Monday, October 31, 2005
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.
Sunday, October 30, 2005
I finished the pumkin watercolor today and am happy with it. Now I will no longer be afraid of a full sheet, although if I have any intention of selling any of these watercolors, I will have to keep them smaller. I can't afford to frame big ones, nor can people afford to buy them. For the time being, though, I am just happy to be doing them.
The rest of the day was spent at the play at the Arts Center. It never ceases to amaze me what a great job they do, and this one was no exception. In fact, it was among the best I have seen. I decided to go only at the last moment. I was painting with Lisa when everyone there started to get ready to go. Will was in the cast, and was taking the children with him to the "green room." Lisa and I went and sat in the audience.
Last night Carrie called to tell me that she and Gabe are home safe from Antigua. In fact, there was no sign of the hurricane there and the two of them enjoyed a beautiful vacation. I was very relieved, of course, that my fears were unfounded.
Saturday, October 29, 2005
This is the view from my back deck tonight at about five-thirty. I happened to look out the kitchen window as I was throwing Lytton's dogfood can in the trash, and there it was. I grabbed the camera and went out to photograph it. My neighbor Donna was on her deck, too, admiring the same scene and we exchanged appreciative comments. In the middle of a mundane moment, a sight like this can't fail to elevate us, to show us beauty so powerful that it makes us stop what we are doing and gawk at it. It's hard to imagine where our appreciation of such things comes from. It seems unique to human animals to find enjoyment in simply looking at things. What neurons in our brains fire and stimulate that vague, indefineable pleasure, and why? Surely it has no roots in our instinct to survive. If I were to wax poetc, I would say that it gives us the will to survive.
It was a cold, dreary day made enjoyable by painting with Lisa. We set up a complicated still life on her dining room table. It was a cheerful pumpkin-infested fall subject, rounded out by dried hydrangeas picked from Greg's bush, leaves and apples. It was so lovely that I decided to go after it on a full sheet of watercolor paper. This is the first full sheet I have tried since my return to watercolor and I was a little fearful of the huge piece of paper. It turned out all right, though, if a little over-worked in some areas. Those places were compensated for by some nice light leaves. I have more to do on it, and I think I will be happy with it in the end. Lisa worked in acrylic, and our two paintings were like two sides of the same coin---an interesting study of mediums and the way they influence interpretation of the subject. It was thrilling to see, feeding my love of seeing the same subject done by different artists.
As if by design, Thelma called and I was able to share my enthusiasm with her. She has been playing with paint as well, and having a fine time. I had anticipated a reclusive day full of household chores. Some days give you happy surprises.
I read about these terrible situations where people are living in crowded shelters without water and toilets with mild interest, not being able to believe in them. It struck me the other day that Carrie and Gabe may have been caught in the storm during their trip to the Carribean, but I can't believe this, either. Surely the storms missed them. Certainly by some lucky stroke they are somewhere where the sun shone on their whole vacation. Nevertheless, there are times when I find myself chewing my fingernails and feeling dread in the pit of my stomach. I wait nervously to be sure my fleeting fears are unwarranted.
David was hit hard in Ft. Lauderdale and he and Thom are still without electricity. They can not get gas for their car. Luckily they got a generator before the storm hit so are in relative comfort compared with the poor in the same area. They have had to absorb the bad news that Thom's cousin Shirley has been diagnosed with cancer and is in the hospital. I have spent time with Shirley and like her, so this is unsettling for me, too. I am in the process of painting a portrait of her that David and Thom are planning to give her as a Christmas gift. I have it in my new studio, where I pass by it many times a day. Shirley smiles out at me from the canvas, innocent of the news she has just received. The painting of her is of a happy woman. She has given herself over to the moment, eyes crinkled against the sun, hair shining and blowing slightly in the ocean breeze of Gleason's Cove. Her hard life is somewhere else, and the world is a giddy, care-free place. I find the painting touching, and hard to look at. I don't know how my knowledge of her illness will affect the rest of the work I have to do on it. I hope I can keep her the way she is now.
My days are passing slowly as I try to absorb the changing of the seasons It is always difficult for me no matter how I profess to love having four distinct times of year here in New England. Darkness comes early and will come even earlier after this week-end when daylight-saving time goes back to standard time. Yet I know I will feel just as disoriented when the days get longer, after I have become used to the cozy dark afternoons when I cover myself with an afghan and read under a lamp while the snow blows outside. Change is always unsettling, more so as I get older because it is so familiar. Each time the winter comes, it comes sooner.
Saturday, October 22, 2005
I decided to set my studio up downstairs in the room behind the kitchen. This was my original plan, but I changed my mind after I moved in because the space seemed too small and I thought I needed more room for kitchen things. It has been so difficult for me to get excited about the studio upstairs, though, that it was a relief to get a new idea. Now everything is in place and ready for me to get to work. I even cleaned all three of my palettes; oil, watercolor, and acrylic. I placed my chair beside the window so that I can watch birds at the feeder. Moving the things from upstairs was not so hard, and now I can make that bedroom into a proper guest room. I feel that everything is in its proper place now.
This morning before I tackled the studio, I winterized the chicken house. I had bought some heavy plastic at the hardware store on the way back from Harrington yesterday. Armed with my stapler, scissors, and a dish of food and oyster shells, I headed out to do the job. I let the chickens out for some fresh air while I worked. For once, it was easier than I had dared hope. AnnieII pecked me only until I came across with the food, and Demeter was easily herded back into the pen after a daring escape over the fence. She took off like an eagle, soaring over the wire as if she could go south for the winter. The flight came to an ubrupt end, though, just a foot on the other side, and she was more than happy to come back through the gate to get her lunch. Both girls are looking fat and healthy, with no signs of earlier trauma.
I stapled plastic over the windows of the chicken house both inside and out. That was so easy and without incident that I decided to go ahead and deal with the problem of keeping the water from freezing when the time comes, and providing heat for Demeter and Annie when it turns colder. Luck was with me and I found a small hole in the rear of the house that I had plugged up when I first put Demeter in there. I re-opened the hole and pushed a long extension cord into the house from the outside. I pulled enough cord inside to plug into the water heating platform and then covered the hole up again. I'll use an extension cord to hook up the light bulb that will warm up the nesting box. Then I untangled and pulled the heavy orange cord all the way to the back door to the cellar, where I will plug it in later on. I felt pleased that I had uncharacteristically done this job early enough to avoid panicking when the first snow is forecast. I surveyed my preparations with satisfaction.
I am a person prepared. I am a person who believes in the future.
Thursday, October 20, 2005
Will came over today to fix the light in the kitchen, which has not been working. He managed to turn it on, but now it won't turn off. I guess this is the better of the two. While he was here he noticed the door in the back room that has fallen off its moorings. He told me what the trouble was, so after he left I fixed it. David used to call my way of dealing with such things "Cheri Walton Living" and this was a perfect example of that. As soon as I knew how the door worked, I was able to rig up a substitute for whatever the original mechanism might have been. This included a chopstick, a plastic screw anchor, and a phillips head screw. Now instead of leaning the door against the doorway I can open and close it the way nature intended.
When I returned from my errands to the bank and the store, I found the old furnace that has been lying in the driveway since August had been taken away. I felt a smug sense of the pride that comes from making things happen. Last week I called the heating company that installed the new furnace and asked them to please remove the old one. They apologized and said they would do the job, but enough time has passed that I began to worry that I would have to get irritated in order to get it done. Since I had no irritation left after all my dealings with Verizon, I was afraid the furnace might sit there forever. I was therefore overly jubilant to find it gone, my bidding having been done.
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
Monday, October 17, 2005
I couldn't take pictures of the new window idea before because I had keft my camera on and run the battery down. Here it is, though, now that the battery has been charging for 24 hours. I also took a picture of the studio, which looks better than it did, believe it or not, and of Lytton with his new haircut.
I didn't get anything more done on the studio because Sydney came for her painting lesson and then I had a committee meeting to set up rules for running the gallery. Sydney had painted a picture without me supervising her every brush mark and was very pleased with herself. She did a good job, too, and I am thrilled that she finally tried something on her own. She has felt so insecure that she was afraid to touch a canvas without me watching to make sure she did it right. I have to admit that I am an ogre, but I never meant to instill such fear in her.
The day was sunny and cold. The dogs and I had a nice walk this morning after not going out for two days. I am forcing myself to take them out as long as the weather is decent, and to give them a fairly long walk. After all, what else do they have to look forward to? They love to go, and it's good for me, too. Every morning as I get out of bed, I begin to make excuses for not going. I would prefer to have coffee and the newspaper first, but the boys are likely to have "accidents" as they are called, if I don't get them out as soon as we get up. I am trying to reach the point where it is no longer a question and I just do it automatically. "Don't think, just do it," I tell myself. And when I reach the corner of Mitchell St. and Adams, I have to prod myself to continue down the hill to Water St. instead of turning around and going back. "Keep going," I tell myself. "It won't kill you to go around the block. And I do, and it doesn't.
Sunday, October 16, 2005
Yesterday I gave Lytton a tranquilizer the vet had sold me so that I could cut the matts off his legs without risking serious injury(to me). Poor boy was reduced to a shadow of his former self, barely able to stand as I went after his feet with my scissors. I still put a muzzle on him. Despite the fact that he was almost unconscious, his patience went only so far. After about a half hour he rallied to lunge at my hand as I started in on his back legs. The muzzle came off instantly and all that saved me was my quickness and his lack of precision. Still, I got the job mostly done. He looks funny with his skinny legs and hairless tail, but he must feel better. I certainly do. He slept the rest of the day and didn't return to normal until today.
The studio began to come together once I thought of moving the bureau from the bathroom so that I could use it to store art materials. Now I have no place for the towels that I was keeping there, but that is a problem much more easily solved. I was able to put most of my supplies away in the chest. The biggest task ahead of me is sorting through the hundreds of photographs I have lying all over the place. There are three shelves in that room where I was able to put my art books. The paintings are still standing all over the room, but I will put them under the bed (a perfect spot for canvases). Unused canvases can be leaned agaianst the wall, neatly I hope, as well as large paper, linoleum, and unused frames. I still have things I don't know what to do with, like Jeannette's dolls and my boxes of still life props. I may have to resort to the attic, but it's hard to get up there, and I'll probably never see the stuff again once it's been put there. Who cares? Well, if I didn't care, I would throw the stuff away, wouldn't I?
The promised rain arrived, and I spent time cooking, too. I made bread and brownies and a complicated casserole. I love the smell of food cooking on a dismal day.
Friday, October 14, 2005
I finally got my verizon DSL back, so tried downloading a picture directly from Blogger. It worked, so I can only assume that the problem was with my dial-up server. The picture is a combination of two paintings, one superimposed on the other. It's a trick you can do on Picasa. I like the way these two fit together.
The person responsible for the return of the DSL is a young woman named Angie who talked me through a complicated process of reconfiguring my account. It took almost an hour, during which time she chatted and sang happily during the idle moments. We talked about the recent hurricane, since she was in Texas, and the effect it had on the state. (She herself was spared any destruction.) What a pleasure it was after talking with so many impatient, irritable Verizon employees who couldn't figure out the problem to have such a cheerful, helpful person on the other end of the line. She deserves a commendation for outstanding service. I was prepared to cancel my account if this call didn't produce results. I'm glad I didn't have to do that, since now that I have it back, I remember how much better it is than dial-up.
Feeling somewhat out of sorts, I accomplished nothing today but my trip to the therapist. What goes on there is no subject for this blog. On the way home I stopped in Machias to buy curtain rods. One of my projects for the week-end is to remove Benny's window treatment in the living room and find something a little more attractive. My plan is to do smething with curtains on the bottom half of the windows, cutting the blinds to fit the top half. Trying to keep Benny from looking out the windows seems to be futile, and possibly cruel, since he enjoys playing watchdog in the extreme. I would also like to get my studio set up. Every time I want some art material I have to search through the boxes I have dumped upstairs in the second bedroom. The task seems impossible, which is why I have put it off this long, but something has to be done so I will have my art things in order and ready to use. The torrential rain we experienced last week-end is supposed to repeat itself, so it should be a fine two days for inside work.
Thursday, October 13, 2005
Last night was David's last night here and we had dinner together at the Chowder House. I had thought about cooking dinner for him, but I know he doesn't like to be around the dogs. If I had taken something over to his house, he would have been left with dirty dishes, so I decided going out was our best option. I have spent much more time with David this year than in the past, so his leaving will have more impact on me than before. He became a bigger part of my life, someone to depend upon for company, good conversation, and practical advice and help. He inspired me artistically, too, with his aproach to photography, his experimental boldness. He has become a friend to me in every way, perhaps the best friend I have. He is going back to Thom, happily, and a void for him is being filled. He leaves one here, though.
My day was taken up with worrying about Mike's dog, Zeke, or actually about Mike and his having to deal with the situation. It turned out that Zeke does have cancer. I floundered around in my typical way upon hearing the news, unable to accept it. I called Dr. Cloutier, imagining that somehow he would make it go away, have some magic remedy. He was very clear and honest, giving me none of the hope that I was looking for. Amputation, which was recommended by Mike's vet, was his suggestion as well. He said that death was inevitable, but that chemotherapy could prolong Zeke's life. He explained the reasons for different kinds of treatment and the pros and cons of each one. He outlined the future in detail so that now Mike can make an informed decision about what to do. I called Mike reluctantly and told him what I had found out. He was reasonable and calm about it, at least while he was talking to me, having already accepted Zeke's diagnosis and its consequences. He listened to the information I had for him and considered it all thoughtfully. He just wants to keep Zeke alive as long as he is comfortable and happy.
My reaction to news like that about one of my dogs would have been a great gnashing of teeth, a refusal to accept the truth, crying and wailing. In the end I would have wanted to euthanize the dog immediately in order to save myself the prolonged agony of waiting, watching, wondering. I would cry every time I looked at the dog and would want him out of my sight to save me that incredible pain. In short, my anguish would prevent me from enjoying another minute of the dog's life. I am a selfish coward under such circumstances.
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
Monday, October 10, 2005
I spent the moring talking to Mike on the phone and the the afternoon visiting with Diana. Mike's dog, Zeke, has something wrong with his leg that the vet thinks may be bone cancer. Tuesday he will see a specialist and find out what the problem is. I am not allowing myself to think very much about it, but it would be a terrible injustice (as if there were such a thing as justice) if another one of Mike's dog died. His first Rottweiler, Max, died of some mysterious disease right before Mike's eyes when he was only four. Then Zeke's brother Beau died when he was less than two from cancer. Mike's dogs are his family, and the loss of the other two was devastating to him. Losing another so soon would be just terrible. Despite his cynical, tough-guy attitudes , Mike can be a very kind and tender-hearted person. He has had a hard, often sad, life with few real pleasures and very little genuine happiness. The dogs are what give his life outside of work meaning, provide him with company, conversation and love. It is very upsetting to think that he may have to go through the death of another one now.
Well, I am trying to keep from speculating, but obviously I am touched by this ominous possibility. I avoid looking at my own little family as these thoughts run around in my head. The sight of them brings me to tears.
Sunday, October 09, 2005
As soon as I made the last connection, I realized a flaw in my plan. The phone jack could not accomodate both the computer and the telephone. I decided to install a phone jack with two receptacles. I had bought two of them earlier for the upstairs and hadn't used one. This turned out to be a very time-consuming job considering my inexperience and lack of the correct tools (a screwdriver that fit the screws). First I couldn't get one of the screws out of it's hole, stripped it, and had to take the jack off the wall upstairs instead. , leaving no phone up there. I worked sitting on the floor, stuffed between the desk and the wall, with a flashlight balanced on the baseboard for light. I removed the single jack fairly easily. I have no idea how many times I failed to get all three little wires of the same color wrapped around the tiny screws in the new jack, but it seemed like hundreds. Every time I put the final twist to the phillips screw, one of them would always pop out. Eventually, though, because of my usual grim determination, I accomplished the job. Mounting the jack back on the wall proved to be almost as challenging and now it dangles there rather precariously by the one screw I managed to get into the wall.
I will say, though, that my sense of accomplishment when I plugged in the phone and heard a dial tone was probably equal to Lance Armstrong's when he won the Tour de France. Heady with success, I decided to put the single jack upstairs where the double jack had been. This went somewhat more quickly (practice makes perfect) and soon I had a phone working upstairs as well. On my way down the stairs I realized that I could have simply plugged the phone into the back of my computer.
For a change of pace, I spent odd moments throughout the day making spanakopeta. I needed to use up various containers of cheese and had some Fillo dough in the freezer. A bag of spinach had been sitting in the refrigerator for a week, bought during one of my fits of vegetarianism that come and go lately. It made a delicious supper.
Saturday, October 08, 2005
In this neighborhood I am the woman next door, the one with the dogs.
Sunday, October 02, 2005
Carrie and Gabe were here this week-end, from late Friday to noon today. I was very glad to see them and though the time was brief, it was a nice visit. We spent a lot of time talking over cups of coffee, went out to eat last night. They went with me to the gallery to see the show and to Will and Lisa's antique store. We watched a movie together last night, and Gabe helped me with a few computer questions I had. I left them for about an hour yesterday afternoon to go to the burial of Lindy's little boy who died six months ago. Even though I hated to give up the time with the kids, I really wanted to be there so Lindy would know that I was one of the throngs of people who wanted to support her.
It was a beautiful sunny day for the memorial. We all gathered near the tiny grave, probably sixty or seventy people. Ever considerate, Lindy presented the crowd with a basket of kleenex packages from which we were encouraged to help ourselves. She expressed her own feelings about the loss of her son, and then asked others to tell memories or thoughts they might have. Many people did so, including some little children who were holding bouquets of flowers. The air was filled with the sound of soft crying. David, Maxine, and I stood together, transfixed by the scene. Maxine, who was very close to the little boy, wept openly. David and I were more reserved, with tears sliding more or less silently down our faces. Lindy's husband, Evan's father, spoke, too, and Ariel played Evan's favorite song on her violin. At the end a couple sang. We were then asked to take a white carnation from two large baskets. Lindy, amazing Lindy, summoned up her courage, looked at her husband and said, "Let's do it." She removed the cover from the grave and we all filed by, dropping our flowers into the hole.
When it was over, David brought me home and I went back to my life, walking into the house where my own wonderful child was waiting. I thought about how I used to say that all I wanted from my children was that they survive. Never was I more aware of the magnitude of what I asked of them and how lucky I was that they had done it.
Today I let the chickens outside. Annie followed Demeter out into the yard as if she didn't have a care in the world and started pecking at bugs.