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Posts Tagged ‘Dr. Mark B. Coventry of the Mayo Clinic; Catherine L. Johnson;’

Beauty is not caused. It is. Emily Dickinson

O

My art pursues the beauty of realization rather than perfect beauty.

O

All of my life I have known

 an inviolable place

 of

 inner freedom

 containing:

earth;

 pieces of washed clear blue skies;

 brilliant unfolding blooms;

 wings of flight;

the color and arcs of rainbows;

the hallelujah chorus

of wind, rain and rivers;

the vast panorama of night’s

 black diamond;

and

 the white glistened

 silence of ice.

O

This was my chrysalis:

 My life was baptized in hospitals,

 a place where time and space was defined

 as waiting, compassion and hope.

  No flag of creed, race,

religion, gender, or social rank

was raised.

  We were all bound  and laid in horizontal breathing beds.

 I lived in a body cast with a shaven head.

Visitors were allowed once a week

 for two hours

and

touching was forbidden-

 like in an art museum

 with limited hours.

 In utero, I was a broken Ming vase

and then

once born into the world

 re-created with expert hands.

 guided

by listening, following, believing

in the

 Divine

and

  the heartspine vision

of

an

artist/surgeon:

Dr. Mark B. Coventry,

the internationally renown orthopedic surgeon,

of the Mayo Clinic.

He would look at my x-rays,

and

analyze my bones

and

SEE my spirit!

What a blessing, what fortune- an Anam Cara

who believed  and could SEE  and call out

the diamond shining within me

that was deeply buried.

Before he died, my beloved Dr. Coventry asked me

to promise him two things:

” Catherine, promise me two things:

First, ONLY let those who honor and respect you come near

and

Secondly, ALWAYS remain an artist!”

We were collaborators.

I crossed immense seas of fear

and

surrendered my body over,

over and over again

to his expert hands, genius

and

improvisational, creative  brilliance.

I was three when I became his only pediatric patient,

leaving the Shriner’s Hospital where I was institutionalized,

strapped to a bed,

drugged,

watched and listened to children weep and die

 from the moment

my  young parents’ gave me to

Shriner’s Hospital for Crippled Children

( OMG- talk about setting children in a perceptual prison/label/box!)

at nine months.

The framed picture below was always set on my Mother’s bedside table

until the moment she exhaled her last breath.

My Daddy fought to get me out for a visit.

He was relentless, determined and persevering,

and

he won.

He fought for me, for my heart, for my spirit, for my soul

that needed

to be unfurled

and

taste, smell, touch, see and listen

to the world

for

8

weeks

ONLY.

I left Shriner’s at 18 months and entered the outside world for the first time.

For two months, 8 weeks, 56 days,

I was enveloped in a world of sound, color,

fragrance, physical touch and flavor.

I had to still be strapped to a board,

yet, the field of my experiences was exponential.

My senses were already acute, honed, sharp

and

open,  wide and vulnerable

like an acid drenched copperplate sensitive

to any mark and amplitude and intensity.

 Everything was immense and wondrous.

I had never seen the sky, a bird, the scent and colors of flowers 

They placed my board down by the garden, and I ate handfuls of flowers..

To touch my Mother’s face,

to watch my sister move,

to drop a toy from my bed and have it returned,

to smell my Daddy’s scent.

 to hear laughter

was beyond tears

and

laughter.

I was stunned, astounded and in ecstasy

that bordered/tettered on overwhelming  fear.

My appetite to explore was enormous-

even though I was nailed in one position-

belly up or belly down

and

frozen in a plaster cast that

splayed my legs like a frog

and

was built up above my rib cage

with an opening for elimination.

The kaliedoscope and rush of all was a torrent, a tsunami, a hurricane.

I knew stillness and silence.

My Mother wrote a memoir of my early years in the hospital

( nine months to 10 years old)

two years before she died-

unexpectedly and suddenly.

She wrote:

“Of my children,

Catherine had a sense of  awe, delight,  intense wonder and amazement of all.

She was an artist.”

CATHERINE_6months_Mom_bedside_originalframe_WP

O

My life began in the environs and culture of hospitals,

 places where the human theater

 and universal realities of life and death

 are played out moment to moment,

 and

 where time and space is suspended

and

are redefined as

waiting,

compassion

 and

 meditative.

 I have tasted the first inhalation

 – the breath of new life;

 caressed the full sweeping breath of love and joy;

 impaled by the heavy, choking breath of grief;

and

 touched the final exhalation

  the final breath of life.

My art bears the viewer

   to the transcendent moment of an epiphany.

The moment when one’s heart is

 Suddenly

 set open and rapt,

 when all the senses are heralded

and

keen,

and then,

in the theatre of the heart,

       a  frozen curtain

slowly and gradually rises

and, at once,

 all the world is seen in gleaming

 pure light,

 simple and innocent clarity,

 and

 all becomes whole.

  A forever eternal moment

is

imprinted

as an inextinguishable

fire.

 O

My work is awake to

 the invisible,

the visceral,

the very intimate,

  the shared breath

of

  universal humanity,

 – the very life

of

life.

 O

My art is a spiritual, a gospel song.

A litany of freedom

of the soul

 and

 the spirit

of/to/for

ALL.

I taught myself how to ride a bike

with one leg,

I learned how to swim,

to canoe, to kayak,

 to cross-country ski.

I was left behind on the family vacations of skiing, etc..

This repeated choice broke my heart and I knew they could not SEE me.

I knew the vase of my body could not

 contain  the splendor of my imagination,

my need to

break open

and

fly.

O

After 39 reconstructive surgeries

and a total hip replacement surgery-

where I had to lay at 80%,

I went to the YMCA

and swam my laps

as I had the morning of the surgery!

I had to learn how to walk upright for the first time.

The Fitness Director observed my discipline,

 my scars, my gait and my progress,

my  teaching/communication skills,

and

recruited me to become a

water fitness instructor.

Twelve years ago.

ARTIST

+

FITNESS INSTRUCTOR

+

ATHLETE

+

RECIPIENT OF PRESTIGIOUS

INTERNATIONAL AND NATIONAL

+

ARTIST FELLOWSHIPS

+

COMMUNITY ORGANIZER

+

PHYSICALLY DIFFERENTLY-ABLED

=

NO BOXES/NO LABELS

AND

AS DUKE ELLINGTON SAID:

“BEYOND CATEGORY”.

PERIOD!

O

 

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