Monday, December 31, 2007
I took my camera so I could capture the storm, snapping randomly from the store parking lot. Then I went down to the breakwater and photographed the harbor. Between the driving snow and my unsteady hand with the zoom lens, I wasn't able to do as well as I would have liked. Still, the pictures have a certain atmosphere that captures the idea. They are grainy because I had to sharpen them to get any detail. The driving snow obliterated much of what I was looking at.
Along with my being in my old house, the winter is repeating itself weather wise as well. The year I moved here there was a big snow storm beginning just as the mover's drove away. It was followed by an ice storm that crippled the northeast for weeks. I am not expecting a repeat of that, but the snow makes me relive my first days in Eastport. I was undaunted then, as now, and remember writing about my winter surroundings in my journal. I think I will look up my entries and make some further comparisons.
It is New Year's Eve. I imagine a lot of the festivities will be canceled, which is too bad for the organizers. For myself, I am just as happy to ignore the fact that another calendar year is over. So the earth has rotated around the sun again, and come back where it was 365 days ago. It doesn't stop and look back, it just keeps on twirling and circling. It's all any of us can do.
Friday, December 28, 2007
During the afternoon I went over to open gifts with them, and was struck speechless by their generosity toward me. My gifts to them certainly paled, but I tried to avoid comparisons and the ensuing guilt I could have felt. It would have diminished their gifts to me for all of us. As it was, I allowed myself the luxury of pure gratitude and appreciation for what I was given, and for the friends who gave it.
On Christmas Eve, we had dinner at Sydney and Richard's, along with other friends of theirs. Our traditional Mexican meal was delicious as always and Sydney's party favors amused us all. They were the kind of toy cars that go on their own once you spin their wheels a couple of times, and they flew around the table constantly after the meal was over, interrupting conversations and lending a childlike atmoshere of fun and levity.
So, in spite of my fears that changes and recent events might adversely effect our holiday, nothing of the kind took place. If anything, the preceding weeks probably made the occasion seem all the more worthwhile. It was a kind of symbol of steadfastness in the face of change. It pointed up the importance of ritual and constancy without inflexibility. We have all experienced many kinds of Christmases throughout our considerable individual lifetimes. Each in its turn is appropriate and notable, in its own way, the best.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Anyway, Merry Christmas, chickens, and many happy returns.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
It's interesting how sometimes it takes a lot of observation to extract the specialness from a view that you see every day. This is what I see every time I let the dogs out through the shed door. The side of my house is on the right. The steps to the left lead to a second floor apartment of the house next door. They are actually not quite so close, but I wanted the interest there. I liked the painting in the end.
Friday, December 21, 2007
Christmas looms, speeding toward us with unprecidented speed. It's a different Christmas coming, with David somewhat out of commission and Thom here handling most of the preparations. Thom's relatives loom in the background, people I have never met who are suddenly part of the scene. Thom has not been so much incorporated into our Christmas as we have been incorporated into his. It's different, but not unpleasant, and we are still going to the Lessons and the Carols on Sunday as David and I always have.
Change is inevitable, and I stand on the sidelines watching the world shift, watchful and curious.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
that is presumably a present. I wear glasses and my hair is in a pony tail. Mike looks to be about ten, and the little boys probably four or five. Not recorded are the Christmases of my teen years, though they do exist in my mind in a way the photographed ones do not.
I can't say that I remember those years fondly exactly, but they are clear in my mind as bits and pieces of many Christmases. Christmas Eve with Dr. Berg in attendance......Our pet monkey, Chico, dancing on the top of Dr. Berg's white head. Chico plucking at the man's eyes, sticking his fingers up his nose and into his mouth as the seventy-something year old expounded in his thick Russian accent on some philosophical point or other, unaware or uncaring. My mother was already in bed with a stomach ache, Mike was gone by then, and the three of us stayed up all night drinking wine and talking about large issues, thinking great thoughts.....My father and I making a recording of ourselves as Walter Cronkite and the virgin Mary at Christ's birth, talking about the event as it happened, live and on camera. He was at his hilarious best, my father, imitating people both famous and ordinary. I played straight man for the most part, though I admired my own performance as much as his.
In those days our Christmas presents were labeled with the name of world figures my father pretended had sent the gifts.......Nikita Kruchev, Adlai Stevenson, Leonard Bernstein, Elvis Presley, etc. We played the game, discussing how thoughtful these people had been and wondering how they knew just what the right gift would be.......My father infuriating me by writing "Like Cool Yule" in popsicle sticks over the archway to the dining room. The square turkey......the shrimp and cabbage cole slaw.........my mother squinting over the cigarette dangling from her lips as she cooked the Christmas dinner.......
After Carrie was born we became somewhat more conventional. Mike came from Florida, and we had wonderful family Christmases that smacked of carols and eggnog, big trees and Santa decorations. When my father died it mostly stopped, and after the Christmas fire it did stop completely. That last time was a memorable one ......a candle set fire to curtains upstairs in Amber's room, Mike noticing the smoke when he went into the hall and unexcitedly told us to call the fire department, joking as he threw pails of water at the flames that it was a good thing he had smoked all these years to accustom his lungs to smoke.... the fire department coming, Jesse out in front of the house in freezing weather in his underwear holding the five dogs....broken windows and a tarp covering the first floor....water everywhere........us finally crawling into stinking, smokey sleeping bags amidst the smoldering rubble only to be forced to get up when the kitchen caught fire again. My mother, bewildered by early Alzheimer's, refusing to get into the warm police car in order to look for the cat. What a good time we had in the following days, reliving the event over and over, laughing at the irony of it, joking about our filthy clothes, our smoke smelling hair. We laughed at ourselves, sitting down after the fireman left and finishing the dessert we were eating when the fire broke out, rescuing our plates from the sink where the firemen had thrown them in order to move the table. The moment when Jesse sauntered upstairs after Mike and I had settled ourselves and the dogs on the floor of the charred second floor to announce calmly, "Mama, the kitchen's on fire." Amber joking, "I didn't like my Christmas presents so I set the house on fire." All of this was an endless source of conversation and utter amusement.
I loved my family, myself included, for how wonderful we all were in the face of that disaster, how despite everything we were so good humored, organized, and resourceful. I still smile when I think about it...........my favorite memory.
Friday, December 14, 2007
It mystifies me that people I admire, people I consider intelligent, actually believe there is a being who influences individual lives. Because of this, I have to question my own lack of belief. I base my beliefs so firmly on logic, as if logic were not a religion itself.......as if logic were something independent of human thinking. I believe so firmly in the ignorance of humans to understand what goes on around and within them, yet even that is based on ignorance. All our thoughts and ideas are products of our human brains, and therefore not to be trusted. So how can I so firmly NOT believe? It is as rash and unsupportable as absolute belief.
So, I put myself hopefully through the motions of Christmas, including the story of the birth of a savior. Why not? It is a beautiful idea, and has inspired the greatest art of all time. That depth of the feeling is something I should envy. And I do.
Monday, December 03, 2007
Yesterday when Jesse and Sabrina left, it was a typical late Fall day. The weather report was for snow, which is why they left a day earlier than expected. This morning I woke up to the beginning of the storm, which is still going on at five o'clock. It's a fairly poor excuse for a winter storm, considering the dire predictions and cancellations, but it does the job of announcing winter.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
It was good to be back to an ordinary activity. I had missed my friends and our time together.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
It seems as if I have spent a lifetime arranging furniture putting things away, and hanging pictures. Today I fixed up this corner of the kitchen and am pleased with the results. It's always exciting to rearrange my belongings to make a new home. All the possessions I have keep rearranging themselves like a kaleidoscope. There are so many permutations that even though the separate parts are the same, the whole looks very different.
Yesterday I spent an hour and a half untangling the bamboo mobile I hung in the hall. Every time I change its location it becomes incredibly snarled and knotted. I have actually come to enjoy getting it back in order. It's a mesmerizing activity. Each of my fingers holds one string and I maneuver them over and around each other until they fall apart. It's a delight when the nucleus of a nasty snarl is found and several strands are released at the same time.
I have also been doing a lot of small jobs that require tools. I think of David every time I pick up a hammer or a screwdriver. He gave me every tool I have for Christmas a couple of years ago. Everything is so much easier, and the result is so much more pleasing when the right tool is at hand. I am a sloppy worker, but even I can do a passable job with my many beautiful tools.
Under the activity my brain struggles with practical problems I can so far not solve. The dogs are getting out of the yard, the fuel tank is getting low, no rent or fuel assistance has come, the chickens need a house, I can't afford my medication. I'm anxious about David, anxious about Lytton, anxious about money. My car is making too much noise and needs repair. I've had computer and printer problems and spent hours on the phone with "technical support" with very little satisfaction. These things and more are like bees buzzing around my head as I move through the process of day to day living. I slap at them from time to time, but they keep coming back.
Well, things always work out somehow. There's no alternative. And basically I don't take these problems very seriously as I sing my way through the day.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
What an amazing place to live.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Toni and I had planned to have Thanksgiving with David and Thom, even after David's surgery. Thom had bought the food for the planned traditional meal. When David had to be transferred to another hospital, we had to abandon our plans. Thom brought the turkey over here, along with stuffing bread, etc. He left to be with David, and we were left on our own.
It was the antithesis of the Thanksgivings of my recent past. The starched white table cloth and napkins, the china, the silver, the candles, the elegant food and drink in a beautiful formal setting.........these were replaced by a dinner so casual it almost defies description. I did cook the turkey, and when it was done Toni pushed the recorder music and other paraphenelia we had been using to the side of the table top. Paper towels served as napkins, the cranberry sauce was served from its can. We drank water from the bottle and shook our pepper out of the can. The meal was bare bones--turkey and stuffing. I had made a pumpkin pie for the occasion last night, and we topped things off with two pieces each, smothered in whipped cream. The dogs were thrown pieces of meat and then licked our plates when we had finished.
Earlier in the day I had made the rounds of the several cats I am caring for while their owners are away for the holiday, opening cans of food and cleaning litter boxes. My charges were as grateful as any Thanksgiving guests could be, running to meet me and accepting seasons greetings with happy purrs and much head rubbing. I visited the chickens who clucked with what I interpreted as thanks for being home again. It was a nice day.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
I feel so happy to have the chickens again that I wish I could hug them. They wouldn't like it though, and I was satisfied with the thanks they did give me by clucking and chasing me around the yard. They followed me up to the back door and waited while I went in to get their food and water, then hurried along behind me as I took their supper down into the yard. No one can tell me they didn't recognize me, and that they were glad to be home.
If only Hannah could have come, too............................
Friday, November 16, 2007
I have been thinking about the chickens in their new home, so I looked up the address of their new owner and searched for it over in Quoddy Village. When I found it, I drove in the driveway and was greeted immediately at the front door by the man who bought Carrie's car. He told me that Hannah was dead. Then he took me out to see all the chickens, which were in an outdoor pen about a quarter of the size of the one I had. Their inside coup is even smaller, and there are twenty-four of them. Demeter and Annie were huddled together on one of the roosts, both of them with feathers sticking out at odd angles and raw places on their necks and backs. Mary was strutting around as if she owned the place, apparently fitting in with her new friends without a problem.
It's hard to describe the feelings that welled up inside me. I find it hard to get the picture of Annie and Demeter out of my mind. I abandoned them amd shirked the responsibility I took on to provide for them. I killed Hannah and sent the others to a cold, crowded place where they are picked on by more dominant hens and roosters. It's beyond my ability to comprehend and accept it all. I have come full circle back to the early days of my chicken experience when I couldn't protect them from raccoons and so many of them were killed.
Of course they are only a few chickens in a world where chickens are raised in terrible conditions and slaughtered routinely. They are "harvested" like vegetables. Millions of people are starving and suffering and dying all over the world. How insignificant the lives of my four chickens are. How ridiculous of me to care so much.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Only two of these portraits were done while I was in school.......the big one of me with Big Bird, and the white one to the far left, called "Self-Portrait with Headache and Bell Curve." At the time I had grown my hair very long and wore it in a braid down my back. As I was in my forties and quite over-weight, I was certainly pushing the envelope as far as acceptable appearance was concerned. Still, it was my late rebellious period....well, my coming out period, my self-discovery.
Lytton is doing better, and as I write he is beside me softly whining for his supper. I'm missing my chickens.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Two things have kept me on edge and unable to totally throw myself into the more pleasant tasks at hand. Lytton has continued to be sick, and the lump I found on his side exploded with blood a few days ago. I called Dr. Cloutier, who put my mind at rest as always. He said it must have been an absess from an injury in a dog fight and prescribed antibiotics. For two days he was his old self, but today he was shivering and lethargic, obviously in pain. I called the local vet and took him there on an emergency basis. A hundred dollars later he was pronounced in good health from stem to stern. I was given pain medication for him with the diagnosis of bruising from the absess. I had been giving him pain medicine, but stopped when he seemed to feel better...a stupid idea as it turns out. The relief I felt was well worth the money.
The second event that provoked tears of sentimentality and loss. I was told by Sue that I could not keep the chickens here as I had planned. That meant I had to find a new home for them. Every day that I went over to the old house to feed them I cried. They have been such a part of my life and even my identity (hence the name of this blog) that the thought of giving them up was almost unbearable. Luckily the mother of the man who bought Carrie's car has chickens. When I asked her to take mine, she was very willing. I agreed to help her get them in a box and into her car. When the time came, though, I found myself so emotional that I knew I couldn't do it without losing control of myself and sobbing like a baby. I called her back and asked her to get them without me, and she did.
That happened yesterday, and I'm still unable to think about them without getting tearful. I am over-sentimental in the extreme, and very melancholy about pieces of my life floating away behind me. I loved the chickens, and even more, I loved myself with the chickens.
It seems like a very significant change has taken place, another phase relegated to the past.
Well, I will soon get over them and move on ahead. It won't take long.
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
Nevertheless, I am very distracted by Lytton, who is not recovering from whatever is wrong with him. By spells I am sure he is dying. The thought is unbearable and I lose myself to hysterical crying. Ann gave ne some pills to put under my tongue when this happens, and they do bring my emotions to a point where I can bear them. For a few hours I am able to go about the business of settling into the house. Soon enough, though, it begins again. We all live through a cliche in the face of great loss. It is more or less the same for everyone, I imagine.Why must we deal with inevitability with such pain? We ought to have learned how to accept what we can't change without the great gnashing of teeth, the screams of agony, the unending streams of tears that grip us and hold us prisoner.
I don't know if this is the time that Lytton will die. I do know that I live through that death every time he is sick. If the actual death proves to be worse than these practice runs, my mind can't comprehend what it will be like.
Monday, October 29, 2007
For awhile I felt nothing about leaving this house on Wilson St., but as the time draws nearer I am beginning to feel nostalgia creeping over me. This is to be expected. The place is tied to Phyllis, and Lisa and Will, and the kindness they have extended to me. Phyllis' generosity is the reason I had a place to move into when I lost my last house and failed to get a loan to buy this one. Will and Lisa cheerfully accepted the loss of the income they had expected from its sale. It's their part in my being here that makes me feel teary, not the place itself. I am anxious to be back in my old house on Water Street. I feel very much at home there, as if I am going back where I belong. It is where I began my life as a resident of Eastport and fell in love with it. As I walk around now putting things in their places, I feel at home. The ten years since I lived there almost melt away, but the house is better, and so am I.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
I went over to the new house today to try to place my belongings in my mind. Sue was there and so was Marshall, fixing the ceiling tiles in the hall. It was quite a relief to see them working to get the place ready for the section8 inspection.
These pictures are a little flattering of the place, in that the details that need attention aren't evident. Nevertheless, the elements are there, showing what a pleasant place it is. I love the bay window, and the French doors in the living room. The finished pine floors are great. The third picture shows the dining room, which looks out over the ocean. In fact, all the windows on the back of the house have ocean views. From the second floor you see the roofs of the houses cascade down the hill to the water.
I wish I could wave a magic wand and be in the house. The moving process is so daunting that so far I have been unable to begin packing. I have begun the transition haltingly, making a few phone calls to change utilities. I left a message for the movers. That's the extent of my preparations.
Competing for my attention is Lytton's most recent episode of alarming physical symptoms. The vet says he probably hurt his back, and I have been giving him medication for pain. He seems better, but whenever anything goes wrong with him I become obsessed with the fact of his eventual death.
Meanwhile, I've spent some time with David and Thom, eating Fall food, like meatloaf and a boiled dinner. The tastes of comfort food sustain me. Talk of Thanksgiving raises my spirits. Last night we went to a play at the Art Center, a welcome diversion. Earlier I was at the library book group meeting, discussing "The Thin Place." There is one person there who irritates me with her egocentric manor and shallow approach to literature. Otherwise, I like the group and enjoyed my time there.
I feel that I am moving through some kind of dense fog with only a vague idea of where I am headed.