Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Eve, My Piano

For me, the new year will arrive without fanfare or celebration. I had planned to go out with David and Thom, but as the day approached I felt more and more reluctant. Finally I excused myself by email and settled in to a guilty funk. I puttered around and accomplished nothing. I read passages from old journals and lamented the fact that I am no longer so introspective or articulate. I put the new purple bathroom rug I bought yesterday in place and was disappointed. The telephone battery I bought at the same time didn't fit the phone, I couldn't assemble the new flashlight.

On the bright side, I look forward to playing the piano as soon as I finish writing this. Just lately I have renewed interest in it. When I first sat down to it a few weeks ago, having abandoned it for several years, I was shocked at how little I remembered. I never was any good at it, despite trying most of my life. I set up a loose schedule of almost daily practice, followed it pretty much, and now have recovered the minimal skill I once had.

Despite striving for perfection in so many of my endeavors, I have accepted my failure to excel in this area. Even my recorder playing is less than stellar despite years of constant practice with Toni. I love music and can read it, but lack any acceptable technique, make mistake after mistake. Nevertheless, I put my heart and soul into my playing. I could be performing at Carnegie Hall. The sound coming out of the piano at the touch of my fingers on the keys thrills me. Enthusiasm makes up for my lack of expertise.

I have never played the piano in front of anybody else. I am so bad it would be humiliating. It is a private ecstasy with no need for outside affirmation, no need for approval or praise. I relish my time spent as a maker of music, putting it off as I might a delicious tidbit waiting in the refrigerator. I savor the anticipation, and it never disappoints me.

That is going to be my solitary way of bringing in another year. It's a fine way.
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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Last Painting of the Year (I think)

I've worked on this painting off and on for a few weeks. I think it's 16x20, painted over some other work I decided didn't merit saving for posterity. It is taken from another one of Toni's photos. She doesn't have any others, so I'll have to find some other subject matter for the next one. I'm still interested in painting crowds, and I may try repeating in oil the ones I did last winter in watercolor. Somehow it never seems quite so interesting to paint familiar, contemporary scenes. I think that's because our idea of great art was done by the old masters. We forget that what looks so old-fashioned and romantic to us was actually contemporary when it was painted. Even though Toni's pictures are fairly recent, the fact that they were taken in Chili somehow makes them more enchanting.

I have to get over that..........
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Saturday, December 27, 2008


Christmas Tree
Buche de Noel
Lytton with his present from Duncan

...................and the next night we watched "How the Grinch Stole Christmas."

It was a wonderful time.
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Monday, December 22, 2008


We are buried in snow after nature brought us a real, old-fashioned blizzard last night. The electricity was out for a short while, but came on after I went to bed, lighting lamps, making phones beep, and sending the furnace into noisy activity. When I got up this morning, the snow was piled so high against the house I wasn't able to open either door. I had to take out the window in the door, and shovel from inside (luckily I hadn't left the shovel outside as I often do). Once I could get outside, I put the dogs on their leashes and stumbled around the driveway between this house and the one next door. Not much snow accumulates there, even in a storm like this, because the wind blows up from the water and clears it out like a tunnel. While a drift four feet high covered the front door, grass was showing only a short distance away. The plow had pushed the snow into a bank almost as tall as I am all along the front of the house, so there was no way to get out for a walk.

For the sake of good spirits I ignored the sight of my car, almost buried and just behind the mound that lined the street. I did have to check on the chickens, though, and was horrified to see that their door had blown open. All I could see was snow in the doorway and no sound of chickens. There was no way to get the gate open to their yard, so I had to cut a hole the chicken wire. Fortunately, the area between the back of the house and the shed is also sheltered in a peculiar way, so once I was in the going was easy. All the chickens were none the worse for wear, keeping to the far side of the coop where it was bare and relatively warm. I fed and watered them, gathered eggs, kicked the snow out, and closed the door as best I could. It was time to go make my morning coffee and contemplate the situation. Everything was out of wack.......the newspaper didn't even come.

A few hours later I gathered my recources and faced the fact that I was going to have to shovel the car out. I dressed in layers of clothes, hat, boots, and mittens, and sallied forth. The wall of snow was daunting to say the least, but I put myself to the task with the determination of one who prides herself on self-sufficiency. Secretly, even to myself, I hoped some chivalrous person with a plow would see me and insist on helping me out. It didn't happen.

After two hours of constant shovelling I decided to give myself a rest. I had made considerable headway, but the job was far from finished. I imagined going back in a half hour or so, but once I had stopped, my arms and back felt useless. I made a pie and sat down to read while it was baking, gathering strength to tackle the chicken coop door. Ice around the doorway prevented the door from closing all the way and I spent considerable time chipping at it. Several times I had to trudge my way back to the house for hammers, screwdrivers, buckets of water, etc. I replaced the hook that the wind had yanked out of the wood, stuff towels into the crack where the door wouldn't close. Finally I was satisfied enough to call it a day.

I can't wait to have a piece of my pie.
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Wednesday, December 17, 2008


I meant to post these pictures a week ago but got so caught up in Lytton's illness that I forgot about it. I haven't made bread in a long time, but Mike told me that he had done it and it inspired me. Besides, it used up a few eggs. The girls are so productive I am constantly looking for ways to use them. I forgot about this bread both times I let it rise, so I think it's colossal proportions are due partly to over-rising. Nevertheless they loaves are beautiful to behold. They taste good, too.
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The Shovelled Walk (and Flamingos)

I do believe this is a momentous occasion in my life.......I shovelled the walk for the first time. The new snow is light and fluffy even though there is a lot of it. It seemed like the perfect time to find out what it's like to actually clear the path to the street. My usual approach is to stomp the snow down until I can get where I want to go. There is a great sense of satisfaction in doing the job in a "proper" way, yet I imagine that once will be enough for me.

I also shovelled behind the car, but only after I had rammed the snowbank by driving back and forth over it several times. My work made it look neater, though I had a "why bother?" feeling of wasted energy. I had already got the car out, which is, after all, the purpose of removing the snow.

The picture of the flamingos records a sight that has entertained me for weeks. I keep planning to bring them inside, but they look so funny out there I've put it off. I will do it after this storm, though, before they get buried and ruined.

Well winter is here, and driving to the post office on the slippery road through heavy snow reminded me that its coming is not the disaster it always seems to be as we anticipate it. I welcomed it as part of the natural ebb and flow of things. I careened down Water St, sliding one way and then the other, like a kid with a new sled. The extremes of our climate here are such an adventure. We get a chance to live two completely different lives.
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Sunday, December 14, 2008


Lytton is getting better now, but I have been preoccupied with him for the past several days. He was in a lot of pain, crying out every time he moved. I called the emergency number for the vet in Perry and braved dark and ice to drive him there after hours. Once we were there, Lytton acted as if nothing were wrong and the doctor dismissed us. At my insistence, he gave me some pain pills and muscle relaxers. We (all the dogs and me) were awake most of that night because of his misery, which returned as soon as he left the clinic.

The next morning I called my sainted vet in Bangor, who diagnosed him over the phone as having a slipped disk. He approved the medication he was taking and asked me to call the next day. All I could do was hold Lytton in my lap, listen to him whine, and wipe the tears from my face. Always disaster-oriented where he is concerned, I envisioned paralysis at best, death at worst. As the day wore on he improved enough to stay quiet unless he moved. That night he slept better and so did the rest of us. Since then he has improved each day and is now almost back to normal.

As he regains his health, my thoughts shift from his impending death to relief that he is better. The relief is shallow and skewed, tainted by the the ever-present cloud that seems to taunt me with the whisper, "Not this time."
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Sunday, December 07, 2008


It has been 28 years since my father died. It was probably the most life-altering event of my life. Before his death, I was his daughter. That was my identity, despite the fact that I was married with two children. Everything I did was influenced by my perception of his reaction to it. Every thought was measured by what he would think, whether he would approve or disapprove. I twisted myself inside out trying to anticipate how to please him, to make him happy and proud of me.

When he was no longer there, I had to invent myself. It was a difficult searching, trying to find out if there was an independent being lurking somewhere that I had not noticed. I had trouble, trying on different persona's to see if they fit. As I remember it, most of them were unpleasantly hostile. My mother suffered the brunt of my instability, never knowing what to expect from an angry and indifferent daughter. I made many bad decisions that I remember with increasing regret as time separates me from them.

I think that eventually I invented a person I can accept as being "me."