An Ode to Termites: or, the Flexibility of Dreams

Dreams are funny things: moments of memory that catch in your heart, propelling you through time, or perhaps, fantasy. It’s hard to say.

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Ever since I was a little girl, or perhaps ever since I was about 10 or 12, I have wanted the same thing. I have wanted a small house in the country with enough land to have a few alpacas and a couple of sheep. Long ago I decided if I was a very rich lady, I would have one house here in Texas for the winter, and one house in Maine for the summer. One can’t, after all, limit one’s dreams! What would be the point?

The crazy realization came a few days ago when I realized that I am in the process of buying a small house in the country with enough land to have a few alpacas and a couple of sheep. It is a small house in Elgin, and it is made of many bricks and tiles. So many bricks and tiles, as a matter of fact, that it strikes the beholder as a bit mystifying. I don’t really know how all of this happened, being that at this time last month, I was swallowing the bitter pills of attachment, loss, and grief. This month, November, came with a house for me, and……a new studio!!! Who’s to say what turn in the road is ahead; I suppose it is only true that we must continue to walk it.

The house that I am trying to buy is not mine yet, and today I had a very interesting inspection with a wonderful inspector named Travis. Maude from The Big Lebowski kept popping into my mind while I was waiting for him in the backyard, after I had tired of walking around behind him, going “oh my god!!!” after a very significant discovery was made: I kept hearing her say, “he’s a good man, and thorough.” Travis took the full three hours to finish the inspection of this old brick house. He discovered, to our mutual dismay, a crazy amount of termite damage.

That sounds scary, until I tell you the magic and mystery of the Brick House. It is about 98% brick, concrete, and tile. Barely a smidgen of it is made of wood. Unfortunately, we discovered today, that all of that wood has to be replaced. I was a little upset for awhile and even chatted with my partner, Cody, about possible solutions and almost killed him when he suggested welding I-beams together to make frames for windows. I lost my mind when I asked him when the last time he welded was, and he said 1998. It turns out that what Cody was trying to say, in his somewhat mysterious and indecipherable (sometimes) love language, is that he wanted to help me make a beautiful house. When he finally said that, I forgave him and we realized what to do.

Remove the wood! What? You can’t just REMOVE THE WOOD!?!? Oh, but we think that you can, because, as I said above, the house is 98% concrete, brick and tile. It has no wood framing, but is made entirely of bricks and concrete bricks. It has a concrete ceiling for crying out loud. The only wood in this house is in the trim work: the door frames, the window-frames, and the doors. No big deal. Our idea was borne from beautiful homes with arches like these ones (yes I realize these homes have wood in them):

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The above three images from the wonderful Instagram – Gold Dust Collective

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Concrete art by David Seils 

And we soon realized that all was not lost, and just because you can pull apart the door jambs in this house with a set of, I don’t know, tweezers, hope springs eternal in the creative brain. The plan is to pull all of the wood out, and re-sculpt the trim areas with concrete stucco, a la Southwestern houses shown in many stunning architectural magazines. After all, who says that all door frames have to be rectangular?

Tuesday I have another inspector coming, an engineer this time, and the, ahem, termite guy. If the engineer gives me the go ahead, and that we have structural integrity despite the efforts of termites, I will move ahead into the land of alpacas, sheep, stucco and a giant garden with lots of flowers. I have decided that the owners have to pay to drop a termite treatment of sizeable proportions onto the house before I will buy it. After all, I can’t be *that* crazy.

November: your soil is a-turning and what it is releasing is very interesting. In the back of the property today, in the overgrown back-40 that I learned used to be a horse pasture, we found an old tractor. Turning the soil, indeed.

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To Thine Own Self Be True – Happy New Year 2017

Musings on a new year are forthcoming. It has been almost six months since I have written here: a place that used to be an almost daily practice. But things shift, and change, and priorities, too. Change, as I said to the man in Home Depot about how to heat houses in Texas, is the only constant that we can count on.

So let’s dive in to a new year. It is 2017, which makes it my lucky (to me) 37th year on planet Earth. For as long as I can remember, 37 has been my lucky number. I can’t tell you why or where it came from, just, that as a small girl, I noticed the number 37 all over the place and began to associate it, and foxes, with luck or, perhaps, an awareness of the magical influences in my life.

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Being that it is 2017, it means that I graduated from high school 18 years ago, and college 13 years ago. That seems like an awfully long period of time, and one could, I suppose, wax and whine poetic about the passage of time, but here’s a thought: my life since those two major life events has involved travel and art and love and friends and being a grown up, all of which add up to the ineffable truth of my life: that life post education is the richness, the soup, the delicious Caesar salad with anchovies of existence. Adulthood is beautiful and fractured, delicate and stressful, colorful, moving, changing, solid, long, and, for me, quite happy. My tune has changed quite a bit since I started this project about four years ago.

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South Philly’s Magic Gardens by Isaiah Zagar 

 

I have a couple of themes for 2017. Last year I focused on having a Year of Patience, and worked on what felt right for me. For the most part, it worked out very well. I established some boundaries, I was very creative, I was inspired by and inspired many young people, I lost a great friend, gained some new ones, and reconnected with some old ones, I moved out of the city, and I thought, a lot. The themes for 2017, so far, are clarity and staying the course: in other words, to thine own self be true BUT also, check in with that self regularly because, as adults, life moves very fast and it is very easy to get in the habit of moving and working and doing so that you don’t actually know if the path you are on is the right one for you.

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Image of neurons in the brain under activity from the Franklin Institute’s exhibit “Self Reflected”

 

There are some things that I am doing this year that, I hope, will help with flying along the migrational path of these themes. I have recently become reinvigorated in the jewelry department after a couple of craft shows around the holidays, and have decided to up my game a bit and try to get some pieces in galleries that I would like to see them in. I gifted myself 10 opals to help in this process! They are beautiful, and will become two bracelets that are inspired by internal structure, structural integrity, and the warrior’s spirit.

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Some of the opals are here displayed by the stone cutter who cut them especially for me!!! Everyone should check out Mountain Song Jewelers

 

Also, I am gifting myself a plane ticket to England. I decided it was time to put up or shut up about going to England, as I have said every year since 2009 that *this* is the year that I am going to go, and then I don’t do it. This year is the year. I am flying out around the 20th of July, and will come back around the 20th of August, to start another school year with flying colors and, hopefully, much inspiration. I will see family, tour gardens, watch the ocean, go to museums, drink tea, go mudlarking, and get in touch with my roots. I will see what happens after that, but I became so excited about this the other day that I became teary-eyed and that was what cemented the decision. I was daydreaming about landing at Gatwick, getting in a black taxi-cab, and traveling through the streets of London to my aunt’s house. I was looking up and around out of the windows, watching the comings and goings of the city. My heart swelled, and I decided I would just make it work.

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Kynance Cove on The Lizard Peninsula, Cornwall, England…just looooooook! 

 

That is really it in terms of plans: jewelry-making and traveling. I want to travel as much as I can, get out there into the world and take some chances. Also, I am becoming deputized to register people to vote, and will have my Deputy Patience face on every day at school to help teachers and parents and students understand how to register and how to vote. I think it is something that I can actually do in these strange times in which we find ourselves. One question that keeps coming back to me is: what do I do? I think I have an idea, which is to wait. Wait and listen. Listen and wait. Think about the goals, and work toward them. Allow everything else to be nebulous. Stay the course, but remain flexible. Someone told me that the mark of a successful person is, when confronted with something not exactly as you would like, you make do anyway. I think she is right. She was commenting on my disappointment in a lack of plain milk chocolate bars in her store, and so I took a risk and bought one with pretzel bits in it. It was her observation that I was a successful person. I took the compliment, and the chocolate, with delight. It was delicious, by the way.

The Seer by Andy Moerlein, 2012 – sculpture of bent branches at the Hulls Cove Tool Barn

 

I was back in Maine in November for Thanksgiving, but I ended up spending about half the time in Portland with friends. We went to restaurants and bars and drove around a lot. Meg and I met a really funny Maine Guide in a gas station somewhere between Brunswick and Bar Harbor who told us he was writing a book that was a cross between Hustler, 50 Shades of Grey, and Downeast Magazine. I went to a bar called the Bearded Lady’s Jewel Box that had a magical mural painted behind the bar, and all the menus were framed in old brass thrift-store frames. I ate dumplings a-go-go and drank delicious special cocktails with things like Cymar and Frenet and egg-whites and lavender in them. I went walking with my friend Tony to Two Lights Park on a very cold and sunny day and we looked at rocks and the ocean. We were talking about relationships and people and life and memory, mostly, and we met some people who were walking their long-haired whippets along the same path as us. They remarked on the beauty of the day, and I too, was struck by the blue of the water, and the shiny brown undulating forms of the rocks at its edge.

Oh Maine, you beautiful place, you. Two Lights State Park, Cape Elizabeth, Maine.

 

Maine water is the deepest blue, so clear but yet so cold and deep: like a sapphire that stretches and moves out to the horizon, dotted by boats, glinting in the sun. I miss Maine, and decided at that moment, that I’d like to be there, again. As my friend Carolyn has said, it looks good on me. I miss the people, the ocean, the trees, the seasons, the natural beauty, the enveloping environment, the quiet, the peace of it. I know now that nowhere is perfect, and I know now that I love Texas at its heart and soul, and I love Maine, too. Over the last few weeks, I have realized that I could work with and teach refugee and immigrant children up in Maine, in Portland or Lewiston-Auburn, and keep working on the mission that I started eleven years ago, as a baby teacher, at the young age of 25. Little did I know then that I would end up, 11 years later, an art teacher at a girls’ school, aiming to inspire a sense of art, of criticism, of laughter, of bewilderment, of creativity, of capacity, and of resilience in a band of young girls, embarking into their own adult world. Their world seems different than mine was at the age of 18, but perhaps it truly isn’t. I suppose I will have to ask them in almost 20 years.

I could write about my critiques of our current political situation, of the current political situation in Texas, but I won’t today. Perhaps later. For today, this is simply a forecast and a casting of wishes like dandelion seeds out into the ethers for a new year. Here we are. Hope *is* a verb, as I have learned, and clarity is my mission. Stay true to myself, and remember to have a lot of fun. Human connections, art-making (which this semester includes puppets!), and food with friends are what stave off the cynicism and the despair that creeps in at our society’s edges. Hold it at bay with sword in hand!!! Whatever your sword is, wield it with love not malice. To win, we stay peaceful and present and we bring light into dark places, understand that each day is new, that nothing is permanent, and that our friends are what help us mark the passage of time, not things, or money, or calendars. These are my wishes for our new year. Happy happy to you. May all your wishes come true, allowing for the almost certainty that what you wish for will change.

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A Japanese Puzzle Box

“Yes: I am a dreamer. For a dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.” – Oscar Wilde

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A Japanese puzzle box

When I was a young girl of nineteen, I took a trip with my family to England, to move my Grandmother out of her old house and into an assisted living house. She was so excited because she never had to cook again, and I was so excited to listen to old stories and go through old things with her. Her family: uncles and cousins and a brother, traveled on old steamships across the world from the port of Liverpool, always bringing back magical presents from Asia, Africa and Australia to the women sitting and waiting back home.

During that trip, my grandma gave me many things: an old porcelain shell-shaped ashtray, a Depression glass vase, a pressed-glass cigarette container, and a Japanese puzzle box. The box has no discernible openings, no drawers, and is inlaid on one side with birds and flowers, and the other with a mountain scene. Only she knew that if you slide the top panel to the right and the bottom to the left, that you discovered a hidden compartment: a drawer with a tiny button handle, in which you could store whatever you wanted.

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Let us think about dreams for a second, a minute, an hour, a day. Dreams are, for me, what guide my decisions. My heart bends in one direction or another, tied fast to dreams of what life could be, what it could look like if I could realize the wishes and hopes in my mind. My gut tells me what feels right; deep in my body come the yeses and the nos that dictate what I know to be right and true for me.

My dreams, since moving to Maine over one year ago, are to realize, finally, my deepest wishes and desires. My dreams involve turning the looking glass inward and looking at myself, deep into my hazel-green eyes, and allowing my happiness and sadness to flow through me. My dreams are to let go of the control, of the planned future, and instead step into a place where I move through life doing the things that I want to do versus what will make others happy.

Realizing dreams is scary, and painful, and involves a hefty dose of selfishness. Realizing dreams also involves the acknowledgement that others may ask of you a justification, an explanation of behaviors or choices that do not make sense because they break with past patterns. Realizing dreams involves sitting down and having tea with yourself, and saying that the little person inside, the child if you will, has many unexpressed desires and missing pieces that must be delicately crafted.

Maybe life is like a puzzle: those long and sometimes dull games you play with old, wizened aunts who love horse-racing and overly-sugared cakes on rainy days when there is nothing else to do. Maybe you seek the four corners, laying them out carefully on the table, oriented correctly, and after that, you find the edge pieces, and build the frame. And maybe you never really finish the puzzle, but have to be content with searching through the pile of pieces for the next section that will come clear: the flowers, or the sky and its clouds. Maybe the puzzle pieces sit on a small table in the dining room for years and years, and every month or so you find a new piece that fits. And maybe you finish the puzzle, but maybe not. Perhaps the goal of the game is to be happy looking at the tiny pieces and wondering how they all fit together. These are the dreams, I think.

Sweet dreams.

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Craft-work

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Phew!

Christmas has been soooo busy, in a wonderful way. I am finishing up my last two custom projects: one a mermaid dress, and the other a Frida Kahlo-inspired necklace, and am just thrilled to be finishing them and be happy with how they have turned out, and to be able to see ahead a few days from now to a day or two of downtime, before preparing for new work and new motivation.

I love being a creative person, and to be making my living (just barely right now, but I have high hopes for lucky ’13) from my creative processes is enlivening and affirming. Today I received a new order and a surprise purchase. Things are moving in the right direction. Photos soon….I promise to be better organized in the documentation department from now on: it is one of my (many) resolutions.

For tonight, off to bed, after Lao Tsu gives us his wisdom for today:

TEN

Carrying body and soul and embracing the one,

Can you avoid separation?

Attending fully and being supple,

Can you be as a newborn babe?

Washing and cleansing the primal vision,

Can you be without stain?

Loving all men and ruling the country,

Can you be without cleverness?

Opening and closing the gates of heaven,

Can you play the role of woman?

Understanding, and being open to all things,

Are you able to do nothing?

Giving birth and nourishing,

Bearing yet not possessing,

Working yet not taking credit,

Leading yet not dominating,

This is the Primal Vision.

Thinking about the future……