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I am UmberDove.

And by that, I mean an artist.  One who hears stories in the wind, who paints because it is what her soul tells her to do, who smiths because the muse moves through her fingertips, who loves nothing more than the promise of an unexplored trail, the sound of the ocean in her ears, and scent of a serious cup of coffee.


Start where you are

Kelly Clark

Just start where you are.  There is no summing up of life; it's too expansive for tidy cliff notes. 

Today I laid in bed as the first shades of cobalt transformed the flat dark of night.  I always open the curtains too early - at the first yawn and stretch, rolling in bed, still buried under three blankets and one dog - pulling them awkwardly back without ever lifting head from pillow.  If I crane my neck upwards I can watch the outlines of the pines solidify and the automatic porch lights of the neighbors flick off.  Today I listen to the first trill of songbirds while Freyja scoots in to spoon, and my thoughts wander to the studio.  To feel the stirrings of the Muse in that delicate space between dark and light, between dreaming and waking, to feel that moment when yesterday's conundrums of composition and exploration become obsolete and every piece flows together like sweet destiny.  Those moments are like seeing clearly because one is in the fog; the distractions of landscape fall away and there is only now.  The time in the palm of the hand.  The breath of the present.  There is only pre-dawn, warm fur and fully imagined concepts dancing in all their chromatic glory.

I throw back the covers, startling Sing off his kitty perch on my feet.  That surge of inspired energy manifests as a quiver in the diaphragm, tingling along the backside of the sternum, an electricity flowing through the arms.

Shrugging into naught but my robe and BC's slippers I pad into the studio.  I finger carefully sculpted sterling leaves, one rogue antler point, and drag my hand across the center of the painting.  It's a terrible wet versus dry test, but I am never able to resist that tactile temptation.  Somewhere in the fifty feet between bed and bench the perfect concept of each of those pieces fades like smoke, but the thrust of energy still spirals along my meridians and I feel giddy at the knowledge of another day.  Giddy that today exists, that I am alive to see experience it.  Truly for me, for all of us, the mortal experience of being alive is nothing short of miracle.  I am giddy feeling the surge of life in my limbs, that today I have the physical capacity to hold my body upright, to feel the strength in my legs to walk, to hold the mental clarity to create.  Good god, just that is enough to fall on the ground in tears and gratitude.

I marvel at how much has changed in such short weeks.  Three months ago the world went black and white.  To be honest, the colors had faded to gray sometime in the Autumn, when my days were filled with more pain and exhaustion than I could ignore (how well we can power through, how deftly we can pretend our bodies are mere tools that ought to fit a clean equation of input/output).  In those months I was tapping into my deepest reserves, desperate to find color.  But reserves are just that - the last remaining finite resort.  

When life goes black and white all the fluff falls away.  In some ways everything is easier: The goal for any given hour is simply to survive.  There are no debates more important, and when you lay your head on the pillow to sleep, you think "I made it.  I made it today."  Of course there is deep laughter, monumental victories and abiding gratitude, but there is no bliss of forgetfulness.  Every day feels like a celebration-worthy, painfully melancholic success.  

Two months ago I was nearly bed-bound and so ill from treatments that the shift from laying to sitting was enough to warrant a nap.  Existential crisis rears its head when you sit in stillness long enough.  But simultaneously in that still place, deep awakening rises from the fissures of soul broke open.  There is the ever present choice to lean into thankfulness.  To choose faith.  To choose beauty.  To choose fierceness.  To wrap your arms around your torso, to feel your skin and bones, and promise them "I am here.  I am here.  No matter what I will stay." 

This is a wild ride.  The seasons are shifting and I've been in winter for so long.  The magnolias are arching pink and I'm walking several miles a day.  The cherry blossoms are scenting the city and I'm talking about the future again.  The forsythia are blooming madly and my mind flurries with creative endeavors.  I am the tree who wintered the deep cold, barren gray bark, pulled down into hidden roots and tender green passageways.  Even though you know it's coming, the rebirth of Spring is always a sudden surprise.  And I'm coming back to life.

* * *

I have not thanked you properly.  I don't know if I'll ever be able to fully express it, because truly, your love and actions transcends words.  From the hour I first posted about the cancer returning the air around me palpably shifted and I could feel the enveloping of love and support.  We started calling it "the bathtub" because that's how it felt: warm comfort cradling my entire form.

You have carried me through some very dark moments, you have brought light, joy, ease, strength, solidarity, courage, fierceness, encouragement and hope.  We, as humanity, are so vastly connected; do not doubt the power of collective love.  Even the smallest prayer, earnest light, or intentional thought truly matters.  No, more than matters, it changes things.  At one point when discussing a fairly invasive bone stabilizing surgery I looked my doctor square in the eyes and told him "I don't have any medical experience or knowledge, but I'm pretty sure I'm healing."  He gave me the professional version of an eye roll, but agreed to further imaging and sure enough, I am healing.  And my friends, my sisters and brothers, my warrior souls, I chalk so much of that up to you.  My heart lives in awe of the many ways you have gifted support, be it thoughts, cards, care packages, meals, phone calls, emails, or finances.  I am filled with gratitude.

I'm not out of the woods yet, and so with all thankfulness I ask for your continued love and energy.  There are side effects, medication complications, and still a potential major surgery in the future, but more days than not I am delighted by the energy and ability that I do have.  I am ecstatic to be once again able to work a couple hours a day in the studio, to be driving again, to just this past week actually take the dogs out on a solo field hike.   Like I said, we are all such walking miracles.  I feel Mary Oliver's words deep in my bones: "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"

All my love friends,  

- Umber