First walk on Spring Equinox, 2022.
Someday, emerging at last from the violent insight,
let me sing out jubilation and praise to assenting angels.
Let not even one of the clearly-struck hammers of my heart
fail to sound because of a slack, a doubtful,
or a broken string. Let my joyfully streaming face
make me more radiant; let my hidden weeping arise
and blossom. How dear you will be to me then, you nights
of anguish. Why didn’t I kneel more deeply to accept you,
inconsolable sisters, and surrendering, lose myself
in your loosened hair. How we squander our hours of pain…
-Rainer Marie Rilke, from The Tenth Duino Elegy
Dear earth|art loving friends:
Rilke’s poems, especially the Duino Elegies, have been a constant companion over these past several months. If you have arrived upon my website and haven’t seen my social media posts, I wanted to share some of my journey with you here. On January 18th, my life changed in an instant as happens in life. I slipped on black ice on my way to the mailbox and fractured my patella. A very pretty name for our knee cap. It broke into three pieces and the surgeon was miraculously able to reconstruct it with screws and rods. It has been an excruciating physical journey beginning with the fracture itself, straightening the leg in the emergence room, post-op surgery, and months of physical therapy working to get it back to full functionality. It’s the most difficult thing I have had to do physically in my life to date.
I’ve always worked to stay healthy, active, and athletic throughout my life and bearing witness to my brother’s agonizing death from AIDS thirty-three years ago implanted daily gratitude for the gift of good health, especially as I have aged. Though I nearly died from appendicitis when I was 16 and was bitten by a dog who ripped a big chunk of skin off my left arm six years ago nothing prepared me for this journey. But how can we prepare, truly? Like a diagnosis of any kind, you are thrown into an alternate reality of treatments and, hopefully, healing. I’m grateful that this isn’t a diagnosis, that I am making progress, and expecting a full recovery but that hasn’t been clear from the start.
I kept hearing six-to-eight weeks or I wouldn’t get back the function of my leg sending me into fear and “nights of anguish” to quote Rilke. I prayed for guidance from the angels, and Mother Earth/Pachamama, before and during every bend of my leg. Wailing. Pushing. Crying. Praying to get to 90º. Four times a day. Every day. This went on for several weeks without any progress and was looking at the possibility of a surgical manipulation. Thankfully, as my patella healed, and with new PT practices, my leg slowly began to bend more each and every day. And I continue to progress one brutal step at a time and now can see the light of hope.
I’ve asked Spirit what is it that I am to learn from this experience. I know deeply the finiteness and fragility of life, likely, from my early near death experience, then from the early deaths of my brother, mother, and best friend over 30 years ago. I’ve lived my life knowing that my time is limited and have followed the threads of my soul calling. Perhaps it is trust? Surrendering? Or learning to receive and being cared for which isn’t necessarily easy for a wildly independent woman such as myself? Or to welcome a rest or sabbatical, albeit forced, from my ambitions to serve our besieged Mother Earth? I’m still asking the questions. Rilke is also famous for having advised us to “live the questions.”
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” -Rilke
At work on the “Kinship Mandala, May 2022.”
I haven’t been painting during these months though I am now finding the energy to give attention once again to my art and vision. It’s been so grueling physically that I didn’t have the strength to stand at the easel until now though I have been sketching, doing some design work, and I wrote a chapter titled “The Healing Power of Art and Holy Listening” about my transformative journey through loss for an anthology being published by a local community on the gifts of grief. I’ll share more when it is printed.
I am excited to be emerging from this place of liminality—betwixt and between—and I “sing out jubilation and praise” for this gift of life, beauty, and love. Deep gratitude to my surgeon, physical therapists, and my sister and brother-in-law. And to all those who have been sending prayers and holding the light of healing for me over these months. It takes a village to heal.
And to the angels…
“Rilke’s Angel” (In process).