I had a lot that I wanted to accomplish this week-end and ended up getting most of it done. I have been planning to clean out the chicken house for several weeks and finally did it. On the way home from Harrington on Friday I stopped at the Blue Seal store in Machias and got a bale of wood shavings. Saturday I let the chickens out, shoveled out all the old stuff, and replaced it with the clean-smelling new. I enjoyed the job, somehow getting it confused in my mind with my childhood desire to clean horse stalls. I believe I would have liked living on a farm where I had to tend livestock. It is a pleasant and absorbing activity, one that fills me with a sense of purpose. There is something very satisfying about going about the business of caring for animals that are not pets, something quietly noble in fulfilling the responsibility of simply keeping them alive.
Next on my aganda was to give Benny a haircut. He behaved very well while I did it. It was the first step in deodorizing him, the second to come today. Once that was done, I tackled the guest room upstairs, finally arranging things in some kind of order. All I have to do now is rig up a curtain across the little el in the room where I piled all my paintings, drawings, and prints. Also stashed there are art supplies I couldn't fit in the studio, plus sheets of unused paper and canvas, and empty frames. The amount of paraphenalia that's needed to support the making of artwork is incredible. Once I had tidied the place up, I made soup, a favorite Fall passtime. Scotch Broth. Before I went to bed, I hooked up the dishwasher and let it do its job while we slept.
Today I gave baths to Benny and Lytton, Patrick having had his after the skunk episode. When the job was done and they were dried with the hair dryer, the floor in the kitchen was so wet I thought I might as well take advantage of it and wash the floor. I filled all the bird feeders, cleaned the bathroom, took a bath myself. I talked with Mike until one o'clock, listening to his tales of Zeke's surgery to amputate his leg. All seems to have gone well. Amazingly, Zeke is up and walking around on his three legs, and has been since the day after the operation.
I left the phone unanswered most of the week-end because I didn't want to get involved with anyone. I've been having trouble with my interpersonal relationships lately, notably with Toni, and didn't want anything of that kind to interfere with my plans. I did answer when I heard on the machine that it was David, and he told me that Shirley has untreatable lung cancer. The medical recommendation was that she be transferred to a hospice. I am very sorry, and I also feel bad for David and Thom. They have a hard time ahead. It is hard to think about the end of Shirley, who was so alive and seemingly healthy when I last saw her. It is hard to think about the end of anyone. How can a person always be there, and then be gone? We relate to people as if they are a given, that the present will go on and on, that the people we know are permanent fixtures. Dying is always unexpected and unbelievable.
The portrait of Shirley that I am painting has acquired a wistful smile, or do I imagine it?