With Gratitude for Patsy Terrell

 

 

I was on vacation when I heard.

For more than a week I have been trying to wrap my head around what it means, what I want to say, how to make sense of it.

Many years ago, when the internet was still mostly new and online communities functioned with yahoo group lists, I found some of my people – people who wrote things by hand, loved words, believed in the power of words and the worth of communication, kept journals, practiced gratitude, aimed for grace, embraced the wider world, lived consciously.

We didn’t know each other. Not really. We were a far flung group. But we shared. For years. And when social platforms moved on, we moved our friendships to Facebook. We kept in touch, some of us.

That’s where I originally met her – way back when. I ran some groups she participated in, she ran some groups I participated in. I can’t say we were close, but we knew what mattered to the other, we cheered each other on in life, and through the years we kept in touch. Journals and journal keeping was a shared passion. We’d send each other articles we knew would be appreciated. Exchanging bits of wisdom, thoughts on art and writing. She sent a collection of notes from a writing class she took on Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. I sent little care packages of antique linens or fabulous costume jewelry when one of my clients was downsizing such things. Contemplating community, happiness, beauty, inspiration.

She was an inspiration alright. Indefatigable. A powerhouse of ideas and a wellspring of kindness and compassion, always seeking to understand, learn from and appreciate others. Even from a distance I knew she could bring out the best in people.

We always said we’d meet.

She promised me lunch at Roy’s when I eventually got there to visit – which I assured her I would, someday.

I’ve done a lot in the journal keeping community in the past. She supported everything I did and everything I dreamed of – a magazine, an archives. I appreciated and learned from her input.

Recently she could no longer stand by and watch unfairness and corruption in the political world so she stepped up and she ran a grass roots campaign. Fighting a long time incumbent to gain a seat on the Kansas Legislature. And she WON!

It was so exciting to watch the results of a Kansas election from my home in Connecticut and brag to those around me – “I know her! She’s wonderful. She’s running for all the right reasons. She’ll be so good at this.”

And she was good at it. Insisting on respectful discourse, she said she would not participate in debate that was not respectful on both sides, always. Such class.

My vacation was a whirlwind thing. A road trip planned in a week and consisting of nearly 6,000 miles in 17 days.

My honey wanted to visit his mother in Utah. He said – “Check the price of plane tickets.”

But no. I think flying these days is hateful. I pushed for a road trip and I won.

We’d been to Luray Caverns in Virginia, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado, Kanab Utah, Zion, White Pocket, scenic Rt 12, Back through Colorado and now we were driving across Kansas.

We didn’t actually have time to stop in Kansas, plus I knew that if she was in Topeka she was likely busy with the legislature, and if she wasn’t in Topeka, she’d be too far off my path there in Hutch. Nonetheless I thought I’d take a quick look at her facebook. It was dinner time. Maybe if she’d just posted, “I’m having dinner at such-and-such place in Topeka,” I might swing by for a quick, surprise, drive-by hello. I knew that was unlikely. But I looked.

Her most recent post (earlier that morning) – “You’re waking up in a Kansas where the Brownback experiment has ended. Good morning!” And a few other posts about the successful override.

How exciting!

I sent her a text.

“Patsy. I’m on a quick road trip and passing through Kansas headed east. 40 or so miles from Topeka at the moment. Had hoped to make time to meet you but it’s not going to happen today. However I did look at your Facebook page to see what you’re up to as I pass by and I have to say CONGRATULATIONS and thanks for all your work making Kansas and the country a better place. PS. It’s gorgeous here!”

She didn’t answer. Yep. Must be busy.

We stayed in Missouri that night and the next day headed for Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. My sweetie was driving.

That was when I saw the text from a creative maker friend whom I’d introduced to the amazingness of Patsy on Facebook.

His text said “I’m so sorry” and included a link to the news story “Kansas Legislator found dead in hotel room in Topeka.”

My mind stumbled and I looked up at the world around me in a blur. Then my eyes focused on a passing highway sign – Paducah this exit.

Seriously?

This can’t be right. In fact it’s quite wrong.

Patsy was from Paducah.

Patsy doesn’t exist any more?

How can that be?

Ten days later and I still trip over this fact, daily. Patsy is no longer smiling in this world. Patsy is gone. I never got to meet her.

We weren’t close but she meant so much to me. She was so very important to the world.

I can’t wrap my head around how hard this has been on me. I can only imagine the grief of those who actually knew her buoyant energy.

And I feel for her dearest friends Mark and especially Greg.

If you guys see this – all of my hugs and love to you both.

Thank you for being in Patsy’s life.

And Patsy, thank you for being in my life – however much on the fringe, you mattered.

Peace.

  • The photos here were taken from Patsy’s Facebook page – photo credits to Greg Holmes, Kristen Garlow Piper, and David Bell
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Because my hugging friend said “The world needs art right now”

It truly is rather nightmarish.

The way this Neolithic evil clown came plodding towards me in an expensive business suit,

dragging a foot in the last century,

and gnashing his teeth like a homophobic bully troll.

He wasn’t really a threat. And I was not yet scared.

As he got closer and closer, he got uglier and uglier.

I could see there was a list in his tiny hand.

My name wasn’t on the list. (But it was no consolation.)

Still this knuckle dragging monster came persistently towards me,

single minded and unhinged.

He said he could save me.

I looked away.

I do not enjoy the taste of bile.

He was slow, I could stay out of his path.

He was too much a caricature to be really afraid of.

His weird mouth and fake hair

like a cliché Disney Monster with a hunch back and crooked nose.

It made me made me point and laugh (this nightmare is just silly!)

Yet onward he came… unstoppingly

inching ever closer to me,

saying under his hateful breath,

“I’m comin for ya, I’m comin for ya.”

Months upon months upon months (a recurring nightmare,)

“I’m comin for ya, I’m comin for ya”

In my nightmare he whispered that he would take away my heathen neighbors, and my Mexican judges, (what the fuck are you talking about?) and beat my uppity blacks,

and I laughed.

I am American. You are no threat to me! (the illusion of safety)

A buffoon, not a monster.

He had a bullseye on me – “Comin for ya, comin for ya.”

He said he’d grab my pussy, imprison me inside a wall.

I tried to ignore him.

He got so close I could hear his knuckles scrapping the pavement of modern America.

I wanted to wake up from this nightmare.

I looked away (desperately) and waited (prayed) for daylight.

Months upon months of unending pursuit and veiled threats.

And yet….

I still felt blindsided when he landed on me.

Like 270 steampunk spiders found me sleeping in my own cozy web.

Like I was innocently crossing a street and a semi truck filled with deplorables came outa nowhere and mowed me down.

I woke screaming

I feel like I got hit by someone else’s dream bus filled with 1950s dinner-making wives,

and I can’t shake this feeling of dread and danger.

 

(That the American dream left me with.)

 

I saw a friend I love.

He’d had the same dream.

We held each other like two who had lost a beloved parent or close friend.

There were no words.

And the mere fact of being held by him, in the face of all that is horrifying and surreal

brought the first tears to my eyes.

Apparently our love was not enough to stop this vile thing.

The color of everything seems different now.

My beautiful purples gone sickly grey.

My vibrant reds look like drying blood.

My painting is ruined.

 

It cannot end on this note.

There must be a….

a….

a….

a thing to do

a way to work

a light to shine

Find it.

Find it ASAP

I’m no Poet

If I want to write a poem
What do I say?
How do I fit the entirety of all this life stuff
Into words?

I lost a cat last week.
I lost a cat five years ago and 6 years ago and 8 years ago.
I lost a cat 21 years ago.

I saved a cat once.
From a plastic bag on the edge of the lake I grew up on.
From the ravaged and burned hills of a shattered neighborhood.
From a life in a shelter.
From a tree.
From a dog.

I saved a dog once.
Literally.
It was old and it was winter and my uncle was driving his boat to show me the cold Virginia lake.
We saw commotion and steered near. As we got close the old boy gave up and went down.
Deep.
Down.
I had to stretch and reach to my greatest extent.
Shoulder and face in the water
And I grabbed him just before he sunk out of reach
By the scruff of the neck
And pulled him onto the boat.
I would have dove in for him.

I lost my Mom eleven years ago.
Oscar Wilde would call me careless.
Those kinds of losses never really end, but they do fade a little in the dailiness of it all.

I lost my step dad before he saw me make good.
I lost my dad when I was a ratty teen and didn’t notice till I was nearly 50.

I lost a dream.
Twice.
The first was devastating, the second, liberating.

Losses are love.