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?