When I was four years old, I used to tell my little sister stories that started out, “Once upon a time in the Great Pacific Northwest…” I’ve always told stories, whether in poems or visual art, oral tales, or the written word. It goes beyond trying to make sense of our world, since I create my own worlds. My latest collection, “Butterfly Moon” (University of Arizona Press), contains short stories that blur the edges of reality: An ogress that lives in a world eerily like ours, but not really; or a street hustler who finds his worldview shaken after taking on an apprentice; or a young girl who goes into the woods to find her future and meets three gods.
Perhaps my need to create other places is due to my own unhappy situation. I have MS and it has made me house-bound. I’m forced to stay home and create; no shopping trips or visits to friends to distract me. I’m not able to work, either, or get "Disability," since I didn’t make enough money to qualify. Working as an adjunct or artist in the schools never paid much. Of course, it’s very hard to be in this situation. My right hand was paralyzed twice. I was once partially blind in one eye. I’ve had a lot of physical challenges. It’s my art (writing and painting) that has kept me sane. And those arts have connected me, via the internet, to others who create. This social network has been vital.
I love writing. I love painting and creating with mixed media. I wrote most of “Butterfly Moon” in about 5 months. The stories came to me through the characters. One story was prompted by a painting I did. I’m currently busy painting. I haven’t written much, although I did write several poems for an altered book project that I’m doing with several other artists.
I also paint in the kitchen, standing up, to give my legs a workout. I must use a walker or cane to get around, so it’s hard to carry a water jar for the brushes. I leave my brushes and paint and canvases all over, although I do try to tidy things up a bit before company! My family is understanding. The biggest problem I have is with my cat, who wants to play with the brushes and tip over the water or sit on the wet canvas! I usually paint for as long as I can stand and then go sit for a while. Writing can be hard on my legs; I need to stand up because sitting all the time isn’t good for the circulation. Because my body defines my limits, I love to get out of it and paint or write; living in my head is better than noticing my pains.
Note: Since I first wrote this, I fell and broke my arm. I was unable to get up or to use the keyboard for 3 months. I am confined to one room, my home library. Now, 10 months later, my arm hasn’t healed properly and I face an operation. However, as soon as I could type and do some art, I started working. I have a tray for my computer and use my lap to do my art. I created 40 poetry postcards; 31 were sent all over the world during a month-long poetry postcard project. I live near Seattle, in the Great Pacific Northwest.