Honoring a Special Woman

Elizabeth Jameson

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.

Mind on Fire (left) by Elizabeth Jameson.

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.

Elizabeth’s Brain Images as art, Health Services Building, University of Texas, El Paso

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.

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Of Tears and Smiles of Joy

angel blur branches cemetery
Photo courtesy freestocks.org on Pexels.com

Although I am normally of a cheerful spirit and am always trying to provide inspiration for others, today is a truly difficult day.

I have been working with physically/developmentally/emotionally challenged children and adults perhaps since the 1970’s when my younger brother came home from Vietnam, 100% disabled with a TBI, a spinal injury, and permanent PTSD.  It gave me the heart for this work and I have done it ever since.

It has been a good journey, and I am glad that sometimes in the face of tragedy, we are led to do things to help our communities and to help others who are going through challenges.

Yesterday morning very early, I got a call from one of my best friends who helped me to create and run our tiny, but successful nonprofit for some 15 years, providing exposure and professional development for physically challenged artists. Barbara Williamson is a paraplegic lady I met more than 15 years ago when she was looking for help to become a professional with her own business selling her fiber arts work.  It was natural that we came together to do the work we did with virtually no money for all these years.

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Barbara Williamson, “Buddha’s Garden,”

one of three pieces left because they are in an exhibit in another town

Barbara was shot point blank by a felon when she was in her mid 20’s; the bullet missing her heart by one inch, and leaving her permanently physically challenged.  She was approximately four months pregnant at the time, and miraculously, the baby was born early, but survived, so today she is a mother and grandmother.  All these years, Barbara has been a productive fiber artist, a writer, and she has contributed so many things for her community and for others in need.

The phone call was short; she, her caregiver, and her dog had to evacuate their town.  There was a huge fire coming up the mountain in the valley below her home.  As we tried to hear the news throughout the day yesterday and today, we heard that the hospital has been destroyed (all patients evacuated) two blocks from her home and the fire is blazing through the entire town.  My friend is presumably safe for they got out early, but all of her artwork and her sewing machine and everything else had to be left behind.  This is some 15+ years of art quilts that have been in many exhibits including international ones, and which we were preparing to sell on a website we were creating for her.

But they were more than just that.  They were the reason she has survived cancer, a burst artery, a stroke, and any number of other physical challenges through these many years.  There are tears in my eyes, but there is joy in my heart, for what is taken from us today will live on in our memories over the many years.  Perhaps I have impacted her life in a positive way, but she has brought so much more to mine.

 

 

Mom-isms

 

I remember that my mom had more “mom-isms” than probably most of the moms on my block.  If you don’t know what a mom-ism is, your mom probably never had one, but you might ask her what mom-isms her mom or grandma used to use.  A mom-ism is when you make a remark, such as “Oh Mom, I can’t.”  And your mom replies, “Really?  Did you know that there is no such word as ‘can’t’ in the English dictionary?”  Or perhaps she might say, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”  Think back on some your mom or grandma might have said.  I know some of you have some in the back of your memory. They were intended to have us not give up easily, or perhaps guide us in some other area of life.  The quilt that is painted and stitched below is one of my mom’s mom-isms.  I would say something like “I just am not sure if I can do it,”  or perhaps “Mom, I am afraid to do it,” and she would reply, “Oh, take the bull by the horns.”  I have no clue where these mom-isms came from, but they were definitely an important memory in my youth.  I will look forward to seeing some of yours.  Perhaps you have pop-isms, or grandma or grandpa-isms.  And you know, these worked too.  Look how worried this huge bull looks compared to the little cowgirl.  Have fun remembering!

Take the Bull by the Horns

“Take the Bull by the Horns” by Anne Copeland

 

The Secret Life of Trees

I have long had a special relationship with trees.  For me, they are pieces of art in nature, and looking at the photos below, it is difficult to deny.  We are also learning new lessons from trees all the time.  Scientists have discovered that trees seem to have a way of communicating with each other via their root systems.  And some trees are like the most powerful of giants, living through fires, floods, droughts, and many other natural disasters.  They provide food and homes for all types of creatures, big and very small. Without them, the earth would surely be a desert, and we might die of overheating without them.  We too have cut down and used trees for all sorts of shelters and furnishings and other things that mankind can use for his benefit such as boats.  And we have built houses up in the trees.  Some have fruits that provide nourishment as others provide sweet sticky syrup for us as humans while still others provide a source of heat in cold areas. At the same time, some trees have sharp thorns all up and down the spines, and still others can have a poison in their systems.

Inspired by visiting trees regularly each day for years with my dogs, I thought of this secret and magical life that trees live and decided to create some of my own, so you will find them too below the live ones.

Secret Life of Trees 2Secret Life of Trees 3Secret Life of Trees 4Secret Life of Trees 1

So here are my art quilts, all of which have been sold to raise money for a charity.  I did a whole series with acrylic paints used on the fabric like watercolors, and then stitched to give more texture and life. The first one below is called, “Are You Our Brother?” I loved doing these and “framing” them with upholstery fabric. One of the things I don’t try to do is to create “perfect.”  Things come out as they do, and I like that aspect of imperfection. I made seven in all of these quilts, and all of them are 7 x 11 inches.  This size is sometimes called a journal quilt, for you can tell bits of your life with them.

September2 2003 The Secret Life of Trees quilt 2The Secret Life of Trees quilt 1Secret Life of Trees Series quilt 3

Who Will I Be Today?

Annies Who Will I be today quilt

Art Quilt by Anne Copeland

I know you cannot see the whole quilt, and I would like you to be able to do that. This was made some years ago as an exchange quilt.  We each send a package of fabrics we want to have in our quilt, and the other person does the same.  A middle person handles all the fabrics, sending them to different people, and the quilt we make for this unknown person will be returned to them when we are done and all the pieces have been collected by that middle person.

We all have a dual nature, and we generally take on one or the other each day.  Just as we have day and night, cold and warm, floods and droughts, love and hate, success and failure, so we can choose to be one personality or the other.

I always love this quote from the book, Advice from a Failure, by Jo Coudert.  “Of all the people you will know in a lifetime, you are the only one you will never leave nor lose. To the question of your life, you are the only answer. To the problems of your life, you are the only solution.”