Monday, December 26, 2011

Where I've Been!




These pictures are referred to below, and in reverse order. I can never seem to get pictures into the body of my posts- oh, well!


I am looking at a lovely Christmas card from my dear cousin Sara of "Word Medicine," and in her very sweet message she chides me for not being in touch, either here or directly; "where are you?" she asks; as well she might! She has brought to my attention that my last post was in May! So I am going to take the time to update this blog, family, friends, and followers, with some comments on this strange and wonderful year that I have had. There are a number of headings to each of which I will devote a post, but here is a brief overview of those headings.


I cast my thoughts back to the caroling party at the home of my dear friends the Mygatts last December which Dr Funk and I attended, and which you can see here! I had made my pledge to Emmanuel for 2011 and was fretting a bit over whether I would be able to meet the obligation. Dr Funk very generously offered to cover it, and so we became involved in a discussion about how the obligation of the pledge forces me to push out of the complacency of sickness and engage in life and my profession.


My retirement arrangement pays my bills, such as they are. On the one hand, this gives me a great deal of peace, and in fact allows for significant healing, stress being the great enemy of "T cells." On the other hand, however, it presents the danger that complacency might erode the engagement in life that I have found equally important to my own healing. My observation is that, at least for me, my body tends to respond to the need for activity that my mind and interest places on it. Sometimes it protests, sometimes the virus demands acknowledgement, but in general I find enthusiasm and interest, challenges even, can produce a productive d├ętente amongst body, mind, spirit, and sickness!


So I challenge myself with the pledge I make to Emmanuel. It took some conversation that night to bring Dr. Funk to understand why I could not accept her kind offer, and to undo the arrangement I discovered she had made with our Rector, and I entered 2011 feeling a little apprehensive about what the year had in store for me. Not all that different from the way I feel right now, having repeated my pledge for 2012. I have the ability to feel this way simultaneously with the ability to chuckle over last years apprehension in retrospect. Strange beings, we!


Here we go:


In November of 2009 I made a post about a building I had designed that had been used as set for a scene in a movie. This was very exciting! but in 2011 the same client turned up another, rather different movie association. Those who follow popular culture more closely than I might be aware of the trials and tribulations of Nicholas Cage. He had a house in Newport RI which he sold this past march. The buyer was my client for whom I had designed the building shown in that post. He had been speaking about this deal for some time, and had shown me pictures of the house- being one of the "Newport Mansions" it is shown in various big expensive books. It is actually in Middletown, overlooking 2nd beach. I would chuckle to myself when he would talk about it, never dreaming this would actually happen. Well, it did, last March, and he told me he wanted me to work on it, but I would need to give it all my attention for a few months. What a quandary I was in! I couldn't let it pass, but I had serious doubts about my health holding up. The result of all this is that 2011 brought me the most exciting and satisfying job I have ever had. Much of the time I've been stretched to the max, but it has been amazing and wonderful! there is a picture above.



Here is a little secret. I don't talk about neuropathy very much, for the same reason Beethoven didn't talk about deafness, what would my clients think if they knew I couldn't hold a pencil for more than 5 minutes? It has been one of the great burdens of my HIV difficulties (and, by the way, makes typing very difficult.) The physical therapy people at Beth Isreal gave me kneading exercises some years ago. They seemed rather silly and boring and I kept thinking I should be kneading bread or clay. Thinking, but not acting until my friends at Pucker Gallery organized a beginners ceramics class at Mudflat Studios. I signed up, and have since then been working rather diligently and have started to produce some ware that I don't mind showing people: the tall bottle above is a sample.


Now, with all this going so well, I've been thinking about my difficulties holding a pencil. Saying to myself that while I might not be able to draw in the same way that I once did, with a little courage I could probably find a new way to draw, that I should get back to it, finding a way around my difficulties. I was discussing this one day with a friend at Mudflat, who suggested some search terms to find groups of people in the area who get together to draw from the model. I searched and found "The Boston Figurative Arts Center" in September. I have been holding pencils a paint brushes ever since. A photo of one of my new drawings is posted right at the top of this.


And Emmanuel? About mid year the vestry asked for an update, what had the building commission accomplished and what remained to be done, on out 150 year old building that had suffered from years of neglect. While there is still a lot of costly work to be done, it turns out that when written down on paper the accomplishments of my cohorts and myself are rather considerable, surprising actually, to no one more than myself. I am rather proud!


Oh, and the pledge? No problem, not only was I able to exceed it, I've also been able to distribute some funds in other places as well. It actually feels kind of luxurious, being able to support the groups and activities one cares about. It has really seemed like the more I do for the church and other organizations the more I am able to do. What I've been saying about all this is that it is enough to cause one to doubt one's agnosticism!


I will acknowledge that all this wonderful activity has really strained me to the max. I do still get lots of exercise on my bicycle, but most days when I get in I can barely make some food, never mind cleaning or dishes or blog posts or emails. I hope you will all forgive that!



1 comment:

saratbaker said...

Mike, what a happy post! I am so happy for you, and I know from experience how hard it is to balance engagement and passion with the need for healing. Your drawing and ceramic piece are beautiful.

When I emerged from two years of being unable to read or write, bedridden and useless, I had to take up the question of my novel, which before I was sick, placed in a national contest. I could only sit up 20 minutes a day. I knew I was compromised, that I might never be able to write again. And yet I did. Because that is who we are, how we are made. I believe it helped in my healing.

I send all best wishes for an equally rich 2012.