Thursday, July 12, 2018

Life As A Work of Art


July has been very weird, thus far. Maybe Jupiter is in Scorpio or Mercury is retrograde or Morning Becomes Electra. As usual, a lot of the recent discombobulation is due to my beloved husband Don, who is the light of my life but a lot of trouble. He went for a routine eye exam Monday morning, and ended up having emergency eye surgery Monday afternoon. He's been getting shots in his right eye every 6 weeks for the past several months because of a busted blood vessel, and yesterday the doc said that his eye pressure had risen so much since the last appointment that he had to get it fixed RIGHT NOW before it damaged his optic nerve. Seems new blood vessels have grown to take the place of the broken one, but they inconsiderately grew over the place that drains the fluid in the eye and blocked it. Of course the only surgical center that could do it on such short notice is an hour away from where we live. So we raced up there and he had the outpatient operation at about 4:30 Monday afternoon during a raging thunderstorm. Then I had to schlepp him all the way back up to North Scottsdale Tuesday morning for a post surgical check and removal of the bandages.

Apparently it went very well. His eye pressure was down lower than it had ever been. Don has five more doctor appointments (for various organs and body parts) before the end of the month. Fortunately he can drive himself to get the lab tests before the appointments, but I really want and need to go with him for the actual doctor visits. Mainly because he often can't remember what the doctor told him. So anyway, I'm feeling whiney. I want to be writing. In truth, I think I’d like to go back to painting and drawing, as well. I used to be a pretty fair artist. In fact, Don and I have quite a bit of our own art on our walls. (Literally. I’ve done a couple of mural pieces.)

I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. I’d like to live my life like a work of art. Many years ago, I wrote a scene for one of my earlier books in which I had a character say that she thought her mother, Alafair, didn’t have to create works of art, since her life was a work of art. That phrase, "her life is a work of art," has been rattling around in my head for about thirty-five years. The minute I wrote it, I instantly thought of Cheryl Dillsaver, who was a friend I made when I was a freshman at Oklahoma State University. We called her "Cher". It was the ’60s, after all.

Cher was a fine arts major, a painter, and just as arty and flamboyant as you would expect a ’60s artiste to be. Her canvases were large and splashy and colorful, and she was a liberal and a protester, like we all were, and a good friend to me during that first year away from home.

My father died before the next academic year started, and I went home to finish my undergrad degree at another university, whereas Cher finished up at OSU. We did see one another off and on over the next couple of years, though. Much to my amazement, given her politics, she married an Agriculture major and moved to a tiny little Oklahoma town and became a housewife and mother. Shortly after she married Bill (who was a great guy, by the way), she invited me to spend the weekend with her at her tiny little house in her tiny little town while her husband was away at a conference.

I accepted with alacrity, mostly because I enjoyed Cher’s company, but partially because I was curious about how she reconciled the life she had chosen with her previous artistic ambitions.

It didn’t take me long to see that she hadn’t reconciled anything at all. She was exactly what she had always been — a real artist. While I was there she showed me not only the painting she was doing, but the interior decorating, the beautiful dress she had made for herself, her plans for a garden. I still remember to this day the awe I felt over an apple pie she made. I thought that it was the most beautiful pie I’d ever seen. And that’s when it occurred to me that she was an artist to the very core of her being. Her entire life was a work of art.

I’m talking about conventional arts, here, but I certainly haven’t forgotten that gorgeous apple pie. There should be joy and creativity in cooking, and sewing, and gardening, and cleaning. I used to feel that. I’d love to feel all of that again. Perhaps I’ll ease myself back into the art of living, Dear Readers, a little at a time.

By the way, I heard from my former roommate at OSU that Cher died a few years back. I don’t know what she died of, but I hope she lived her work of art right to the very end.


Aline Templeton said...

So sorry you and Don are having such a hard time, Donis. Hope all goes well with his check-ups.

Unknown said...

Thank you, Donis, for this excellent post written under difficult circumstances. Good wishes to you and your husband. Years ago I took a break from writing to enroll in a 2D class at an art college. In the midst of her opening remarks, the instructor planted this statement: "Life is a a design problem." Although she delivered it almost as a throwaway line, she must have planted it deep and given it plenty of water, because those words come back to me whenever I am in a tough situation, having acquired clusters and layers of meaning with each remembering.

Sybil Johnson said...

My best to you and Don. Sometimes life interferes, doesn't it. Cher sounds like she was a wonderful person.

Jenn McKinlay said...

I love this story, Donis! Cher lived her truth, as they say - a very timely reminder for me. Thank you. I am now motivated to get on with my next “project”.