Buddy Cushman Art

engaging stories of hope and joy


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Back In My Little Town

 

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Once upon a time, far away and long ago, I grew up in a small town in Massachusetts named Wareham. Hard by the Buzzards Bay inlet of the Atlantic Ocean, and no doubt a clone of sorts from Wareham, England, itself hard by Poole Harbour and its larger Atlantic mother. The “Gateway to Cape Cod”, that’s what it was called at times, that’s what the sign said out on Route 28 by the Chamber of Commerce. Situated just before the Bourne Bridge crossing over to The Cape, at the confluence of the Cape Cod Canal and Buzzards Bay.

I was lucky to have grown up there, for many reasons. It was a gentle place, mostly, dotted with beach communities and summer homes and summer days, Cape Verdean enclaves and culture, pine forests, and luscious ponds carved out by retreating ice-age glaciers. In the winter we skated those ponds, pushed against the sparkling frosty air, sometimes with a stick and a puck at our feet. In the spring, summers, and fall we fished, especially me and Donnie Sisson, usually Mill Pond – both sides of 28 – but others as well – Tihonet, the horseshoe mill, in West Wareham. Donnie had a hand-made net contraption thing, and we would wet it and rub damp Sunbeam white bread into the bottom and throw it in the Wareham River in back of Franconia Oil, just over the railroad tracks, and come back an hour later and haul it up, usually loaded with chubs and shiners, and these we would put in buckets of water and on our bikes create amazing acts of balance with buckets and fishing poles and tackle boxes and cruise to the spot of the day. In fact the Wareham River is, to this day, never far away for me, though I’m away 3000 and more miles as the red-winged blackbird flies. The River remains always in my mind and heart, I bet it’s in the blood that pumps and gravities through my body. Yes. I painted my feeling about it a few years ago. That green and gray thing up there.

Little Harbor Beach was another place of childhood summer days, with the folks and sisters and picnic lunch, blanket on the hot sand, and horse shoe crabs in the endless low tide wading and splashes, later on as a place to drink beer and park at night as the sun went down. With summer girls if we were lucky. I painted that too, actually a view away from the harbor and its Buzzards Bay supplier. This.

Little Harbor Lookaway

I write about my hometown today because yesterday on Facebook were links to a Wareham story of death threats against children and a militarized response and endless hours of parent and child anguish. Simon and Garfunkle sang about My Little Town. They also sang of a Mother and Child reunion. Here’s a link to a story about it all from a local news site.

 wareham-ma.villagesoup.com/p/wareham-students-evacuated-from-schools-following-pretty-specific-threat-of-shooting/1667706#.WWPKzCgT5ns.facebook

Reading the words, looking at the pictures, here in the Pacific Northwest, tears fell from my eyes. I couldn’t help it. They just fell. More water, like the Wareham River, like Little Harbor, like Buzzards Bay. More water, like my childhood.

Mary Hopkins sang a song back in my growing up time – “Those were the days my friend, we thought they’d never end.” The Kinks sang a song then too – “We had our good times pal, we thought they’d last forever. But nothing lasts forever.”

When I crawled into bed last night my wife Susan, still awake, asked me, because of the way I am these days, if I had lost all my hope for the planet. My answer was “Most of it.”

Forget all the miles. It’s a long way from flying down Lincoln Hill on our bikes, hanging at Jay’s and Minnicks, dreaming of summer girls on Parkwood Beach, working at the record store, growing up with friends – it’s a long way from there to here. Today. For me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh, to look through those childhood eyes again.

 

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We Gives and We Takes

 

Yesterday afternoon, Sunday, I was sitting in a gay and lesbian self help group (of sorts). I was welcome, I’m always welcome there, though I’m neither gay nor lesbian. One of the group topics cyrynehxuaaomdibeing discussed was the idea of self care. I didn’t have anything to say during the meeting, but I did do a lot of thinking, and sometime within that hour I came to the realization that my level of self care — usually pretty darn good — has dipped considerably since the night of November 8. My usual countenance of joy and possibility and wonder has, in large part, been replaced with a profound sense of sadness and disgust and ongoing judgement, with equal parts depression and anger added for taste. Soul sickness. I left the meeting determined to be better to and for myself, and be nicer to myself, without sacrificing any of my ongoing commitment to fight the powers that be now, and are coming to be more, the racist, sexist, ableist, homophobic bullying meanness that Donald Trump and his legion of darkness represent.

Anyway, just a little Dear Diary stuff there. What I want to talk about here, a powerful response to any mote of sadness or feeling of disempowerment, is all the potential action we can take, as Mario Savio said so eloquently back in the Berkeley day, “… to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop.” So, how can I protest? – Let me count the ways. Here’s an old high school cheer – “Stand up, sit down, fight, fight, fight.” There’s that.  For this piece, though, I want to focus on the suggestion that we give – we give to all those who oppose the Dark Lord; and that we take – we take from all those who stand with him, with bigotry and injustice.

Donate money to those who fight the good fight, those in need more now than ever of support and solidarity. Thankfully, the list is long. Here are a few I suggest:

Planned Parenthood – The war on women is going to ramp up in a big way, now, under the leadership of those who chuckle at sexual assault and believe only God and their righteious selves know what’s best for you and you and you. This isn’t pro or anti abortion, but about providing young women, all women, with information and assistance and support. Back when I was doing youth work on the streets there were many times when I referred, and sometimes drove, tennage girls to Planned Parenthood in their effort to not need an abortion, to need need treatment from one STD or another, to have someone to talk with. War was declared on this organization all through the Republican primaries and now beyond. You can help.

The American Civil Liberties Union – Attempts at voter supression and voter disempowerment are likley to have a field day under the emboldened “if you’re white it’s alright” legislators and judges, including the Supreme Court, these next four years. The ACLU will stand up for the otherwise voiceless.

The Southern Poverty Law Center – This organization, founded back in the 1970s by a couple of lawyers who have been receiving death threats since then, tracks and reports on white supremacist and paramilitary and other hate groups, including the father of all hate groups, the KKK, and when the opportunity presents itself, usually and most sadly when someone has been killed, takes individuals and organziations to Court and, oncw_ivhwwqaaekfp occassion, bankrupts them. It’s a certainty with Steve Bannon whispering in Trump’s ear, with Jeff Sessions in charge of “justice”, the Law Center will be more in need of support than ever. Like the people it defends.

The Human Rights Campaign –  As the nation’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization, HRC has vowed to continue its fight to press for and defend equality for all. The group currently represents more than 1.5 million people in the LGBTQ community, many of whom feel more threatened than ever by a Trump-Pence White House.

Yes Magazine – Describing itself as 20 years of Solutions Journalism, Yes Magazine publishes in depth news stories and features about the ongoing needs of marginalized people everywhere, as well as the creative solutions that individuals, groups of people, organizations, and communtiies bring to those problems. This month features a story on where to make a difference in each of the 50 states. The magazine is an encouraging and informativimagee collection of hope, and buying a subscription will help.

These are five options, opportunities to do something and feel good doing it and stand up for what’s right. Here is a link to these and other worthy organizations, and the way to contribute to their efforts:   http://nymag.com/thecut/2016/11/how-to-donate-to-planned-
parenthood-and-other-charities.html
   You can go to  YesMagazine.org  for a subscription.

The past week I have made small donations to the Southern Poverty Law Center as well as to The Trevor Project, about which you can read in the New York Magazine link above. They weren’t for much, because that’s my story at the moment, but it felt good to do something good.

Now, as for the Taking, it seems I’ve run out of space. Clearly a direct way to take is to boycott — goods, services, businesses, corporations, sports teams, etc. I have a few in mind, but as I’ve run long, I’m asking readers of this blog to offer their own suggestions. Please leave your boycott plans and opportunities in the comments section for all to share. You will be taking action.

I’ll close with a quote from Clarissa Pinkola Estes“I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is that we were made for these times. Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement.”not-in-our-town_final

We keep on keepin’ on
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en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southern_Poverty_Law_Center


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Now What?

 

Some 15 years or so ago I was in a meeting when a guy I hadn’t seen for years came in and, when it was his turn, had an outburst of anger and victimization and rage and futility and most of the other emotions falling under the purview of “pissed”. When the meeting ended I walked over to him, and before he could offer his haven’t seen you in a long time greetings, I said this to him: “Now what?”

Over the years sincdownloade then, when we have managed contact in person or through email or over the phone, those two words have invariably found their way into the conversation. Usually on his part. It’s something we ask each other, ask ourselves, remind ourselves – Okay, there’s all that, so Now what?

The phrase came to me this morning, early, in the recliner, thinking about Nice, France and France again and again and everywhere else over the planet where horror and humanity gone wrong has paid its hope-draining visits these last many years. Now what?

I honestly gave some time in my head early last night, looking at but not really watching the news, to thinking dark thoughts, dystopian thoughts, those of an Enraged New World, where whole groups of people are scrutinized for the good of everyone else. I woke up and found myself in bad company, in fantasy bed with the likes of Newt Gingrich, certainly not wanting to be racial or racist in any way  – not in any way – just wanting a world where anyone is safe to go anywhere anytime, to rejoice in the sweet gift of life, and its promises of love and kinship and wonder and starting a business and chasing bliss and fresh breezes blowing along a tree-lined avenue.

Then this morning I had the thought that if I were 16 or 17 years old when I woke today, my desired career path would be as an agent with the FBI, with the CIA, with Homeland Security, with Interpol, with MI6, with la Surete, or something else, something better, like the agency Tom Cruise worked for in Philip K. Dick’s “Minority Report”. Where you get to see the crimes before they happen. Where you get to see someone getting into a large white truck in the hills above the ocean front in Nice, where you get to see into his head and see his thoughts, his intentions. And stop them before they happen. That would be good.

But I’m not 17 and that’s not real and the fact is the only real thing for me, right now, is not knowing what to do. Being left with only this – “Now what?”

It’s ironic. My intention for my next post in this blog, a few days ago, was to write about another agency, another grouping of initials. This one – VISTA. I wanted to write about VISTA, Volunteers In Service To America, that hands-on, hope-affirming government created and funded agency around, doing good right here in The United States, back when I was growing up, way back even before I saw my friend walk into that meeting. Back in the 60s and 70s. And an idea growing in my head about bringing VISTA back, now, and turning its attention on the racial and economic opportunity  and general kindness issues we find ourselves facing right here. But now look. I’m all up in my head with the FBI and the French DST and Philip K. Dick’s Pre-Crime Police. VISTA pushed over into the corner.

Some days. Some days it’s really hard. It’s hard to feel helpless, and afraid. My wife Susan is in San Diego now, visiting her parents, and I cannot think of how many times in the last three days I have told her to stay safe. I said it more urgently this morning. Stay safe.

I don’t believe God or The Great Spirit or Higher Power or whatever you want to call it, I don’t believe we were allowed to come into existence on this beautiful planet just to be scared. Always scared. Or to be forever heart-broken. I don’t believe that for a minute. But this morning, sitting here, I’m not sure what to do about it. So I’m left with Now What.

Now what?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream

the scream

Harlan Ellison, the famous writer of science, speculative, and other fiction wrote a story/book with this title back in 1967 — “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream”.  You have to go farther back for Norwegian artist Edvard Munch and his 1893 painting of “The Scream”. For me, they both resonate too well today.

Two years after Ellison’s story was published Neil Young gave us these lyrics: “Blue, blue windows behind the stars. Yellow moon on the rise. Big birds flying across the sky, throwing shadows on our eyes. Leave us helpless, helpless, helpless, helpless.”

I woke up this morning, staying up late last night with the network news, and felt that my duty – my job – was to write words of comfort. To comfort. Like St. Francis, not so much seek to be consoled as to console, that where there is despair, bring hope. That where there is darkness, bring light. I sat in the blue recliner that belonged to my mother and felt very strongly that my job for this day was to make my best effort for being a channel of peace.

And yet, it feels like there are shadows on my eyes, that my ability to see clearly, and by seeing understand and come up with a solution, is clouded, smudged, diminished. That I want to scream to stop it – everyone just STOP IT – but that I have no mouth. No mouth big enough and large enough and smart enough and brave enough to shout over the sickness, the division, the on-slot, landslide, the tsunami of bad and badder and still badder yet news that floods our collective view as a Nation, as a Planet. The horror of our everyday that leaps from the screen on ABC and CNN and The New York Times and The Dallas Morning News.

I feel like the person in the painting. Helpless, helpless, helpless, helpless.

And yet – again – I can’t give up. I can’t give in. I can’t say “No thank you” to the moral imperative that was waiting for me upon awakening. To be a channel of peace – tsunami or not.

In my case, where I’m at in my 68th year on the crying planet, I’m left with my writing and my painting. My mouths, as it were, with which and through which to scream. For common sense, for compassion, for plain old fashioned kindness and decency, for tolerance, for to each their own and it takes all kinds and we’re all bozos on this bus, for let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.

I think that is part of it, and maybe a lot of it, even possibly all of it. The let it begin with me. I knew a guy named Kevin in AA back in Chelmsford, Massachusetts back in the 1990’s. Whenever he was struggling he’d turn to one or another of a couple of older women who served as mentors and comforters to him. He’d moan his particular moan of the day and their reply would always be the same. “It will get better.” No matter his degree of discomfort and psychic pain. “It will get better.” One day, his story went, he’d had enough and confronted them both about just what this “It” was. He was told, the “It” is “You”. You will get better. You will get better, and then it will get better.

I believe that. And I believe that with the right leadership, with true leadership, and with the insistence by leaders that we come together to talk and to listen and just maybe learn something about it takes all kinds and to each their own and, yeah, all of us being bozos on the bus,  maybe then I could get better and You could get better and even We could get better. And then just maybe It would get better.

It’s possible. Harlan Ellison wrote another book, “The Beast That Shouted Love at the Heart of the World”. Neil Young wrote “A Heart of Gold.” And if you look carefully at that Munch painting you’ll see a couple of figures in the background. Who knows, maybe they’re angels, honest to God angels, just waiting for that scream to yell itself out, ready to step in and bring comfort and hope and light. It’s possible.

I’ve got some ideas, some very specific ideas, about how we could begin to fix the mess we’ve become. I’ll write about them another time, soon. I guess me writing this this morning is opening my mouth and making even just a tiny noise. It’s the best I’ve got today.

 


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To You Five In Massachusetts

From my Morning Pages

I realized, sitting in the recliner just recently, that today is Thursday and 20140817_090403I have a blog post due. This in addition to my commitment to write and complete a first draft for my college final – which, it turns out, will earn me no grade but a sense of satisfaction, adventure accomplished – due early next week. And I have no post ready for publication.

Not that I have a vast readership, in fact perhaps not a readership greater than five. But I vowed – to myself – that I would post a new blog every Thursday, and I have so far with the occasional Wednesday and Friday necessity-driven publication, and as keeping goal-related promises and vows to myself has not exactly been a strength over all these years, it feels important now. Really important.

All of which means I need to come up with something to say, and as it is just past seven am, and say within the next five or six hours. (You have to figure who, in fact, are your potential five readers and in what time zone do they live and when people are more likely to be looking at Facebook – where I announce my new blog post – and so for me and my goal for maximum exposure, that is somewhere around 2 – 2:30 pm. Pacific Standard Time.) – (I could live out here in Portland, in the West, on the west coast for the next 25 years and still have most of my faithful connections and friends and devoted readers be from three hours ago, back over there in the East, and mostly in Massachusetts.)

So, geography and time zones and personal living history notwithstanding, I need to get busy and try to come up with a post that is at once witty and engaging and unique. In fact the potential range of subjects is endless primarily because anything I write and post, even if it lacks any wit or any degree of engagement with my likely Massachusetts reader, will be unique. No one else could have written it but me.

I could write that it’s pouring outside now, and romantic as rainfall may be described, I’m sick of it, sick of the Portland rain. Or write how I attended my last Portland State University class yesterday and felt sad and proud and wildly stimulated even knowing I will, as an “adult learner”, receive no grade. But I remain committed to writing my final, a new short story with at least two drafts included, to be turned in by next Wednesday, and as I have planned all week to do that today and then re-write on Saturday, and as I have only recently realized I have a blog post due today, in a few hours, and do not have the strength or intelligence to write engagingly about the ongoing racial sickness and sadness in our Country – I’ll just use this

 


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Where Is Home? (Where Do I Truly Live?)

 

There are eight million artists stories in the city. This is mine. This is “Where Is Home?”.

Three vIMG_3132ery minor events happened to me – or through me – the other day that got me thinking. On face value there is no relationship or connection among them, just scattered different moments in my day. But they all brought me to the same place. To this question: where is home?

Let me explain. I get up early and sit in some level of meditation every morning, usually about 5:45. Then after 20-30 minutes I make coffee and sit in the recliner I bought on Craigslist for $40 when I first moved to Portland five years ago. I drink a couple of cups of coffee. While I have the coffee I read something I believe to be good for me. Today it was part of a chapter in a book called “The Attractor Factor” by Joe Vitale. Just before finishing my coffee and heading upstairs to write my “morning pages”, I read this: “If you want to attract wealth and anything else, you need to own your own power. You need to own your own energy. You can ask everyone what they think about any of your goals, but in the end, you have to decide.” Within that I saw and heard the words “own your own”. They are there twice. And I flashed on my time working for Walden House in San Francisco, an old-time drug treatment outfit, and all the sayings they had you would hear repeated throughout the day. One of which was “own your own”. It was pretty clear what someone meant when they were saying that. When you have all the troubles in the world from abusing alcohol and drugs, don’t try to lay them off on somebody else, or something else. You caused them. Own your own. It got me thinking, and when I came upstairs I wrote myself a note to write a blog about owning your own.

Three hours or so later I received an email in my in-box for a TED Talk, a series of videos of people speaking about important things. This particular Ted talk featured Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of “Eat, Pray, Love.” That is not a book I have read or am inclined to read, but I watched the seven minutes and was moved by the things she said. Bouncing back from failure. Bouncing back from great success. Coming to the realization that it is not about the failure or the success but about the doing of what you love. What you wake up for, what you burn to do. What she described as “going home”. I wrote a note under the ‘own your own’ note to write about home.

A few hours later, driving in the rain back from trying to hawk my art and my greeting cards to businesses along Broadway in NE Portland, the Sly and The Family Stone song “Thank You For Letting Me Be Myself Again (Falletinme Be Mice Elf Agin) came on the radio. As soon as I heard it (for the 10,000th time) I felt I needed to write a note under the other two, this one saying “myself”, and include that in the “own my own go home be myself” blog.

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Fishing

 

There are eight million artist stories in the city. This is mine. This one is called “Fishing”.Fishing 2

On a Friday night way back in 1987, I think it was November, I found myself sitting in the back of a meeting of people, at the end of the table, feeling pretty hopeless. That’s generally not my nature, and in fact the exact opposite of how I have felt for many, many years now. But I was feeling that way that night. All that afternoon, working as a landscaper at a condominium resort in Florida, I had been feeling sorry for myself and it got to the point where I actually began visualizing ending it all. So I am sitting at the table and just before the meeting began a large group of people walked in, loud and laughing, it turns out most of the people at this meeting just having come from a wedding rehearsal for one of the guys in the group. His sister was down from Rhode Island, she led the meeting, and one after another people talked about how good life was. With a few minutes to go, just before 11:30 p.m., the woman from Rhode Island asked if that guy at the end of the table would like to say anything. I opened my mouth and began sobbing. I sobbed and sobbed in front of everyone, and got out a few words about hopelessness. Then I was done and the mood swang back up to party level, and the meeting was over. As I was walking out a very large person walked in front of me, blocking my way. This guy, who always identified himself as “Todd C, a comode-hugging drunk from Kansas City”, looked at me and said: “Do you know what you need?” At that moment I honestly thought he was going to give me some magic words, let me in on some life secret I had never received, tell me a life-changing affirmation, a mantra, something. But when I said “No”, what Todd said was, “You need to go fishing.” That was it.

As Todd C from Kansas City was the best man in the aforementioned wedding he was not available the next day. But the following Saturday Todd pulled into my driveway right at noon with two fishing poles and assorted equipment, and after stopping for bait along the way, we sat down on two overturned empty five-gallon paint buckets and threw our lines into a tributary of the Indian River, the intercoastal waterway on the east coast. We sat behind a strip mall and talked and laughed and caught a few fish and then he brought me home. And almost every Saturday for the next four or five months Todd C showed up around noon in my driveway and took me fishing. And a little at a time I got outside myself and forgot about the poor me’s and started living my life again, and seeing the adventure – not the sentence – in it.

Magic words? Life-changing mantra? Secret password to bliss? Maybe. But, I guess I shouldn’t have been completely surprised. Back when I was six years old my Dad took me fishing one time, in a little creek in South Wareham, MA. A few years later I started hanging around with a kid named Donnie Sisson, and we started fishing, first in Mill Pond not far from his house, and then all over town, fishing poles and a bait bucket dangling off the backs of our bikes as we explored the Wareham waterways. I recall that we were never particularly successful in terms of catching large fish, or somedays any fish – we weren’t going to be featured on a show on the Fishing Channel (if there had been one) – but that was okay. I mean, what exactly is success? Summer day after summer day – before there were summer jobs for us and turning into good adults – we went to the Wareham River behind the A & P and caught minnows and then rode our bikes to Mill Pond or somewhere and sat on the bank and watched our red and white bobbers, mostly do very little except float along with any breeze passing by, and lived completely and gratefully that young boy’s life. Talk about bliss. Talk about magic. Talk about the affirmation of life. A life second to none. No, it shouldn’t have been such a surprise when the man from Missouri said he was going to save me by taking me fishing.

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