Remembering Harley

Posted in Journey of the Mind with tags , , , , , , on May 24, 2018 by Sharon Matusiak

So the year 2008 began on a good note.  I was getting better and better at my yoga practice.  I had a large commission to finish.   I was tossing around some fresh ideas for new sculpture.  Cash flow was good.  Robin’s work was growing beyond anything that I imagined he would do with patina, and daughter Mary just graduated with her Master’s Degree!  We felt it was time for a new pup.  Merlin was aging fast, and we didn’t want Magic to be alone when we went away to art fairs.

We brought him home on 08-08-08.  August the 8th is the birth date of my daughter that was lost to us at age 16.  On that auspicious day, the day she would have turned 35, we viewed the available pups and he was the star after rearing up and pouncing down a dandelion!  Robin and I swooped him up and brought him home, feeling that we had to finally shake the grip of a nightmare family scenario that involved elder abuse, betrayal, court cases, and a conspiracy that resulted in the murder of Mom by a family member.  And so Peacekeeper’s Harley Hippo of Wolf Creek came home to bring joy to our life.   It was as though Debra had sent us a spirit in Harley.  Someone to watch over us.  Harley was joyous and funny and sensitive.

He joined our other two loves, Magic and Merlin and together they took care of Robin and I.  

As it turned out, Harley came to us at just the moment before everything came apart. Every last thing came apart. And in the end, Harley, who came here with the soul of a therapy dog, got cirrhosis and cancer of the liver, most likely from absorbing how much angst and fear and anger I felt over the past 14 years.  One month after he came to be with us I had shoulder surgery while the stock market crashed.   That was followed by a series of other injuries.  There was constant worry about my daughter’s heart condition.  The bottom fell out of the art fair market.  As prices tumbled, the shows became increasingly competitive to jury into.  I couldn’t help Robin show his large, bulky,  moderately heavy work, not with the injuries to my shoulder, wrist and elbow.  In 2009 after 5 zero shows out of 9, we threw in the towel and decided to hire an art rep for him.  Oh, yeah that turned out well–she took us for a ride to the tune of $9000.

Before the stock market crash of ’08 we had a comfortable and reliable income.  But the next 6 years ate up all of our savings in our IRA’s.  Constant worry about income and health issues drags people down and when that’s coupled with volatile family issues like trying to hold someone accountable for murder, well you have a recipe for disaster.  After a series of failed business decisions I had a nervous breakdown in 2012.   But Harley was always there to lift my spirits, make us laugh and bring me to the realization that only the moment mattered.   It’s been a long slow road back from 2012.

Rushing home after a show to be with our dog Gods became our reality.  The shepherds and rottweiler are watchdogs for security, and they are wonderful companions also.  But Harley had another kind of magic.  He could always make you laugh and feel lighthearted.  He was pure, unadulterated love.   The young “hippo-like” pup grew into a magnificent being,  a gentle soul.  He touched a lot of people.

But as he took in all of my angst and gave back love, he was used up, and this year he went into a rapid downward spiral.  One last time we hurried home from a business trip to be with him.  We had a few more precious, but agonizing days before we capitulated and gave up on the meds and the weekly draining of fluid from his abdomen.  He was wasting away, getting weaker everyday. Though in the beginning he had been eating raw meat ravenously,  he lost most of his muscle and became a bony wisp of what he once was.  In the end, he would only eat a few bites of raw chicken and drink water only from the ponds, or lick rainwater from the boxwood leaves.  On his final morning, we loaded him up in the car to drive to the Cypress Pond on our property for one last bit of fun for him.  He waddled down to the water and waded in, never having been a swimmer.  He drank water while standing between two Cypress Trees, the symbol of mourning.  Afterwards, Robin had to carry him from the car to the house.  Our wonderful vet and his wife came out that afternoon and they helped him on his journey.  I promised him that after the long sleep he’d be met by Merlin, our magnificent German Shepherd that we all had so loved.  And I told him that when his best friend Magic passes on, he and Merlin will be there to meet her.

Harley helped us through some of our most difficult times.  He will always be remembered.  For the life of me, I can’t figure out how people survive without dogs.

THE Addiction of American Life

Posted in As the World Turns with tags , , , , , , , on April 19, 2018 by Sharon Matusiak

Back in the 80’s there were only 4 things I spent any significant amount of time on: making art, reading, my girls and gardening.  While perusing a used book store in Champaign, I came across a paperback that jumped off of the shelf at me.  It was The TV Ritual, sub-titled Worship at the Video Altar, by Gregor T. Goethals.  According to the date notation I placed inside the cover, the date was May 1987.  It’s a book about how television remakes myth and legend and thereby molds our culture.  It’s an elusive but powerful process.  And while I thought about the concepts and conclusions drawn in the text, I also wondered about it on a personal level.  Therefore, it ended up being incorporated into my art.  I made a series of drawings and paintings of my daughters with the television.  Incidentally, two of these drawings were acquired by Del Mar College in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Today, nearly 30 years later, the power of television to control and manipulate our lives is blatant.  It is the field upon which politics is played out as well as the major means by which Madison Avenue influences our decision-making.  Whomever controls the box, controls the manipulation.

What’s There To Be Afraid Of?

Posted in Journey of the Mind with tags , , , on December 2, 2017 by Sharon Matusiak

Growing up I thought I’d be safe if I was a good girl.  Keeping out of trouble was of supreme importance to me.  I was a scaredy cat.

Sitting on the dock gazing over the water, the wind was only slightly stirring and the water was almost glass smooth but for a gentle movement by the air.  The cypress trees on the north side of the pond were reflected in the water.  The simultaneous fluttering movement of the water, light and air reflected the life force of the trees.  Their energy shuddered softly on the water.  It was powerful.  What was there to be afraid of?

When someone you love is murdered and those responsible for it try to blame it on you, well that’s something to be afraid of.  Especially when keeping quiet and small is the only way you learned to protect yourself.  They say family dynamics are stressed when the elders die.  Imagine then the shit-storm that occurs when one sibling murders a parent.

And imagine you’re the one feeling guilty because you feared that she might do that, but denial was easier to believe.  So you never worked up the nerve to tell the judge you thought your sibling would kill  Mom.  You were afraid to say that.  What if you were wrong?  Surely you were wrong.  So you let it go.  And then she killed her.  You weren’t brave enough, or smart enough, or composed or confident enough to convince the judge that mom had to be protected from The spider.  And now she’s dead, a not so natural death.  It’s little comfort that you can say to yourself, “Mom, I told you not to trust her.”

When Mom told me The spider was going to take her into her web/home, I knew there would be trouble.  I asked Mom, “Do you remember what happened 4 years ago?”  Mom: “They’re not like that now.  They’re nice people now.”  They were just more clever actors now.

Before they pushed her into an early grave, The spider never made good on her promise to move Mom into that beautiful bedroom suite in her house.


My Weakness

Posted in Journey of the Mind with tags , , , , on December 1, 2017 by Sharon Matusiak

Communication has always been my weakness, my failing.  Apparently that was caused in part by a mostly solitary existence growing up.  Added to that was the lack of early training in effective communication in my home life.  Mom and Dad rarely had civil conversations.  Theirs were full of highly charged emotions. They were both reactionary and victims of unprocessed anger towards one another.  To this day, it is difficult for me to express myself in conversation, unless I’ve had the opportunity to think about what I want to say.  If family is involved, it’s not unusual for me to experience anxiety, typically increased heart rate, trembling inside as well as in the limbs and the feeling of paralysis from my mouth, throat and down into my chest.  That’s why the making of art has always been so important to me.  It is a safe-feeling way of expressing myself.  It’s abstract, which feels perfect.

It has only been in the second half of my life that began when Debbie died, that I found an extraordinary outlet for the resulting pain and anger that emerged.  That outlet was journaling.  From the processing that takes place naturally during writing, further art would be born and so the rotation of my life continues.  As Robin taught me, that flow is of the DNA spiral.

So with time I’ve learned that the most effective and succinct way of getting my thoughts across when words matter is to put it in writing.  And by dating the letters the journey one’s mind takes to evolve a way of being, is easily reviewed.  And in that process, one finds meaning in existence.

I offer as an example a letter I gave to Robin in May 2002.

Dear Robin,

I am missing you this weekend while you’re away and it made me think about how important you are to me.  Now this is not a revelation to me, I have been aware of this for a very long time.  The problem is that I seldom put into words how much you mean to me.  Don’t take this too personally for this has always been a problem for me.

Nevertheless, I feel that it is one of my greatest failings in life that I don’t tell you and tell you often just how I feel about you and how important you are to my life.  When I try it usually gets frozen in my throat.  It is much easier for me to write it.

I love you so much I can’t describe it.  I love damn near everything about you.  I feel good when I’m with you.  I feel secure and loved and empowered.  I feel I belong to you and you to me.  I feel so natural being with you.  I feel more understood than with anyone else.  I feel we were destined to be together.  And I feel that our personal life together is inextricably bound with our professional life as artists. And I fear losing you through death.

See you this evening,

With love and lust,

[Of course, it was signed.]

Mother Earth

Posted in As the World Turns with tags , , , on November 9, 2017 by Sharon Matusiak

My heart sorrows for the loss of biodiversity that we are witnessing.  The pace of that loss is accelerating aw we continue to over-fish, over-mine and over-burn fossil fuels.   We guarantee catastrophe by  creating artificial environments that are unsustainable.  They are foreign to the delicate balance of our natural world.  We are part of a single living organism, commonly called Earth.  She is Gaia, our Garden of Eden.  Doug Tallamy made a presentation earlier this year at the Earth Optimism Summit, entitled Bringing Home Nature which is highly informative about how we can go about saving our planet, by making changes in how we landscape.  Here is the U-tube link to his excellent speech.

Luna Moth in our yard


Finding Our Voice

Posted in As the World Turns with tags , , , , , , on November 8, 2017 by Sharon Matusiak

I’ve been considering leaving Facebook in the light of it becoming an extension of the Kremlin’s peddling of fake news.  They have a lot in common with Fox News, the favorite child of the alternative facts world.  But I’m brought back to the very reason I joined to begin with.  It was not out of a desire to reach out to friends and acquaintances.  I’m terribly reclusive.  Rather I got my inspiration from the Arab Spring.  It was the realization that through social media, messages could be spread around the world in real time, something previously not possible for ordinary people like myself.  Initially, my goal was to spread the word about our fragile environment, something I’m gravely concerned about.

Then I was reminded repeatedly that it was a valuable platform to promote our art, and so that entailed a business facebook page.  It remains doubtful in my mind that any potential collector has been swayed positively by our presence there.  More relevant is the fact that while I keep political topics off our business page,  I’m sure some potential buyers have checked out my personal wall and if they are Trumpians, then they’ve got just the reason they need to close their wallet.  Well, so be it.  Keeping quiet about forces of evil will allow the destruction of our Democracy.  I have plenty of Republican friends, but the GOP of today is a warped version of conservative ideals.  Case in point, this administrations systematic destruction of the EPA, the State Department, Education, etc., all the while ignoring Global Warming–the single most critical issue of our time.

So back to Zuckerberg and his cash cow.  He’s been selling ads to Kremlin Gremlins to influence our elections, and apparently one of his backers is a Putin “friend”.  It galls me to think I’m supporting a billionaire that doesn’t hold dear our Democratic ideals.  Frankly he’s only gotten money from me probably 1/2 dozen times to the tune of less than $100 to boost a few posts before a show.  Well that’s the last money he will get from us.

Ironically, social media will probably be a driving force to bring down corruption, so I’ve decided for the time being to stay the course.

The Meeting Place

Posted in Journey of the Mind, The Book of August with tags , , , , , on August 8, 2017 by Sharon Matusiak

I don’t go there often enough.  There are reasons for that, some are valid, others not so much.  I didn’t want to miss the chance today to see a Monarch.  We used to have more of them, even in the “yard”.  I prefer calling it the gardens, as there’s little “lawn” in favor of shrub, flower and ground cover beds.  But the meadow has more milkweed, so chances are better for spotting one there.

The Monarch is synonymous with Debra.  She’d be 44 as of 4:55 this afternoon.  It’s not just that she raised them  most summers from the 2nd grade until her last, the “sweet 16”.  There’ve been signs, along the way, or maybe I just see what I expect to see. There was the moment after everyone had left the cemetery.  After the sharing of food and small talk.  After all that, I returned to the cemetery alone.  A Monarch fluttered right past me as I spoke to Debbie in jerky bursts.  Her last Monarch caterpillar unfolded from its chrysalis the day after I got home from her funeral.  When Robin and I were married on our deck with Mary standing alongside us, a Monarch circled around us.  A year or two later while strolling through the garden at dusk, we spied dozens of them hanging under the branches of a tree.

We had two ponds dug in the mid-90’s.  The larger one was dug into a small valley in the north meadow of our property. The intention was to create a fishing pond.  The acre and a quarter of pond and the meadow beside it are surrounded by hardwoods.  We stocked the pond, planted some aquatics, built 4 docks, and planted Cypress trees in the north end, when they were just seedlings. The meadow has developed more variety of wildflowers over the years, with my seed sowing.  We named this the Cypress Pond.  With maturity this place has become quite extraordinary.

The smaller pond is in front of our house.  It’s about 20000 gallons and was built and dedicated to Debra.  Her goal had been to become a marine biologist.  We planted is with white water lilies and stocked it with Koi and comets.  At the time, my thinking was that “her pond” was something that I wanted close to me.  It would be the one that I’d see everyday.

But, today hurrying out to the meadow, I hoped to see a Monarch since it was Debbie’s birthday.   It was sunny and warm so there might be a chance, though most days anymore they are not to be seen.  There’s always Swallowtails and sulfurs, checkers and saffires.  When I came out of the woods, the first thing that caught my eye was the Great Blue Heron on the farside, working the shallows.  Of course he departed immediately with his enormous gray wings lifting him magically upwards.  Realizing I missed the opportunity for a photo to mark the occasion, I began fumbling with Robin’s phone trying to get signed in and the camera up when there before me fluttered a Monarch.  She was just leaving the flowers and headed across the water.  Missing that photo opportunity also, I was nonetheless elated as I walked on and checked the milkweed next to the mowed grassland surrounding the water.  On the first two plants  I immediately found eggs!  The dogs and I continued moseying around the water, until I settled in a recliner on the farside, to watch the aerial acrobatics of the dragonflies, the fish working through the water lilies, the frogs croaking and the songbirds calling.  Everytime I sit there and watch the natural world, I’m mesmerized by its complexity and beauty.  And it was then that I realized that she had claimed this pond for her own on this very birthday.  It feels right calling it Debra’s Cypress Pond.  This enchanted place is home to all manner of wildlife.  I wonder if she was there last week when the doe introduced me to her twins?  Now that was a miracle.

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