COGNITIVE WHIPLASH

I’m back in the rainy Pacific Northwest for a few days – actually, as I look out the window, I see it’s snowy!  It’s good to be at my full size computer, where I can work on my photographs and compose a post without squinting at the phone screen.

Those of you who have lived through your own or a loved one’s serious illness know that it’s a roller coaster ride – hence the title.  I hope the photos convey the ups and downs of the last two weeks – the unexpected heartache, and the unexpected beauty still to be found in places, things and people.

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Some explanation might be in order:

Mixed among photos from the hospital and ICU room are images from the Phoenix Art Museum, where I escaped late one afternoon for a restorative, two-hour gaze at art. The following evening I found time for a brief sunset walk at Phoenix Mountains Preserve, my second escape from “reality.”

The pitch black image with tiny lights is a powerful installation at the museum by Yayoi Kusama, an extraordinary, 87-year-old Japanese artist whose work I first heard about back in the early 70’s. It’s a strangely disorienting kind of pleasure to step into the black, mirrored room strung with lights that change colors. You can hardly sense where your feet are, or where the walls are – perhaps this was a practicum for the new reality.

The vigorously inked leaf shapes are from a 1777 Chinese ink painting by Huang Zhen at the Phoenix Art Museum. The Buddha is also from the museum. Though small, their Asian collection brought me a significant measure of peace.

I find it interesting how the green thingies that hang off the IV pole echo the budding mesquite leaves, and the steady logic of Don Judd’s red wall piece echoes the ICU monitoring equipment, with its reliance on precise numbers and measures.  Now that I look at these pictures I can see my approach to the two shots was perfectly congruent with my mood. The Judd made me feel centered and secure so the shot is composed and balanced; the ICU shot reflects the topsy-turvy feelings that place evokes.

The waterfall sculpture is at the museum’s sculpture court outside the entrance. The chairs casting shadows from strong Arizona sunlight are in the hospital’s Healing Garden. The mountain path, saguaro and sunset were taken at the Phoenix Mountains preserve.

Wednesday I fly back down to Phoenix. With any luck, rehab will already be underway. I am, as a friend said today, in a state of suspension these days.  Whether I’m looking up at an IV pole and dangling paraphernalia in the hospital ICU, or a tall saguaro and bright moon in the Phoenix Mountains, it’s all part of the new Cognitive Whiplash Dance.


57 comments

  1. There are some interesting and beautiful juxtapositions of photos here Lynn…I am hoping your journey through this time will bring unexpected moments of peace.

  2. I found the most poignant photo one you didn’t mention: the single wine glass and fork. And the photo that was most “you”? The blue-tinged pathway next to the Buddha.

    I spent yesterday afternoon exploring a prairie that just had been burned. From the road, it seemed ashen and dead. But walking through it, I was amazed at the bits of beauty I found. I hope you’ll find increasing beauty in the coming days — inside that rehab room, as well as out.

    • Those forks and wine glasses each night keep me sane! Too bad they’re not shared, but it’s OK, I’m glad I have the opportunity to have a decent meal and the relaxing drink – think of all the others around the world dealing with similar situations without those comforts.

      Thank you for being there/here.

  3. I’m so familiar with this sort of roller coaster that these images made me cry. There is in fact no need for explanation for any of them, they all say more to me than words ever could. Oh! XXX So many good wishes……

  4. “…unexpected beauty still to be found in places, things and people.”
    Those unexpected moments are the ones that give us amazing comfort… for sure you find comfort in the quiet gifts that come your way.

    Thank you for sharing what’s happening; it also helps us to remember to be thankful for good health.

    • Lisa, one of my oldest blogging friends….thank you for your loyalty and your ever cheerful, positive presence. It is a gift you give to others, spreading your good will over and over, and it helps. 🙂

  5. Hi Lynn, the vulnerability of these photos is touching. Wishing your other half a speedy recovery.

    If you’re going to be in Phoenix for an extended period of time and you’re in need for further distractions, the Heard Museum was actually a favorite of ours. Taliesin West and the Desert Botanical Garden are also good contenders.

    All the best.

    • We were thinking of going to the Heard the day the stroke happened. I may get there later this week or next, if I’m lucky. Taliesin is another wonderful choice, I know, and the garden. All top notch. Thanks for the push – I almost got to the garden one day but couldn’t make it in time. Maybe soon.

  6. Only just read your news, what an awful unexpected start to the year..The inhuman and yet all too rawly human nature of medical environments is always so unsettling. Thank goodness for these comforts of beauty, nature and art, when we are so desperate for them. Huge best wishes Lynn!

    • I like the way you describe the medical environment. As much as one might rail against the coldness, we have mostly been spending time with pretty terrific people in the hospital, and let’s not even start about how the advances in science benefit us. But in the end I do need nature, and I do need art, and I return again and again.

  7. I’m glad you were able to find comfort in looking at art and in making it, Lynn. Art is always intimate, but sharing it can sometimes be difficult. Thank you for sharing these intimacies with us. I continue to hold you in my thoughts.

    • 🙂 It seems similar to the cancer roller coaster, except the peaks and valleys are much closer together. Keeps me on my toes. An opportunity to spend less time retreating from the present moment, perhaps!

      • I have been lucky enough to not have had a trip on that particular ride, but I have been on the congestive-heart-failure-go-round and the Alzheimer’s-A-Ganza (well, to be fair, my mother and father were on them, respectively. I was just along for the ride).
        It is a wonder that you see the experience as an opportunity. It is, of course, and one to be embraced and learned from. I sincerely hope it stays that way for you.

      • Your dry with helps! I have clients with Alzheimer’s, and CHF, and other goodies. But that’s different. Both experiences are opportunities, for sure. Good to hear from you!

  8. Two worlds seemingly in contrast – the essential technology of the ICU equipment and the calm of the art works you have chosen. They seem to reflect aptly the emotional roller coaster you have been on in recent days. The news sounds more positive. I hope I am right.

  9. It’s so good to hear there’s been progress today Lynn . I’m glad you’ve been able to focus for a little while even if it is of course a very small window of time , to immerse yourself in other visual ways – giving you a breather from the immediate happenings you’re faced with at the moment . What a great museum that is . I agree with Louis above whole heartedly .
    Thinking of you x

  10. Your post certainly put me back in those dreary days filled with uncertainty. Somehow we weather even these. Nice to see you getting out and away in order to refresh. Good to hear of some progress. Wishing you courage and stamina as you both face these changes. My thoughts tend to linger with you as you go through this trial.

  11. The awe and wonder, strength and fragility of life is in each and every shot here Lyn and so good to see you doing what you need to do in order to get through it all. My absolute best to you both xx

  12. I find your spirit inspiring and amazing, in spite of the circumstances. Finding beauty around you even when your thoughts probably a full of fear, uncertainty and concern is extraordinary. I wish you a smooth recovery. All the best.

    • When things change this drastically, you look at it and just put one foot in front of the other. All you can do. And beauty sneaks in.
      Thank you very much for your thoughts, Otto –

  13. Lynn, I love your post, both because of the quality of your images, and the more so because it tells me that you’re hanging on in there. As I said, you need to look after yourself, we all do – you need breaks, and I’m really pleased to hear that you’re taking them. For me, going to work, keeping up that routine, was a life saver. I very much hope that the rehab goes well. A

  14. Lyn, your POV is beautiful and courageous. As it happens, your photographs make this clear! We are glad to read your response to Evelyn, “progress happened today.” May this be the case, every day, going forward.
    Big hugs to you both,
    J&A

    • It’s always good to hear from you, and yes, pretty much every day there’s progress in recovery, but I think the other layer to this is digesting the implications, which can be in fits and starts, and will take a while!

  15. Thanks for taking time to share with us your poignant captures. It does take me to the feeling of days when a loved one was in ICU for me, and I can relate to that feeling of life suspended. The images you combined here swim in and out and yet have a thread of connection and a cable of feeling. Take care of you! BTW the budding mesquite leaves are exquisite, and I totally see why you thought of the likeness with the green thingies.

    • Suspended is right…a little more normal now. Thanks YOU for taking the time to comment thoughtfully – I love the thread and cable metaphors (or oops, are they analogies?). I wish I’d taken more close-up photos of the sot gray-green leaves but it was a short vacation. Next time.

    • Thanks so much, Susan – things get better every day, for the most part, and respite can be found….in fact, the best respite in the first two weeks was having a good meal out with a glass of wine most nights. Saved my life, in a way. 🙂

  16. Oh Lynn, I’m just catching up now on your blog. You’ve so poignantly captured the all too familiar objects of the ICU as well as the transcendent beauty of the world around you. My thoughts are with you.

  17. Lynn, you are amazing and very courageous, my heart goes out to you. I’m very happy to see that there’s positive progress.
    One reason for us being in Norway for so long right now is because we have a stroke case in the family. We too find inspiration in going to art exhibitions and museums to level ourselves.

    Last year Yayoi Kusama had a fabulous exhibition in Oslo, we missed it. Maybe we go to see her work in Helsinki later this year.

    All the best for a speedy recovery,
    *hugs* to you both,
    Dina & co xox

    • Dina, thank you very much for the kind words, wishes and hugs. I’m sorry to hear you’re dealing with a stroke in the family too, but I know you and Klaus are adept at finding enjoyment and inspiration nearby. Yayoi Kusama’s story reminds us that more is possible than we might imagine. She’s still going strong at an advanced age, having voluntarily lived in an institution for decades….maybe she figured out her own way to have a room of her own! Not what I’d choose, but she shows us there are infinite ways to get past so-called limitations. Here’s to barriers and creative ways around!


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