Sunday, May 02, 2010

Making While Disabled

Healing is humbling. It's just such a total mental shift to suddenly, unexpectedly, be unable to do all the things you take for granted. How to cope?

In the hospital, one morning with delayed rehab, I started doodling my standard branches with birds onto my cast. Understand, I'm right-handed and the cast was on the right hand. It took an inordinate amount of time to dig through the art supplies left-handed, testing all the pens in my tote bag to see if anything would mark on rough fiberglass and plaster. Then it took even longer to slowly, carefully etch in a few branches and a bird, left-hand style.

I had such grand plans for that cast, color washes and detail work, a page from my bird journal worn on my arm. And then the surgeon cut it off after less than two weeks! I never took photos because it was a work in progress, and I thought I had weeks of work yet to go. Funny how you can cheer the saw (and plead for a moment to scratch before they immobilize the arm under the X-ray) and simultaneously rue the loss of a canvas not completed.

Now that I'm home, the first order of business was to set up some means to create. That's the real test of an artist, I suppose -- the need to make something, even something minor, no matter the limitations. Despite stupor inducing medications, drudgery with weights and therabands, extreme fatigue that turns an insomniac into an afternoon napper, and a body that isn't up to it's usual stroll across the room, let alone artistic finesse, I need something to show for the long hours, some distraction that reassures that at heart I'm still functioning.

My dear family understands that I must make things. After all, I left a science research career after the birth of my son made clear that some readjustment was required to leave time for sanity-saving making. Hence they rearranged the downstairs for me (suggesting that this was all a plot on my part to take over even more of the house for work space), complaining of sore calve muscles after myriad trips up and down the stairs to bring load after load of supplies down. The "nice" dining table is now covered with metal clay supplies, pliers and punches, bits of wire, and finally my desktop computer, so that I can access the full array of photos and back e-mails that need attention. DH has become my studio assistant, trundling trays of clay out to the kiln in my sunroom studio, two unnavigable steps down, a world away, and doing his best at shooting the results in my photo tent upstairs.

I have slowly regained more capability with the right hand, even adjusting to typing in the brace, only erasing ten times more than usual, rather than a hundred. I've learned to hammer left-handed, to give verbal pictures to direct DH to whatever I need upstairs or outside, to make slow but steady progress on little bits of stuff.

Maybe simplification is the order of the day. Or working in components. At any rate, I've told myself that what I make doesn't have to be good, it just has to be. So, I finished off the almost dried-out clay from three weeks ago and opened more. I completed the clasp parts sitting there waiting and fired them. I tried the new flower templates and made a couple of pairs of earrings as a test.

Progress, slow but steady. The artist heals, as does the body.