watercolor painting of lifeboat by emily weil

daily painting | lifeboat

My goodness I’ve never written and rewritten and thrown out and edited my blog as many times as I have for this post. Took two days. How much to share? Will it offend? Should I just shut up, already? Beats me, so here goes, with apologies for its length.

I recently learned new details of my sister’s death, as she took the legal Death with Dignity cocktail to end her life; too much pain from cancer that was killing her. I was fortunate to have stayed with her in her final weeks in Seattle last Fall, and she and her husband were generous and very hospitable. She was never bedridden, and lived large until she died. When I flew home that Friday night in November I had understood that she wasn’t quite ready to call it quits and would try to make it to Thanksgiving, the following week. Or maybe even early Dec. I was unprepared for the call I got two days after I came home that she had died; I had no idea she’d taken the cocktail the morning after I left. It took 17+ hours to do its work.

What I found out in the last couple of days was that she had planned all along to leave the planet that weekend. She chose not to tell me. Was this her choice? Absolutely. She had every right. But, jeez.

My head was spinning as I tried to take this in. It felt like a gut-punch. But my sister was mostly unknowable and a closed book. Emotions were not expressed; she had no tolerance for them or any kind of vulnerability. She was in charge, always. Someone much smarter than me helped me figure out that the likely reason she didn’t tell me her final exit plan was to avoid an emotional conversation — I have no trouble expressing feelings and it made her very squirmy. So I believe she made sure that interaction didn’t happen.

As I have shared before, Kay and I were violently abused by our raging dad. He just didn’t like kids or kid noises. My view is that Kay’s way of coping and surviving our shared childhood trauma was to shut down emotionally. For life. It just hurt too much to embrace those feelings, so she bottled them up. Seeing her in this light, as I continue to grapple with my sister’s life and death, helps me see what happened and what was true. I detest lies and denial and plastic masks that look pretty and conceal the rot underneath (Trump’s administration was lots of fun that way). Probably because of family denial and my mother’s smiling insistence that our family was just lovely and weren’t we so lucky to have a dad that brought home a paycheck, I have been a determined (and probably demented) truth-seeker most of my life. I want to know what’s under that damn rock and please get me a flashlight. Nancy Drew was a detective and figured shit out. I wanted to as well (loved those books as a kid).

So, a lifeboat? Yes. I think my lifeboat after I survived childhood was faith. Can’t define it really; it’s my own design. But a spiritual practice sustains me and I think it has my whole life, though it has taken on various homemade flavors. I have worked hard to heal, and I aspire to keep my heart open as it makes life bright and satisfying, even though it means pain is included in that package. I’ll take it, though. I don’t want to miss anything. That’s me, poking around out there with my Eveready®, being annoying.


7″ x 10″ watercolor, pen, acrylic ink on paper = $90




daily painting | contained

A favorite place for me to visit is the nearby Alameda/Oakland estuary where these huge ships deliver and pick up containers filled with all kinds of goodies. I love watching the shipping cranes in action, seeing the tugs escort the hulking beasts to moor under the praying-mantis-like contraptions, admiring the lovely San Francisco skyline and bridges in the background. The other day I snapped a few photos of this scene as I loved the bright red hull of this hard-working, ocean-crossing vessel.

Ok folks a bit of therapy-speak coming up so feel free to check out now. Here goes. Some of my most profound healing moments occurred in a group therapy setting, facilitated by our skilled and beloved counselor Peter Frechette, several decades ago. One exercise we did was to create a “container” — a safe way to express deep emotion, grief, sadness. This amazing environment, where trust had developed between group members, was difficult, challenging, healing, life-changing. For example, a person I might choose with whom I felt comfortable would hold me in a protective, gentle way so I could emote and let old childhood feelings out. For me to feel so secure was earth-shaking and phenomenal. Thus, the title! For this painting is of a container ship, and I hope you think I’m SOOO clever! (I’m not, but still.) These days grief often overtakes me, and while I do not have the safety of that group of peers to hold me while I weep, I know how to create a protected setting, which is often the overstuffed chair in my studio. Where I can sob away. Which brings profound healing and mending of my heart. I was immersed in the creative process of this painting today, pastel chalk dust flying. Loved every minute of it and danced away while drawing and painting (Sam Cooke is a favorite). Yesterday, though, I sank into my spattered chair in my studio and cried and wept and was immersed in profound sorrow and loneliness. Relinquishing control of those strong emotions is the only way to heal. You have to let them wash over you. And you get to the other side. Contained, sheltered, better.

20″ x 30″ watercolor, sticks and ink, chalk pastel, pencil on paper = $775