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.