Author: Gregory Patrick

A mad man who writes books, knits, and deals with the daily dilemmas of living 20 miles from nothing...I'm not kidding.

Lunch In Saigon With the Blessed Mother

I was doing my absolute best. My hands were clutching my rosary slung around my neck. From an observational point of view, I probably looked like someone choking themselves to death….

But, there I was…in a restaurant…for the first time in six years.

We’re all aware of my agoraphobia. I no longer need to leave Honeychurch. Like a hermetic monk, I rarely leave the property. Everything is delivered. Even my groceries. So, there is no need to leave.

Two weeks ago things went strange for me. I can’t explain it, but Phillip had a very good assessment of what was happening. “You are a freakin’ genius who can touch anything and make it just amazing…You seem to have forgotten how to do that.”

I haven’t made my own money in a while. I’ve not been selling, I should say. I haven’t been promoting the artist that is “Gregory Patrick.” No, I’ve spent my time helping my husband with his insane work schedule. I’ve been decorating the house, doing laundry, washing dishes, planting Widow’s Thrill up along the fence, working with the landlord to put in new windows, here to meet the deliveries, here to be available for anything and everything under the sun…except for myself.

I haven’t taken time for myself. Yes, I’ve been sketching, knitting, writing…but not doing anything with it. I no longer had interest in my own work, which is a really crappy place to be if you’re an artist. So I got depressed and called my mom.

As moms do, she agreed to come down for the weekend to help me work some things out. She had the most interesting condition, though. “Son, if I come down to visit, will you go have a coffee with me someplace, to get you out of the house?”
Of course.

But, I had someplace else in mind. When she arrived, I asked if we could have lunch at Saigon Noodle just up the block, there on the corner. I’m away from home, but I know my home is only a few feet away. But, there was an even deeper reason for my wanting to go there.

It was the first time I had sat at a table in public in six years. Again, I was clutching my rosary tight, staring at the window, talking to my mother….

The owner of the restaurant came by to check on us, perhaps wondering what this little bald man was doing holding a rosary so tight, so nervous about being in his establishment. So, I told him. “This is the first time I’ve eaten out in six years.”

“Why so long?”

“The reasons aren’t important. What is important is that the whole experience has been wonderful. The food and service have been amazing. Thank you, so much.”

“What made you want to come here?”

She did. I knew I’d be safe.” And to that I turned to point at their wonderous artwork of the Blessed Mother on the wall.

“Well, of course! She is our Mother!” To that I could only smile and nod….and know that I was where I should be, with my mother, and that all in life would be fine.

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Gruesome and Gorgeous

Somewhere around January the left side of my face drooped. I was feeling twitches and spasms on that side of my cheeks for weeks, then suddenly that side of my face dropped on me. My left cheek dropped below my jaw line, down towards my neck. I have a tendency to avoid mirrors. If I feel good, there is no need to see what I look like.

But, there I was standing before  a mirror….watching age and life take their claim. Phillip and George have noticed it so much that they ask if I am in any pain.

“No. Why? Do I look hideous?”

“Well, no, but it looks like it hurts.”

For 25 years I relied on a shy smile and razor thin cheek bones to get what I needed. Then one day, my hands started doing all the work. They began to crochet, to knit, to sketch, illustrate and embroider….And none of that aesthetic nonsense mattered any more.

So I don’t post pictures of myself anymore. I take pictures of my work. (Which is more important). If you want to see how gorgeous or gruesome I am, look for it in my work….look for it either in my writing, my temper, but for God’s sake, I will not let you see it on my face. For that was the day being pretty and youthful and bright was supposed to end.

Your an old man now, get on board, recognize, analyze your life and get on with it. Um, and this is the part where I ask myself:  which do you think you are, Gregory? Gruesome or gorgeous? And with some reflection the answer is both. I swirl in a pit of mental illness. I smell bad sometimes. I am often angry, and without pity. I move towards the dark parts of myself on occasion. What is worse? I move towards the dark parts of others. And I can’t function. I cannot leave the house for fear that you will hurt me. You. And that’s the dark part. I don’t even know who you are. But, I fear you will hurt me.

And the gorgeous part emerges. Sitting in a chair in the front yard, unwilling, unable to stress myself. I’ll have my colored pencils, or my knitting, or any random things my hands can procure, and I’ll make something beautiful out of that wicked fear that keeps me pegged and pinned down.

I will sit there for hours disregarding, forgetting, purposely pushing away anything that makes me feel horrid. I will take a moment to realize why I am out there: to soak up the pain, then wash it away with the few brushes of a pencil.

I don’t know what happens next in my life, for I’m not sure how much gruesome I can handle for the sake of gorgeous. I should have been free of all this pain a long time ago….

But, that’s the nature of life isn’t it? We never let go of bad things…we just find ways to make them pretty.

I am both gruesome and gorgeous….I think that makes me whole, in some way.

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The Day My Little Flowers Saved Me

The structure of this piece is pretty simple…anxiety turning into calm. As frantic and explosive as it is, the process was soothing, filling, soulful and worthwhile.

Let’s back up a little bit. I have been making great strides with the cleaning up and renovation of Honeychurch. Everyday this little house looks better and better. The bad news is, I haven’t gone more than two blocks in nearly four months. That’s dangerous for an agoraphobic. It all becomes too comfortable. Everything has become deliverable. There is no real reason for me to leave….

But, today was one of those days where I simply had to walk up to the shopping plaza. No excuse for not going. If I may be absolutely truthful, I call it “taming my crazy.”

I have to combat it often, need to look at it, size it up, see what I can do to beat it, and win. And today? Today I started drawing another motif. About an hour into it I realized I was doing everything I could to avoid leaving the house and heading up to the shopping plaza. More flowers here, more colors there. It gets bigger and more beautiful with every flower I dare to doodle.

Then I could hear myself, finally. “Gregory, you need to go up there.”

“Let me take a chance at a little more color on this flower. I’ll leave in a little while….”

“Gregory, you need to do this.”

“But, I need to do a little more blending first.”

And for a good two hours my crazy got the best of me. My anxiety was on fire. My fear was ruling my life….and I just kept sketching. I was locked in, my head clenched on doing only this, sufficiently this and there was no real reason why I needed to leave.

“Because you’re missing out on beauty,” the little voice said.

I quickly stood, grabbed my keys, tucked my wallet in my back pocket and bolted. It was almost immediate. I locked up the front door and didn’t look back. “Go! Go look for beauty,” exclaimed the little voice.

And there were so many beautiful things to look at, not to mention that lovely spring breeze that kept brushing smoothly by my face, not to mention the feel of the sun on the nape of my neck.

I’ll never sell this little piece. I want to frame it, place it somewhere near the front door, just so I can be reminded of the day my little flowers saved me.

If you appreciate my blog and would like for it to continue, please donate. Every bit helps and I wouldn’t have the courage to do this without you. Thank you so much for reading!

Scribble and Doodle

My goodness, what a time I’m having.

We have new windows at Honeychurch! The 80 year old casement windows are gone and we now have modern screened windows opened wide! With it being spring, the weather is a gorgeous 70ish during the day and Honeychurch is full of this gorgeous hint of orange blossom and jasmine in the air. The house and I can now breathe….Throughout this time I’ve been helping the landlord to renovate, decorate, and even celebrate this little cottage. And the Universe has been so helpful. I’ve been wanting a screen door for the longest time and happened upon one this morning on the side of the road. It’s a bit damaged but it has the perfect dimensions for my front door frame. We’ll install it this weekend. I am anxious to show you pictures of all the work we’ve done on Honeychurch, but I want to wait until it’s nearly done. I want a carpet for my living room. A new desk chair. Curtains for the new windows….I’ve put them on my wishlist 🙂

I’ve also been doing a lot of sketching and illustrating. It’s spring and each year my heart and soul find a new artistry to pursue. Last year it was embroidery, this year it seems to be colored pencil on paper. I truly love it. I can’t wait for that moment when I wake, dash to my desk and start scribbling, regardless of what time of day or night it is. I am profoundly involved in this and cannot wait to see where it goes. Yes, I can do greeting cards, mugs, the list goes on. But, I’m still in the process of finding the right company to match my work. And as of now, I’ve done nearly 100 individual sketches. So, the possibilities are endless, but for now, I’m not going to rush. I’ll take my time and find the right place for my art. I don’t have a shop for all of that yet, but I’m working on it. It isn’t as easy as I thought it would be 🙂

There is this process. I tend to Honeychurch painting walls, climbing ladders to dust the ceilings and fans, then crouching down wiping baseboards, spackling walls, cleaning window panes. And after some time has passed I’ll sit here at this desk, toss on some wonderous music, and immerse myself in this beauty of scribbling words and flowers. I cannot tell you what all of this (ALL of this!) has done for my mental health. I really want to see where this takes me.

Phillip has been spending a tremendous amount of time at the restaurant. With his promotion came a lot of responsibility….and with that, a lot of confidence in himself that he has been missing. He’s not captain of the ship yet, but you can tell he wants to get his hands on that steer. I’m proud of him. We don’t get to see each other as much, but we do make a point of spending time when he comes home at about 3am. We’ll have a toddy, dunked with a couple of Hobnobs, watch a little Taskmaster, then head to bed.

I cannot report anything awful going on, nothing bad. All is well. Which is a blessing! If you’ve followed this blog for a while then you’d know that things weren’t always going my way. But, they are now…so I’m off to doodle more flowers 🙂

If you appreciate my blog and would like for it to continue, please donate. Every bit helps and I wouldn’t have the courage to do this without you. Thank you so much for reading!

Darting Through the Darkness

A friend of mine suggested I say something, anything. “Hello? Are you there?” 🙂

I haven’t written a blog post in a while, for no other reason than it wasn’t where my inspiration was, just not for now. I have tons to still say, but I’ve been looking for other ways to say them. For instance, my little notes scripted on stationary was a challenge to myself to condense everything. Find a cleaner, quicker way to say what I mean. (HAIKU!…not quite, but you know what I mean.) I was putting those up on all of my social media. Just a quick snap shot of something I’d thought….profound or not. 🙂

Then what started as a simple scribble around a stain on a wood crate became an obsession, one of those beautiful things that will happily keep you up into 3am in silence, playing with imagination, darting through the darkness with little bits of color. I’ve done quite a few pieces in the last few weeks….Someone asked if I was in need of more boxes. I want to say “HAI!” But, my heart tells me that the magic of all these sketched boxes was looking around the house, noticing things I didn’t need anymore and instead of tossing them to the side of the road, or junking them in the trash bin, that I could instead have one of the coolest, most artistic yard sales ever! So, I kept sketching things I no longer needed….making them into something of value to someone, hopefully. You can find them in my shop.

And then there is Honeychurch. I’ve been spending beautiful time in the sunlight. The windows have been cracked wide, all doors opened. Fresh air and sunlight have been abundant. So, I’ve been scouring every little nook and cranny off this old lady’s wrinkles, washing her up, polishing her up, dressing her up, decorating her and making her worth the beauty that she is. I have painted almost every wall, bleached every cabinet, wiped every base board. I needed to….

For a minute there, this old cottage and I didn’t care for one another….until we realized we already had what we’ve always been looking for. A cottage for me, a caretaker for her. Honeychurch is beginning to look tended to, loved. And she is responding with just the most vibrant, joyous energy. You can feel her presence when you walk through the front door. She is gracious and invites….My friends want to sit, rest and visit. (And my landlord is installing new windows!!!! YES!!!)

There are other little projects I’m working on here and there. (I’m sketching the bottom of a vintage cribbage board set in this picture!) I find something that inspires, that keeps the joy alive, then I gravitate, despite whatever else may be happening in the world. I gravitate towards joy….and everything else falls into place. (Thank you, God).

You know, some may say that the world is dark and turbulent, especially now. There is an overabundance of sadness.

However, if you can find a way to find just a sliver, just a beam of joy that keeps you moving towards better thoughts about life, you’ll find your world is a wonderful and resoundingly bright place to be right now. Not tomorrow, not yesterday. But, right here, right now….like a dart, your joy will pierce through the darkness. 🙂

If you appreciate my blog and would like for it to continue, please donate. Every bit helps and I wouldn’t have the courage to do this without you. Thank you so much for reading!

Thank you, God, for this Life

I want to thank all of you for one of the most magical birthdays ever.

For weeks before the day I was riddled with strange anxieties many of us have when hitting a milestone. Questions of relevance and your impact on the world confiscate your mind….then you find yourself handling joy and regret like some kind of juggling act.

Then the day came. And nothing but happiness happened. And then my mother arrived. I hadn’t seen her in almost four years. The embrace was….well, the kind you get from a mom, the kind of hug no one else can give you. Indescribable.

We sat and had coffee as she handed me a gift. It was a thin, limpy, preciously wrapped gift. As she handed it to me, I felt the premonition I had in a dream….something I have been wanting for so long.

I held it in my lap, placed my hands on the package, lifted my head skyward and whispered, “Please, please, please, please….”

I sat there begging like a child, pleading with God that this was it, I had seen it in a dream! PLEASE!

I rip it only slightly enough to see that it was what I wanted! IT WAS! OH MY!

I leapt to my feet, screaming, “YES! HA!!!” I ran to the kitchen, laughing with the most joyous noise. The look on my mother’s face was astonishing, as if to say, “I didn’t know this meant so much to him.”

It was a Siouxsie and the Banshees T-shirt. Now, I’ve wanted this shirt for a while, couldn’t afford it, so I put it on my amazon wish list. Someone bought it a month ago….but, it never arrived. Did a porch pirate take my beloved Siouxsie???

My mother, seeing my delight, confessed that my sister (MY SISTER!) had purchased the shirt and sent it my mother to give to me on my birthday, just so I wouldn’t open it too early…..just so I would be delighted at just the right time. My sister was giving more than a shirt. It was a gift reminding me of wish….and patience.

Oh, my. I swell with tears when I think of how dear the entire day was.

I walked around with my own mad tea party hat (paying a little homage to Kanreki, but why not do it at 50?), wearing my Siouxsie shirt (thank you again, Jessica), and had friends come in and out all day to wish me well and gifts of blessing. We had cocktails, we had nibbles, we had a grand time.

But, no matter how many people were here, I spent my birthday with two of the people who mean most to me. My mother here, and my sister in spirit.

Towards the end of the night, when my little party was at its height, there were five people laughing and chit-chatting in dim light.

I said nothing, and just sat back, watched my friends and kin be kind, and smiled with delight.  And bigger went my grin as I softened my eyes, and whispered with a hushed sigh,

“Thank you, God, for this life….”

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A Collection of my Crazies…

It’s midnight-ish. Phillip won’t be home for quite a few more hours. You’d think I’d go to sleep whenever I wanted, but no. I enjoy greeting him when he comes home, despite what the time may be. We’ll have a night cap, chit chat about the day, watch a little something to make us laugh, then head to bed.

In the meantime, I’ve had too much time on my hands. Too much free time doesn’t work so well in my head. A collection of my crazies have come to nest….

I will admit freely that I’m not having the best time with my impending birthday. And I can’t for the life of me think why. It’s a condition of self sabotage that I often see surface. The idea of turning 50 does not bother me. The way I feel about my body at 50 does, though.

Somewhere, in the last couple of years, I forgot to start taking care of myself. Not eating, smoking cigarettes, not moving my body enough. 30 years of all those bad habits are piling onto a man about to hit 50….and it’s making me feel like an old man. Suddenly.

I will admit that I often won’t look in a mirror. I’m afraid of what I may see. So, I deeply distract myself in my little world of artistry, in whatever art these hands will lead me to. I would rather distract myself by making beautiful things, rather than look at myself as beautiful…

My, God. How awful. How truly awful. But, why???

I know this emotion will pass, they always do. My birthday is Wednesday and I have a bunch of friends (a much different collection of crazies 🙂 ) popping in throughout the day to wish me well. There will be a lot of love felt then. But, for the moment, just shy past midnight, I was feeling the need to be sincere.

If you appreciate my blog and would like for it to continue, please donate. Every bit helps and I wouldn’t have the courage to do this without you. Thank you so much for reading!

I Won Christmas This Year!

My grandmother switched to drinking tea somewhere around the year 2000. She was so delighted with the whole process of brewing, steeping, presenting, then sipping. Because of that she developed this beautiful love for tea pots and began to collect them. It wasn’t often, but when a pretty pot crossed her path she snatched it up, displayed it…but, never really used it. No, she had her favorite pot that she drank her daily tea out of, so these other pots on shelves were an acclaimed admiration for the art of tea drinking itself. (My grandparents lived in Japan for a few years in the 1950’s. Tea wasn’t new to them).

I remember one Christmas nearly our entire family was in attendance, which is rare. My grandparents were there and I hadn’t seen them in quite a while. The magic of the day begins as we start ripping up packages left and right. No flow to it, just everyone being handed their gifts and delighting in the surprise. I give my grandmother her gift and sit back. The room is noisy with joy and laughter. My grandmother was the matriarch of our clan, the eye at the top of the pyramid. So, when she shrieked, “Oh, Bobby, look!” everyone in the room stood still. Anytime she raised her voice, we all calmly stopped what we were doing to hear what our dowager had to say.

She pulled out of her gift box a small, white, porcelain tea pot with a very bulbous base and a long fluted spout, all etched with tiny blue flowers. She exclaimed with delight, “It’s an odd shaped tea pot from Gregory!” She held it in her hands, spent quite a while admiring its shape….with a smile. At one point she looked at me in much the same way you recognize that this someone saw you, got you, heard you, understood you.

I sat back and looked at everyone in my family with a grin, thinking to myself, “HA HA! I WIN CHRISTMAS THIS YEAR!” I got our granny not just a gift, but the gift of the year. 🙂

Granny has been dead for about 20 years now and as every year, my mother famously asked what I wanted for Christmas. To make things easy I said, “Just pick something off my amazon wish list.”  Then my mother and I began waxing sentimental and I remembered that year I found my grandmother a great tea pot. I mentioned that I no longer drink coffee. Don’t know why, but it doesn’t fit my palate anymore. So, I’ve also switched to tea and drink quite a lot of it. My favorite is at the end of the evening, just before bed having a cup of Bigelow’s Constant Comment with honey, lemon, and just a splash of Southern Comfort. My own little end of day toddy.

I then giggled and said to my mother, “Funny. I suddenly feel the desire to find pretty tea pots that cross my path….”

My mother was sweet and sincere grabbing a few things off my wish list, but then this appeared in the mail. My granny’s hand was on my shoulder as I pulled it out of the box. There are so many things that these hands do that recall my grandmother. She never taught me to knit, to crochet, to sew, or how to drink tea. These things came natural to me because her spirit and love of artistry runs through my fingers. The minute I pulled the tea pot out of the box I exclaimed, “Oh, Phillip! It’s a tea pot from my mother!!!”

And my mother can rest assured as she sits back, that she won Christmas this year 🙂 Love you mom !

If you appreciate my blog and would like for it to continue, please donate. Every bit helps and I wouldn’t have the courage to do this without you. Thank you so much for reading!

The First Step in a Profession

I was watching a youtube video of novice monks making their profession, to be a part of a community of brothers who wish to do nothing other than come into company and pray, not only with their silent observance, but of their combined work, as well. There were four novices, new to the monastic world, kneeling before God. And I heard the most beautiful words asked of the other monks. “Will you accept them into our community?”

And the monks replied, “We accept them. We love them. Thanks be to God.” And suddenly, a roar of applause from their new brothers.  You could feel that wave of love wash over everyone. No severity, only brevity. Quick and sudden. This is the first step in being a monk: accepting love before you can give it. You cannot give love to others if you won’t allow yourself to be loved first. 

I caught myself crying while watching that video because I felt I was never going to experience this moment of taking vows, this same inclusion into a community of love and connection. Then the little voice said, “Gregory, have you taken notice of yourself? For you have taken vows. You have already experienced this….You DO live in a community of people who love you, as do I.”

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The Show is Almost Over, Isn’t it?

I guess I should start thinking about my birthday….

We tend to have this long slide of holiday cheer around here this time of year. We move on from Christmas to New Year’s, then my birthday just days after (January 4th), then settle up somewhere around epiphany (January 6th).

This year is a little different. It’s a milestone birthday. I’m going to turn 50. 

I was venting to Phillip last night, just one of those random gasps when you realize you’re turning…..50.

“Could everything just slow down for a minute? I mean, come on! These last 50 years have just flown by! And I’m terrified! Yes, I will admit that I am positively terrified….The show is almost over, isn’t it, sweetheart? At some point the show has to end….and I’m terrified of that.”

I can’t think of any human who doesn’t recognize that getting older means getting closer to the show being over. Vacation time, school time, this party time, this time to experience has to end at some point…At some point you have to go home. I won’t lie. Like any one of you, I’m terrified that this beautiful trip here will be done before I even get started. Can you blame me? It seems the older I get, the better I get at being perfectly me…and I can’t wait to see the possibilities of just who that is. 

So, my birthday is coming up and I’m supposed to think about how I could, can, should celebrate. My grandmother famously asked of anyone annoyed at having a pending birthday, “Well, have you considered the alternative?”

I don’t know what I want to do for my birthday. A big part of me wants it to be a small occasion. A small part of me wants it to be the most outlandish thing you’ve ever seen 🙂

I guess we’ll see….

If you appreciate my blog and would like for it to continue, please donate. Every bit helps and I wouldn’t have the courage to do this without you. Thank you so much for reading!