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Participant Information

Sherri Wolf

San Diego

Life's experiences give an individual many different identities. Over the years, I have been identified as a wife and mother, a radio talk show host, a college student, an outdoors adventure-seeker, a realtor, and now poet and photographer.

Each of us has dozens of identities related to family, friends, occupation, hobbies, interests, etc. Unfortunately my Parkinson's disease has now progressed to the point where I am unable to pursue many of my previous activities.

It's been 10 years since my diagnosis of PD. For the first few years, I managed to continue a fairly "normal" life. I raised four children, and now have six grandchildren. I live alone with my faithful "Benji," but family and supportive friends are not far away.

Over the years I was very active in my community and traveled extensively. I was on a number of Boards of Directors for non-profit organizations. I taught English in Japan for three years. I've held a variety of jobs, from a 10-year stint as a radio talk show host in "the South", to the head of the Public Relations Department of a 165,000 member organization (ACBL).

I also took college courses while working to get my degree. After a divorce, I moved to San Diego (1989) to be near family and worked full-time as a Realtor, supporting myself.

I joined the Sierra Club and spent many hours enjoying and learning about nature on Sierra Club trips such as: cross-country skiing, hiking, back-packing in the desert, etc. I also jogged an average of three to four miles, three times a week, (since 1981). In a nutshell, I was a very active, high energy person.

So, what does all this mean? And, what has it got to do with the role of art in my life as a person with PD? Let me begin by saying, I have always been a curious person and very optimistic.

I believe, "there are no problems; only opportunities"! Therefore, if I could no longer be an outdoor adventure-seeker through hiking and skiing, I thought I could still enjoy the outdoors through photography; and, if I could no longer interview celebrities and talk to folks on the radio, I could communicate my thoughts through poetry.

Both photography and poetry have given me outlets for expression and allowed me to share my past experiences and future visions with others; hence, a new set of identities: a "poet" (or "writer") and a "photographer"!

The sad thing about PD is that because of its degenerative path, an individual must make accommodations as each phase takes hold. It is very frustrating to make accommodations (physical and mental) that you know will only be temporary (weeks, months, and years?).

But, there is something about a picture, or words on paper that will last a very long time. Hopefully, my grandchildren and great-grandchildren will be told of my thoughts, look at my pictures, and read my words through poetry. I would like to share with them a love of life, a desire to learn, a need to be kind, fair, honest, and caring, as well as a determination to "tighten my seat belt a little bit tighter" as I go through the rest of my life in new unplanned ways.

I try to be positive and helpful to others also coping with a chronic illness. One of my sons recently told me he loves my poetry because it lets him know how I really feel. Poetry can do that!

I recently bought a poetry book that was published in 1915. Already, I have picked a couple of favorites. The book also has illustrations (old photographs) adjoining some of the poems. I hope someday, a hundred years from now, someone will still enjoy my poems and photographs.

I don't want to be remembered for a disease, but for the person I am. My passions, optimism and true identity can be expressed in many ways. For now, it's through my artwork.

I'm glad I discovered both poetry and photography as I am often immersed in creation, oblivious to the whims of my body - a lovely, unanticipated consequence of losing track of time and place.

I have had DBS surgery (one side only) and am so grateful for the scientists, doctors, and researchers who have spent their lives working on this device to make my life better!

I am working on a poem to express those emotions and my gratitude. My artwork, in its present forms of poetry and photography, has helped me rediscover the person I truly am. I have rediscovered the beautiful pictures nature paints each season. I have shared my love of it all and my emotions through my poetry. I am fortunate I can still accomplish the tasks necessary to pursue my current passions through my artwork.