Friday, March 31, 2006

Spring Chickens

Progress on the painting of Elizabeth's sculpture. It's going slowly, unlike the woods woman. I'm confident that it will eventually be okay, but it isn't as much fun as the first one was. I don't know why, and my only guess is that I don't like the color as well. Or maybe the size isn't as inspiring.....too small. Or maybe neither of these. Oh, well.

The last few days have really seemed like spring. In fact Lisa and I went outside to paint on Wednesday. We did get too cold after a few hours since we chose to stand on the breakwater, the coldest, windiest spot in town. Nevertheless, it was fun to give it a try and we brought our paintings inside to continue working.

Today, driving back from Harrington, I saw the evidence everywhere that people had decided to leave winter behind. Even though the temperature couldn't have been more than the low sixties, people were out in T-shirts and sandals. In Machias there were couples sitting in chairs on the porches attached to their homes in the mobile home park that faces Route 1. All along Rte. 190 women from the reservation pushed strollers, wearing tight jeans and those shirts so popular now that leave the midrift bare. Boys zoomed by on motorcycles. In Eastport high school students strolled along the streets with sweatshirts tied around their waists, in some cases in clouds of dust from the public works department trucks busy sweeping up the winter accumulation of sand and dirt. I watched it all over the steering wheel of my car, which I held with age-freckled hands and silver-ringed fingers. At some point I changed from the observed to the observer, smiling in the distance with a kind of pleasure I never felt when I was the one who took out my summer wardrobe in March. It's a quiet smile that goes well with my purple-lined all-weather coat, which is just perfect for today's temperature.

The season did not go uncelebrated by me, however. I stopped at Elmer's Discount and bought fifty feet of chicken wire and some posts to make a bigger pen for the chickens. I want them to have a good summer, with lots of room. I got taller wire and posts, since Demeter flew over the shorter fence yesterday. I knew she would, eventually, since she did it last year, but I hoped it would take her longer to remember how to do it. No such luck. The dogs told me all about it yesterday. I heard them barking in an unusually excited way, and when I looked out, Demeter was happily (if stupidly) pecking away not eighteen inches from the dogs' noses on the other side of their gate. That ended her outdoor adventures until I can build her a higher pen. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Couch, Bath, and Cereal

I managed to get a few things done around the house today, though not much. When I first began to wrap myself in a comforter and sit on the couch to keep warm, I felt like a prisoner, trapped and itching to get up and accomplish something worthwhile. It irked me to be so confined and tangled up, my movements restricted by the heavy blanket and the dogs weighing me down. Now I have become so accustomed to my post there that I hardly feel right anywhere else in the house. I can hardly wait to get my few chores out of the way so that I can plunk myself down and settle in with the phone on the coffee table in front of me and a good book in my lap. I tuck the yellow blanket under my legs, pull three layers of it over my lap. Lytton sprawls along my left leg, Patrick leans his head against my right side, and Benny drapes himself across the back of my neck.

Part of the experience this week, I now realize, had to do with the book I was reading, "Affinity." I finished it last night...a tale of 19th century London described on the back as having "perfect pitch in representing the bourgeois Victorian life, the puritanical misery of prisons in the 1870's, and the spiritualist subculture...." It was certainly all of that and more. Every day I lost myself in the dreary life of that prison and the relationship between the Lady Visitor and the prisoner, a young girl who was a medium. Today when I opened a different book, Margaret Atwood's "Cat's Eye" which is our book group assignment for tomorrow night, I found it quite lacking in style and content. I've read the book, actually twice, and loved it, but it didn't fit the whole scenario I become accustomed to. Sadly I got up and did laundry, put away dishes, and changed the sheets on my bed. I need time between books to adjust.

When the afternoon was winding down I filled the bathtub with hot water and got in for my daily soak. It is my warmest time of day. I lie there submerged as much as I can be in the claw foot tub and watch the light fade in the window. I see the tops of the trees disappear into the dark, and then the curtain blocks the outside completely, its white laciness becoming solid and opaque. The flourescent light takes over and the bathroom becomes a bright cave of steam and warmth, smelling of soap and shampoo, humming with the sound of the space heater. I've closed the door to keep in the heat and Patrick is just on the other side, waiting. The other two dogs are lying on my bed, but are also alert, also waiting for the sign. I don't rush, though, because they are patient. The door is a louvered bi-fold door, and when they hear the hair dryer, they will jump on the door to open it and bound inside. It's our routine.

Now I'm ready for what has become another part of my daily ritual--my evening bowl of cereal. When I did my grocery shopping Friday I bought Shredded Wheat, Cheerios, Grape-nuts, and a half gallon of milk. That was to add to my supply of Raisin Bran, Wheat Chex, Granola, and Oat Meal. The appetite supressant I got seems to be working to the extent that nothing appeals to me but cereal. I will say, though, that a person can eat a lot of cereal.

Friday, March 24, 2006


I went out to the chicken house with water this afternoon. Demeter and Hannah clucked out the door when I opened it, but Annie did not appear. With all too familiar dread I opened the top of the roosting house and saw her lying there. Her head was tucked under her wing as if she were sleeping, but when I nudged her, she was hard and unmoving. Evidently she had died a natural death. There was no sign of injury or struggle. An egg was beside her.

I went back to the house and got two plastic garbage bags, trying to seem nonchalant to the children next door who were playing in the yard. I thought I was taking the event in some kind of stride after the experiences I have had with mangled chickens, but as I lifted her up and felt her soft, beautiful golden feathers I burst into tears.

Just a chicken........

Thursday, March 23, 2006


Today I spent a lot of time trying to move the mailing list David sent me from his email to my address book. One of my duties for the gallery is to send out the minutes of the meetings to the gallery members. I received the minutes from June in the mail and had to type them into the computer, then send them out. It infuriates me when I am unable to make this computer do what I perceive to be a simple task that even the most untutored user can do. I have a great deal of trouble moving things from one place to another. After a good hour of trying various things, I finally just typed the list into the address book. This did not take much time, but the fact that I couldn't do what I want to do left me irritable and out of sorts. So far the "drag and drop" skill eludes me except in my photo program.

This morning my two watercolor students came for their lesson, and when they left I found an unexpected packeage in the mail. It was a combined birthday and valentine gift from Sabrina and Jesse. As I opened one present after the other I was just more and more delighted. It was such a surprise, for one thing, that I was taken completely off guard. Also, the gifts were so perfectly me that each one made me laugh out loud with pleasure. The birthday card was a glittery picture of Elvis Presley. There was a box of chocolates with a funny valentine, a DVD of the first season of "Northern Exposure," a cool art magnet, and some great art and anti-war bumper stickers for my new car. The dogs got a big bag of chicken treats, too. I was very touched and the whole thing made my day and then some.

Otherwise I spent the rest of the afternoon reading, wrapped in my comforter against the cold, the dogs snuggled against me. I am tired from working on this gallery business. And under the surface has been the gnawing worry of possible animal disaster. Lytton was not acting his usual self for a few days and I was afraid his back or his bladder stones might be acting up. Carrie had emailed that one of her cats had to go to the emergency vet, then back for blood work and tooth extractions. We talked on the phone last night and all turned out ok, but there was a real chance for disaster there, too. Also, Alice's dog, Roze, was sick. All of us escaped serious consequences this time, but the joy of loving animals sure has its down side. And we all suffer with one another when one of our babies is in danger. Carrie spoke so well for all of us softies when she said that she is really not enjoying having fish anymore, but she keeps the one she has left because it's still "a little life."

I have such wonderful children.

Monday, March 20, 2006

An Ordinary Day

I spent most of the day with more gallery business. We are trying to rent a new space downtown and it involves getting a lot of input from a lot of people. With a cooperative, one must be very careful to maintain a sense of common rule. Since I am president, it is my responsibility to lead the charge without forming an opinion strong enough that I can't happily bow to the majority if it disagrees with me. This is against my nature. Well, enough said.

When I got home I took the dogs out for a short walk. They love to go and raced wildly back and forth at the end of their leashes. I frantically switch the handles from one hand to the other, trying to avoid a hopeless tangle. Lytton, the golden boy, has his own retractable leash. Patrick and Benny are strung together on an arrangement whereby Patrick is free to run the length of Benny's retractable leash by means of a short strap, sort of like a tie-out. This works pretty well as long as Lytton does not get between Benny and Patrick, or the two of them don't divide around me from behind. Somehow we manage, though, and three out of four have a good time.

Thelma emailed the other day that she has to be on oxygen twenty four hours a day. I was quite panicky about it for awhile, but Karen, a nurse, assured me that many people live with that inconvenience very well. Today Thelma called, and I was very glad to talk to her, to hear her being her old self. She is amazing in that she is honest about what a shocking thing it is, while at the same time rising to the occasion. It makes it possible to deal with whatever happens to her in a comfortable and honest way. I have never found it hard to talk about misfortune with her because there is nothing artificial about her way of dealing with things. She can be devastated and admit it, and get over it, and feel bad again, and get over that........I know she hides a lot, but she lets people in enough to make us feel we can be part of whatever is happening. That's a gift to those of us who feel close to her.

It is still very cold, though I don't recall that there have been any days this winter when the temperature has gone below zero. I think the fact that economy measures are forcing me to keep the house so cold is making this seem like the coldest year on record. Even the comforter I have brought down from the spare bed upstairs isn't really much comfort. My nose and hands are still like ice as I read or watch TV in the evening. I have taken to spending a lot of time each night in the bath tub, soaking in almost scalding hot water. I relish that time with the steam rising around me and the portable heater humming and glowing red beside me.

Here at the computer I am chilled to the bone, an expression I used to feel was reserved for old women wearing matching banlon sweater sets and a single strand of fake pearls.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Big Flower

No, I was not killed in a tragic accident, nor did I lose interest in my blog. I have simply been so busy with doings surrounding the gallery that I had no time to think about anything else. Doings surrounding the gallery are not interesting and you do not want to hear about them. Finally, today, I began this painting of another one of Elizabeth's sculptures. We have decided to continue this project with the idea of eventually putting an exhibit together. I think it's a "can't lose" idea, but even if it isn't, I love painting her work. I took many photographs of this one, which is a figure about twenty-five inches high looking at a large single flower on a heavy stalk. My plan is to do several paintings of this same piece. It could fit into our Demeter and Persephone show, too, if we become desperate for work as time grows short.

Karen spent the week-end with me, which was actually what precipitated the painting spree. She and Lisa and I spent Saturday together at our individual tasks in my studio. I admired what both of them did as I struggled with my own work. I'm pleased with what I did now, though. I have no idea what it will be like in the end. No doubt it will go through many metamorphoses. That's the fun of having no real product in mind when you start.

It isn't that I have nothing to talk about but painting, or that I am doing nothing else. It is only that when I try to write after such a long absense the thoughts and ideas press and crowd against one another until none of them can get out. They die like dancers trying to escape a nightclub fire. Art is all that remains orgainized and constant. Maybe that's why it appeals to so many crazy people, or so many crazy people are artists. It is one place where certain things can be controled, where rules apply, where endless manipulation is possible. The artist is all powerful, the creator and the destroyer. The artist is allowed. The artist is made room for. The artist is special.

Anyway, I will make sure to stay with it more faithfully, to avoid the bottleneck, to keep things exiting in a smooth and steady line, quietly children don't rush...... Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


This is my accomplishment at Judy's today. One might wonder why I would spend hours so carefully rendering the abstract shapes of the paper form I made months ago. I might wonder the same thing. Yet it is a soothing activity and produces a complex visual experience. It is very absorbing, and I am fascinated by the process of observation. At first it is impossible to unravel the confusing intricacies of the twists and turns of the paper. Only generalities can be perceived. Then slowly connections are made, forms emerge, details become apparent. Order becomes evident. When the drawing is done, chaos returns.

It is tempting to think of the philososophical implications of the words I have written. What fun I could have comparing the whole versus the sum of its parts and vice versa. And what of two dimensions transformed into three (flat paper into sculptural form)? And those three back into two (the sculpture to the drawing), but a different two? And now I have turned that two dimensional object, the drawing, into another two demensional form, a photograph. Well, there was a time when I would have found this very entertaining. As it is, I think I will go watch TV. Posted by Picasa

Monday, March 06, 2006

Signs of Spring

Buds on the lilac! Posted by Picasa

And Again............

Washed off the other painting completely with the hose in the kitchen sink and went back to acrylic. I could see that the oil didn't really look like me at all. I worked some more with the dogs wandering in and out of the studio wondering why we weren't going to bed. I feel pretty good about this one now, but I don't know how I will feel in the morning. I do know one isn't worth the effort I am putting into it. I find self-portraits very absorbing, though. I guess there's nothing quite so interesting to me as myself. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Final Version?

I have been fussing with this portrait for the last two days and finally think I have it the way I want it. I'm not sure it is any better than it was after the first day--just different. It looks more like me now, but has lost some of its drama. It also grew bigger. It was already bigger than life, but now it is even more so. The canvas is 16x2o, and it fills up the whole thing. I once knew a portrait painter who said you should never make a face bigger than 3/4 life size. I think it's probably a good idea, but I break that rule most of the time. I'm not sure why. It's not intentional. I just forget to think about it. I'm looking at the picture as I does that barrette look real!

The original painting was in acrylic, and now the finished product is in water-based oil. I changed mainly because I didn't think I had enough ultramarine blue paint left in acrylic to work on it much more. Every time I use the oil, though, I really like it. There is a quality about it that is quite different from acrylic in that you can blend on the canvas indefinitely. It doesn't dry the way acrylic does. On the other hand, that is also its drawback. After a few layers of paint it all starts to mix together and you can't paint over what you've done. Changing things then becomes a big problem. Well, they each have their own advantages. It's a question I ponder uselessly over and over. Which do I like better? As if I had to decide.

So far my appetite has not changed at all with the pills I'm taking. Of dourse it's only two days, but I thought that at least the placebo effect would kick in right away. This morning I weighed more than I have in weeks after eating dinner with Elizabeth and Dominic last night. We had steak, potatoes, salad, and brownies. Where could I skimp? Maybe I'll have better like next week. Posted by Picasa

Friday, March 03, 2006


I read this quote on another blog that I just discovered (a cousin of Thom, I think). It's from a book she has: I'm not okay, you're not okay, and that's okay. I love it.

Otherwise I'm too lazy to write anything right now. Ann gave me some pills today that are supposed to supress my raging appetite. I'm going to take one as soon as I have some ice cream. I don't want to take the chance that I won't enjoy it.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Another Shot of the Same Painting

 Posted by Picasa

Self Portrait

Art day today found me in the mood for a self portrait. I have done so many over the years, but not recently. I must say that what I did is far from flattering, yet it is the way I see myself. I'm unkempt and thoughtful, looking inward.

This was done from a photograph I took a few weeks ago. I was coming downstairs and caught sight of myself in the mirror beside the front door. The sun was coming in through the window, lighting my face dramatically. I went for the camera and caught it, knowing that I would enjoy painting it. I did, too.

There was a lot of talk at Judy's about people "from away" and those who have always lived here. Outsiders vs. natives. It is a discussion I have had countless times in my life, with many different people. I managed to keep my temper, but it is so disconcerting that so many people feel superior to people less educated, less worldly, less intelligent, than they are. I suppose that I, too, feel superior in that I imagine I see both sides of the coin clearly. It is nonetheless difficult to hear my friends calling others stupid because they see things from a different perspective. I wish that they could at least admit that their view is an opinion and not a fact. I also resent being told what I think, or what I would do under certain circunstances. Luckily I was able to keep from feeling overly offended and simply kept most of what I was thinking to myself. It was a pleasure to be able to stay pretty much unemotional, not feeling compelled to put forth my opinions too strongly. In times past I would have come home upset and irritable. I have come to realize that it makes no difference what I think, or what they think either. Things are what they are. I am a Maine native, and that means something that people who are not can't understand. I believe we are the product of our environment, and that there is a uniqueness to different parts of the country, as well as the world. We judge others according to rules that they have not been participants in making, and were, in fact unaware of. And they judge us the same way. We are not speaking the same language. It is easier just to let it go.

I had my teeth cleaned today. Posted by Picasa