Posts Tagged ‘women’

“Yes, the wind came up–” Mrs. Sharpe began. She paused. “And changed us all,” Petra said softly.” ― Blue Balliett, The Calder Game

Eyes Wide Shut, graphite on paper, A4 (8x10)

Eyes Wide Shut, graphite on paper, A4 (8×10)2015 —

The story Continues….

In my 3 decades as a professional artist, I learned that no one survives on talent alone. It takes sponsors with connections, galleries with connections, and other artist willing to bring you along with them up the ladder, and most importantly it’s all about timing.

I knew nothing of these things in those early days as I was wrapped in the warmth, comfort and magic of the great grandfather mountains of Santa Fe, my illusions were undauntable, my addictions intense; because for me it was all about the paint. I jumped into that rich emulsifying pool of art and swam with the sharks never realizing that what I was painting was unique and would give way to a lifetime of exploration, adventures and more failures and rewards than I could even imagine.

Those first years I rode the western wind which allowed me to define what I would paint giving me my women in robes who took center stage and brought much acclaim as I participated in multiple shows dealing with women in art. My landscapes of Stairs and Awnings brought my first exclusive contact with a gallery. Everything clicked; I was in the right place at the right time with the right stuff. I became a member of a very small group of 5 artists called the Multi-Cultural Artist Group and we painted large murals on the sides of many buildings in Santa Fe. The one on the old Records and Archives Building on Guadalupe St is now considered a local landmark. In addition I was elected to the Board of Directors of the Santa Fe Society of Artists. I began teaching on the side to mostly young and talented teens. My reputation was growing, and it was quietly said I had created a new genre.

Five years in Santa Fe and then we moved to Tijeras, New Mexico. By then I was represented by 2 galleries in Florida, one in Houston and a third small gallery in Albuquerque. My work was too different to be considered “New Mexican” and I rarely sold within the state. Aside from the galleries, I was getting into multiple competitions nationwide taking many awards.

Twelve years later as my work was continually growing and evolving with the times, the west wind changed course bringing a warm southernly breeze that entered the window one cold Thanksgiving and a seed was planted. It was watered by my love for the woman who was my aunt but whom I thought of as a mother, one who came to me and begged a favor.

When I could not say no, another path opened, this one darker. In my Pollyannaness, I did not know at that time it would require every ounce of my heart and soul, every fiber of my being in order to accomplish was was set before me, and to survive the battle to come. My husband would latter say that my whole life was leading up to this point, and was preparing me for the final confrontation with Capitán.

I would not pick up a paintbrush or a pencil for the next five years.

Sleepwalking

Posted: January 19, 2015 in journal, Women, Writing
Tags: , , , ,
Beach Chair, oil on canvas, 77x102 cm (30x40)

Beach Chair, oil on canvas, 77×102 cm (30×40)

Its true, I feel like have been sleepwalking…..painting, thinking, working, sleeping, trying to breathe.  And so I sit and wait.

A new birthday approaches and the 30 days prior have been adventurous to say the least, ripples in the force, a glitch in the matrix, passing shadows… patiently I move slowly, because it is best to let these things pass in order to have a clean page, a sharp pencil to begin writing.

Words cloud my mind, the fog of too many years and too many rivers rushes over me as I think of a way to put it all into perspective.

And so I wait.

It will come when its ready.

“Excuse me while I kiss the sky.” Jimi Hendrix

 

Stillness, 2007, oil on canvas, 76x 101 cm-30x40

Stillness, 2007, oil on canvas, 76x 101 cm-30×40

 

An Aside to the Story.

 

When I awoke this morning, there was a different feel to the wind rustling the trees, a high west wind. The barometer was low and dark clouds hugged the surrounding mountains moving swiftly to their Easterly destination, perhaps to cause havoc in Texas and Oklahoma.

Today was my first day off where I did not have something else to do, a leisurely day, conversation over breakfast with my husband, a few chores to be accomplished, and perhaps finish another Paper Play piece I started but never finished. All the pieces lay on the drawing table, waiting for me, calling to me…..

Work has taken up all my time, physically and emotionally. In addition, I am having to learn to deal with a reverse set of circumstances. In my old salve job at Home Depot working in returns and customer service, it was the customers who thought I was rude, always yelling at me thereby making management yell at me. After a year and a half, I got tired of people yelling at me so I quit. The only people I did get along with were my fellow slaves.

Now a new job, as a guest services representative with the Air Force Inns, part of the US Air Force lodging support group, and I love it! It has now been nearly 8 weeks of intensive training and 40 hour weeks of what was supposed to have been a part-time job. Here, management and the guests think I am great, but my fellow employees all think I am rude.

In this short time I have been called into the office 6 times, roughly once a week because one of the girls has complained about something I said that offended her. I sigh a lot, not knowing how to talk any kinder or gentler, having done my best to integrate myself into their conversations and every day chatter during the quite times, only to be slight shunned and ignored. Now, I have found that the only solution, to prevent situations from arising again is to keep my mouth shut, which has isolated me even more. My husband commented that perhaps all of my co-workers are Home Depot customers! That made me laugh at the irony of it all.

I think Kermit, said it best: “It is not east being green.” That really explains it all for being different is truly a burden at times, a blessing at others, consistently keeping life an amusing, sometimes aggravating challenge.

I have always said, for as long as I can remember, that as an artist I existed in a realm between earth and sky. I have found these last 5 years or so working in the real world difficult at best. (Thank you George Bush for doing what you did and giving me this opportunity. Said sarcastically of course.) However, I have come to the conclusion that I cannot re-emerge into the real world as an ordinary persona, simply because the greater part of myself still exists in the in-between world where everything is clear and all your senses are quite attuned to everything.

Take that and add it to my empathic ability and people who are even just a little aware know I can see right though them and the others just are a bit blinded by the bright light.

Go buy some sunglasses world; I plan to be around for a while, so you might as well get use to me as I kiss the sky.

 

 

“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.

 

“Like all dreamers, I mistook disenchantment for truth.”―Jean-Paul Sartre, The Words —

Night Lines graphite on paper 8x10

Night Lines
graphite on paper
8×10—-

An after thought…

When I left Galapagos, Ecuador had just raised the number of tourist allowed into the island to 35,000 per year.  The big ships were already arriving and making visitation of nesting sites awkward as the small boats had to wait for all the passengers from the big boats to embark and disembark their passengers.  There were limits on how many people could be on any island at any given time.  Already numerous deaths of animals were occurring due to introduced vegetation or water pollution. Land iguanas were dying with boated bellies, sea-lion and seals were developing eye infections, marine iguanas were dying because the regular green algae was being overtaken by an introduced red algae.. The introduction of foreign vegetate, plant and trees combined with and animals; the continued practice of overfishing decimating many ocean species, the foreign elements replacing the natural ones and the animals are left without defense.  Then there is the human element, the physical slaughter of sea lions for their skin, not to mention other atrocities.  Guides were not adhering strictly to the rules of take nothing, leave only footprints and the inevitable consequence was beginning to show on all the islands.

Today I cannot image how the islands must look and cringe at the thought.  Over 140,000 tourists come to Galapagos every year, over 25,000 people now live on 3 islands, there are 3 airports, and over 4 billion a year is generated in tourist dollars. What was once one plane twice a week is now six planes a day.  The math is quite simple.

The increase of tourist affected all the animals in different ways. The effects of the human population growth can only be stated as an uncontrolled disaster; eventually there will no longer be a Galapagos, just the memory and photographs.

In 2007 the Unesco’s World Heritage Committee finally put the Galapagos Islands on the endangered list not only for the multiple species but also the entire archipelago.  In 2010 it was removed from the list under extreme protest from the International Union for the Conservancy of Nature siting that even though the Ecuadorian Government was making strides, it was not enough to save the islands.  The human population on the islands continues to increase at 8% a year.  The Ecuadorian Park Service rules have so many holes and loopholes, very little can be enforced.

I had become an environmentalist during my years on the islands and when I boarded the plane back to the USA, I left with a heavy heart, knowing that the first generation of guides would probably be the last to hold tight the need to protect the animals.   I was proud to have done my part but sad at the same time, knowing I was leaving a bit of magic, watching the enchantment fade and that nothing there would ever be the same again.

Humans never really learn and are indeed poor stewards of this planet.

 

 

“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…..

 

 

“Course Capitan?”                                                                                                                                        “Second star on the right Mr. Sulu, and follow it until morning” Capt. James T. Kirk, Star Trek

Ocean Race, graphite on paper, 8x10, from the book "Avitars of Avilon, The lost Bird Adventure"  Written and Illustrated by Cassandra Gordon-Harris, Blurb.com - 2008

Ocean Race, graphite on paper, 8×10, from the book “Avitars of Avilon, The lost Bird Adventure” Written and Illustrated by Cassandra Gordon-Harris, Blurb.com – 2008

My brains have been racked and sacked and stirred and emptied trying to think of a way to describe the next 6 months.  How to elaborate in a short form the experience of a lifetime. How while waiting 2 months for Alex to return John and I hired ourselves out as line handlers and went though the canal about 30 times.

Of how when Alex did return, he brought a friend with him who wanted to sail to the Galapagos, so back down the coast we went and 8 days later the islands rose out of misty sea in all their jagged glory.  Of how we had to wait 3 weeks for the supply boat from the mainland to come into Santa Cruz Island so we could re stock on fresh veggies and other supplies for the crossing.  Of how instead of hiring a local naturalist guide so we could tour the islands, John and I took a 3-day intensive course at the Darwin Station thereby becoming one of first 10 official Naturalist Guides. Even though I grew up in Ecuador, this was my first view of the Galapagos; their austere beauty touched the core of my soul. So much to see and experience, whether climbing volcano’s to see the giant tortoise or looking down into a sulfur fumed smoking caldera, walking on glittering ovaline crsytal beaches or lounging on the spiky lava rocks as iguanas crawled over you, or Mrs. Whimer on Floreana Island and her marvelous orange wine, blue and red footed boobies, land iguanas, of the numerous individuals and characters that would become lifetime friends. Swimming with sea lions, diving fro fresh lobster, watching orcas come nearly the beach themselves so to eat the young pups, more and more!  Birds by the thousands…….I understood how Darwin came to his conclusions.

Those 3 weeks passed too quickly as we turned in our observation reports on the conditions we found on the various islands to the Darwin Station, collected our supplies, sailed to Baltra Island where the Navy had made use of the old US airstrip, put Alex’s friend on a plane for Quito, refueled our reserve tank and headed off into the western sunset.

Twenty-Three days at sea.  There were doldrums, there were monster storms and 20 foot waves we would roller coaster over and down, there was incredible sights such as a dolphin feeding frenzy on an immense school of tuna, there were flying fish that John gathered up each morning and sautéed in olive oil.  There were rents in the sails that needed mending, there was salt to clean off the decks, and there were the haunting sounds of bells, whistles, dogs barking, people talking that would filter in on the wind during the dark nights at the wheel.  There was the wonderful day-to-day routine of watches, work, cooking and sleep.  How huge the moon as it rose over the horizon, the green flash of the setting sun crossing the equator……I never felt more alive, more in tuned with the world even though I was isolated on this great pacific sea.

As we neared Tahiti,  Alex decided to take a shortcut though the Tuamotu Islands that would save us a days sail and put us in Papeete before Bastille Day. The only problem was we really had no maps of the reefs.During the day we could see well enough but then night fell and we slowed to a crawl.  I was on the helm, John stood on the bow taking soundings and Charlen had a powerful lantern shinning it out across the water looking for unexpected rocks and reefs!  We had lowered the sails except for the jib, and were on engine power.  Alex called out course changes based on John yelled out soundings.  Their voices were nearly drowned out by the sound of waves crashing and the engine.  Took us 3 heart stopping days to make the passage, with three on deck at all times while one slept on 4 hour shifts, when finally Fatu Hiva island’s timelessly breathtaking beauty rose on the horizon. Alex wanted to continue on full speed to Tahiti but John (and the rest of us) had enough. A little assistance and the engine started to sputter and groan, and John convinced Alex of how it might be too dangerous to continue without the engine working properly, we sailed into the harbor of Fatu Hiva before dawn and dropped anchor.

It was everything you read about in books, the perfect paradise with just a faint touch of civilization, one church, one bakery, one small shop selling tin goods, fabric and other sundries, and one town meeting place. Scattered thatched houses at the high tide mark and more clustered inland. The population at that time was no more than a couple of hundred.

As the sun rose, two outriggers came alongside and we were invited ashore for the Bastille Day celebrations that evening. John and I went ashore and found the bakery run by a crazed and marvelous Frenchman; we requested 25 baguettes for the following day.  We also learned of a vegetable farm in the highlands and off we went in search of whatever was available. The trek inland was just a narrow goat path decorated every few yards with stone Tiki’s partially covered in vegetation on either side of the road…….haunting.  We found the farm run by an older French couple. They graciously sold us what they could spare offering us bread, wine and good conversation.

That evening the drums lured us back ashore, Alex refused to come, since there was no yacht club, so Charlen, John and I took the dingy and ……. Hard to describe the magic of it all…… the intoxicating Tamure dancing, the food, the local drink…….. however, we did make it back to the yacht before dawn!  Back ashore in the morning to find our crazy baker asleep by the ovens with our bread rising on the long work tables. Unable to wake him John kept the fire in the stone oven going while I baked the loaves. We left sufficient funds in the sleeping bakers apron to cover the cost along with a thank you note.

The 5-day trip to Papeete held a life-changing event for me.  A sudden intense wind came up out of nowhere forcing us to drop sail and go under engine power.  Charlen was at the wheel when I headed aft to collect vegetables we had stored in the well.  The seas were now quite rough and I was wearing a life-line when the boat suddenly listed heavily to starboard and jerked back again; in that instant the movement tossed me overboard, hitting a stanchion as I went, breaking a tooth and slicing up my abdomen. I hung from  the lifeline my feet dragging in the water.  I yelled and yelled but even though Charlen was less than 5 feet away from me, he could not hear me over the noise of the engine.  Like a fool I was still holding onto the bowl I was using to fill with vegetables and realized I either had to save myself or die, so I let go of the bowl, managed to reach the stanchion and slowly, painfully pulled my self back on-board.  Shaken and bleeding I  stepped into the steering well heading for below decks, waved at Charlen who then screamed for John who helped me below and began doctoring my wounds.  Alex came to see what the commotion was all about and calmly said “Remember you are up, so make sure you are on watch in 10 minutes.”  It was in that moment a voice in my head said it was time to leave.

We arrived at the yacht club in Papeete and Alex was very happy we were only slightly off schedule. We stayed for 3 days, loading up supplies again and fuel.  John and I toured the island, visited with other yachts we had met in Panama catching up on sea tales and shared adventures. I began asking around, looking for boats heading east and then she sailed into the harbor.

Another little voice told me this was my ticket home.  She was a 12-meter racing sloop stopping in Papeete for supplies and to leave off a sick crew member.  Having finished a racing circuit, she was headed for Bora-Bora, then Hawaii and San Francisco.  As soon as she anchored I went and spoke to her Capitan and he agreed to take me on. I notified Alex of my decision, said my goodbyes collected my passport, my pay, packed my bag and two days latter was headed back across the Pacific with a short stop in magnificent Bora-Bora.

The feel of a racing sloop under you feet is like walking on the wind with a never-ending rush of adrenalin. We clipped along at 10 knots seemingly at a seemingly  permanent 45-degree angle until we hit the doldrums and then crawled along for several days before we could once again raise the mainsail.  I never would have guess that moving at that speed for long periods of time could be so exhausting.  A hurricane hit us a week later, taking down some rigging and destroying our reserve water tanks.  We were only a week out of Hawaii but rationed our supplies and water just to be safe. I managed to cut myself several times during the next few days, and as we had limited medical supplies the consequential infections were hard to manage.  My fever was not abating by the time we  sailed into Hilo and I took this to be a sign it was time to pack my bags again, collect my pay and go home.

I caught the next plane out for Houston and reality.