Monthly Archives: April 2009

watch nothing to see everything.


Between Becky and Graham’s two installation the theme of late seems to be foot movement. Maybe it’s the weather, but maybe it’s the fulfillment of self-sufficiency. With the state of the economy right now – investing in yourself and testing yourself to realize just how much you are truly capable of accomplishing will have to be the new black and I embrace it whole heartedly.

But what happens when your body has you trapped and lets your mind wander free? The ultimate form of chlosterphobia.

I believe life setbacks end up serving some “grand” purpose in our life and Becky’s injury has in some small way highlighted her priorities. Running with Zoë is a great memory, a goal, and an accomplishment. The motion of stirring cookie dough even makes her happy because she is finally rid of the crutch. The crutch as both a tool and an aide can be quite handy, but it is a constant symbol of dependence pointing out the very thing we are incapable of doing.

But crutches come in all shapes and sizes. We are all aware of this.

The past six months have been a roller coaster for my grandmother. Complications from both surgery and a stroke have left her with use of only her left arm. A once active swimmer, she now has to rely on others and her own problem solving intuition to get through one day. Her entire life is out of her hands and if I think about it too much I can’t breath. Complete dependence is probably my biggest fear, but I was wondering why sometimes I feel just as trapped even now. I remember being debilitating shy when I was younger. Barely capable of kicking a soccer ball when my dad took me for team sign up at age five, I was so scared of the other kids, worried they would pick on me for some irrational reason. I eventually adapted and learned to observe and then act. Observing allowed distance to create comfort. It became my crutch and it still is. I need to understand before I can feel comfortable enough to open my mouth. It’s my own self-imprisonment. You will never see me on a stage. I have to give a toast at my best friend’s wedding this weekend and I want to vomit at the thought of 200 people looking at me.

Becky’s escape from the crutch has left a larger space for the things she loves – baking, painting, making, running, walking, Zoë time! Foot maps. Mobility realized. These impressions Becky and Zoë have left on my floor become a web of line and motion. The ethereal quality of Zoë’s ink steps mixes with the uncertain line of Becky’s foot trace to create the most complex ballroom dance sequence I have ever seen. They must have had a ball.

I’m sorry. I couldn’t help it.


Left foot hits floor: ausgezeichnet!


The ability to walk is one of the best things in the world. I’ve endured a total of five walkless months in my 38 years so far – not really so long, but long enough to be certain of this. My most recent left ankle malfunction extended through this past January. I’ve been walking again for almost two months now, but haven’t ceased to wonder at the ability of my feet to carry me across the room, down the street and to keep the rest of me aloft as I pace in front of an unfinished painting. Pure bliss.

So, as the final How We Dwell-ist, I celebrate mobility, walkability, and the reboundability of my left ankle and my dog Zoe’s left elbow (more on this below) … and that of all the left ankles and all the left animal elbows in the world, even. During one short weekend (one day and a half, really) in Megan’s sweet dwelling space, I have made visible the occurrence of every instance that my left foot hit the floor. Rejoice! And most instances that Zoe’s left paw padded along. Ausgezeichnet!

While living in Megan’s apartment, I also made a point to do all the things I missed doing most when my ankle was sick. I worked on a significantly-sized painting – standing, pacing, mobile, free. I stirred up cookies for the first time since November (crutches don’t leave your arms free for baking or cooking ease). I walked my dog. I walked my dog from one end of the apartment to the other. And again.

There’s more to the story if you care. It goes like this: running is pretty high up there, too on my list of wonderfuls. My best days have started with a good run with Zoe in the gentle Portland rain. For seven years Zoe and I pounded the pavement together, three mornings a week. We took a break for almost a year while I needed to build up strength after my second ankle-sprain-nerve-condition combo. During that time, she was my rehab partner. We added another two minutes length to our walk each week until we graduated to speedwalking: one minute quick for every five minutes slow. Finally speedwalking mixed with running until we could go the full three miles together – one whole year of unquestioning patient encouragement at my side.

We also took a shorter break from running twice due to left elbow inflammation — Zoe’s left elbow — slightly mysterious, and always dissipating within four days or so. But finally just over a year ago, i had to retire her. She was 8 1/2, or 60 in dog-years and had begun to limp significantly, favoring her left forelimb. She recovered as soon as the running stopped but never forgave me for continuing to run on my own without her, whining at the door as I left with my running shoes and ankle brace laced.

Alas, these days she is my rehab partner once again. I think she’s still spry enough to see me through the speedwalking stages. I honestly don’t know if I’ll make it beyond that this time, either. But for now I’ll stay busy enough, thankfully pacing in front of unfinished paintings, standing at the counter stirring cookies and nimbly walking my dog through the streets of Baltimore.

– Becky Slemmons