Monthly Archives: July 2020

UNSPEAKABLE GRIEF

This morning I drove to the overlook above Mono Lake in the Eastern Sierras of California to sit for a sunrise with Pam. I find that sunrise is one of the most beautiful and Spiritual times of the day and especially an hour before when the sky starts to lighten – the divine silence before life begins it’s daily rustle and bustle. I never used to rise early, but now I try never to miss a sunrise.

sunrise over Mono Lake

Last night I received a text message from a friend who had just found out about Pam’s passing. She said something to the effect that Pam and I were never really that close, possibly insinuating that her death is less painful, possibly than my mother’s, the first to pass in April of 15 and I thought the most difficult in the string of 4 deaths in 5 years, or Barb’s the most shocking although we all knew it was Barb’s choice and wish not to live longer in what she called her “shit can of a body” she was dealt in this life. Was/is it possibly less difficult than my father’s who I also had what I consider a love/not so love relationship with? No, for some reason, Pam’s death is the worst by far. I’ll try to explain as such because as a lot of you know I have really not been able to speak about it, only to a few who I think can understand the UNSPEAKABLE grief I am experiencing…

About Pam and I… We were born 6 years and 2 days apart, both Pisces in Astrology which would indicate that we might be best friends. It was not destined as such. Arriving 6 years after Barb, Mary and Pam who were all fairly consecutive, I believe I stole the limelight from Pam. I remember her being very sweet to me as a child and pretty much up until my teens where the turning point ensued. More in a minute on that. It is quite true that Pam and I were not very close at all for most of our lives, as a matter of fact there have been times in my life when we have not spoken at all for long stretches of time. Even though we had only spoken a couple of times for necessities only since I left NY for the West on 1/1, I did write her a card (no coincidences) 3 weeks ago that asked for peace, in honor of our beloved parents mostly. And I enclosed a little peace sign sticker that I carry with me and often hand out to strangers when traveling. As much as I didn’t like Pam sometimes, I certainly did love her and made every attempt to help her in her struggles with her mental health over the years.

Pam was a very strong personality, hard-headed and strong willed like my father. However, the “thing” that separated us the most? Jesus. Yes THE good Lord.

Born OK the First Time

When I was in my teens, I think about 14-15, Pam became born again. And like many staunch born agains, they profess to know THE way to heaven and are relentless in their preaching. Nope, those beliefs are NOT for me… not one little bit. In my upcoming book I talk about how I had a terrible bicycle accident when I was 18 and how my neighbors scooped me up and drove me up Parker road to my parent’s home where I was met at the sight of my swollen and bleeding head with tears by my father. My mom and Pam rushed me to the MAC and Pam was in the backseat, while my head above my right eye swollen to the size of a grapefruit, was hearing the words being yelled from the back seat “God’s trying to tell you something…” I told my mother to pull the car over and get her out before I killed her! That was one of many stories that I had – not fond memories of Pam or her Born Again-ism. The gift of having Pam the staunch Christian in my life, as well as a few friends who I know swear by the “Jesus is the way” slogan, I have learned ever so painfully over the last decades that whatever you think, feel or believe about religion or Spirituality is just fine with me, as long as you don’t try to push your beliefs on me. Personally, I subscribe to my beloved and blunt Barb’s slogan for the “Church of the Almighty Girlfriend” — “Don’t be a dick! Just be a good person and do the next right thing!”
 
As many of her friends reading this know, Pam had a heart of gold. She was very generous, a very hard worker and would often go out of her way to help another, friend or stranger. Pam was my father’s favorite. She looked most like him out of us 4 girls. They had a special connection with one another. Pam also had a great sense of humor, much of what we didn’t see a lot the last decade or so of her life. After Pam’s marriage fell apart in 2009, she did as well. She had, like many these days as they were prescribed like candy, a Benzodiazepine addiction. She suffered from severe anxiety and depression. And the benzos did not help. She is my second sister that benzos contributed to death. Barb also had ongoing scripts for them. And as many of you may or may not know, they almost took me as well in 2016 until I decided to completely clean up my act. It was incredibly difficult, but I came through it all. Today, I am proud to say that I am drug and alcohol free. I do think that God, whoever he or she is, would not have given me all this tragedy if I was still using because I would have been casualty 5. Now alcohol and pharmaceutical free for a fairly long stretch, I just love being back in California where I can enjoy a bit of the NATURAL recreational and creative medicine from time to time in the good ole form of cannabis.

In a conversation yesterday with one of my Goddess sisters she asked how I was doing and I said that I knew that Pam’s death had shattered me into a million pieces and that I could never quite see myself putting them back together. Some of those pieces I will need of course to be able to function in “society” which many of you know I have a great disdain for anyway. I don’t know what anything looks like on the other side of this. I just know that I need time and space in my ultimate momma. And I have found a great place in the Eastern Sierras where I can do just that, take all the time I need to heal before moving FORWARD.

Pamela June Culig

Pam’s cause of death is yet to be determined. We suspect it was heart related. Although everyone in Pam’s life of late knew that she was suffering from Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Syndrome, her death was definitely not suicide because her beliefs dictated that suicide takes one straight to hell. I hope she found out differently when that swarm of angels came down and swept her up the minute she passed and shielded her eyes so she would not have to see the horror of when her body was found days later. ;-( Yes Pam, Barb is in heaven too! Please know that we are all at peace knowing that you are finally at peace with the/your Lord. You begged and pleaded for him to take you in your times of great suffering and I do believe he finally felt it was your time. Rest with the angels Pam. REST WITH THE ANGELS NOW. You will be missed by many. GOD BLESS YOU! Namasté

Posted in Depression, Drug Abuse, ETERNAL LIFE, Faith, GRIEF, MENTAL ILLNESS, RECOVERY, SPIRITUALITY, TRAUMA Tagged , , , , , , , , , |

A NEW ERA

Please let me thank you personally for coming here to read a bit before looking at my brand new work. Generally, I tend not to be very short winded, yet I will try to keep it to the point(s).

To be an artist, to be creative… How many actually understand that this is not only in one’s DNA, it is also a vocation, often most only reap meager rewards from? Tracing back to about the age of seven when I wrote my first story about a young girl and her horse, I see that I was born to express. And those who know me well know how very expressive I indeed am! When deciding about college back in ’82, it was either going to be art or law school. Due to my thirst for the party life back then, I chose art because having one’s nose in the books as intently as it takes to be a lawyer was simply not in my cards at that time. Anyone who knows me well knows that I have forever been hell-bent on JUSTICE. After 24 years of multiple forms of therapy, I recently uncovered a very deep suppressed memory as to why it has been this way for me. Albeit monstrous, that memory was the last core of the onion skin, the very last piece of the puzzle, the invaluable information I needed to complete my upcoming book – a memoir of my 56 years of living on this “The Hospital Planet.” As I said to my EMDR therapist the other day, “I am no longer that helpless and silent teenager. “I AM POWERFUL BEYOND MEASURE!”

Photo taken by Gary Braasch in 2013 – Spruce Head Maine

Back to photography… It’s certainly no accident that the unveiling of this new work happens on one of my favorite mentor’s birthday. (actually due to the technical gremlins it was slated on the 16th and we had to postpone until those buggers left) Ann Mandelbaum was my photography professor at Pratt Institute back in the 80’s. She took a very special group of us to Israel for a summer program in 1985, a month long study abroad in photography at Camera Abscura in Tel Aviv, a trip which so completely altered my life in so many aspects I cannot even begin to list here. My declared Art Direction major fell to the wayside. And my wanderlust bug was unleashed in a massive way. Although there are many different ways that I have barely supported myself since leaving college in the late 80s, photography has always remained my true passion and my true love of artistic expression. I recently had a falling out with a friend who was judging my life and I told her that she could not even begin to know what it means to NEED to live your dharma. And my dharma is expression through both written word and how I see the world through my lenses.

I’d like to say a few words about #vanlife here as I have been doing this long before it became fashionable. I’ve caught ALL kinds of criticism over these years, mostly I have come to find from those who are jealous or envious of the way I live. (To even state here what some have said about how I live is a waste of precious time.) Apparently, for the last 5-10 years, living out of a van and traveling often times with a partner, seems to have become numerous folks’ dream and Instagram and Facebook sensations. Stated here for the record, I have been at this game of traveling in a Westfalia camper since 1999 when a friend let me borrow hers to drive from San Francisco to Santa Fe where I had been teaching at the world renown Santa Fe Photo Workshops.

My partner at the time flew down from San Francisco and we drove back to the Bay Area together stopping to rest one gorgeous full moon lit evening in Monument Valley. OMG!!!!! The exhilaration I felt left me speechless AND sleepless. The very next year I bought my first Westy from two sweet gay guys in the Oakland hills for a song. My current van, KaraVan, is my second. It wasn’t until 2010 when I left my home of 18 years in the bay area that I began living semi full-time out of my van. Although many people tend to be intensely envious of my life, I will not go into graphic detail here about what transpires when you run out of gas on the side of the road in

Montana in January when it’s 10° and it takes roadside service two hours to get to you. Or when you break down and parts are just not available and you must stay days in a shitty hotel waiting for their arrival. What I wish to express here is that as exhilarating as van life can be, it also has its INTENSE challenges. It takes very large cajones to do life this way. My best advice to anyone is to make sure your vehicle is solid and well inspected and just hit the road! You must be able to let go of all expectations and be totally flexible. Many women on some of the van life social media pages are MOST afraid of breaking down. IT’S ALL PART OF THE ADVENTURE! Rest assured I have had many, a few of which I will relay in detail in my upcoming book.

Although I very much enjoy ALL travel and always will, I feel that the time has come for me to put roots down again. My plan is to go back to my homeland, Croatia, to which I ventured back in 1988 for the very first time when it was still part of the former Yugolslavia. I completely fell in love with the country and my family there. I’ve since been back 6 times and the last time I was there in 2008, I sailed on the glorious Adriatic sea with two friends and their 18 month old little guy for 9 days. When I left Croatia that time, I cried harder than ever because I knew that I had to go back and make home there sooner than later. It’s quite apparent that the time is now for multiple reasons. I no longer enjoy life in the intense division and tension that currently exists in this country.

In regards to these displayed new galleries of work, (CALIFORNIA, TEXAS, SOUTHWEST, DEATH VALLEY and my new favorite, AMERICAN DESERTS) most are very recent from travels leaving New York on the first of the year with destination for potential roots/home again in California. That has obviously changed course mostly due to this corona virus crap. There are also a number of archived galleries that many of you have seen before, some have added and subtracted images. I encourage you to take the time, (hopefully on something larger than your handheld mobile device,) to view as much as you have time for. I was pleasantly surprised by the Longhorn state! Although my claim to fame is purism, I felt the need to color alter my images a bit from the desert, to reflect the feel of the stark and harsh nature of it’s beauty. Other than some very minor cropping and some very minor color adjustments, my images are straight out of the camera, a skill not many possess or utilize in these times of image manipulation to the hilt, such as HDR imagery which I am personally not fond of at all. As my good friend Betsy Dee always says, “Don’t get me started!” I have never liked the altering of imagery as such. I do not categorize it as photography and feel it somehow might fall into the realm of fine art/photo manipulation. Just my opinion.

I have a few people to thank profusely for this new display of my imagery. Back on May 6, I very creatively wrote an ad seeking a web developer on Craigslist. I received numerous responses and got bids all the way up to $7000 for some minor changes to my site, not even including the ever important SEO. (crooks!) There was one person in particular (and only one) who wrote the perfect response. That would be my web developer Katie T. I owe her so much more than the meager amount of money I have paid her. She is worth 1000 times her weight in gold. I do believe that everything has its divine purpose and I cannot tell you how grateful I am to have found her and know that we will not only have a lifelong business relationship, but I do also hope a lasting friendship. It was the first time I had felt comfortable enough to let someone else do some of MY work, to release control which is next to impossible for this perfectionist. One cannot imagine how much goes into building a site like mine. Katie will tell you… She was hired on May 7th…

While extending gratitude here, let me include the infamous Carr Clifton, (https://carrclifton.com) who took me on two amazing excursions as a baby shooter, first to Alaska in 1998, just he and I camping on Prince William Sound off his pontoon boat. And second we went on a house boat journey to Lake Powell in 1999. It was on that trip that I learned just how important clouds are (or lack thereof) to a great composition! Carr is a true master of the landscape, an EXPERT printer and a real character to boot. Of course, there is Ann Mandelbaum, and last but definitely not least, the beloved Gary Braasch, (http://www.braaschphotography.com) who captured the portrait of me pictured here back in 2013 when I took a workshop with him at the Maine Media Center. Gary left us way too soon when died at the age of 72 while snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef on March 7, 2016. His passion for our stunning planet, and attempting to save it by documenting climate change as well as biodiversity, forever impacted my life. Not to mention his sweet and gentle nature. I hope as part of this new chapter in my life, that I can continue documenting the immense beauty of our planet that more often that not leaves me in tears and speechless. My thanks end here, but there will never be enough for my parents, Mary Barbara Morog and Anton Culig, first for birthing me, second for mostly letting me be who I needed to be and also handing out some greenbacks when the supply ran low.

In conclusion, being the staunchly opinionated outspoken soul that I am, I have definitely ruffled some feathers – to be blunt, really pissed some people off over the years. My upcoming book is also sure to raise some eyebrows and although I try not to be intentionally unkind, (vengeful for the hurt I have had to endure in this life at the hands of many) there are some very harsh truths inside. Hence, my comments are shut off on my blog and all of my social media is privatized. It’s all part of the story, the many journeys which have led me through the sheer depths of purgatory here on earth to find deep peace and true happiness. I hope my book helps one other person and I shall have been successful! Should you wish to discuss anything with me, please feel free to send me a private message through my email  – feedback or a specific print request that is not in my section. As most of my tried and true friends know, should you not be able to afford a print or the price is listed, I am always willing to work with individuals should you really NEED a piece.

Thanks ever so much for reading all of this. I’d be honored if you would purchase a piece and please do when you check out, leave me a note and let me know if you wish it to be signed as it must be done digitally.
Until our paths might cross in this wonderful life 🙂 Namasté

PS – As in keeping with the good ole American way of incurring excessive debt, I NOW ACCEPT ALL MAJOR CREDIT CARDS! Discounts for cash if you contact me personally.)

Posted in SPIRITUALITY Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , |