- in the year of our mold 2019

Gel pen, watercolor, and colored pencil on paper

On a Monday morning, after years of being sick, everyone one of us including the dog, I sat up in bed and knew it was the house. It took me over a week to give in to the idea that it was mold. And even longer to realize what that mold had done to us.

We moved into the backyard that afternoon. We never lived in the house again. We lost everything we own, including my archives. I lost 30 years worth of work.

We left because everything made us sick. And it still does. Though we are stronger.

We found a few islands of safety, Restuarante del Sol in southern New Mexico was one. We were fine as long as we didn’t leave the patch of concrete in front of it. One move to the right and we were incapacitated. I felt good in the Sandia Mountains, also in New Mexico only farther north. But my daughter didn’t. So we left.

The miracle of someone leaving early gave us the gift of green cabin. We drove seven hours. I wouldn’t go inside. My daughter ate hot dogs with the owners and said she never wanted to leave. It took longer but we left there too. Our hearts broken by PIGEON, our own cabin, made toxic to us by her building materials - chemical sensitivities, a side effect of the mold.

Green cabin saved us though. When we got there I was so empty the idea of calling myself an artist didn’t make any sense. I was so close to the bone.

In green cabin, I made work. Someone gave me art supplies. She meant well, but other people’s things can hurt us. It’s hard to understand. I couldn’t keep her art supplies but I gathered more.

My daughter bought me pencils.

I have a small box now: watercolor paper, gel pens, a pencil sharpener, recently added colored pencils, nicely sharp scissors, some glue, a notebook for poems, and one of those pencils. I collect bits of interesting paper and it’s in there too.

I draw and then I use my fingers to paint. There are a lot of ghost houses in the work. A house did this to us and houses and the things in them have become something to be wary of, watchful. This is an improvement over the stark terror I felt when I wouldn’t enter green cabin. It’s an underlying unease I feel all the time.

Chemicals are deadly to us and our damaged immune systems but at least you can smell the chemicals coming. Mold spores are odorless and invisible. Breathing makes us sick. We can’t not breathe.

I’m trying to paint that, the breathing, also the terror, and the loss, the deep joy of nothing, and, of course, the houses: Elizabeth Arnett’s mold-filled rental property, green cabin, PIGEON, a tiny disaster in Texas. There will be at least one more house, probably two, possibly many, surely, go my prayers, not none.

And there will be paintings.


Paint on my fingers and my breath is your bomb.
Paint on my fingers and my breath is your bomb.

If I could look at the stars I'd see  my daughter's hope.
If I could look at the stars I'd see 
my daughter's hope.

A heart has roots.
A heart has roots.

I carry one small burden next to your uncaring for my loss.
I carry one small burden next to your 
uncaring for my loss.

The light of the world and his mother  was homeless.
The light of the world and his mother 
was homeless.

Run your fingers down the walls of try.
Run your fingers down the walls of try.

Run your fingers down the walls of try.
Someone let the ficus die.

There is no safe home written over by the stars.
There is no safe home written over by the stars.

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