Spring , an Orchard and Kittens

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“This goodness is the only thing that can ever save us. It is what grace looks like, this unmerited, freely given spiritual WD-40. Grace means that love is bigger than any dark weird shit life can throw at you, or even that we can throw at our nutty, tender, worried, exuberant, baby selves. All truth is paradox.”  Anne Lamott

TED Talk link that impacted me yesterday

http://www.ted.com/talks/david_steindl_rast_want_to_be_happy_be_grateful

May 4, ‘15

The weather and color today is much the same as it was ten years ago on South Lake St.  Warm, with breeze and soft clouds in a milky sea of pale, but warm blue.   Fuzzy greenish-yellow almost-leaves on most trees except for the trees where the almost-leaves are a deep fuzzy pink.

I’m barefoot, short sleeves and suitable for at-home and in the yard pajama pants.  That’s how warm it is.  A few windows and my screen door are open.  This breeze is refreshing.  Earlier, I went to the basement to do laundry.  It was quite cool down there.  When I came back up and into my kitchen and stepped into the warmth, I momentarily thought I’d turned the heat up way too high.

When I looked at the photo of the painting from South Lake St earlier, the first thing I remembered from that day was that the High School Marching Band was practicing their drills in a large field on the other side of the trees behind my house.  I had an hour of band music wafting in with the breeze.   Throughout the month of May, there would be band music almost every school day up until Memorial Day.  Today, here on Brookside Ave.  I’ve been listening to birds, people on the street, occasional cars passing by and the hum of traffic from the nearby Interstate.  All the trees I see from my window are all the colors of the trees in the painting.

Today is a wonderful Spring day!

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Preliminary sketch for proposed Calendar page from on-site sketch, photo reference & Memories….

I’ve taken time off from my cataloging and refurbishing unfinished paintings to work on what I’d like to be a painting for the month of April for a calendar page.  I have 9 paintings complete but am lacking April, May and June.  The scenes in the proposed calendar are all from the farm next door to my mother’s house, where I grew up and where my mother still lives.

This preliminary sketch depicts the Peach Orchard that is near the barn that was built for and is still used as an Apple Storage and Salesroom.  There are many orchards around the farm but they’re mostly Apples.  The  peach orchard trees and blossoms differ from the Apple trees and always reminded me of a van Gogh painting I saw in a book when I was quite young.  Since then, I’ve read van Gogh’s letters  & recall several passages where he wrote about painting in a pear orchard and share his excitement when facing an orchard full of peach trees on a balmy spring day.

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The Kittens are well on their way to being Young Cats.  They’ve gone from tiny and cute as bugs to small and cute as bugs but I can see that their legs are longer, their tails are longer and they have much more strength in their bones.  They’ve also put on weight.  They aren’t  fat, just somewhat bigger than they were last week or the week before.  From the length of their legs I’m wondering if they’re going to be large adults.

They both have very affable personalities.  They’re both cuddlers with Hilly being more of a cuddler than Bill.  Bill is a hearty eater – he woofs down his food and then goes after Hilly’s food.  Hilly knows how to stand up for himself with a kittenish growl.  They play well together.

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This and That, May 1, ‘15

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Using our creativity is a form of prayer.

Julia Cameron

May 1, ‘15

This May Day ’15 is much as it was on long ago May Day ’05.  There’s a tentative blue in the sky, often replaced or partially covered over by layers of multi-gray clouds.  There’s a scent of spring in the air, but a cool one.  Grass is undoubtedly green and lush which no gray can dispel.  Buds on trees are still in the stage between bud and leaf and show on the hillside as if vivid yellow-green or pink clouds hovering over branches and trunks.  Magnolias are blossoming.  Due to the cool & cloudy weather, the flowers last for days.  There’s a huge magnolia tree in blossom across the street.  I’ve enjoyed the flowering for more than a week.

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Kittens, the Boys, Hilly and Bill – are adding much life and happiness to my house.  They’re both growing and are now a bit fatter and have longer legs than they did almost 2 weeks ago.  They seem to be mentally balanced and sweet-natured little cats with distinct and unique emerging personalities. I (carefully) report that for the past 3 days, there’ve been no litter box problems.  They seem to have grasped the concept of the litter box being the only place to ‘go’.

We’ve had visitors and the Kittens have boldly and openly welcomed each and every one.  They’ve also entertained each and every one.  One friend said it’s as if I have my own personal clowns to entertain me and anyone who comes to my home.

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Kitten’s eyeing their First Robin….

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I had a student here with me yesterday morning and what a great time we had!  We talked about ourselves, Art, our lives and more Art.  It was sunny and warm in my studio area.  Not only did we enjoy watching the grass grow and become more green and the buds swell on their way to being leaves, but we laughed and talked as we worked and also enjoyed playful kittens.  Then we had lunch.  When it was time for her to go, it seemed as if she’d only been here for minutes when in fact, we were together for quite a few hours.  I’ve been feeling much invigorated by the experience.

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I was without Computer for 4 days last week, which was an interesting experience that reminded me greatly of first days without Albert.  I couldn’t count the number of times I turned to my computer for one or another reason only to remember that it wasn’t there.  In a lot of other ways, it was like times when the power goes out, like the Halloween a few years ago when I was without power for almost 4 days because of a heavy snow storm that downed many power lines, and left us all crippled and isolated. No Electricity and the roads so filled with snow and downed wires that it was futile to even attempt to go anywhere.  But, like that storm, towards the end, when I was accustomed to the conditions, even enjoying them, the power came back on and so it was in the interim without the computer.  In the middle of the 4th day, when I was actually enjoying my day, the computer-guy called me and said my computer was fixed and ready to go and I was soon back to my computer habits.  Windows Service Installer has been reinstalled;  all programs are up to date and all viruses removed.  I now have no further excuse not to be working on an Inventory of all my paintings.

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Computer Repairs Ahead

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“If you could say it in words, there would be no reason to paint.” (Edward Hopper)

April 23, ‘15

Oh,  how I wish today were as warm and bright as April 23, ’05….

But, it isn’t.  Here in the northeast, we seem to be in an April Shower weather pattern, which means that for the past three days we’ve seen a few widely dispersed moments of sun and blue sky, but precious few….  For the most part, the sky is gray with dark gray clouds and occasional outbursts of rain.  It’s also quite chilly.

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I’ve known for a few months that my computer needs some work that I’m unable to do.  It also needs a good cleaning.  Since I’ve been out of work, I hesitate to spend the money for the repairs.  Fortunately, with repairs, the cleaning is free.

I’m planning on taking it for repairs late this afternoon or early tomorrow morning.

I don’t like the thought of being without my computer for 24 hours or more.  I think I’m on it just about every hour of my waking day –sometimes for moments, often for actual hours.  I think I can’t bear the thought of an evening without N*tflix, or time without Freecell, or F*cebook or email.  I’ll have to process words in a notebook with pencil on paper.  Photo upload and processing will have to be put on hold until my computer is back home.

Hopefully, it will make it back home in good working order.  There’s the off-chance that installing a core program over the tons of data I’ve saved will wipe out many files.  Without that core program, I can’t back up data on my computer.

Rock and a hard place….

I’ve come to a point where, in order to complete some projects I’ve begun, I need my computer to be in good working order, so will have to ‘bite the bullet.’  I’m putting as many files as possible on thumb drives.  I’ve uploaded all my photos to a cloud.

I’m hoping to be back online soon.

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Life with Kittens –now called Billy and Hilly — has been sweet.  These two little bits of new life have been good for my soul.  They’re affable, innocent and trusting.  Their antics bring laughter.  They’re heart-melting cute.

There have been a few minor problems.  They both had travel induced and food-change diarrhea.  They’re only 7 weeks old, so aren’t quite trustworthy about using the litterbox.

Their instincts are good – they leave the area where they’re playing or sleeping — but aren’t as discerning as to the difference in texture between kitty litter and my favorite rug as I’d like them to be.  Like some little kids, it seems they’d rather play than heed the urge to urinate in the proper place and put off the urge until the last minute – and don’t quite make it.  I’ve dealt with that by keeping a close eye on them and even go so far as to carry them to the litter box if they haven’t gone in the half hour since they last ate or woke from a nap.  All a kitten has to do is appear as if assuming the position and I carry that one to the litter box.   They seem to learn quickly and so far today, have been more responsible for themselves than I’ve had to be.  When I hear a scratching sound, I go there and give them much praise.  I think that within the next week I’ll be able to safely say that they’re ‘litter trained.’

To ease the diarrhea, I cooked plain rice into a soupy mush and added a bit of shredded chicken.  They scarfed down a few bowls full in the past couple of days and the problem now seems to be solved.  They both have hearty and enthusiastic appetites.  No finicky eaters, here!

They’re both very curious about my parakeet.  She’s boldy and courageously let them know who’s in charge and other than those few pecks at their tiny little feet,  seems to be very accepting of having Billy and Hilly sitting alongside her cage and watching her play and eat.

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Two Kittens from Arkansas

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a poem from

OLD POSSUM’S BOOK OF PRACTICAL CATS

 

The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,

It isn’t just one of your holiday games;

You may think at first I’m mad as a hatter

When I tell you a cat must have

THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.

First of all, there’s the name

that the family use daily,

Such as Peter, Augustus, Alonzo or James,

Such as Victor or Jonathan, George, Bill Bailey —

All of them sensible everyday names.

There are fancier names

if you think they sound sweeter,

Some for the gentlemen, some for the dames;

Such as Plato, Admetus, Electra, Demeter —

But all of them sensible everyday names.

But I tell you,

a cat needs a name that’s particular,

A name that’s peculiar, and more dignified,

Else how can he keep his tail perpendicular,

Or spread out his whiskers,

or cherish his pride?

Of names of this kind I can give you a quorum,

Such as Munkustrap, Quaxo or Coricopat

Such as Bambalurina or else Jellylorum —

Names that never belong to more than one cat.

But above and beyond

there’s still one name left over,

And that is the name that you will not guess;

The name no human research can discover —

But the CAT HIMSELF KNOWS,

and will never confess.

When you notice a cat in profound meditation,

The reason, I tell you, is always the same.

His mind is engaged in rapt contemplation

Of the thought,

Of the thought,

Of the thought of his name:

His ineffable effable

Effanineffable

Deep and inscrutable singular name.

 

– T. S. Eliot, “The Naming of Cats”

April 18, ‘15

Today was THE Spring day we dream about on Ground Hog day and long for through the last 6 weeks of winter.  The kind of day where the sights and the smells of spring are prevalent and make one’s heart involuntarily sing….  The song in my heart began at 6:30 a.m. when I opened the back door and stepped out on the porch to hear the spring birds singing spring songs.  The air smelled sweet and clean. The air was also warm enough not to bring on a chill.

And today is the day I go to Litchfield to pick up the kittens!  I felt so eager I was ready to leave the house a good 20 minutes before I actually needed to leave!

So, I left anyhow.  I drove to Litchfield and spent about 15 minutes on the bank of the Bantam River listening to the peepers and spring birds in White’s Woods Nature Preserve.  I made a video of this spot I love so well, recording some of that sweet spring song.  I also had conversation with 2 young women who were sitting in lawn chairs on the bank of the river who were basking in the sun, fishing, talking to each other in soft tones and drinking coffee.  We shared our joy in the day, wished each other well and then I drove off to buy some kitty litter before I went to pick up the kittens.

I went to the store where I’ve been buying litter for many years.  Usually when I stop by, there are many people there but this morning it was just the owner and me.  I like talking to her and it was nice to have the time, as usually she is very busy.  When I left there, it was 8:55, which meant it was time to go to the store where I was to pick up the kittens.

That was a lot of fun.  The store owner, her mother, her husband and a friend were all there plus 3 very well-behaved big dogs.  The 4 kittens in the large cage were amusing to us all as they were very hungry, very playful and interactive.  All 5 humans turned out to be dedicated pet owners and the conversation was fun and lively.  I almost hated to leave.  All 4 of the kittens were siblings and I felt a little bad that they had to be separated.  I also felt pleased that they seemed so un-stressed by their long trip from Arkansas to Connecticut in a van with 80 puppies.

The 2 kittens I’d selected from photos last week are so alike I’m having trouble telling them apart.  I made a list of names for these kittens, thinking I’d know what to name them when I saw them, but nothing came forth from my list or out of the blue.

It turns out they’re very laid-back kittens especially for being barely 8 weeks old.  We got to know each other a little better on the ride home as they lounged on a blanket inside my cat carrier.  One or the other would occasionally mew and one bit my finger but more as if curious as to what was this thing, not in fear or anger.

After I got home with them I let them play around the living room for awhile.  I also put Bird in her cage on the floor.  They’d never seen anything like this and are properly awed.

Then I shut them in the bathroom so they could feed, hopefully use the litter and take a nap.  Awhile later, Auntie Cindy came to welcome the newbies and to have lunch with me.    We had a fun half hour playing with the kittens who seemed to be recharged and rarin’ to play after their half hour nap.  It was while we were playing with kittens I mentioned that they’d come from Arkansas.  Auntie Cindy said “Just like Bill and Hillary!”

For whatever reason, these names seemed right.  Hillary has been used as a male or female name; consider Sir Edmund who climbed Everest….  We thought about it awhile and a decision was made.  The names that ‘the family use daily’ are now Bill and (masculine) Hillary.  They came with names so Bill is Bill Phillip and Hillary is Hillary Mikey.  I’ll never know their ineffable names.

 

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Anticipation

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There seems to be a spiritual law that if we want our good to increase, we must focus on appreciating & husbanding the good we already have. 

Julia Cameron

April 17, ‘15

I love these early spring days when Spring is in ascendancy and Winter is weakening and dying.  This past week, there has been much of Spring to love and much of Winter has melted away.

Yesterday and the day before and the day before that was much like the weather in the painting above from 2005.  Today we’re having April showers and all is tinged with clouds and gray.

Added to the  daily To-Do list are gardening chores.  I’ve made great strides in preparing Garden ’15.  I’ve started 30 tiny tomato seeds in peat pots in a tray;  I hope to see signs of sprouting in a few days.  I lengthened my garden space and turned over much of the soil in the ground  from last year’s garden.  I’m not too unhappy about taking a day off from the ground-turning because I’ve done it all that digging and turning with a garden spade and this morning, I’m slightly sore from the effort.  I’ve filled 5 heavy-duty garbage bags with sticks and debris from the raspberry patch for trash pick-up next Thursday morning.  Doesn’t sound like much, perhaps, but it’s a lot, to me.    Today I’ll plant Snow Peas at the end of the garden in the ground I just turnedand when it’s sunny again, I’ll install a fence for them to grow on.

Another thing on the To-Do list is to do what I can to kitten-proof my house.  Albert used to like to hide in a 10” x 36” space area behind the tub in the bathroom.  It was easy to block it off with a small cabinet because Albert was full-grown.  I didn’t want him to hide there because there’s a lot of fiberglass insulation in the space and I didn’t want him breathing in fiberglass.  A small kitten could easily slip behind the legs of the cabinet and get into that space beyond my reach.  The base board heating cover continues behind the tub so it will be difficult to cover such an oddly shaped space.  This morning I remembered I have a roll of Contac-paper and am going to attempt to use it to construct a barrier.   Another space that concerns me is one where a kitten could go under a narrow cabinet between the stove and the refrigerator and get caught behind either appliance.  I haven’t figured out a way to block that space but feel confident that before 9 a.m. tomorrow morning, I will.

Friends are coming to lunch tomorrow, to meet the new arrivals and celebrate the joyous event.

Anticipation is sweet.

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Two of my paintings from the Redux pile that I’ve been working on.

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Peaches Near and Far II BEFORE

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Peaches Near and Far II AFTER

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Peaches and van Gogh Iris BEFORE

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Peaches and van Gogh Iris AFTER

I’m pleased with the progress although I still consider these paintings Works in Process.

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Albert’s Ashes

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All Is Well 

Death is nothing at all,

I have only slipped into the next room

I am I and you are you

Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.

Call me by my old familiar name,

Speak to me in the easy way which you always used

Put no difference in your tone,

Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow

Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together.

Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.

Let my name be ever the household world that it always was,

Let it be spoken without effect, without the trace of shadow on it.

Life means all that it ever meant.

It it the same as it ever was, there is unbroken continuity.

Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?

I am waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near,

Just around the corner.

Everything is OK.

April 14, ‘15

I picked up Albert’s ashes from the Vet this afternoon.

Inexplicably, from the moment I accepted the small shopping bag containing his earthly remains, I’ve been feeling less sorrowful than I have been these past few weeks – as if a corner has been turned in the grieving process, as if the Pall has been lifted.  As if he’s home and under my care, even in his transformed state.  As if his dear little ghost has gone to rest.  I won’t be looking for him throughout the house because I know where he is.

The box containing what’s left of him is on the corner of a wooden chest under the window where, when it’s sunny and he would surely be sleeping.  The flower blossoming in the pot behind the small box with the plaque on top is the flower I bought him for his birthday.  I told him it was for him, in celebration and honor of his life.  I placed it in his sleeping spot when he was no longer able to jump up to his spot.  For the next week he put his front feet on the corner and sniff the flower.  Then he’d cross the room and climb back into his sick bed on the couch, next to me.  On his last morning, he attempted to sniff the flower but was too tired, beyond handicapped, too desperately ill to do this thing his body could no longer do.  He twice flopped on the floor, gasping,  to rest before he could make it 10 feet across the room to me and climb into his sick bed.  That moment, when he tried, but failed, to make it over to the flower was when I knew beyond any shadow of a doubt that it was time for me to call the vet.  He’d reached a point where he was suffering more than I.

Someone at the Crematorium made a small plaque out of clay with Albert’s footprint and his name across the bottom.  I didn’t expect this plaque but am grateful to whoever made it as I find it very comforting as a memento mori.

I can’t help but wonder if the plaque was fired at the same time as Albert.

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While there’s certainly been much sorrow in my life these past few months, there is also joy.  I move along and slowly, things get done.    Progress has been made in my Work.  I’ve done small amounts of Yard work and Gardening.  I’ve rearranged some aspects in my house, washed windows, cooked and cleaned.  Yesterday, out on the porch on a sunny day where the temp almost went to 70 degrees, I cleaned my cat carrier, Albert’s litter box and the rubber mat where I’d put his feeding dishes.  I used a small amount of bleach and left those things to dry in the sun.

This past Friday, I said yes to 2 kittens who need a home.  I’m to pick up those 2 kittens this coming Saturday at 9 a.m.  I’m psyched.  I texted back the woman from the Rescue Service that “I will be there!”

I know little about the kittens, even though a photo was texted to me,  except that they’re both boys who will be 9 weeks old on Saturday.

I have a list of names for these 2 boy-cats, just as I had a list of names when I went to meet the kitten who turned out to be Albert, not Stanley or Raymond or any of the other names I favored.

I’ll know who these 2 kittens are when I meet them and then I’ll share.

I’m generally a Skeptic when it comes to a carefully laid plan more than a week prior to the event, so I can’t be absolutely sure this will actually happen and am somewhat braced for possible disappointment.  But, I’m hoping this plan works well.  Anticipating un-named kittens and having Albert home feels like a healing antidote to sorrow.

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Moving Forward

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Anderson Road

You can remember him and only that he is gone

Or you can cherish his memory and let it live on,

You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your

back,

Or you can do what he would want: smile, open your eyes,

love and go on. 

Anonymous

 

April 10, ‘15

Today isn’t as cold or gloomy as yesterday.  A warming trend is nigh, I think I feel it coming.  I can see that the grass next door is greener than it was yesterday.  The sky is a brighter gray than yesterday.  Occasionally there are less opaque patches where a very pale blue is revealed.  There’s supposed to be sun tomorrow as well as warm temperatures; a warming trend with sunlight!  That alone makes me feel less glum than I have been this past week.

This past week has been characterized with grieving the loss of Albert and celebrating his life.  I’m planning to pick up his ashes tomorrow morning at the Vet’s.  I found a perfect urn for his ashes, which gave me a feeling of comfort.  I’ve found 2 little kittens that need a home and if all goes as per The Plan, I’ll be picking them up next Saturday.  I feel sure they’ll fill the loss of Albert in my home and help ease the pain in my heart that he’s truly gone and our era together is over.  Albert, as with so many other humans and cats who’ve died and who I celebrate, has an ineffable place in my heart.

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I found this small painting yesterday as I was sorting through stuff in a box of artwork and memorabilia.  I have several paintings of Anderson Farm, which is a place that is familiar to me since childhood.  This is a view I’ve always enjoyed.  In my past experience it was a very pretty farm and very well maintained.  The cows belonging to this farm were honey-colored Guernsey’s and they always looked so bright and clean when they were in their green pastures alongside the road.  Mr Anderson took very good care of his farm and his animals and to me, the farm buildings and animals looked like something I’d see in a story book or on a picture post-card.

This view shows the farm looking from west to east.  From this point of view, it meant that we were halfway home from The Lake – from a place on Bantam Lake where my family spent many of my childhood summers.

I did this painting on Oct 15, but forgot to write down the year.  I’m pretty sure it was done in ’95, a few months after I moved into my place on South Lake St, which was a few miles away from this spot.  In the time in my life when gas was affordable and I spent many hours painting outside at spots where I’d always wanted to capture an image with paint.  In ’95, the cows had been gone for years and the fields weren’t planted.  The Anderson’s had died or moved away.  The barns were empty, but still well maintained.

When I discovered this painting yesterday, the memories instantly lifted my spirits.  It was done at another grieving place in my life, a little over a year since my father’s death.  When I looked at this painting yesterday I remembered sitting in a lawn chair in the grass across from the intersection on a warm and sunny Fall day, working on this painting while remembering this farm as it had been when I was a kid in the car and my father telling us it was the halfway point between The Lake and Home.  I was remembering a time when life was simple and feeling good had to do with being in the car  — halfway Home or halfway to The Lake — with my father and my family.

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