Tom and I are currently working hard on separate projects.

Tom is developing some of his studio techniques, exploring different ways of depicting the textural qualities of vegetables and flowers.

I’m writing about my recovery from stroke, and for the past fortnight have been working on a chapter specifically about my left hand, and the work I did assisting it to redevelop function.

I sat down with the usual writerly anxieties: could I possibly write a whole chapter just about my hand and me? It turns out that I can. But in order to do so, I have had to work hard to think myself back into my immediately post-stroke body, to recall the specificity of that experience, and to communicate that specificity in a way that I hope will prove engaging or useful to the reader.

Thinking and writing in what is proving to be quite an immediate, intimate way, is an act that continually poses questions for me, both philosophical and somatic. But at a basic level, both the thinking and the writing — much like the experience of recovery itself, in fact — are really just about paying attention.

It occurred to me, looking at Tom’s recent photographs this morning, how very similar our two projects are.

Tom seems to be exploring a whole visual language of attentiveness.

And each of his new images suggests to me a different reward of close attention-paying.

I suppose I’m finding paying attention quite rewarding too.

37 thoughts on “paying attention

  1. What a wonderful post Kate and what an inspiration you are. I used to work in rehab and I know it’s the small victories that count. May your journey back to the body you knew be rich and rewarding journey and your frustration and pain be minimal ! Thanks for opening up and letting us see a little of the light from your soul !

    Best wishes to you,

    Richard. ;-)

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  2. What an amazing chapter to write. I imagine it as challenging to place yourself back in to that early stage of recovery and rehab and notice the details. If, as expect you will be, you find the place, and the words to tell others I think you will have written something supremely valuable for others recovering from stroke or supporting those who do.

    I once spent 6 months supporting someone working at being able to knit following stroke, it was a great privilege and we became friends. We couldn’t/didn’t do the writing you will do, although we had quite some experience! I hope your writing goes well.

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  3. Love the photos and I’m sure the book will be useful to many as well as interesting to the general public. Have you put your design work on hold?

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  4. Both of you pay attention and command attention while being marvelously unassuming. Your posting, commingling your project with Tom’s is brilliant—one could see the analogous processes rushing to fruition together and yet independently—-your posts are such a treat!

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  5. The first image that comes to my mind about your rehabilitation, once you were discharged from hospital was your urban small flat environment, and how much affect that had. Good in that you are close to rehabilitative help, but your rural environment now seems better for your soul, and on a physical basis, giving you a different outlet for your physicality.

    The second thing that overwhelmed me where the big financial outlay you put into getting better, with the purchase of the van etc, that led to more adventures for you and Tom (and Bruce), and the small, but very time-consuming efforts, like changing your footwear up to six times a day, please don’t forget how important these were.

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  6. BE HERE NOW! Yes, being mindful is very important and I so appreciate what you and Tom are doing……that cabbage!!
    Those flowers!! I think your writing will be very helpful for recovering stroke victims. Thank you.

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  7. I think the ability to pay attention is something of a gift, from several points of view. For some, that luxury of close attention and discriminatory thought is washed aside by the tough realities of the day to day. But the level of awareness to detail that attention demands seems to be truly outside of the experience of many.
    There is so much that is beautiful and of interest to be found in the seemingly trivial, if only attention can be applied.

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  8. Kate, the beauty of your soul and Tom’s is reflected in your words, your work and the way you live each day. For sharing all this with us, I am grateful. The photographs are reminiscent of Georgia O’Keefe paintings. Just beautiful.

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  9. Outstanding, the photos and your written thoughts. I enjoyed sharing in both your and Tom’s projects. Press on, my friend, as I know you shall. and please keep writing. It is refreshing to read someone’s thoughts and connect!!

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  10. Kate, you and Tom and Bruce are stunningly beautiful people (ok..Bruce is a dog-people)….I continue to struggle to find the words to describe how much your posts mean to me.Bless you.
    Julie

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  11. I have never met Tom (or you) but it is blatantly obvious from those photographs that Tom is a very attentive, aware and appreciative person. We live in such a fast paced time, and it’s so refreshing to see a person (very masculine man no less) who “sees” things with such an artful and loving eye as he does. I love all of these, and especially his savoy cabbage and red pepper studies. Last night I happened to have made savoy cabbage slaw, and I threw it together quickly. I didn’t have “time” to admire the beauty of it’s surfaces, and now I see what I was missing. Thank you.

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  12. Paying attention is like living in the present. Getting lost in the present and giving yourself as much time as you need to absorb the experience is a wonderful thing to allow yourself. Consequently, you will be able to give more of yourself to others. Delightful!

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  13. Gosh my first reaction when seeing the cabbage leaf was you had posted a pic of a brain after a stroke. They seem similar (in my mind) with all the veining. Beautiful thought provoking images!

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    1. Yes, this was my reaction to. It’s an amazing photograph. With the strong centre stem, it reminded me of ‘The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World’ by Iain McGilchrist.

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  14. Thank you Kate. As usual I’m blown away by your openness to share. Also the depth of both yours and Tom’s creativeness ( I’m sure Bruce has a paw in there somewhere too) Be encouraged you touch many people’s hearts. 🙂 Writing about this very difficult time in your life will be healing in more ways than one. Freeing for a new level of creativity too.

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  15. Tom’s photography is stunning and as such, hold healing qualities for both of you. You are both very inspirational.

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  16. Thank you so much for the words about rethinking and -feeling to your recovering. It is so close to me as a reader and touches me deeply, as your words often do! Rethinking and paying attention about my own past with rehabilitation causes in abuse is the daily challenge in mental and sometimes physically way. My inner feeling about myself in times of trouble and stress is to remember, that paying attention is the only way to get myself in touch with my inner self, where calmness and friendliness can grow. It’s a bit of watering plants in the garden while the sun in summer is shining brightly and I have to pay attention that no damage happens to the blooming flowers by drought. Thank you for your intimate thoughts you share. And thank you, Tom, for your intimate pictures to share with us in times of hecticness and riot.

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  17. The cabbage leaf is amazing as are all the other photos Tom recorded.
    I admire you for having the bravery to recall and write about a most horrific part of your life and your persistence to overcome this through exercises and mind control. I’m sure you are an encouragement to all!!

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  18. Tom’s attention to detail is beautiful. I have a new appreciation of a tulip! I am glad you are writing about your experiences. You helped me a great deal when I had a bad fracture a few years ago and had to learn to walk again.

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  19. Phenomenal photos and brilliant to think of the juxtaposition of his work and yours. You are an inspiration to all to forge ahead regardless of the difficulty. Thank you for allowing us to view Tom’s photos. They are amazing.

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  20. What splendid photographs! The Savoy cabbage is so real, I can feel the ridges – great work; good luck to the two of you with both endeavours.

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