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Archive for January, 2013

I realized just last night that I forgot all about my photography birthday!  It was my third birthday on the 24th… shame on me for forgetting, but good for Geoff for bringing home cupcakes tonight!  🙂  It’s strange when I think that I’ve only been shooting for three years… in some ways it feels like I’m still learning so much but in on the other hand, I can hardly believe there was a time when I wasn’t shooting.

I believe that I will soon have some very exciting good news to share, which relates to shooting… either way, I think this third year is going to be a very fruitful one!  I am also excited to finally have some “real” lights to use, although I’m also intimidated to learn them.  You may soon see a multitude of Calantha photos as I test the lights and gels out.

Speaking of my dear girl, I wanted to share some of the snapshots I took on her birthday!

Cal's birthday "cake" of chicken jerky and whipped cream.

Cal’s birthday “cake” of chicken jerky and whipped cream.

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If I stare hard enough, they will put the cake down where I can eat it.

Maybe an adorable bow will get them to hurry up.

Maybe an adorable bow will get them to hurry up.

Yay!  Cake!!

Yay! Cake!!

Delighted grimace/chewing face.

Delighted grimace/chewing face.

Maynard is REALLY hoping some crumbs will fall out of her mouth for him.  Don't worry, he got his own bit of jerky.

Maynard is REALLY hoping some crumbs will fall out of her mouth for him. Don’t worry, he got his own bit of jerky.

And to address Jeannee‘s question in my last post, here is the story of how she came to be called Calantha.

I have been such a huge fan of George Gordon Lord Byron, (and yes, my cat Byron is named after him) the 19th century poet, ever since I first came across a poem of his called The Prisoner Of Chillon in a poetry collection I was reading when I was about 14.  I instantly fell in love with his writing, and when I studied his further a year or two later in a British Literature class, I was hooked.  One of the things that really keeps me so interested in him is who he was as a person; a very complicated, passionate man, deeply flawed, yes, but also capable of incredible kindness and brilliance.   Reading about his life, you can imagine him as an actual, living person, not some austere, aloof, pure “person in my history book.”  If you’d known him, you probably would have liked him a lot, although he also would have driven you crazy at times, and made you throw your hands up at the poor decisions he was making.  But you’d love him, and want to protect him in spite of it, as was vividly displayed by a number of his close friends, both through his life, and especially at his death.  And the words he wove together… no one can compare with his poetry.  So visceral, beautiful, moving, evocative, utterly exuberant and heartbreakingly tragic.  He made magic with his words.

That, of course doesn’t explain Calantha by itself, but it’s laying the groundwork.  Byron had countless love affairs over his life, often with married women.  One particularly torrid and tempestuous one was with Caroline Lamb (who famously described Byron as “‘mad, bad and dangerous to know”) the wife of famed Romantic poet William Lamb.  It was the worst-kept secret affair; pretty much everyone knew they were together, including, it’s rumored, William Lamb, who seemed to have no desire to interfere with the lovebirds, for unknown reasons.  Eventually the bright flame of their love extinguished and they were both burned in their parting.  A short while later, Caroline wrote an extremely thinly veiled account of their affair in a book she had published, Glenarvon.  Glenarvon, the title character, is assumed to be Byron, and Caroline’s fictional stand-in is named Calantha.

I have not come across the name in any other context, except for the odd baby-naming books, which classify it as French and define its meaning as “beautiful blossoms.”  And for me, it was exactly the right name for my Cal.  It has a lovely, elegant sound, and she looks lovely and elegant.  And that it is a very obscure and round-about Byron reference sealed it for me.

Thankfully, my Calantha is much, much more emotionally stable than poor Caroline, who seems to have had a mostly unhappy life.  The worst Calantha gets is getting fussy when she thinks it’s dinner time and dinner is not being provided or the occasional long car ride or vet visit.   I don’t think she complains too much.

A very old self portrait I took with Calantha; I believe this was the first one I had her model in.  This was inspired by Deerskin, but I took it before I'd decided to do a whole series around it (which I need to finish one of these days).

A very old self portrait I took with Calantha; I believe this was the first one I had her model in. This was inspired by Deerskin, but I took it before I’d decided to do a whole series around it (which I need to finish one of these days).

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Furry Bithday Girl

Eight years ago, a very special litter of puppies was born.

Newborn puppies; that's Calantha on top.

Newborn puppies; that’s Calantha on top.

The puppies were Silken Windhounds; a rare dog breed I had only discovered existed a few months prior.  I already had fallen in love with sighthounds’ sweeping, glorious looks and gentle temperaments.   When I found out there was going to be an available puppy in this upcoming litter, I immediately claimed it and began saving my money.  10 weeks after the puppies were born, I brought Calantha home.

3-week puppies; Calantha is at the very back.

3-week puppies; Calantha is at the very back.

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5-week Calantha

5-week Calantha

 

A few months old

A few months old

I have been extremely lucky to have Calantha in my life.  For the past 8 years, she has been there through everything; ups and downs, good and bad.  She has been my constant friend; the closest thing I will ever have to a daughter.

Photo by Scott Mayoral.

Photo by Scott Mayoral.

Photo by Scott Mayoral.

Photo by Scott Mayoral.

Photo by Scott Mayoral.

Photo by Scott Mayoral.

I have treasure these years, and there will be many more to come…  Silkens are an especially long-lived dogs.  In the meantime, Calantha will continue to be my model and muse, putting up with my artistic fumblings with great patience and long-suffering silence.  I can’t help it.  If she wasn’t so beautiful, I wouldn’t have to photograph her so often.  She seems willing to put up with it.

Happy birthday, Calantha!

She held perfectly still for these photos, but as soon as I set the camera down,she smacked the ears off her head.

She held perfectly still for these photos, but as soon as I set the camera down,she smacked the ears off her head.

 

 

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I’ve been talking a lot recently about the art side of my life here recently, which is perfectly appropriate; there’s nothing wrong with that.  But I intended for this blog to also touch on other parts of my life, and especially my constant struggle with my health.

I’ll be repeating myself a bit for older readers, but it’s been nearly five years since my body started dramatically falling to pieces.  There were many months before I had any idea what was happening at all, and really, I still don’t have the answers.  Eventually it was determined that I have myalgic encephalomyelitis, aka Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and mystery chronic pain for which there is NO explanation, except that it may be related to the ME.  Most of you probably know all this already.

The quest over the last few years to find answers and, hopefully, cures or a least treatments, has been extremely frustrating and rarely fruitful.  I have seen nearly a dozen different specialists during this time, and of course I have done tremendous amounts of my own research and reading about anything that seemed like it even might be helpful.  The problem always boils down to the simple fact that no one knows what causes ME.  If you talk to 50 different doctors or ME sufferers, you will get 50 different opinions about what the cause is, an what treatments might help.  It seems I have tried nearly everything at this point, although I’m sure that if I did a little more digging I could learn about rarer, more exotic and expensive non-Western things to try.

In all the reading I’ve done, and in listening to my own body and seeing how it behaves and responds (or, often, doesn’t respond) to things, I’ve come to believe that ME is ultimately a neurological disease.  There are several articles which come to mind that support this idea, but one of the things that really helped convince me was the documentary Voices From The Shadows.  I will warn you, it is not a cheery piece.  You may find watching it quite upsetting, especially if one of your loved ones has ME.  But they talk quite a bit about the autopsies done of people who died of ME, and every single one of the showed brain abnormalities.  Inflammation of the central nervous system if I’m remembering right, but don’t quote me on that.  But it just seems to make sense that this really all starts somewhere in the brain from what I see in my body.

Because I believe ME is essentially a brain malfunction, I’ve been wanting to see a neurologist for quite a while, but without any more blatantly neurologic symptoms to convince my insurance, they wouldn’t approve a visits.  But for better or worse, I’ve been tripping a lot lately.  The first couple times you can write it off as just being clumsy or not paying attention, but then it started increasing.  As the tripping increased, I also began to feel more disoriented while I was driving; mostly over longer distances and on the freeway… it just felt like everything was hurtling at me so fast I was having trouble processing it all, which was a bit alarming.  Armed with those new symptoms, my insurance finally agreed to let me see a neurologist.

The first neurologist I was sent to refused to see me for very suspicious reasons that really, truly seemed to be based solely on me having ME.  Well, I wouldn’t be the first ME patient to be discriminated against, and if the doctor was going to be such an asshole about it, I’m glad I didn’t even have to have an appointment with him.  The second one I was sent to was very different.  I loved him.  He not only believes in ME’s mere existence, but also believes that it is a physical and neurological disease.

But, as he told me in the kindest and most caring way, there was absolutely nothing he could do for me.  The only way he knows how to do any fighting against the disease is simply treating the symptoms, which he admits is woefully inadequate.  He did a neuro exam on me just to be 100% sure I don’t have MS, or a brain tumor, or anything else they might be able to actually treat, but I passed all the tests beautifully.  He made an interesting argument suggesting that fibromyalgia and ME are essentially the same thing, which was a new thought for me, and raised other interesting points and questions also.

His theory about what causes fibro and ME is that, essentially, our brains let in more stimulus than they ought to, and the amplify it even more.  Which would explain the completely disproportionate pain we feel, our sensitivity to light and noise and smell, and plain old visual stimulation.  Every time I go to the grocery store, I have to steel myself beforehand, because I know all the lights and people and noise and navigating through it all is going to suck.  Unless someone comes up with a more sound theory, I’m going to stick with this one.

The appointment was informative, the doctor was so caring and kind; he went out of his way to answer questions and took a lot of time with us.  He talked a lot about the problems fibro and ME people face with the medical community and public disbelieving us often.  It was a very valuable appoinment just for the sheer validation from the doctor.

But, oh, I had not realized how much I was hoping he would be able to help me until I knew he couldn’t.

I don’t think there are any other specialists left to see.  He was the last one on the list of anyone who even might have something to offer me.  He was also the one I was holding out the most hope for.  It felt like I’d finally reached the Wizard of Oz, and there was nothing in his black bag for me.  Truthfully, it was heartbreaking.

For most of this health journey, I’ve felt that I’ve been mostly on my own; that it’s up to me to find a cure for myself, and I feel that more than ever now.  The neurologist suggested that the medical community might have answers, and perhaps cures (or at least better treatments) within my lifetime, but that is a cold comfort right now.

This disease wears on you.  Bearing it for a day is something anyone could do; it’s the relentless suffering with no relief that breaks you.  Having only the vaguest, most nebulous hopes for it ever changing is a bitter, bitter pill.  The last few days have been very depressing.

I have not given up.  I will not give up.  But having what seemed like the best chance of change and improvement disappoint so will require some time to bounce back from.  For the time being, I need to metaphorically retreat and let my wounds heal before I can start battling again.  I need time to shed some tears and allow myself to grieve the lost hope.

And whenever I write posts like this, I always want to say that I know it can be worse.  I do not think that the things in my life are the worst things that have happened in anyone’s life ever.  I know that.  But I also know that other peoples’ pain and suffering doesn’t invalidate mine, and refusing to acknowledge them for being as painful as they are will do me no good.  You can’t heal from something you deny.

So thank you all for listening to me, and special thanks to those who have been sending well wishes and prayers.  Extra thanks to my friends and family for listening to me so patiently and lovingly.  This too will pass.  It will take time, and it may suck for a while, but it will pass.

They Lived To See The Dawn - This photo feels appropriate for this post; a girl and her dog who have made it through some very dark times, but made it out ok.

They Lived To See The Dawn – This photo feels appropriate for this post; a girl and her dog who have made it through some very dark times, but made it out ok.

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“The rhinoceros went on, ‘I was very interested in the comparison you drew between Spinoza and Thomas Hobbes. I would enjoy continuing our discussion.

‘I do not think I can,’ the Professor said at last.  ‘I do not want to talk anymore.

‘In that case, perhaps we should be on our way,’ the rhinoceros said.  ‘I have lived in your house for a long time.  We have talked together, days and nights on end, about ways of being in the world, ways of considering it, ways of imagining it as a part of some greater imagining.  Now has come the time for silence.  Now I think you should come and live with me.’

– excerpt from Professor Gottesman And The Indian Rhinoceros, by Peter S. Beagle.

This short story is one of my favorite from my tied-for-favorite-author-with-Robin-McKinley-author Peter S. Beagle.  His work always has an exceptional balance of sadness and joy; in such a way that the sadness doesn’t counteract the joy, but somehow enhances it and adds a poignant radiance.

This story has quite a range of themes, remarkable considering how short it is, and manages to cover not judging by appearances, accepting wonder and awe, healing and moving on, to name a few.  And with the new year upon us, the healing and moving on feels appropriate to bring up now.

It seems just about every person with a blog is tempted to write an end-of-year summary, and I am not immune to such desires.  The last year was certainly very difficult for many reasons.  It was perhaps the worst health year I’ve had since my body started falling to pieces with ME almost five years ago.  I’ve been tracking my daily fatigue on my wall calendar for the last couple years, to denote how tired I am each day.  A good day is blank, a bad day gets an X.  A day that I’m so tired that I feel I could be a danger to myself or others while driving, or find myself secretly wishing just a little bit that I would get in a car accident, just so I don’t have to do whatever I’m going out to do, that gets a skull an crossbones.  There are a few other designations for when it gets even worse, but you get the idea. This year I’ve had about 20 blank days, most near the beginning of the year, and far more skulls than X’s.  As I said, it’s been a rough year.

But through it, I’ve made progress, and have come to see some new doctors who I feel hopeful about.  And while the struggle was there, there was also overcoming the struggle.  I’ve had wonderful experiences with my friends and loved ones that I hold close to my heart.  I moved into a new home that I absolutely adore, and which is an incredible step up, both for Geoff and I and the animals.  Calantha now has a doggy boyfriend with the Australian kelpie next door… they do lots of snuggling when she isn’t running circles around every living thing.  I’ve had another year to spend with my sweetie, sharing new experiences and growing closer.  I achieved some artistic goals; I had a great gallery show, got on the cover of a book, and I won some contests and awards.  And of course, I took lots and lots and lots of photos.  Through everything, there is always art.  I’ve spoken much about the power and healing found in art, and this year it has been more evident to me than ever.

Speaking of the wearying health year, I will keep this entry on the shorter side.  But I know this new year will bring wonderful new adventures.  There will be more growth and change.  And, I hope, healing.  I would very much like to move on from the part in my life where I am chronically ill.  I don’t know if that will ever happen.  But I can hope.  The story of Professor Gottesman And The Indian Rhinoceros brings me hope.  Healing and moving on is always possible.  Though the body I inhabit, the part of me everyone sees, may often fail me, my spirit is strong.  Even if my body never changes, my soul always can.  Good will come.

I am genuinely bubbling over with excitement over the projects that I have planned for the near future.  A great deal of work needs to be done before they’re ready to be seen, but they are underway… and I can’t wait to unveil them 🙂  These upcoming photos will, on the whole, be the most detailed, labor-intensive works I have yet produced, but I am loving the whole process of creating them.  It makes it all the more meaningful and personal.

What are your hopes and goals for the upcoming year?

I hope you all find this new year to be magical and full of delightful adventures 🙂

Now Has Come The Time For Silence

Now Has Come The Time For Silence

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