Sunday, December 31, 2006

A Beginning

I finally forced myself to give some attention to the exhibit that Elizabeth, Patty, and I are going to have in Machias this Spring. This is the first sketch I've done for that show, which is to be an interpretation of the myth of Demeter and Persephone. I have thought a lot about the image and drew it out of my head. The process of drawing like this is quite fascinating, teasing the subject out of nothing with charcoal and eraser. I actually did the hands first, smudging and rubbing until I liked what I saw. Then I moved to the baby's bottom and legs, letting the image emerge by itself as I pushed the charcoal around. It's very hard to describe just what happens, but you just experiment until you recognize what you see.

In the myth, Demeter gets a job as a governess during her travels looking for Persephone. She becomes so attached to the child that she is caring for, she decides to make him into a god. This is done by putting the baby into fire. The baby's mother stops her before she can do the deed. I liked the idea of drawing the baby over the fire--a disturbing and unlikely picture. It presented itself on the paper in a way that pleases me pretty much, though Demeter's face needs adjustment.

It feels good to be finally doing something about this upcoming committment and I hope to keep up the momentum.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006


I didn't get any pictures of our actual Christmas dinner, but here is the hall entrance to David's house and the living room just before our guests arrived. Everything was at the ready with the Mojitos and hors d'ouvres waiting. We had planned everything so that we would have very little to do once people were there and it worked out well. Sydney and Richard arrived first, and then Greg, carrying the home-made ice cream we had requested. Lynn came by for a drink before dinner, but had already eaten.

The night before, David and I had been at Sydney and Richard's for Christmas Eve. They had other guests, some of whom we had not met before. My impression of these neighbors was that they were quite likeable in the particular way that Sydney's friends always are. Afterwards, I tried to pinpoint in my own mind what gave her friends that similarity that was so recognizable. I determined that it had to do with the fact that their conversation is mostly about whatever place they lived before coming to Eastport.
Sydney and Richard are from California and talk about their old life very frequently. These people at the party were from Chicago, and their talk centered around their life there. At times it seemed as if everyone were trying to name as many places they had been as possible. As a Maine native, I find this slightly objectionable and off-putting. I feel as if I am being placed in a different, less worldly category. There have been times that I have offered travel references of my own to these conversations, but I realized I was doing it just to show off, trying to impress them. There is always a hint of condescension in this type of chat and I imagine I am being viewed as a curiosity, albeit an interesting one, in the way that archeologists might find a backwards tribe charmingly and surprisingly amusing.

In the environment we somehow are able to create at David's, despite the fact that we are the same people, the balance shifts and place names are not important. We discuss current events, politics, religion, local politics. There are ideas being exchanged. I don't have the same feeling that every eye is on itself, checking on the impression it is making. There is emphasis on ideas, and fun. Conversation is easy and unselfconscious. We are together because we are enjoying ourselves. It does not feel artificial to me, and so I consider it a very happy success.

Thom called while we were celebrating and it seemed nice to have him be part of the party for a few minutes. When everyone had gone, David and I shared the last of the delicious ice cream and then I came home, leaving all the mess for him to clean up. Our menu of veal birds, chateaux potatoes, timbales of peas and mint, and fruited wine jelly with ice cream was up to our usual standards. Campagne, coffee with cointreau..........all of it was festive and memorable. We had worked most of the day together in a measured and companionable way, listening to Christmas music at high volume. It seemed wrong to leave with all the remnants of our good time overflowing the kitchen counters, the sink full of glasses and dishes, the stove littered with leftovers. Still, I felt that it would be best to simply turn our backs on it all and deal with the aftermath in the daylight. I hope David went straight to bed and left the cleanup for today, when he could put away his good china, his linen tablecloth and napkins, his silver, with a sense of satisfaction and a job well done.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Lessons and the Carols 2006

Amazingly it was time for the lessons and the carols again at the Dennysville Congregational Church. Time goes by so quickly. David and I couldn't miss it, despite the fact that there was a concert at the Art Center that we would have liked to attend. This has become a tradition with us, and we had been looking forward to it. Last year we slipped on the ice as we picked our way up the hill to the church, but this year it was dry and bare. The place was full to capacity, but luckily the front pews are the last to be chosen, so David and I were able to take our accustomed place right in front of the choir.

As usual the church was decorated with two huge Christmas trees and the only lights were candles that were lit by children who walked solemnly up the aisles. The music is different each year, and I thought it was even better this time than in the past. Some of it was quite innovative, and the instrumentation included drums and a violin as well as the organ. A few of the songs were sung in foreign languages. This choir is more than willing to push beyond the familiar and the results are very exciting. We, the audience, joined in on the familiar carols. It was the lovely evening we expected it to be.

Christmas is unfolding in a rather peaceful way this year, quietly and without much hurry. I'm enjoying the comparatively slow pace of things, even though I had to drive to Calais today for some last minute shopping. The crowds were not so huge or so pushy as I remembered, and I breezed through the experience as if in a dream of Christmas as it ought to be. It was raining, but it didn't seem to matter. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, December 17, 2006


This picture was supposed to be with the blog entry below but for some reason disappeared in the publishing process. So, as "Alabama" so quaintly calls him, here is "Mary and Joseph's boy" as he appears under my Christmas tree. Posted by Picasa

O Tannenbaum !

I got my Christmas tree out and put it up last week. This year it will have more time in the limelight than last year when, after arriving so late, it was up for only a day. I enjoyed decorating it and placing my new nativity figures under it. I didn't get around to making a little stable as I had planned, though I still may do it. As it is, the holy family et al is assembled amidst a huge reindeer, a snowman, a number of ornaments, a Christmas moose, and the Grinch Who Stole Christmas. If they have any sense of humor they ought to be amused by the traditions that have grown up around the event of Jesus' birth. They are not so different from other birthdays, what with the gifts and parties and cakes, but the scale is certainly awesome.

David has returned from Florida for the Christmas season. We spent a typical Cheri and David evening together on Friday with dinner and conversation, and tonight we are going to the movie at the high school. It is very good to have him back. It is probably the last time our lives will be like this, since the plan is for Thom to move here as soon as their house sells. I expect that a new way of being will develop between us and I don't fear the change, but it will be a change. I treasure these days when I still have David more or less to myself, though his thoughts are already reaching longingly into the furure. The benefit of each day for him now is that it moves him closer to the time when his little family will be with him. Such times are always happy....often happier than the reality of the dream come true. I think so often about the fact that the happiest time of my life was the week between the time I bought B.J., my horse, and the time he actually arrived. There is nothing like having a powerful, all-consuming wish fulfilled, and the euphoria is at its peak before the reality begins to impose itself. Of course having B.J. was still one of the best experiences of my life, but nothing can equal that first thrill when you know your greatest wish has been granted. Posted by Picasa

Monday, December 11, 2006

Winter Chickens and New Painting

Yesterday it was quite warm and I opened the chicken house door so the girls could go out. They took one look at the snow and declined the invitation. Today, though, most of the snow had melted so they were happy to get some sunshine. Hannah, who is certainly twice the chicken that the others are in every way, was very verbal about the experience. She also ran to greet me when I went down at the end of the afternoon to feed them and close them in. I held a handful of pellets out to her and she ate them out of my hand, then followed me to the house. I hope the weather is like this a lot this winter so the chickens don't have to be couped up for long stretches. They really like to get outside.
I received the paintings in the mail that Thelma sent in trade for my Epping Road pastel. They were so tightly packed in a mailing tube that immediate gratification was far from possible. It took me over an hour to extricate them. I had to cut the tube carefully and then pull it apart. Eventually its structure revealed itself as a spiral and I was able to unwind it. The Judy Rogers painting was as wonderful as I remembered. I framed it today with one of the frames from the watercolors I had professionally framed years ago and then tried it in several places before deciding where to hang it. I ended up putting it over the mantel in the dining room where I will be looking at it as I sit over my coffee in the morning. It is basically a very light and cheerful painting and brightens up the room considerably, too. Originally I planned to have it in the living room, but I don't have as nice a place for it there, and I certainly wouldn't see it as much. It is impossible to see the image in this picture I took because I wanted to get the whole ambience, but I am just thrilled to have it. I have loved it since the first time I saw it over twenty years ago, so I know I will not grow tired of it or lose my enthusiasm. It is one of my prize possessions. Posted by Picasa

Friday, December 08, 2006

Thelma's painting and more snow

I picked up the framed painting today that I swapped with Thelma for her Judy Rogers painting and a couple of my old works that she had bought years ago. I was dazzled by the look of the pastel in the frame. I thought that any frame would detract from the paintings in this series, but now that I see this one, I have changed my mind. I was so excited that I called Thelma up to tell her about it. The down side is that there's no way I can afford to frame the whole series, so I had better get used to the unframed look again. I packed the painting up and put it in the mail immediately, and the man at the post office said she will get it tomorrow. I took a picture of it, but it really doesn't do it justice. Besides, I don't want Thelma to see it until she sees the real thing.

It snowed hard today, so we are back to winter. I had to venture out in it to get Lytton's special dog food at the vet in Perry, since he was down to the last can. My car, which I haven't had in the snow before, performed well. I tested it by going up Adam's St. after I let Lucy and Harry, Greg's dogs, out. Toward the top it started to slip a little, but letting up the gas slightly and turning a little to the right gave it back its footing and it made it to the top without giving me the slightest doubt. In a town full of hills, it is almost a necessity to have a car that can deal with steep, snow-covered roads, and this one performed admirably. My last car needed studded tires to do as well. It was helpless without them.

The dogs love to go out in the snow, but their staying power is less than impressive. After about four or five minutes Lytton, spokesperson for the group, paws at the door with the same frantic enthusiasm that he exhibited as he flew through it just moments ago. This sets up a racket that brings me running to open it and the three of them come tearing in as if they had been locked out for hours. They rub themselves all over the furniture until they are relatively dry and then settle down for a satisfied nap. About an hour later the process is repeated. It makes them so happy I can not refuse to participate in the game, and after all, snowstorms aren't all that frequent. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Number 21

At last I have been able to add to the Eppimg Road series with a painting of the fields as they look at the end of Fall. The leaves have all dropped from the trees and the red of the plants has either disappeared or turned a much more subdued burgundy. The grasses are straw-colored, the evergreens almost black. It's a subtle palette that is no less beautiful than the other seasons, only less obvious. Most of the late Fall days this year have been cloudy, with rain or threatening rain. For practical reasons this has been good for my artistic endeavor. My sticks of blue pastels have been ground to nubs and I would be hard pressed to produce another blue sky before I get to Banor to buy a new supply.

The snow we had has melted and left us back in springlike weather so warm that no jackets were needed today. A few days ago the chickens' water froze, and today they are outside flapping their wings is the balmy breeze. It's hard to know what to expect, so we expect nothing. With El Nino and Global warming both claiming responsibility for strange changes in the weather, we decide what we want to think about it. It's almost laughable to think that we could perceive anything very significant in our own lifetime, considering the earth is billions of years old and gone through changes over time that makes even human life on the planet less than a blink. Yet we see things vary within this short time with our human eyes and make something of it. Why shouldn't we? Posted by Picasa

Monday, December 04, 2006

The First Snow

It finally happened. Winter has showed it's face in the form of snow. It's pretty, too--one of those wet, sticky, heavy snows that clings to everything and makes you forgive the weather. The dogs were interested enough to go out and sniff around, which is more than I can say for the chickens. I don't think those girls have any plans to leave their house until Spring. When I went to feed them they only peered through the doorway irritably and retreated, clucking for their food. I do feel sorry for them having to be so confined for so long. I have thought of a lot of different ways to make things better for them, but none seems very practical. I don't really worry about them being cold, but I feel that they must be very bored and lonely. I'm told that I am humanizing them, that they don't have the brains to be bored or lonely. I can't agree, though. No living thing escapes loneliness, or boredom, if the circumstances are right. I am sure of it, just as sure as I am that they feel happiness and love. It is a bizarre twist of human feelings of superiority that make people feel so separate from the rest of the animal kingdom. My belief is that it is an outgrowth of religious thought, a very unfortunate one, that we must feel that we are the chosen ones, special and superior to all other species.

Well, I believe I waxed philosophical enough on that subject yesterday. I might ad, though, that now that we, with our superior brains, can study the devlopment of the human fetus in minute detail from the moment of conception, we know that it is impossible to tell a human from a fish in the early stages. Also, we share 90 plus per cent of our DNA with a multitude of other animals--------not justs apes but insects, birds, and fish and fowl. There are points as we grow that certain biological switches turn off and on, determining whether a hunk of life will be a man or an aligator. We all start out the same. I am both fascinated and comforted by this. It makes me very happy to look at the dogs and know how much alike we are, or to see a deer running in a field and know she and I are so closely related. It makes all the sense in the world, it is only logical.

So, I cooked today, warming up the house and making it smell good. I was at the gallery for awhile, decorating for Christmas, then at home I worked on my second puzzle for awhile. It was dark because of the storm, and although I wished I could spend some time painting, I just didn't feel like it. It seemed like a day for just wandering from one thing to another, doing laundry, picking up, listening to the sound of the first snow plow of the year lumbering up the hill. Days like this are like puncuation marks.....a little pause to take in a breath. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, December 03, 2006

A Week Later, Turkey Soup

I am going to have the last of the soup for supper tonight, and that will be the end of Thanksgiving. Now here comes Christmas on it's heels. I bought a small nativity set the other day at the bargain hut where I stopped with my WHCA driver. It reminds me a little of the one we always put under the tree when I was a child. That one was given to me by my maternal grandmother, and I wish I still had it. Somehow it disappeared, but not until my adult years. I had it under my own tree when my kids were little and beyond. Ben Joe chewed up the sheep, I remember, but I don't remember what happened to the rest of it.

Anyway, I like to acknowledge the fact that Christmas is a religious holiday, even though I don't believe the story. If you are going to celebrate it, you might as well remember where it came from. Harkening back to pagan rituals to excuse the fact that we do what we do without believing the story of the birth of Christ is in my mind just a silly attempt to assuage guilt. To me it is simply a social ritual that binds us together as a society. The story of Christ's birth has all the elements of a good teaching story.....child of poor and humble parents overcomes all odds and grows up to be the greatest man who ever lived. And he does it through kindness and selflessness. And as if that weren't enough, he goes on to sacrifice all to save mankind. The idea that he is the son of God is a bit much, and the enormous strings attached to his promises of eternal life have to be glossed over, but nevertheless the story has its points. Certainly it is as good, and as believable, as Santa Claus making, by comparison, pretty meaningless gifts, and taking them all over the world in one night. Santa is equally vindictive with his threats of no toys, and lumps of coal for naughty children.

The idea of the religious Christmas is a beautiful one, and had I been born into a Christian family and raised in the church, I believe I would be grateful for it today. There is nothing I can do to change what I believe, no matter how hard I try, no matter how much I wish I could. But it does me no harm to participate, and to steal a little of what could have been a different world for me. Posted by Picasa