Six hundred days ago I moved into long term care and I ‘brought the dream of flying’
|In conversation with my co-artist Caroline Schofield
Photo © Keith Currams
I wake early and revel in the silence. I open the curtains and see the world awaken. The trees, birds, early squirrels. One of my favourite moments before the inevitable noises start in the hallway from staff, doors, and various televisions at volume. In those early mornings I imagine my home, my Treehouse * to be unrelated to be in a nursing home. What Home means remains a very complicated question.
After my daily bowl of readybrek reality sets in. I often listen to meditative music, through headphones if necessary, especially on days when I am a bit ‘frazzled’ about the prospect of the day ahead. I know the signs by now after 600 days living in a residential home. The day can be caring, chaotic, safe, kind, restrictive, fun, fearful, unsettling, sad, happy, bewildering, finding acceptance and gratitude, as well as thought provoking moments due to the closeness of fragility and beauty of life around me and in me. It seems I am still learning to find my way, but ultimately know that I have to ‘get this’.
As my short day ends I watch the crows gather for the night. Every day a few minutes earlier. Headphones on to silence the noises of the house my thoughts go deep. It is at those moments I feel I need to write to make sense of life as it is right now. But writing on paper is not possible anymore beyond a few words. I scribble on my phone at times, creatively processing my experiences but as screen time is overwhelming my phone is often turned off. The words I did write/dictated are copied to my iPad however words jump around in a dizzying way and sadly I lose track in order to edit and make sense of the notes. Yet I keep telling myself to write that blogpost about what it is like to live here. I started so many times but realise that each day each minute it would be a different story. Anyway. I am here. It is going to take me a while. But I am going to do this and will, as usual, be explored through my creative mind. The writing perhaps a little frazzled and fragmented like my present jumbled brain.
“I identify deeply with my work especially my puppets. Creating them is one thing. By fully observing them I am learning to understand their true stories and thus my own.”
© Corina Duyn 2018-2022
In a roundabout way of dealing with the reality of also needing help to make a Christmas/Winter display for my room, I found my mind delving into the story of my puppet Miracle Miracle resting under the (Christmas) tree.
When I started making her in 2018 she was to tell a story of an ambulant wheelchair user. Perhaps her chair being pushed by a gay carer with a blue Mohican haircut. Throwing off her blanket she steps out of her wheelchair and with the help of her walking sticks takes off on her colourful roller skates. Revealing funky clothes.
I had hoped to use puppetry to explore social perception and disadvantage but also resilience. Most of all challenge how you are are to behave as a disabled person. If you use a wheelchair, you are not suppose to stand up. “Miracle Miracle” a dear friend roared in fun a few decades ago when I did just that. Standing up from my wheelchair in front of a church. Miracle Miracle’s story was never properly told except the concept during my last public lecture in 2018 in Cork.
Miracle Miracle came with me to Signacare; unpainted, undressed, just wearing a little black hat (toe part of sock) and wrapped in her orange blanket. She had been sitting with Póilin Puppet in my window on the bench looking into the garden. I always hoped to finish making her.
In March after a short spell in hospital I started stitching a long cloth. “Sewing the tears of exhaustion” I scribbled on a piece of paper. Stitching brought peace. Over the following months it told a story of drowning, reaching out and becoming the tree. I stopped sewing at the point a branch became a bird. It narrowly escaped to be binned, choosing to put it in my sewing drawer instead. In July one Sunday afternoon I took it out, folded it up, reincarnated as a magic flying carpet for Miracle Miracle. I was happy to see a new story appearing from two unfinished works.
Lying on my dresser Miracle Miracle looked at peace at having given up her fight for social justice to look after herself and rest. Only covered by a thin blanket. Unpainted, undressed. But beautiful as she is. To be carried in the wind to dream worlds where life is simpler. Still wearing her roller skates she shows resilience in her vulnerability as a dear friend told me.
It took me almost five months of observing her resting on her flying carpet to come to the point I acknowledged that I too am ready to let go and am desperately in need of rest.
Staff at times have limited ability to truly be Present so I am very grateful for the support of family and friends. I also have the great fortune to receive outside support from a Personal Assistant (PA) twice a week through Disability Support Services (as I am deemed inappropriately placed in nursing home care due to my age), as well working with artist Caroline Schofield through Waterford Healing Arts Trust. Both women have made living here much more doable.
|With co-artist Caroline Schofield in the elevator
at Signacare - retrieving puppet props
Photo © Caroline Schofield 2022
The collaborative creative process with artist Caroline Schofield started in August 2021. (See exhibition press release *). Finding our way of working together began with making stunning prints using leaves. Many of these made their way, together with paper cut outs of shadow puppetry * era into a series of art boxes. Dioramas if you wish. Many depicting loss, grieve and gain of moving into care. Perhaps these works which will be in the exhibition say more than the written word ever can.
I tried very hard not to use our creative time to explore this epic move but my mind wouldn’t let it go until it was done. Now I can say that I am glad it worked out this way. Work evolved by communicating about the pieces and stories in progress. Until there is this ‘Yes!, this is it’ moment. Caroline was/is my hands to add the detail about which I could only think and tried out with blue tack or masking tape.
Some of this series of small boxes have taken a year to complete. Along the way we had tears, laughter, wonderment, friendship, and learning, evolving into an exhibition.
I brought the dream of flying
One of these ‘boxes’ became the title of this shared exhibition: ‘I brought the dream of flying’ * Opening 14th January 2023 at Gallery of Modern Art - GOMA Waterford, with amazing support of Waterford Healing Arts Trust and Creative Waterford.
When I came for respite 600 days ago - but never went home again - I had brought an unfinished bird puppet with me. I felt that by finishing the piece, which had one broken wing, it would be a symbol that I would fly again. I and others had truly hoped that moving into care would restore my health to some degree. Including recovering my lost creative abilities. For this hope and dream I brought my clay and all the tools. Not used for four years now, I am ready to let go of them.
My creative ability is ever evolving at the same pace of my physical decline. I lost lots of weight over the past two years. As well as more and more of my independence. Food is puréed as I can’t chew or swallow for long. I now have a powerful fully reclining wheelchair. Walking is a few steps to the bathroom. Not even every day. My hands, although the dancing motions are a fascination to my co-artist, they often don’t want to do what I would like them to do. Creatively and in general. Recently my body goes ‘numb’ for hours. Followed by slow return of movement and speech and precious moments of the Phoenix rising again, Especially when I have an outing with my PA, those moments are lived and loved with all my heart. Then I rest. Like Miracle Miracle. In those moment of rest, even in the ‘numbness’, my creative mind stays alive. Thinking, planning. Re-thinking. Re-planning.
I can cut paper and I can glue. The result is a series of A5 collages from newspaper words and found images, which I can make independently, often lying flat in bed. Exploring emotions and realities of life (here). As friends have said: “you needed to write, you couldn’t, now you found your way”; another said “you are writing a visual diary”. Many will be in the exhibition.
“In bed I cut words until I can rest in a world
where loss and pain live alongside beauty and hope”
|Collage © Corina Duyn 2022
Although the exhibition is a huge event for me mentally and physically it is a true honour to have this team of people believing in my work and a story they felt needed to be told. A team of creative professionals looking after everything. Wow. A first.
I feel I am finally reaching moments of being at peace with it all. Letting go of the ‘idea of home’. Letting go of this part of my story as well as my work, old and new. Especially after the exhibition I hope to feel my ‘job is done’. My advocacy having continued although I didn’t intended to do that. I hope I can be at peace and find ease with living in long term care doing so in undoubtedly a beautiful room. My Treehouse. Rest. Rest in the knowledge and acceptance that this is what I had to do. Moving into care and one last sharing of life with illness and this new perspective of life in care through the arts. A first perhaps.
Thanking you with much gratitude for your continued support.
Links for further reading:
- I will continue to write short observations on my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/corina.duyn.7 which at this stage is easier than my blog, and allows for conversations with many.
- Website: https://www.corinaduyn.com/site/
- My Tree House. Moving into long term care. Blogpost May 2021 http://corinaduyn.blogspot.com/2021/05/my-tree-house-moving-into-long-term-care.html
- Exhibition press release by Maeve Butler from Waterford Healing Arts Trust (WHAT): See Gallery of Modern Art Waterford (GOMA) https://www.gomawaterford.ie/exhibitions/i-brought-the-dream-of-flying/ or WHAT: http://www.waterfordhealingarts.com/i-brought-the-dream-of-flying/
- Shadow puppetry and the Invisible Octopus http://corinaduyn.blogspot.com/2020/06/a-time-of-creative-change.html more posts on my blog and images on my now archived Facebook Art page https://www.facebook.com/CorinaDuyn
- Thoughts on Puppetry - ME and the Phoenix - rising from the ashes http://corinaduyn.blogspot.com/2019/12/invisible-octopus-3-me-and-phoenix.html
- Early image of Miracle Miracle and other puppets http://corinaduyn.blogspot.com/2019/11/invisible-octopus-2-puppet-design.html
- An interesting discussion on Facebook on ‘what is home’ (https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=pfbid02vEm8pWKp9Gnjfw8eSfyeBvtUH5dWqkG36iiTDCufdUDZJqApkZgyZ5k4qn9uY5nol&id=100009582548792 )
- Information and guidance on ME Myalgic Encephalomyelitis http://meadvocatesireland.blogspot.com/