GROW OR DIE… website: e-mail: outofthearmchair @


“The chances of dying are one out of one, for everybody.” — Einstein


“What might have been and what has been point to one end, which is always present. Footfalls echo in the memory down the passage we did not take, towards the door we never opened…” — T.S. Elliot


The big dreams — of riches and fame and undying love and what have you — punched a hole in space and time to make a vacuum box which could be filled with the smaller, attainable versions of the bigs could be born to grow and thrive — which is what I really want in the first place. Just painting. Painting, and books and friends. Good food and plenty of recipes that I might try when the oppressive heat of summer is over. In the meantime,  cherries, blackberries, grapes, bagels and all good things so clean and beautiful from Costco. I sleep like a hibernating bear. I enjoy my life, and the universe takes care of me…


I finished the third of the oceans series this morning. The top of my hand hurts from so many days of ferocious painting. The pain reappears at the top of my elbow. Hide and seek pain. Same with Barbara being dead. The pain comes and goes. I am having this wonderful life in the tropics and she is dead. That doesn’t seem right. She loved life with the same intense passion that I do. Now, the subterranean river of sorrow runs through my days and nights. And nothing will ever be the same. Monkey Mind frames this grief as you are not ok and you will never be ok again. Wrong. I am ok right this frikkin frakkin minute and beyond. I build my future with my paintings and my forward acting baby steps and will continue to do so to my own last dying breath.


“You are now free, whether you wanted to be or not. Even though you may struggle with ‘why’ and obsess over what could have been or should have been, acceptance is still necessary. In order to promote your healing, you must accept that there is a reason and it is for your higher purpose. It was for a higher purpose of the one you lost as well…

“You are literally not attached to that relationship or that person any more, and so you are free. Free to go forward on your life path, to explore different options… free to choose differently. The energy space has opened for reasons we may not understand.

“It may be to allow opportunities and people into your life that could not have entered before. You may find your next relationship or your next life purpose.

“Following a huge loss, you are free to find your own rhythm, build your own routine, fill in your newly blank dance card. It is time to find out what your own life’s orbit is like without your missing person’s gravitational field…

“Integrate all of it. Take every lesson and every memory and include them as you go forward… Discover who you’ve become because of the relationship and who you are without it and embrace it… Become who you were meant to be because this person came into your life and because they are now gone…” — Giselle Belanger

YES, BUT… It hurts to have Barbara gone…

“You don’t know when you start doing the work what you’re going to find. Or how to find it. A very small thing can lead to a big thing.” — Georges Braque


Pour all your energy into one, very positive place. This is the first rule of living with and — possibly leaving in the rearview mirror — a big steaming pile of grief.

Second rule: give stuff away, throw stuff out. The great neighborhood give away. Helps you achieve a certain lightness of being. I gave away my travel sized Winsor Newton watercolor set. My Conte crayons. Anything and everything I was not really using. (If you are not really using something, you are hoarding it.)


And your giveaways benefit the people you give stuff to. Just because under your bright smile and your pleasant life you feel bereft and unhappy doesn’t mean you can’t make somebody else feel the comfort of your love. You can maybe help your friends and neighbors on their own road to happy destiny…

Rule three: get with your friends and loved ones. Go to lunch or breakfast or for a cup of coffee. So far this week, I have done writing practice with Chris, I have been in touch with Jane, I am going for frozen bananas with Gingerita. The frozen bananas are really a trip. When Jane was here, I pointed them out to her. They stuff a banana with caramel, chocolate or cherries. Then they dip it in light or dark chocolate and roll them in nuts. Wow. Yesterday I chomped a thick and juicy burger with my neighbor. There was enough left over to take home for supper.

Rule four: TAKE GOOD CARE OF YOURSELF. I got a pedicure yesterday, had my toenails painted sapphire. Once I magnetize some more money, I will get a massage. I also went shopping. Three days in a row. I bought BOTH Queen Anne cherries at Costco, and the dark red, almost black cherries they bring up from Chile. I bought blackout curtains and God knows what all.

Bandaids on the grief. With enough bandaids and enough time — nobody knows how much time is enough for any suffering individual — I guess that is up to the Great Spirit Mystery — I believe that the bleeding stops. At that time, you are left with your lovely loving memories of the loving kindness your missing person gave you. And that you gave her right back.

So do the bandaid baby action steps. Throw out old receipts, keys, operating manuals, papers, broken jewelry — indeed, anything that is broken — or even things that are not broken but that have, since buying or acquiring them, shown themselves to be rather useless in your life. I gave my flatscreen tv to my neighbor and am not fussed about it at all. Because I would rather live plain and simple. More plain and simple than the lifestyles hawked and huckstered on tv. Not wanted on the voyage.

It is not discipline to change your life, make it right — it is desire. Doing what comes naturally. In my case, I am willing to change. And grow, despite knowing that with growth come growing pains. As my friend Gail says, “Another fucking growth opportunity”. Right now, another fucking growth opportunity is upon me. So it is beyond necessary that I heed the call to grow. This is the GROWTH IMPERATIVE: GROW OR DIE.

Think new thoughts. Make new karma. Love is all there is. Let us be love, and be loved.

DANCE LIKE NOBODY IS LOOKING… SHE CAN DO WHAT SHE DO… website: e-mail: outofthearmchair @


“I remember having the distinct sense that I might never wear them down — those faceless, nameless guardians of the gate that I was tirelessly besieging. They might never give in to me. They might never let me in. It might never work.

“It didn{t matter.

“No way was I going to give up on my work simply because it was not working. That was not the point of it. The rewards could not come from the external results. I knew that. The rewards had to come from the joy of puzzling out the work itself, and from the private awareness I held that I had chosen a devotional path and I was being true to it. If someday I got lucky enough to be paid for my work, that would be great — but in the meantime, money could always come from other places. There are so many ways in this world to make a good enough living — and I tried lots of them — and I always got by well enough.

“I was happy. I was a total nobody, and I was happy.

“I saved my earnings and went on trips and took notes. I went to the pyramids of Mexico and took notes. I went on bus rides through the suburbs of New Jersey and took notes. I went to Eastern Europe and took notes. I went to parties and took notes. I went to Wyoming and worked as a trail cook on a ranch and took notes…” — Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic


“There are certain mysteries, certain secrets in my own work which even I do not understand, nor do I try to do so.” — Georges Braque

“Do you want to say no 1,000 times, or do you want to say no only one time.” — The Dog Whisperer

“There is only the fight to recover what has been lost and found and lost again and again. And now, under conditions that seem unpropitious — but perhaps niether gain nor loss. For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.” — T.S. Eliot


The thing a grown up does… quotidian tasks…

It was not just my entire food world and food worldview that changed during and because of my long strange trip of an illness in the spring.

Not painting for a month and a half spawned a whole new painterly arrangement. As I stretched out like a cat in bright morning sunshine, being sick and all, I relaxed, I became extremely open to the universe and whatever ideas it holds for me. I must have become willing to change. Willing to experiment with how and when I do my studio time, studio things, paint.

This is how I came up with groups of three. Sizing, priming, picking out reference shots, pulling these chosen images apart from their brothers and sisters, the other photos in my photo albums. Making a set of three landscapes or seascapes to paint next. Tape each one in the painting sketchbook on its own left page, so the facing page can hold the sketch. Using a Sharpie pen on the back of the next three canvases — delineating the sizes, medium — oil paint, always oil, my beloved oil with linseed oil on the fat side going up — painter, — me, of course — Galleria Dante, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Once all these quotidian tasks are accomplished, the photo takes on weight, substance, and meaning. The image begins to look like the source material that it is. Not just a happy snap, although it is this, too.

My paintings make me happy, and their point and purpose is to make other people feel happy, too. My paintings are not exactly cash cows. My paintings are what my life is all about. So they are not nothing. SHE CAN DO WHAT SHE DO…

And the three clear days a week to paint and sit in the sun with a book and an iced tea, brilliant.

A lot of wishing went down before I found out how to build the free days.

Being an artist is not just sitting around drawing and coloring the drawings with colored pencils — though there is a satisfying contentment in that, and now that I have cleared my plate for the “A” task — painting — there is an upswing in how often I do it. But studio work is also stretching canvas, putting screw eyes for picture wire on the back sides of the stretchers. An artist uses many tools. Not only the brushes, canvas, paint, pens, pencils and colored pencils, paper… the staple guns, needle-nose pliers, wire cutters, hammers… The tools are also DESIRE, FORTITUDE — “mental and emotional strength in facing difficulty, adversity, danger, or temptation” — the temptation, of course, to not go in the studio at all, or not on a regular basis, and entertaining the awful notion of manana, manana.

“You let go of one day, you let go of a hundred days.” — Leon Uris, Exodus

Forward motion in your painting life is created by all of this. Not only having the tools, but the mind made up to use them.

You form a habit in 28 days.

As it gets hotter and hotter here in Mexico, the long piled up days for taking care of business, doing chores, is a real frikkin frackin challenge. Today, I almost went home after only two chores — but I coaxed myself around Monkey Mind, who shrieks GO HOME GO HOME, YOU ARE TIRED AND HUNGRY, are you not…

I said to myself, just do this one more thing. Write your blog for this week and then you can do what you want. Now that I am completing this one more thing, I feel less tired and hungry, less like quitting before the game is played through, and, even, by doing what I set out to do, energized. Doo dah dippety.

Think new thoughts, Make new karma. Outcomes are not up to me, but go to the Great Spirit Mystery for conclusions and results. Love is all there is. Let us be love. And be love. Love it as much as you can from wherever you are.

BIG DAYS AND BIG RETURNS… website: e-mail: outofthearmchair @


“The most important take-home message with diet and health is that anyone who ever expresses anything with certainty is basically wrong, because the evidence for cause and effect in this area is almost always weak and circumstantial, and changing an individual person’s diet may not even be where the action is. What is the best evidence on the benefits of changing an individual person’s diet?

“There have been randomized tirals, for example, in which you take a large group of people, change their diets, and compare their health outcomes with another group, but these have generally shown very disappointing results…

“The Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial involved over 12,866 men at risk of cardiovascular events, who went through the trial over seven years.

“These people were subjected to a phenomenal palaver: questionnaires, 24 hour dietary recall interviews, three-day food records, regular visits, and more. On top of this, there were hugely energetic interventions that were supposed to change the lives of individuals, but which by necessity required that whole families’eating patterns were transformed. So there were weekly group information sessions for participants — and their wives — individual work, counseling, an intensive education program, and more. The results, to everyone’s disappointment, showed no benefit over the control group…

“The most important thing to notice is that these trials require people to turn their entire lives upside down and for about a decade. That is a big ask…

“…Your participants probably won’t change their diets as much as you want them to. But far from being a failing, this is actually an excellent illustration of what happens in the real world. Individual people do not, in reality, change their diets at the drop of a hat, alone, as individuals, for the long term.

Ä dietary change probably requires a change in lifestyle, shopping habits, maybe even what is in the shops, how you use your time. It might even require that you buy some cooking equipment, change how your family relates to one another, change your work style, and so on…”– Bad Science


Really, I was eating like there is no tomorrow. Even while consciously trying to lose weight. Bad and not so bad habits but still not so good, built up over a lifetime had to be changed. Nobody can walk this path for me. My baseline fear of not getting enough, not having enough, and a deep down scarcity feeling of not knowing where the next meal is going to come from had to be expunged. Compare and contrast that with abundance thinking — there is always more. I have plenty of food in my freezer, my pantry, my cupboards. I am willing to change anything and everything every single day that comes to me as a beggar begging to be fed.

The success I enjoy almost as much as my painting successes is the success I am having being at a good proper weight for me. Today I bought new pants. They are grey and blue and yellow harem pants. I bought them from Ann at the Three Pollos market. Perfect for summer. And for my new smaller — it is not the rapture yet, and even if it were, I doubt that an apostate such as myself would be invited — size.

Size does matter. At 196 pounds, I had a bit of trouble pulling myself out of a chair. Skinnier now, no problemo.

Change my shopping habits? Oh yes. Now I feel so good about myself, I buy fresh blueberries and fresh raspberries, whatever else they have that looks good — cherries, grapes. As an experiment, yesterday before I went to the gallery to do my weekly painting demonstration, I ate cherries for breakfast. By the time I got to Galleria Dante, I was starving. How could that be? Wouldn’t you think a bowl full of cherries or a bowl full of raspberries — same bowl — would fill you up the same? Well no, not the case, wrong.

Change my lifestyle? I am always, or have always been, fiddle facking around with that. This week, I stumbled (after 900 ways how not to invent a lightbulb) onto what actually does work for me.

I do big big big days, gang up a whole bunch of chores that need to be done, and do them. Implacably (like the Terminator)… All day long, if need be. Take away the hot heat by using cabs. Taxis are very cheap here. So I just do my list. Today, I made an appointment to get my nails done. I bought cream cheese and a new kind of cereal that has pomegranate seeds in it. (I am a fan of pomegranate. Not sure that the antioxidant claims for pomegranate are valid — after reading Bad Science, maybe the claims are false — then again, maybe they are not. I like the taste, and the ruby color.) Of course I am here in the neighborhood writing this blog post. I have a small wedge of Brie and some crisp sweet green grapes if I get hungry. (Michael Pollan, the food writer, says if you eat really good food, you find you need less of it.) Next, the Page in the Sun for books.

The purpose of doing these big piled on days — I started last Saturday — beach with Alice, Office Max for a replacement electric pencil sharpener, books at Page — the purpose of heaping scoops of chores done in a cone of sweat and derring-do is to give myself whole free days to paint. I feel like I have cracked it. “Break on through to the other side / break on through to the other side”… oh yes…

But how did I lose all this yummy goodbye weight, and change my relationship with food, and even my notions of what food IS?

It was when I was sick all of February and most of March — I lost my appetite. And then, I had hours and hours each day of lying on the couch, sicker than a junkyard dog who ate a bus behind his rusted chain link fence, I was too sick to read. And I had plenty of time to think.

At the end of being so perilously sick and pretty damned sorry for myself because of it, I was no longer the same person. As far as food is concerned. I’m all berries and juice and bagels. The little girl who sat in her room eating candy that was paid for by stealing loose change from her daddy’s pants pockets, off the top of his maple dresser — is gone. The youngster who sneaked avocados and shrimp up to her room to avoid the uproar in other parts of the house — is gone. I am no longer that frightened, worried, anxious little girl. And I am no longer the artist in Taos working at Walmart, sitting in the weeds and sagebrush on break eating onion sandwiches. That person is also gone, absorbed into the past while I enjoy my happily ever after. What a shock that it actually has come about.

When one thing changes, everything changes. Now that I am skinnier, a man has been hitting on me to go to breakfast, go to lunch. I told him five times no. Then I realized I was getting pissed off and feeling pushed around by this guy. So today I told him, Ï need you to stop asking me to breakfast and lunch.” He said, Ï can do that.”

So. Defenso el resto. I need not act as if I am still eight years old. Life’s too short for us to bore ourselves, right?

Think new thoughts. Make new karma. Love is all there is. Let us be love. And be love.

HAMMER DOWN: IT IS GOING TO TAKE MORE THAN THAT… website: e-mail: outofthearmchair @ gmail


“One day you finally knew

what you had to do, and began,

though the voices inside you

kept shouting

their bad advice —

though the whole house

began to tremble

and you felt the old tug

at your ankles.

“Mend my life!”

each voice cried.

But you didn’t stop.

You knew what you had to do,

though the wind pried

with its stiff fingers

at the very foundations,

though their melancholy

was terrible.

It was already late

enough, and a wild night,

and the road full of fallen

branches and stones.

But little by little,

as you left their voices behind,

the stars began to burn

through the sheets of clouds,

and there was a new voice

which you slowly

recognized as your own,

that kept you company

as you strode deeper and deeper

into the world,

determined to do

the only thing you could do —

determined to save

the only life that you could save.”

— Mary Oliver, The Journey


“I made a vow to be a writer. I did not promise that I would be a great writer, because I didn’t know if I could be great. Nor did I give myself any time limits for the work, like, “If I’m not published by the time I’m thirty, I’ll give up on this dream and go find another line of work.” In fact, I didn’t put any conditions or restrictions on my path at all. My deadline was: never.

Instead, I simply vowed to the universe that I would write forever, regardless of the result. I promised that I would never ask writing to take care of me financially, but that I would always take care of it — meaning that I would always support us both, by any means necessary.

I did not ask for any external rewards for my devoiton. I just wanted to spend my life as near to writing as possible — forever close to that source of all my curiosity and contentment — and so I was willing to make whatever arrangements needed to be made in order to get by…” — Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert


This morning on the treadmill, I was thinking of all the things that, as in the Springsteen song that goes, “And they ain’t / coming back” — like my various pairs of expensive and more expensive than that cowboy boots — especially the red ones with silver toes — not real silver, but for the price, they should have featured real silver, — that I bought on Robson Street in downtown Vancouver to go with my red swirly skirt — the robin’s egg blue cowboy boots imported from Italy that had green, yellow, red, and purple inset leather stars that I bought when my favorite boyfriend of all time wasn’t around for New Year’s, because he was home in the suburbs with his wife and two boys — even the black cowboy boots with fancy black stitching I bought when I married for the second time, using my new husband’s fresh new Visa card.

Those were revenge boots. Because I had a job already, even though I had just moved to Vancouver from Toronto, my new husband took off on our honeymoon by himself. Hey. He only had two weeks off from his own job. He died just before his birthday this year. So that’s all over. More over than it conclusively was.

On it goes, the list of what ain’t coming back.

I looked so gorgeous, but I felt so awful, the night I showed up for Spanish class two weeks late — like in a bad dream, where the dog really did eat your homework — but that was ok because your homework was not done correctly and you did not have one clue how to do it right.

This is a terrible thing for a slip sliding away student who has switched from Philosophy at University of Toronto to Fine Art at University of Columbia, and finds out she must take a foreign language or forfeit any chance of eventually earning her degree. I had to drop out of Japanese Art History, which was also fine as frog’s fur, because I was in over my head there, too. I only wanted to take art studio courses (where you actually paint and draw) — but requirements were requirements and the requirements could not be waived.

The red swirly skirt and red cowboy boots with silver tips impressed the cab driver, he called me the lady in red when I got out of the cab on the UBC campús amid the tall trees and shadows of trees.

There were no Spanish 101 textbooks left in the campus bookstore, nor were any stocked in any bookstore in Vancouver. So I had ordered mine direct from the publisher in New York, and had it Fedexed. I shoulda coulda woulda mighta not bothered. Just give up, girlio. I studied for hours, hours that could have been spent painting and drawing for my studio classes. I hired a tutor. No good. Except my Spanish tutor bought a painting when I had my one person show at the end of the year. Yippie ai kai yay.

Instead of pursuing a degree so I could be an art therapist to support myself as a painter and a writer, I would have been better off taking non-credit courses which I coulda woulda shoulda mighta cherry-picked to suit myself. But of course, I had that pesky daytime job, and then teaching adults at nightschool, Vancouver School Board adult education classes. I was making money but time was scarce.

I was grasping and desperate to get into my correct lane of being a painter and a successfully practicing artist, maybe write a publishable book… Everything I did, and have done — I NOW SEE, was — IT IS GOING TO TAKE MORE THAN THAT.

So more I elected to do. More and more and more. More again. And even more more more. Decades of constant practice. Painting under all circumstances. Continuing. I, too, had no deadline. Paint until death parts me from my paints and canvas

And now I am here. In Mexico. Being a painter. Speaking Spanish every day. No thanks to you, you snotty Spanish professor dude from Spain who trained at the Sorbonne and was way to good for the likes of us.


“It’s not how crazy you are… It is what you do with it that counts.” — M. Silverstorm

“If we weren’t all crazy, we would go insane.” — Jimmy Buffet

Think new thoughts. Make new karma. Love is all there is. Let us be love, and be loved.

The Antithesis of Fun: STRANGE DAYS HAVE FOUND US… website: e-mail: outofthearmchair @


“The making of art — popular or fine, abstruse or accessible, sacred or profane — is one of the glories of our species. We are uniquely endowed with the capacity to fashion representations of the world and our experience in it, to tell stories and draw pictures, to organize sound into music and movement into dance.

Just as miraculously, we have the ability, even the obligation, to judge what we have made, to argue about why we are moved, mystified, delighted, or bored by any of it. At least potentially, we are alll artists. And because we have the ability to recognize and respond to the creativity of others, we are all, at least potentially, critics too.” — A.O. Scott, The New York Times


“His example to other artists is simple, really. To be a highly gifted, but especially, a particular person. And go for broke…” — The New Yorker


“When we left the Cyclades, we sailed back across the Aegean to where the first sight of Mainland Greece appears. This was Sunion, where the Temple of Neptune still faced the sea from its noble, ultimate headland, and where the sun happened to be setting with fantastic beauty and drama, and where someone said that life in the Aegean islands was certainly very hard, but that it was lived, and lived naturally and on its own terms, fully — unlike so many lives in parts of the world where life was easy — and that on the whole, and in spite of the incessant hardships of poverty, the islanders had what counted most, a full life lived simply.” — John Knowles, Double Vision


“You must give up the life you planned in order to have the life that is waiting for you. If the path before you is clear, you’re probably on someone else’s.” — Joseph Campbell


“I think that most of us still believe that art originates in solitary inspiration, a sort of bolt to the brain, the way Jesus was beamed into the Virgin Mary in those paintings of the Anunciation. There is some empirical support here.

If you talk to artists, they will often describe a feeling of openess, receptivity, that accompanied their getting a really good idea.

But this is probably true of people in all fields, not just art.

Also, chances are that they had had that idea for a long time, and that the feeling they are describing is actually one of release — the idea is freed from impediments, things that were dragging it down. What these people are experiencing is not the beginning of their piece, but its middle, when they say to themselves that maybe it doesn’t have to be performed outdoors or nude or solo or whatever.

Then, suddenly, everything that was awful before becomes okay. In any case, it is amazing, sometimes, to hear artists tell you how many years they worked on an idea, how many times they laid it aside, how many versions they made and tore up — or didn’t…” — Joan Acocella


“There is a common superstition that self respect is a kind of charm against snakes, something that keeps those who have it locked in some unblighted Eden, out of strange beds, ambivalent conversations, and trouble in general. It does not at all. It has nothing to do with the face of things, but concerns instead a separate peace, a private reconciliation…” — Joan Didion


“Don’t be concerned if things get weird in new ways. It may be a sign you are going higher still.” — The Lazy Man’s Guide to Enlightenment

If you are not careful — if you don’t wake up and stay awake in your newly blighted Eden — the blight could have you sink like a stone. The temptation is to get all Ancient Mariner on people — “My friend died, my friend died, let me tell you about my wonderful friend, who is now dead” — boring, whiny, crabby and mad — sad, rude and burning a short fuse. That’s me this past week. The week before, I was pretty much speechless. Choked. I have not felt so down since I drank my way out of my art director job at McCann Erickson. Phooey. Open my eyes each morning and realize I wiped out, big time. Wake up and know again I am not dreaming. Barbara is gone from this world.

Now what?

“You know what you gotta do, baby. You gotta try harder.” — Janis Joplin

Get back to work. This morning I started painting at 3:30. I did this early start time over the years when I worked my little day jobs. Just as Natalie Goldberg says writing saves us, so does painting. Put a nickel on the drum, hallelujah I am saved.

Other people are getting bashed with the brunt of my grief process. Two different men asked me to lunch last week. I said no, and no. There’s a New Yorker cartoon that covers part of my being a no no girl. Shows a man and a woman on a couch. The woman says, “It’s not you, Roger. It’s men.” hee hee hee… see, look, mira… I still have my sense of humor. Though I am dark like a theatre when there is no play being held.

“Unable are the loved to die, for love is immortality.” — Emily Dickinson

So, do I believe what I say I believe? Heaven and hell, the Nicene creed — Pearly Gates, reincarnation — God keeps his eyes on us all? Of course I do. I believe in magic, synchronicity and lucky breaks. Nobody is abandoned, nobody is forsaken, nobody is lost.

Think new thoughts. Make new karma. Love it as much as you can from wherever you are. Love is all there is. Let us be love, and be love.

THE STREET OF GREEN LIGHTS… website: e-mail: outofthearmchair @


“The art I make that I like best was not really done by me… It flows through me, coming from a universal place. The sacred space of the divine…

During times of heightened creation — my “street of green lights” — everything flows, and there are no roadblocks. I am merely a conduit for something that is meant to be.

The results are astonishing. Even awe-inspiring. One’s hands have not done the work. They have only been borowed.

When you feel closer to yourself, you are closer to the divine… Some things you can’t do in a collective, by committee, or in a group. We all have a secret life. Something we work through creatively, through art. We don’t have to share it…

What is my unfinished business here? My purpose? What willl I find?” — Plum Johnson, They Left Us Everything


“The death of my first love was just one of many deaths I have survived so far in my life… each time paving the way for an amazing rebirth… After all, you can’t truly be happy if you have never known pain. You can’t truly know joy if you have never felt heartbreak. You can’t really know what it is like to be filled unless you’ve been empty.

And here is the other thing. Sometimes in life seasons don’t come in  order. Instead of fall, winter, spring, summer, we get three winters in a row. (By my second winter, I tend to feel like a cavewoman frozen in a glacier.) But that doesn’t mean spring won’t come eventually…” — Kelly Cutrone


“Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love, mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.” — The Talmud


Barbara did not live long enough to see my painting, Long Quiet Highway. She died just as I finished it. Long Quiet Highway took three months to paint. What a job. Sometimes I hear the whispers of the crows, who say, “This is your work” — from when I was wandering the high desert in Taos looking for dry old wood to make crosses. I was really into it, making those crosses. In a short few months, my studio had come to resemble the back of the Santuario de Chimayo, where people left crosses, crutches, emblems and objects showing the amazing miracles in their life as a result of their pilgrimage to Chimayo. I would paint the crosses I made gold and red and black. I made little Jesus Christs out of sculpy clay. I had just moved to Taos, and I couldn’t find work. This is your work.

With Barbara’s death, my heart feels like the bottom has fallen out of my life. It is worse than when Connie Queen, my heart’s own twin soul, moved from Mexico to Phoenix. This time it is worse. So much worse. Because my whole life was kind of organized around Barbara. We e-mailed several times a week and saw each other from year to year in Santa Fe. Last time we were together, we drove up to Taos. Had breakfast at Michael’s Kitchen, lunch at the Overland Sheepskin Co., bought Day of the Dead fabric on Bent Street. It was this very successful trip that made me pick out “A month painting in Taos” as the next and only item on my bucket list.

Oddly enough, it was Connie Queen who inspired me to paint Taos landscapes for my next show. She looked at photos of my Taos paintings and said, “Is that a photo, or a painting?” — it was then I knew I had had something precious and lost it in the ethers of memory. A busy life, a type A tendency to “Hurry, hurry, step right up / it’s a matter of life and death” (John Prine)… So I resurrected the reference photos of fields and mountains and skies that I have from when I lived and painted in Taos, and started back in on doing paintings the hard way. The careful drawing, the lay in, the brushstrokes taking the landscape from the back to the front, slowly, very very slowly.

I wish Barbara could have lived long enough to see at least a photo of Long Quiet Highway. There is a big yellow cottonwood alongside the twisty two-lane road up to Taos. I took the photo on a rainy day.

Oh me oh my, now what do I do? I save myself. With lists and with action and with lots of rest and — something new and different, to get a different result — I have been out seeing my friends. Remembering that the world doesn’t end just because it feels like it does. I survived Connie moving and I am surviving Barbara’s death one day at a time. I went to lunch with Gingerita, breakfast with Fred, went to a play that Alice stars in at Boutique Theatre. Oh my God, she was just amazing. I was really impressed. Blown away, actually. And I bought two rattan chairs. for the studio. Yippie Ai Kai Yay. Can I make it back to equanimity with these piles of quotidian tasks I set myself?

I make lists. Lists upon lists upon lists. Today I have fulfilled about half the list and after I leave this internet place, I shall do the other half. Once upon a time, when I was newly sober, I would tell myself STAY BUSY AND TRY NOT TO THINK TOO MUCH.

Boy, am I busy. Just as Connie Queen leaving made me understand how Jane felt when I left Toronto for New Mexico, Barbara’s death helps me see how other people feel when their loved ones die. Shit oh dear. I don’t like it and I feel like I can’t stand it, but, as my long-time therapist used to point out, I AM standing it.

Think new thoughts. Make new karma. Love is all there is. Let us be love, and be loved.

ADIOS, MOTHERFUCKERS. YOU’RE ON YOUR OWN… website: e-mail: outofthearmchair @

“At the end of the day, love is all that is real. And all that matters is that you really loved.” — Oprah

“After a time, all losses are the same. One more thing lost is one thing less to lose. And we go stripped at last the way we came.” — Catherine Breese Davis


“…This is what we mean by divine: all the knowledge we have to acquire, all the power we have to obtain, all the love we have to become, all the perfection we have to achieve, all the harmonious and progressive poise we have to manifest in light and joy, all the new and unknown splendors that have to be realized… — Mira


“A peculiar thing about humans is that we are persistently disturbed by reminders that we are, in fact, mammals who sweat, shed, bleed, and expel foul matter on a daily basis. Entire industries exist to subdue the horror of having a body. You’d think humans would have gotten used to the beastlier realities of existence by now. We’ve had millions of years to get used to it. But no. How else to explain the prevalence of cleanses and detoxes, if not as antidotes to some perceived state of filth? It is no longer enough to decontaminate the lower digestive system. Today we’re urged to purify closet, kitchen, desktop, checkbook, behavior, and spirit. We are living in an age of cleanse sweep…”– Molly Young


“Even if I don’t disappear from a place, places disappear from me. I wanted everything to remain the same. Becase this, too, is typical of people who have lost everything, including their roots or their ability to grow new ones. They may be nomadic, mobile, scattered, dislodged, but in their jittery state of transience, they are thoroughly stationary.

“It is precisely because you have no roots that you don’t budge, that you fear change, that you’ll build on anything, rather than look for land.

“An exile is not just someone who has lost his home  — it is someone who can’t find another, who can’t think of another. Some no longer know what home means. They reinvent the concept with what they’ve got , the way we reinvent love with what is left of it each time.

“Some people bring exile with them the way they bring it upon themselves wherever they go…”– Andre Aciman, Shadow Cities


“Naturally, I ascribe my own little successes in life to good character, though such character as I have is owing to my  wish to avoid guilt and shame and to the loss, fairly early in life, of my taste for serious delinquencies.

“Writing to his friend Lady Georgiana Morpeth, who was going through a patch of depression, Sydney Smith recommended, among twenty different points, that she “be as busy as you can, live well as you dare, and have short views of human life — no further than dinner or tea.” Sound advice, especially the part about short views. At sixty, a long view may not, after all, be that long. Living with short views, enforced short views, may be one of the most interesting things about being sixty. Like hanging, it concentrates the mind — or at any rate, ought to.

“Time is moving — it is not the minutes, it is those damn decades — that one recognizes as well all that one won’t accomplish, at least in this life. ‘In the next life, PERHAPS,’ I find myself more and more saying, trying to get the italics into my voice, whether I am referring to not being able to acquire a new foreign language, or read a multi-volume work, or play the piano, or go into retailing. I now know for certain that there are many things I shall never do: own a mansion, cook elegant dishes, read musical scores. I can, as they say, live with this. In fact, I am hoping to live for a good while with it.” — Joseph Epstein


Ring the bell, then run. He hates that. Death is not funny. My best friend Barbara is dying/has died. I have avoided the internet place all week because I don’t want to face it. But of course, I think about her all the time. I think about her when I am going to sleep, I think about her when I wake up and she is in my prayers. Barbara’s a Buddhist. As such, she didn’t believe in God, per se. I laugh to myself thinking of when St. Peter flings open wide the Pearly Gates and Barbara is less than enthralled by the angel wing feathers and harp music. She would rather listen to a talking book. And she didn’t enjoy pets.

Tuesday a white feather flew in through the front window of my studio. I was lying on my pink comfy couch reading some stupid book. The feather whirled and swirled in an upward dance all the way to the kitchen. Then it reversed its swoops back across the studio. I thought, Barbara.

No one ever loved me better or as well as she did. Not even close. I learned what love was through Barbara. I started letting people in. And I also let people go hang. Such as my bad boyfriend. Barbara said, “He sounds awful. You need to leave. Even if you have to go to a shelter.” I don’t think they have shelters in Northern New Mexico. Maybe they did. But I did leave. That’s the news. My whole life started getting better by leaps and bounds. I got a great job in Albuquerque, which funded my pilgrimage to Nice and Aix-en-Provence, to see Matisse’s red house and to visit Cezanne’s studio, which has been maintained just as he left it, with the still life objects, the painter’s smock, his walking stick, his paints and brushes.

So much good in my life — brought by Barbara. All that love we shared — I can’t even imagine how her husband and family is handling this grief — doesn’t die with the person we love. “The dream never dies/just the dreamer”… Love is inside you. Love is an inexhaustible resource from God for every occasion, every person on this planet, for time and all eternity.

The Grim Reaper says to those of us left behind, “Adios, motherfuckers. You are on your own”.

Death humbles us. We need to make peace with it.

Barbara. I will always love you.

Think new thoughts. Make new karma. Love life as much as you can fom wherever you are. Love is all there is.l

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