A Mid-Year Reflection

My plan to write here,  even just a little bit, each day has fallen apart. My biggest explanation as to why is being sheerly overwhelmed by all that has happened. The United States has the most cases of any country in the world, and the highest number of deaths. Our President, who was woefully inadequate before the pandemic, now has shrouded the White House in miles of fencing and barricades to keep the protestors away from him. Protestors by the thousands are peacefully marching, now, after a week of fire and destruction brought on by three incidences of racist police brutality in a row. We are all expected to “go back to normal” despite the knowledge that the pandemic still boils in our communities, and there is a 19% unemployment rate with little being done to help those people who lost their jobs; these are the same people whose lives are impacted most by police brutality and lower-quality schools that lead to lower-paying jobs.

In other words, it is a hot mess express out there.

I don’t have very many words for it all right now, except that it seems so incredibly sad, but also incredibly predictable, that this would happen in the United States after 40 years of destabilizing social programs and a destructive and addictive dependency on capital development over anything else. We have been out of school since mid-March, and all I hope is that we go back in August. No one seems to have a plan or even a specific idea about how to manage this transition, and my explanation is that schools don’t make money so they are not a priority. Isn’t that it?

My garden is beautiful and I have to look at that as an analogy for these frightening times. I have tended my garden well during the pandemic: literally and figuratively. I have spoken to friends, worked on creative projects, continued with graduate school, begun to work on school work for the fall, and stepped outside each day to plant living things. These are the only spaces of control that I have.

I often wonder about how people felt during the last pandemic. There was no information overload. Perhaps they only knew what was happening in their town or on their street. Perhaps they knew much more? I feel that I know nothing, except that my government has lost the last shreds of authority, accountability and usefulness that they had in early 2020.

There is an election in November. Even NPR is talking about the possibility of the President not accepting the results. What happens then? What will happen this week?

Gods help us.

Date: 8 June 2020

Worldwide Cases: 7,049,649

US Cases: 1,946,144

Worldwide Deaths: 409,821

US Deaths: 116,929

Mortality Rate (Worldwide): 5.81%

Mortality Rate (USA): 6.00%

An Aside

I woke up late today; it is raining, and I always oversleep on rainy days.

I went outside to take the puppy out and check on the bees. I gathered their sugar syrup feeder jars and chatted with them, noticing that they were irritated this morning and kept flying at my head, buzzing away. I assume they were annoyed with me sleeping in and annoyed that today will be cold and rainy, again.

I walked back to the house and noticed that some of the sunflowers are about to bloom. I noticed a mockingbird scraping her bill on an old piece of oak from the post oak that we took down last year. I heard birds sing and watched them balance on the power lines. The wind lightly blew, and it was cool, but not cold.

I smiled, realizing that if there wasn’t a global pandemic that threatens not only health, but economy and democracy, this morning would be have been purely gorgeous. And it is, of course, actually that.

I wish there was more information, anecdotal or otherwise, from the Spanish Flu Pandemic. I would like to read peoples’ stories and learn how the process developed, what turns the pandemic took, how people responded, and then how it ended. Perhaps I should go to the library…oh, wait.

I was really down yesterday: worried about everything. I was sad and angry and wistful and full of grief, all at the same time. It lifted sometime in the evening when I started sewing, so that is a lesson in an of itself.

This morning, this perfect morning, I will make some toast and get back to it. I am sitting at my table looking at my favorite Mola that I brought back from my zany trip to Panama 5 years ago, I am drinking tea, I am listening to the neighbor’s rooster crow from his little cell. The puppy is sniffing and snuffling around. Cody is sleeping. I can see the roses through the front windows, and the blooms of the Jerusalem Sage as well, and beyond that, the neighbor’s giant red barn.

There is peace in these moments; in this time, many gifts.

Date: 18 April 2020

Cases: 2,273,986

United States: 706,832

Deaths: 156,076

Mortality Rate: 6.683%

 

 

 

Quiet Afternoons

There are people out riding their bikes and mowing their lawns and it is Thursday afternoon. People are out walking, and making beautiful photos on Instagram, and cooking, and everything else. Everything else but….working.

According to the New York Times, 3 million people have filed for unemployment, the most people ever in one week. I don’t really know what that even means, it just sounds like such a big number. Never before have I been more thankful for my job: I am so lucky to have my job, that Cody has his job, and that we both are able to work from home and still be paid.

I feel that there is some sort of shift happening in peoples’ perceptions in terms of their own lives and livelihoods. So many parents have told me that they are so happy to be at home with their families. So many people are out on the streets walking around instead of inside, glued to screens. So many people are more kind to each other than they were. People seem to be sharing, pitching in, and working together. I am ignoring the government and all the crazy madness that seems to come spewing out of the executive branch each day: I cannot understand a president who places money over people. I do acknowledge that it is not just as plain and simple as that, and that we must of course think of the economy, too, but it seems not to be a choice between but a choice of both. Texas Monthly has a great article about this false choice .

The days are strangely long, but they pass into relaxing evenings and then into beautiful mornings, over and over, on a relaxed sense of repetition. I feel guilty sometimes about my peaceful experience of this pandemic, but I suppose it is just the way it is for me. So I send love out to the rest of you, and hope you are all ok.

Date: 26 March 2020

Cases: 529,591

Deaths: 23,970

Mortality Rate: 4.52%

Today the United States became #1 in infections

Today

Inspiration

 

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Here, I watch the sunset over the neighbor’s barn 

Over the last month, 29 new people have started following this blog. Since I have not regularly posted to the blog in almost three years, and am rather a fair-weather blog friend these days, I am taking this as a sign from the universe and the second nod of inspiration to get to it again! A few weeks ago, my mother’s best friend Jean also asked me: “what is happening these days with your writing?”.

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A bridge in Hogeye, Texas…a few miles from my new home

Challenge accepted, and with gratitude, as I have discovered, in the in-between times, that writing is a way that I understand my own experiences, my meandering wander through this game of life, and, most useful, it helps me remember the things that happened. I was happy to hear from a friend yesterday (and she is younger than me!) that she is now depending on her 4 year-old to help her remember new peoples’ names and the details of the day. Memory is funny: it’s like there is only so much space in there and so many little things get deleted. Perhaps it’s a survival skill.

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Chinaberry blossoms: this year, I felt like I had never seen them before. Maybe I hadn’t.

The same friend also inspired me yesterday by carving out a writing nook in her home. My house is quite small, so there is not a space for this as such, but I have taken the “dining room” (sounds quite fancy but it is really just a small, lovely room with two windows that looks out into the garden and is a pass-through to the living room) as the sewing room and so decided, yesterday, that it will also be the “writing nook” starting, well, today. In this room, along with the two lovely windows, is my sewing machine, the sweet hutch my lover surprised me with a while back (it houses all the fabric, the patterns and the sparkly things in the two lighted cabinets), a nice round brown wooden table, two brass candlesticks, four chairs, a wool rug with a hole at one end, and me.

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The sewing/dining room now writing nook

As I look out of the windows, I can see a windy crepe-myrtle tree and in it, a pair of cardinals. Mama usually shows up first and then is quickly chased by her partner, Red Papa. They are very sweet and chubby these days, no doubt from all the birdseed and everything else around the large yard. There are so many trees: trees in trees! In fact, in the center of the crepe myrtle is a small pecan. There is debate in the house about which goes. I vote for the pecan, as I love the crepe myrtles so much and a pecan there is too close to the house. There is also a blue ceramic birdbath that the doves love, and the grackles like to land in and splash everyone else. Beyond this scene is a white driveway shining in the early summer sun (when did it get so HOT?) and beyond that, the ever-expanding garden fence, a greenhouse, vegetable patches, and many flowers just beginning their pretty journey with us here at the new house in Elgin.

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The house with its first flower patch – now teeming with tiny flowers of myriad variety. I am sitting in front of those two full-sized windows near the back of the house in this photo. The small window is the window over the kitchen sink!

Paciencia, Paciencia is starting a new step in the journey it seems! I am leaving my current school in a few weeks and have transferred to the small middle school here in town. I will still teach the same things; the making of things, the drawing of things, the thinking of things, and the feeling better about ourselves way of things, but I will be able to bike to school on my wonderful bicycle, rather than sit on a highway in my wonderful car. My life is circling around me, the wagons of inspiration hugging a bit closer: more time for art, for garden, for writing. Here we are. Thanks for being along.

20180416_191831Is there anything as beautiful as a tomato and pepper patch in the afternoon light?

At the End of a Grand Year

Chinese Lanterns

(On my birthday, we had only two, but it was still beautiful)

Frida necklace13“Pies, para que los quiero si tengo alas para volar?” – – – Frida Kahlo

2013, lucky 13, was a year of great changes and growth. It was a year full of walking and ice skating and driving around my new home of Downeast Maine. It was a year of new friends and a new life, of teaching art to children and adults, of becoming a craftsperson full time, of, in general, adjusting and changing and adapting to this place that adjusts and changes and adapts as the seasons switch and the days appear and disappear, ever different, no two the same.

what shall weIndeed

Last night, while yet more snow fell and the skies looked ominous and grey-orange in the lateness of a December night, I spoke about how I felt that the winter here is more beautiful than the summer. My friend who I stood with, in the dark, said that he cannot really appreciate one without the other, implying I suppose that the contrast between the seasons, the starkness of this place, is what inspires the wonder and awe that I feel when finding myself on a porch at night with sleet and snow pelting my curly hair.

blizzard 4

Last year’s first snow, magnified on my windows

“I like it when I take the controls from you, and when you take the control from me. I really am a lucky man…” says Bill Callahan in his song, Small Plane, one of my favorites of his and a perfect song for the last few days of what was a huge year for me.

Jordan Pond January 5Ice-scape from Jordan Pond

A year ago, I lived in a beautiful but cold apartment that sat up above a quiet street in Northeast Harbor, Maine. I named it the House that Floats, and soon after, I moved into The Caravan: the tiniest house in Northeast Harbor. I packed my life into a space that is less than 350 square feet, and made a life there by planting flowers and vegetables, sewing, and making jewelry into the wee hours. It is a house with few doors and no closets: it is like living on a very small ship, with everything battened down into its appropriate place.

early morning coffee cupsEarly morning coffee cups at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts

Soon I will move into a new place, and I am not sure what its name is yet, only that it is a very blank slate in a very new town. I realized whilst walking around it the other night that I have no furniture at all anymore to put inside it: no table, no bed, no anything at all save a workbench, a sewing machine table, a cabinet and a bookshelf. So I suppose I do have some things, after all. If I have learned anything from life, it is that our magpie nature dictates that we fill our spaces in no time, and no doubt, the new house will fill up quickly with what I consider to be beautiful things. I decided a little while ago that one of the gifts of all the transitions over the last few years is that I get to decide what and who comes in my door, that this life is mine to create in beauty to the best of my ability.

laboriousA Laborious Mosaic

This past year has taught me a thing or two about beauty, and about cultivating a beautiful life. I have done my best to keep moving forward in this new place, this place in which many people have been for years. I still feel very, very new here: a feeling only amplified by the choice to try a new town on the same island. My newness is exposed almost daily as I remark on sea smoke on the ocean, or ice on the branches of trees, or on the discovery that a good winter coat really saves you in the cold days that seem to be with us with full force. Tonight we go down to 0 degrees, and over the next few nights, to much below that as we enter January. As far as I remember, January was the coldest month, last year full of ice skating on fierce winter days, and that by February everyone is ready for the bitterness of winter’s chill to be over, only to realize that at least two months lie before us before the warmth returns. February, as one of my friends said, is when everyone goes crazy for a while, just dealing with being in the middle of it, rather than at the magical beginning, or the slushy end.

autoretratoAutoretrato

But, I am getting ahead of myself. Here we are, on December 30th, one short day away from a new year. I am sitting in a beautiful old house in Bar Harbor, housesitting and catsitting for friends who are out of town. I am eating pasta alla carbonara and drinking French wine that I bought from the folks who run the restaurant that took all my time and energy this past summer. I am thinking about what I want for the new year, what I am grateful for from last year, and what to do on the very important last day of 2013.

2667_1127644710456_1297271_nPlanting strawberries: another life (2007)

I have a few habits for New Years Eve; I clean my house very well, I take out all the trash, I pay all the bills, I sweep the dust out of the door. I light candles and eat good food and try to reach the people that I care about. I think about resolutions in a realistic way, as far as what I can really do with my time in the new year. This year I am resolving to be more organized in my business and teaching, and to believe all the compliments that people give me in order to be helpful and keep me going on this path. I am trying to let go of some fear and terror that has held me back for a few years in the hope that it is only a roadblock put in place by my survival skills and instincts. Fight or flight has no place for me here in my new home: this is a place of peace and forgiveness and acceptance of differences. This is a place where people help each other.

carousel 2Carousel

Last night, during another long conversation, a friend and I spoke about the North Pond Hermit and other Maine characters of special significance. A friend of mine who used to live here was complaining the other night about how anti-social everyone is: how everyone stays home and expects others to come to them, about how everyone entertains themselves with various projects. I agree that it is a different sort of place in that way: we all are here for some reason, and I think that reason has something to do with peace and solitude, with creativity and independence, with being away. It is hard sometimes to communicate with people who do not wish to live here about the power of being away here, away in a small community of independent spirits, who occasionally gather together over dinner or a fire. Is it escapism living here? Sometimes I wonder about that, wondering if it is a sense of escaping the external world into a world of your own making. Sometimes I wonder if that is bad, or good, or neither. There is a power in creating your own world, and there are few places where you really can do that; in most places, I think the external forces are so strong that you are challenged to create an inner world at all, much less one that can influence and forge your external world in a meaningful way. There are so many people here who do so many things: small things that add up to a very rich and full life. Some people might think that life too quiet, and that, I suppose is why there are so few people here. Another friend said a few months ago that the beauty of this place is that there are so few people, and the ultimate downside is that there are so few people.

viseReliquary of the Heart

Is it a place of contrasts? To be sure. Is it a place of introspection and quiet? Again, to be sure. Is it the end all be all? Most certainly not, but I am beginning to wonder if there is a place like that at all, or if life, is, indeed, what you make it.

Egon Schiele Landscape 1913Egon Shiele, 1913 —

I pasted this to the front window of my house. Each day as I stared outward, the landscape reminded me of this painting.

So, here we are, sitting on the cusp of a new year. Tomorrow night, during the new moon, we will all listen and watch as another year ends and one begins. My prayer for the new year is that we spend more time noting the present, thinking about the future, and are less hemmed in by our past.

I hope to spend more time thinking about where I am then where I have been or where I am going.

looking outLooking Out, Looking In

How Summer Ends…

rockefeller gardens 5Leaves beginning to disintegrate in the waning sunlight…

“The first week of August hangs at the very top of the summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot. It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color. Often at night there is lightning, but it quivers all alone. “

Natalie Babbitt

And here we are, again, another ending to another season: summer.

moglosMorning glories on parade!

Tonight I walked out of the restaurant with another week of summer under my belt. Summer, to me, has meant non-stop working: smiling, helping, bringing, doing, aquiesceing to peoples’ desires. Summer is a season of wants, sometimes fulfilled. Summer is a season when the population explodes: when your always sleepy town is transformed by people strolling in pistachio green or salmon pink trousers, people stopping in their cars or at least driving ever so slowly, as if creeping along a new road that has yet to be discovered.

rockefeller gardens 6Hidden views from Rockefeller Gardens

Whilst driving home, I noticed the outdoor temperature was 49 degrees: 49 degrees! Ever so cold for August; ever so cold for a girl who lived most of her life in a place when if it was less than 100 degrees in August, those types of low temperatures were considered a reprieve.

islesfordEnd of summer sunset from the Islesford dock

I have been writing here for almost a year: so much has happened over the last ten months. Most of the discoveries of the last almost-year have been reflective in nature: never before did I give myself the latitude of place to have time to think. This morning, when I woke, I noticed that the sun that daily streams through my front windows has bleached out my rendering of Shel Silverstein’s “Hector the Collector”, which is written in my slanting hand on the inside of a greeting card with the blazing emblem of “Let’s Get Drunk and Eat Waffles” on its cover.

rockefeller gardens 8Even lilies become caught in late afternoon misty rainstorms

My little house, so filled with light and creative projects, has been transformed from the tiny cottage it was when I moved in, to a jewelry studio with a small kitchen and bedroom. Everywhere, every surface indicates that an active artist lives here. The floor, messy, is covered with bits and bobs, the kitchen table-now-work-station is covered with silver wire, stones, pliers and projects halfway completed. On the counter lie Queen Anne’s Lace blossoms, drying in the salty air. On the floor below is a skateboard-cribbage board, now decorated with insects from the 1800s. In the window hangs an Egon Schiele print, some prisms, a steel block or two, a slide from a Magic Lantern, tins filled with magical objects of a lost art, a sea urchin skeleton, and some antique steel components that once belonged on the drawers or in the doors of someone, somewhere far away.

rockefeller gardens 3Stucco rusting, dripping, disintegrating

To the right is a tiny antique shelf from Germany, or maybe England, although its rendering of wildflowers makes me think of Heidi, up there in the mountains of Europe. On the shelf lies a strand of ivory: Indian, not African, brought to me by my father when I was a little girl, before ivory was entirely illegalized. Within the curves of the ivory necklace is a stone box, with a magnetic clasp. Inside the box is the surprise of cicada exoskeletons, their bodies green and wings a plastic, black, threaded delight of perfect cells, and the dessicated body of a hummingbird who once flew into the windows of the school in which I taught. He flew into the glass, hit his little head, and fell to the ground, dead. I put him in a tin of salt, and after a time, he became what he is now: an artifact, a beautiful, scary thing that will stay for all time. His feathers shine green and black and grey and brown: a miracle of suspended iridescence.

rockefeller gardens 1Gateway in the rain

One of the things to appreciate in this grand scheme of turning time, this period of peace and quiet and loneliness, for it is that to be sure, are the stars. Glorious and reaching, they spread from horizon to horizon on nights like this. Wherever you look, there are stars, and the backbone-like fuzz of another arm of the Milky Way Galaxy. A galaxy so far, far away, yet we are a part of it and see only the tiny fraction of what is ours, what is our own neighborhood, here from the surface of planet Earth. Tomorrow when I awake, again it will be sunny and the sunshine will glitter like shimmering pellets on the water’s surface. Again the water will be deep blue, and the sunshine gold upon it. Again will I wonder at the beauty of this place, the stillness coupled with unfathomable dynamism: this place of daily change, of growth, of beauty, of solitude, of trees, water, and earth.

rockefeller gardens 7Sleepy Lisianthus, reflecting cloud cover and covered with an afternoon dew