I didn’t feel like doing much art over the winter, but I very slowly picked away at a new and challenging pastel, doing just a few lines and shades on each infrequent trip to my studio and then letting myself get distracted by other things. Then around the end of February I started to pull it all together. I worked on it intensely for several days and on the last day of the month I added what I thought might be the last touches, but didn’t I blend them in and left a few highlights and edges unresolved. When I feel like I’m done with a piece I like to sleep on it for a night and I was thinking it would be nice to finish it on the first day of a new month, to hopefully kick off a more productive Spring. March 1st was a Sunday like any other, full of chores and errands and a nice long, challenging bike ride. Before I left to go grocerying I told Greg that as soon as I got home I was going straight out to my studio to finish that pastel.
I wouldn’t make it home for 23 days.
I don’t remember the accident itself, I only remember the moments leading up to it and watching all the cars in front of me losing control in the rain and a strange feeling of calm as though I knew everything would be ok. Everything is ok inasmuch as I’m alive, but rather than spending the Spring on an artistic bender, I’ve spent it enduring the wonders and horrors of modern medicine, in various ICU’s, operating rooms, doctor’s offices, and labs. When I finally came home on March 23rd, I was beaten up, weak, in constant and intense mind-numbing pain, and confined to hopping around on one leg with a walker. My studio felt like the moon, and recovery felt like a distant and foreign idea. I remember on one of my first days at home Greg forgot to let studiocat out before he went to work, and he and I just looked at each other all day across the deck, through the windows of our respective jails.
Bones are simple things. By six weeks they’ve calloused over and they want movement. My orthopedist let me start walking at 5 and a half post-op, and after that point my physical recovery has been much faster. Walking, getting out to my studio, and sitting upright are less of a problem now. But a fracture to my temporal bone caused damage to my 7th facial nerve, which means the left side of my face is paralyzed, which means my left eye doesn’t close on its own, which means I have to keep it all lubed up with an ointment that makes it cloudy but will ironically preserve my vision in the long run. Nerve damage is not simple like bones, and if a doctor tells you you’re going to be “just fine” you should probably find another doctor. Statistically, medically, there is no way for anyone to know for sure whether I will recover, or recover fully. If I do recover, it will likely take 6 months to a year. But I already see little signs of muscle movement and recovery, which gives me hope that I will be one of the lucky ones, and I know I’ll be forever appreciative of the littlest things like being able to drink out of a regular cup without a straw. In the meantime, my vision is shot. I have the choice of a left eye that’s blurry or taped shut, and both options make everything difficult, especially art.
A few days ago I wobbled out to my studio and scraped all the old paint off my palette and went to work on an old, unresolved landscape to test the waters. The kind of expressionist painting I’m after doesn’t require good eyesight, in fact the opposite is sometimes a benefit. But my pastels are another story, so I started a new piece to find out if I can see well enough for the level of detail I like. So far so good, so I went back to that original pastel and I went over the notes I made on that last night, to remind myself what my finishing touches were going to be, and I looked at the photos I took of the work in progress in the last few days of February, and I studied it and considered it and worried over it.
And then I finished it.