Easter cartoon

...but only in the sense that I'm posting it on Easter, not because it's a cartoon about Easter. But you've already noticed that.
Again, I'll apologize for the oddness of the picture. But it seems to work, with the rain theme and all.

A jumble fills my head, most of which is not really suitable for the blog. I've been wrestling with a song that came into my head last week when I had a fever and was on NyQuil, but the pieces won't quite fall into place. Also, I'm worried that I've stolen the melody (such as it is) from another song, and I'm not sure it's a song from which I want to steal the melody. 

But there's also pictures and such, things that don't quite fit together and I'm not sure how much I should try to make them go (which is to say, I'm still painting, but my latest painting hasn't quite clicked into place, either - even as I am pondering the one after that).



Today, I am sick. I will not write much, but I was thinking earlier that I needed to post something - this oddity came to mind, part of a larger project of imaginary book-covers that I don't think I'll be coming back to.

I need to be getting actual work done, but I can't seem to focus sufficiently. I need to be making phone calls, but the only time I stop coughing is when I have a cough-drop in my mouth, which means the calls need to wait, too.

It is an odd thing to be heading (soon) over to a hospital and wondering if I can get some medical treatment. We'll see.

P.S. - apparently I did find something useful I can do while sick: delete drafts of unpublished blog-posts!



I may have mentioned that I'm a hospice chaplain before, but I wouldn't hold it against you if you've forgot: it's not something I talk about a lot here. And I'm not going to talk about it now, exactly.

In recent posts, I've been mopey and sad, but a funny thing happened after I finished the second window painting (it's called "I have no words," but I think I forgot to label it). I felt calm.

My other hospice chaplain friends kept telling me, this is what grief is - you've had a serious loss, just let it happen. And so I did, as much as I could (and I've written about some of that here, including crying in church). I was reading some of the material I had on grief, and as you might guess it sounds very different when you're in the middle of it rather than reading it in a detached way, as something that applies to someone else. But the one thing I hadn't done was go back to Elizabeth Kübler-Ross. (For some reason, she wasn't mentioned in the hospice materials I had, but I have a lot of other pastoral care material from seminary.)

The one thing I remember is that the "stages" of grief isn't quite right: they come in a jumble. And, feeling this calm, I looked at the list. I recollected the early jumble - the denial ("we may get back together!") and the bargaining ("I have a better sense of what you need now!"). And of course the depression. For me that mostly showed up as not sleeping very much, and of course crying and crying.

It took me a couple weeks to find any anger there, but when I found it, it very clear and pushed the other pieces away. And I made myself stay with it, rather than hiding from it, pretending that it wasn't there; and I didn't go try to argue with her, because - you can already see this, right? - that would just be more "bargaining," a step backwards rather than a step forwards. Was I really going to win that argument? What would a "win" even look like?

A big part of this was the twelve hours I spent in the car by myself, driving back and forth to Virginia. A lot of remorse, slowly chewing on things, thinking them through, trying to digest them. By the last part of the drive, my thoughts were starting to take other paths - there are other things to think about, after all.

One thing that surprised me in Virginia: I saw an old F/friend, and she asked how I was doing. I gave her a hug and said I was hanging in there, that I'd been dumped. Very matter-of-factly she replied, "We didn't think you were really going to get married anyway." Huh.

I told this story to a friend back in the midWest, and he basically said, "yeah." And I realized that I had also known it for a long time, too, even though I hadn't wanted to admit it to myself. So I threw myself into the painting, talked to some F/friends around town, and just went into the anger. Then the anger went (mostly) away.

It feels odd to say, "I'm all better now," because it hasn't been that long; but I don't think I've ever really just got down and faced my emotions like this before. The anger in particular seemed to burn hot and clean. And then the acceptance just seemed to roll in of it's own accord.

There's more to the story - there's always more to the story! Even I'm sometimes embarrassed when I say, "let me give you the short version" and somehow it starts back in 1991. But for a blog post that is completely on "how I'm doing," I think it's long enough.


Just a cartoon

Of course I could write a lot. Just not tonight. I've been promising new cartoons for a while now: here you go.


Take It Easy

Yesterday was a day of awkwardness.

On a normal day, I think the most awkward part of my day would have been sitting at the movies with a group of friends in the middle of the afternoon, crying and crying. The movie was “Life of Pi,” and I thought it was very good – it matched, more or less, my (admittedly dim) memory of the book (which I also liked). I was particularly struck with the relatively early scene where the ocean turns to glass; that matched the book of my memory, and was really powerful for me. I may have cried then. But I know I cried through the violence, I cried through the panic. I cried whenever they showed the moon. Mostly I cried at that sense of utter abandonment by God that is so central to the movie.

So how was that not the most awkward part of my day? (Awkward, by the way, is different from being bad; it’s part of being vulnerable, allowing ourselves to be seen. We are all broken people, and we need each other in our brokenness.)

Memory is a funny thing. My memory of reading Life of Pi puts me in Roanoke, Virginia, up in the attic that I had completely remodeled by myself (complete with built-in bookshelves and a nice little reading nook). I had made a place, put down some roots, felt at home for the first time in a long time. That seems like a lifetime ago.

Anyhow, “don’t let the sound of your own wheels make you crazy” sounds like good advice right now.


Saturday Night Preview

Here's a bad photo of my latest painting, as promised. I'm pretty happy with it (the painting that is). There may be one more painting in this series, although of course the moon will continue to show up regardless.

Spring is just around the corner

Sorry about the bizarre-ness of the picture of the cartoon - it seemed like a good picture on my cell phone, and it's clearly not. (Just to be clear, it was drawn on canary yellow paper, so that's not part of the problem I'm thinking about). But when was the last time you got a cartoon?

It seems that the sun only shines when I'm away from my apartment, or don't have the time to take any good photos. It's been cold and gloomy lately, and not just in my head - but spring is around the corner I think. I still haven't been drawing too many cartoons lately - this is an old one, from when I was still at Lowe's (in case you hadn't already guessed). This still seems relevant, since conversations at the hospital don't always go much better than this, sometimes, but we're typically not talking about paint.

Today I need to be working on a sermon. I have a topic, but am having problems trying to frame it properly. And I should be able to focus today, since I'm basically done with my painting (although of course as I finish one, the next painting pops into my head). I'll try to post some kind of picture of this new painting ("I have no words") sometime this coming week, although you'll probably have to wait until August for a really good picture of it.

I have other cartoons, of course, and a lot of screen prints that I could post as well, but as I said, I need some decent light, and that's probably not going to happen today.
Now, back to work!


Why these fish make me sad

I don't mean to be particularly mopey, and I know I said that I would post a sermon here - and cartoons! I promise, both are coming. But today I'm thinking about fish. Why in the world would these fish make me sad? Well, it's a long story.

Back a couple years ago, I bought these fishbowls as a present for my fiancee. She loved them. It took a while - I don't remember quite how long - before they were finally hung up in the apartment back in Syracuse. Weeks; maybe months. But, I finally hung them, and we got fish.

Now, we don't know anything about fish, including good places to buy them, so we bought a lot of fish - little 13 cent feeder fish, but they kept dying. It wasn't the cost so much as the feeling that we were needlessly killing off a lot of innocent animals. But when they were alive, they were fun to watch. The last batch (in Syracuse) was purchased in the summer of 2011, right around the time my fiancee was applying for the job here. Those fish lasted a while; one lived until this past September, over a year. But not in these fishbowls: he migrated to a standard fishbowl, and lived where I was living (and after Syracuse I moved several times before settling into my current apartment - there's more to that story, too, but maybe for another time).

The fish bowls were in a box here for a long time. I knew she wanted them hung, but I was ambivalent - not about the fishbowls, but I kept thinking we were going to get married. Maybe "hoping" is a better way to phrase that; in any case, we couldn't live together in her apartment (too small), so we would be moving into a new place once we got married. And it didn't seem to make sense to really settle in if we were going to move (soon?). At least so I thought. But I want to be agreeable, I want to help; and she wanted the fishbowls hung again. It felt, to me, like giving up: this was her way of saying that she was staying in her own place. But I drilled the holes and made sure they were level and secure, and went to the pet store for her and bought fish. And she was happy, and I like it when she's happy; I like making her happy.

She wanted a shelf, and sent me designs for the shelf; but she didn't want me to simply make it. So together we worked on the shelf: I showed her how to use the different power tools, and we cut and drilled and made a little shelf. (I did some of the work, including cutting the big circular hole where the jar is - more on that in a moment.) Then I showed her how to paint it, and how to put the poly on. Then it was dry and ready to hang: a new shelf, that we made together! That felt really good, a shared project. More than that, we started talking about other places to put shelves, and what might go on them. It felt really positive, even though - and this was always in the back of my head - it continued to feel like she was settling into her own place, rather than planning on moving into our place after our wedding.

(This doesn't quite fit into this story, but days before she broke up with me, she was also telling me about new eye surgery techniques that I should look into - that also felt like "making plans for the future.")

So, fish, the shelf, and then hanging the prayer flags and the bells - both of which she bought on our trips together out of town. It's a neat little wall, full of happy things. And I like seeing her happy, I like helping to make her happy.

This little wall, with all its decorations, ought to make me happy. Now it just serves to confirm the worries I had: she was settling in for a life without me.

PS: I forgot to come back to the jar when I first posted this. She needed a wide mouth jar for this project (so that it wouldn't fall through the hole we were drilling) and I had one in my apartment. What had it been holding? Mustard seeds (I cook a lot of Indian food, so I always have mustard seeds around). If that doesn't ring a bell, then come back: the mustard seed features prominently in the sermon I plan on posting tomorrow.


She left me before the Mango was Ripe

Just a picture for today, and not a particularly good picture at that (of the photo, not the painting - I think the painting turned out really well). People keep asking me to tell them about the painting, but it seems to me that an artist rarely understands what they've done (that is, if I could explain I would have written about it rather than painted it). So instead, you tell me: what do you see?


What Wondrous Love

I will post something like my sermon later - but for now, just a note that it went well, with no text (or notes or anything). I broke down and cried several times during the service, but it was okay - as I told them at one point, it is more difficult to speak (i.e., without crying) with individuals or groups that I trust. They were fabulously supportive.

I wish I had the UU version of the words to the hymn referenced in the title of this post (as one might imagine, they've been changed from the original). But I couldn't sing them, even though this was the closing hymn I selected, because I was feeling that wondrous love this morning from the congregation.

For now, I'll give you this: one of the times I broke down and couldn't speak for crying was during this morning's reading, a poem by Mary Oliver (below) - but someone from the congregation came up and read it for me, then gave me a hug.

The Winter Wood Arrives

I think
     I could have
          built a little house
               to live in

with the single cord—
     half seasoned, half not—
          trucked into the
               driveway and

tumbled down. But, instead,
     friends came
          and together we stacked it
               for the long, cold days

that are—
     maybe the only sure thing in the world—
          coming soon.
               How to keep warm

is always a problem,
     isn't it?
          Of course, there's love.
               And there's prayer.

I don't belittle them,
     and they have warmed me,
          but differently,
               from the heart outwards.

     what swirls of frost will cling
          to the windows, what white lawns
               I will look out on

as I rise from morning prayers,
     as I remember love, that leaves yet never leaves,
          as I go out into the yard
               and bring the wood in

with struggling steps,
     with struggling thoughts,
          bundle by bundle,
               to be burned.
"The Winter Wood Arrives" by Mary Oliver, from Thirst. © Beacon Press, 2006. 


Can't Sleep

About twelve years ago, I went through a bad break up. I wasn't sleeping much - often less than six hours a night - but I didn't feel tired, I had a lot of nervous energy. It wasn't very focused, though, and mostly I just ran in circles. Some of that running was literal - I kept moving, walking and hiking, and lost about twenty pounds over that summer. It didn't seem healthy - although in a sense I probably was, since it was the most active time of my life.

One of the things I remember about that period of time was seeing deer. I would come up on them unexpectedly, and they would run off. I think I saw deer every time I went out during that time period, more than normal. Maybe I was just paying attention more. Anyhow, I'm seeing deer again lately. Not every time I go out, but I'll quietly come up on them, and they'll watch me, and I watch them and keep going. Unlike last time, they're not just running off.

Yesterday I kept trying to write a new blog post, but everything I wrote either sounded angry or bitter, or pathetic and whiny. (Maybe this one does too; and I won't deny that those posts accurately reflected my mood.) I kept trying to tell a particular story, which is essentially the story of why this (current) break up shouldn't be happening - from my perspective, at least. And I keep realizing that it really only has an intended audience of one.

Twelve years ago, I eventually pulled myself out of my spiral because I realized - in the clear light of day - that the woman who had broken up with me was so clearly unsuitable - a bad match all around, not least of which because she identifies as a lesbian (she initiated our relationship, which I started off thinking was a bad idea, but she eventually talked me into thinking it might work, before breaking up with me).

One of the things that's so difficult about the current break up is that this (current) woman has been my best friend for the past six years. I won't say we've talked every day over that time - I'm guessing there have been a few short gaps, when we've been apart for one reason or other. We've spent a significant part of that time in different states, maybe totaling a year and a half out of the six. But the other four and half years, we've not only talked every day, we've spent most of our free time together, and that's been a very difficult adjustment to make. I miss just talking to her. I still have things I want to tell her, some that seem very important at the moment, and might - just might! - change her mind, see that we really should get married (she was the one who proposed, after all, and we've been through a lot of preparations for marriage) - but a lot of it is just mundane. I enjoyed the smoked gouda she bought me; I've started reading the book my mom got me for my birthday (it's okay). And of course lots of other things.

I am trying to work on my cartoons, and on screen prints and paintings, so I hope to start posting pictures again soon. This was never meant to be a blog primarily about the written posts - it was always supposed to be about the cartoons. So, more coming, I promise!