My anxiety is close to out of control. I’ve had anxiety pain for a week. Yes, I’ve had the pain checked out – three times over the years. Three doctors said there’s nothing physically wrong with me. Klonopin isn’t calming the anxiety. I’m scared. I’m tired of being at home. The university admits some of those who tested positive for covid-19 in the county where I live are students. HIPPA mandates the person’s name and sex can’t be given out. But what classes these people were in can, and absolutely should be given out. People shed this virus for up to 14 days before they become symptomatic. They infect others who infect others who infect others and so on until we’re all sick. My age and a health condition put me at high risk. I need to know if I’ve been exposed.
Yes, I washed my hands – soap and water – when I used the restroom at school. Here’s how this works. Hold onto handrail to get downstairs to the restroom. Open restroom door. Open stall door. Close stall door. Do what I came to do. Touch handle to flush toilet. Open stall door. Touch tap to turn on water. Touch soap dispenser. Touch tap again to turn off water. Touch paper towel dispenser to get paper towel to dry my hands. Touch the restroom door to get out of restroom. Hold handrail to get upstairs so I can leave the building.
I made Jim and I masks although I don’t think they will protect us from a virus. They might protect us from something else. Spring in southern New Mexico features intense wind. Pollen, spores, dust, small children left unattended, and desert detritus blow around and eventually enter our noses. We both have allergies that get irritated in the spring and I hope these masks can help.
I’m learning how to do focus merging. My macro lens is a great lens, but it’s tough to get a large depth of field. Consequently, my jewelry photos have a couple beads in focus and the rest is blurry. I got out the tripod, attached the Canon 90D, laid out jewelry, and took several photos of each piece of jewelry. Focus on the first bead, take the shot. Focus on the next bead, take the shot. Repeat until all of the piece has been shot in focus. I use Affinity for editing and it has a nice focus merging function. I’ll need to take a few more shots of each and I’ll be ready to list them in my store http://www.DebThumanArt.com
I’ve also been working on making boring shots more interesting by using creative editing.
While we’re waiting for this damned virus to die, I’ve been going out into the yard and photographing spring unfolding in the desert then playing with editing photos of patterns.
I broke down and bought the rest of PhotoScape X. It’s an editing program for both Mac and Windows. There’s a whole lot in the free part of the program and that’s what I’ve been using for a few years. Today, I spent the $40 USD to unlock the entire program. Below is the progression from start to finish.
The original photo. I look for patterns that I can play with. This is a huge agave that grows in my back yard.
Some of the overlays in the program. I look for wild colors and getting as many colors as possible into the photo.
The kaleidoscope function gives me some wild shapes.
I reverted to the photo just before the kaleidoscope, and used twirl. I repeated twirl a few times to move the colors around.
This is what happened when I used Tiny Planet and mirror after a few twirls.
My age puts me at high risk for death by coronavirus. I haven’t gone anywhere since March 14. The university shut down at close of classes on March 13. That gives us an extra week of spring break. Not that we can go anywhere for spring break. I had planned to go to Truth or Consequences for a day and do some shooting. Fear has kept me home. When the university “reopens” on March 30, all classes will be online. Students who left the dorms for spring break will not be allowed back on campus. Commuter students aren’t allowed back, either. Jim has to go in to work every day. We don’t know why. There won’t be another play this semester. There are no sets to build. He’s been cleaning and organizing the scene shop.
At the moment, the New Mexico Department of Health is telling us that there are 65 cases of coronavirus in the state. That number is dangerously misleading. For two weeks, testing was only done in the northern part of the state. Dona Ana County where I live has more than 100,000 residents. Las Cruces, the state’s third largest city, is about 40 miles north of the US/Mexican border. Apparently we don’t count. Testing wasn’t done until March 20, and the testing site ran out of kits in less than two hours. The Department of Health sent another, more generous supply of kits for Saturday. 350 kits. We’re told we can’t be tested unless we’re symptomatic and that results won’t be ready for 7-10 days. Why bother with testing? By the time the results arrive, the person is either dead or better. How many people around me are carriers? Isolate the carriers and stop this virus.
I’ve made Jim and I masks. I’d photograph them, but Jim has them. This is good. Provided he’s actually wearing one. Spring in New Mexico comes with WIND. Lots and lots and lots of WIND. Pollen, spores, dust, desert crap blow around and enter our noses. Both of us are having allergy attacks. I’m thinking that perhaps the mask will keep out pollen, dust and desert crap while I’m outside.
My excursions now are walking around my yard photographing the progress of the claret cup cactus blooms.
Oddly, each clump of claret cup cactus seems to have its own blooming schedule although all the clumps are in full sun.
I’m still working on playing with photos and using them for fabric designs.
I’ve been making jewelry as an antidote to peripheral neuropathy pain.
I still need to learn how to use focus stacking in my Canon 90D. One of the reasons I wanted this camera is to do focus staking in the camera rather than trying to figure out how to do it in editing. The problem is I’m having a neuropathy flare up and I’m not sleeping at night. Last night, I woke up in pain at 2:00. By the time the pain subsided enough that I could go back to bed and get some sleep, it was 4:30. I woke up promptly at noon. Mornings are generally wind free. Afternoons we have WIND. I’d prefer to do photography outside when there’s little or no WIND.
It’s International Woman’s Day. We’ve come a long way since Catherine Greene had to have Eli Whitney put his name on the patent for the cotton gin she invented. A long way since Watson & Crick ripped off Linus Pauling’s research, and took credit and the Nobel prize for Rosalynd Franklin’s work with x-ray crystallography which showed DNA is a double helix. A long way since I was told, time after time after time, “We hired a woman once. She didn’t work out so we don’t hire women anymore.” A long way since I had to terrorize the banker who demanded I use Jim’s last name to apply for a credit card. I told him my next stop was the NY State Department of Human Rights to file a formal complaint. He decided to let me have a credit card in my name. A long way since I had to file a formal complaint against an employer because I was paid less than the man who had the same job. Mine was the first law school class at SUNY Buffalo that was 50% women. It only took 101 years to reach that mark. Someday, we’ll have equality.
I made two more pairs of yoga pants. I can buy 10 yard of cotton lycra from Dharma Trading for $10 more than a pair of ready-to-wear yoga pants. I can make 5 pair of yoga pants from 10 yard of fabric. I dyed one pair yellow and the other an intense purple. I failed to mix the purple dye sufficiently and my pants have red spots. It’s a design element. Design: what happens when the dye batch turns out different from what’s expected.
Here in southern New Mexico, it normally rains during July-September. The rest of the year is sunny and dry. We’ve been having rain lately. Today, it’s cold, damp, raining, and we have fog. Perfect photography weather. I had read all the geology homework my brain could hold. Perfect time for photography.
There’s a mountain behind those raindrops. Look carefully and you’ll see a foggy outline.
I played a bit with composition in this shot. I haven’t decided if I like it.
A more successful shot from earlier in the week.
I’m having another peripheral neuropathy flare-up. I spent nearly three hours last night making necklaces before the pain went away. When we have a sunny day again, I’ll learn how to do focus stacking so I can get all of the necklace in focus. With the Canon 90D, I can do focus stacking in the camera.
I’m having fun playing around with my photos and coming up with fabric designs.
I made croissants today. The recipe I have makes about 12 croissants which is way too many for two people. The last time I made croissants, I cut the dough in half after the final turn and froze one half. I thawed and baked that half today. Turns out, croissant dough freezes quite well.
I’m still learning to use the Canon 90D. This is going to take a while, and I’m going to have fun learning.
Tinker posed. I wish I had set the white balance first, but he rarely poses. Usually, he hides as soon as I grab my camera.
I put the macro lens on the camera and took it for a spin around the back yard. When I was using the Canon T3i, I always shot RAW. I needed the extra data for a sharp photo. With the 90D, I can shoot in JPEG. I’m amazed at how sharp the photos are. Saves a whole lot of space on the laptop.
I did a bit of portrait work.
Curlicues on a yucca.
Field of spring. I’ll have iris blooms in a couple weeks.
Things do rust in the desert. It just takes a lot longer for rust. We have single digit humidity in the winter.
I’ve said for years that medical marijuana is nonsense. So many of my drug addicted clients paid a quack $100-$200, said s/he had an owie, and got a medical marijuana card. Locally, there’s a place where, for $125, you can be diagnosed – in 10 minutes – with PTSD and get a medical marijuana card. All you have to do is memorize a few of the symptoms listed in the DSM-V.
Having a medical marijuana card still leaves a basket full of legal problems. Marijuana is a Schedule I drug meaning it has a high probability for abuse and little or no medical benefit. Before you tell me marijuana is wonderful, safe, shouldn’t be illegal, is never addicting and you smoke it every night so you can get to sleep, walk in my legal briefs for a day. One client, who wasn’t supposed to be able to get pregnant, gave birth 13 weeks early. Her baby had severe medical problems due to being so premature. The baby was also born addicted to crack. The child protective worker told me to talk my client into signing a do not resuscitate order for the baby who was in and would never leave the NICU. In a moment of amazing self control, I refrained from asking the child protective worker why I shouldn’t throw the child protective worker out the window. We were only on the fourth floor. Maybe she would have lived. The only thing I could do for my client was to delay the proceedings long enough that the baby died so there was no point in continuing the child abuse case. Another client, a child, had problems that would never be solved. Her parents used prior to, and still used at the time of the hearing, cocaine. The damage done to the child while in utero cannot be undone. At least not with the medical capabilities we now have.
Although the DEA isn’t going after users of medical marijuana today, that can change. Having a medical marijuana card doesn’t protect you from being fired for illegal drug use. There’s federal case law on that. The rational is that marijuana is illegal under federal law therefore employers can legally fire an employee who tests positive for THC.
There is no full faith and credit for a medical marijuana card. Full faith and credit means every state recognizes the court order or legality of something. If you get married in one state, every other state will acknowledge your marriage. If you have a child custody order, the terms of that order are enforceable in every state. Your medical marijuana card is only valid in the state in which it was issued. You can’t take your medical marijuana across state lines and expect your card and stash to be recognized. If you get caught, you will face drug charges.
I’m about to do something I don’t believe in. I’m desperate. Peripheral neuropathy is painful. When I have a flare up, nothing stops the pain. Not gabapentin. Not a TENS unit. Not synthetic opioids. Not CBD oil. Not acupuncture. I take my gabapentin, make a CBD oil capsule and swallow it, and wear my TENS unit to bed. I wake up in pain 2-3 hours later. Then I wander around the house for another hour waiting for the pain to subside before going back to bed and getting a couple hours’ sleep before the alarm rings. I cannot live like this.
I have an appointment with my doctor in a week and a half. I have copies of three nerve conduction studies done by three doctors over a period of five years showing I have nerve damage and the damage is getting progressively worse. New Mexico will give a medical marijuana card for a number of reasons, including peripheral neuropathy if I can show proof of the nerve damage and have a doctor sign off on the special form to obtain a medical marijuana card. I will ask my doctor to sign the form. If she is reluctant to do that, I will go to the local quack, hand over $100 and copies of the nerve conduction studies. The quack will sign the form. The form and copies of the nerve conduction series get mailed to Santa Fe and in a month, I will get a card allowing me to buy marijuana from licensed dispensaries. I will buy gummy bears. The next time I get a flare up, I’ll chew on a gummy bear, listen to Grateful Dead music, and hope I’m wrong about medical marijuana being nonsense.
My Valentine’s Day present, a Canon 90D, arrived this week. I’m learning how to use it. I’ve been using a Canon T3i so digital photography isn’t new for me. The controls on the 90D are in places that I’m not used to. I’m learning the depth of field of assorted apertures. Most cameras, SLRs and DSLRs, have a button that when pushed is supposed to show the depth of field. I’ve never found that button useful. Instead, I got to know the T3i and what I could expect from assorted apertures. Now, I get to learn the 90D and what I can expect from assorted apertures. So far, I’ve learned how to set the date and time and to turn on live view. The 90D has in-camera focus stacking which I’m looking forward to learning how to use. I’ll be able to photograph the jewelry I make and have every bead be in focus.
I’m having a weird disconnect today courtesy of bipolar disorder. I’m angry when there’s no reason to be angry. My moods have minds of their own. It’s annoying at times, but it does make life interesting. About all I can do today is make art. I’ve been editing photos.
On Friday, Jim and I went to Mesilla, NM so I could begin to learn the 90D. It was cold, damp, and complete cloud cover. Absolutely imperfect conditions for photography.
Mesilla is where Billy the Kid hung out before Pat Garrett shot him. Billy, a thief, cattle rustler, and murderer, is revered in this state.
Like many towns in New Mexico, Mesilla has a plaza – the southwest version of a town square. That’s where we went. The Mesilla has restrictive zoning ordinances and rehabbing is strictly regulated. The idea was to keep the 19th century charm of the town. Rather than charm, the town has decrepit, badly rehabbed buildings – none of which feature a straight wall, overhead powerlines, and Rube Goldberg type swamp cooler contraptions retrofitted for a building that was never meant to have plumbing and electricity. A swamp cooler works, sort of, by letting wind blow over water soaked pads. The now wet air is sent into the building. The theory is when the water in the air evaporates, the air temperature will drop. No, swamp coolers don’t work well.
In the photos below, you can see the original wood beam over the window, original adobe, and the challenge of getting wiring into a building that was never intended to have wiring.
Nothing is straight.
I didn’t like this next shot until I realized it shows everything that can go wrong with historic preservation. Overhead power lines. Parking where parking shouldn’t be because it’s impossible to park on the narrow streets. The streets can’t be made any wider because the buildings are so close to the street a sidewalk barely fits between the building and the street. The church has a parking lot, but the entrance to the lot has a chain across it keeping cars out. I still don’t like the shot, but now I don’t like it because it’s an accurate depiction of Mesilla. No place left for Billy the Kid to park his horse.
Even the charming places aren’t charming. Those yellow things on the top of the building are candelurias and are a traditional Christmas light here.
It’s time for someone to tell the 19th century charm emperor that he’s naked.
I did some portrait work while we were in Mesilla.
I’m not yet worked through all the emotions I have following the suicide of someone I know. I’ve got a fuzzy idea for another quilt. It’s so hard getting my feelings into fiber. I have ideas, but when I work out the ideas, the feelings aren’t in the quilt.
It snowed on Tuesday night, and we had a snow day on Wednesday. Almost a snow day. The university was on a 2-hour delay. We don’t have plows here, and the snow is usually gone by 10:00 AM. My class is from 9:30 to 10:20. No point going in for 20 minutes. The teacher must have agreed with me because she cancelled class. So, we went to Aguirre Springs to do some snow shooting. Aguirre Springs is a multi-use area run by the Bureau of Land Management. And it was closed on Wednesday.
I learned that fog plays havoc with auto focus. Fortunately, I frequently prefer to use manual focus. I tried photographing the strange light, but I wasn’t successful. I got some interesting shots, but all the editing I could think of didn’t make the photo look like what I saw.
I learned how to make collages and combine photos in PhotoScape X. It’s a free app for use on a Mac. The resulting photos make intriguing fabric designs.
For Valentine’s Day 1980, Jim gave me my first SLR – a Canon AT1, the last fully manual camera Canon made. Today, he gave me my second DSLR. I have a Canon T3i that came out in 2011. My Canon 90D, which just came out, will arrive in 2-3 days. The 90D has some features I’m going to love. In camera focus stacking so I can get every bead of every piece of jewelry absolutely in focus. There are 40+ focus points. I like to use manual focus and when a focus point lights up, I know what part of the frame is in focus. It’s handy for macro photography. I bought extra batteries, because one can never have too many batteries. I do a whole lot of outdoor photography and if I don’t have spare batteries, I can only shoot until my battery is dead. I bought an extra memory card because it’s impossible to have too many memory cards. I shoot in RAW and those files are huge.
I waited too long to photograph fabric outside. We’re having WIND. I was stuck with either not photographing my latest fun stuff, or taking crappy photos. Herewith are some crappy photos.
As many of you know, I have a Spoonflower shop. If you click on a fabric design, then click on “All Products,” you can see how the fabric looks as table linens, bedding, curtains and wallpaper. I am having so much fun playing around, manipulating photos and creating fabric designs. Before I can sell my designs, I have to order proofs of the designs. These are the proofs I’ve gotten back.
I’m taking a yoga class this semester and I needed yoga pants. I altered a yoga pants pattern, got out the binders, dye and bucket, and made yoga pants. I put patch pockets on the pants, but I’m not thrilled about where I put them. Next time, I want to try welt pockets.
In case you’ve ever wondered, it’s not a good idea to try to do photography and bake simultaneously. The timer kept going off.
Sourdough cherry coffeecake with crumb topping.
I don’t run from my triggers because I don’t want painful memories to own me. I have been binging on ER. The other night, I watched a couple episodes that dealt with the suicide of one of the doctors. Having been suicidal and knowing someone who committed suicide, I respond to such stories on an emotional level. I had to spend quality time writing after watching the episodes. My first emotional art was ceramic. I didn’t understand what I was feeling until my feelings came out of my hands and into clay. I’m now having the same understanding by letting my feelings come out through my fingers and into my laptop. I was a writer long before my art meandered into clay, fiber and beads. Oddly, it has only been the last year that I’ve created emotional writing.
Jim and I went up to Aguirre Springs on Friday. I wanted to work with my macro lens, so that’s what I put on the camera. I wanted to experiment by using only one lens. My macro lens is a 90mm prime lens. It’s the only prime lens I own and I’m having a hard time adjusting to just one focal length. My other lenses are all zoom lens.
I was surprised at how detailed the lichen shots were. I didn’t bring a hand lens with me, so I couldn’t see all the details on the tiny lichens until I downloaded the photos.
I also got some shots of dead fronds that make for interesting fabric designs.
I’ve been playing with the photos to make fabric designs.
I wanted to do some portrait work while we were out hiking. I broke all the rules with this one, but I like how it turned out. Portraits are supposed to be done in portrait orientation, the person is supposed to be centered, and on and on and on.
I’m still having grief fallout. Yesterday was the one-year anniversary of the funeral for the person I knew who killed himself. I watched Law & Order SVU last night. The story line was about police committing suicide. The show was well done and realistic. And it sent me into a grief spiral. I never knew suicide was so hard on those left behind.
The pain is gone. The hurt is gone. The struggle is gone. All gone. All quiet. All without feelings, fear, or loneliness. Gone. But not missed.
“Why would she do something like this?”
I did this because I didn’t want to live in pain any more.
“Too bad she couldn’t find a way to exorcise her demons.”
I didn’t have psychic demons. I had physical pain. I had days when death would be a relief.
“I never thought she would kill herself. She seemed so happy.”
I don’t understand why everyone is surprised. All of you knew I was in pain. All of you knew the pain was permanent.
“I thought she believed in God.”
I did and I do. That didn’t make my body or my perception of who I was hurt less.
“Why didn’t she reach out?”
Would you have done anything if I had? It was so rational deciding how to kill myself. Pills aren’t a good approach. Too easy for the body to decide to puke up the poison. Hanging. Nope, I don’t want to hang around dangling and waiting to die. Drowning like Virginia Woolf. No. My sadistic, hateful, drunken stepfather frequently threatened to hold my head underwater until the bubbles stopped coming up. I didn’t want to kill myself in the house. Too messy and the house can’t be sold until all the blood and tissue are cleaned up. I wonder who does that kind of cleaning. I didn’t want to kill myself outside. What if I wasn’t found within a few days? I didn’t want animals to eat me. Silly, isn’t it. Worrying about animals eating the body that doesn’t contain me any more.
“How did she die?”
I killed myself during my appointment with a neurologist. I kept asking neurologists questions, and they kept refusing to answer me. Instead, they smiled, told me to take designer drugs that did not work, and hurried out of the room.
“Women don’t shoot themselves.”
Except when they do. I held the pistol an inch to the left of my sternum and shot myself in the heart. I wanted to be dead when I killed myself. No having doctors trying to put Humptyette Dumpty back together again. No being on life support. If I’m going to kill myself, I want to be dead when I’m done.
“If only I had known; I could have saved her.”
No, you couldn’t. Only God or I could have saved me and neither of us wanted to do that.
“Did anyone know she was depressed?”
What a stupid question. Of course I hid my depression. I didn’t want to be taken to a hospital where I’d be heavily medicated for as long as my HMO would pay. Maybe three days. Then I’d be dumped out and sent home to await a bill for the co-pay. I’d still be in pain. I’d still want to die.
“I wonder what she thought just before she died.”
I stood on the edge of life and looked down into death. Death looked inviting.
“I wonder if it hurts to shoot yourself.”
Not really. I felt something hot, then nothing.
“I wonder if you’re still in pain after you kill yourself.”
No. The pain is gone. It’s peaceful here; the kind of comforting peace that reaches my soul. Being dead isn’t bad. Had I known I’d be at peace, I’d have killed myself long ago.
“Nice photo montage of her life.”
Who picked out these photos? Me dressed up for the Renaissance Faire. Me as a little kid. My first Christmas and I was four months old. Everyone in that photo looks like they are at a funeral. I guess that’s an appropriate photo for my funeral.
There’s only one, unimaginative arrangement of red roses. Just red roses. I prefer white roses. It’s a big arrangement so I suppose it was expensive. There should be more flowers.
“The Lord is my shepherd….”
Christ. Why do people recite that psalm at funerals? The psalm isn’t about death, it’s about life and faith in God.
“What I remember most about…..”
Wait, what? You never talked with me. You never spent any time with me. You never knew me so what’s to remember?
“She had such passion for her work.”
While I was alive, you told people I was too emotional and that I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing. Bet you thought no one would tell me about your hypocrisy.
“So many people loved her.”
Where was your love for me when I was alive? You never asked how I was doing. You never wanted to have lunch with me. You never talked to me unless you wanted something from me.
“She gave so much of herself.”
I gave and gave and gave until the empathy well was dry and the compassion well only slightly moist. No one gave back.
“It’s so hard to say goodby to her.”
You never said hello to me while I was alive. Why bother saying goodby when I’m dead?
“God full of mercy who dwells above, give rest on the wings of the divine presence in the exalted spheres of the holy and pure who shine as the resplendence of the firmament of the soul…”
I love that prayer. Soul. The never beginning and never ending part of me.
“May the all-merciful one shelter her with the cover of his wings forever and bind her soul in the bond of life. The Lord is her heritage; may she rest in her resting place in peace and let us say amen.”
I was hoping that’s what happens when you are dead – being sheltered by God’s wing. I’m here alone, although I don’t feel lonely. I do feel protected. None of you can ever hurt me again.
“Yitgadal v yitkadash..”
How odd to hear people recite Kaddish. I feel like I should have my kippah and tallit. Except I have no head or shoulders.
The Middle – because I can’t bear it to be the end of you. Because I keep writing to you even though you aren’t there. Because you left behind a hole filled with my grief.
You shot yourself. I don’t understand. You have family who love you.You have friends. You have work you love.
And you shot yourself.
I don’t get it. I’m the one who is supposed to be dead. I’m the one who has been suicidal six times. So often there was pain, and not even a marginal form of happiness existed for me. Except I’m alive. And you’re dead. How did that happen?
I used to believe that God alone was in charge of death or birth. I don’t know if I can believe that any more. How could God let you kill yourself?
This isn’t real. There’s some mistake. You’re really alive and just hiding from all of us. If you’re dead, there’s nothing left of you. Did I miss a clue about your unhappiness? I’m sorry. Come back. Please. I promise I’ll do better. Please come back.
I think about you being all alone and in pain, pain you never let anyone see; and I’m sad. I ask why you killed yourself, but you don’t answer me.I think about you being cremated and all of you being nothing but ashes. As if you had never been alive.
Did you think you couldn’t talk about the pain? Did you think you were weak or had a character defect? Is that why you said nothing? Were you embarrassed by your vulnerability? Did you think I couldn’t understand? Or did you know I would understand but you wanted to die so you said nothing?
One time, you told me about all the people you had to take care of, but who took care of you? You needed someone to take care of you. Except I never said that to you. Is that why you killed yourself? Because I never told you how much I cared? I would have taken care of you if you had let me. I would have taken care of you and you wouldn’t be dead.
I wonder what you thought before you pulled the trigger. I imagine you looked at your gun, said “Fuck it,” and squeezed the trigger.
I don’t want you to leave. You’ve already left. I want to help you. You’re not here to be helped. I want to tell you that I cared, that you were important to me. Except I didn’t. Now, you’re dead.
I want you to live in my imagination. Because you’ve lived in my imagination ever since I met you. That’s not you; that’s you who I would like you to be. Did I do something wrong? Did I not listen well enough when morsels of pain dropped into your words? We lived in different worlds. I never entered your world, and never invited you to enter my world. I’m sorry. I wish we had explored each other.
I’m sorry. Please come back. I promise to do better this time. I promise to revel in real you rather than imaginary you. I promise to love real you rather than love imaginary you. I’ll listen to you. I’ll rejoice in the differences between you and me. I’ll compromise. I’ll walk in your world sometimes. Even if it terrifies me. You’re worth my effort. I’m sorry I never told you that.
Still the middle because I still can’t bear it to be the end of you. I didn’t know I’d mourn you a year later on your Yahrzeit. I didn’t know I’d still hurt a year later. I didn’t know how much suicide hurts. Please come back. I promise to do better. I try and try to understand why you killed yourself. I have no understanding. I want the world to make sense, but the world isn’t cooperating. I want to love you, but you’re gone. I still ask why you killed yourself, but you still don’t answer me. You’re gone. Just ashes. There’s nothing left of you. I light a candle. I say Kaddish. I still hurt. I still mourn.
A year ago on this date, someone I knew and cared for committed suicide by shooting himself. Above, is the quilt I made to help heal my grief. It’s called Beneath The Wings Of The Devine. I quilted an eagle wing on top of the arc of his life.
I’ve written a short story about his death, which is what is at the beginning of this post. I’ve written healing passages that won’t ever be shared because they are too personal.
According to the National Institute of Health, 26% of the population of the US has a diagnosed mental illness. That doesn’t count the people who have a mental illness but haven’t been diagnosed. It took 35 years for me to have an accurate diagnosis. I am bipolar. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t bipolar.
I have a fascination with the Buffalo Psychiatric Center. This grand, old building is a monument to a time when mental illness was properly treated and a monument to the hell that mental institutions had become by the 1960’s.
The original building had a main building in the center and a wing with five sections on each side. One side was for women, the other side for men. The sections farthest from the main building were the smallest sections and were for the most violent patients. The theory was that mental illness could be cured by treating mentally ill people humanely. Work was considered a part of treatment. Men worked the gardens and in the wood shop. Women worked at fiber art. The hallways were wide with high ceilings and huge windows. Benches were placed in the hallways because it was thought, correctly, that isolation was harmful and that interaction with the other patients would be healthy. There was a library. There were lovely grounds with both flower and vegetable gardens. Sunlight was considered healthy and the huge windows let in as much sunlight as possible. Patients would gradually, as they became healthier, work their way towards the main building. The idea was to heal patients and then release them.
By the 1960s, the Psych Center had become the hell we think of when we think of mental institutions. Overcrowded to the point where patients were tied to beds in the hallways. Patients were over medicated and treated like something awful to be hidden away. When I lived a couple blocks from the Psych Center in the 1970’s, we had to go into the Psych Center to vote. Someone’s idea of a weird joke. God forgive me, I was reluctant and scared to enter the Psych Center. I had been taught, as had everyone else, that mental illness was evil, scary, and mentally ill people had to be locked away. I was taught that mental illness was a character flaw. My grandmother insisted that people could snap themselves out of depression and that seeing a psychiatrist was shameful and to be avoided no matter how ill a person was. She was horrified when I sought mental health treatment. She had been dead for 17 years by the time I was finally, accurately diagnosed. Probably a good thing. My diagnosis would have killed her if she had known I was mentally ill.
I think about how, if I had parents who actually cared, I would have been a patient in the Psych Center. Then I think about how, if I had parents who actually cared, I wouldn’t need mental health treatment.
In August 2018, I photographed the Psych Center. Attitudes, beliefs, and empathy flooded my thoughts. Part of the men’s wing had been demolished in the 1960s to make room for a “modern” hospital. It’s an ugly, square, lifeless brick building. There’s a high chain link fence surrounding the basketball court adjacent to the ugly building. A man, just one man, was on the court taking shots at the basket. I didn’t photograph him. He was entitled to privacy and to be treated like a human being rather than a freak in a zoo.
Lately, I’ve been going through my photographs and picking out shots to be manipulated and turned into fabric designs. I played with some of the Psych Center shots this morning.
Meandering Through Madness. The title reflects my personal journey through the mental health care system and my own mental illness.
I won’t be selling this design. It’s too personal. It’s too much of a gut punch. It’s too much my life. Eventually, I’ll have it printed on fabric and turn it into a quilted wall hanging which likely will never be hung. My emotional art isn’t pretty. It’s raw. It’s painful. It’s something no one in their right mind wants to look at. It’s also something that I have to make and something people should look at. Something people should feel. Something people should talk about.
You want pretty? Go to Walmart and buy a bad reproduction of an insipid painting that nicely matches the sofa.
You want art? Be prepared to be kicked in the stomach. That’s what art is supposed to do at least some of the time.
Some miracle happened, and I can now list my designs for sale at https://www.spoonflower.com/profiles/deb_thuman Prior to listing designs for sale, Spoonflower requires designers to have proofs made so any color tweaking that may be necessary can be done.
Here are some of the proofs.
You can also see the designs for which I haven’t yet had proofs made so they aren’t for sale. Eventually, they will be for sale. If you see something you like that isn’t yet for sale, let me know and I’ll have a proof made right away. It takes about a week for me to get proofs back and then a couple hours to list the fabrics that are for sale.
Every few weeks, I’ll be listing more of my designs for sale. I’ve been having so much fun playing with photos, making abstract designs and figuring out how best to translate the abstract photo to fabric. The designs for sale can be ordered in an assortment of fabric ranging from cotton to silk and even upholstery fabric. My designs can also be ordered in wallpaper. https://www.spoonflower.com/en/products/9578592?product=wallpaper On that page, you can see how the design looks as fabric, as wallpaper and as kitchen décor, as living room décor and as bedding.
In other creative news…… I was thinking last night about where my art has led me. I started out writing short stories when I was still in high school. I knew I was a good writer when a teacher handed back stories we had written, handed me my story and said, “Wow!” This was also the time I learned a lawyer was in me. The assistant principal thought I had drugs in my purse and asked to search my purse. I didn’t have drugs, but without thinking I looked him in eye and asked if he had a warrant. Fifteen years old, and I sounded like William Kunsler. It would be 23 more years before I would go to law school.
I wrote a lot when I was in college. One teacher told me she always put my work on the bottom of the pile because she knew I was a good writer and she had my work to look forward to as she read the other students’ work. Then I became a reporter and later an attorney. I went from fiction to fact to weird, stilted legal writing. I was good at all of it. One day while sitting in a mandatory, boring seminar, I began writing a novel. The novel isn’t finished yet and I’m amazed at the changes the novel has gone through. In a weird way, writing a novel is like getting to know the characters that exist only in my imagination. I started writing short stories again. Little things at first. The last two short stories are serious and I’m working out my feelings about suicide through these stories.
During the return to creative writing journey, I learned to work with clay, and to work out my feelings in ceramic sculpture. I learned more about working with fiber, learned about art quilts, and played in my sketchbook working out abstract designs. I learned I loved working with beads and began making jewelry. Now, I’m designing fabric. It’s been a wild art journey since I got my first thesaurus when I was 14.
This wasn’t supposed to be complicated. I ordered proofs of 30 fabric designs I had made from Spoonflower. I got the proofs back this week. I attempted to list a design for sale, and couldn’t. I verified my address. I followed the steps to verify my email address. I tried to fill out the W-9 form. After much frustration and swearing, I accidently managed to get the vile form signed electronically. Hint: you can’t sign the thing using an iPad and iPencil. Thinking I had everything worked out, I tried to list a design for sale. I can’t because I’m in an infinite loop. As soon as I try to list a design, I’m told I have to follow the verification process. When I try to follow the verification process, I’m told my address and email have been verified. The problem is the W-9 form for which there’s no way to submit. Why can’t I just have a form to print out, fill out, sign, scan and upload? Why do I have to be stuck in an infinite loop? Yes, I have sent an email to Spoonflower. No, I haven’t gotten an answer yet.
I’m having a bad bipolar day. I’m snarling at Jim. I get impatient over nothing. And this episode is coupled with introversion. Every personality test I’ve ever taken shows I’m both introverted and extroverted. This makes sense. The extrovert comes out when I’m manic and the introvert comes out when I’m depressed. No, there is no specific reason for being depressed. If you know someone who is bipolar, if you love someone who is bipolar, if you live with someone who is bipolar, spend time learning about bipolar disorder. It’ not easy having a brain that has a mind of its own.
I have ordered beads from Lima Beads. Lima is the only online store with semi-precious gems I trust. What I see is what I get. With Firemountain, the semi-precious gems are C and D quality. In my opinion, they aren’t worth buying. I’ve been buying pearls from Lima and I’m amazed at the quality. First rate at extremely reasonable prices! I had run out of amethyst beads, was running low on sodalite beads, and wanted to have some goldstone beads. I also splurged on pearls of assorted colors and sizes.
Larimer used to be affordable. Gem prices float just as gold and silver floats. At the moment, Larimer is expensive and I was surprised to find these so reasonably priced. So far, Larimer has only been found in the Dominican Republic.
Feldspath is something I bought a while back. I liked it more than I thought so I bought larger beads this time.
Goldstone. I have magpie tendencies and I love things that sparkle. Maybe because they reflect the extroverted manic part of me.
When I was picking out beads, I concentrated on size, color and price. I didn’t think about the name when I ordered peace jade. Now, I think about having beads that are both pretty and a political statement.
When I was a kid, I had nightmares about the hydrogen bomb and skeletons burning. The nightmares are back. This time, the nightmares aren’t about gut terrors of an unthinkable event as when I was a kid. Then, we had a Cold War and the certain comforting knowledge that if both sides had nuclear weapons, no one would be silly enough to start a war. Now, there is no comforting knowledge. Now, I have nightmares about a narcissistic sociopath president who thinks starting a war with a dangerous, fanatical, and likely mentally ill leader is a great way to get re-elected. Long ago, I decided if ever there was a nuclear war, I would kill myself. I’d rather die fast than die from radiation poisoning. Even if there were an antidote, there would be no medical care available. Doctors and hospitals aren’t immune from nuclear attack. Don’t kid yourself; hospitals will be, as they are in all wars, a major target. Thoughts of suicide mixed with bipolar disorder is terrifying. Do I need an extra antidepressant? Do I need a permanent adjustment to my psych meds? Am I having an abstract conversation with myself? Or am I suicidal? I don’t have an answer. Instead, I’ve decided to be extremely careful what I read in the New York Times each morning. I can’t stop what’s happening. I can’t change what’s happening. I don’t have to make myself physically sick by reading about what’s happening. Instead, I’ll make beautiful jewelry with peace jade beads.
It took about three years, but I finally filled up my external storage disk. When I do photography, I shoot in RAW. A lot of my work is outdoors, and I want the most amount of digital information my camera will give me. I have more and better editing options if I shoot RAW. However, RAW files are HUGE and it takes almost no time to fill up the space on the laptop. I’ve been putting RAW files on the external storage disk, then changing the photos from RAW to JPEG, dumping the RAW version from Photos and replacing that with JPEG version. That way, I have a portfolio of photos without using much space. Once photos are edited, there’s no visual difference between a RAW edited photo and a JPEG edited photo. I also backup my laptop to external storage.
Yesterday, I bought a 5 TB storage disk for less than the 3 TB cost me when I bought it on sale. Storage is becoming remarkably cheap. Today, I’m busy creating folders on the new disk and transferring files and photos from the laptop to the storage disk.