Expecting To Fly-11 / by Lorraine García-Nakata

Yikes! Spider bite month!

In early April, I was bitten by a spider. It was the same night of a happy occasion, the celebration of my son’s 21st birthday. I’ve been bitten by many things in my life: bugs, dogs, cats, horses, very young humans, and certainly other spiders, but never a spider bite like this. In this way, the life of an artist, one like myself that “navigates between disciplines,” is the same as that of other humans. We've all had experiences that have abruptly altered our plans and then we've had to deal with it.

In my case, I was bitten by a seemingly benign spider of gracefully simple design, like that of an XKE Jaguar of the early 60’s, the car acquired as part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. I remember studying the small but perfect oval of the spider’s little body. As an artist you appreciate shapes. He was brown with legs long in proportion to the torso. His entire circumference, including legs, was the size of a penny. At least this was what was going through my head as I walked to the bathroom to gather some toilet tissue to pad my hand as I picked him up and also to ease the pressure on the little guy as I placed him safely out the door. I’ve been doing this for years. Since the back doors were swollen from the rain, my left hand had to work hard to pull it open causing my right hand to release slightly allowing my little friend to wiggle free and crawl up and over my right thumb.

I noticed absolutely nothing at that time. It wasn’t until late that evening, after guests left the party, I’d cleaned the kitchen, mopped floors, said good night to my brother Carlos and his friend Kathleen who stayed over, that I decided to play my new guitar. I do that to settle down. I’m a picker, so my right hand was very busy as I played my own songs and those written by others. Working up the blood flow in my hand, I noticed that my thumb really hurt as I finished, but didn’t give it much thought. Then the night came and with it a pain that filled my hand with heat causing my thumb to expand to the volume of an internal organ. I didn’t sleep much. The next day the swelling and pain migrated to the rest of my hand. It was then I browsed the Internet viewing hundreds of spiders finally locating this nicely and humbly designed one. It was a brown recluse.

While the experience was and continues to be intense, and yes I did see a doctor, I was spared the part that disintegrates your skin cells. So, the bad news came with good news. Life is like that. The result, however, meant that the “waters” I’d been navigating as an artist between writing, drawing, and music had to temporarily pause. Not being able to have these creative outlets left me a bit lost.

It was especially hard not being able to write, but obviously my hand is now better. The thing about pain is that you don’t sleep much, so the day blends into night, early early morning, early morning, afternoon, and then it starts all over again. My twenty-four hour periods became an infinity loop. Sleep interruption and random extreme pain has other side effects. For example, I began to leave the house very little, didn’t engage many people other than events I either planned or that had a clear beginning and end. Food was not interesting and creative ideas could not be realized because my stamina was that of a nursing home patient. It was as if I was imploding into a little black hole of brown recluse migrating symptoms. I won’t go into what it does to your thought process, but it further fogged my faith in human development as a species. In other words, I was bummed.

What has prompted me write to you this particular morning is the inspiration derived from viewing a foreign film entitled Sidewalls and directed by Gustavo Taretto. Young urban protagonists Mariana and Martin are terrific and played buy actors Javier Drolas and Pilar López de Ayala. The screen writing is particularly genius in its descriptions, insight, detail, gait, voice, use of metaphor, and relevance to our contemporary lives. It mirrored so much of what I’d been experiencing as a borderline recluse. I enjoyed witnessing the various steps the protagonists took to resolve their sense of isolation. The movie Sidewalls is wise, humorous, witty, believable, and most importantly, made me laugh which made me elastic again. I’m elastic again!

I can guarantee that you’ll love the film. If you’ve felt knocked off your center or feeling alone when you are right next to other people, it will give you a shot in the arm and faith in the larger scheme of things. Yes, I’d been bitten by a brown recluse and had to deal with the pain and funky mess it made in my head, but this movie kicked me out of a thick fog. Check it out. It will grow in the open wedges of your senses and take sprout. It’s on Netflix. You’ll be left smiling and inspired.

In writing this I’ve also just realized something. In helping the spider outside instead of squishing it, I suffered for nearly a month. That was a puzzle to me. You see I have a belief system grounded in Indigenous knowledge that does not place humans in a hierarchy above other living beings, including spiders. This belief system also accepts that these other beings may have a message for you, and when obvious as this painful month-long spider experience, the significance of that message is elevated and not to be ignored. It took me a whole month to receive a simple but important message from this potent little messenger. He basically shared that when I go to help people, or little beings, I must make sure I protect myself a bit more from a “bite” that frightened folks can make as I help them with challenging transitions. Given my former and recent experiences with other humans, whether family or work, this nudge from my little spider friend was particularly relevant. Understanding this also allowed me to avoid developing a of fear spiders and to use more protective tissue padding when assisting them out of harms way. Even though my hand still feels some pain, I smiled once I figured this out.

Tonight I played the guitar after a long-month pause. Tomorrow I hope to hang some paper to begin another drawing. Below is the recent portrait I completed of my son Kanichi. It was a gift for his twenty-first birthday and finished the day before my spider visit. It will feel good to be up on the ladder again and working a new one.

Portrait of my son Kanichi (approx. 5 feet x 4.5 feet)

Message and inspiration were the quirky gifts in April. We'll see what May brings.

My best to you and don’t forget to check out the movie Sidewalls.

blog: lorrainegarcianakata.blogspot.com
web site: http://lorrainegn.com/

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