I am a linguist who loves literature and who is fascinated by science. I quantify randomness. I paint. I travel in a power wheelchair, hoping to capture the ordinary.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Painting and flow

As an alternative to bouncing around the globe, especially when I am needed on the home front, I have taken up painting. Next month, two of my pieces will be shown in the Lines into Shapes show in Estes Park, Colorado. They chose "Reflection" and "I Shall Wear Purple," shown below.


I Shall Wear Purple

The second image's title is taken from a collection of poetry by Jenny Joseph that I remember from when I was a child. This poem taught me the beauty and freedom of aging, of coming into one's own. The title poem goes like this:


When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people's gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

Speaking of art, if you happen to be passing through Paris (which I, unfortunately, am not), here's a chance to see works by the great Monet:

Impression: Soleil levant

Subject and object confusion

The film The Plague Dogs is a heartbreaking tale of life as an escaped lab animal, replete with friendship, violence, and a rare lack of pity for the viewers. It is based on the novel by Richard Adams, who also wrote Watership Down. One of the lab dogs has undergone an experiment in which the subjective and the objective have been confused in his mind: flies in his head are helicopters in the air. He cannot tell which parts of the world he actually exists in, nor can he make sense of how his actions change his situation or hope for love and survival.

Sometimes the institution-trapped mindset of the disability services industry throws human subjects into similar throes of nobodiness. I was dealing with a broken wheelchair, my beautiful customized Quantum R-4000, earlier this week. I called to get it repaired, and requested a standard chair like those in the commercials on TV, just so I could, you know, sit at the dinner table, shower, and go to work and stuff.

I was rotundly denied, informed that I was simply too disabled to sit in a regular power chair, even though my insurance would cover it. I should plan instead to live out a few weeks wrapped up in blankets in bed or on the floor. No dinner table, no bath, no job.

This was even after a phone call from my doctor. Trapped by my computer for two days, I persisted with Skype calls. Finally, they requested a letter from my doctor. Got it. Not enough. They wanted a letter from my "caregiver". No mind that my caregiver is hired, trained and fired by me and has no relation or real relationship with me. No mind that I am, in fact, my only legal guardian. They insisted that there must be somebody in charge of me. No, I explained, only me, and you are about to ruin my life and risk my death. Here's a signed letter saying just how you are destroying me... Signed, the Professor. OK, finally, I was human enough to have my own words effect change. I am no one's object.