“I Have No Idea What’s Going On”

One of life’s biggest enigmas — for me anyway — is when to rely on reason and when to follow my heart (not that they are mutually exclusive). Sometimes our minds betray us. Sometimes our intuition is completely insane. As a kid, I learned not to trust myself, but who knows us better than we know ourselves? Each life is its own pathway to the self. The one consistency in our lifetime is that we are there for the whole show.

When I was trying to figure out what to do in 2014 after my job had been “given away,” and I was 62, old enough to retire, my neighbor (one of the sanest people I’ve ever known) Andy Lopez said, “Follow your heart, Martita.” I listened to Andy, and I did what he told me to do. I listened to my heart. Anyone who could talk to a horse the way he talked to Brownie, or raise kids as brave, smart and free as his, was worth listening to. Still my mind was involved saying, “You won’t have enough income to sustain your life here, Martha.” That was the push and it didn’t take Andy or my intuition to see that.

As I type, I have two photos in front of me. One is of a restaurant in Zürich that’s decorated for Christmas and has a painting of Goethe on the front with the words that Goethe had stayed there with the Duke of Weimar in 1779. It was once the home of Caspar Lavater who was a famous phrenologist in the 18th century. He was also the pastor of the church that shares a square with the restaurant, St. Peters. The photo is important to me because it was this painting that awakened me to Europe. I hadn’t read anything by Goethe when I first saw this building, but it was enough that I could realize — suddenly — how many feet had walked on those streets and for how many centuries. That is NOT America.


As far as I’ve been able to understand, phrenology was an attempt to understand the human mind by evaluating the shape of a person’s head. It is now called a pseudo science, but back in the 18th century, when modern science was just beginning, it was not pseudo. While it sounds absurd to us today, it was a start. Still, it is pretty absurd to think that the outside of the head can be an indication of moral values, intelligence. He didn’t invent this. The theory that the shape of the head indicated all kinds of metaphysical attributes had been around thousands of years already. Lavater systematized it and traveled to various cities talking about it. He and Goethe were friends. I guess he had good things to say about the shape of Goethe’s head…


I have a kind of dent in the top of my head. I know exactly what it signifies. It is symbolic of the time my brother hit me in the head with a hammer. He watched too many cartoons.

The other photo in front of me? 27 years ago. One of the greatest days of my life, and I — thankfully — knew it at the time. In the photo, the day is just beginning. The sun is rising over the desert. The sky is cloudless, early-morning blue. The people in the photo are smiling, excited to be setting out. The photo says nothing about the turmoil behind the smiling faces, the silent battles between head and heart.

19 thoughts on ““I Have No Idea What’s Going On”

    • It’s a drawing for a painting. I have done the background but the rest of it is pretty challenging so I thought drawing it a few times would help me. There’s no fog, but it definitely looks like it in the photo.

    • Yeah, it was pretty painful. I was 7. Kirk was 5. My older cousin saw it, smacked my brother and took me to the store for a popsicle. That was some kind of first aid I guess. 😀

      • LOL! I’d never have gotten to the store.

        I received some pretty nasty injuries but the only times I was ever taken to the hospital was at the point of dying. Quite literally. Ruptured appendix at 7 and being run over by a station wagon at 3. Anything less and it would heal.

        • That was the mentality in “our day.” “Quit yer crying. You have work to do” “Walk it off, Kennedy.” “Quit bellerin’ like a stuck pig.” “Band-Aid? What for?” If it were so grim it would be laughable.

          • But that was life and we accepted it. Most were thankful for what they had. That trip to the ER for an a ruptured appendix wouldn’t have been likely one generation earlier and even if happened, I’d still have died of massive infection in the pre-penicillin days..

            There’s a lot less thankfulness these days even though we have vastly more.

            • That’s exactly what hit me after I watched the documentary last night that showed something of the lives of the German/Austrian Jews in Shanghai during WW II. I finished it thinking, “We need to grow up.” And and in my mom’s generation? When she fell off the Percheron and broke her arm and cried, her mom gave her castor oil to take her mind off of it while they hitched the self-same Percheron to the wagon and went to town. All those people worked very hard over multiple generations to see that the future was better than their time. And now people are just fucking with that.

              • Castor oil? For a broke arm?

                That how my appendix blew up. I had a pain in my gut and Mom gave me a big dose of castor oil. It ruptured that night when I was in bed.

  1. I like it as a drawing! The minimal distinction between earth and sky (via the faint horizon line) does make it look foggy, and adds a note of mystery to the path. Maybe you could save the drawing and paint it as well! (Unless the plan is to paint over it.) [I could comment that maybe the hammer explains a lot, but I will leave that to someone else ;)]

    • The drawing will stay. It’s not on paintable paper anyway. It’s a sketch for the painting. The hammer? Compared to a head on collision, being thrown from a horse and landing on my head and getting a concussion, AND being hit by a pick-up while I was riding my bike, hitting my head on the curb and forgetting who I was? I don’t think the hammer is to blame :p

  2. Poignant is such an exact description. I couldn’t agree more…the head the heart intuition or gut? Each plays a part in decision making, but damn that doesn’t make it any the easier.

  3. I’ve learned to trust myself. I am pretty well tuned into my body/gut and my heart/soul and my mind. Of course living by committee is rough, it works better than government… I hope your dent (and other head trauma) didn’t have any long term effects!

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