Thursday, September 23, 2010

Toothbrush Rugs: Grocery bags as an art form- my waiting room rug & Creativity is the best medicine

I started this rug in January as a rug to work on while in the waiting room at doctors' offices and while waiting for scans. Mind you, I always have a rug with me at such events, but often it is what ever rug I'm working on, and the rugs I had started before fibro were too complicated in their planning for what I was able to deal with.

 So this one is very simple- its to be an abstract flower. The center is all yellow, the rest alternating white and yellow. Such an easy scheme I could pull off even in deepest fibrofog / agony, and as you can see, I have. At 20" it would be close to done were I to stick to my 24 - 26 inch standard, but plastic bag rugs I often make larger. I'll keep working on it until I'm sick of it. Yeh, nothing deeper that that. Really, that's often the reason I decide to finish a rug off. These are a pleasant past time. When they stop pleasing me, I move on to another one.

This craft is inherently "green" as even the needle is recycled, but I especially love the "beautiful recycling" aspect of making rugs from grocery bags. We all go through so many, and even when we take them to the store to be recycled, lots of fossil fuels have to be expended to reuse them. Not so when made into a rug. The environmental impact is zero, since I do these during "down time."

So each colored section above = one half bag. I've never calculated how many it takes to make a rug, but you can imagine it takes a vast quantity.

Shopping bags are ideal, they have the right strength and surface. My mother has made them from bread bags and newspaper bags, but these stretch out more easily and have stickier surfaces so aren't as easy to work with.

I take a bag, fold it in half, and cut it. I don't cut slits, I use one handle of the bag for one end, and punch a hole with my needle for the other. So in this you see I remain true to my prime directive that these rugs are to be fun, relaxing, easy. Sure, you could cut up the bag other ways, but this takes the least time and effort so its what I do.

Handicrafts most certainly do count as "art therapy" as much as painting or photography. They are creative, a means of expression, something on which to focus other than suffering. I take a very "holistic" view of art therapy, not a narrowly defined one that it must somehow directly relate to expressing or processing your suffering. My view is... sometimes the best way to process suffering is to take a break from it. We who live this life are supersaturated in suffering. I hardly think its necessary that everything we do revolve around it... and indeed, there is immense benefit in finding what we are able to do in spite of, regardless of, the pain and limitations under which we live. (Yes, actually have had this argument... more than once, sadly.)

Indeed, I'm sometimes reticent to depict my art- be it photography or the rugs or videos- as art therapy because that makes them relate to fibro... when really, they are what frees me from fibro, frees me to be me. I can't chop wood or ride the bongo board or very often even drive because of fibro, but these are things which give me joy and are of my essence which I can still do. I

So why do I always post these as "the art of suffering?" Because I want to encourage other people who are disabled and pain ridden to find themselves through art and creativity because for all the wonders of modern medical science- doctors and pills cannot make you you, they can-at best- make it possible for you to be you.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The birthday I wasn't supposed to have

Yesterday was my 43rd birthday, and in some ways, it was the best birthday I've ever had.
Not because we had a blowout party. We didn't, just a nice cook out where I grilled my favorite foods.
Nor because of the presents (just one from my wife, mother, mentor, and mother-in-law)
but because... I wasn't expected to have it at all.

Many times during the course of this shredding of the boundary between the sane and the insane, the probable and improbable, the earthly and hellish, the grim reaper's shadow fell upon me. Indeed, almost from the start, there was a palpable fear that my broken bone and brutal pain presaged the presence of something dire and terminal such as cancer or a brain tumor.

The fear grew and grew with each test the doctors ordered which seemed to confirm it.

It reached its horrible apex on what we call "the day of death." A scan showed something which we were told indicated stage 4 (the last, terminal, essentially untreatable) cancer.

I'd held off speaking of that horrible day in public because any words I could give it seemed so insufficient. I was lying there counting my remaining minutes, wondering how I could spend as much of them with Tess as possible while also earnestly desiring to shield her from the agonies to come as much as possible.

The next day came a reprieve... a new scan, a new interpretation.

Even after the death sentence was revoked, the fear that something almost as bad was present remained. I had still broken the strongest bone in the body for no apparent reason. I still had excruciating pain without apparent cause.

And of course, the tests continued. All told, I spent close to a day in various machines having every inch, every cell, of my body scanned and rescanned.

It wasn't until the Fibro diagnosis came just in time for our 15th anniversary that the grim reaper's specter finally left us.

That wasn't too long ago, and the time of fear and uncertainty had been- if anything- more agonizing than the pain.

So when I awoke yesterday, it was indeed the most joyous birthday of my life.

About the picture:
I used FotoSketcher (win & mac) to convert one of the photos a dear friend shot for this blog post. The mode used was watercolor. I adjusted the settings to produce a picture which simultaneously had fewer sharp details yet conveyed the over all setting in a very vivid way.

The other thing I was after was to dampen the color intensity.

The net effect I wanted was to convey to you how my mind's eye sees the time there. (I was on a morphine pump after all.)

You on Multiply can see the original below.

You rug folk - yes, I did work rugs, and even tried to teach people how to make them (yes, even on the "Day of Death" since I've always wanted to be remembered for three things: My steadfast love for my wife, parents, and friends, my visual arts, and my rugs.)

Saturday, September 4, 2010

If hell is a fraction as bad as Fibro, then I DRASTICALLY undersold it in my sermons!

To understand this dark humor, you need to know/remember that I was once a preacher.

Questions, comments?

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