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
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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
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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

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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