Friday, January 23, 2015

Butterfly season

Monarchs


I am with 2 friends in Santa Cruz, California.  A mini vacation for a week in the guise of house sitting for my son.

Monarch butterflies overwinter in Santa Cruz starting in late October or November.  In the spring they begin their astonishing, long migration to the Rocky mountains.  Four generations live and die to complete this round-trip journey.  Here in Santa Cruz they gather in fluttery clusters, flitting through the eucalyptus forest in Natural Bridges State Beach.  It is otherworldly, the ambiant light filtering through the tall, graceful trees with their long, slender, leaves.

In my search for metaphors for healing, witnessing this beautiful butterfly collective ranks high. Symbolically, the butterfly is all about metamorphosis, personal transformation, renewal and rebirth.  It is breathtaking and fills me with hope.

Alcatraz


The next day we drive 70 miles north along the coast, past truck farms and spectacular ocean vistas and then on into San Francisco.  We take a ferry to Alcatraz Is. to see @Large, an exhibit of work by famed Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.  http://www.for-site.org/project/ai-weiwei-alcatraz/
It is a tribute to freedom of expression, this monumental exhibit which sprawls in many parts throughout the prison.  It is about about journalists, poets, writers, whistle blowers, people from around the world who have been convicted, imprisoned, exiled for speaking out.  It is about many kinds of prisons and prisoners in a place, Alcatraz, that was the first and perhaps the most notorious maximum-security penitentiary in the U.S.  It is also about transformation of a place haunted by despair and captivity to one filled with recognition of sacrifices made and ultimately with beauty.  Go if you can.

Desaparecido (disappeared in Spanish)


A convict is a person who has been detained, disappeard and disconnected from life as we know it.  What constitutes freedom?  What role does communication play?  What can we do to ensure we will be heard?  What is our responsibility to ensure freedom for one another around the globe?  These are among the questions this exhibit raises.

After I leave Alcatraz and contemplate my experience there, I begin to think about my own experience with pain, how it has robbed me of a certain kind of freedom.  While I don't pretend to understand the degree of loss of personal freedom that prisoners on Alcatraz and elsewhere have endured, I do know that we who live with chronic pain been detained and often disconnected from the life we have led, would like to live.  Writing this story is a way for me and, by proxy others,  to be heard, a communication between me and my readers.

Right now my headaches are partially controlled by a combination of 5 powerful medications.  In one of the ugly ironies of medical managment of migraines, I am taking a drug that is actually working to decrease headache frequency and severity.  However, in the process of doing so, I'm experiencing intolerable side effects.  Thus I have to go off this medication.  But not until I get home from this California trip.

While I've enjoyed myself, going out for lunch, making a fire in the back yard and cooking hot dogs while gabbing with friends, going to a fantastic exhibit, walking the beach, and seeing my son, it's hanging over my head, this thing with the drugs.  Whatever is ahead in my own story, I know I can still go to the place of butterflies, beaches and, strangely, to Alcatraz to experience a place of personal freedom.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

I prefer a window seat


Whether it's on an airplane or elsewhere, I love to be able to see out and watch the world go by.  Looking down from 35,000 feet up fascinates me, how you can't differentiate the canyons from the mountains or up from down.  Is what I'm seeing a ridge or a river, a mountain or a mole hill?  Flying over the Sea of Cortez, peering west across a hump of land, is that the Pacific Ocean I spy on the other side or the endless blue sky floating above a peak?

Coming home from Zihuatanejo, Mexico, I am riveted by the sudden sight below of an active volcano, steam venting from the top.  Then right beside it another ancient volcano with its top blown off resembling Mt. Saint Helens in my home state of Washington.  Then two little cinder cones not far away.

It all takes me completely out of myself.  The headaches recede from my awareness as I wing my way high over the surface of the earth  This shift from my inner to the outer world, this change in perspective displaces pain.


At home the whole south side of our house is filled with windows in every room.  When my kids were young, it was a distinct advantage to be able to see what they were up to.  Now I have a rocking chair situated in the bay window.  It's my go-to spot for reading, writing, drawing or basking in the sun surrounded by light and leaf, the next best thing to being outside no matter what the weather.  The form and lines of the apple tree in winter, the sun shining on the fir flooring, the sight of a hawk perched on a tree near the bird feeder, looking for an easy mark, a fast-food meal.  They all catch my eye, pluck my heart strings and move me, for the present moment, beyond the weight of my worries.