Art, Love of Life, Philosophy, Writing, Spirituality
Author: Anne Copeland
I am the Editor of a book filled with the writings of the lives of 23 physically challenged fiber artists: Artful Alchemy: Physically Challenged Fiber Artists Creating, and another called Pumpkin, Pumpkin: Folklore, History, Planting Care, and Good Eating.
If you’ve never been a quilter, you might not have no clue of what an “almost” or UFO is. How many things in life for you have been “almost’s?”
I used to beat up on myself for not finishing things, but I look at them differently today. I am glad that I started something I had in my mind, and I also realize that I don’t need to finish every single thing I start. Sometimes it is enough just to bring the idea into reality, or I do this with techniques too, seeing if I can do something, or if I enjoy doing it, and then that is quite enough.
I remember when my former husband and forever friend, Spencer H. MacCallum, an anthropologist who discovered some now famous potters down in Mexico, talked about the way that the potters, without any aids, could create the design on a round pot perfectly from one side to the other so that when you looked down on the pot, it was identical on each side. I wanted to see for myself, so I made a pot and tried to paint a curvilinear design on each side that would be identical. I could not do it and it showed me that it takes some time to develop such a skill.
The important thing to remember is that if you start something and don’t finish it, don’t beat up on yourself. You can never fail when you are trying to discover something. The only failure is the failure to try at all.
It was a warm summer day and my mother and I were up in the mountains of New Mexico, in a place called Ruidoso, which today is a big tourist place. But in those days, it was just a quiet little burg, and we went to stay in a cabin there owned by someone we knew. I remember one of the few times when my mother was actually glad to share some moments of peace with me. I am not sure my brother was born yet, but I don’t think so; I think my father was overseas still, one of the many times he would be sent there as he was in the Army then.
I intentionally did not paint my mother’s face or mine; I just wanted to capture a moment in my memory when faces were not important. I knew she was my mother, and as we sat there with our feet dangling in the water, there was nothing else that needed to be done or said. It was a moment shared, and one I was able to remember through my life. Such moments would be gone forever when my father returned. Our father did take us places for dinner or Sunday rides, or sometimes to see a movie, but the time would never again be like this one.
Life is short, often too short, and I think perhaps this was the one moment in time I will always remember as the time I treasure. I am not sure what happened in my family, but it was as though the whole world changed overnight once my father came back, this time perhaps from Korea. I hold onto that image in my mind, and I often wish I could remember the wonderful scent of those pine trees, and the way the breeze blew. But all I have now is the memory of a life, and the way a river runs through it.
I read somewhere on the Internet today that Johnny Lang, a well-known and talented musician, had presumably committed suicide. He was not very old, and it got me to thinking about this thing we call death.
Actually, I am doing some wonderful studies (I am in my second year) with this school out of England, The Silent Eye Mystery School. You can look it up, and the studies are by correspondence and special events that take place in the U.K. for those who are able to attend them. The people who founded this amazing school are Steve Tanham, Sue Vincent, and Stuart France. They are all well-published authors with many books out. In a short time, I believe that Steve Tanham will be giving a talk on that very subject. I won’t write more about it because if you are interested in knowing more about the school and what they teach, you can look them up on Facebook, and many other areas of the Internet. All I can say is that it has majorly changed my life and the way I think about life and death, spirituality and many other things in general.
When I was growing up, the challenges I faced were overwhelming, especially as a child, and death then seemed like a friend. For me in my youth, it seemed like a way to go to sleep and be in peace, safe from everything that might hurt me any further. I was ten years young the first time I became serious about it and tried to end it. luckily unsuccessfully. I think a lot of folks have thought about it like this.
The reality of death is that we really don’t know what it is or what it means. We have many ideas about it, and for most of us, it seems very permanent. Some believe we will end up in another place which some call Heaven, and perhaps others call Nirvana but that is something that people can hope is truth. Still others believe that we go to a place called Purgatory, between Heaven and Hell whatever we choose to think those places are. It is not my intention to insult anyone with what I am writing about here. I am simply exploring the ideas that exist and I hope that everyone will remain open-minded.
The day my own mother died, I did not know it, but I was out working in my tiny garden. There was a statue there of an angel, and suddenly for no reason, it fell on me, hurting me badly, and I lay there wondering what was going on. And likewise, the day my dad died, I also did not know it, but I fell three times and each time hurt myself badly. Once I stepped out my front door of my mobile home, not remembering my porch was being worked on and there were no steps at the front door, so I fell down. Later I would learn that while my dad was in a nursing home, and had to get up in the night. He fell down more than once also, breaking his hip. He laid there for hours, and when they finally came to get him, they decided just to keep him sedated solidly until he eventually just went to that final sleep.
So I guess in the end, I have no more answers than when I started this column. I guess it inspired this art piece above as I tried to come up with something that made sense. Some deaths seem to come from “natural causes,” while others might come from some form of violence, But is that death itself, or what signals that state? I will be interested to know what others think about death, if they do, and I hope that anyone who writes will be respectful and realize that we all have different ideas, and none of us really know fully what death means. It seems to be something permanent, for I have not known anyone to return again once they really leave, but is that really the end of everything? Thank you all very kindly.
It is easy to fill our lives with our “shoulda, coulda, woulda’s. I suspect that most of us do this at some time or other in our lifetimes.
I was born in an era when women were still struggling to be women who had a lot of choices in life. When I was starting high school, my mother took me to register for my classes. There was a choice to choose a college route or the regular route. I wanted to go to college and become a nurse, likely a military nurse since I had grown up in a military family that went way back. My mother said no. She said I needed to become a secretary and find a man and get married. Really! It is hard to imagine, but that is what she believed. She had gotten married and I don’t think my mother or father finished high school. She had some problem with her mastoids when she was about my age, and in those days, was in the hospital for awhile and had surgery for it. So she and my father got married when she got well.
My father had come home from school one day when he was I think 16 or 17, and his family had moved away and abandoned him. He had other brothers and a sister who had killed herself. I really don’t know the whole story, but he lied about his age, because it was during the Great Depression, and he joined the military. He got his room and board, but in order to be able to join, he had to give all his money to a poor family who never ever thanked him.
That is most of what I know about my mother and father. So I did all the things I was supposed to and hated every minute of it. Secretaries in those days took shorthand, typed letters and used carbon to make copies and a machine I can’t remember the name of to make copies. They fetched coffee for their bosses every day and for meetings they fetched it for all the men at the meetings. And once in awhile, men treated women disrespectfully, touching them in ways that were inappropriate, and getting away with it because it was the times.
Then suddenly women’s lib came along, and so did wearing pant suits, and women were threatened with being fired if they wore those in the office. Gee, no more legs to look at or exposed body parts to be touched. But women persevered. I divorced an abusive husband, but I suppose in reality he was no more abusive than most men who believed their women should stay at home and have dinner ready for them when they walked in the door, raise their children and do their washing and ironing, and stay in the home except to take the children to the playground. Money was given to the wife to get the groceries, and sometimes the woman might get money to buy a donut or small toy for the children but there was no money for anything that might have taken care of things she might like to have.
I DID get to go to a University finally. And I DID get a degree in Archaeology. And I did work at interesting related work in Mexico and Arizona until I became ill with Valley Fever and Paratyphoid, and then I decided to do other less physically dangerous work. But I had a lot of fun along the way. One day somewhere along the way I grew up and became a bonafide human being who could buy things for herself, and who could dream of things she wanted to do and to become, and she could actually do them. She could say no to men who did anything inappropriate, and she could be her own person in general. I got married again a couple of times over the years and had some really interesting and accomplished men – an archaeologist and an anthropologist. And I learned more of the world and who I was as a human being. No more Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda. I grew into a woman who had exciting careers and who had her own businesses. And step by step, little by little, I became a fully evolved human being.
It has not been easy along the way, but that is what gives us strength in the end result. I am now 77, and I have a man in my life – my significant other, Richard – and he is none of those men I married before. He is a human being – a simple man with simple tastes and a really big heart. He doesn’t talk a lot, but when he does, what he says is real. And he has shown his goodness in so many ways without even saying anything about it. He is not a Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda man. He lives from day to day, happy with the simplest of things. I am free to be who I am and he is free to be who he is. Sometimes the simplest things are the best things in this lifetime.
I will never live in the Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda world again. I decided to get another degree at 74 and graduated in 2016, the same year I had breast cancer. It was Criminal Justice. I was going to be a mentor/advocate for juvenile delinquents (and I have worked with them before in other ways) but other things changed all that, so instead I am a CASA court-appointed volunteer mentor/advocate for foster children. I don’t have an assignment currently, but when I am not a caregiver for my Richard, I can do that if I choose. I am who I am and I am happy with that now. I don’t need to blame anyone else now for what I did not become. Perhaps that was never meant to be. Perhaps, just perhaps I was meant to be on the course of life I am now. It is all good, even on its worst days. I will look back on them tomorrow and be glad that I have seen many sides of life. I will be glad for the little things – a beautiful sky, a gentle breeze, a hand that reaches out and holds mine . . .
Yesterday as my significant other, Richard, was getting ready to have a procedure in another room at the VA, I noticed a single older man in the waiting room who looked concerned and so I began to talk to him about the cost of homes today vs. the 1950s in El Paso, TX. when my parents bought a three-bedroom, one and a half bath well-built home with a big yard and a stone fence for $5,000. Right away he began to tell me about his relatives who bought a home here in Southern California cheap too. His face lit up and we shared talking costs of living and how as children we could play outside in the cool of the evenings in our streets without anyone worrying about whether we would be safe or not. Soon Richard came out. We said our goodbyes, and I know he was less concerned because this was the area of the hospital where men have procedures done.
Then we had to go to the lab, and while Richard was getting some lab work done, I noticed a large black man and another large young man who appeared to be his son or perhaps brother sitting a little further away. When Richard came out and we went to the elevator, they were done too and headed to the elevator. I noticed that the young man went to a sign on a door that no longer can be opened, and was pointing to the letters on it and saying his name at the same time. I immediately realized he had special needs, and I saw that the dad, who was calling his son to come get in the elevator was embarrassed, and I told him that I work with special needs adults and children, and his face lit up. I held up my thumb when the boy came over and said, “Good Job.” I could see a smile come on the young man’s face, and his dad was definitely relaxed and happy that someone did not treat him as though his son was a freak.
It doesn’t cost a thing to make someone feel good, especially in places where people are worried about things like their physical issues or are having children that might have some issues. I always note when children are cute or wonderful (even if they are not), and I try to talk to an exasperated parent who has neglected to bring some toys or activities for the child to while waiting to see a doctor. I want to make some little cloth bags with perhaps a few crayons in them and paper or coloring pages and perhaps a toy to offer the child.
At the Oncologists’ office, I start the women talking as a group, telling them how lovely they look, and always the smiles come or the looks of relief, and they immediately open up about their cancers. Then we all begin to encourage each other and to talk about our own experiences. Luckily mine is almost three years back now and despite choosing no radiation and no chemo, I am cancer free. I talk to them about how I did my own research because cancer, like a lot of other things we have never experienced, is a scary thing and we are overcome with fear when we first hear that WE have it. Who do we talk to about it other than the doctors, and what do all these things mean to us? But when we hear from others who have been through it and see their outlooks mentally and hear the choices they made and why, we begin to feel like it is not such a long and frightening road ahead perhaps.
We need kindness every day. It doesn’t cost anything, and it is good not only for those we give it to, but for our own health and well-being. Try a little kindness today.
In this world, we tend to see things according to what we are taught, or by things we think we know because we have seen them with our eyes. But our senses are not always giving us the whole picture, or the correct picture. A lot of times we are afraid as adults of many things that don’t make any sense at all. We are afraid of others we do not know, especially if they are not the same color as we are, or they don’t speak the same language. We fail to see that they are human beings just as we are, and with the same fears and dreams and hopes, the basically same ways of relating to the earth that we do, or perhaps different, but they are still human beings as we are.
We all arrived on this earth by some factor beyond any of us. Whether it was God or Gods or some ancient power we may not understand in this lifetime, we all arrived here. That means that we are all meant to be here, and each of the cultures has its own area where it has chosen to live. We fight over property perhaps because it is rich in resources that we think we need. We don’t try to invent new technologies or new products that don’t require those resources. Instead, different cultures in the world attempt to show how powerful they are and how they can destroy any other cultures in the world. But is it altogether possible that without these other cultures, the aggressor culture will not survive for long? Is it possible that each culture helps to create a balance in nature by caring for a different part of the earth? Is it possible that even the very air we breathe is affected by the different cultures and helps to create another balance that is critical to all those who live on this earth?
We fight over the earth’s properties and resources instead of working together to get to other planets to discover what resources might be available there. Are we even intended to go to other planets, or is it our responsibility to learn how to live together on this one first? Is it possible that there are cultures living on the others also trying to learn how to live together? It is so strange because there is so much uninhabited land here on earth that could well be considered and perhaps utilized for living. And there are ample resources available to feed all the people on this plane if we all worked together.
Perhaps indeed, we are not so afraid of the darkness as we are of the light.
Symbols are everywhere in life. We don’t have to go out to hunt for them. And the intrigue of what they might mean and who created them has been with us for many centuries and from all over the world. Sometimes the symbols are easier for us to deal with than words and actions. They are mankind’s attempt to recall the things that are most precious to them – symbols of the sacred energy that holds the key to all life as we know it on this planet and in the other planets in our universe. It is wonderful that we have these gifts to help us remember what the ancient ones always knew.