Month: August 2015

stuff

It’s a rambling blog today. I have little ability to focus, driving is hazardous, and my husband has been super helpful lately since I told him I am trying desperately not to descend into the morass, which he has helpfully renamed the molasses. One foot in front of the other and soldier on…

Enough of the whining, you’ve read it before, no sense in dragging it on.

Because my concentration levels are so low, this is going to be a photography map of what’s going on in my life…come for a walk with me…

In the studio you will see that the joey is almost finished and I couldn’t resist placing him in the pouch temporarily just to see whether they look good together…the answer is yes!!!

unfinished joey in unfinished mama's pouch
unfinished joey in unfinished mama’s pouch

I won’t tell you why, but earlier today I could be seen taking a picture of a bulb of garlic. You will just have to be patient to find out why.

photo op
photo op

In the garden you will see a late pollinator called a digger wasp or blue winged wasp on the native goldenrod. I was thrilled to see it for more than one reason, not only is it cool looking but the mothers feed on Japanese Beetle grubs…I hope they eat lots of them during the winter. They made a mess of my garden this year.

late season pollinator
late season pollinator

Otherwhere’s in the garden, a volunteer yellow cherry tomato is hiding under the echinacea…I just picked some and have yet to eat one but will report in a future post, if I remember.

behind the echinacea
behind the echinacea
hiding
hiding

And finally, here is proof that at least one monarch visited my garden this year. I had a whole bunch of tomatoes in my hands so I didn’t dig around for the fourth wing. One can only hope that the eventual death of this butterfly happened after the eggs were laid for the next round.

proof
proof

tribe

I walked into the room, and I have to admit I was a bit nervous as to whether I would recognize anyone. Some of these people I had seen recently on Facebook or at the pub the night before. But some of them I hadn’t seen in at least 15 years, if not the full 35 since I graduated from Housatonic Valley Regional High School (Housy, for those in the know.)

Of course the ubiquitous name tags were on the table right inside the door. They had our names and our pictures from the yearbook. Having pictures taken is not my favorite activity and for some reason, this one made me look particularly snooty looking. As if I couldn’t be bothered to smile, it would just be too much work. Oh well.

I had a plan to talk to everyone and anyone, not to just be pulled to the people with whom I had hung out. I even had a line to say that might get the ball rolling. Unfortunately, this plan was quickly discarded the minute I went up to a group of three woman. After saying hello and waiting through an extra long pause, I decided to excuse myself and go say hi to someone I knew much better. I felt guilty for a brief moment but rationalized it with the fact that a reunion is not really the place to make new friends.

So instead, I connected with old friends. And there was a certain relief in finding my “tribe” amidst all the people there. (I think there were about 60 people but I could be wrong). I should explain a bit, Housy is what they call a regional high school. In other words, it serves several towns which have their own grade schools but bus all their students from their towns to the high school. If you ask me where I grew up I am likely to say SalisburyLakevilleLimeRockCanaanSharonKentCornwallFallsVillage. So I went to high school with people from all of those towns.

But I am most comfortable with the people from Salisbury Central School, many of whom I have known since I was five…and maybe even younger. One woman’s father was our mailman and she is now the town clerk. One woman and I took dance classes together all throughout grade school and our fathers live two doors down from each other at the retirement center. One woman works for my father’s attorney. One woman’s father was the English teacher at the high school and went on to become the principal. You get the picture, small town connections are pretty close, even if you no longer live there.

The tribe from Salisbury Central School
The tribe from Salisbury Central School

This weekend has made me think about tribe more carefully. You can find tribes anywhere, school, church, organizations, family, sports stadiums…and you can belong to many different tribes at once. Just look at the back of any car in the parking lot and you are likely to find out what tribe the owner belongs to. But sometimes, just sometimes, a tribe is one that you don’t have to join, because you are already a life-long member.

To be totally honest, I don’t feel the need to connect with many of my high school tribe on a regular basis. But it is always good to know that if I walk into a room full of them, I will be greeted with a big smile and a hug. And that is a good feeling.

home for the soul

It’s been 35 years since I lived in the northwest corner of Connecticut. I have actually lived south of the Mason Dixon Line for more than half my life. Throughout the years I have watched my relationship to this small town of 3,000 people change and go through different stages. At first, I would come back and feel like I had never been away. I was greeted by Anna and Bam Whitbeck in the pharmacy, would see countless people I knew (and who knew me) on the sidewalk or in the ice cream parlor and know exactly who was singing in the choir loft at church. I counted on this consistency to ground me, to remind me that no matter where I went in this world I belonged somewhere.

After a few years I started noticing that some of the people in my parents’ generation would pause a moment before greeting me. I realized that since I was no longer on their radar on a daily or weekly basis, they took longer to come up with my name. This was disconcerting as I always knew who they were. And in the narcissistic way of the 20-something-year-old, I thought everyone would remember me too.It was during this stage that dad would start taking me to town and “introducing me” to people. (“Say hello to my daughter Virginia”). It was a really annoying ritual, but for some reason he enjoyed it so much and I couldn’t bring myself to override his need to do it.

Eventually, my parents entered the “twilight years” and the people who were my connection to “community” started dying or moving away to warmer climes. The landscape stayed the same (thanks to a bunch of particularly strict zoning regulations) but the people started to ebb and flow. The old guard were thinning out and I recognized even fewer people on my visits. About the same time, I reconnected with some of my friends from grade school and high school, the ones who had stayed or returned here. The ones who knew who I was at a glance and greeted me with a smile.

Now, once again, things are changing. My mom died and my dad has moved into the retirement center. I no longer relate to the town as George and Bunny Vincent’s daughter for there are few people around who knew them. The good news was that my small support system of friends and colleagues helped me through the tough times of my mother’s death and dad’s move into dementia. The town, which has always been a haven for New Yorkers, seems to be full of  weekenders who have claimed the town as theirs. In some ways I have become somewhat anonymous in my hometown. To be honest, I am not as sad about this as I thought I would be. Yes, I mourn and grieve for the faces and personalities I knew and loved. But my life is elsewhere, my friendships are strong and I feel planted. It is nothing like living in this small town, but it will do. In the meantime, I can be grateful for the strength that comes from having grown up in the safety of a close community. And I can be grateful that there are still some people who connect me with who I was.

Why has this subject come up now? This is the weekend of my 35th reunion from high school. I will see lots of familiar faces (easy to do when you only had 150 people in your graduating class). And yesterday I went for a hike to the top of the “mountain” and sat on a rock surveying the land that I grew up loving. The people may be mostly gone but the land, well, that hasn’t changed a bit. And that’s where my soul belongs.

Lion's Head panorama
Lion’s Head panorama

parfait

mussels make a great abstract photo
mussels make a great abstract photo

Mussels can be found everywhere in Alaska. I don’t like to eat them (I stay away from all bi-valves) but I like taking pictures of them

In other news:

I strive to have art in my everyday life, whether it is actually working in the studio or making amazingly simple and evocatively delicious foods from things that I have actually grown. I still feel quite amazed that I am capable of growing things that are edible, there is always a moment of pure delight when I bite into a tomato or zucchini or pear or apple and it is not only delicious but I know exactly where it came from and what went into producing it.

Today was no exception. Lunch was and open-faced English muffin with a little mayonnaise (I am American after all…you could also use french bread and some olive oil) then slices of a yellow tomato from the garden sprinkled with salt and a little balsamic vinegar (use the good stuff…you will appreciate it more) and a couple of basil leaves plucked from the plants. Top it off with triple cream Brie cheese (or cheddar, goat cheese, fresh mozzarella depending on what is around) and then run into the oven until the cheese melts. Add a little fresh pepper on top and dig in!

Dinner, eaten on a sultry evening on the back patio to the sounds of the cicadas and the drum corps from the local high school, was an appetizer (ooooh, how cosmopolitan we are!) of the brie and slices of a pear from our Asian pear tree. A chilled, crisp French wine made it all the more delectable. Main course, bow tie pasta, with a traditional tomato sauce (or gravy if you live in Italy) from (you guessed it) garden tomatoes…and more wine…of course. I cannot tell a lie, the tomato sauce had some toms from my friend’s garden as well. (Thanks Melinda.)

Finish with a square (just one) of amazing dark chocolate with orange and almonds and the night is complete…

In studio news:

The kangaroo nose got a bit of a tweak today, and I think she looks marvelous. The joey got a couple of new pieces and I did some prep work of little tiny pieces of steel so that he can continue to grow in the next couple of weeks. In addition, I am working on my first installation piece since I got back from NYC. If you remember, I did a massive cleaning a couple of weeks ago and have taken advantage of the empty walls  to start a new piece. I don’t know what the story/title is yet but I have no doubt that everything will come together the way it’s supposed to. In the meantime, here is a sneak peek!

detail of installation, mixed media including yarn, wire, cardboard, plastic netting and steel chain.
detail of installation, mixed media including yarn, wire, cardboard, plastic netting and steel chain.

true love

communication is key
communication is key

This note was written by my parents some time after my mother’s stroke in 1975. She was 49, he was 54 and I was 13. The stroke affected her right side severely, she could walk with a brace and a cane but had no fine motor skills at all. She had to learn how to do everything with her left hand. In addition, the stroke screwed up her language abilities, she had aphasia for the rest of her life. It did get better over time but if she was tired, she had such a difficult time finding the right word to say.

Life changed drastically for our family. My siblings were out of the house and living their own lives, but I was just in the throes of adolescence and all the joys that comes with fluctuating hormones. Dad had to deal with a handicapped wife and a very confused teenage daughter. Mental health was never my father’s strong suit so it must have been hellish for him. Whatever else I could say about my dad, the one thing he did was to take care of mom (and me) after her stroke. He was her rock, although sometimes he had a tendency to roll right over her in his haste to do things his way. But he was there consistently.

My mother was a fiercely independent woman, not wanting any help, not wanting anyone to take away her sense of self. I used to cringe (which I believe was my job as a teenage girl) when she would sharply tell people “No, don’t help, I CAN DO IT MYSELF”. I always felt bad for the other person who had no idea why they had just committed a faux pas.

That is why I was so amazed when I read this note recently. It is one of those little things that survived all the various levels of organizing and moving when we closed up their house and sold it. I guess one day my mother decided to explain to my father exactly why she went crazy when someone offered help. And he, in unusual fashion, responded in this wonderfully sweet way. It is so loving and so, well, communicative.

I always thought that communication between the two of them was never a thing of beauty, so this note comes as a bit of a surprise. And it shows just how much I have to learn about who my parents were, especially when they weren’t busy being “mom” and “dad”. It also shows how much I am learning about communication in my own marriage, and how much easier life is when the other person knows what is going on in your brain. I often tell my husband, “I can’t read your mind but I have an awesome imagination…chances are that whatever I come up with is going to be way worse than the reality…it’s better if you just tell me what’s going on.” And I am working on not being the stoic that my mother was and holding onto pain and anger and confusion.

Marriage is a lifelong job and each year I find more job requirements that I didn’t know were on the list. But I hope that I continue to love my husband as much as my parents loved each other.

power surge

ice abstract
ice abstract

One day we went out in Zodiacs and motored fairly close to the glacier. As we were driving towards it we were able to get really close to the floating icebergs…i.e. the chunks that “calved” from the glacier. Despite the movement of the Zodiac, the wind and the rain I was able to get this really cool abstract of the ice. If you want to see what this picture came from then check this out…

floating iceberg
floating iceberg

Once again I am trying to use these pictures to cool down. It is not really all that hot, we have the windows open and there is a nice breeze. But forgive me for whining for a moment…you see, I am of an age where power surges/hot flashes/inner thermostat malfunctions happen with alarming frequency. Sometimes I can grit my teeth and bear it. But when they happen just as I am getting all my welding gear on (long pants, long shirt, gloves, ear plugs, mask, hat and welding helmet) it is just plain brutal. I am not fond of intense heat as it is so needless to say I kind of wimp out on days like this and find other things to do. Okay, whining is over…back to my regular scheduled perky self. (?)

However, I am happy to report that the kangaroo is coming along nicely. I have been finishing up sections that were a little bare of metal and adding the ears (again). I rally like the way she is looking, and I will be starting the joey some time this weekend. But maybe first thing in the morning when it’s cooler.

manga head and ears
manga head and ears

clean, mean and pristine

glacier...what we see of it
glacier…what we see of it

I am hoping that looking at this glacier (from Glacier Bay National Park) will cool me down. Hmmmm, doesn’t seem to be working too well.

It’s hard to get the feeling of scale from this little picture but glaciers can be over a mile wide, and 200 feet above the water AND below the water. The dark streaks you see are the sides of the hills as the glacier pushes its way down the valley and towards the water. A truly magnificent beast.

In other news, (hence the title of the post) I have FINISHED cleaning the studio. More specifically, I have finished cleaning out the top two floors of the studio. I won’t show you any “before” pictures because I am too embarrassed, but I am totally proud to show you “after” pictures. It has been a long week’s project but I am super thrilled to have put things in their places (actually, I had to make places for them first) and I am almost reluctant to mess it all up again. Hopefully the new system will make it easier to keep clean. Uh huh, I’ll let you know how that goes…

This is the non-welding studio on the top floor and it is my sanctuary. I don’t generally bring anyone up here, so this is your chance to see one of my most favorite places to be. Enjoy!

studio studio studio studio

This is the second floor, I will show more pix of this floor another day. I have taken down a huge amount of artwork off the walls on the other end and am planning to create some installations based on my work up in NYC.

studio