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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.



Filtering by Tag: I am a fighter

One Year

Kelly Clark

One year ago, If you would have told me where I'd be sitting today, I'm not sure I would have believed you.  One year ago I wrote a post here with halting words and shaking hands; today I write with strong fingers and a clear voice.  And gratitude.  Oh holy gratitude.

One year ago life looked so different. Days were marked in slow increments of physical progress:  How long could I sit upright?  Could I walk unassisted from the bed to the couch?  What was the amount of breath I could pull into my lungs before pain took over?  Could I make it through these treatments?  Would I be able to create from any place other than my bed?  

Christmas 2013 was a sober affair.  After months of uncertainty, fear and pain unlike anything I've ever experienced, I received those dreaded words: The cancer had come back, spreading to bones.  It felt terrible.  It looked even worse.  We gathered with friends, while lights twinkled and Bing crooned, but muting everything was the very real question of would I live another year?  The thread that ties us to life was exposed for its terrible fragility and the stark reality of mortality stood in every doorway.  I was so determined to live, but I also could not escape the knowledge that sometimes, it's not up to determination alone.

Christmas 2014 was a brilliant affair.  This year, gathering with those same dear friends, on that same date, was the turning point I hadn't realized I was searching for.  It was the overpowering climax of just how much one year can change a person.  Just how different life can be.  I had spent the Fall silently struggling with markers: "Last year when the leaves first turned yellow, I was in pain and so much fear.  Last year when the wind storms came, I could no longer walk my dogs.  Last year when we roasted turkey I could no longer drive.  Last year when our neighbors put up lights I could no longer stand long enough to feed myself."  I spent the Fall striding forward with great joy and momentum in my art, but constantly looking over my shoulder, wondering, waiting.  Asking "can I trust this?"  Until Christmas.  Until I found myself remember that last year, all I could do was lay on her sofa, but this year, OH this holy year, I was dancing madly in the kitchen with my god-niece on my hip, shaking plastic maracas to "the wheels on the bus."  Remembering that last year we were wondered if we would have to sell off everything and move in with family, to this year, holding brand new keys to our very first home.  From wondering how I could create again, to deepening and broadening my art, to seeing my business grow in leaps and bounds.  But perhaps more than anything, as I spun in that kitchen, I realized this: I had moved from fear to hope.  To belief.  To the big life.  To living.  Dear god, to living and living well.  Amen and halleluia.

If you were to ask me to name a single element, a pivotal event of my life as I had lived it thus far, it would be this:  The experience of collective intention and prayer.  Last year at this time I was held unlike anything I've ever known.  Feeling the potent magic and power of collective love and energy.  I swear that has more to do with my healing than any needle I've been pierced with.  And when I say "feel" I don't mean conceptually; I mean really, really feeling it.  I mean skin prickling, heart slowing, muscles easing, bones regrowing one healthy cell at a time feeling it.  It changed me, shifting some of those deep rooted trust issues, opened my eyes to the sheer power of us all.  The raw energy of love is an experience I wish every soul on this planet could know.  I think humanity would radically shift course if we each felt that kind of agape love, that kind of pure desire for healing.  It changed me.  And now, one year later I am made of water and sinew and bone and blood and love and golden light and great, great intention.

One year later I sit on my sofa, sipping the great trifecta of coffee, tea and water.  Today I will take the pup out for a hike on the mountains I see from my living room window.  I will unpack a few more cardboard boxes.  I will finish painting the upper studio because this new life is so miraculous that our new house holds two studio spaces for me.  I will light candles and smudge bundles and text friends and watch some absurdly salacious TV.  And over all of it I tell you this: I will take joy everywhere I can find it.  I will give gratitude for every breath.  I will live for the living and pray that I find ways every day, to give back to all I've been given.  

* * *

- Umber  

Hard Truths

Kelly Clark

It's amazing how long a body can stare at a computer screen.  It's amazing how absolutely everything and nothing can change with a simple word.  These are still my hands.  This is still my home.  My hair still always matts in the back and sometimes I still forget to breathe.

For those who have not known me too long, nearly four years ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  It was a shock, it was terrifying, it was all those things one might imagine when that deceptively small word crops up.  I spent one long year in treatments, was given a handful of hand-knit beanies for my bald head and finally the stamp of health.  I was also given a number of new scars, now pale and slightly puckered.  I don't mind those so much, for what are scars but the proof that we have survived?  

The week before Christmas I received the results from the latest MRI and was immediately scheduled for a slew of texts and scans.  In short, the cancer has come back, this time metastasized into my bones.  All those mysterious pains through my spine, ribs, shoulder blade, hips, left leg, all those unknown moments when doctors scratched their heads and threw up their hand, all those times it was actually cancer.  Now here is the good news (because fuck, a story like this needs a bright beacon of good news): all my major organs appear healthy and clean, and Plan A of treatments has already begun.  Halleu.  As a wise friend of mine said upon hearing the news, "And now the work begins."  And she wasn't just talking about cellular mutations.


A few weeks ago I said I wanted to bring you truth, not just prettiness, not just strength, not just the best moments of a life intentionally lived.  The universe is officially calling me out.  And so here is my truth, authentic and uncensored: I'm laying down on the sofa, trying to keep a banana down so I can take my morning meds, typing with one hand because the radiation, just one day in, is already kicking my ass.  I'm scared.  I'm angry.  But more than those two things, I'm a fighter.  A fierce fucking warrior woman.  I'm an optimist, a preacher of the hope that perches in the soul.  I'm a survivor and I don't lay down and roll over.  Ever.

Every single one of us is fighting a very hard battle.  For whatever reason, this is part of mine.  There is no skirting the edge of this storm; the lightning must be passed through.  But here is the other half of my truth: I can not, I choose not, to walk this path alone.  I am surrounded by such a host of sister-warriors and brother-fighters, and I know that even in the midst of this, I am deeply blessed indeed.  THAT is what I choose to hold unto, THAT is what will see me through the long nights.  I have much good work still to do and I am determined to bring it all to life.

Posts here may be thin over the next few months, but know you are never far from my thoughts.  The beauty of community here, the kindreds I've grown close to over the interwebs, supports my heart and head in ways I could never have imagined.  As you read this, know that I thank you for being here, for hearing my words, for being a vibrant, beating piece of the whole of our time, our stories, our lives intertwined.

Namasté you glorious soul,

- Umber