Saturday, June 8, 2019


Barrel chested hollow
only aged bourbon can fill
Blackberry scratches
wincing when washed
Lead marrow limbs 
that rest like bricks
Sorrow, the glue that sticks
heartache memories together 

Shaped by
and change
We are but clouds
of condensed water vapor 
floating in the atmosphere 
As far as the eye
As high as the mind
As full as the heart

is my body 
My body 
is God’s body
God’s body 
is my body
Delicate and strong
 is God’s body
As long as I treat it that way

Friday, June 7, 2019

Right handed

I have been right handed pretty much my whole life, I think.  I remember realizing it very intensely in the second grade when I broke my arm.  I was staying with my Uncle Mark and Aunt Carol for the weekend.  Having a great time with my cousins, I attempted to jump off a swing.  My shorts caught on the seat, my intended trajectory changed and I fell to the ground.  I lifted my noodly arm, Uncle Mark scooped me up, we all jumped in the car and went to the hospital.  I remember looking at my Aunt Carol and asking "Am I going to die?" She said "No Honey, but I think I might."  Anyway, the next thing I knew, I had a huge cast on my right arm and I couldn’t use it anymore.  I was a waif of a girl with almost no muscle, so I remember barely being able to lift it, walking around with a sling all day. I couldn’t eat with it, I couldn’t run with it, I couldn’t wipe my butt or pick my nose with it and, most memorably, I couldn’t write or draw with it.  I had always drawn, but I was beginning the second grade and I had just learned how to write my full name in cursive.  I had just learned how.  Just. And suddenly I couldn’t do it.  It’s not like when you are an adult and have been writing for years and you may not be able to write very well with your non-dominant hand, but you can still write with it.  I actually couldn’t.  I couldn’t even print it.  I had to totally relearn with my left hand.  It was an illegible scribble at first.  I remember looking at it in disbelief.  I became so aware that what I was willing to happen with my brain was not coming down the circuit system of my left arm and hand.  I felt a constant disconnect and coordination struggle as I sat at my desk, now the slowest writer in the class.  Already my identity as an achiever had set in and I could feel the blow to my tiny ego.  I didn’t know that is what it was at the time, but remembering back, I am sure that my hot face full of shame and sweaty brow was what my ego looked like.  My teacher was a large, tough, scowling woman with a hair-lip who scared the crap out of me.  She was loud and looked disapproving and skeptical all the time. I only remember her smiling once and that was when, at the end of that very long fall semester, and yes it took a whole semester, I finally presented her my handwriting sheet with my name legibly printed at the top.  Her dark, bushy eyebrows softened, she smiled a big chipped toothy grin and pulled me in for a side hug.  Ok so she wasn’t that bad.  She was proud of me and I was proud of me too.  

However, interestingly, after I got my cast removed, I automatically went back to my right hand.  I remember looking at my left hand and contemplated continuing with it, but my right hand did things so much more smoothly and efficiently.  My awareness that I could use both hands more from then on increased, but my dominant took over in general.  It was amazing how quickly the motor memory returned and how deep and stubborn that neurological groove was.  Story of my life.

Hand writing was a very controversial thing again in the third grade.  It was at the end of the teaching trend which insisted everyone be right handed and hold the pencil exactly the same way.  It was deemed necessary to achieve “perfect penmanship”.  Well, the right-handed thing went out the window pretty quickly as there were several lefties in class, but the structure of the grip was not let go.  I distinctly remember being horrified as one day our tough, veteran bird of a teacher went around with a roll of ducktape and forced little fingers into the correct position, snuggly wrapped, remaining there all day.  Somehow, I don’t remember any parental outrage at the time, but there probably should have been.  I made sure to shape my fingers exactly as instructed, and I don’t remember ever sitting up straighter than I did in that class.  I am positive my posture did not help my hand position, but I wasn’t about to test it.  

So, of course for the rest of my growing years, my right side became more and more dominant.  Kickball was kicked with my right foot.  My backpack was carried on my right shoulder. I ate with my right hand.  I played basketball, guard position, dribbling the shit out of my right hand. Played softball and pitched, with, you guessed it.  Anything and everything: tennis, darts, archery, shoveling, firewood chopping, dishes, reading, cartwheels, cooking, drawing, painting, you name it.  Seriously, I'm convinced my right boob is smaller because of all the jiggling from brushing my teeth with my right hand.  It’s not like it was a conscious choice. It was a natural efficiency.  Even the way I slouched, as my mother would often point out, weight on one leg, hips off tilt, shoulders hunched forward, pushed everything to the right.  Parted my hair to the right.  My first root canal was on my bottom right molar, because that is the side I chewed on. I became an art major in college. I worked in sign shops and bakeries and eventually became a house painter.  All handy work.  While learning the trade of house painting, I began to understand the value of my latent ambidexterity.  Painting 10 hours with a six inch wide deck brush full of stain is damn near impossible with one hand. You learn to switch back and forth, just to balance out the back spasms under your shoulder blades the next day. It was a precursor of sorts, it stuck in my brain for some reason and was an important, increased conscious use of both hand tools I was born with.

This consciousness was leveled up again, several years later, when I suffered a major back injury. I was living in a northern, remote area and my partner and I were chopping firewood for extra heat from the fireplace.  Once again, my ego got the best of me.  Something tells me this ego thing is going to be a lifelong conversation.  Sigh.  Anyway.  I arrogantly decided I needed to demonstrate the proper way to chop wood and ended up pulling all the muscles in my lower back.  I was quickly bedridden and could barely stand up halfway, bent over at the waste.  I had jerked my right side so hard that my pelvic wings and sacrum were completely out of alignment.  Of course, bones can be moved back into place, but the chiropractor told me I could spend the rest of my life healing and maintaining the muscle strength in my lower back.  A prediction that has so far been true, over five years later.  I now love yoga.

Talk about your five year plan.  At the time I was not just physically imbalanced, but emotionally and psychologically even more so.  All of my life I learned to observe what was the “Right” way to do things.  Right, according to everyone around me.  I was the master of external assessment and behaving accordingly.  I was a drawing and painting professor.  We teach observation and replication.  It ironically permeated all areas of my life.  So now, I was in the middle of what most people refer to as a midlife crisis and I was about to discover how much of my life was not right, for me, anymore.  Over the previous few years, I had made so many decisions that were not right for me.  They may have appeared right logically, or morally or socially.  But not for me.    So, upon the realization of that, I began to make decisions that everyone else may have thought of as "not right."  I left a 15 year relationship.  I left my job and a career I had worked 10 years to get.  I fell in love with a married woman, stripping away any sense of self "right"eousness I may have had.  Right or wrong, it returned me to my heart, which I had left 30 years before.  However, it also broke my heart.  It did not work and we both left.   I left some family and some family left me.  I left some friends and some friends left me.  I left the city I had lived in for 14 years.  I left the community I had built.  I left the old definition of myself for the unknown.  I had left the concepts of hope and faith, cynicism death-gripping my mind.  I had left my soul.  I had left my self worth, way before any of this happened and it was the beginning of remember who I was again.  Everyday, I am still remembering.  "To the left, to the left.  Everything you own in a box to the left."

The ax that I swung began to split the twisted and knotted grains of my posturing, bringing changes that showed me in so many ways how off balance I had become.  I had completely lost my center.  I became so aware that what I was willing to happen with my brain was not coming down the circuit system of my heart and my life.  I felt a constant disconnect and coordination struggle as I sat at my desk, now the slowest student in the classes I was teaching.  This physiological overuse that had grown over the years, this right side dominance, and the pain that accompanied it, became an insistent metaphor.  My body was the alarm sounding for the emotional weight of overachieving, people pleasing, a perfectionist complex, and lack of self worth.  The pain of awakening pulled at my heart muscle, even harder than my back muscles…and so I broke.  Again.  Thoroughly.  Completely.  More than anyone else will ever know about.  It was about damn time.  I didn't want to be right, anymore.