Writing while in the bath is relaxing and not at all painful. My pain is caused by drugs, inflammation in the spine, lack of fitness and strength. I thought no-one wanted to see what cancer pain feels like, after one gallery operator told me no-one in Australia would show my paintings because they are too emotional. However my nurse invited me to put a painting in to the World Conference on Pain Management. I am exhibiting paintings now in “Sugar and Spice” the exhibition by Breast Screen Tasmania, publicizing ovarian cancer. The exhibition is beautiful, passionate, detailed, tells stories, and has some abstract cool images and depicts what you would give the special woman in your life.
Last week my son, the video maker/photographer filmed “A Day in My Life” painting at my boatshed down the coast, followed by scenes from my weekly hospital treatment. I paint wherever I am, write stories and poetry, sing songs and have a good time. My friends with or without cancer tell me that my art, stories, songs and experience have helped them feel positive. I would hope so! Talking of having fun, I have been without hair for four years now, but have enjoyed changing personalities along with wigs-blond, honey, pink beaded, sophisticated claret and long black. People relate to me very differently with wigs or with scarves and hats.
This year after years of shock, drugs and pain, I find heartening community groups working in the arts and healing. I suggested the theme, “Living and Dying” to Playback Theatre who recently put on a show. The audience told their stories and actors and musician played back the essence of each to make moving and profound plays. I had enough energy to invite friends to potluck meal last Friday. We shared food, singing, drumming, piano and guitar. It always turns out surprisingly well- considering that I do not know what each person will bring. Sue, recently returned from Tibet says, “Give me a singalong, I love ‘em!” We sang “Spirit of the wind carry me” “White Buffalo Woman” “Rainbow Woman Blues” “Mother I feel you under my feet” and “I will walk the Rainbow Trail”, helped by my selection of Indian drum and tambourine, Balinese brass bells, African drums, Japanese guitar, English piano, home-made Meringue rice shaker and a kazoo. We made a groovy rhythmical racket!
I minimize my back pain by sharing with friends, joining community arts, making music, exercising, sleeping arvos, painting and Art Therapy. On my last hospital visit I told staff “You are now my social life.” We all laughed. Part of the pain is in remembering that I am ill. I hope to forget it at least once or twice a day. I am alone with time to consider my impending death. But really, I am like you. We will all inevitably die. So the discipline is in doing what I love each day. “Go and have a good time” they now tell me.
I am starting my Ph. D. in Education and Art Therapy, using my life and work as the subject. I am using “A Day in the Life of” video, my five song CDs, two CD Rom of 180 images and text, my published magazines and paintings, three anthologies, many exhibitions and book readings. I reckon if anyone is going to have fun, then it better be me! I will show my work at Off Centre Gallery, Salamanca Place on August 3rd.05 – 18th. where I have a whole room for twenty five colourful seascapes, forest views, and art therapy symbols. I will perform my songs and I’ll read my poetry at the opening.
ANATA have a national conference here in November, 05, about arts psychotherapy, where I will show some work alongside many other artists and therapists.
At sand level, my deck chair slung low over shells, I see a bee lost on the sea shore. I find a bee on the sea, so I set it on the boat shed. It staggers a while, its wings dry, then it wanders off to fly away home. The waves break slowly, repeatedly - I cannot alter their course. That is the wildness I love about the beach. Nothing I can do to tidy it. What a relief!
I have come down here to check how I am feeling. Every few weeks I drive here from town through countryside increasingly suburbanised, manicured and built up. This tiny stretch of beach has become another suburb. And yet she-oaks and old banksias grow over the cliffs and sand. Along the coastal inlets white bellied sea eagles nest. We saw a pair last weekend. Cormorants dive for food around Hobart, right up to the fresh water exchange in the river at New Norfolk.
Here I sit in cool sunshine, looking across the bay to the snow capped mountain. Last summer I painted pictures in my boatshed. I glanced to the sea below and saw a diamond dark shape swimming almost motionless. I looked again and realized a sting ray was watching me as I watched it. “Hello” I said. We sat appraising each other for full five minutes. It finally took a ninety degree turn and swam slowly along the beach.
A few years ago I was in “Abo’s Cave”. It is filled with middens, a fire hole and a running spring of fresh water. My sister and I remembered our childhood- we walked miles to get there, to dive and swim. This time I felt something watching me. I looked down and saw an octopus eyeing us as we stood in the cave mouth. “Hello”. It suddenly slunk away through the crack in the sandstone rock. Of course, here and everywhere sea gulls fly, hoping to catch any crumbs. They look so funny stamping in the wet sand pecking up sea-lice and tiny animals.
The boatshed ramp feels reassuringly smooth. Piles of seaweed hang over old weathered wood, peeling paint, seasoned timber, grey and porous from years of storms and sun. A mess of black beads, lacy branchlets, kelp brown leaves, tiny gold bubbles and feathery nets, includes Neptune’s Necklace, fresh Sea Lettuce and a few gum leaves. A bull ant explores closer to my white shoes and my bottom.
The shed ramps may not be rebuilt when decrepit. As a child I sat here when the scallop dredgers worked the bay. We shucked scallops at the sheds, a bucket full cost 1s. It was fished out in the 60s. Now, with care and planning, scallops are growing again in these sheltered waters of d’Entrecasteaux Channel.
Mick has complained about getting away and having time out. I say, “Have it. Arrange it and go!” The water here reminds me every time to get in the dinghy and feel the cold bubbles on my toes. I put my foot in the water. It is icy! Yes, it is cold, and yes, it’s uncomfortable. Yes. I have to dry them on my handkerchief and try to pull my socks over damp feet. But, boy do I feel refreshed.
So what am I getting from this visit? A reconnection to wilderness and water. Watching waves’ delicate patterns puts my mind into non-think neutral and sensual richness, into the Now. A boat sails by, the white triangle disappearing round the point. Smoke issues from some back yard bush across the bay. Couples wander the beach. Some-one’s fishing…
Mary has published items of her writing - please see the Publications page.
Some of Mary's writing is available below in Adobe Acrobat (pdf) form. You can download a copy of the free Adobe Acrobat reader here.
Birthday Quotes (2006)
Boatshed Ramp (2006)
Friands Choc Coffee (2006)
Pain avoidance (2006)