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    A Poem for My Children

(A True Story)
by Donna Earley

When I was young, I yearned to be
More like my forest family.
Anchored, bowing toward the creek,
My roots, so strong, would reach so deep.
I asked my trees to show to me
What I could do to be a tree.

“Precious child, we love you so,
You do belong, but you must know
Because your nature is to flow,
You must be free to come and go.
And though so small you still may be,
Someday a river you can be.

Then, when you’ve grown to your full flow,
Into the ocean you may go!
Imagine all that you might see
And how connected you’d then be!
Sometimes, you can return again
When heavens bring you back with rain.

Though anchored here we must remain
The times that you come back again,
Then tell us all that you did see
While you were flowing wild and free!
We’ll feel as if we went along,
And here you’ll always have a home,

Looking back each time, I knew….that what they said was right and true.

But flowing free did have a price,
And many things were sacrificed.
For every time I came back home,
A few more precious trees were gone.
Then one day, I grieved to see,
Apartments where my trees should be!

Now, not a single sapling left,
Tears flooded every place I wept.
Bricks, concrete, and asphalt too
Had taken what I loved and knew.
With grief so great, for years I flowed
Not caring more of where I’d go.

But time did slow me for a while,
And twice gave me a precious child.
While each one carried parts from me,
Each also had some traits of trees.
While little, they did gladly go
Wherever Mother chose to flow.

But each, in turn, declared to me,
“I feel.. I need to be a tree.
Your flowing life, inland or sea
May be what you are meant to be,
But Mother, we are not the same;
At times your flowing gives me pain.

I am part tree, and so I need
A place where roots can grow and breathe.
A forest is where I belong,
Where future saplings can grow strong.
Oh, don’t be sad, and please don’t cry.
My love for you will never die.

Go-be the river that you are,
But just don’t drift away too far.
You’re part of us, as we are you,
There’s still important work for you.
No matter what we choose to be,
Our Mother you will always be.

Just one request we have of you,
If you would try your best to do:
Your flow feeds us in many ways,
But floods can wash the soil away!
A gentle flow would be so kind,
And give us all much peace of mind!”

20120711-102718.jpg

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death of a hybridJust a storyline and yes, it’s another self-portrait (I’m the hybrid).  This is more or less a scene in a story, a medical examiner sent to pick up human remains, but finds instead a hybrid, part human, part… something else, they believe.  Ears like a sheep or goat, perceptual abilities that are unimaginable by ordinary human standards, extraordinary intelligence, yet quite vulnerable as extreme sensitive creatures, as well.  What they don’t yet recognize is that these are not hybrids at all, but another human species, highly evolved, but their extremely evolved mental capacities come at the cost of being unable to separate themselves from being severely bombarded by every aspect of their environment beyond human comprehension.  Of course, I’ve given visual form to the sensory sensitivities of hearing by incorporating the large ears, though this was just a 5 minute sketch with 2 cheap colored pencils from a dollar store pack (purple & blue). 

As is so typical of many humans when encountering a new life form or culture or race, the early hybrids faced persecution, even torture, were viewed with fear and treated as monsters because they couldn’t help but be themselves.  Out of fear, the early ones were hunted, eradicated, or locked up in institutions where they were warehoused with the rest of the society’s perceived “freaks.”  And predictably, this store turns on our eventual dependency upon these very creatures for human survival, because they have special gifts, abilities of perception that they can draw upon to find and expose the truth, the reality of situations, to be able to detect every nuance of what adds up to how a system is operating, whether the system is a multinational corporation doing business with other corporations, or the system is a single individual, and their behavior—speech, actions, believes, attitudes, condition, must be correctly understood individually, or when combined with other humans (systems).  To wrap your head around what life is like for these creatures, imagine what it would be actually like to be born able to actually talk to the dead.  Or to all kinds of animals via mental telepathy.  Or to see the future.  And you can’t turn it off, though you might take toxic, noxious substances to try to numb yourself to it sometimes, but that only makes you sick, and it’s worse for you after you get clean again. 

Hybrids, especially “seers” are exquisitely sensitive, and are super perceptive far above the range of human perception in multiple ways.  And while it is possible to find non-hybrid humans who have one sensory perceptiveness close to a hybrid level, you don’t ever find non-hybrids with multiple sensory awareness, much less a global sensitive.  Humans often will reject what they do not understand, and prefer to rely on what they already know and use that to label or categorize hybrids.  When people first became aware of hybrids, not as an isolated freak accident, but when trends in their numbers began to be evident, when the powers of that time got wind of this, what happened next looked like they took a chapter out of Frankenstein, rounding them up like animals and slaughtering them, as they were deemed non-human and needed to be culled before it spread like some infectious plague.

There were survivors, and they pulled away to themselves to avoid capture.  Eventually, though, their gifts were noticed and someone realized that they could be exploited as “seers” or “truthsayers”, and they could investigate any kind of system in the world, build a 3D working model in their heads, tell you what is wrong with the system and how to fix it.  They could “read” systems, provided they had access to information.  Seers were indispensible to world leaders, and they had a constant presence on the court.  But they were not free to come and go as they wished, because of the risk that someone would steal them or harm them thereby disadvantaging the government who relied on them.  So they lived in the most lavish palaces in the world, confined to cage—a gilded cage most of the time, but a cage nonetheless.

And now they have started dying off, and no one seems to know why that is happening.  Even the ancient ones like this one, with no apparent connection to the others, has died.  And that is where this story begins, with a mystery—the death of a seer, specifically MY death.  Not that I am suicidal or anything, but it seemed apt.

The background is done in acrylic, with the scene’s dialogue written in white gel pen in my cheap, $.25 lab notebook from Walmart.  You can do more in these things that I imagined!  Having the pages sewn in, versus perforated is a sturdier option if you abuse these notebooks as much as I do.  This one, started just over 2 months ago, has almost all of the 100 pages filled with journaling now.  My next journal will be an actual sketchbook, and I’ll do the writing as I’ve been doing, but it will be interesting to see how it holds up compared to this option.  My hope is that at least I won’t have the bleeding that sometimes happens when I work with markers in these thin pages, though I’ve managed to work with them and incorporated them into that pages entries.

It might seem morbid to write about one’s death, but death is a part of life, after all, and writing stories that reflect my views and insights about the world and myself, as self-portraits, isn’t at all troubling to me.  It doesn’t make me think of hastening my death, or worrying about death or any such; it is simply part of my story, but told via a fictional character. 

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journal page 080610 So much has been happening, and I’ve been happening to so much, as well!   Change and transition and uncertainty and obstacles/threats, and both anger and fear, triggered by the present, but often with fuel from the past, leaves me somedays feeling positively beaten about the head and neck!  But it passes.  That’s the cool thing, and also the not cool thing.  It’s cool, because I know that even in the throes of pain, confusion, anxiety, depression at times, not knowing what exactly to do/how to cope, I also know that I am experiencing this pain right NOW, and the time of suffering will pass, the fog will clear, the mood will lift, and I will emerge from those moments with something more than I had before—more insight, more relief, more control over the experience (not so much restrictive, as experiencing it intentionally, mindfully, as the process unfolds).  I am keenly aware, as I never have been before, of how I have been shaped by experiences that I didn’t even remember, that telling the story of what I learn along the way, including detailed scrutiny of processes at work, both passive and active/proactively, is itself a multitude of lessons.  It gives me insight into how my own thought processes work—very differently from most of the world, I might add, and why it’s always been so difficult for me to fully connect with others effectively. 

The image is of me, approximately in my 20’s, but connected to me is this elephant.  The elephant represents the fact, unbekownst to myself or my family, that I was, since birth, the “elephant-in-the-room” born autistic (Aspergers), with all the cognitive, functional, and medical potential that Aspies are shaped by, even before they are born.  And this little Aspie “elephant” spent the better part of the first two years of her life, being forcefed toxic pollutants while living next door to a coal burning power plant, years before the Clean Air Act even existed, and decades before they managed to effectively enforce restrictions on coal-fueled electricity.  The damage was already done to this autistic girl who already had a compromised immune system to begin with.

I was constantly sick, and had even been hospitalized once in 1963 with severe dehydration.  I got every virus that came my way, and, as my father later reported to a pediatric neurologist in 1971, “allergic to everything.” 

The third major developmental “insult” occurred when I fell from the upper floor fire landing of a local gymnasium, head first onto solid concrete. It was a very bad head injury, 3” skull fracture, intracranial hypertension and secondary brain injury, also referred to as “diffuse axonal injury.”  The secondary injury, caused by swelling and increased pressures on the brain, caused a lot of the connections between nerves to “shear” or tear apart, while at the same time the brain has trying to heal itself and keep me alive.  This went on for so long, that how it healed, and the rewiring to do it, took the hard wiring in my brain another huge step further away from “normal”.  From the outside, one could observe that the swelling and bruising finally went down, I did not die, and about 9 months after I came home, I was able to sit up in bed without head pressure problems. 

But there was not only no understanding whatsoever of Aspergers Syndrome back then, but also doctors had no idea what such an injury might do to a brain that survived such a fall.  No therapies or medications were administered, no tests for functional damage was done, and I, being only 5 years old at the time, had no idea that I had even less in common with neurotypical humans in how I would interact with my world going forward.  I had a strong sense that I was different from other children as early as 3 years old, but I had no idea why, nor any ability to understand the minds of others. 

Bridging the communication gap has been a lifelong struggle for me, both to understand and to be understood.   I want to be able to relate to other people, to connect with them in ways that are valuable and mutually beneficial.   It’s been agonizingly difficult, cumbersome, time consuming, and exhausting for all parties when I am trying to explain, to clarify my thoughts, feelings, overall perspective on a thing, yet know that I have failed, based on the reaction of those on the receiving end.  I fail for a number of reasons. I have gotten quite expert at being able to profile others, to analyze their behaviors, provided that I am not interacting with them at the time, or at least interacting where I have to be concerned about their perception of me.  This became a huge strength for me in my former job, and as it turns out, is a manifestation of one of many savant abilties.  The way that I journal now helps me really give glimpses into my own mind.  While I do my journaling totally for myself (as I do all of my art these days), I’m open to sharing parts that may be  of interest or benefit to others, or where it illuminates where my head and heart were, on some past event that may have gone totally awry. 

It’s interesting to me how varied my self-portraits are—the images are relative to time, heavily symbolic, even iconic at times.  This was done in my cheap standard lined lab-type notebook, in whic the pages are stitched into a cheap cardboard cover, typically imprinted with some sort of marbled effect, in various covers.  My thoughts that day are about my present situation, but the connections to past events…looking back and experiencing the connections more than the details, how I am represented depends upon what I am experiencing as the most important aspects of the connections in that moment.  Here, I am in my early 20’s.  The elephant part of me, has existed and endured the onslaught of many “insults” that have altered my brain to render me something almost other-humanly in how I think and process input from the world.  With the exception of autism, which I was born with, most of it was caused by the decisions by others act or fail to act—some were family, others including teachers, judges, police, school official, and it developed its own momentum after a while, with the blind following the blind, being slapped with labels/definitions that came to be accepted because the path was well worn, and, neuro-typical humans of all ages, and socioeconomic backgrounds, being naturally susceptible to their own attributional and cognitive biases, unique creatures like myself more often will not be able to sustain acceptance when I come up against those biases.  They used to think people like me were schizophrenic, and often spent their whole lives in institutions.  I was kept in one as a child for 2.5 years, records show that I was orderly, compliant, a good student, and remained there only because there was no stable place for me to live who would accept me.  No one.

The filters are a kind of lazy rule-based system that assumes that I should think and act in a certain way because I look like I belong to a certain group, and when I violate the social rules—spoken and unspoken, the belief is that I knew, or should have known about the rule, and that the violated social rule is something that I can and should conform to, without question.   What

I don’t feel invested in the “blame and shame” game, at least when it comes to my own family’s roles in that damage.  I am less forgiving of societal institutions that participated or turned a blind eye, when they could have taken some simple steps to help.  I understand the things that motivated their choices, their biases at the time as society existed.  That does not mean that I am prepared to forgive.  I still feel that I am owed a debt, at a minimum for the many intentional harms (ie., rapes), looking the other way when abuse was staring them in the face and I was complaining of being molested and raped (which they chose not to even report), noticing, documenting irregularities provided them in reports that they never questioned, never investigated, and never told me about, and leaving it for this brain-damaged woman who happened to have certain gifts, to discover from their own records, piece together the connections, and discover the truth, and even then, only after becoming totally disabled by the ravages of all the mistakes and abuses that had accumulated.  No one is willing to take responsibility.  That is wrong.  I am accustomed to that, but that doesn’t mean that it is right to just accept that nothing should be done to right the wrongs that can be righted, and at least recognize these human-made perfect storms. 

Is it any wonder that I feel safer far away from civilization?  Disasters happen in nature, as well, but nature operates by rules, at least, and they may have undesirable outcomes, but at least they make sense.  That is something I can live with.  I can accept death by tsunami, however tragic.  I’m not yet prepared to accept “that’s just the way things are” when the way things are is entirely constructed by humans motivated by personal agendae, that may or may not have anything to do with justice or even equity.  That is my issue.  And if it can happen to me then, and still happens to me now (except that I fight back), it can happen to others, so it’s not just in the past.  I feel a deep sense of personal responsibility to do something before I die to prevent similar harm from befalling others.  I need to become an advocate.

But first, I need to become an effective advocate for myself, and that means going through this right now.  My art enables me to communicate with others, and to get them to be more open through the way I approach presenting the principles, getting acceptance of possible situations like mine, and only then, telling them my story.  It is becoming easier to have dialogues that are more receptive to understanding my perspective, suspending disbelief long enough to consider the reality, and build bridges of understanding. 

I think in pictures, not words.  I learned many languages, trying to discover the key to communicate with others, but it was woefully inadequate.  Now that I can draw, can do art (since almost one year ago for the first time), I am finding ways to bridge the gaps and find opportunities to improve things.  I hope I can live long enough to do something with it that will help others.  Then it will have been worthwhile.

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beaautiful creature s-p 052010 small file-1

This began as an elaborate graphite sketch in my small sketchbook, and I transferred the sketch to a notebook cover, then drew it out some more, and painted it in acrylic.    The image was not something that I thought about drawing; it sort of arose on the paper.  I later realized that it was very much a self-portrait, not perhaps in the literal sense, but maybe spiritually?  Everything about it says beautiful, natural, authentic, what I feel coming from it.  I think that I am perhaps more connected to this painting than many others, yet where is it?  Hanging on some wall of pride?  Nope.  It’s painted directly onto the soft cover of one of my notebooks.  You can see the curves on the edges, and lots of scratches.  I’ve recoated it a couple of times as it picked up stain and scratches.  I’ll have to put something a bit more durable, I suppose.

Does it make you think about beauty?  What sort of creature this is?  If it’s a self-portrait, what sort of creature am I?  Indeed, that is the question, is it not?  If you understand this creature, you will also understand how it is a mirror of me inside….

I’ll say this much, if you haven’t picked up from other posts:  I find creatures much more comfortable than people to be around.  They have an inner consistency and logic that I can understand and relate to.  Trying to play human rules is just plain stressful to me.  The rules they claim are broken more than followed.  Their social *intuition* usually gets them quicker conclusions about things, but wrong much more often than they will ever realize, and probably mostly won’t have to discover.  Their social intuition are more like blinders than wisdom, shorthand that they treat as if it’s longhand, and forget that when they fill in the blanks later, their shorthand may show that they missed it.  You probably have no idea what I’m talking about, but I am not socially intuitive with people, because people are filled with contradictions.  I “read” them, “read” the environment, “read” all the details, and do the math and figure out what things mean.  The rest of the creatures of the universe?  Social intuition is a fine thing, because they operate within their own logic, their own rules, and those can be understood.  They make sense in the context of the creatures.  But humans?  Not so much.  But when the intuitive process yields disaster, they call in creatures like me, to tell them what went wrong, and build a better working model, if possible.

When creatures like myself get themselves born, but they have a limited set of things in common with humans around them beyond what they actually look like, it can be tough sometimes to find a truly “familiar” face, a “kindred” soul.  But I do look for them sometimes, or at least keep my radar on, in case one shows up someday.  I’ll settle for a few humans who can accommodate a gentle creature like myself, who can leave me to be me and that’s just great for us all! 

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unicorn1.0 

I’m adding these themes to my working list of the sketchbook project that I have in process right now: 

  • you don’t have to be a tree hugger to talk to trees, and it can save the world
  • how an extraordinary little girl used every day magic to save the world (series of pages tell the story)
  • how “childish dreams” can save the world
  • can we be polite and still save the world?
  • what unicorns can teach us about saving the world (It’s a secret-this picture is a teaser page!  You’ll have to keep following the story to learn the secret!)
  • How what you believe could save the world

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Page 2 to go into my sketchbook for the Sketchbook Project.  My assigned topic:  How to Save the World.

 

sketchbook Project #2.0-1

A little background about the symbolism on this page: 

The symbolism here is tied to the religious paradigm of the mythical hero off to slay evil demons out in the wilderness so as to protect kith and kin. 

This paradigm was articulated by Mircea Eliade (1907-1986), a native of Romania, who was “a well-known historian of religion, fiction writer, philosopher, and professor at the University of Chicago. He was a leading interpreter of religious experience, who established paradigms in religious studies that persist to this day. His theory that hierophanies form the basis of religion, splitting the human experience of reality into sacred and profane space and time, has proved influential.[1] 

“Eliade argues that religious thought in general rests on a sharp distinction between the Sacred and the profane;[83] whether it takes the form of God, gods, or mythical Ancestors, the Sacred contains all "reality", or value, and other things acquire "reality" only to the extent that they participate in the sacred.[84] suggests that in traditional societies, people tended to view the world as being one of opposing realms, of the known world, and the unknown world.  The known world was “the realm of established order; and beyond the known world is a chaotic and dangerous realm, "peopled by ghosts, demons, [and] ‘foreigners’ (who are [identified with] demons and the souls of the dead).[116] ….According to Eliade, traditional societies place their known world at the Center because (from their perspective) their known world is the realm that obeys a recognizable order, and it therefore must be the realm in which the Sacred manifests itself; the regions beyond the known world, which seem strange and foreign, must lie far from the Center, outside the order established by the Sacred.”  Full Wikipedia Article on Eliade’s life and work

Eliade’ argued passionately for the universality of these paradigms, probably the most controversial aspect of his work to others.  But I would argue that one doesn’t have to look very hard at contemporary cultures, to at least see the pervasiveness of the paradigm of the mythical hero as a recurrent theme today across most cultural groups, in religious stories, as well as popular drama and other entertainment.  It continues to be held up as a value throughout enculturation processes in some form.  The details may vary, but it is a powerful motivator to act, even today. Though the paradigm has its roots in traditional societies, it clearly persists in modern culture and shapes values on a primal level.   

It is a romantic notion that lies at the heart of the decisions of world leaders to take up arms, though how those leaders have formed their perception of who is included in the sacred or in the profane derives from how they, as individuals, have come to see who is “in” and who is “out”.  Whether you are looking at individuals who take extreme measures to strike through hostage taking, genocide, and mass murder, or the knight who fights on his home soil to defend against invaders, all can be seen to be acting on a sorting process.  This process of sorting the universe of being “one/part of us” or “in” and being “not part of us” or “out” begins in early social development.  How we learn to sort and how we act on that sorting is shaped by how we our personal biases are formed.  It is how we judge the behavior of others. 

If we view and judge others around us as being the profane, “outsiders”, “others”, we make them “dragons” in our minds, or the “chaos monster”, as Eliade would describe them.  We believe that it is a hero’s duty to slay dragons that threaten us.  The problem here, is that they are probably not dragons at all, and the facts are likely not that we are good and they are evil and must be defeated.  In fact, they may just be afraid of us, as we are of them, and by our perceptions and acting through fear, we cannot build empathy or understanding.  What is required to avoid the outcome that we are afraid of, is learn to see one another without judgment, to foster trust and acceptance through mutual respect of our common humanity and unique qualities.

When we are looking over at someone that we are perceiving as a “dragon”, we should question our perception, and the assumptions that form that perception.  We should investigate before we behave with prejudice toward another, and try our best to understand them, to see them as they are, not just as we “fear” they might be.  We should set aside our fear and loathing for what is unfamiliar and try to build empathy with others, not try to force them to be “us”, or to force us to be “them”, but to appreciate the differences and how the uncomfortable feelings arose, and then find the common ground to address respective concerns.   We can’t control what other people do, but we can do our part to attempt to bridge the gap.  This is how we can each be a “hero”, and save the world.

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So I’m participating in The Sketchbook Project, which means that I will complete an art journal that will be a part of a traveling exhibit before moving to a permanent collection next year.  It’s very exciting, but also a little bit daunting.  I’ve been assigned the theme:  “How to Save the World".”  So I am going to be posting to this blog and updating it with thoughts about my pages, and looking for ideas/inspiration on the theme.  I have thought of a few topic ideas for my pages already, and would do pages around any of these ideas from the list below, that reflect my vision of what we all could do, to save the world:

  • Organize a WORLD COLOR DAY: set up network & internet coverage that can be captured and sent by anyone via camera phones, email, live webcam feeds, and global news organizations.   Anyone in the world who is willing and able should color pages, and people in leadership positions should be obligated to participate, especially political/government leaders:  everyone can choose from a collection of various coloring pages (can be shapes/designs like patterned mandalas or still life pictures, or line art illustrations). Embellishment of the pages is entirely at the user’s discretion.  This enables us to “see” one another through use of color, rather than the color of our skin, hair,etc. It is a common language, regardless of the language that we speak, and does not require special skill or elaborate materials.  Color may be applied with anything from crayons, paint, pencils, to grass, food, soil, makeup.  Anything goes, as long as the paper can hold it.  Coloring is very calming, enhances health, and problem-solving abilities.  It would help the human race, to build bridges through individual expression–without judgment or criticism–and enable people to not be burdened and divided by cultural differences.  
  • Raise children to see differences among people as “interesting,” not bad.  Role models: “walk the walk” 
  • Be mindful that every choice that you make has consequences somewhere, somehow, and/or to someone or something.  Doing nothing is a choice, too.
  • Stand for something that demonstrates the best aspects of your character.  The way you live reveals what it is that you stand for.
  • Forgiving others relieves YOU of the burden of YOUR anger.  Save yourself and the world at the same time.
  • Treat all humans with dignity, respect, and compassion.
  • Practice mindfulness.
  • Permit the innocent to speak of harm done to them by others without inflicting a sense of personal shame on them.  However unpleasant it may be to hear about their abuse and pain, they were victims, and the first-hand experience was undoubtedly at least as unpleasant for them.
  • With power comes responsibility—do your very best to take responsibility
  • Challenge negative assumptions about others and ourselves; acting on negative assumptions generally yields negative results
  • Hope is not a strategy—start from where you are, and act according to your ability.
  • Don’t waste or destroy, just because you can.
  • Always question the source and validity of strong feelings of judgment, anger, sweeping generalizations and prejudice.
  • The value of a gift is not measured in quantity or money or scope, but in the true generosity of spirit, purity of intention, and ability to give of oneself

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