”, getting my Colonist card and permission to live on the islands was a simple matter of tons of paperwork accomplished in a miracle of a week.   I took the next available plane out, a TAME airlines DC8 cargo plane delivering supplies to the Ecuadorian Navy who had a long-established base on Baltra Island, a former US base during WWII.  TAME also flew a passenger plane out one a week for tourist.

Baltra Island was nothing more than flat, barren rock with a large shack on the high ground that served as the airport with a runway that could handle jets. Down the high cliffs a large docking area was built for refueling purposes for the Navy and any other boats willing to pay the high price.  Only a few scattered trees struggled to survive on this arid rock amidst the debris of the US base.  The foundations of these remained, the wood having been carried away by local settlers over the years to build their own houses on Santa Cruz or San Cristobal Islands.  Baltra Pine it would be called.

One of the two company boats was anchored at the dock to pick me up and make the 6-hour journey back to Santa Cruz Island.  A 3-mile wide channel separated Baltra and Santa Cruz Islands; but at the time there was no available access from one island to another except by boat,  a 6-10 hour voyage from the Baltra dock, out to ocean, and back to the far end of Santa Cruz Island, safe harbor and town.

The company had also rented me a 2-room house constructed out of lava rock with a detached lavatory connected by a raised walkway.  The house itself was also raised as it was nestled in a grove of mangroves sporting a usable dock. However that dock was only useable at high tide when my house would become an island unto itself.

The first thing I did upon settling in was to remove my shoes.  I would only put them back on once a year when we took the boats back to Guayaquil for a re-fit.  My feet would quickly develop thick calluses enabling me to walk on any surface, including the sharp lava fields.

The mainland travel agency would arrange cruises and inform me what the tourist wanted to see and how many days (or weeks) via Ham radio. (I was HC2WG once I obtained my radio operators license). I would then plan the menu and the itinerary sending the list for both back to the agency.  The tourist would be informed of their itinerary and the ordered food would be shipped out for the cruise on the same plane as the tourist.  There was a cargo freighter that would visit the island once a month or so, bringing canned goods, beer, rice, any vegetable capable of surviving the 10-day trip., building materials, and anything else anyone could buy on the mainland and have shipped out.  We would also receive some basic supplies in this manner but it was costly.   It would take me 4 months of gentle coaxing before I was accepted by the locals thereby giving permission for me to buy locally grown fresh food (eggs, milk, green vegetables, tomatoes, cheese, potatoes, meat, fish, pork) reducing our operating costs.

I would not only be managing the operations/maintenance of the boats and its crew but also serve as guide until both boats were operating, as one boat was still undergoing renovation.

At the time “The Road” as it would come to be known, had not yet been built across the island (enabling a connection between Baltra and Santa Cruz), electricity ran for 4 hours a day, and fresh drinking water was collected from the roofs of individual houses during the rainy season and held in concrete tanks. There were no fresh water wells, even in the misty moisture laden highlands.   (Water filter though the ground and the porous rock to accumulate in  equally porous aquifers that would touched by the sea.)   The main piped water from the town well was brackish, good for toilets and cooking but not much else.  In the center of town near the docks was one bar, one bakery, the port captains office, a small and very dirty hospital with no doctor just a midwife/nurse (usually a doctor would come out every few months for a week), a church, a small tienda (store) selling everything from canned goods to miscellaneous supplies and used items for trade, and the homes of the islands inhabitants. The large bay of Santa Cruz would anchor many fishing boats, sail or powerboat available for hire by tourist to tour the islands and of course the never-ending flow of the traveling cruise yachts headed out across the pacific.  In the highlands where the soil was rich and the climate alluvial, farms flourished, run by immigrants that came from Europe in the late 1930’s.

At the far end of the island was the Darwin station situated in a large bay where the “Beagle” its scientific research boat anchored.  It was populated by a small staff and overrun most of the year with visiting scientist conducting one experiment or another. They had their own generator which enabled them to have what was known as “24 hour magic”.  My house was situated halfway between the center of town and the Station.

A small inlet separated one half of the island from the other, access to which was only by a row-boat, then climbing up rough-hewn steps cut from the lava rock.  This area was known as “the other side” and was inhabited by a fairly large population of German immigrant settlers. Of course from this side, town was also considered “the other side”.

There was only one sand and rock “road” (more like a wide path) that went from town to the highlands and from town out to the Darwin Station. There were a few vehicles on the island, but most belonged to the Darwin Station.

Everyone walked and everyone had a rowboat or speedboat, but most importantly everyone had a good sense of humor, which was key to survival.

Not everyone who came to the islands would stay, they would have difficulty adapting to the harsh conditions the islands imposed.   Only if you were willing to allow the islands to change you, to become enchanted, would the islands give back to you and like the ever evolving resident animals, you would learn to survive to the fullest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“As happens sometimes, a moment settled and hovered and remained for much more than a moment. And sound stopped and movement stopped for much, much more than a moment.” ― John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men

Yellow Feather (2001), oil on canvas, 77x102 cm (30x40)

Yellow Feather (2001), oil on canvas, 77×102 cm (30×40) —

An aside to the story…….

On September 30, 2013,  a moment expanded. I was rushed to the emergency room, ashen colored, low blood pressure, difficulty breathing with pain in my lower lungs.  They thought it was a heart attack. They ran every test. They sent me home saying nothing was wrong probably just stress.

Four days later I was back in the emergency room, the pain increasing, the breathing more difficult.  They ran even more test.  They concluded I must have had a Copd flare, even though I did not have Copd.  They gave me a steroid inhaler and sent me home.

That was on a Monday, I went back to work and by Friday I could barely walk 10 feet without gasping for breath, by Sunday the pain was intense, I was panting continuously with every movement. The morning of Monday, October 9th I knew something was very, very, wrong and went back to the emergency room.

As they checked me in, my blood pressure dropped dramatically and my lungs started to collapse.  For the first time in my life I was frightened. Frightened because I did not know what was happening, only that people were swarming all over me, working to keep me alive.

Ten hours later, now stabilized, I was admitted to the acute care wing of the hospital.  There I stayed for the next 8 days.  It took another 6 weeks to recover.  I had pneumonia coupled with acute pleurisy. The pain in my lungs was caused by the air sacs collapsing; I was having trouble breathing because my lungs were filled with fluid.

The fact that I almost died gave me pause and I noticeably changed.

All of us are in a constant state of change. Every word, every action, every incident we experience changes us in some form or another.  We are not the person we were yesterday nor are we the person we will be tomorrow.  Seldom are we aware of what is transpiring so caught up we are in our own lives.

What triggered my change and my awareness was not so much that I almost died but because in the all time I was gone from work, off line, incommunicado, no one called or wrote or e-mailed to see if I was OK or ask: where are you?  Of all the people I know, of all those I communicate generally by e-mail or online daily, no one in that week, or the next, questioned my silence.

When I did go online to Facebook, before I updated my status, I saw there was one message waiting for me from a friend I had never met in France, asking how are you, where are you? I stood corrected, there was one person who cared. It made me smile. It also made me aware how very insignificant my life had become to others. How very shallow all our lives had become.

So I laughed, and I laughed, I shook my head, and said to the universe: thank you for that extended moment in time, thank you for the awareness, now lets get to work on what is really important.

Not sure what that is but I know the others out there are no longer very important to me, what I do from this point forward is focused on what is good for me and improving my quality of life so that when the important stuff does come sometime before I die, I will be ready.

You may think that is selfish. Perhaps it is, perhaps for the very first time in my life I care more about me than other people.  Unheard of for an Aquarian! Perhaps it will only last for a short while, perhaps forever but my light is shinning so very bright right now it’s almost blinding.

Whatever I am moving towards I travel slowly, steadily, quietly with a smile caught in a new extended moment of time filled with joy.

That is not too shabby.

 

“A single slim trunk – Branches that bow in a storm – Green, leathery leaves with a soft centre – Glittering against blue sky – White bark scarred, bleeding – Heart wide-open – Bandaged, but upright she stands… ” ― Fadia Faqir, The Cry of the Dove

Traveling on the Spine of the Dragon (2005)- acrylic on canvas - 182x137 cm (72x54) -

Traveling on the Spine of the Dragon (2005)- acrylic on canvas – 182×137 cm (72×54) –

The story continues……….

There was a bit of  trouble writing this part, unsure as to the feelings my memory evoked, words eluded me for a while, I was interrupted by the holidays but clarity returned and I condensed it all…..

My friend who had sold my car met the plane and after one look rushed me to the hospital where I was loaded up with antibiotics.  Confident I was on the road to healing I asked him to drive me down to Galveston where I would stay with my grandmother until I was better and could make some clear-headed decisions.

When we arrived, he said he would wait to make sure she was there and everything was all right, so I headed up the walk, onto the porch and rang the bell.  My mother answered the door with “ You! And what are you doing here?”   Surprised and a just a little miffed, I explained I had just gotten back from my sailing adventure, managed to get a massive infection and was planning on spending a few days with “mawmaw”  to heal and rest until I could make plans.

“Well you will have to make other plans,” my sweet mother said. “Your grandmother died two months ago, I now own the house, your sister is living here and there really is no room for anyone else.”   “Well, then,” I commented, “let me get my things from the attic and I will be on my way.”   “I sold everything.”  My mother said.  “Why?” I asked.  “We had no idea when you would be back and those two boxes were taking up room I needed.”  “I see”, said I, “well I will just leave you to it and move on, nothing here for me obviously.”  As I headed down the walk back to the car she called out “Let me know if you need anything.”   All I could do was laugh.

Quietly I closed the door of the car and asked my friend to just drive.  Once we were headed back to Houston I told him what had happened.  He said his wife would be glad to have me at the house and offered to put me up for a few days until I could find a job and a place to live.

The next day I bought a few clothes and started the search for a job. The Sunday classifieds offered a position with the University of Texas School of Public Health (now the Health Science Center) for an administrative assistant in the International Health Module.  I set up an interview on Monday and was hired that afternoon. I would be working with two professors: an epidemiologist and a demographer.  By Wednesday I found a furnished garage apartment walking distance from the school and moved in the next day.

I loved everything about my job, my bosses, the students, the Dean, the environment, I felt most fortunate.  I even was given the opportunity at night to teach a non-credit language course in Spanish and in French for use in rural communities.

The more involved with the school I became, the more I wanted to continue my own education.  My other sister had been in touch with me letting me know that when my grandmother died she had left a sizeable amount of money in a trust fund for her grandchildren’s education.  My mother’s brother had been made executor of the trust and I would need to contact him to apply to the board.  He was a captain on one of Lykes Lines cargo ships and it was not difficult to find out his schedule and arrange a possible meeting the next time he was in port.

Two months later I received a call from my uncle inviting me on-board for dinner, the ship would be in Houston in 3 days and we could discuss the trust’s provisions.  At the appropriate time I took a cab out to the port and went aboard.  The captain’s cabin was quite large with a small office/dinning area.  The meal was wonderful, the conversation informative and I was looking forward to having my expectations fulfilled when my uncle asked me to come over to the desk so he could give me forms to complete and send in to the board of directors.

As I approached the desk he turned to face me, grabbed my hands with one of his and slapped me hard with the other knocking me down to the floor. He then proceeded to hit me again, pulled up my skirt, ripped off my underwear and while I lay there stunned, he raped me.  Climbing off of me he said, “ You are not the good little whore your father said you were, so get out of here! …and don’t expect this family to do anything for you.”

Humiliated, shamed, in pain, and partial shock, I straightened my clothes, gathered my purse, held my head high, left the ship, found a taxi and went back to my apartment where I laid in a tub of hot water shaking, unable to feel clean, unable to get warm. I called in sick the next day and the day after.  The swelling around my mouth had gone down but my mind was in turmoil, shadows flooded the dark memories, but I could not hold onto the whirlwind in my heart and soul, so I let it all sink back into the darkness.  As I lay there, in that dark dank cave, I looked up, found a shred of light, pulled up my socks and just moved forward. It was the only thing I knew how to do best.

The months passed, work consumed me, I made new friends, I joined groups, I spent my evenings in the bowels of Rice Universities’ library where I read every book I could find on cultural anthropology, my favorite subject.

December arrived and with it a phone call from Capitán offering me a job as Operations Manager for a Yacht Charter he had just established in the Galapagos Islands with two diesel-powered 60’ converted fishing boats.  He was having difficulty finding someone to handle the job as well as the crew and I was, he said, his last resort.

I have no explanation for what I did next.  I accepted the offer.   The only thing I can think of is that at the time, my torn, battered and broken mind was damaged beyond any reasonable repair.  The invisible bandage I wore covered my delusional state, and in that twisted madness, I saw his offer as an opportunity for my personal redemption.

I hung up the phone and cried, making small cooing sounds like the doves that sat on my windowsill each morning.

Within the week I was back in Ecuador showing no sign of what the past year had wrought.

 

 

On Letting Go

Posted: November 25, 2013 in journal, Women, Writing
Tags: , , , , ,

“We must be willing to let go of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” – Joseph Campbell —

Portals- (2013) -oil on canvas-77x61 cm  (30x24) --

Portals- (2013) oil on canvas- 77×61 cm (30×24) —

An aside to the story.

 

“Get over it!” “Move on” I tell myself, but it doesn’t go away, it hangs over me like a little cloud.   Six years now and one would think I would have just accepted it all and moved on, but deep in my stubborn brain I have not!

In 2007 the economy was starting to collapse, we were in Florida at the time.  The real estate bubble kept getting bigger and bigger and I could see it all crumpling around the edges.  I wondered why no one else could ……

My galleries were closing, grants dried up, classes got smaller so we packed our bags and went back to New Mexico. I built my beautiful studio, I went looking for students, I went looking for teaching positions, I went looking and found brick walls.   To this day the brick walls are still severely in place, and the economy has not recovered.  At this point I no longer believe it will and that this is a new reality.

Wallowing in turmoil and unable to completely comprehend and accept that everything I had worked for and planned was gone, that I had been reduced to a mere piece of meat in the retail industry, that for all my talents, ability, skills, experience, I had nothing that was considered of value, consequently, I found it difficult to see anything positive.

It lead me to the conclusion that what I was going though is a variation of post-traumatic stress syndrome.

All my life if there was a crack I could find a way though it; if there was the traditional lemon, I would make gallons of lemonade; if there was dark I would find light; if something needed changing I would change it for the betterment of all…….

I do believe that it is not so much the fact that the world has changed, the world is always in a state of change; but that I was not allowed to change with it, that I was left behind without that crack in the fabric, without the lemon and only the dark; begetting anger and pride, which became my stumbling blocks to any real recovery.

People I knew backed away from me unable to deal with my frustration, responding in silence to my cries of woe.  My husband says I had such an extraordinary life that no one can relate to it and that they never will, they cannot comprehend the driving force that make me continue, they cannot accept the current failure.

Slowly in spite of the syndrome, acceptance is taking place. More importantly understanding comes into play.  Learning to face each day with joy is now a reality.  I paint now only for me, when the mood strikes. The need grows less with each passing year.  Looking at everything I have done with new eyes, I take pieces of the old, meld them with new elements creating an image of who I am today.  The paintings are just as strange and different as my life has been; they have become my therapy, showing me the way out. One day they will all be consumed by the great bonfire, a sacrifice to the gods for a life well lived.

This Thanksgiving, I am more grateful than ever, my eyes are opened, my head is clear.  Grateful for a beautiful studio, grateful for the job I do have, grateful we can pay our bills and put food on the table, grateful that I have had the life I had, that I could accomplish so much in so little time.

I have been carrying this rock for a long time now, slowly I now let it go and watch it roll down the hill, disappearing into a deep crevasse.

One stone does remain: my stubbornness;  for I still hold onto the belief that somewhere out in that brave new world, somehow, there is a bit left for me to do……

And so the story will continue…..

 

 

We suffer primarily not from our vices or our weaknesses, but from our illusions. We are haunted, not by reality, but by those images we have put in their place.

Daniel J. Boorstin —

Kachina Dream,2013, oil on canvas, 35x50 cm (14x20)

Kachina Dream,2013, oil on canvas, 35×50 cm (14×20) —

 

An aside to the story……

Capitán’s eldest sister and the first-born, was named Eleanor after her mother.  She went by the nickname Noni but behind her back was called “the war department”, for her iron fisted, unrelenting rule over not only her parents but also all her siblings.  A milky skinned redhead, her thinking was completely linear, a progressional,  pre-determined path to personal and societal success, there were no deviations, and no obstacles she could not overcome to achieve her goals. She was beautiful, graceful, intelligent, cruel, selfish, and very determined.

Patricia Roberta was Capitán’s youngest sister, and although he was the last of his siblings, Patty was the last girl, only 11 months his senior. A green-eyed brunette she stood in the shadow of her successful elder sister and watched with admiration and jealously.  Unlike Noni, Patty’s thinking was complete circular and it revolved around herself.  Spoiled and petulant she obtained whatever she wanted by whatever means necessary.  She considered herself to be quite special, and in many ways she was, but her values were shallow, based on what she thought society required of her, her personal needs superficial and her innate view on life was that it owed her more than she got.

Noni was very good at setting and achieving goals; Patty was very good at making other people tend her needs and make her happy. Noni allowed Patty to hang at the edges of her success and Patty never forgave her for the cruelty.

Noni choose carefully and married into an established local Irish dynasty. She gave birth to 4 children. Patty married the man she fell in love with, contracted a debilitating internal virus at a young age and was left barren.  Her greatest desire to be a mother would go unfulfilled and her sister would remind her of this failing for the rest of their days.

While Noni never had a kind word for anyone, Patty had a heart that was too big compensating for the great emotional need for a child; and it was that emotional need that softened her edges giving her an almost irresistible sheen, allowing her to move with ease at the mid to upper levels of New Orleans society.

When I was born Patty bonded with me like no other, and I must have reciprocated, because from that day forth, unbeknownst to me, she became my surrogate mother.  When my own mother had the 4th of her 6 children, Patty asked if she could adopt me, as my mother was capable of having many more children.  My mother was horrified at that thought and never forgave Patty.  Denied the one thing she wanted more than anything, Patty’s love for me grew exponentially over the years. Something I would not discover until much later in life.

Noni had a wealthy, powerful life, a full life, a rewarding life, and while her 3 sons succeeded in law, government and the arts, she would abuse and bully her only daughter into obedient submission, leaving her to grow into a fragile, bitter, narrow-minded, clueless, uneducated woman. My first cousin and one who would become the underlying sponge that soaked up the lies, the half-truths and innuendos, created by Capitán, spreading them as gospel.

I was in New Orleans when Noni was released from the hospital after a major heart attack at age 82.  None of her children, grandchildren, or even great-grandchildren had time to collect her from the hospital and bring her home.  Patty and I did. Physically weak, breathing shallowly, her fragile body seemed to disappear within her big four-poster antique canopy bed.  As I sat in a chair next to her listening to her breath, I could hear Patty down the hall on the phone making more arrangement with the maid, with a nurse and others when Noni reached for my hand and pulled me over.  “How could I have never known you were so kind?” she asked, “I am so very sorry.”   “Its OK, Noni, rest now.” I answered.  She died quietly 3 weeks later in that same bed.

With Noni’s death, Patty stepped with ease into the societal vacancy gaining the respect and admiration she craved.  In exchange for all she did for me over the years, I would help her go even further, by becoming her ghostwriter. She achieved great acclaim and fame if you will, for her talks, her committee installations, her prayers in multiple women’s groups and organizations throughout the city.  This would open the door to other latten talents and others would come to compose the tunes she heard in her head that would later be recorded by the Boston Pops.  Her world would grow, bloom, flower; her ego was now off the charts but her personality became child-like, loveable, generous, kind and those qualities made the superficial side of her seem insignificant.

A lovely side effect for me in this relationship was that Patty rarely bought anything off the rack.  All her clothes were classic in style, color and hand-made by her personal seamstress.  Worn only one season, she would give them away to charity each year making sure the charity knew exactly from whom the clothes came from; I received my yearly donation as well, and for about 25 years except for jeans and flannel shirts I never had to buy another stitch.

There is no lesson to this tale, no moral, no insight, just an observation, just a story to set things in perspective.  A family not unlike others who held grudges all their lives, who made people pay dearly for real or imagined offenses.   A family who lived and died by the drama they created, thereby giving their lives a reason for existence, meaning and purpose.  They lived two lives, their private ones which were “nobody business” and the public ones where “saving face” was paramount.  They were all unforgiving until the end, on their deathbeds, asking for forgiveness for a lifetime of cruelty.

I was not like them, never wanted to be like them, never truly understood them or their reasoning, never admired them, but I did find them amusing and I always loved them all in spite of their multiple failings.  All I ever asked of them was to be accepted and of course never was, except by Patty.