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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: healing

Postcards from the Other Side

Kelly Clark

The sky is soft with thinning clouds and the cool morning light.  I watch the edges of the plum branches find illumination, watch the songbirds and the corvidae bustling about.  I am learning how to breath.  Again. Right now at 36.  Finding the shallow places in my lungs where my ribs have fixed themselves in a stationary armor.

Dear bones. I know you are doing your very best to protect me.  You've held a steady shield, you've worked so hard to keep my tender organs safe in a world unpredictable.

I am learning how to yawn so wide my jaw crinkles and pops.  How to stretch open my lips without holding up a demure and apologetic hand.  To make a little noise, give a little volume, be a little inappropriate.

She told me those huge breaths, those monstrous yawns, are pivotal for loosening the fascia knit tight along the back of our throats and woven between our ribs.  Pivotal for moving the stuck energy that chokes our lungs with unanswered emotion and blocks true words from ever making it up to our tongues. 

I've been writing voraciously, filling notebooks I don't intent to be seen.  Writing my way through murky questions and sticky fears.  Writing concentric rings around old patterns, old beliefs, trying to align ever closer with the heart of self.  These last six months I've toed the line between the waking and dream worlds.  Stepping fluidly across barriers into the dark of the void, the space of visions and liminality, and back again into the tangible world of light and form.  No one enters this process and comes out unchanged.  I can't tell you quite what's shifted, but I know light has been shed on the deepest cracks in my foundation, unearthing shadows, illuminating bogs.  I don't know what this means yet, but I do know it's an opportunity to rewrite the ancient patterns that influence our actions from the shadows.

Four weeks ago I had my last chemotherapy infusion and truthfully, I'm still deep in the space of recovery: physically, mentally, emotionally.  Six months ago I agreed (with much pushback and trepidation) to chemo as a tandem treatment to a new clinical trial drug, one in the realm of gene therapy and encouraging new technologies.  One I wanted to try.  At the end of these six otherworldly months, the results came back... "Stable," as it was printed across the summary paperwork.  Not terrible, not great, and certainly not what I had been wishing for, but stable.  In truth, I didn't know where to land in those results.  I didn't know how to tell beloved friends and supporters that things were not "all better."  The perfectionist in me has long worried that anything short of "cured" must be a failure.  But I'm trying on the notion, like a sleek new coat, that perhaps the very fact that I'm alive after seven years of living with cancer is a great success in and of itself.  That perhaps, just perhaps, illness is not a failure of our own making.  And even though I would preach this as truth for every other soul out there, I had not granted myself the same grace.  What mountains might shake if I gifted myself the space to simply BE, to BE without striving, to move through the world without holding my breath waiting for "stable" to be replaced with some other less desirable word?

We had a talk recently about releasing versus drawing close.  The way not everything we wish to extract from our lives can be pushed out to the river, while we watch the water simply take it from us, bobbing and turning in the current until it's far from sight.  That sometimes we must consume a thing into the fire of our bellies, watch it burn clean until it stands revealed before us.  That sometimes the thing hiding under all that duff and detritus is a much younger version of ourselves, trying her damnedest to survive - even if it's all slippery sideways efforts.  And the last thing we want is to send her out alone into the vast dark of the sea. 

These are the thoughts filling pages in my journals.  These are the truths that sit side by side with a multitude of beautiful moments strung together every day.  

Here is what I know to be true this morning: sunshine and meditation may not cure all that ails you, but they certainly offer a gateway to deeply restorative moments of bliss.  Homemade sourdough raisin bread, fried in butter in a cast iron pan, tastes like heaven.  Spending time with a horse will bring you more solidly into full body presence than anything else I know.  The body wants to be asked for its opinions, its desires, and if we learn to listen deep in the belly, it always answers.   Your own dog always smells better than anyone else's dog - even when it's been too many weeks since their last bath.  When you are caught up in your head, move your feet.  And - please hear me loud and clear on this last one - self care is always the right choice.

Be well my birds.

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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.  

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- Umber