Ari Melber, host of “The Beat” on MSNBC, posed a question on his show, asking how people avoid political burnout during a time that is fraught with political volatility. I admit this is a challenge, and one I don’t always meet. But, with increasing heartburn and migraines, this political climate is having a real physical and emotional effect on me. I wake exhausted many mornings, yet I still turn on the news or grab my cell phone to slide through my Twitter feed to see what idiocy has transpired while I was sleeping. Lately, I’ve had to very consciously stop doing this, or at least back off of the news cycles. It’s a constant temptation, like picking the apples of knowledge in the garden. The price, though, is being banished from my own peace of mind.
What does help, at least for me, is spending time doing something creative, which means allowing myself to spend some time behind my camera shooting the ordinary things around me. I find the time there, as well as the time spent working on the images I’ve captured, both calming and restorative. It’s a way of participating in the creation of something as opposed to railing against the things over which one has little control. That said, it doesn’t mean activism and protest aren’t often warranted in the face of growing authoritarianism. However, the temptation to remain plugged in promotes a hyper vigilance that’s exhausting. A retreat into my photography gives me enough energy to fight another day.
On this Indigenous Peoples’ Day, I think about Mabel McKay, Pomo basket weaver and medicine woman. Recently, I went to see an exhibition of her work at The Autry Museum in Los Angeles and was struck with the serenity and with the spirit of healing and strength her baskets exude. Greg Sarris’s biography of McKay, Weaving the Dream, recounts a lecture where a student asked her if it was her grandmother who taught her the art of basket weaving. Mabel responded: “It’s no such a thing art. It’s spirit…..I only follow my Dream. That’s how I learn.”
Art, spirit, and dreaming have always been linked for me, and I could feel that in Mabel’s work, even though it was all safely housed in environmentally controlled glass housings. Such work, such medicine people, like Mabel, have so much to teach the rest of the world. In an era of such profound disconnection from spirit, from the earth, from each other, these are people whose work can help weave us back into the fabric of life, back to a place where we can awaken and realize our place within the original web of connections.
It’s rare to get a shot of one of my two, very active new kittens. JJ was still enough for me to catch him during a brief pause while wrestling with his sister Stella.
We decided, after so much loss this year, to adopt two kittens from a kitten rescue in the Los Angeles area. When I got to meet these two siblings (boy-black, girl-Siamese), I knew these were our future family members. Stella (Siamese) immediately settled down in my lap, gazed for a long time into my eyes, then promptly went to sleep. JJ (Joe Jr.), was a bit more skeptical at first, but he often takes his cues from Stella, who approved of me, so he, too, plopped down into my lap and fell asleep next to her.
Since our oldest cat is 14, it’s been a long time since we’ve had babies. I forget the tremendous kind of frenetic energy they expend in any given play session. They play hard, then drop in their tracks to nap hard. In between, there are cuddles and that beautiful, motor-like sound of purring. Kitten therapy.
The end of last week marked a heart-crushing milestone in our lives. Within 24 hours, we lost both our beloved greyhounds Charlotte and Sophie. There are no words for the gaping hole in our family their loss has created, coming a week after we lost our 19-year-old kitty, Pookie, and less than two months after the death of my father.
In our heads, we know these beings won’t live as long as we do, but we bring them into our lives and love them anyway, accepting that our hearts will break when they leave. We had our girls for over 10 years. Sophie was 14 1/2 and Charlotte 13, long lives for greyhounds. While Sophie’s passing was expected given her deteriorating health, Charlotte’s was sudden and unexpected.
An animal intuitive I know told me that it was clear the two of them were very bonded. They helped to complete each other. Sophie was often very shy around strangers, while Charlotte was outgoing and effervescent with happiness. Even still, it’s apparently rare when animals decide to pass together. Typically, Charlotte always had to be the first dog out the back door, so it makes sense that she went first, waiting on the other side for Sophie.
Although we find it difficult to breathe in the wake of their loss, I think they knew we’d be o.k……eventually, and we don’t regret a single minute we spent with them. They enriched our lives immeasurably.
Taking some time to get back to the things that matter…..like marshmallow peeps.
More images inspired by the work of Charles Jones (1866-1959).