Vitamin P

While I did finally learn how to navigate my wheelchair over the threshold into the bathroom, at night it’s felt like far too much effort to leave my bed even when the urge is strong. I’d have to struggle out from under the comforters, scooching down the bed (no weight on my right foot), lower myself onto the wheelchair, wheel through the narrow doorway between bedroom and living room, and then, making a tight turn to skirt the imperiled china cabinet, execute the perfect “lean-back” technique to scale that challenging sill into the bathroom—all for a simple pee. Far easier to keep a chamber pot on a bedside table and a towel spread out at the end of the bed. In the middle of the night, if

Combat Paper

Interview in Two Voices, Drew Cameron and Drew Matott Breaking Rank by Drew Matott, 2007 Pulp printing on Combat Paper 29 x 51 Combat Paper Workshop, UC Berkeley September 2011 On a Veterans Day writing and meditation retreat six years ago, I first encountered the Combat Paper Project, a collaboration among veterans, papermakers, artists and peace activists. Reading aloud from a hand-crafted book of poems by Iraq veterans, writer Maxine Hong Kingston told us, “These poems are printed on paper made out of uniforms worn in combat by the poets.” The fine hair on my arms stood on end. I later interviewed the founders of Combat Paper, Drew Cameron and Drew Matott. In honor of Vetera

Sun on Skin

Over the stairs ascending from our living room to the attic hangs a dark painting of a young woman seated alone, trapped in a geometric matrix of depressive color—trapezoids, rectangles and fans in olives, greys and teal blues, crimson and burnt orange. This is a cast-off painting, done in art school by my dear childhood friend Bunny Harvey, now a world-renowned artist whose work is known for its luminosity. But this throwaway matched my own mood at twenty when I shared Bunny’s Providence, Rhode Island flat with her and her boyfriend. I asked if I could keep the painting and she gave it to me. ​ ​Cast off girlhood painting by Bunny Harvey; snap of painting taken b

Over the Threshold

Painting by my 93 year old mother, Nancy Spriggs [], hung over my and Patrick's bed Exhausted by intense wheelchair exertions, I found myself one morning particularly drained. Without much hope, but also without rancor, I decided to take on the transition into the bathroom. Why not? A few times, I had been able, for no reason I could figure out, to surmount the barrier. So, slowly, I approached, and with a deliberate firmness, worked the wheels; I leaned back in the chair, and, o miracle, the chair slid over the sill. Later that morning, I tried it again. I’d replicate that last success. Again, I took slow care in working the wheels. I leaned forward

At War with the Way Things Are

Mask from Bali, on our kitchen wall; a gift from our daughter Caitlin Monday morning, alone in the house. With Patrick and Caitlin off to work, could I manage? Hadn’t heard back from the medical office over the weekend. Where was that physical therapist to teach me to navigate this damn wheelchair? Battling. With each foray in the wheelchair, I kept banging into whatever obstructed my path. Transitions were the worst. A clumsy gyration landed me in the armchair, the couch or the bed. Once, unaccountably, when I spun towards the threshold, the wheelchair heaved over into the bathroom. But how to make it do that again? Last resort, disobey the podiatrist’s orders, and once again

Bashing into Life: Using My Wheelchair as a Tank

After the medical transport team carried me up our back stairs and deposited me in my favorite armchair, I battled to get around the house on my hands and knees. The doctor had ordered, “Don’t take off the boots, (no not even at night). No baths. No more crawling. Crawling could be dangerous!" But at 5 pm Friday, it was already too late for anyone to buy or rent a wheelchair. My friend MK [] who had kindly accompanied me to that first doctor’s visit, had to go and my husband Patrick wasn’t home yet. So what could I do but lower myself to the floor and—dragging my “booted” feet behind me—crawl? In awkward bursts of effort, I manag

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