Thursday, December 29, 2005


It seemed dark in the dining room now that the days are so short. For awhile I have been turning on the light whenever I was in the room. Then it occurred to me that, pretty as they are, the curtains I made blocked the daylight too much. After considering my options, I decided to move the curtains I had in my bedroom downstairs. I left the blinds up in case I felt I needed privacy, though I haven't used them for that since I put them up.

The sheer curtains looked good, and let in a lot of light. But I missed the print of the others, so decided to use them as a table cloth. I like the effect.

Once I had done that I turned my attention to the living room, where the Christmas Tree suddenly looked passe. I took it down and packed it away after only one day of glory. I removed the rug because the room smells like dog poo and I thought that might be the culprit. Now it's hanging over the rail of the deck getting a good washing by mother nature. Still in the spirit of reoganization, I took down the curtains in there, too. They have never pleased me. I put up other sheers that I had found in the closet while wondering what to do in the dining room. I thought they were all the same, but it turns out one is too short for the window. I left it anyway, but will have to rectify the matter at some time in the future.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

O Christmas Tree

The Christmas Tree I ordered on eBay did not arrive until December 24. I had been having conversations with the seller by email trying to locate the thing. She had shipped it on Dec. 8 and had the tracking number, but the tree was nowhere to be found. By the 2oth I had given up and decided it must be permanently lost. Then, heralded by the furious barking of the dogs, the mailman stuffed it between the doors on the morning of Christmas Eve. Since I was busy getting ready for our holiday meal, I had time only to set it up and take a look at it. It was smaller than I had thought, but handsome nonetheless--the perfect size to put on the table in the living room.

On Christmas morning I dug out the box of decorations I had put in my bedroom closet and brought them downstairs. While I was talking to Mike on the phone, I put all the strands of lights I had on the tree. I had seven long strands since I have had bigger trees in the past, so I was anticipating a tree beautifully covered with lights. Indeed, when I got through the tree looked like a pile of green wire. I plugged the last wire into the extension cord and to my great disappointment only a small number of the bulbs came on. Slightly disheartened, I decided to leave the duds in place, thinking they would be obscured by other decorations. I put a few strings of garland on the tree and then had to finish my preparations for the dinner that night.

Yesterday morning, despite the fact that Christmas was over, I felt compelled to finish the tree. Thelma had sent me some decorations, and I had bought three new ones from the Animal Resue Site. They had been on the counter in my studio for weeks, but I had moved them recently to make more room and couldn't remember what I had done with them. I searched and searched, knowing only that what I had done was purposeful, that they had not disappeared randomly. Trying to imagine where I would have stored them, I looked in drawers, on shelves, in cupboards. I repeatedly looked where I had last seen them, unable to believe they were not there. There is no such thing as giving up when I am looking for something, and I extended the search to include under tables and behind bookcases. Eventually I found them, neatly packed in a small box between the wall and the washing machine, under pile of styrofoam Sydney had given me.

With all my ornaments therefore at the ready, I decided to remove all the non-working lights and start from scratch. I stripped the tree and spent a good hour or more untangling the strands of lights. Three of them worked and I placed them on the tree. I replaced the garland. I hung each ornament with care, finding as I unpacked them that mice had used many of the cloth decorations for nests, nibbling on the wings of angels and Santa hats. The idea pleased me, picturing them at work with their tiny hands, thrilled with the bonanza they had found. After only one accident when the tree fell over, spilling its garland, my work was done. By then it had been dark for a few hours and the lighted tree looked great. I felt a tremendous sense of closure. The Christmas tree had fulfilled its destiny, albeit the day after Christmas. Posted by Picasa

Monday, December 26, 2005

Christmas Dinner

After months of planning and three days of cooking, our Christmas dinner finally took place. It was amazing how we timed everything to the minute, and as the clock showed 5:45, fifteen minutes before our guests were to arrive, David and I congratulated ourselves, sat down, and had a glass of sherry before they arrived. The table was elegantly set, the olive crisps rested on the nambe platter in the living room where martini glasses were chilling beside a bottle of blue gin. The pumpkin soup was in the crock pot, the finnan haddie bubbled in the oven, the parsley potatoes were mashed and hot, the biscuits nestled in a wam napkin. The tomato aspic was prettily unmolded and in the refrigerator with its home-made dressing beside it. Coffee in decanters sat ready on a hot plate, alongside sugar cubes and cream in gleaming silver. The deep-dish apple pie was being gently warmed on another tray, the ice cream to serve with it in the freezer. Water glasses were filled with ice water, wine uncorked. We had managed it all to perfection. We were smug and happy.

The entire evening was a lot of fun with everyone in jovial spirits. Just the night before, we all (except Judy who was still in Bangor)had spent Christmas Eve together at Sydney's, but our enthusiasm for being together for the holidays did not wane in the slightest and we laughed away the hours as friends. I remained to help clean up after the others left, ended up talking even longer with David, and did not get home until 2 A.M.

Phone conversations with Jesse, Carrie, Mike, and Michelle sparked up the day as I moved back and forth from home to David's preparing various food and feeding animals. I missed Carrie's call, but she left a message so I still felt part of her day. The others were timed perfectly for me to receive them during my brief visits back to the house. The dogs got raw-hide chews and the chickens got a head of lettuce to honor the occasion of Christmas. It couldn't have been a nicer day.

Monday, December 19, 2005

The Lessons and the Carols

Last night David and I went to the Dennysville Congregational church for the same service we attended last year. Different people read a lesson from the Bible and a choir sings appropriate songs. The audience participates by singing carols off and on throughout the program. We both enjoy this nod toward the relgious aspect of Christmas. After all, to ignore it is to turn a blind eye to the history of our Christian culture, whether we believe it all to be true or not. Otherwise the wrapping of the package supercedes its contents.

Being a pushover for ceremony and ritual, I relish the candle lighting and the red robes, the hymn books and organ music. I love the processional and recessional, the holding of the Bible in the air, the solemn faces and bowed heads. I even love the staight-backed pews with their little doors and latches, the altar with its cross. The church is obviously in a celebratory mood, dressed up and polished. One can't help but join in the gladness. Even though I don't believe, I enjoy it like I might enjoy watching friends open gifts that I know will make them happy. It is a vicarious pleasure mixed with a little envy. It's joining an on-going party for a short time and taking pleasure in it, then leaving the others to it while you go back to your own life.

Other Christmas events so far have been somewhat low-key. The Festival of Lights drew only a small number of people downtown, but the mood was up-beat. Our gallery was open for the evening and actually seemed to be the biggest draw of all the shops. My theory about that is that the participants in the evening activities were mostly the same people who come to all the celebrations mostly initiated by those of us not-quite-natives and plain-out-foreigners. We like to play "Old-Fashioned Christmas." Eastport is our stage. Therefore, many people found friends in the gallery, drinking mulled cider and eating cookies. They gravitated there for conversation and warmth and camaraderie in a place where they felt comfortable. No matter what, it was fun to eat s'mores and sing Christmas songs before a flaming barrel, accompanied by three ancient, good-natured musicians in wool caps. I liked the parade of decorated boats, too, even though there were only two boats. We make our fun and have a good time. This is possible here.

Now our attention, David's and mine, is turned toward our Christmas dinner. It seems to have become legendary in town, as many people have asked about it, what the menu will be this year. They enjoy our enthusiasm for celebration, our attention to detail, our unconventional, almost irreverent food choices, all within the context of very traditional ideals and presentation. We have extracted the parts of Christmas we love from the muck and mire of extraneous duties and obligations. We have stripped it down to what is, for us, only the good parts. We have a wonderful time. Posted by Picasa
 Posted by Picasa

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Chickens and Reindeer

The gallery is going to be open on Dec. 17 during the Festival of Lights and I wanted something inexpensive to put in. I painted this small painting today, combining two photos I took at the farm in Robinston. What attracted me about it was the shape of the sky and the reflections in the windows of the house. I added the chickens for sales appeal, I must confess. though it was fun painting them. I asked Lisa to come over to paint with me, and she worked on something she is doing for her sister for Christmas. This "paralell play" with occasional bursts of conversation is my favorite social situation. I was happy for the first time in weeks.

It snowed again today, leaving more accumulation and making the roads slippery. It's cold, too. I had to go out twice, the last time after dark to feed Bella, Sydney's dog. I found that I could drive up Wilson St. without any trouble, thanks to my studded tires. Without them I wouldn't be able to navigate these hills at all, so they were a very happy investment. My car is really terrible on snow and ice without them. I'm hoping the weather will be good tomorrow so that David will be able to drive from Bangor after his plane lands. He is in for some real weather shock coming from Florida.

Below is the reindeer I made, beside its inspiration, Alice's reindeer. Tomorrow I will take it to Sydney's and decorate it for Christmas. I may also take the paper mache balls I made with the idea of making tree decorations. I don't have the glittery stuff that Sydney keeps on hand, so she said I could use some of hers.

I am plodding along through this time that Alice is sick, feeling like I am walking through knee-deep mud. I miss my therapy sessions and am constantly aware of that lack. I push each day behind me with great effort, glad that it brings me one day closer to resuming my normal schdule. Posted by Picasa
 Posted by Picasa

Monday, December 12, 2005

Anticipating the Season

I got a Christmas wreath for my front door in honor of the season that approaches so quickly. It's quite pretty, though the picture doesn't do it justice. The man who lives next door to the house I lived in last was selling them by the roadside. His mother made the wreaths, and she was taught by her mother. Many people in this area do this in the winter to supplement other seasonal incomes. I'm anxiously awaiting delivery of the Christmas tree I ordered on Ebay so I can really decorate the house. For many years I lost interest in Christmas, but I have it back again since living here. It's the way people always wish Christmas was but rarely is. I've been listening to Christmas music to enhance the holiday atmosphere.

David will be coming home after all, since Thom is recovering from the loss of Shirley and David feels he can leave him. I am very happy about that, since my Christmas for the last several years has been spent with him. It seems like tradition now, and trying to do it without him would have been very difficult. Richard and Sydney are part of things now, too, and usually Elizabeth. But it all started with just David and me. There's something wonderful about caring enough to put on a big celebration for just two people, as we did the first few times. We both enjoy all the trappings of formality, the silver and linen, candles, special food and drink. It was fun to ad others to the mix, but it still belongs to us.

Lytton Models his Sweater

 Posted by Picasa

Friday, December 09, 2005

The Last Few Days

It's been snowing all day and there' quite a bit of accumulation. This may be the beginning of real winter, when bare ground becomes a memory and slippery roads the norm. I had the studded tires put on my car Monday, so I'm ready. Just before I took this picture, I ran the car in and out of the driveway several times to knock down the snow the plow had piled at the end of the driveway. I'm hoping to avoid having to have it plowed, but at the rate the snow is falling, that seems unlikely.

I spent most of the day making a reindeer out of the foam that Linda uses for her puppets. It's modelled after the paper mache reindeer I borrowed from Alice. It was a very easy job until I tried to make the antlers. I made many mistakes before I figured out a way to do it without breaking them. As with all things, it was harder than I thought it would be. The thing is cute, but one has to wonder why I did it.

We had our Christmas party at Art Group on Wednesday, which meant not much more than there was a bigger variety of food than usual after we worked. Judy made some wonderful scones........everyone brought something delicious. I had a good time for awhile, talking about my reading of "The Presence of the Past." The conversation disintegrated into talk of sex as time went by, however, as it often does when women get together without men. The laughter and giggling was irriting to my sensibilities, but not wanting to appear to be the prude that I really am, I added my own cynical comments. It was the female of the species at its worst. It was actually refreshing to go to the Arts Center board meeting afterwards, where people had serious things to talk about and humor was more refined. (Yes, I am a superior snot and a kill-joy.)

Diana visited Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, as she had come to Eastport for the gallery meeting. Our conversation was much better suited to my tastes, and I enjoyed her being here. It's interesting that she has become my oldest friend besides Thelma, having known me as a married woman with young children as well as the person I am today. Having survived the transition, she feels like a constant in my life. I am loyal to her, and she to me. There is comfort. Posted by Picasa

Monday, December 05, 2005

The Wall of Ancestors

I've been meaning to hang all the pictures I have from the collection Jeannette compiled of generations of Littlefields and St. Germains. Today was the day. It gives the hall a different feel to have all those faces staring out of their frames into the eyes of some long-forgotten photographer. The only person represented there that is still alive is Jeanne-Marie, and most have been in their graves for many years. There's Getrude Campbell and Arthur Littlefield, Gertrude's mother Carrie, and her father Edgar. There's Grandma (Milfred Edgerly) holding her son Glenn as a baby. He died in World War II in Africa and his purple heart citation hangs beside a picture of him holding a kitten. There's a picture of Grandpa, Ross St. Germain Sr. in his law office in Bangor and his framed license to pratice law. His father Joseph's naturalization papers are there,too. He became a citizen of the United States in 1866 and fought in the Civil War. Then there's Jeannette and Daddy (Ross Jr.). One picture shows Daddy with his father and his brother Wayne, who committed suicide in the late 50's. There's Faith Fellows, the aunt who was most familiar to me. Also represented are some great aunts and uncles I know nothing about except that they once lived. I have many other photos tucked in the chest at the end of the hall, and maybe I'll add on eventually. Adding a contemporary touch, I put Carrie and Jesse on top of the chest, along with a picture of my father taken not too long before he died.

I find I like looking at them all. When I look at myself in the hall mirror, my own image is there among them, surrounded by them, as it properly should be. They were an interesting group, from what I know of them. The men were lawyers and woodsmen, news reporters, bookkeepers, carpenters, soldiers, psychologists and artists. Until my father and mother's generation the women stayed at home, kept house, and raised children. The notable exception were my great aunts Minnie and Nettie on my mother's side, who evidently were "ladies of the evening." They were all strong women with personalities to be reckoned with. At least from what I have heard from my own parents, many of these woman had a sadistic streak and held their husbands and children in check with an iron hand. By comparison, the men were mild-mannered, un-ambitious, and often, drunks. They held jobs, sometimes prestigious ones, where they performed well enough to support their families. They had dreams, but without the enthusiasm to go after them. They were moral and socially conscious, always on the side of the underdog.

Seeing them looking at me with their steely expressions makes me feel like part of a compatible group. The only one smiling is my mother. Despite everything else she was, she knew how to laugh. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Sick Room and the Floor Painting

I have spent the last several days pretty much alone. It has been the best way to manage my various fears and upsets. Alice has been sick, leaving me to fend for myself. It's been difficult because of my worrying about Lytton. He seems fine now, but I took him to the vet in Perry on Friday because he seemed to be still in pain. Dr. Newcomb gave me a prescripton for a pain killer, which helped considerably right away. At the same time he told me about the possible consequences of a back injury, including paralysis. Ben Joe, my first Lhasa Apso, had back trouble and it ended with euthenasia when he was eleven. This, plus Lytton's new bladder stones, kept me very subdued and somewhat teary, foreseeing his death in various degrees of detail. I've spent a lot of time sitting with him on the couch, talking to him, petting him, wrapping him in blankets against the cold house. I watched every move he made, looking for signs of discomfort. He became so used to his favored place in the household that he curled his lip at the other dogs every time they tried to come near me. Last night a fight broke out between all three of them. I was petrified that Lytton would get hurt and dove into the fray, taking a mean bite from Benny that was meant for dog flesh. When the other dogs were subdued, my golden boy flopped triumphantly down in my lap, gazing up at me with a wounded expression. You could almost see him sticking out his tongue at the other dogs.

Today I ventured out with all three dogs for a walk. Again I was thinking of Lytton's happiness. He loves his walks so much, I didn't want to deprive him of his outings, no matter how much I felt like staying inside. Otherwise, I spent time painting a border on the floor of the dining room. I have had plans to do this for quite a while and had bought the paint well over a week ago. I had chosen a pattern in a book I have about such things, and felt optimistic that I could accomplish the job. It involved making four different stamps out of foam core squares with rubber glued to them. Since I had no rubber and didn't know where to get it, I substituted kitchen sponges. I cut them into 3/4" squares and glued them with Elmer's into the required patterns (obnoxious and time-consuming). I painted the border on the floor with the off-white paint on which I was to stamp the design. All went well with my measuring and taping. The base coat looked good.

Anxious to see how it would look, I decided to test the small stamp on a piece of paper. It was fine. Then I took one of the big stamps shaped like a cross, and rolled red paint on it. With great anticipation I placed it on the floor, pushed down lightly, and pulled it back off. Because I had used sponges, each little sqaure did not fill in, but I liked the look, so I readied the second stamp. When I pulled that one off the floor, one of the little sponge squares fell off. Well, I thought, I can do that one square by hand. I stamped the cross again, then placed the defective stamp down beside it. This time two more squares fell off. By the time I had used it two more times, too many squares had fallen off. I had to abandon the project while I made another stamp. Meanwhile I discovered that it was impossible to get the same pressure every time, as well as the same amount of paint. Some of the designs were light and not completely filled in, while the paint splattered out around the sponge pieces in others, fusing the squares together into rectangles or blotches. Oh, well, I figured. If I wanted perfection, I'd have bought tiles.

Because of the trouble I had, I thought I had better leave the new stamp under a pile of heavy books while the glue dried overnight. My resolve lasted about an hour before I was at it again. This time most of the sponge squares stayed put and I finished the border, albeit somewhat sloppily. When it was done, I stood back to admire it, trying to convince myself that it looked good. I went into the living room to watch TV, occasionally going into the hall to take a look from there. Eventually I had to face the fact that it looked like a tacky Christmas garland with its bright red, green, and white motif. Something had to be done. My solution was to mix some raw sienna acrylic paint with water and brush it over the entire border. It was transformed immediately into something altogether different and I loved it.

I have enjoyed my solitude. I got out my Christmas CD collection and have been listening to Handel's Messiah. It's almost enough to make you believe in God when you think of the enormous inspiration behind religious music. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Musings on Art

Yesterday at Wednesday Art Group I painted in acrylic the same picture I'd done in watercolor a few weeks ago. I'm quite pleased with this one, too. Whenever this happens I feel uneasy about which medium I like the best, as if I had to make a choice. It's the same with subject matter....what do I like the best? For some reason I'm always thinking I have to dedicate myself to one thing. I feel like a jack-of-all-trades, master of none.

Our discussion over wine and cheese had to do with what it means to be an "artist." We discussed devotion to our work, time spent on it, setting priorities. We like to think that we are different from the ordinary person in some significant way. We forgive ourselves all conventional shortcomings, deferring to the "artistic personality," the artist's life. We exhibit the ultimate self-indulgence. We congratulate ourselves endlessly, while taking a humble stance. We are cut from a different bolt of cloth, we think, and are proud of it.

We all lamented the fact that we did not have enough time to devote to our higher calling. Or at least that was the consensus. I, who have time to do whatever I want, whenever I want to do it, do not long for time but inclination. I am not "called" to create. For want of another way to spend my time, I have made art a significant part of my life. It is what I do. But I could have easily done something else. At different times in my life I have devoted myself to other things, always trying to be the best at whatever I was doing. When sewing was important to me, I couldn't rest until I could make a continuous lap sleeve, a perfect rolled hem, a bound button hole. I had to make all the clothes for myself and my children. When I cooked, I wanted to learn to do everything the great chefs could do and threw myself into the task. I made doughnuts and home-made pasta and souffles. Playing the piano using the melody accompanied by chords, which was my father's way, was not good enough for me. I had to be able to play Rachmaninoff's 18th Variation on a Theme of Paganini, the original version. I macrameed the most complicated items I could find, knit the most complicated patterns and stitches, needlepointed using basketweave instead of the inferior diagonal stitch, learning every stitch I could find, designing my own peices. I crocheted and quilted and crafted. No jumping on a horse for a trail ride on a Western saddle for me.....I had to have my own horse. I had to learn dressage. When I was a parent of young children I was the one who did the PTA newsletter, who passed out cups of fluoride, made cupcakes with Santa on them for the Christmas party and heart-shaped cookies for Valentine's day. I sewed Oscar the Grouch costumes and painted scenery for the class play. For awhile I was a social worker, for awhile I was a writer. I was interested in politics and government, a heartfelt democrat. I was a reader of the Utne Reader, an environmentalist, a protester. I learned not one, but four foreign languages. I got not one B.A., but four. I am passionate about animal rights, much more pasionate than I am about art.

In the end I took the easiest path. I was born talented in drawing. With such a head start, I could develop that talent with a minimum of effort. I fell into the roll of "artist," and that has become my identity. It was the path of least resistance. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Saga of the Washing Machine

Nothing goes smoothly. My life is a testament to this fact. On Monday I arranged with Dominic to take out the old washing machine and put in the new one. He arrived with his pick-up at eleven. I thought the job would take about an hour, but we had a difficult time that can best be discribed in terms of water shut-off valves and floods. After several trips up and down the narrow cellar steps we were standing in an inch of water surrounded by several soaked bath towels, but the washer was free from its pipes and hoses. We hoisted it onto a dolly Lisa had brought over, and wheeled it out the front door. It stands by the end of the driveway now, waiting for the waste disposal truck.

Next Dominic and I rode to the house on Deep Cove Road in the truck while Lisa followed in her car to lend a hand if needed. Luckily the new machine had been disconnected, its hoses hanging off the back. Dominic and I managed to get it onto the dolly, out the front door, down the steps, across the over-grown lawn, through a narrow gate, and up to the tail-gate of the truck. Lisa arrived to help tip it onto the truck bed and slide it to the rear. Back here at the house, we maneuvered it off the truck again, back onto the dolly, and into the house.

Using same the minimal tools (a rusty pair of pliers and a screwdriver) we had used to detach the old washer, we hooked up the new one. Without any sense of foreboding we turned it on, expecting water to come gushing into the tub. It did not. It trickled, barely more than a few drops at a time. Since we had turned off every water valve we could find, we checked and rechecked to make sure we had turned them all back on. We switched the hoses. We poked and prodded. We went up and down the stairs again, following the water lines, looking for missed shut-off valves. After most of the afternoon had passed, we had to admit defeat. Will came over a little later and checked that the water was indeed coming from the pipes into the hoses. There was nothing left to do. I went on-line trying to find out what could be wrong, but to no avail.

The next day, yesterday, I spent most of my time at the gallery decorating for Christmas. I had lunch with Diana, June, Joanne, and Judy. I spoke about my washer problem and Judy told me to check the filters. By the time I got home it was too dark to tackle that job, so I waited until today. I was supposed to go to Bangor, but when I got up I just couldn't face the idea so cancelled my Doctor's appointment and stayed home. Immediately after my cup of coffee, I tackled the washer again. I shut off the water behind the machine and disconnected the hoses. Water spewed out everywhere, just as it had the day before. I went down to the main shut-off and turned it off, but not before I had flooded the room again. Obviously I do not learn by my mistakes. Nevertheless, I was much rewarded when I peered into the holes where the hoses attach and saw the filters clogged with thick mud. I used a kitchen knife to scrape them out, hosed them down with Windex (I couldn't use water since I had turned it off), and re-attached the hoses. After another trip to turn the water back on I turned the dial and water poured into the tub. With the greatest delight I raced upstairs to get a pile of laundry and put the machine to work. As I write, it is on its fourth load.

So now I feel like I really live here. I don't have to go elsewhere to do my laundry. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Dogs' Christmas

Sabrina made homemade treats for the dogs. They love the peanut butter flavor and it's something that Lytton can eat on his low-calcium diet. They also got pig's ears, and below is Patrick chowing down on his. Posted by Picasa
 Posted by Picasa


After spending the actual day of Thanksgiving elsewhere, I tackled a dinner for Jesse, Sabrina, and myself for our own celebration of a combined Christmas and Thanksgiving. The three of us prepared a feast and ate with great gusto. We all love to eat. The day was spent in happy conversation and camaraderie. Jesse helped me install the stained glass lampshade Joanne had fixed and returned to me a few weeks ago. With it over the table, I feel as if the dining room is complete. Sabrina didn't feel well in the evening, but we watched a hilarious video they had brought of a stand up comedian I had never heard of. He was irreverent and outrageous.

The next day was our intended Christmas part of the visit, but the gifts I had ordered for them did not arrive in the mail. I am very diappointed because I wanted to be there when they opened them. I felt as if I had done a good job picking out the gifts. Now I will have to send them on to Connecticut for them to open without me. They had brought my presents, so I had that part of the festivities all to myself. I was delighted by the array of gourmet oils and vinegars, special noodles, pine nuts, cookies, tea, wild rice, and a bottle of delicious blood orange juice, all in a very nice tote bag. They also gave me two DVD's and a very surprising and funny cookbook called "Are You Hungry Tonight," full of the favorite recipes of Elvis Presley. My infatuation with Elvis is legendary and the gift couldn't have been more appropriate. I look forward to the DVD's since they know my taste very well and are sure to have picked something I will enjoy.

After most of the day was over they packed to leave. They were going to Bangor last night and on to Connecticut today. I enjoyed the visit so much I was terribly reluctant to see them go and wished they lived nearby so I could see them more often. The older they get, the more my children and their mates become my kindred spirits, and I enjoy being with them as much for the like-mindedness we share as the fact that they are my kids. They are very likeable people. I spent a sad evening missing them.

The Wall comes Tunbling Down

In preparation for my washing machine, and having asked Phyllis' permission, I took out the wall between the two sides of the former sunporch.This experience has taught me that taking things apart is a lot easier than putting them together. It was actually easier to knock the wall out than to put up one mini blind in the living room, even including the clean-up. Having decided that today was the day, I dragged out my All-Saw, a screwdriver, and a hammer. The wall was well-constructed of two sections of sheetrock and a heavy frame of 2x4"s attached to the ceiling and the floor, but they were no match for a determined woman with a saw. Just as I figured, it had obviously been added recently, because the ceiling and floor were continuous once the wall was gone. Whoever built it had used the outside door moulding as the end piece, so all I had to do was nail it back beside the door. No evidence of its ever having been there remains other than the mismatched floors. If I ever feel ambitious enough, I can get another box of tiles and redo that end to match the other. I called Dominic and left him a message that I am ready for my washer. Posted by Picasa

Friday, November 25, 2005


The actual day of Thanksgiving started off very poorly, with Lytton jumping off the bed and squealing in pain. He continued to cry and couldn't walk down stairs. I tried to get the local vet, but he didn't answer his pager even after several tries, so I ended up going to St. Stephen where it was not a holiday. Jesse and Sabrina arrived just as I had to leave for the appointment I had made. I left them to themselves and drove through a blizzard to get to the clinic. Even though Lytton was diagnosed with a back injury, the x-ray also showed that his bladder stones are back. Both things are very discouraging and frightening, but he got a shot of prednisone and was feeling his old self by the next day. I have to ignore the prognosis for the time being and will call Dr. Cloutier next week about the stones.

When I finally got back from St. Stephen, I followed through with my plan to have Thanksgiving with the Bradburys. It was such a relief to be able to relax and enjoy the rest of the afternoon without pressure. I enjoyed myself immensely and felt so glad to have such wonderful friends. Phylis and Bob were there and so were Lisa and Will's four children, who were pleasant company and a nice addition to the group of adults. The atmosphere was comfortable and the dinner was fabulous. Just what Thanksgiving should be.

I came home feeling happy and ready to start my visit with Sabrina and Jesse.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The First Snow and Thanksgiving Plans

It snowed today for the first time. I raced out to capture the moment on film (or I guess I should say memory stick). There isn't much accumulation, but apparently there will be more tomorrow. Jesse called to say that he and Sabrina are driving to Bangor from Connecticut tonight instead of tomorrow in order to avoid the bad weather. I'm very happy they are coming, but worried that they will get caught on slippery roads. Jesse is a good driver, and he is, after all, an adult. I don't know if it's possible for a mother to really see things that way.

I spent the day working on the guest room in anticipation of their visit and it looks pretty good considering it is the only room in the house that wasn't redone. I also cleaned out the small room at the end of the old sunporch where the washer and dryer are. Since the washer doesn't work, that has become the room where everything gets dumped if I don't know where else to put it. Since I have bought a second-hand washer, I need to get the room ready for it. The wall has to be removed in order to get it in, which will be a boon to my studio space. It's difficult for me to keep from taking a sledge hammer to it myself, but I am waiting for Will to assess the situation first. Dominic stands ready to deliver it to me, so soon I will not have to go to the laundromat. Happy day!

I am having Thanksgiving with Lisa and Will and their family tomorrow. I have been looking forward to it, so will still go even though the kids may be here. They would probably be welcome too, but they will be tired from the drive from Bangor. It's unlikely that they will want to go. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, November 20, 2005


This is how the curtains in the dining room came out. The fabric is perfect for the room and the whole place seems warmer. Sydney bought the tablecloth and gave it to me. That adds a lot of warmth, too. The house is feeling better and better to me. Posted by Picasa

Thinking of Shirley

Whem I got back from mailing Shirley's portrait yesterday, there was a message on my machine from David. His voice sounded downcast, and I thought he might be calling to tell me Shirley had died. It turned out to be true. It happened yesterday afternoon, probably right at the moment I was struggling to wrap the painting at the UPS drop at Johnson's hardware. I am now so sorry I didn't get it in the mail earlier so that she could have seen it. I thought she had more time, as did David and Thom. They planned on having Thanksgiving dinner with her. Now they will be going to the restaurant where the three of them had spent the holiday in the past, in a gesture of remembrance.

I feel let down somehow, almost as if I had just sent the portrait sooner I would have been there to help Shirley go. It is an irrational thought and I don't know where it came from. I do think that it's good that she didn't have to wait any longer, nor did those around her. Once it was certain that she had just a few weeks or so it seems almost cruel to drag it out. She did a good thing. It must be hard for everyone, especially the person dying, to just wait for it to happen. How long should somebody have to live without hope, with the certain knowledge that death will come at any moment? Especially since Shirley was religious and presumably believed in an afterlife, she must have wanted to get it over with.

With these thoughts rolling around in the back of my mind, I sewed all day today. After making the curtains for the dining room, I felt like getting back to making something to wear. I had big plans, and bought two pieces of beautiful fabric to pair up for one long-sleeved top. Things seemed to be going very well. I felt creative since I was inventing something different from the pattern. My neck facing was perfect, the best I've ever done. I "stitched in the ditch" like a pro and topstitched around the neck opening so that it looked sore-bought. The two pieces of fabric looked great together, the bobbin thread didn't break, the machine behaved. Then as I was coming toward the end, I realized the front and back didn't match correctly. Somehow things had gotten out of align. The details were wonderful but the garment itself couldn't be put together. As I tried to remedy the situation, which I really knew was impossible, I put the thing on and saw that it was emormous. I had used the pattern pieces labeled "large," feeling brave that I didn't choose "extra-large." So, I thought, I can probably start all over again with the same pieces, cutting them down using the smaller version of the pattern. I went to the wastebasket to retrieve the tissue pattern pieces I had thrown away, but they were soaked with the remains of the chicken I had cooked and deboned earlier. Now it looks like I will have a few very pretty pillows.

The day was wasted, but I felt like it was just. It was the way a day of mourning should be.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Wednesday Art and Philosophy

This is what I did today at painting group. It's taken from one of the photos I took at the farm in Robinston where I got Hannah. I had thought I would paint this one in oil, and I still may do it, but today I felt like trying watercolor on a different kind of subject matter. I pushed the perspective, both aerial and linear, including cutting a narrow piece of paper to accentuate the space. My intent was to create the feeling that the goats are pressing in on the viewer, which is what they were doingas I took the picture. I'm pretty happy with my results.

After painting we all had our customary glass of wine and a spirited conversation ensued that covered many areas from vegetarianism to the human mind and spirituality. As usual I was not able to stay on the same plane as my comrades, expanding my thoughts to include the limitless cosmos. The individual plays no roll, or so I believe, in such vastness and the "knowledge" we have is irrelevant on that scale. Why I persist in pointing out that we are nothing in the larger scheme of things but an evolutionary bump in the road is a mystery to me as well as to those I am talking to. We must live in the context of our little lives. Everything is relative, of course, and we are not insignificant within the confines of our universe. Our musings and discoveries are important to us and shape our world. Rather than concentrate on what is at hand, however, I choose to compare us to an ant whose universe consists of his anthill and whose drive to survive, avoid disaster, and live his life as it is ordained by evolution is no diferent from our own. I find comfort in this idea, but others do not. Setting asside human life and making it different (superior) from all other is the hallmark of most thinking. Rather than finding comfort in being just like every other animal, this idea is thought to demean us. This is what I was hearing today. Because we have brains to think it, it makes it so. Our illusion of control over nature makes us haughty and righteous, as if we lived outside of nature, as if we were not subject to the same influences as those species whose talents lie elsewhere. Every species manipulates the environment to foster its own survival, including us. We are at the top of the food chain at this point in history. It stands to reason that somewhere right now the organism that will beat us out is busy evolving. Posted by Picasa

Monday, November 14, 2005

Portrait of Shirley

I finally finished the portrait of Shirley to my satisfaction. I spent the afternoon fussing over the last details and signed my name to it. It has been a strange experience, trying to remember Shirley without thinking of her dying in her hospital bed, trying to keep the painting innocent. I felt that I was immortalizing her, that once she is gone and the painting remains, the painting will become her. In the same way that photographs become the memories we have of people we have lost, the portrait may come to represent her in the memory of the people who look at it over and over. The image of the real Shirley will fade and be superceded by the portrait. True or not, it was with this sense of responsibility to Shirley's memory that I labored. I wanted to tell the truth about her life as I perceived it while at the same time portraying the sense of perseverence and hardiness I sensed in her. I remember her sense of humor which seemed to stem from a deep knowledge of the darker side and the ability to laugh in its face. She seemed to me to live far below the suface, her own tough person beneath a somewhat frail exterior.

It is presumptuous of me to think I can know someone on the basis of a few weeks of contact, but I had to go on what I gleaned from that association and the bits and pieces of Shirley's life that were revealed to me by Thom and David. I like her and think of her with fondness. I believe that , if nothing else, that comes across in my painting of her. Posted by Picasa

Friday, November 11, 2005


Today I went shopping for the first time in many weeks. Sydney had to take Bella to the groomer in Calais, so we made an afternoon of it. I got this fabric to make curtains for my dining room. Originally I had planned to use old curtains I had bought for the house on Middle St., but those seem to have disappeared. Then I decided that the blinds were enough. Now I feel that the room needs to be warmed up. This could be a direct result of the fact that it is getting colder outside, and it gets dark so early. Whatever the reason, the windows will soon be dressed in floral finery.

The major thrust of the shopping expedition, however, turned out to be buying clothes. I really can not spare the money I spent on such frivolity, but I threw caution to the winds. When I opened the suitcase where I had put my winter clothes a few weeks ago, I was shocked with how little I had to wear. I'm not sure what happened. I could have thrown out whatever I wore last year. Or maybe I spent the whole winter in the three turtle necks given to me by Thelma's sister, Connie. I felt I really needed some long-sleeved tops. Scouring the clearance racks at Wal-Mart, I came up with one pair of pants and five tops. I also bought a new headset for the phone (Patrick chewed up my old one) so that I can hear better when I talk on the telephone. My total outlay was over $75.00, which made my heart sink as I read the total at the self-check out. Now I will have to live with my spending spree, but at least I'll have something to wear while I do it.

David emailed that Shirley has only weeks to live. I want to get her portrait done so that she can see it, but I still am not quite satisfied with it. I won't send it until I feel it is right, and I hope that will happen this week-end. I know I can do it the way I want if I just keep at it. Right now it isn't quite Shirley the way I remember her. Almost, but not good enough. I really want it to be perfect.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Hannah (formerly Spinner)and Zeke's Good-bye

Lisa and I went to a farm in Robinston to take pictures of goats, chickens, and ducks that belonged to a woman Lisa had met after the play last week. The place was absolutely wonderful, with animals everywhere. They all seemed to be exceptionally well-cared for, fat and clean and healthy. They were all free to roam all over the property, which appeared to be several acres. The goats followed us around, wanting to be petted. The puppy jumped up playfully, the cats slept on the table. Chickens and ducks were everywhere. I asked if I could buy one of the chickens, but they were not for sale. In the end, though, I brought home Hannah, who was named Spinner because of some nervous disorder that causes her to run around in circles at times, getting confused. The woman who owns the place, whose name I never did get, decided that she would let Spinner go home with me where she would be a member of a much smaller flock, thereby getting more attention. There were over a hundred chickens there, all looking amazingly similar. Here Spinner is an idividual, actually the beauty of the bunch, and can hopefully blossom in the cozier environment. My first step toward her rehabilitation was to change her name, which focused on her disability.
From now on she is Hannah.

Demeter and Annie have welcomed Hannah quite gracefully. When I went to check on them all tonight, the three of them were sharing the perch as if they had known each other all their lives. I hope for a happy future for all of them.

There was very sad news from Mike yesterday about Zeke. After seemingly making a good recovery from the operation to amputate his leg, he suddenly became sick Monday morning and died before Mike could get him to the vet. Mike was devastated, and so was I. We both cried on the phone when he called to tell me the news, and I had a hard time pulling myself together after we hung up. Of course my grief was mostly for Mike. I could empathize with him perhaps too well. I called him back later in the hope that I could support him once the shock and initial pain had subsided somewhat. I felt better after the second conversation because we were both a little more controlled and rational. Nothing can alleviate Mike's grief, but my hope is that at least he won't feel isolated, or that no one understands, and that that will mean something to him.

As for Zeke himself, he was a good dog and well-loved. His life was happy and he died with his Dad's hand patting his head. It's everything a dog could ask for.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Quiet Accomplishment

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?

Monday, October 31, 2005

Skunk Dog

This is a stinking dog. He became so enthralled with a skunk last night that he would not leave the thing alone. I had to physically remove him from the vacinity of his little playmate. That meant that I, too, got an up close and personal look at the poor little skunk, who was trapped under the steps by a frantically barking puppy. I shined my flashlight in his eyes and stomped on the steps trying to scare him away, but Patrick blocked his only escape route. I didn't dare get too rambunctious, not knowing if skunks can spray again once they have done it. Patrick was refusing to be caught and I chased him around the yard for about five minutes before finally grabbing him and carrying his malodorous self into the house. The other two dogs somehow avoided a confrontation and headed for the back door as soon as the situation became clear to them.

Patrick had never experienced the baking soda-peroxide-detergent treatment. By the time I was done with him, the kitchen was soaked, I was soaked, and he was soaked. He was then subjected to a thorough towelling and then the hair dryer. Finally we all crawled into bed at midnight. I was hot and sweaty from all the exertion, but finally drifted off to sleep with three hot bodies against me, one still damp, and a mild perfume of skunk wafting through the air.