Archives for posts with tag: metastatic breast cancer

Scorchy was her pen name. I was one of the many that knew her real name, which I will not share here because I don’t know why she adopted a pen name in the first place. What I do know is that Scorchy was brilliant. Scorchy had a HEART OF GOLD. Scorchy was hilarious. Scorchy was well-connected. Scorchy knew important peeps. She helped those prominent folks when they decided to donate to Columbia University’s library system, whesend re she formerly worked, under a different name, as an archivist. Scorchy not only had the wit to compare an MRI machine assessment as being whisked inside of a whirring, buzzing toilet paper tube, but Scorchy actually helped archive the work of the inventor of the MRI machine.

Who else would I send the following gifts: 1) a French butter crock that I’d made to add to her pottery collection and 2) a cover for her cell phone with a line drawing of a cat, flipping her off. Only Scorchy could combine a sometimes shocking irreverence with that HEART OF GOLD.

She was a one and only. Scorchy’s feminist writings can be found in FEMINIST HANDBOOKS!

Scorchy had not one but two brilliant blogs. In addition to the Sarcastic Boob, she had earlier gained feminist fame in her critique of John Gray’s pop “psychology” book, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. Visit the blog here. Laugh aloud at the brilliant title and equally brilliant feminist commentary.

Scorchy, I loved you and I’ll keep on loving your smart ass, people lovin’ spirit that will live forever.  How will we detect all of the bullshit without you, friend?

Like all potters, my hands leave marks when I make forms on the pottery wheel. These concentric circles are called, “throwing lines”. Some throwing lines are faint and others much more pronounced, determined by the amount of pressure that I apply, the speed at which I move my hands, and the firmness of the clay. If I apply too much pressure and move my hands too quickly, the throwing lines are so deep and spread out that the form adopts a corkscrew shape. In these cases, it is best to just wire off the clay, dry off the wheel head, and start over with a new lump of clay.

It is possible in the making and finishing of the piece to use tools to remove or minimize the throwing lines. This results in very smooth forms. Personally, I enjoy the look of throwing lines, the ones that show that I used my own hands on the piece but are subtle concentric circles. The circles remind me of the meditative state in which I often find myself looking down at the spinning forms between my hands, working to bring shape to it, bit by bit, with more patience than I typically have, the last being a requirement of a beginning potter. Even at art galleries, I can often see evidence on a hand thrown piece of the artist’s hands. It is part of the art. It leaves the imprint of the process and a reminder that beautiful things do not come into being without work or struggle.

Teva Harrison, an American who lives in Canada, published a memoir of her life so far, as a young woman with stage 4 breast cancer. Teva is an artist and writer. She is a graduate of the Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA, from which famed cartoonists and writers,  Matt Groening and Linda Barry are also graduates. The book, In-Between Days is a marriage of drawings and short expository writings organized thematically into chapters, Diagnosis, Treatment, Side Effects, Marriage, Family, Society, Hopes, Fears, and Dreams.

I had read a number of Teva’s comics as they were published, one by one, in the online publication, The Walrus. They were quite powerful then but I find that reading the book is a more powerful and complete experience. Teva is at times funny at other times raw with great emotional honesty, and at other times, hopeful. Her comics convey a great deal in a small space. Teva’s panel depicting she and her husband learning the news that they will not be able to have children evokes the quiet isolation and grief of infertility.

Teva’s book is making waves in Canada. She is the subject of news stories and interviews. As an acquaintance of hers in the online breast cancer community, I could not be more thrilled for her. There is ongoing controversy in the breast cancer community about whether it is better to be positive or negative about one’s breast cancer experience. Although Teva’s cancer is a horrible reality with which she must deal, the work of her own hands show clearly on the work that is her own life. In a television interview, last month, Teva shared her dreams for her legacy. “I hope that my legacy will be one of enduring kindness.”

Teva, thank you for sharing your beautiful life with us.

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George Lakoff

George Lakoff has retired as Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley. He is now Director of the Center for the Neural Mind & Society (cnms.berkeley.edu).

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