Monday, November 25, 2013

Two Boy Inside Their Mother 1985

Two years before I became a mother, I listened as my husband and one of his closest friends discussed their complicated relationships with their mothers. They were working hard at trying to understand this most basic and important connection that each had with mothers that were not always able or accessible. The photo underlying this piece is of the two of them standing side-by-side, and in the final, painted image you can see their two arms below the mother's breasts, while the rest of the photo is painted over as the nude figure of the mother with the potted cactus in the background.

My mother will be 85 in December and has some memory loss.  Not enough to keep her from living alone with her dog, Abby, but enough that she has to write down just about everything in order to stay on top of things. Recently I found a note (in her handwriting) near the computer reminding her to push the button and hold it down to turn it on, and not to ask my brother again.  It broke my heart to find the note, and then something in me shifted.  Before reading it, though I could act kindly, I was often put out with my mother for not being the person she had been when I was younger--smart, organized, terrifically capable.  After reading the note, I felt a kind of compassion and empathy for her that I hadn't  felt before.  I think that reading that note allowed me to finish the long process of separating from my mother, which in turn has allowed me to see and love her for the person she really is.  I am kinder now when we talk, not as pushy and impatient about trying to "help" her out.  Our conversations often end in laughter, and always with an "I love you" from both ends of the phone.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Small Wolf with Forest 2000

Earlier this year, I received a request to use Small Wolf with Forest on the cover of a monograph  published by the Bowlby Centre in London, which is "an organisation committed to the development, promotion and practice of an attachment-based and relational approach to psychotherapy".  The monograph is called Terror Within and Without.  ttp://  .   It is described as the following:  This monograph of the 15th John Bowlby Memorial Conference brings together papers by leading contributors to the field of attachment and trauma that explore the means by which individuals struggle to cope with exposure to war zones, both large scale conflicts and societal breakdown, and the domestic war zones where adults and children experience violence and sexual abuse.These papers seek to further our understanding of the intergenerational transmission of experiences of trauma, as in the examples of the Holocaust and slavery. In times where talk of terror is everywhere, psychotherapists offer a clinical perspective on terror which may translate to the world at large.

As a child, our youngest daughter Teal had the uncanny ability of being able to exactly duplicate a wild animal.  She would squat on her hind legs, and with jerky motions and twitches of her hands and face,  become the prarie dog that we had seen at the zoo.  She could stay in that position for quite some time, scampering about the house, stopping to groom herself  or look about her in an alert, slightly fearful way.  I was intrigued by Bowlby's use of "Small Wolf with Forest":  taking something that to me was about our dual animal/human natures and  interpreting it in another larger and more complicated context.  Their interpretation is bigger, darker, and fiercer than anything I ever envisioned, and I'm pleased with that.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Coyote 2010

WEISS, SUSAN FELDMAN Susan Feldman Weiss, born in Perth Amboy, NJ in 1938, passed away on November 6, 2013 after a three-year fight against cancer. A resident of Corrales for 36 years, Susan was a dedicated defender of local wildlife. She was the founder of Coexist With Coyotes, an organization focused on helping residents and wild coyotes live in peace. She was a certified wildlife rescuer with Fur and Feathers for many years.

I had seen Susan Weiss for years, walking around Corrales.  She dressed in tennis shoes, long pants, a long skirt, a jacket, a hat, and if it was especially cold, oven mitts on her hands.  At some point, I figured out that this was the person who constantly wrote letters to the editor of our local newspaper, the Corrales Comment, about our coyote population.  Then, as I became more involved with village politics, I would s often see her at council meetings, there to speak up for the wild animals.  Close up, I saw that her make-up was applied with a heavy hand; spots of brillant orange on her cheeks and bright red lipstick.  I had no idea of her age, thinking she could be somewhere on either side of me.

She was passionate about coyotes, but really, she was passionate about all wild animals.  There was no room for gray when it came to protecting her charges.  Susan's (extremely) long letters and articles showed a deep understanding of what these animals needed to survive and, clearly, she felt compelled to educate us with her knowledge and passion.  Her stance also landed her in the middle of a hot Corrales topic:  whether to kill the coyotes because they are such pests and so dangerous regarding our pets, livestock, and (some say) children, or to allow them to continue their lives, doing the good things coyotes do in an ecosystem, sharing our community with us. There was no question on which side Susan stood.

A few years ago, on our way to do errands, my daughter and I spotted a thin, mangy looking coyote curled up, sleeping by the side of the road.  On our return trip, she was still there, so we pulled over to see if we could at least get her away from the side of the road.  Just as we pulled over, Susan and a bearded man pulled up behind us in a pickup truck.  They both put on huge leather gloves, and Susan took out a long, heavy stick with a noose at the end.  Clearly they were there to capture our same coyote.  The coyote sprang up from where it was laying and took off, all of us in pursuit.  Teal and I tried to herd her back towards Susan and the man, but she was way too fast and clever for us. We exchanged only a few words, and then, when it was clear that the coyote was on her own, we got back in our trucks and headed home.  I wish now that I would have taken that opportunity to tell Susan how much I admired and respected her.  I just assumed she would always be around,  walking the village in her long skirts, tennis shoes, and oven mitts looking out for our wild things.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Crow 1999

 Crows are now considered to be among the world's most intelligent animals[3] with an encephalization quotient approaching that of some apes. The Jackdaw and the European Magpie have been found to have a nidopallium approximately the same relative size as the functionally equivalent neocortex in chimpanzees and humans, and significantly larger than is found in the gibbon.[4]  Wikipedia

I saw Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds when I was twelve years old.  The movie terrified me.  I can remember, after I'd seen the movie, going out for a ride on my horse and having large flocks of crows circle over me as I rode. I would watch them nervously, ready to head for home at a gallop if the crows tried to dive bomb me, arm thrown over my head for protection.

But even with Hitchcock's movie rattling around in my teenage brain, I loved crows, and still do.  I find them to be beautiful physically, and compelling, both as single beings and as  flocks.  I can remember a large pasture behind one of the homes I lived in as a young woman, filled with hundreds of crows in the winter, flying about and calling to each other. Although not an endangered species, their numbers have declined by 45% since 1999 due to West Nile virus.

What I love most about crows is their intelligence; black eyes filled to the brim with curiosity and caution.  This winter we mulched our flower beds with pecan shells and the crows swooped in to dine.  That is, until I tried to take their photographs.  The minute I pointed my camera in their direction they would take off.  I tried crawling on my belly, inside the house, up to the wall and then slowly bringing my camera up to the bottom of the window, pressing the shutter without looking.  However, to no avail, since by the time I had taken the first shot, they were gone.