Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Eight of Cups

I go through phases where I will draw a Tarot card each morning. The way I view Tarot is much like many of my other interests, a tool for introspection and growth. Today I drew a card while thinking about the major life and career changes going on as I prepare to leave behind this Caribbean island that has been my home for more than three years and the veterinary profession that has been my life for over twenty years. When I looked at the Eight of Cups in my hand I had to smile.

(c) Stephanie Law - my favorite Tarot deck
The Eight of Cups is a card of change and transition. The card evokes an immediate reaction of sadness and a sense of solitude. The subject in this card has turned their back on all they have accumulated or accomplished before. 

I haven't blogged about The Art in a very long time but as many who know me on Facebook or IRL are aware, we are repatriating back to Canada and I am officially starting my career transition from veterinarian to full-time artist.

I think it will be more useful to write about the process of transition after I've done some of it - until then I would simply be speculating. As you can imagine, I am filled with a mixture of excitement and trepidation as I take this very big step. My decisions and process are well thought out and have been planned over a LONG period of time, but that doesn't mean the actual realization of my goal is any less daunting.

I've also been shying away from promoting my art on social media and struggling internally to have compassion for myself about that. My knee-jerk internal reaction is still, as always, to push the Artist in me harder and get 'real results' sooner. Luckily I have spent the last several years learning to differentiate the helpful internal voices from the unhelpful ones and acknowledge the latter without mindlessly obeying them. My Artist has developed a voice, and I can hear her... she speaks softly, and only when she has something very important to say, and often in feelings more than words - but what she communicates is tremendously valuable.

"If you want this to work - to really work this time and not become a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure, then you need to be patient. You need to rest. You need to fill your creative bank account (thank you Jake Parker). You need to create some space and let the Art return. You need to come back to your centre and rest in a place of peace. Then, and only then, will you achieve what you know can be achieved. If you make this transition from a place of love and faith you will be successful. If you force it to fit a timetable and process imposed by the part of your brain that doesn't understand art it will be more difficult and take longer to get where you are trying to go."

I have devoted more than half of my life to veterinary medicine. I have given it everything I had (and at times more than what I actually had to give). I have had triumphs and failures. I've laughed and cried. I've had times when I've patted myself on the back and times when I've drank myself to sleep. My greatest successes and failures dance readily in my mind.

Now it is time to give my art full, undivided attention and love.

Last Friday was my 'official' last day teaching veterinary medicine. I use the quotes because I still have intermittent teaching to do as a locum (and will happily continue with that until my work here has all been handed over to my very amazing colleagues - a process that is already well underway).

Elkhorn Coral from a reference photo by my amazing friend Michelle Dennis!
I don't think the strangeness of it has really hit me yet. I've tried to 'be an artist' a few times in the past, and I've always come running back to veterinary medicine before too long. This time is different, for reasons I may expand on someday but right now are mostly locked in the nonverbal, deep parts of me. And this time I want to leave them there for awhile. I feel that if I try to capture them in words right now I will change them, force them to fit the limited forms of language, and they are too new and fresh - I just barely have a fingerhold on them. Once I am comfortable that I understand it all better then maybe I will try to speak it. Or maybe I will paint it. Who knows?

And the 'sadness and solitude' of the Eight of Cups... well, I am also not very good at dealing with BIG things, like moving away from the best group of friends and colleagues I think I've ever had. I might not actually deal with ~that~ until after the move is done and reality truly starts to set in.

For now I will distract myself with 'Getting Stuff Done'. I am posting this simply to share some of what is going on here at Cat-in-a-Box, wake up this blog in preparation for more regular posting in the future, and most of all - take a step to shake me out of my insecurity-induced paralysis about my career transition that I've been stuck in recently.  Cat-in-a-Box ain't going to relaunch itself!

Now it's time to do some ART!

~ Pam

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Goodbye Ginger

It was over two decades ago during my first year of vet school that I lost my childhood cat, Blackie, and found myself going with a mentor to select two new cats to adopt from the colony that lived at his farm. It was with a heavy and reluctant heart I looked over the crowd, drawn by their dinner of cat food spread in a wide dish in the center of the barn floor. I didn't want another cat, I was still grieving the loss of Blackie, but we lived in an old country house and mice were a very real issue out there.
These are not the droids you are looking for.
From the many cats of varying ages, colours and sizes one that I picked was a small orange-and-white female who we named Ginger. I chose her because she was one of the last cats still eating at the communal food bowl after everyone else had dispersed, I figured a good appetite and persistence meant she was probably robust and healthy. I was right. Today, at just shy of 23 years of age, we said goodbye to Ginger. 
In those first years in Prince Edward Island she learned to hunt, and what a hunter she was! While we lived in the old house she kept the mouse population in check. When we later moved to Saskatchewan her hunting options were greatly reduced but that was fine by her, she was just as happy to sit in the sun. 
However, once in a while she would catch something, but instead of making a gift to us of a dead mouse or bird she would give it to Michael (the lovely but dumb-as-a-post three-legged cat). He would toss his 'prey' in the air proud as punch as she sat somewhere nearby grooming her paws and watching him smugly.
Vomit on me one more time Michael...

On one of our numerous cross-country (and inter-country) moves she even sat with Michael in the back of the car. At least until his motion sickness got the better of him and he vomited on her head., at which point Michael was banished and it was several days before he made it back into Ginger's good graces again. 

Ginger was an old soul. Never really excitable, she loved to get affection, she loved to sit in the sun and contemplate life, she loved to take a little walk about the yard and nibble some grass and most of all she loved her food....

She was heathy most of her life, except for a mild rhinitis that flared up from time to time. She developed thyroid issues in the past few years and, as is common for old cats, some mild kidney issues. Over the past months though her health had started to deteriorate with a few low points followed by a rally when we made changes to her treatment.
We've said goodbye to many (many) pets over the years and one thing we've observed is that if you are paying attention they usually will tell you when it's time. She had significantly declined in the past week and this morning she just looked spent and was having trouble walking. True to her nature she still ate a bit for us when we brought her a fresh can of Friskies, but you could see in her eyes how tired she was. We knew that today it was time. 
We sat in the warm Caribbean sun on our back patio. She had some food and water and then just slept while I stroked her. Placing the catheter barely bothered her. When we had said our goodbyes and started to inject the barbiturate she sighed once and left us.
It's strange. 
We are sad, of course. It is the sorrow of loss. It is the empty space she has left in our household. 
But at the same time it's hard to feel too sad when we think about her life. She was happy and healthy for close to twenty-three years. She has lived in many places; from the east coast of Canada to the broad prairies, from the suburbs of Chicago to a remote town six thousand feet up in the Colorado mountains, from the freezing cold of Saskatchewan to the tropical heat of St. Kitts. She was an elegant old lady and lived a long and full life. 
So we are sad, but at the same time we are happy for a good life, well lived. 
Tonight we raise a glass to Ginger!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Saturday in the Studio

I'm in the studio this afternoon - it's a quiet, peaceful day today. This weekend is a long weekend here in celebration of St. Kitts' Independence and I expected downtown Basseterre to be crazy busy but instead it's actually surprisingly empty.

Flamboyant (St. Kitts' national tree) in Independence Square from the studio window.
The weather today is relatively cool (for this time of year), it is grey and overcast. We've had a fair bit of rain so the air, normally very muggy, is even more soft and thick and fragrant. I forget during the drier seasons just how lovely this place smells when the plants are fresh and the flowers in bloom. It's just one of those days I love! I even have a couple of companions on the roof outside my studio window....

Two pigeons keeping me company today
And in spite of this post I actually ~AM~ getting work done! I am trying to capture the progress on one of my current pieces 'Lickfoot' to make a timelapse video like I did once before with my lion scratchboard (HERE). I think I have found a camera setup that might work! My setup isn't the most technically advanced (yes, the camera is clinging to a piece of wood taped to an easel XD) but it seems to be getting the job done - no promises, but I'm hopeful!

First stage of a scratchboard - the sketch!
Now back to work!

~ Pam

Saturday, May 14, 2016


Because I found this...

I made this....