Sunday, August 29, 2010

Dear Ellen

I leave tomorrow for California. The van is packed and waiting, fully loaded down with work for an early morning exit from New Orleans. I wish I could say I'm looking forward to this journey, but the truth is I'm afraid. I know it will be good for me to get away, to experience some fresh air, but the anticipation of spending three days in a car with just me for entertainment is a daunting and frightful thing. I'll be gone for twelve days. Twelve days away from everything I've come to know as safe and routine. My cave where the cat and I hide to heal our wounds, my studio where I'm always happy to be. All my safe little crutches removed. The only connection to sanity will be a cellphone with tenuous coverage for 1,950 of the 2,260 miles I'm traveling.

How can I have come this far, spent so much of the past 8 months alone, and feel so undone about being in a car for six days? I see myself as stronger now and yet, as our dear friend Donna reminded me this morning, I'm also so fragile. I keep pushing forward as though I'm in a race to prove myself, but the truth is I have faultlines along my edges. I'm like the porcelain boat I pulled from the kiln three weeks ago which had split wide open to reveal the flaws hidden in the first firing. No longer perfect, I broke the piece apart and mosaiced it together again. An attempt to make it whole, knowing full well where the faultline still left scars. I can't hide my scars, but they are making me stronger. And maybe I'm learning that being split wide open is a good thing. To be vulnerable, to be afraid, just makes me most human.
It reminds me of a May Sarton poem I read a long time ago called "Somersault", the passage I remember, "Is it a question of discipline or grace? The steel trap of the will or some slight shift within an opened consciousness? The tightrope walker juggles weights, to lift himself up on the stress,and airy master of his own loss, he springs from heaviness. But we, stumbling our way, how learn such poise,the perfect balance of all griefs and joys? Burdened by love, how learn the light release that, out of stress, can somersault to peace?"

I will be allright.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Muse

Dear Ellen

I've been thinking about you a lot this past week. It's crunch time in the studio as I get ready to go to Sausalito for a show. I don't think you liked crunch time too much as it meant I was anxious and grumpy up until the hysterical last minute, but we always managed to get through it and you were always happy to see me when I returned home. My work reflects the change I was hoping for and I'm pleased with it. So many times I wished you were here to help me figure out the finishing touches on a piece and so many times I'd hear you in my head telling me to "calm down". It makes me smile to think of how many times you've had to tell me that.
In a way, I'm taking you with me to Sausalito. The new work is clearly about the loss and transitions I'm making, the expressions and emotions reflected in the faces I've carved. For the first time in a few years I am a little afraid of setting them up at a show and hearing the reactions from people. It feels like I've been stripped down to a core and now waiting for the verdict. I guess, like you would say, "there's only one way to find out". So, a week from today it's off to California and in the meantime, a flurry of fur in the studio.

I'm meeting with someone tomorrow from your old school, Nicholls State. I've decided to set up an endowment scholarship in your name for students who have lost a parent to brain cancer. I think it would make you very happy to know how many lives you touched, not only during your lifetime, but long afterwards. It makes me smile, because I know you wanted to leave some of your estate to charity, but couldn't decide which one. I think this would feel right to you.

I'm off to the studio as there's fur to fly.
I know, I know. Calm down.

I miss you
love, cathy

Sunday, August 8, 2010


Dear Ellen
We have wonderful friends. Last evening there was a dinner party here with several of them. Lots of good food, wine, interesting conversation and most of all, plenty of laughter. I thought of you often, knowing you would have loved the evening, knowing time with good friends always made you happy.
I even put art up on the walls before everyone arrived. I guess I'm planning on staying here for a few more months. It's starting to look like someone lives here now, instead of feeling like I'm staying at a hotel. I suppose both things, a dinner party and art on the walls, are signs I'm joining the human race again. There's a little more balance in my life, more awareness of the world revolving around me. Mind you, I have my moments when I dissolve into sadness, but now they don't fill my days. Now when I think of you, it's more often a good memory accompanied by a small smile. Sometimes, I still can't believe you're gone, but there seems to be some level of acceptance about it.

Our friends have been a big part of my returning to the world. Honestly, I don't know how I would have kept trudging along without their love and support. Old friends have been with me every step and stumble, new friends have become a joy and blessing to me. I figure everyone coming into my life, through the door of the gallery, have been directed there for some good purpose. Familiar friend or not, I consider them as a small jewel in my day, a gift of conversation from a stranger or an exchange of love and support between friends. In many ways this is what gives me purpose now. I feel your presence with me, giving me strength to move forward, but it's these small gifts of love from friends which give me hope again. I truly am a lucky girl.

Love you, miss you.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The process.

Dear Ellen

I've been working like a crazy woman this past week. The studio looks like a tornado whipped through it, pieces, parts and papers scattered around in piles, dried clay clinging to the floor and beeswax now sticking to every tool I own. It's fabulous. I am surrounded in unorganized splendor which is leading me to the very destination I hoped to find when I began a month ago. It's been a challenge to be patient and allow the process to trudge along, but I'm realizing the education has been good for me. Getting lost in the creative spaces of my mind centers me, calms me, allows me to reach those places within which I'm usually running from. It teaches me honesty and keeps me grounded. What a gift it's been, especially these past few months.
Remember how I used to run into the house and grab you, beg you to come out to the studio to see what I was working on? You were my art consultant and number one cheerleader. Yesterday in the midst of finally seeing some success in the studio I thought of you and a smile came over me. I missed you terribly, wished you were there for a consult, but took comfort knowing you were. It's almost as though I can hear your voice, reminding me to add more color, or change the shape of the nose. You are such a part of my work and in a way, I find great joy in knowing you are living on within it. It feels a little sad, but good.

I'm off to the studio to finish some work. See you there.