Saturday, November 12, 2011

Continuity / Following the thread

In the last few weeks, I've been going through all my belongings, trying to clear some space and orient myself. One of the first things I looked through were my father's slides which went back to 1948, when my parents married, and included images from my father's trips to Norway, the Orkney Islands, Alaska, China, India, Egypt, Jordan, and Israel after he retired in the mid-1970s. There are photos of me in my first year of life, 1949-1950. I am having many of these old photos scanned and put on disks.

A few days ago, I went through photos and negatives of my parents and my sisters, and of my parent's home and my father's garden in Gualala, California, dating back to 1971. Those photos came to me after my father died in 2003.

Yesterday I began going through a drawer of all my old photos and negatives, taken before I had a digital camera. The photos went back to 1974, which is the year I left California for a brief period of living near Walden Pond in Massachusetts, not because I didn't like California, but because I was curious, and my boyfriend at the time invited me to travel with him, and I was trying to put space between me and a traumatic period in my life. Little did I know that I would be haunted by the events of 1970 and 1971 as well as the events of 1974 to 1984 for years to come.

This morning I finished going through all those photos, letting many of them go, but keeping more than I had expected to want to keep. The photos from 1974 to 1984 are a record of years that are painful for me to remember, but going through them yesterday and this morning brought some genuine healing and a compassionate perspective on that deeply troubled part of my life from age 17 to age 34.

October 1984 to Veteran's Day 1990 was a period of new hope and what I thought was going to be boundless creative energy. Amazing to see myself in my mid-30s. Amazing to see how young I still was.

Beginning after Veteran's Day 1990, I began to exhibit signs of post-traumatic stress disorder. I stopped painting for the most part. In looking through the photos from the 1990s, I found the above photo of one of the few paintings I did during that time. I no longer have the painting. I donated it to a local fund-raising auction. Someone in Bellingham owns it now. At the bottom of the painting, it says, "This plan is not totally useless" and "The place where two rivers meet." The images that go with the words were from dreams I had just before the most creative period in my life, 1984 to 1990. Now, as l look more closely, I see that almost everything in the painting came from a dream in the early 1980s.

The last non-digital photos were in 2002. I was increasingly displeased with the photos I was taking with my cameras and didn't take any photos until 2005, at which time I bought my iBook G4 and then a digital camera.

My blog was part of my healing from posttraumatic stress disorder. I had been unemployed for the first of what was to be five years of unemployment, living on what was supposed to be my retirement savings. I quickly became a full-time blogger. My blog began on the 36th anniversary of Richard's return from Vietnam. By looking at my drawings and paintings from 1966 to 2006, I was able to see 40 years of my life as a artist. After presenting my 40-year retrospective, I began to presenting digital photographs, mostly taken from my porch and in and around Bellingham.

Through blogging, I came out of a long posttraumatic stress disorder-induced creative isolation, connecting with creative people in different parts of the United States and Canada as well as creative people in Europe and India. Today, I am happy to still be blogging with a handful of blog friends. You know who you are.

After Richard died in 2008, my blog lost momentum but kept on.

In 2010, I took the only job I could find as a medical transcriptionist, and found myself with little time for blogging and an increasing awareness of being exploited at an occupation that once offered a person a good hourly wage and benefits.

Now I am retired, without health insurance until I can receive Medicare, collecting a small Social Security check. I'm curious to see if I can live on that, and if not, I will need to find a way to supplement that income, as my savings is limited.

Still have a cedar chest of memories and a number of bookshelves to go through before I am through with this current sorting and letting go process.

Today I am feeling better than I have in years, with a measure of peace that I do not take for granted.

Thank you to robin andrea for the suggestion that made it possible for me to present the birds singing in November for you today:


Dale said...

Selfishly, I'm glad to have you back! Though I wish the employment world had not made such a decisive shift. It seems to me that most work, nowadays, is insupportable :-(

It's nice to have this reprise. xo

Sabine said...

Life, what a journey. When you write that you are curious to find out if you can live on what probably is really meagre, I am really impressed as I am quietly shaking in my boots occasionally at the prospect of the very limited pension I may receive - or not, depending on how much more shit will hit the fans in the near future.
I hope you will find safer ground, soon.

Anonymous said...

The reverberations of economic upheavals make each one of us anxious about the future. The truly sad thing, to me, is that we all always have go through this on our own. This is not how humans are meant to live, we are creatures evolved to live socially (bands, tribes, communes). The success of capitalism reduces each one of us to a single entity, consumer. Alone. In my perfect dream, even a loner (like me) lives communally (we each get our own tipi, hut, cave!). The old ways were right.

Glad the tip worked for the video. The bird songs are beautiful.

Anonymous said...

always figured they named them after the biblical character 'j-o-b.' usually the work makes someone else the money, hard not to be cynical about that, still your entry ends with such a hopeful note. kudos to you, onward (as howard junker used to say when he rejected a poem). kjm

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for this. There's so much more to life than a conventional 'job', as long as you can get by. The simple, the creative life, that's the best. Glad you're feeling good.

am said...

Dale -- I like that word. Reprise. I'm feeling good, and that makes me feel even better.

Sabine -- For the time being, I am on safe ground. As you do, I try to stay in the present. I am reminded of that each time I visit your blog and read, "Live all you can. It's a mistake not to."

robin andrea -- I relate to the idea of being a loner living communally. That is what my life in Bellingham feels like.

kjm -- Yes, onward!

Solitary Walker -- More time for walking always feels good (-: