A Wild Soul Shares … my guest appearance

It’s been awhile since I wrote last. My mind is mush as we draw closer to our wedding celebration in Dripping Springs, TX. It’s actually 18 days away & today I made the ring bearer pillow out of two old sweaters (pictures to follow) & the cake toppers out of Sculpey clay (more pictures to follow).

There really is so much to share with you all, but it is finding the time that I’m finding difficult.

Nonetheless I did want to share this big news and send you all over to the site to read on and learn more about the retreat.

I was recently asked to not only speak at the Call of the Wild Soul art retreat in Somerset, UK this next September, but Erin asked me to write a little bit about my on her blog.

Click here : http://www.callofthewildsoul.com/2012/05/wild-soul-shares-from-katariina.html  or here 

I am tickled by the opportunity and can’t wait to for the retreat. It’s actually going to be quite spectacular with Flora Bowley, Teesha Moore, Madelyn Mulvaney & Orly Avineri. 

Come join me if you can, it will be so much fun, with tons of inspiration & new skills to be learned.

Big Love to all you Lovelies,

Katariina

ps. now for something random or perhaps I’ve got Hawaii on my mind!

a little random

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shaking things up . . .

ont the set

It feels like these first two plus weeks of the year have flown by in a magnificent way. Big things, big shifts are occurring, I miss my quiet, slow pace of last year, but I have been feeling the desire to add more umph to my experience. I’m feeling like perhaps I can take on a little more. Perhaps I can take a step into new ventures, nothing real big, but just a little bit out of my comfort zone. Of course, almost immediately after that thought I start getting calls to do interviews. I got a call to be interviewed for the Chronicle, then to sit on a panel after the showing of the movie, Lioness. Watch the trailer and the movie if you get a chance – its intense.

Then the moderator of that panel, Patricia Grass invited me to be on her local PBS talk show, and then Fox News just interviewed me for a “feel good” piece on my story of recovery and my time in WISER (the PTSD inpatient program for women at the VA Hospital here in Houston). All of the these interviews were about my experience in Iraq and my journey back to my whole self.

getting unplugged

being silly

me & Patricia Gras

I feel very honored to be able to share my story and have people listen. I believe stories can be so healing and that is what I’m finding in this process of sharing. I’ve trained myself to live in the moments, and take life day by day so I haven’t seen all the progress. But now as I’m stringing it all together through the questions from my interviewers I’m seeing all the progress I’ve made over the years. It has been therapeutic for me.

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” ~ Maya Angelou

I’ve also been getting nudges from deep within that perhaps this is the story I want to tell. There are plenty of stories about Iraq but I think what is more interesting is the journey I’ve been on over the past five years since returning home. It feels congruent to who I am today. I think I’ll start writing a book/memoir or something. Does anyone have any thoughts, ideas, connections to share – I’m open to receive.

I find it interesting that this subject would be the one I get so much attention from since it’s the one that still scares me the most. I still fear the scorn of my fellow Marines. I think I need to learn from the Alan Garner character in The Hangover when he says, “I tend to think of myself as a one-man wolf pack.” Besides Larry told me that he would be my “unit” from now on, so I wouldn’t feel so alone when I run. Maybe Larry & I have our own wolf pack now! I like that idea.

Big Love to all you,

Katariina

ubuntu . . .

A few years ago I was admitted into the VA Hospital for a month stay in a lock-down unit on the Mental Ward for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The years following my return from a year in Iraq with the Marine Corps were challenging to put it mildly. It turned out I wasn’t equipped to find my way back from the war zone with all of its death & destruction on my own. Although I was very aware & educated on the subject, I still lacked the skills to manuever around triggers & keep myself safe. I think the biggest problem was that I was in denial about my skills, abilities & the depth of how depression & PTSD were truly affecting my life.

in the in-between

I was spiralling down fast when I finally admitted to myself that spending some time away from my life focusing on unravelling the meanings I made of everything witnessed & experienced in Iraq would be empowering. I knew I had to do something.

The program was for women only & they called it WISER (an acronym for something clever about women). I expected the other participants to be combat vets from Iraq & Afghanistan, but as it turned out during this session they were from the Vietnam era  & were mostly Military Sexual Trauma victims. In addition, they were all southern women from various backgrounds that didn’t look anything like mine. They were kind but I felt like an odd duck for numerous reasons having to do with education level, income level, interests, time in service, rank, & color of skin. They all seemed to share a common southern language that was spoken quickly & softly using words in contexts I had never heard before. I found myself saying, “huh?” a lot, or just laughing & nodding at everything they said. Most of what they said was usually cracking a joke so laughing was a safe bet. These women loved to laugh, to eat & to smoke.

the little girl within is angry

I spent the first week trying to figure out how I had ended up in a cohort of women who were nothing like me. What was the lesson here? Then one day while reading Brian Nepo’s The Book of Awakening, I stumbled upon a page that I had folded, penciled, underlined, & starred with little side notes. It was entitled, Ubuntu. Suddenly I got it!! They were not different from me. They were me & I them. I could not know myself without knowing them with compassion & love. My judgments were more about myself than them. If the women were similar to me, and had been in a combat zone, then perhaps I would have missed my opportunity to focus on myself. As it turned out, I was one of the youngest in the program, I think the oldest was 65 or so. This allowed me to take on a baby role, rather than having to nurture & mother those from the Iraq/Afghanistan era who are much younger. It was serendipitous to land in this pod of women.

the little girl inside is tired of holding it all in

The program was a very intense, life-changing four weeks where the life I had been living, the meanings I made of everything, even back to childhood, & the choices I made were all laid out before me & slowly unravelled to make sense or allow it to just not make sense.

I learned a lot during my stay but Ubuntu was one of the juicier lessons learned.

I wrote this poem below while in the hospital & read it to everyone at graduation.

the gathering

Ubuntu

by
 Katariina Fagering

I came here afraid, alone and lost. I
had forgotten who I was

Wandering
in the shadow lands of darkness, I questioned:

How did I
get here?

Who are
these women?

Do I
belong?

But then a
whisper filtered through my heart ~

 

Ubuntu

I am,
because you are.

Suddenly,
my sisters appeared and I found me in them.

Ubuntu

I am,
because you are.

Because she
is nurturing, motherly, love,

Hilarious

laughter filling the room,

Sunshine-sweet-southern drawl,

So am I.

Because
she is elegant, wise and brilliant,

Seeking,
searching and humble,

A courageous, proud, fierce protector,

So am I.

Connecting
with heart, I take you in my heart.

Because my
sister was raped, I was raped.

Because my
sister has HIV, I too have HIV.

Because my
sister went to war, I went to war.

Because my
sister is an alcoholic, I am an alcoholic.

Because my
sister’s mother died, my mother died.

Because my
sister has been beaten, raped, humiliated, lost, tossed and mistreated,

So have I.

Ubuntu

I am,
because you are.

Together
we are reaching out,

Connecting,

Finding
love, loving ourselves,

Being
Audacious enough. She is enough. I am enough.

All that I

witness in you, my sisters,

So am I.

 Because
you shared the gift of you,

 I now know the fullness
of me.

Marine with Iraqi Children, Karabyla, Iraq 2006

shards of broken glass . . .

shards of broken glass

Turning the corner onto Harvard from 18th I was greeted with the brilliant translucent greenish blue of shattered windshield glass spread across the street. I had to stop & photograph it. As I played with every angle & dimension possible a man drove up, rolled down his window & asked what happened. What happened? I was confused & suddenly felt a bit silly. I had been more interested in beauty of shards of glass on asphalt than I had been curious about the poor car that had been broken into. I told him I wasn’t sure that I was just photographing the beauty of the glass. Perhaps I looked a bit like a CSI agent with my iPhone collecting evidence such as glass trajectory to be able to solve this horrible crime.

The song, Till the End of the World sung by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds kept running through my head. I love how he enunciates “shards of broken glass.” Youtube it to get the full effect.

It was a miracle i even got out of Longwood alive,
This town full of men with big mouths and no guts;
I mean if you can just picture it,
The whole third floor of the hotel gutted by the blast
And the street below showered in shards of broken glass,

broken

The more I lingered photographing the glass, instead of contemplating the reason behind its presence, I started becoming more curious about the usage of the phrase, “broken into.” I know, a bit weird, but the word broken is one of those words that has so many connotations. It can mean; interrupt, mental collapse, soften, begin, destroy, divide, fracture, crush, intrude (broken into), interfere, & become unusable. The one I liked the most was “to separate from the whole” or perhaps “separate from wholeness.”

I feel broken a lot of time, but not the kind of broken that is destroyed completely, more the kind that is separate from the whole, or interfered. I like to think of it as a starting point to finding my whole, audaciously authentic self. Perhaps I have been broken since about six years old or earlier, it’s just that I didn’t have any reference to whole-ness to know of my broken-ness. Thanks to God & the Veteran’s Administration I am now very certain of my broken-ness but in a compassionate, loving, nurturing way. It’s been a bit like introducing my six-year-old self that has been running a lot of the show to my 45-year-old self. She doesn’t have to grow up but she definitely doesn’t have to be in charge anymore.

Notice all the beauty in the broken-ness of these shards of shattered glass.

shards

among the leaves

crow . . .

crow stamped on wood

I signed up for a Mono-type class for this semester. It’s starts in a few weeks. I’m so excited. In fact so giddy about it that I had to make my own crow stamp now, before the class starts. I just got this stamping rubber stuff at the Texas Art Supply & drew a picture & started cutting away. It’s so fun that I can’t stop stamping everything!!!

testing, testing,

above studio sink!

on beginning of painting

I’ve had this idea for making an american flag to hang outside on our patio fence. I wanted it to look old & add my style to it. As I started working on it further I decided that it would be a painting about the Marine Corps & war, but a light one. Really maybe it is more about how I joined the wrong Corps. I should have been in the Peace Corps instead. but I don’t know, I was probably right where I needed to be and odd duck. No regrets, some sorrow, sadness, anger, but no regrets.

Everyday as I gain more insight into who I am, really am, without influence from others, I move further away from those things that hurt me more than bring me joy. I seek out those things, people, experiences that are in alignment with who I am. This lessons the dissonance & increases the resonance. I don’t resonate with dissonance.

I visited a gastro doctor last week who told me that my colon was like a jazz band all the parts doing their own thing, not playing the same tune together. I guess Jazz has its place just not in my gut & not in my relationships or work environments.

make art not war

My stars are flowers. USMC is going off the canvas. 83 was the year I joined the Marine Corps. I wrote, “make art not war,” “all we need is love.” “love is all we need,” oh &
“war is never the answer.” Then of course, there is my crow.

Crow is the protector of the castle, the castle being your psyche. He also is a trickster & a shape shifter. Two aspects I love expressing. Tricksters make us think about things that are so firmly embedded in our beliefs that we don’t even think to question. I was a trickster in the Marine Corps.

This painting is about the healing & coming home to me, the me that was me before the Marine Corps.

 

i never saw a wild thing . . .

“I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself.
A small bird will drop frozen
dead from a bough
without ever having felt sorry for itself”
~ DH Lawrence

wild thing

I discovered this dear, little, wild thing resting on my studio door step this morning. She was so peaceful & still that it reminded me of DH Lawrence’s poem, Self Pity. Her presence moved me so much that I had to share her & my ponderings here with you.

I don’t interpret Lawrence’s poem to be about how to die with grace but more about how to live without worry. To live so fully & with such voracity that the end isn’t even noticed. I don’t know what brought the end to this precious bird’s life this morning but I do know that she met the end filled with life. I imagine she was fluttering, flittering & tweeting (not on an iPhone) along doing what she does best when the end came to her without a thought or worry. Death is certain for all of us, so why worry about it, right?

Tears well up from within as I ponder this way of living & I admire her grace & utter beauty. What a gift that she chose my doorstep to rest, so that perhaps I could be reminded to live more fully. Unlike a wild thing, I spend a lot of my day thinking & day dreaming of horrific events. I often imagine what it would be like to have terrorists storm our house, knocking over our furniture, shouting, shooting with such violence as we hide in a closet with our children hoping they won’t hurt us. When I drive I can picture large trucks plowing through my car. I sometimes imagine that other drivers have guns & begin shooting at me. I dream at night of death & destruction in all the ways I’ve witnessed it in Iraq & in other places. I remember those who I knew that were killed in Iraq, both Marines & Iraqis. But I remember their deaths more than their lives. I don’t talk about this with anyone much because it really is a downer. It’s not that I’m afraid of dying, in fact sometimes I long for it.  I struggle with PTSD & making sense of all the hate, destruction, & death in the world. I mourn for our lack of humanity & compassion. Remembering & mourning can be compassionate but I need time to live, create, love, savor & enjoy?

Thank you my little, wild, thing for lying dead on my doorstep. Blessings to you & to all the wild things that are resting today & may I go forward & live in a more mindful, present, grateful space.

Lovingly gracious,

Katariina