Elizabeth Jameson is an magnificent imperfect human being – or as she puts it, a human being living in an imperfect body.
Elizabeth married the love of her life and had two boys. She had a degree with honors in law and was a human rights attorney. She was in the prime of her life, and looked forward to serving others with a variety of needs.
Then one day, when she took her boys to a playground, she suddenly suffered from an attack on her brain. It turned out to be a rare form of MS that starts at the brain stem, and it very quickly took hold of her body, ultimately leaving her a quadriplegic. In the early stages of her illness, she became depressed because she had been living to be able to help others and to serve in the best ways she could. She first turned to fiber arts as a way to express having a body that no longer communicated properly with itself.
As her body’s functions continued to malfunction, she turned to another art form – the MRI’s of her brain, and they became her way to link science and art and to see her brain in positive ways.
I have known Elizabeth for many years; she is one of the artists in the book that I edited with other assistance from Barbara Williamson, Artful Alchemy: Physically Challenged Fiber Artists Creating.
One of the many things that I love about Elizabeth is the way she continues to evolve as her bodily functions are continuing to deteriorate. Her latest art endeavor is called “The Waiting Room.” She got permission to leave paper for notes in one of the medical waiting rooms she frequents, and the medical facility now has an exhibit of people’s thoughts on visiting the waiting room.
You can find a talk by Elizabeth about her challenges on Ted.com, and you can get a copy of the book in E-book format or paperback from Amazon.com. The book has the inspiring stories of some 23 physically challenged fiber artists, and the ways some of us challenge the nature of what constitutes a physical challenge and the use of the word “disability.” Thank you very kindly.
As we enter this season with people rushing here and there to purchase every last thing they can for others, I think on what civilization has become. And I think of the beautiful saying, “Blessed are the Poor, for they shall inherit the earth.” I believe that this saying is true for reasons that you may not have thought of.
So many majorly poor people struggle through life to glean the fields for food, and to eat foods that most people throw away. They find what clothing they can, or they create it from cloth or skins that are thrown away or left from some other use. In doing these things, they are, in their own simple ways, helping this earth to survive. They are not throwing away trash that pollutes the soil ultimately and creates land that is no longer fertile and perhaps a danger to health ultimately.
Free from materialistic needs and wants for the most part, they live simply from day to day. They are the first to share whatever meager things they have. I have seen this down in Mexico in the interior. The people we visited lived in a one-room adobe home with a dirt floor. They had no visible food in their home except for one jar of homemade preserves sitting on a shelf. Perhaps they had grown and made that jam, or perhaps that was given to them as a gift; I will never know.
As we sat in the early evening light, the sun shone on the fruit, creating a beautiful sight. I inadvertently admired it, and the woman got up immediately to give it to me. I was touched deeply by such sharing and simple trust in the universe to provide from day to day what little these people had. To refuse such a gift is considered impolite, so I accepted it. As we continued on our journey, and I thought back on those people, I thought of how good it is to be happy with what we have and what the earth blesses us with. I thought how we must return to living simply to help our earth to survive for our children, and our children’s children. And it was good.