Art meets Ability

Art emerged from several months horizontal. These periods arrive courtesy of my medical condition. Salvage time again, in terms of materials, my own energy, and identity. This wallhanging was worked mostly in my couch-bound lap, using apholstery scraps, silk & batiked cotton leftovers, beads, ribbon & specialty yarn. Think of it as a walk through my body's imprints: working in the garden, studying patterns of branches out the window, walking in the woods, being in my own solitude and isolation, making internal sanctuaries in my heart to calm myself in and out of the hospital as recovery moves on, getting back balance to walk so I can have coffee & community with other people.

When the medical system can't figure out why a person has such low blood pressure they can't stand up, cough, or do other bodily functions we all take for granted without fainting for months on end, the imagination becomes a restorative space, and handwork the medicine to revive vitality.

Art meets me at my ability and pulls me forward, so that physical disability does not write the book on who or how I am.

Coffee & lunch with two friends yesterday was like getting out of prison. The joy of conversation in ASL relieves the fatigue that comes with lipreading all the time(much harder than it looks). One friend is getting her Ph.D. in Social Work focusing on disabilities. Her research & dissertation address the intersection of environment and perceptions of people with differences and just talking with her made me feel like one of these blue pods, all lit up from within.What did it was sharing how resilience, wellness, actual identity are obscured when others see the difference of a physical condition but stop there, omitting inquiry into one's personal experience.

Here's what I mean: as a late-deafened adult with Menieres & Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, a genetic condition that contributed to my disability, I grew up a musician in a hearing family but now need ASL & lipreading for receptive language, things you can't see just looking at me. There is no embroidered instruction on my jacket or tag with "instructions for use" to cue anyone: LOOK AT HER WHEN YOU TALK or she's clueless. Then I voice for myself too, making me as my daughter puts it, "a trick Deaf person" because my speech is without accent until I'm fatigued (when it gets muddled with German that was my first language). Deaf people are multiligual as ASL is not English and English is what Hearing people use in America. How "disabled" is that? Most American english speakers don't speak anything else. My new colleague was born Deaf, raised in Oralist education & learned ASL at age 20. Her English is wonderful, and she speaks fluent ASL. When is one pod just like another other pod, but not? We all grow as we grow and are as we are. My dear friend & colleague who set up our lunch is Hearing, but from a quarter of a century of embodying communication in Deaf culture as an ASL interpreter, feels individual and collective deaf experience in ways I can only imagine. She is one of the most culturally Deaf people I know, really, and fluent in English, ASL & Spanish. Meeting with them was like a walk in the forest, where I felt free to be the tree I am made, rather than searching some nursery for the right label to put on my tag.

Check out the disc shapes in the panel above. Don't they look like old-fashioned sound speakers? Art is still the easiest communication for me. It is way ahead of me: my hands always know where I am before my conscious awareness. So here's my walk in the woods: I am in an interaudio relationship with the world, the forest of other people, Deaf, Hearing, human across the continuum that comes with living in a body.

Are you appreciating your ability today, salvaging and making an art of your unique nature and human capacities?