Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Art, Technology, and Disability

It has been forever, it feels to me since I have written on my blog. I took a break to focus on family and school. Here I am, three years into my college degree experience, and I am now ready to adventure into something new. 
I turned 51 a few weeks ago. It all happened so fast. This life has rushed past me and here I am, past the halfway mark to 100. I am headed in a new direction from when I first started this blog, it has morphed from food to writing, to poetry, and now to art. 
I have been dabbling with art for many years as a hobbyist. When I turned 51 I decided to pursue a passion and devote more time and effort into my art study and art performance. The header to my blog now includes ART because I will be writing more and more about art, maybe some about food, and some essay writing about life, studies, and adventures.
I hope to share more of my art, the process of my art evolving, and the healing process that art has in our lives. Today I had to write a short piece of how art, technology, and people with disabilities are evolving in this changing climate of awareness. I learned a lot from reading the hyperlinks and watching the video of Sue Austin scuba diving in her wheelchair.  
I have posted the short discussion below. This was an education for me to discover how much technology has advanced in the field of art, especially helping those with disabilities to learn how to become artist, encouraging their passion, and then providing resources for them to exhibit and display their pieces of art. 
Is there a "value of difference" through art and disability?
Art is a powerful tool with a wide range of mediums, all used to tell a story, emote a feeling, allow our minds to explore unknown territories. I am an artist. Two of my four kids are artists too. I guess painting with acrylics and oil are ways we have been drawn into our art form. At least that is my story. My two daughters are both engaged in technology when it comes to their art approaches. They use their laptops, art pads, high-tech pens, and the internet to share and sell their artwork. Art is simply a part of our daily lives, but our daily lives are free from disabilities that would hold us back or hinder our performance with our art form, regardless of the type of art we choose to create. When I watched the video from chapter 5, Sue Austin: Deep Sea a wheelchair 2012, I was mesmerized because it made me think about art, disabilities, and how I see artists with disabilities. It made me want to learn more about artists with disabilities. I started searching for things like, "who are they", "what are they using to create their works with", and what is their disability"? Listening to Sue speak in the video, I felt her excitement. I saw her joy. She expressed her joy of "freedom" in the water and being able to move "360 degrees", and she noted that her wheelchair, the video, and her story have created a "value of difference" in how people with disabilities are viewed when the story is changed, when our perspective is skewed, and when art is used to portray something new and bold.
The "value of difference" was displayed recently when a group of disabled dancers were paired with a group of high school and middle school students. They worked together to create extensions of their disabilities for performances. The students were "creating wearable designs that shine a light on each dancer's strength and resilience". The audience was tied to a beautiful representation of something our society might deem "different", "uncomfortable", or even "impossible" when we think in terms of a person with a disability. Student artists create gorgeous wearable sculptures for dancers with disabilities, (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. written by Katie Dupree said, "It's time to recognize the beauty in disability". Looking at these costumes, beauty is what you see. The five participants disabilities ranged from cerebral palsy to sight issues. The art enhancements were designed to give the audience a feel for what it might feel like to "be on display" because a person is different. I love how Katie summed up the visual and artists creations, she writes, "the result is a visually captivating sculpture that challenges misguided ideas of disability as undesirable or unappealing".  I am amazed at how powerful art resonates a message, and I feel this particular project exemplified the idea of art displaying the "value of difference" in a beautiful and personal representation of the artists and the observer.
The above article mentions how artists and those with disabilities are working together to create a new dialogue and representation of how disabilities are seen and understood, but what about those with disabilities that wish to learn about art, explore art, and exhibit art? The Metropolitan Museum of Art (Links to an external site.)Links to an external sitein New York City, as well as other art galleries around the world, are taking interest in providing experiences through visual learning, hearing discoveries, and hands-on creation for those with disabilities. Welcoming Art Lovers With Disabilities (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.shares with readers how they are working together with the disabled community, artists, and museums to create a viable partnership for those who wish to engage in art. The article describes a variety of ways in which museums are working effortlessly to provide a full spectrum of experiences for all visitors. 3D printers are being used to duplicate certain works of art so that those with limited vision, can feel the art. Listening devices are also being used around the world to allow those with visibility disabilities to listen to vlogs or audio. These are just two ways in which the art community is trying to create more opportunities for those with disabilities. Why is this important? Because it allows them to explore something new, art in all its form. This may empower them to try something they thought impossible to do themselves. Art is an expression of self and when a person is limited due to a disability they may need to discover new ways to express themselves as Sue Austin did with her wheelchair. It is giving them a "value" in their "differences".
To answer my own question, yes, I believe there is a "value of difference" through art and disability. It makes a difference in our lives and those lives who create art with disabilities. It is one more way they can see themselves represented in our communities and a way for them to feel connected. I learned a lot about art, disability, and how technology is changing how we view those with disabilities. 

Friday, December 8, 2017

Sifting Through Life: Breitenbush Hot Springs

NOTE:  There are not any naked pictures in this post. This is a family friendly site. Just in case you were wondering....LOL

It has been a long week. Finals are next week and I am sick. The kids are sick too. The hardest part is, here we are in December, and our weather is gorgeous. Like bright blue sky, mid 50's, little to no wind, gorgeous. Here we sit, sniffling and coughing watching this weather pass by, and we can't enjoy it, other than to watch it from behind our windows in the house, on the couch. Bummer.

Today was the worst of it for me. My body decided to put a halt to all studying and parenting for the day and I found myself in bed. I did have class at 2 but promptly came home and went back to bed. Two naps in one day has done wonders, I am feeling better. Although, it is 11 o'clock at night and I am wide awake. I have studied metamorphic rocks and volcanoes until my eyes are bursting from over studying.

I've been wanting to write this piece for a while, ever since we came home in October from our trip to Breitenbush Hot Springs in Oregon. I guess today, with it's bright blue sky and beautiful weather reminded me of our trip. I booked this October trip back in May. I knew that it may be wet from rain, cold, and dreary. I didn't care because I thought the hot springs would be great with the cooler temperatures outside. We were pleasantly surprised with a burst of bright weather over the last weekend in October. The picture below was taken on our drive up to Detroit Lake, OR. You can see the blue sky and Mt. Hood in the distance.

We arrived, our first time here, to a little bit of paradise. Checking in at the parking lot was a piece of cake. The attendant in the registration office was informative and welcoming. The parking lot is above the retreat. They provide pull dollies to carry your stuff from your cars to the cabins. We needed two. Our stay was for 3 days but you need to bring your own bedding, pillows, bathroom stuff, etc... Of course, we needed snacks. We way over packed! Keep in mind this resort is an optional clothing hot springs. So clothes while in the hot tubs is not necessary, you will need clothes to walk around the retreat center and to dine in the cafateria. We didn't know what to pack because the weather in Oregon this time of year is all over the place. I am glad I packed warm clothes, the nights were very cold. I saw some people there in their pajamas and robes the whole weekend. I chose to change more frequently for meals and classes than most. Next time, I will still bring my warm coat, gloves, and hat but leave some of the other stuff behind.

Our little cottage was so cute. One full bed and a twin, a toilet, and a sink. Small and the perfect size for just the two of us. We weren't quite sure what to do when we first got there. Neither of us had ever been to anything like this before. It is something I have wanted to do for a while. I can't tell you why I wanted to get naked with strangers in an outside environment, other than to say I felt compelled to do it. I felt it was something I needed to do for me as a woman, as a human, as a person. I needed to let go and just be. I wanted to be naked and unafraid. I was hoping for a change in my perspective and I got just that. 

I had no idea what to do or how to do it other than to go to a hot spring, take off my clothes, and get in. It all happened that fast. My stomach was flipping, my heart was racing, my hands were sweaty. I looked like a pro on the outside but on the inside I was all wiggles, giggles, and anxious. Cory and I stopped at the first hot spring and did what everyone else did. We followed the leader and it worked.
Honestly, I was afraid if I thought about it, I would chicken out. 

I am so glad I did not chicken out. It turned out to be the best visit for both of us. We met some of the most amazing, like minded people, that resonated with our value system and ideas. We felt like we had arrived home. Inside the hot springs we chatted, laughed, and talked for hours with people from all over the world. Married, single, same-sex, parents with kids, older couples, younger couples, you name it we saw it. All body types. This was comforting for me. I was nervous about my body. I am almost 50 and my body has been through child birth several times and natural aging and sagging. It happens. Nobody cared what our body looked like. Or at least, that is the impression I got from the whole experience. Nobody pointed fingers, laughed, or made wise cracks. 

People were at the springs for a variety of reasons, but after our conversations with a few, it felt like they were there to relax, let go, take some yoga classes, enjoy the outdoor scenery, be inspired, and breathe. By the end of the three day weekend, I missed the kids, but I didn't want to come home. It felt too good to be true to have found a place that was so peaceful and accepting. A place that we could be with strangers without our clothes one minute and then eating dinner with them, fully dressed, the next minute. 

I left that weekend with new friends, a new perspective of myself, a new lease on life, a new me. I knew I needed to do this but I wasn't sure why. I know why now. For me it was the final removing of a belief system about nudity that been preached to me from the time I was young, nudity was wrong, nudity was evil. There is shame and regret attached to this too. It was my perception, from an early childhood, that it was all for the purpose of recreating. Nudity was looked down upon and was something that should be hidden especially when it came to women. Women should be covered up always to save face, to prevent a bad reputation, and to hide our flaws. 

As a woman, I wanted to let it all go and be free, my flaws and all. I wanted to lay out on the rocks at midnight, naked, and watch the stars. I wanted to sit in the sauna and then go sit cross legged outside and meditate in the cool crisp air, naked. I wanted the freedom to just be a human in human form without clothes, makeup, or society telling me to change. I needed this to happen and I am so glad I followed through with this bucket list item.

I can't wait to go back and neither can Cory. We both felt so alive when we left and refreshed. Our spirits were high and our outlook had been changed forever about nudity, freedom, and self care. It was easier than we thought, and less scary on the inside once you take the leap of faith to do it. I don't know what we expected but what we got was nothing like it. People were open and accepting. We are planning a trip for Mother's Day. They host all types of weekend retreats. In May, they offer a special Mother's Day Family weekend. 

Here is a direct link to the January workshops (click link for more information) and weekends in case you are interested in attending.

Lodging Information (click link)

I know that this experience is not for everyone. I understand that we all come different upbringings and religious back grounds and for some, this might be bordering on an over the top experience.  If I could go back and tell my younger self one thing, it would be to do this long before now. I came home and told all my kids of my experience and how I wanted them to do it now, and not wait, like I did for the right time, the right body, the right what-ever our ego tries to protect us from. Do your research and find the best place for you to shed your clothes. I don't think I could go just anywhere and have the same experience. I know that Breitenbush Hot Springs was the right place for me and my family. As an added note, you don't have to be naked. I saw people with swim suits, some bottoms only. 

Remember, be you. Be authentic. Be carefree. 

This is not an ad. 

Sunday, December 3, 2017

My Reflection #poetry

This semester I took a creative poetry class. I wasn't sure if I would like it or not. I was nervous the first workshop. I felt vulnerable reading my poems to the class and then sitting there, silent. Waiting for the chance to defend a word, a punctuation, a space, the emotion, the meaning, etc...

We have 15 students. We round our tables and chairs to create a big circle and for two and half hours we listen and talk about poetry.  We offer suggestions and interpretations to those who have written the poems for the week.

The poem below is a revision of a poem I did titled, Two Versions.  I didn't get a lot of feedback to change much, other than, to expand the story and I did. I am amazed at how it turned out. Mostly because this class was not an instructional poetry type class but more of a workshop. Almost, as if, we were expected to know how to write poetry before we arrived. Most of us had written before, but did we know the rules about writing poetry? No.  Critiquing other works and having our own work picked apart has been a great learning experience for me. 

The poem below is read from left to right, the white space is on purpose. Almost as if, there were two poems: one read left to right and one read with the extended words on the right. Try it both ways and see what you think.

I hope you enjoy the poetry pieces each week. Personally, this has been a wonderful experience for me to explore and create a new type of writing.

My Reflection 
by Sherron Watson

Today I see me and                                                          you see her
two versions of the                                         same person
One that I let you see,                with smiles
and perfect rhythm,                                              solo and strong
The other,the real me,               with two left feet
imperfect frame, weak,                                               bruised and sore

It is a dance of passions,                       a tango of desire
Twirling in rhythm to a                                           song that loops
Over and over, I listen to the           movement
trying to be one with the music,                                         with this life
keep moving, waltz,                     sway back and forth
three steps, two steps,                                                                   one step, back

It works until it doesn’t                               and people
discover the rehearsal was                                                 better than 
the performance, hijacking the             dual personality
and creating a new sound,                                                     a new dance
a routine of imperfections,                                      lost in space
dancing without a partner,                                                                  alone and solo

I stop.                                                        I stare.

I catch my reflection, the flicker of                            my hand
curved, arched, ready to move,                                                                tired 
there, there between the brow,               you can’t hide
I see the sorrow in                                                            my smile
A hint of darkness with                                                                         a beam of light
my spotlight, my image,                        the real me

The music slows and fades                           from my ears
Our eyes meet, you and me, it’s                                                                    all I see
tears falling, hurting inside,                                             wanting 
it all to end, we will                                                                        some how collide
forcing this partnership to unite,              motion forward
it’s too late, the music begins,                                        our hands drop

We are expected to blend,                              to be
partners, choreograph this life,                                                                oneness
playing the part,                                      swans in the night
My reflection laughs,                                                                    jumps to her toes
I slowly follow,                              moving to point
swirling in motion,                                                in sync we bow

This is me,                                                        the one you see
the one looking back,                we are the same
Act after act,                                                                                 changing our costumes
night after night,                                          watching the crowd
Perfecting our lines,                 creating our stage
Two versions, my reflection,                                                you and me

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Serendipity #poetry

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today I am thankful for my family and friends that are here, in our home, eating good food and partaking of great company. I am blessed. This year I have seen myself grow.  Growth in ways I only dreamed about in my past. Part of this growth has been setting boundaries, prioritizing my mental health, saying YES way more than NO, and having a grateful heart. Showing kindness to those around me, loving more, and worrying less. I am so happy! 

I have a little bucket list that I have kept for a few years. It all began a few years ago when I could feel time rushing by and me feeling like I was watching it slowly slip away, one day at a time. I am proud to say that I have done almost all of the things on my list. It wasn't a list to be completed by the time I die, but a list of things to be done before I turned 50. I turn 50 in April of 2018.

My final item was being nude in a public place. This scared me to death! I wasn't sure I could do it, to be honest. When the experience actually happened it was nothing like what I had expected it to be. I will write more about this experience in one of my Sifting Through Life pieces on an upcoming Saturday issue. 

I wrote this poem as I sat on the last day, outside, watching the river roar by. It was the clearest and bluest sky possible. The yellow leaves were like flames along the riverfront. So bright and peaceful, swaying in the slight breeze. I was relaxed and soooooo very happy. I was at peace, hence the title.

Do you have a bucket list? If so, what is on it? Have you had any experiences that stirred up fear and then when it was done, the fear was gone or seemed silly? 

By Sherron Watson

Peel away the shame,                   our clothes
Open the mind,                 journey
to a place and time,                     free
from society,           social angst
Step into the pools warmth,           liquid sunshine
Let the earthy aroma rise up,                      inhale the scent
Breathe deep into hungry lungs,       mellow
Relax, sit,                      deep in mindless thought
meditate, escape, fluid in water,                 our bodies
float,           our skin
like a sponge,                 absorbing the minerals
Our minds,                                     clearing the landscape
of life as we drift to the center,                        reconnect to
 the universe, finding strength,               renewal
Hearing nothing,                   yet aware of everything
Our souls delight to find,  to see,                         to feel
transcendent knowledge,                  peaceful minds
Joyful hearts ripple ripe with rejuvenating awakening,              balance
Take me here, again, please,                  sooner than later
to this place in the mountains with an alpine view,           yellow bursts of life, Autumn
Basking in nudity, mind, and soul,                    body grounded
The springs light a flame, spark a dream,                       burn deep
upon the skin and divine truth,              sheer serendipity

Can we return soon?                

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Sifting Through Life: What's Your Story?

This was from a trip that Cory and I took to Bend by ourselves. This picture doesn't tell any story unless I give the details to my family.  They would never know that this was taken outside of Bend or that we hiked Misery Trail or that the weather was a perfect 75 degrees. We all take a lot of pictures but I would like us to tell the stories behind the pictures taken so those memories are not lost forever. I know for me, I take so many pictures because of technology, that many of them go undocumented, printed off, or scrapbooked. They are kind of stored in cyber space and forgotten.

I do a lot of writing for school (psychology major) and here on my blog. I tell a lot of stories. I love to write and share with others what I have learned, am learning, and my experiences. In fact, you know a lot about me if you read my blog. Some of my thoughts are small, while others get wordy and lengthy. My poetry is short, not always sweet, but a story never the less. Talking to other people we learn, or I hope we do, about their lives. Our lives are multifaceted with an array of memories, emotions, trauma, experiences, and so on. You name it and someone out there has done it or lived it.

That's kind of exciting to think about.

A story often has a beginning, middle, and an end. Most of us are not at the end portion quite yet, other than, we can speculate and dream. The end usually has a bucket list attached to it too. Embedded deep within the beginning and middle parts we have chapters and pages of story telling to share.

Our stories attach us to our communities of friends and family. They are one way we are able to bond and create trust, authenticity, and empathy. When we see those we hang out with may have similar stories, it immediately gives us something in common. If our stories are different, then this gives us a chance to share and learn from one another.

Kids love to hear a good story or be read a story. Why is this? I believe it's a vital part of their developmental states. They learn about emotions, life experiences, cultural differences, moral codes, and so much more all from a story or a book.

I wish that I had spent more time listening to the stories from the older generations in my own family. There were not many stories with grand climaxes or mysterious characters, but I have heard enough, to wish I knew more.

Today we take pictures. So many pictures. It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. I agree with this to a point. It is if you know the context, a portion of the circumstances, or even a few of the characters. What happens when you don't know much about the picture and the words that should exist are never found? I think about old family photos that sit in boxes and go untouched for years.  Those stories die with those individuals and if no one takes the time to listen and ask, then those stories are lost.

I believe we each have a story to tell. Do we wait to be asked before we tell it? Do we share it anyway with our kids? Should we keep a journal? I think this is up to the individual person to decide who they share their story with, but I do think to tell the story is important.

The good news about being the story teller of your personal journey is that you get to pick and choose which parts of the highlight reel are aired and how much of it is shared. Not to mention the little bit about facts and embellishments.  If you tell your story, more than likely, the facts will be straight and clear.

We can each think of a person that we can look back on and wish we had asked more questions or simply listened more when they spoke. I think to a time when my great grandmother visited from Texas. She was very old and cranky. I was young too (dang it) but I was old enough that I could have listened more. I always wondered if she was really as ornery as everyone depicted her to be. If so, was it because of her family, where she lived, her personality, her circumstances, her unhappiness, or simply that was a character trait she was born with. I won't ever know because I didn't ask the questions to learn more about her story.

Not all stories are happy or have happy endings. It is understandable why some would not be okay sharing or revealing too much of themselves about an unfortunate time in their personal lives. I think of my own situation and I agree with my comment. There are definitely scenes that I would not reveal to just anyone, but I have shared a lot with a few. Those times that I have revealed a hardship, personal challenge, mixed feelings, or mistakes, have been moments of bonding and a coming together in the form of a deeper relationship. These personal stories are yours to express when you are ready to do so, if ever at all.

My point in writing this piece is not to push anyone into telling stories to trigger negativity in your life, but, to challenge you to listen to the stories around you. Think of your story and then look for the story in others.  Hear what they have to say. This Sifting Through Life is more to encourage us as humans to reach out, ask for the stories, and listen to the tales.

One thing I am learning in school is that people like to talk, they like to hear their own voices, and they like to share parts of themselves. For some, it's not as easy, it may take more time and that is okay. Place your sincere interest in the person you are listening to and you will discover volumes of tales.  Not all of them will be worthy of awards or movie scripts and I don't think this is the point. The point is to create a connection, open up your senses to new ideas and thoughts, to find common ground, to explore differences, and to share.

Our stories allow us to share a part of ourselves that pictures don't tell, that our posterity down the road will forget or they don't know. The holidays are here. This is a great time to share and listen to stories told by friends and family. With this new awareness of connection through storytelling, notice how you might be listening better or even telling your story with more zeal and zest.

Go find a story. Listen. Then, when they ask, tell them your story.

Art, Technology, and Disability

It has been forever, it feels to me since I have written on my blog. I took a break to focus on family and school. Here I am, three yea...