watercolor and ink painting of peruvian lilies

daily painting | peruvian lilies

Over the last weeks I’ve gotten my paints out to poke around at being an artist pretty regularly, but without uploadable results. Today after a blast of a morning playing at my new passion, paddling in a dragon boat in the alameda estuary, I came home to draw and paint, doing my best to be heedless of results. Good thing, too — I photographed some lovely sunflowers in Seattle two weeks ago as I wandered through my sister’s old neighborhood (we scattered her ashes in her favorite park), wanting SO badly to produce a good sunflower watercolor. Nope (they were OK, just not up to par). So I decided to do a wet, sloppy painting of these lovely purple Peruvian lilies from Trader Joe’s. 

It’s an excellent October afternoon — a few breezes (not as bad as forecast), slightly overcast skies, comfortable temps, smoke-free air. Enough sun to dry the paints when I prop the painting in the window.

And again I lean hard into the things that keep me right-side up. As my brother fades from brain cancer (fatigue, wobbliness but thankfully no headaches or seizures; he’s mostly still lucid) I find myself feeling skinless and vulnerable and out-to-sea most of the time. I’m learning to accept this state of my mind and heart. It’s exceedingly painful and uncomfortable but I certainly have no control over my desperate, excruciating emotions (and a pox on those who blow “toxic positivity” in my direction — do look that one up). And so be it, dammit. I’m here. I’m showing up. I’m trying really hard not to be an asshole (with splotches of success). Getting outdoors in nature (Tomales Bay was a treat last week) and getting out my watercolors and bending the ears of my compassionate pals are my mainstays. I don’t know where I am on any map. Can’t tell where I’m going; I am without a horizon. But as I write this my guinea pig Buster Posey is foraging in his cage for small-animal hay and making cute noises, I’m roasting some veggies in the oven (the thyme smells deliciously fragrant), the view outside my window of the marina is beautiful and calming, and I wave to my neighbors walking by on the docks. Life is awful. Life is hard. Life is wonderful. Life is amazing. 

10″ x 10″ ink, watercolor on paper = $130

 

 

 

water-soluble graphite painting of sweetgum tree by emily weil

daily painting | sweetgum tree

On the lovely Aldersly grounds in San Rafael, the skilled nursing facility where my brother now resides, there is a large, lovely shade tree on a lawn near a bench where Jim likes to rest after he does a few laps on the pathways in his walker to stretch his daddylonglegs (he’s 6’5”). Yesterday I rode my bike down to an Alameda nursery to ask for help in IDing the tree; with their help my best guess is American Sweetgum (Jim and I are curious).

Jim (or James or Jamey depending on my mood) thinks it would be nice to die under that tree. I agree. We have lots of deep talks about his ending as the galloping brain cancer takes over, and he may decide to use the MAID (“Medical Aid In Dying”) drugs to end things sooner rather than later so he can fulfill his desire to die outside. Lots of ongoing discussions on that topic. 

Yesterday was a rest day. I was knackered; a recent talk with bro was emotional and intense as we hashed out my concerns he is married to someone who emotionally batters him (there have been many conversations along those lines in recent years). I’ve long been concerned for him, as have been his closest friends who adore him. But the bashing has been so effective he adapts rather than confronts. I am nervous about explicitly writing about this family drama, but the model of abused/abuser is classic — denial, obfuscation, excuses — and I believe in being open about these painful topics as it’s something we don’t talk about. And we need to talk about it. I’d worry a bit if I was alone in my view, but his considerable group of supporters all share the same opinion.  

And I am powerless. Except to support and love him as he gets ready to leave this world and I am glad for him. No more brain cancer, no more Parkinson’s, no more spousal assaults. He’ll be done. The thought of being left behind makes me double over with stabbing stomach pains. But here I am. Armed with my pink pepto-bismol. I’ll be OK. 

10″ x 10″ ink, artgraf graphite, ink, watercolor on paper = $130

 

 

 

watercolor, ink and acrylic painting of pink flowers by emily weil

daily painting | albany front yard

I took out my phone to photograph a delightful front yard I strolled past in residential Albany last week. Pink flowers, backlit in the morning sun, danced like delicate, tutu-adorned ballerinas. They were lovely. When I got out my paints yesterday, at first I painted from a photo of an enormous magnolia blossom blooming in the tree outside my brother’s skilled nursing facility but the results were flat and dull. So I roamed around my photos and found these cute little pinkies and did painting #2.

I had a whole day at home yesterday and could get my house back into shape a bit and make a nice meal (“lemony pasta”). While waiting for layers of watercolor to dry I did chores, and it felt good to tidy up the lily pad. I’ll head back to San Rafael for brother-time this afternoon, as I miss him on those days I stay home. Precious times, these are. My heart is broken but I am fully, energetically, juicily alive and paying attention as I make this nutty, sad journey. Most days I do not feel like getting out of bed. But I still have to get to the bathroom. And then, hell, I might as well make a cup of tea. After that, yes, there’s always stuff to do.

8″ x 8″ ink, watercolor, pastel on paper = $85

 

 

 

watercolor, ink painting of roses by emily weil

daily painting | roses

Tired, so tired. Friends at times remind me how taxing caregiving is, and how exhausting grieving is. Yes and amen; I’m there. And trying to cut myself some slack as I hear inner voices telling me I’m lazy or I should be more productive. Get back, mean critics who live in my head! Go and bully someone else (happy to share a few suggestions).

I have frequent conversations with myself. Sometimes I am gentle and follow my therapist’s direction to be as loving and compassionate with myself as I am with my dying, vulnerable brother. Sometimes I feel like an utter failure in life, wondering how I got here. Other times I think I am brave and sturdy, getting up every day and moving forward. 

My dear bro is considering end-of-life options, perhaps employing MAID — Medical Assistance in Dying. Either with this choice or letting the cancer take over his brain, he has an abbreviated future. And I support whatever he chooses. It is, after all, completely up to him. Some in the fam disapprove of this possibility and I hope he follows his own truth. He’s so steady — a decent and kind man. The staff in his skilled nursing facility are fond of him as he is not demanding or difficult. But his life is small and getting smaller, and though he is not in pain, it isn’t a happy existence. And he lets me frequently pester him to get up and take a walk outside or ask him to tell me anecdotes from his 79 years on the planet or discuss the dynamics in our family or explore death options. These moments are often sweet and intimate and I will hold them dearly in my heart for the rest of my years. I am deeply grateful. 

10″ x 10″ ink, watercolor, pastel on paper = $130

 

 

 

painting of magnolia seedpod by emily weil

daily painting | seed pod

At my brother’s previous home, Marin Terrace in Mill Valley, a real shithole of a nursing facility (I will be filing complaints), the one saving grace was that there was an outside patio with a huge magnolia tree that provided shade and a pleasant place to sit and chat and visit. After the flowers bloomed (the luscious beauties only lasted a day or two), these seedpods would be left behind and they were so beautifully designed — such a fascinating and sturdy structure. My bro would pick them up and play with them, and so would I — the stem had a kind of velvety feel to it.

So since my bro has now moved to a much nicer facility (Aldersly in San Rafael) I thought I’d draw/paint one of these pods which I’d saved. He needs some fresh artwork for his new room so I’ll bring him this one today.

Death and dying and grief are part of my world, daily. Sorrow joins me every day at the table and takes my hand and I accept those frequent visits. Yesterday I learned that my wonderful new friend Sandy lost her husband suddenly from a heart attack. No warning. Sandy purchased my childhood home in Mill Valley and has lived there for 50 years and through a few crazy-wonderful turns of events we have become connected (sometimes I even stay at the house, thanks to her generosity). Russ was a lovely, kind man. I did not know him well but was very fond of him, and he was very sweet to me. RIP dear Russ. Please look after Sandy. I will try to too.

7″ x 9″ ink, artgraf graphite on paper