Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Does life spiral in ... or out?

Alone in the world, 2007
There is a line 
that divides the world
sky above
water below

Twelve years ago today, a line was drawn and my carefully crafted life began to be sucked away piece by piece: marriage, home, work, identity, history, financial and emotional support, love ... all gone leaving only bruised bits behind. Richard's long illness and death twelve years ago was the beginning of a tidal wave that swept away all the structures in my life.

I am a flight animal so I ran, trying to leave pain in the distance. My first flight took me to a small fishing village south of Puerto Vallarta where I was going to take a digital collage class. I was sure I would be the dunce of the class since I had never even opened Photoshop ... and would also be an emotional basket case and center of unwelcome sympathy.

Turns out I was the only person in the class so I had a week of one-on-one instruction in Photoshop, an introduction to a completely new way of looking at photography, and was held in the kind, accepting, creative environment created by Robert Masla at Casa de los Artistas.

Art gave me hope

A few weeks later, I was still trying to out run grief when I invited my friend Lynne Snead to join me for a 10-day kayaking/snorkeling trip to Belize. She said yes and we wound up on a primitive island, sleeping in palapas with no electricity, water or toilets, and with only a million hungry no-see-ums for company.

The view from my palapa was of a jetty, dark and wet, with one lone, empty chair staring at the endless sea. (See image above.) 

It was a heartbreakingly lonely sight which inspired one of the first digital collages I ever made. Amidst the life and beauty of Long Caye island and the presence of one of my best friends, I felt alone in the world.

When Lynne and I met at the airport in Dallas, we were having lunch when she handed me a silver, plastic fork and told me a story that still keeps me balanced. It's a common story about a man who after a big meal, tells people to keep their forks ... because the best is yet to come.

Some time later she replaced the plastic fork with a metal one that still hangs by my window, holding a space for the next best thing.

The question with no answer

Richard and Ava
Occasionally, my mind turns to the fantasy question: if my fairy godmother gave me a wish, would I use it to turn back the clock, restore Richard to health, to our home in the Sierra foothills, to our jobs, lives as grandparents, to what we thought of as "normal?"

It's a meaningless question ... there is no magical clock. There is only life, and, after twelve years, I realize I am not the person I was.  These years have given me opportunities to discover things about myself that I could never have imagined. I believe I am more who I was meant to be now than ever before in my life.

I loved my life with Richard; I love my life now. While I mourn his death and miss his wisdom, humor, and constant kindness; I am filled with gratitude for all that has come my way in the past twelve years.

Sometimes, as I think of all of this, I wonder if I am spiraling in toward my authentic core ... or spiraling out toward the infinite? Whichever way I'm going, I'm grateful for life, for friends, for art, for having had so many different forms of life and love.

Spiraling in ... or out?


  1. Ever learning, ever insightful Joyce...thank you for sharing your stories. They inspire me.

  2. Thanks, Becky ... in spite of the geography between us, I always feel connected to you.