What I am really thinking… Lewy Body Disease

mom opens the door to gnomes

I know you are (each) looking at me as a blogger to say Pithy and interesting things, but let me tell you how I am really thinking tonight!  If this is offensive or strange to you, to hear real deep thoughts, you may skip this post.

I have been putting my mom’s illness in vague terms to save her reputation. The truth is, she has Lewy Bodies disease and there is little reputation, to save any more. The cat’s out of the bag…. doesn’t anyone feel sad or regretful ?

There’s more than ONE WAY to answer  any question. You are not stuck in thinking one way. My mom’s illness of senility means we come up with many  new ways to converse. Like we do miming and gestures, we think of things that make sense in her new mind, we find ways….

She is nearly 80, so can you all give her a break and stop thinking of her as the great one that founded the Childen’s Village, received a Smithsonian Reward from the President, and even founded a Nicaraguan Day Care Center? Can you understand she’s getting old,  AND JUST LOVE HER FOR WHO SHE IS? She is losing her mind TOO FAST.  It’s TRAGIC. The disease is very aggressive. She is very afraid, all the time… plus she had scabies last year ! She itched for a year, she was driven crazy by REAL BUGS biting her, harassing her, not letting her sleep!!  She nearly died…

The only thing I can do sometimes is to love her and say, I understand. I don’t judge and I’ll be with you when you fight your enemies. I don’t even have a cure. I just have me. As my little brother said “Mom wants to go to war tonight, so we’re going to war and I’ll be there…”

The daughter you love and recognize, the daughter that makes you feel loved, a child that makes you feel important and can check you out of the locked facility for nice dinners  …. that’s me and that’s what I can do …

Parroting and UNDERSTANDING PEOPLE validates THEM.   EVEN IF THEY’RE SENILE, and even when they’re irrational and make no sense, really, it shows you love them, to say you understand them!

I need my MOM. Putting  my deepest thoughts into the ear of a senile person (Mom now) liberates me to talk deeply.  I just need love and attention so I tell my mom my deepest thoughts sometimes, and even though she’s senile she “snaps to” and she understands and loves me and says intelligent things back when I open up to her! She says she wants to protect me, she even comes into her normal motherly self, when I talk to her about real things. She says she’s here to fight my battles with me. It’s so sweet of her…

If this helps even one person today, I have done my job.

A Viking Dream

We found out this year through the Ancestry DNA test that we have 10 to 15 percent Scandinavian blood in my paternal family; meaning I descend in part from Old Norsemen and Vikings! Ever since, I have been thinking of the Vikings and seeing a strange Newfoundland beach in my dreams, and drawing my own Viking ship….



So this season I have been researching Vikings in Newfoundland and Viking art and culture.

I feel like I have found my way home, and sense that ‘my people’ have been misunderstood for at least 1000 years! I mean I know some of the Vikings were raiders and plunderers, but we weren’t always  bad asses, all the time. The good ones left behind amazing works of art, carved boats and stones, and churches; I sense in their art a love for nature and golden circles.

In fact, I found a website that lists English words that derived from Viking words, and it starts by saying:

“How many loanwords from Old Nose are there in the standard English language? Viking origin of the words ‘ransack’ and ‘slaughter’ probably would not surprise anyone, but very “peaceful” words like ‘leg’, ‘sky’ or ‘window’ are also of Scandinavian provenance.” – Viking Words in English

Reading these ancient words,  I felt some wheels turning in my mind; My mind that can half understand the words and can be shaken whenever I hear them. And I remember walking into a Stave Church in Norway, once….

Stave church of Heddal, Norway, painting of the Heddal stave church by Johannes Flintoe (1828)

The Stave church of Heddal, Norway: painting by Johannes Flintoe (1828)

In fact, it turns out then whenever I say words like birth, die, sky or window, I am using the words of my ancestors! Hail hail, to my set of peaceful Norsemen, the type that went to the stave church  …. hail, hail!

Here are some other Old Norse words, and my instant reactions and feelings about them:

anger – (ON angr ‘grief’) [1220-1250]

I also find it very  interesting that the word angry is related to the word grief.  As an artist and sensitive person, I can carry a lot of grief.  It is better to express the grief in my art and poetry, than to get angrier.

I am not an angry type of person, despite what some people may experience my heart is full of peace …. even as I shout and scream for respect at times. And in my dreams, my own Viking people are NOT the violent raiders or the plunderers, but my people are the explorers and artisans who became the settlers and who just loved the world. I just don’t have angry dreams…

die – (ON deyja) [1016-1150]

Wow, deyja is about as deep and heart rendering, as you can go; to learn the word comes from a Viking Old Norse is… just awesome.

fellow – (ON félagi) [before 1016]

Now this is interesting, because I love the words fellow and fellowship; and the word felagi sounds even more fun: Hey felagi, lets sail across the ocean today and see Vindland….

sky – (ON skie ‘cloud’) [1220-1250]

I like to hear that this word comes from the Viking word for cloud; as the Vikings sailed the seas they were always surrounded by the sky and clouds, attune with the elements,  more aware of the sky as a misty cloud than as a clear day, and probably also more aware of the aurora and the stars, than the land-locked folks.

trust – (ON traust) [c.1250]

I love these concepts, good for you Vikings, you learn when to trust, you learn when not to. You are who you are. You form trust and you lose trust.

window – (ON vindauga ‘wind eye’) [1220-1250]

I think this concept of windows, has been in my dreams, my entire life. I draw and I paint windows.  I look out of windows and dream about them; I see the world in the window of my eye.  I love to look out.  I love the wind.

See also, these linked articles about Viking art:

It’s Small, But It’s Mine

Here are some more of my poem fragments that I had scribbled in a notebook this year, and recently turned up again.

It’s small.
It’s old.
It’s crazy.
But it’s Mine.

My mom is sick
Must I see this
with all these eyes?
Can’t I love her
for who she is
and not listen to anyone
but her love and wisdom?

When someone is losing their mind,
You have but the Love
and life and light
of your love.
You don’t have reason. Just love.

votive in a scallop shell with flame

An Artist’s Action Items … Rebuilding

The Artist’s Action Items after a WILD fire:

Thank God that
Makers Make and
Makers do not rest…
Beginning with Mother Nature
Who kindly brings
naught but fresh rain and green grass.


After: The site of the once astonishing Red Round Barn. In remembrance. Photo by Irene Rowley, December 2017.

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Sonoma Fires Part 2: Trees on Fire!

The Santa Rosa fires were of epic proportion. Here is a current page from my creative journal. I titled this drawing, My Memory of Trees on Fire!


It is a sketch of trees that I see along the 101 Freeway after the fire. You can see the handprint of the edge of the fire, where a green tree ends and black trees start. continue reading