Saturday, December 12, 2009


Migraines. Do you have them? Then what I write here will probably resonate with you. If you have never had one you can only wonder and be grateful for your good fortune.

It's not the aching head that is the test. It's the Black Hole. If I can manage to get through the two or three day ordeal without going down the Black Hole, I don't consider it a migraine - just what I euphemistically call "a really, really bad headache". Vomiting doesn't count. Nor does complete intolerance of light and movement. What counts, after nearly 50 years of these nightmares, is the Black Hole.

The Black Hole is where the pain takes me to after being down for about 24 hours, continuous stabbing pain unabated, unable even to move. The darkness inside my brain manifests as depression accompanied by increasingly morbid thoughts about loved ones - fears made powerfully real down there in the Hole. I cannot cry the terrors away - migraine pain makes crying not the release of emotion, but the agony of nausea, vomiting and greater pressure in an already overly pressurized cabin. I cannot even give voice to the visions of these terrors, unwilling to allow them into my conscious, and currently sane mind. For years I feared I was simply "going crazy". But finally, on day 3, I would know it was behind me, just the "hangover" day to cope with. Day 5, back to life.

Lately, for the past several years, I have been experiencing a change in the nature of the headache. For years I knew the instant one had begun its attack - a sharp stabbing pain behind my eyes, slight dizziness, and a heaviness of my head - my neck unable to support what rapidly became a boulder. Putting life aside as quickly as possible - turn the gas stove off, get the child out of the bath, call Dad to watch the kids, try to finish the work day & get home safely, whatever I was engaged in had to come to a close as I headed for the bed, the dark, the silent, often feeling like I had failed somehow to control my psyche, visualize good health, be in the moment, remove stress from my life, be positive about my world view, eat this, don't eat that. Friends, relatives, therapists, doctors - all opined on the cause and cure of my migraines, as though I, myself, didn't obsess about it - Oh! that must be it - you are obsessing! Now why couldn't I have figured that out?

Over the years I discovered some good medication (Cafergot - old, tried and true, and cheaper than all the new stuff), acupuncture (the miracle worker Dutch physician that used to live on Orcas Island saved me from insanity, I'm certain), and after many years, the ability to "go with it" - the migraine. Embrace it, I believe, is the current language. Enter Stephen King. Yep, horror story King of the Hill. I heard him interviewed on NPR. He was asked (maybe it was a Terry Gross interview) about his ideas and how did they not frighten him. His answer, as I recall, was about giving voice to his greatest nightmares so that they could no longer hold sway over him...once he had given them a voice, they were simply stories, not REAL, not even potentially real. And so, next migraine I gave it a try, while I was in the Black they came, in all their horrid violence, and I whispered down deep in my soul, you are not real, you are just my pain, you are not real, you are just my pain, you are not real, you are just my pain... No, it did not catapult me out of the Black Hole. It didn't even shorten the length of the migraine. But it did change something in me. It gave me the strength to, yes, embrace the pain, and in that embrace I knew in that moment, and in every similar moment in every migraine thereafter, that this was JUST a migraine, not a failing, not a psychosis, not self-induced, not punishment, not a sign of things to come, not my dark side, not too much coffee, not denial, not eggplant and tomatoes...just a migraine, and it will pass. Thank you Stephen King.

As menopause came on, the migraines began to fade. What? Did I not spend ten out of the last thirty days in bed this month??? With each passing year I had fewer and fewer marathon head bangers (and by the way, if you have ever wondered how that expression came into being, I think it was someone who, as I have done on several occasions, simply banged their head on a hard surface in an attempt to alleviate the migraine pain with a different pain - to turn to a different brain channel, fool your endorphins, jump the track, pass out - anything, ANYTHING, A N Y T H I N G to get away from the pain!). Amazing. I was almost migraine free. I almost laughed at the two-aspirin headaches I would now, occasionally, experience.

But here's the rub. Bummer. A couple of years ago I swatted at the pest that knocked loudly at the back of my head. When the bones in my face felt like I'd been beaten, I pronounced, "It's just sinus" and headed for the pharmacy. Gradually the insistent monster appeared full force, once again snatching me out of my day and slamming me flat in the cold, dark, quiet. The Black Hole alive and well.

Here's the difference now. Sometime in the Stephen King transitional phase, I spied, while in the Hole whispering to the horribleness, the edge of the Hole. It looked like a spiral. I was sliding down the spiral hole into the depression and the fearful visions. Weird. Not falling. Just spiraling downward. Then something new happened. I was sliding down the darkness, reaching a plateau of some sort, when out of the corner of my inner eye, I saw something light and colorful. My brain jerked to a stop, then made a hard right, and that's when I saw the something light and colorful resting on a level UP on the spiral.

I now know the power of the creative mind. The something light and colorful was and is the creative energy at work underneath the migraines and all the bio-chemical depression that comes with them. It was, that day, an idea, perhaps for a tapestry, or a painting, or a solution to some problem. It has been, on other days in other migraines, a vision of a piece of art I would see full-blown, an absolutely "new" idea born on that spiral, proof of spirit alive and well. Now, I recognize the spiral in migraine and wait for the light and colorful to capture me. Then it's a sure climb out of the Black Hole.

Next week I'll post a picture of the something light and colorful from the migraine I just climbed out of. In the meantime, I wish for all of you, good health, and great manifestations of your own creative energy.

Saturday, September 5, 2009


There are just some times when the best laid plans of mice, men and artists go astray!  What you see here is Syed taking my Foredom apart for (hopefully) repairs.  That would be because I nearly drilled a hole in my stomach when the grinder got caught in my tee shirt, instantly wrapped it until the torque stopped the motor just a fraction of a hair's width away from my abdomen.  Good that it stopped.  Bad that it broke the shaft.  I was reduced to finishing the "grinding" of ragged edges with a knife - very slow.

I was working on this Iris piece and ran into a little dilemma trying to clean the inside of the neck.  It's a very strong gourd but the slits are not wide enough to get any kind of tool through to shave the plant material away.  So, I cut an entire section away, giving me better access.  With a bit of luck I will be able to fit it back together so you can't see the joins.

I'm thinking of looking for a job designing puzzles.  Maybe gourd puzzles.  I wonder if there's a market...

Back to work...time is flying and my fall show schedule starts next weekend.  Isn't that what Labor Day is about....working???

Monday, August 31, 2009


Sunflowers and Fall!  It's cool and rainy today, overcast, windows open, the slushy sounds of tires on wet streets - stores not open yet and no one walking around - I love it!  My hermit self is loving the quiet!
And it means the stack of half finished gourds is calling to me!  Over the weekend I nearly drilled a hole through my stomach as the Fordom caught my tee shirt as I was grinding some sculpted boxes!  Yikes!  It torqued the tool and stopped the motor all just short of my gut!  Now I have to take the Foredom apart and do some repairs - I have learned over the years to always keep a spare on hand, so work continues.

I working on a slightly new design for the gourds - a new way to use them - keep checking in.  I hope to post more "in process" states so you can see the stages of development as I go along.  So often it's difficult for people to understand how I get from the field to the pedestal, so in the interest of education, I'll be recording the process for you.

Friday, August 21, 2009


I love doing commission work because it makes me think in ways different than I would under ordinary circumstances. When Peggy and Larry asked me about doing a strawberry, I wasn't too sure - but doing the "patch" proved to be lots of fun. This is about 12" w and sits nicely without an added base.

I am recovering nicely from my hip replacement - at 2 weeks I am walking around on my own and off the pain meds. It's good to be back in the studio where I am at work on a couple of tall Iris pieces - one of old fashioned brown iris and one in purple/blue.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Grampa Syed and Whit entertain each other!

We all need a little diversion! Playing with the Mac and tutoring Gramma (that would be me) while it's too hot outside for playing. Back to work soon!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Developing Ideas left and right!

When an artist works in more than one medium, it 's interesting to see the intersections and the ways techniques can overlap and complement each other. I am working here on a flat wood surface, basically doing exactly what I do on the gourds - draw the image, engrave the line in with a woodburner, and paint. The effect is quite similar to the gourds, and rather unique for a flat painting - almost more like looking at a tile piece. This is the beginning of a body of work having to do with women of various cultures surrounded by the patterns of their lives. Look for more at the Celebration of Fine Art in January!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Working on Japanese inspired box designs.

Currently, in an effort to respond to the cautious marketplace, I am working on box designs.  This means a couple of things to an artist.  First, it means that we are developing a price range that is accessible for a wide range of incomes.  Secondly, and of great opportunity for the artist, it means we can work out ideas for new work, or in my case, for elements of larger work in a vein not previously investigated.  I like these very graphic types of designs.  They work well in color and black and white.  They lend themselves to intricate ways of filling space and to creating complexities in negative and positive space.  Watch and see what happens and these little works grow up.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Ever been to GLACIER? Better read this now & take action...

Pure water and pristine wilderness make Glacier National Park
and its sister park in Canada, Waterton Lakes National Park, a
unique place worthy of its designation as Waterton-Glacier
International Peace Park, a UN World Heritage site and Biosphere
Reserve. Grizzlies, wolves, wolverines, lynx and many threatened
species depend on its pristine habitats. However, the park and
its wildlife are threatened by mining and gas drilling in the
Flathead River Valley adjacent to the park.

Our leaders need to know how YOU feel about this special place.

TAKE ACTION: Protect Glacier National Park


This month the World Heritage Committee of the United Nations
will meet in Spain to rule on a petition submitted by 11 leading
environmental groups in the U.S. and Canada. The petition urges
the committee to add Waterton-Glacier to the list of World
Heritage sites "In Danger."

One proposal under consideration by British Columbia's
government is for an open pit coal mine less than 25 miles
upstream from the park. More than 325 million tons of waste rock
would be dumped into a tributary of the Flathead River that
forms the western border of the park and provides critical
habitat for threatened bull trout and genetically pure westslope
cutthroat trout. Any leakage from the waste dumps would send
toxic sludge into Waterton-Glacier within 24 hours.

Other mineral exploration is underway even closer to the park
boundary. Proposed mining and drilling in the Canadian Flathead
Valley would push threatened species closer to extinction by
disrupting the seasonal migration of trout, eagles, falcons,
moose and elk, and the dispersal of wide-ranging carnivores.

Take action: Tell decision-makers in Canada and the United
States that mining and gas drilling do not belong upstream of
Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park in the Flathead River
Valley -

- Earthjustice
Because the earth needs a good lawyer
426 17th Street, 6th Floor, Oakland CA 94612

P.S. Every voice counts! Please tell your family and friends to
urge U.S. and Canadian decision-makers to protect
Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park:


Monday, May 25, 2009

Malaysia Pulau Perhentian

Oh!  Jet Lag!  It's a good week since returning from Malaysia and I am still waking at 3 a.m. ready for the day to begin....where is everyone else?

Renting a car, we drove almost the entire perimeter of Malaysia from KL to Cherating on the East coast where we swam in warm waters and walked on white sand.  The transition season, so not too many travelers to compete for the charming guest houses on the sand.  Had one of the best massages I've ever had - the approach
 not for the feint of heart but wonderful for those who are looking for the theraputic working of trigger points, chronically aching necks and backs.  

Up the coast to Trengannau where we caught a fast speed boat for the 35 min ride to Pulau Perhentian, a federal marine reserve, where there are no roads, cars, 
motor vehicles of any sort, and very little development of the coastal line - just enough for the few guest accomodations which run from the "basic" (read no ac, no private bathroom, mosquito netting
 only) to more generous cabins with running water, toilet, and ac.  Having started traveling to SE Asia 20 years ago, I can tell you that though I succumbed to the more generous accomodation, something is lost in the doing of that - a certain gentle ambience, the magic of hearing the frogs, geckos, birds and breezes in the palms, the slightly weighty, languorous air in the tropics - all that carries one away to another world of sensibilities.  Each night we chose from the array of freshly caught fish, shrimp, squid to be cooked in our choice of a dozen ways and served with fragrant mangoes, pineapple, dragon fruits, papaya and white or fried rice.  How could I not overeat?  

Cuisine in Malaysia is a gift from the Universe!  Malay, Indian and Chinese cultures blend their voices into the must unique, exciting flavors I've ever experienced.  And the truth of this in evidenced in the wealth of food stalls operating all night, each serving its own specialty, sort of like the secret family recipes.  One could spend their entire vacation sampling varieties of just laksa (a sumptuous fish soup), or of curries, or  nasi candar (a rice with assorted side dishes - each chef offering his own combinations).  We start salivating about a month before we leave for Malaysia, and grieve for our loss for a month upon returning. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Dubai and Malaysia

Well, SHAME ON ME!  I have been mightily absent from this blog!  The Celebration of Fine Art proved to be ve,ry busy, and when that was over, the grandkids came for a week, and now I am in Malaysia for 3 weeks!  Between the time difference, travel complexities, and visiting relatives I am barely concious.  Add to this that my computer finally gave up the ghost and I am dependant on Syed's largesse to use his.  We're shopping for a new one.  Shopping.  I hate shopping.  But my goal this year is to learn how to load pics onto my computer so I can keep more up to date. 

Meanwhile, a couple of notes about our trip.  We were in Dubai just long enough to cover about 1/3 of the galleries, trying to get a handle on the art scene there.  It's varied, though there are also many galleries specializing in regional art of the Middle East.  On the other side, we spent a lot of time at the Cuadro Gallery which was showing a wide range of international artists -  Some very exciting work by a Mexican woman, Betsabee Romero (show was entitled "Lagrimas negras" - done with recycled tires as printing tool on fabric and paper.  Riyadh Meama's exhibit, "Wall in a Moment", at the Courtyard Gallery are beautifully painted images of children done in black, white and ochre with touches of reds. Reza Aramesh from London has an exhibit entitled "Between the Eys and the Object Falls a Shadow...", photography (and this is done with a large format camera...NO digital work) juxtaposing re-staged photographic scenes from current news events onto classical English interiors, creating much questioning, discussion and wonderings about realities. One of the most intellectually agressive shows was at 1X1 Gallery, an installation by Inian artist Chittrovanu Mazumdar.  Using huge industrial  materials, he constructed a wide range of "books" enclosing various senses and emotions, allowing them to be seen or not seen by means of electronically controlled openings and closings.  Another installation by the same artist is a group of very large photos documenting a length of time of one square metre of land in Mumbai (I think).  We saw mostly art that was more about intellectual, psychological and emotional processes and processing than about decoration. The conversations inherent between artist and viewer concerned matters of universal concern.  I barely slept that night.

 More on Malaysia later.  Be well.  Be concious.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Celebration of Fine Art

Beautiful opening day on Friday!  What's better than art and 70 degrees?  The show is spectacular!  We have some very talented new people and many of the veterans of the show have spent the year getting special pieces ready for this special event.  The Celebration is a very out-of-the-box artshow.  We artists appreciate the support we get for expermenting in new techniques and materials, concepts and ideas that stretch us and ultimately make for more dynamic work. 

Keep an eye on this blog as I post pics from the show, or, just come on in and see the work in person.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Celebration of Fine Art 2009

The tents are up and we're ready to start setting up on Monday - the drive from NC this year was a bit easier since we are pulling a smaller trailer....and because we kept our vow to skip the junk and fast food.  Had a small delay in Dallas with a bad wheel bearing, but found a great garage to do the repairs and we were on our way again.  Come and see us at the Celebration of Fine Art, opening Friday, Jan. 16...lots of new work.