30" x 22" $2,100.00

Mariana Ruybalid, 45 years old

Berkeley, California USA

As Mariana told me her story she looked

me straight in the eyes. Her eyes are

soothing and earnest. Mariana was born

with cerebral palsy (cp), which affects

muscle coordination, balance, and speech.

As a result, her speech is blurred, though

understandable, and the rate at which

she does certain things, for instance, how

fast she picks up a dime or cup, is also

affected. Talking slowly, Mariana chooses

her words carefully and speaks with wisdom

about her joys and frustrations. She is very

bright, as are many people who have cerebral palsy.  Her poetry clearly and poignantly reveals her journey through inward struggles and personal triumphs. She has lived in Costa Rica and has now chosen Berkeley, California as her home because she feels welcomed there. Many stores and cafes there are wheelchair accessible.

As a poet, Mariana has developed the capacity to express complex meaning. Often I speak quickly without

choosing my words carefully, but because Mariana speaks slowly, she uses her time wisely to convey accurately

her deepest emotions and thoughts. Her higher education, emotional growth, and training in Kung Fu all have

added a rich array of influences to her verbal and written expression. To express this in my painting, I chose

a gem as the symbol for Mariana. The gem is unpolished, yet glows from within. The rock surrounding the gem

(at her eye level) is solid and more rugged. Mariana's appearance and manner remind me of the earth.  She

wears casual clothing, often purple and black colors, and doesn't care to impress with frilly accessories or im-

pressive words. Her mother, represented on the lower left-hand side of the painting, wears a button mask as

she tries to understand Mariana's fascinating world. Mariana's warmth, candor and orange belt in Kung Fu in-

fluenced my choice of a pervading warm tone throughout Gem.

Mariana's Poetry

The Present

I hesitate to open this package from my mother.

A dark gray mist seeps from its edges.

Maybe this time I'll receive some love.

Somber, swirling fog weighs me down.

No way, no way out of this despair and confusion.

This leaded body takes a breath but dares not move.

No point, no point in living.

I did try.

Nothing, nothing I could do, I did try for years to get her to love me.

But I still drool when I am concentrating and I cannot hide the way I walk and talk.

I did try.

This thick mist shrouds the road ahead and the dampness permeates my bones.

She says she loves me with little presents which say, " You are not the daughter I wanted. You are not tall and

blond. Your C.P. is too noticeable. Go away, don't bother me. I won't see, I won't see you, I won't see who

you are."

She sent me a navy cashmere sweater vest with buttons for Halloween.

I don' wear navy blue, and I don't like clothes that need dry cleaning or buttoning.

I feel so cold wrapped in this dank cloud of confusion.

She sent me a black T-shirt on the first and the second anniversary of my suicide attempt.

Some soggy despair weights me down. Is it hers?

What message is she sending?

And what does she know?

She knows I collect black cotton T-shirts. I told her.

But I never told her about the suicide attempt because she'd fall apart and I'd have to take

care of her.

I can no longer do that.

I need to care for the person I'm becoming.

Warm comfort understanding

I can only heal myself, my body, my anger, seeing Richard, writing,

training in Kung Fu and doing yoga.

I give myself these gifts.

I look for friends who support and embrace my new person.

I look for friends who can see me.

The somber fog begins to clear.

That woman cannot love me.

I need to separate myself from her profound depression without cutting my wrist.

I start to see that it is her despair.

I need to stop letting her confusion see this dark cloud inside me.

She was unwell before I was born. Strange release comes  with the insight that my C.P. did not

make her ill and I don't need to open this present.

I begin to see.

Athletes of the Spirit:

An Exploration of Disability

through Art and Writing