This and That July 28, ‘14

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Cast iron Parrot with pink wings

Down-sizing:
For the past few weeks I’ve been filling bags with things to donate to a Thrift Store. Creating piles of books and other things to go to friends. I’m in the Process of Down-sizing, of Letting Go….
Many years ago I helped a woman when she felt she needed to down-size. It made her sad to let things go that had meaning to her and that she’d carried with her through her long life. In some ways, my scaling-down the number of things I’m carrying with me is making me sad, as well.
In other ways, having less stuff is free-ing and I’m enjoying the freedom of less things.
One of the things we did to ease my friends letting-go-pain was to photograph some of her dearest treasures so she’d have the photos to look at after the things were gone. Keeping that time in mind, I’ve followed my own advice and have photographed this dear treasure of mine. I’ve decided to give it away – to someone dear — and it’s hard for me to let it go.

This is a cast-iron Parrot. When I first met it, it was green with pink wings. In my mind, it’s still green with pink wings and I don’t really see that the paint is thin and worn with rust is creeping in.

The Parrot is a paper weight and was a constant fixture for many years on my grandfather’s desk in his office in a small room on the 1st floor of my grandmother’s house. My grandfather was the managing editor of a local daily newspaper as well as a feature writer for the Sunday magazine. He also reviewed books for a variety of publishers as well as writing advertising copy for local businesses. He was a busy man, always writing. He was given this paper-weight/Parrot as a small gift from a local Foundry where he’d free-lanced, writing advertising copy.

I was small when I was first allowed to play with this parrot. Apparently I’d played with it when I have no memory because one thing I recall is that most every time it was rewarded to me to play with I was always admonished “Don’t throw it!”

For a little guy, he’s kind of heavy.

I spent a lot of time with my grandparents when I was little. I was the first grand-child and they were willing baby-sitters which also helped-out my parents who were having more babies.
I spent a lot of time with my grandfather in his study. He’d set paper and pencils down on the floor for me and I’d spend hours drawing pictures and making up stories about what it was I was drawing. At some point, I’d be rewarded for my being so good by being allowed to play with the parrot. I loved playing with the parrot and the memory of the drawings and the stories and the fond attention of my grandfather.

There came a day when my grandparent’s made the decision to down-size, to sell their house and move South. That was a time filled with the bitter-sweet of nostalgia and an enormous amount of the pain of Letting Go. When all was done and all my grandparent’s had to do was put their suitcases in the car, hand over the keys to the Realtor and go, I went to see them one last time in the old familiar house – which was empty and filled with strange echoes — and to see them off to their new life. My grandfather told me he had something he wanted me to have, reached into his pocket and handed me the Parrot, advising “Don’t throw it.” I still remember the lump in my throat and the sting of tears in my eyes as well as the familiar comfort and warmth of his all-encompassing hug.

To me, the Parrot is a tactile and visual memory-bank of my grandfather in his study; his warmth and caring – of all he was and is to me. It’s also a memory bank of the decades it’s been in my life since the day my grandfather entrusted it to me and moved South.

Fare forward, little Parrot and fare well….

A First….

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The First Zucchini from my garden. I’m hoping it’s the first of many. It was absolutely perfect in every way. Great texture, great flavor, no GMO’s, not too big or small – just right! It’s been a pleasure to grow the plant from a tiny seed and come up with this result. I’m hoping to have plenty to freeze and eat later this winter. I’ve also had my first cucumber and pepper. Now, I’m anxiously awaiting my first Tomato!

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Not the end of the world….

(I had many photos to share but WordPress doesn’t seem to allow that any more….)

“The Real Work”
It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.
~~ Wendell Berry
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“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” ~Picasso

July 7, ‘14
I came to a place more than a month ago where I emotionally ‘hit the wall.’ Moments after the crash, which felt physical, as if a sudden traffic accident, my phone rang – a friend, calling out of the blue….
I was still gasping for air from the sudden impact of hitting the wall. I answered the phone not knowing who it was because I’d also misplaced my glasses and couldn’t read the screen on my phone. From the ringtone, the caller had to be one of 4 people, all welcome, any one of whom I could talk to about my present state of mind. I told him about my sense of having crashed after hitting an immovable object at for
He told me that it wasn’t the end of the world.
I asked; just because it feels like the end of the world doesn’t mean that’s actually true?
No. This is not the end of the world.
I needed that reality check; for awhile, to me, it felt like the end of the world.
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While I’ve been healing from the crash, sorting out the debris and making decisions about what goes where, what stays, what goes etc. I’ve been truly gladdened by my gardening efforts and another commissioned floor cloth. Once more, time after time, I’m reminded that Process is our/my most important product.
Garden: For such a tiny plot of land, I’m growing many things. The tomatoes are my focus, followed by Kale, carrots, beets, 2 hills of stringbeans, 1 burgeoning zucchini plant, 1 burgeoning butternut squash plant, 1 burgeoning cucumber plant, lettuce, arugula, parsley, 3 pepper plants and a few Swiss Chards. The season for peas is over and from the 15 seeds I planted in a window box container, I got 2 meals-worth peas. I also got a lot of knowledge about growing peas. In the future, I will grow them in the ground so the roots can go deep and the vines grow high. The 2 meals worth of peas tasted great. I cooked some but ate the rest straight from the pod.
The tomato seeds I planted and cared for since they were tiny wisps of seedlings are now muscular and assertive plants with thick and high stalks , healthy green leaves and many flowers and baby tomatoes. Having had such good luck growing tomatoes last year I planned to grow 5 plants in deep containers and hopefully have enough to put some by for the winter. I was unable to give away all of the seedlings I didn’t need, so they’re planted in the ground in the border garden I created at the edge of the sidewalk that surrounds my side of the house. There are also several ‘volunteers’, tomato plants growing in with the peas, that have sprung out of the compost from last year that I stirred into the soil for this year’s crop. So, plus the 5 growing Big Boys in containers I have 8 more Big Boys growing in the ground, all healthy and strong and also bearing flowers and fruit.

Sunflowers: For many years I’ve planted sunflowers in the hopes that by the end of August I’d have sunflowers for my birthday. For many years, my hopes have been dashed with the exception of a few scraggy sunflowers 3 years ago when I lived on Culvert St.
I’ve learned how to foil squirrels from digging up and eating the seeds by first sprouting the seeds and planting the sprouts when they’re strong. Apparently the squirrels aren’t as interested in sprouts and this method has worked well – so far. I have sunflowers planted in patches alongside the house where they get maximum sun and in many other areas in the garden where there’s a spot for them. I’ve planted a half dozen near the cucumbers in hopes that the cucumber will grow up the stalks. It’s too soon to tell if that will actually work, but I like the idea and will be watching with interest.
Raspberries: the raspberry patch growing in the front of the house is thicker this year and with the amount of small berries that are showing already, I may have as good a crop as there was last year. Early in the spring I cut out all the plants and trees growing in that patch to make room for raspberries so not only does it look neater, it’s also made room for more brambles and more berries. There was a lot of milkweed growing in the raspberry patch and I left those, hopefully they’ll be discovered by bees and Monarch butterflies. Across the sidewalk, on the other side of the front garden, I have a small patch of blackberries that will be soon ready for picking.

Floorcloth, Sunflowers on Blue:

7’.5” x 5’
This is one of the largest floor cloths I’ve ever done. It will cover and entire area in an existing pantry in a dark corner where there’s little natural light. I’m in hopes this will brighten up that corner, a bit. My client likes a similar floorcloth that I designed for myself years ago so I’m now doing one for her using the stencils and leaf patterns I made for me. Every now and then on this larger version I’ ve made larger sunflowers to make the overall pattern more interesting. I saved myself a lot of trouble and bought a quart of pre-mixed blue paint for the background and also bought a paint roller to save the time it would take to apply it with a 4” or 5” brush. At this point, it’s mostly done – after a few hours working on some details. I’ve found it easier to work on it flat on the floor – kind of a reverse Michaelangelo…. I’ve read of his discomfort with having to work many hours painting on a ceiling and know of my own discomfort from so much time working on the floor.
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When I read the Wendell Berry poem a few days ago I had a moment of Acceptance and understanding that gave me a measure of peace and comfort.
I don’t know where I’m going or what I’m doing and accept that where I am and what I’m doing is my real work, my real journey. My mind is certainly baffled, and I can testify to the fact that it’s highly ‘employed’. The song from my impeded stream is loud and clear and offers me much hope.

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This and That May 14, ’14

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WC Sketch, May 12, ‘14

May 14, ‘14

Spring is truly here, albeit slow, cool and with many days of cloudiness and rain.  Today, it’s cool,  59 degrees.  At the moment, the sun is shining.  The light is pale due to a milky cloud cover with bits of pale blue sky showing here and there.  I’ve no complaints about the weather.  I enjoy watching Spring unfold.  This year I’ve enjoyed my favorite Spring flowering bushes for more than 2 weeks – Forsythia and Magnolia.  Another favorite spring flower, Dandelions, have been bright yellow dots in green grass for weeks, instead of mere days.

I’ve begun my tomato season by starting non-GMO, Heirloom tomato seeds in peat pots on my plant shelf in a sunny window in my dining room/studio.  The progress has been exciting to me as I’ve — daily, sometimes hourly — watched for tiny plants to emerge from the soil and grow this far.  Since I’m a person who finds contentment in watching Paint dry or Grass grow, watching these tiny plants develop to this stage has been quite exciting.

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Tiny tomato plants, 8 of 13!

 

My other gardening projects are also going well

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Kale

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Peas

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Lettuce

The ‘free’ eating season has begun.  My parakeet and I have been eating fresh lettuce for days!  I’ve also had a few meals that included Dandelion Greens.

New Projects:

Wash Stand

From this….

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To this…. 

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Watch for developments.

Red Mirror

From this….

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To this. 

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I want it to match the Wash Stand so I painted-out what work I’d done.

Treasure Chest

From this….

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To this. 

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I felt it needed a re-do….

Floor Cloth #2 DD

And the beginning stages of a new (commissioned) Floor Cloth

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Rough idea, stencil design, stencil design transferred to stencil paper waiting for me to cut out the openings….

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For all the many things I’m grateful for today one of the things high on my list is gratitude to Whoever fixed the squealing dryer used by my fellow tenant in this house, however it happened.  I haven’t heard those horrific sounds (hour after hour, week after week) for over 12 days.  No unpleasant ringing in my ears, no ear ache, no annoyance escalating to anger.  Healing has begun….

 

 

 

 

 

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Bye bye, Birdcage

 

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Spring Project Sketch II  WC

May 5, ‘14

I’m celebrating this beautiful May day we’re having here in NW CT.   Sunny, 61 degrees, light breeze….  Trees are budding and the sky is blue!  A few of my windows are open; the fresh air coming in is wonderful!  I’ve done much puttering, had a morning coffee visitor, did a bit of gardening, cleaned up my old bird cage &  put it on the curb with a FREE sign attached and after lunch, worked on my idea for the small painting I’ve committed to donate to the Litchfield Historical Society. 

When first light hit my face at 5:30 a.m.,  I woke with a song in my heart – which was a great feeling.  A song in my heart to replace the winter dirge….  A song in my heart and Spring in my step. 

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

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Tuesday April 29, ’14

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Congregational Church, Litchfield CT, WC sketch

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Congregational Church Steeple, Litchfield CT

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Allegedly, this church is one of the most photographed in all of New England…. 

 

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
T. S. Eliot 

The birth of spring this year has been long-labored with considerable pain and difficulty.  We’ve had snow, we’ve had frosts, we’ve had many days of temps below average April temps and many days of gray and rain.  What is growing out of dead ground is highly vulnerable to weather and conditions that are often more wintry, than spring-like.

The hope is strong in me that April showers bring May flowers.

Yesterday was one helluva wonderful spring day! 

Today is wintry.

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An acquaintance from my Litchfield days asked me to donate a small painting to benefit the Litchfield Historical Society at an auction to be held at the end of May.  I was pleased to have been asked.  The theme of the show/sale is Spring into Litchfield. 

The Litchfield Green is in the top 5 of places where I love to go where I can sit in the sun and paint.  Or sketch or photograph….  When this friend explained the theme of the show to me my mind sprang into the idea of doing a painting I’ve wanted to do, which is the steeple of the Congregational Church rising like a rocket out of a cloud of flowering trees into a dazzling spring-blue sky filled with fat and lazy clouds —  in an 8”x 10” format. 

How I envision this painting one thing but how I realize the vision is another.  And The Problem….   

Yesterday, being a perfect April day, I hustled through the business I needed to do and by 1pm, was free to gather my outdoor painting supplies and head to the Green for a few hours.

It felt great to be warm in the sun, sitting in my lawn chair out of doors and on the Green.  I’ve been going there to paint for decades, since I first went there in the mid-70’s with a sister.  The idea of the steeple rising like a rocket out of a cloud of blossoms came to me many years ago when I passed the church on my way to work and witnessed my perception of the phenomenon I’ve described.  The window of opportunity is small because the blossoms on the trees only last a few days, at best.

At this point, I have no idea as to how I might solve The Problem and deliver a rendering of my vision to the Historical Society by May 31, but I sure did have a great time thinking about it and working on this small sketch.

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April 26, ’14

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Forsythia,  WC sketch, 4/26/14

April 26, ‘14

Today has been chilly and gray with occasional sun.    The high temp was 56.  I’m some disappointed that this has been such a cold and slow spring but any warm temp is better than the bitter cold we had all winter and up until a few weeks ago.  Perhaps the slow unfolding stretches out the enjoyment.  This week forsythia is prevalent. 

I’ve spent little time in the enjoyment of a watercolor sketch these past few months.  With the increased warmth I’m able to sit in my big chair in front of the window for a long period of time.  Doing this sketch of the forsythia bush across the street was good for my head.  I was able to put my mind in a quieter place than actually exists in this house.  With this weather, the children upstairs have been inside and are most noisy.   For awhile, I didn’t even hear them. 

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I received 8 plastic plant containers from a brother-in-law this past week.  4 of the planters are long and narrow and 4 are big and round.  I’m hoping to plant beans, cucumbers, spinach and herbs as well as increase my tomato plants from 3 to 5 – or more.  I’m also hoping to plant flowers around the edges of the house and maybe in the front yard.  My tomato seeds arrived in the mail from Burpee’s this morning and now I must go shopping for peat containers to grow them in.  I saved seeds from last year’s tomatoes but I haven’t been able to find them, so I ordered a new package of seeds. 

I’ll probably find the seeds I saved after I’ve planted the seeds I bought.  Sometimes, things just happen that way….

So far, I’ve started Kale, Peas and Lettuce.  So far, I’m hopeful for a successful crop.  I love that just the act of planting seeds and then tending them gives me such a sense of hope.

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Kale

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Peas (the plants are just starting to poke their heads out….)

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A new pot of lettuce; the lettuce I grew in the bag didn’t work out so well….  I started the seeds too early in a house that was too cold.

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Almost enough for a tiny salad for one….

 

 

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Monday April 21, ’14

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Step Stool, finis!

April 21, ‘14

The Easter, Ishtar, End of Winter celebration is now over.  Planting Season is a GO!

The sun has been shining bright since dawn here in NW CT and the air is only slightly tinged with ice.  According to the 5-day, we’re on a warming trend.  The temp at dawn was 34; my Kale and Lettuce weren’t frosted and are standing strong in the sun as we close in on Noon.  I’ve just ordered my tomato plants for Summer ’14, as well as some seeds.

If all goes well, I should be eating baby kale and lettuce within 7-10 days.  This news brings happiness to my frugal heart.  I firmly believe that growing one’s own food is akin to printing one’s own money and am looking forward to saving $$’s and food fresh from my dooryard.

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I’ve finished the Step Stool except for another coat or 2 of polyurethane.  I’m relatively pleased with the final result.  I hadn’t intended making the border outlines as strong as they appear, which is somewhat on my mind.  The only way to correct the border is to sand it off, repaint and do it over.  I think I won’t do that.

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I’ve picked up a few more furniture decorating jobs & a possible wall mural for this summer and am happy about these projects as well as the possible income.  More on that soon….

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I had a splendid meal with my mother, 2 sisters, bro-in-law and nephew yesterday.  We ate in mom’s dining room and used the good china and table service  — a rare treat – the dining room has gone unused and the good china etc have been put away for many a year.  The dining room has seen decades of lively family parties and yesterday’s meal was one more in the long list of memorable family occasions celebrated there. 

One sister picked and cooked Nettles.  Nettles sounds like something a martyr might eat but that’s entirely not the case in my experience from yesterday.  The leaves were young and tender.  After they were steamed for a few minutes and became limp, they were surprisingly tender and tasty —  similar to Asparagus.  Another sister brought shredded Celeriac in a tasty sauce, which was also quite good.   I’ve never eaten Nettles or Celeriac before and would eat them again.   I brought Kale Slaw with pickled beets and yogurt sauce and there were 3 more veggies plus wonderful scalloped potatoes and Lamb. 

The  company was in fine form and the stories were going around.  I had something to add to a story a sister was telling – after I came back from the kitchen where I was going to start brewing coffee.  Since I was going into the kitchen, I loaded up with plates and silverware for the dishwasher, took a step toward the door and instantly fell over my mom’s dog who I hadn’t realized, was semi-under the table to be close to her master.  I crashed 3 feet across the room, hitting the left side of my head against the door frame.  My eyeglasses felt as if they’d been embedded into the left side of my left eye and into the bridge of my nose and my right knee was hurting from twisting as I fell.   

Certainly an unusual event and now another story to add to all the other stories from that room. 

I don’t have a shiner but I do have a fat nose, a medium dark bruise on the left side of my nose and a lump on my head over my left eyebrow.  My knee is still hurting but isn’t swollen, my neck and left shoulder are stiff and sore.  I’m grateful beyond words that it wasn’t worse.  I didn’t break a tooth or a bone, my glasses survived unbroken, there wasn’t even an blood….  The dog is fine and only one plate was broken.

 

 

 

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