Cabin Fever

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View from my Snow Cave

“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”

― Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods

Feb 27, ‘15

Some years ago, I lived in a small apartment in a large house in the woods.  I was going through a very painful break-up with a fiancé, a man who I loved very much but who I couldn’t marry.  There were 4 apartments in the big house and 1 woman per apartment.  In the center of the big house was a large living room and a small galley kitchen on the east side of the room.  There was a balcony upstairs from the apartment on the right to the apartment across the divide to the left.  The entire west wall of the living room and the upstairs balcony was all glass.  The light was wonderful at all times, to me.   The part of the balcony that crossed the west wall was a wonderful spot to stand for long periods of time gaing into the woods.  We saw much wildlife from that spot.

I read Walden throughout the years I lived there.  My favorite reading spot was in my comfortable chair in a spot where I could look out my large window with a south/east south/west exposure.  I fed birds at the feeder on the windowsill.  From where I sat I could see the tops of lilac bushes and a wide expanse of lawn leading to a tennis court and then a hay field – and birds constantly flitting about the feeder.  From the voice of his writing and the accounts of his experience and my growing sense of awareness, I began to live my own version of “Walden:My life in the Woods”.  The big house in the woods was part of a former estate that had been called “Kilravok.”  I call these 2 years of my life my Kilravock Years.  The sense of awareness that grew within as inspired by Walden is very much with me today.

Although I feel more faltering than I do confident, I’m still advancing in the direction of my dreams.

When I first moved into my apartment at Kilravock I think I was as miserable then as I have been most recently from three huge life changes since mid-December.

And here I am.

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Albert is holding his own.  I can tell that he’s ill but he’s not suffering.  He has a life although it’s much diminished and he’s a lot less active than he would be if he weren’t ill.  He went quite rapidly from being a young cat to an old cat.  He plays, but so much less.  He no longer watches for mice.  He has a few spots where he likes to sleep; a windowsill, in a cabinet in the bathroom, on my bed.  He sleeps a lot.  He’s dropped a certain amount of young cat ‘snark.’  Other than that, his vital signs are all good.  He eats, drinks water,  begs for cheese.   He likes staying close to me and is still my companion as much as ever. I’m poignantly aware to treasure every moment.

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I’ve heard nothing from my former client nor have I gotten a check.  I’ve entered the world of Social Services.  So far, so good.  I qualify for Food Stamps and will receive my card very soon.  I’ve received an emergency supply of oil from Fuel Assistance.  I’m on a list of applicants for a housing voucher.  I don’t feel as if I’ve lost my dignity.

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I interviewed at a fairly new local Gallery last week, which appealed to me, but not mightily.  I have until April to decide and also need to have a meeting with my friend who’s offered to help me financially with this project.

The gallery owner liked my floorcloths.  I’m thinking to cut into 4 floorcloths the Sunflower floorcloth I did this past Spring and Summer for my now former client.

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Due to the unusual Snow and Cold here in New England, things get done piecemeal – a little bit here and then put off any more until after the next snow storm….  With every plan for action there’s always the caveat “Weather Permitting.”  The weather doesn’t permit a whole lot, lately.  Cabin Fever is pervasive; we all have it.

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The process of finishing the unfinished paintings is ongoing but not worth posting photos at this point in time.

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February Rooftop, Oil, South Lake St, ’05

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Feb 13, ’15 — Brilliant Sun!

 

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Unknown Clunker — AFTER

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Unknown Clunker — BEFORE

The road to authentic art is through the self. More specifically, it is through the heart, not the head.

Julia Cameron

Feb 13, ‘15

Brilliant sun today along with high winds and low temperatures.  It’s almost noon and the high temp so far is 9 degrees.  The best thing about the weather today is the brilliant sun.    Today is a good example of what it’s meant by ‘wicked bitter cold.’

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Albert sleeping in Sun

I worked in my sunny spot this morning.  Albert left his warm bed and came with me where he found a spot in the sun and went to sleep on a pile of paintings I’m working on.  I didn’t want to disturb him, so I spent an hour or so working on the painting at the top of this page, a painting I’ve titled Unknown Clunker.

I probably started Unknown Clunker when I lived on South Lake St.   I love to do drawings of flowers, leaves & stems and it appears that I attempted doing a painting, as well.  Sorting everything out in a drawing is mind-bending.  Sorting everything out in a complicated painting is overwhelming.  But, since I don’t exactly know what this painting is about, my imagination is free to create possibilities and that’s what I’ve been doing.  Working on this painting has been like driving down a road in thick fog.  I can almost make out a landmark, but not quite.

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Celebrating the small things….

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After shading and outlining

Peaches, Horse, Hiroshige

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BEFORE shading and outlining

“Rejoicing in ordinary things is not sentimental or trite. It actually takes guts. Each time we drop our complaints and allow everyday good fortune to inspire us, we enter the warrior’s world.”

Pema Chödrön, The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times

Feb 12, ‘15

Despite recent hard-times, I’m grateful for all the ordinary, seemingly small things that have given me cause for rejoicing, of which there have been many.

Many of the small things are in regard to Albert, who seems to be farther away from Death’s Door than he was a week ago.  Yesterday I celebrated his return to ‘normalcy’ ‘when he showed an interest in a few objects on the coffee table and then, carefully pulled those objects to the edge of the table until they fell on the floor.  Normally, I don’t like him to do that; yesterday I celebrated.  Today I celebrate that he’s backed up to me as I sit here and write.  He’s sleeping and purring.  His belly appears to be more normal, his breathing less labored.  He’s here with me and not in his bed on the floor near the heater.  I celebrate Lasix.  I’ve come to accept he may die from a malfunctioning heart at any moment and I celebrate every comfortable, non-labored breath that he takes.

I also celebrate my dear friends, of which there are many.

For the most part, in the past few weeks, I’ve spent an hour or two a day working on my project of finishing paintings I’ve started, but never finished, in the past 10 years.  This work and the One Hour Watercolor sketches, have been good for me, heart and soul.

This morning I did some more work on this painting.  I spent approximately 2 hours doing nothing but shading and outlining.  I marvel at how adding dark makes the entire painting appear lighter.  When my time was up and I needed to take a break for lunch etc, I actually heard myself  say that I was satisfied with this painting and the work I’d done.

The changes are subtle, but, to me, well-worth the time and effort.

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A dear friend has offered to ‘front’ me at a local artisan’s gallery if they accept my work. I’ve emailed these artisans and asked them to please consider my work for inclusion in their gallery.    In the doing, I feel hopeful and excited.  I’m bird-dogging my email account, waiting for a response….  I’m celebrating my feelings of hopeful and excited, no matter what they say.

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Between Storms

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Storm yesterday, storm tomorrow…. WC Sketch Feb 10, ‘15

We all have access to Universal support that can empower us if we will just encounter it.

Julia Cameron

Feb 10, ‘15

Welcome to storm-tossed New England, a world of Snow and Cold.  The snow storms, they just keep coming and coming….  The cold is persistent.  In the next 5 days we’ll have a day of “fair” – sun and a little above freezing–  then 1- 3 inches more snow and then “brutally cold” for the next 3 or 4 days after that….

It’s difficult to get enthusiastic about anything with a weather report like that.

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Albert had a couple of days where he didn’t seem at all well and where my emotions were closer to the surface than usual.  This past Friday I called the vet and asked if I could double the dosage of Lasix,  He agreed and I doubled the dose.  Since Saturday afternoon, Albert seems more like himself.  His breathing is easier and so is mine.

I’m grateful for this respite, for the hopeful progress and for his continued companionship through recent storms.  Last night, he got out of his bed and mewed piteously for some ice cream I was eating.  I was overjoyed by his behavior, even though I didn’t give him any ice cream.  I went to the kitchen for some cheese and let him beg for that, instead.

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Still, no check has come in the mail and no communication from my former employer.   Right now, the only thing I can think of to do about anything is to get dressed and go shovel some snow.

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Cold and snowy day

When we have the courage to dream with passion and precision, the Universe responds. 

Julia Cameron

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Two Hour Oil Sketch Jan ‘1994

(from the front window of my mother’s house)

February 5, ‘15

In appearance, a beautiful day.  We have sun, which is almost literally a sight for sore eyes.  The gray and snowy days has many complaining of Cabin Fever is setting in; we’re all crabby, irritable and short of vitamin D, so a few moments spent with face to the sun is worth the few moments of piercing cold and bitter winds.

I woke to snowfall which wound-down around noon, leaving almost 4 more inches of powdered snow for us to shovel.  Up until an hour or so, the sky was grimacing and gray.  Now, it’s blue with big white clouds.  The wind has died-down a bit, but is still strong and loud.

I have yet to shovel my front walk and sidewalk.  I’m really good at procrastinating that loathsome but necessary chore.  Later….

The business part of my past few days has been to apply for fuel and housing assistance.  I’ve met some good people and feel hopeful.

Albert is doing OK.  He’s 100% himself although I can see that physically, his breathing is mildly labored at all times, even when he’s sleeping.  I’m most grateful to have had him with me the past few days of snow, wind and storms.  I think he has a good attitude and I’m working hard to follow his example.

I’ve done some, but not a lot, of work on my project of refurbishing paintings I never finished.  Mostly my artist time has been spent on One Hour watercolor sketches in my notebook.  To me, the discipline of sitting still and working on a painting for an hour is calming, meditative and healing for mind and soul – and keeps the dream alive…

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Here’s the ‘best of’

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Time was up before I could finish this one.  The yellow and blue gave me a great lift!

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Pictures and Words

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A picture that’s worth 1000 words….

The quote on the pad is from a movie I watched

last night.  Of all the debris on the couch this morning, this is where

Albert chose to take his morning nap. 

I discovered him here after I was out of the room for a few minutes.

Feb 3, ‘15

Six days ago one of my sisters challenged me to a 5-Day Artist challenge on Facebook where the artist had to post 3 paintings per day and a brief description or explanation.  I had a good time with the challenge, it was a cheering diversion from gloom, grief and too much snow.  I’m posting all 5 of my daily entries here.

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DAY ONE:  Day One of Five, Artist Challenge….  Three a day for the next five days.  Thank you to my sister Ann, who challenged me and to xxx, who’s led the way and is already in Day 3.

I’ve gone deep into my archives to find these paintings that match the mood of today.  These are from my South Lake St era (1995 -2008) and are Watercolor on Archival paper.

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DAY TWO:  These three drawings are part of a series of 10 or 12 that I did in a small pad of Arches drawing paper using BIC mechanical pencil.  The series is titled Remembrances of Vacations Past.  I did this series in August ’06 in approximately a week, when I took a staycation and indulged myself in life as Artist.  All the objects are souvenirs from former vacations.  Tonight is cold and windy and life is hard.  It’s sweet to look back to a time when things were good.

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12

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DAY THREE: Between Aug and Nov ’11,  I taught a Saturday morning ‘Painting Outside’ class at Gustafson’s Farm on Linkfield Rd.  in Watertown CT — my childhood neighborhood.  My childhood neighborhood is relatively unchanged from the time I was a child.  Painting there was exciting and brought back many memories.  Every Saturday from Aug to Nov the weather was wonderful and the time spent painting there as an adult is now part of the memories of my childhood.

I hope no one minds, but I’m posting 4 paintings this morning.

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eds ford truck

More details squared

painting 3 final

DAY FOUR: These three Watercolor paintings are representatives from a series I did starting in 2005 to 2009 called Peaches and Postcards that featured one or more Peaches and one or more postcards from my postcard collection.  Some of the postcards I bought because I liked them and some were from friends.  In the series there were a few large paintings, many medium size paintings and many of these small ones.  The arrangement possibilities with one or more artificial peaches, postcards, drapery and other small objects are endless and I explored the possibilities quite happily for a very long time.

I somewhat cheated on the postcard in Peach and A. Getz.  I once took a class taught by Arthur Getz and I wanted to pay him homage in this series.  I copped a New Yorker cover from the Internet, then reduced it to postcard size on my computer and printed it on a blank post card.  I selected this particular cover because the house in the painting on the cover is much like the house of a friend who always flew the American Flag on National Holidays, particularly Memorial Day and the 4th of July.  The drapery in this painting is a dishtowel that has a Toulouse Lautrec poster printed on it.

peach and a getz

peach and cezanne

peach and hiroshige

DAY FIVE:  Today I’m posting 3 of my personal favorites.  Turning Point is oil on canvas and represents a time in my life when I was at a place in Montgomery Center VT where I needed to make a decision, the easy way or the hard way.

Two Trees is oil on matteboard.  I went away for many years and when I came back those formerly spindly sprigs were now full-grown trees.  The two trees were across the road from the bar way at the northern end of Gustafson’s Farm.  One of the trees recently fell down.  On the far hill stands Tree Island.  Thanks to Ann, who named that stand of trees.  Tree Island seems never to change, except with the seasons.

The third painting only has the title One Hour Painting.  This was done on a beautiful October day from a spot on the bank of the Bantam River in White’s Woods where I went to do one hour paintings more times than I can count in the years I lived close by.

Painting 1x

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1 hr painting

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When things fall apart….

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“Rather than letting our negativity get the better of us, we could acknowledge that right now we feel like a piece of shit and not be squeamish about taking a good look.” 

Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times

 Feb. 1, ‘15

Since a few weeks before Christmas I’ve had many moments of feeling like a piece of shit.  My employer hasn’t paid me for work I’ve done nor have I been able to contact her through any available means of communication.  My employer, who has also been a friend and confidante, seems to have vanished.  I’m unable to pay my rent or utility bills.  Financially, I’m way out on thin ice, devastated.  Emotionally, I feel abandoned and betrayed.  Inwardly, I feel many moments of fear and anguish.  The sense of Loss on so many levels, is, at times, overwhelming.  I’m finding it difficult to look at this part of my human experience in a positive light, as one of ‘one door closing, another door opening….’

Through thick and thin these past 5+ years, I’ve had the companionship of my good friend, Albert, who’s a cat.  I don’t see Albert so much as a cat but as a spiritual being in a cat suit.  I’ve had him since he was 7 or 8 weeks old; our bond was instantaneous and he’s been a joy and comfort to me every day we’ve been together.

I did this sketch of Albert on Thanksgiving night, after having had a sweet day with friends.  I have many such sketches of other cats in my past, but this is the only one I’ve ever done of Albert.  When I’m working on a painting, reading, working on my computer or watching a movie, Albert is close to my side as if we’re joined at the hip.  I wake at night to reach out to find where he is.  Usually he’s sleeping under my chin or curled up against the back of my legs.  I pet him, he purrs, we fall back to sleep.

A little more than a week ago, Albert started with a dry cough.  I thought his cough meant imminent hair ball yacked up on the floor for me to clean.  But, no hair ball and his cough persisted.  I started giving him coconut oil to help move the mass of hair ball, but, no hair ball ever manifested itself and the coughing continued.  A few days ago, I noticed that his belly was distended.  Constipation, perhaps….  But, no,   still the cough and the distended belly and rising concern, for me.

This past Friday, I decided that no matter the cost, Albert was going to the vet.  The vet I go to is a person I’ve gone to for many years.  I haven’t taken Albert to see him for over 3 years because of cost and because Albert has been so healthy.  All my other cats went at least once a year, but that was when I had the money.   It was good to see Dr Dan, my alarm level dropped considerably during our consultation.  But, when he examined Albert, I could tell by the look on his face that he had bad news.  I even said to him, “You don’t have good news, do you?”  He looked up and I could see emotion on his face.  “No, I don’t, I’m sorry.”

Albert has congestive heart failure and perhaps not too much more time to live.  Dr Dan said perhaps 1-3 months.

Albert’s by my side as I write.  I just pet him and he’s purring.  In the moment, all is well.

Dr Dan and I decided to put Albert on Lasix for the rest of his life, in hopes it will ease a certain amount of overall discomfort and make it easier on his heart —  and prolong his life.  I’m hoping for the best, here, no matter what the ‘best’ may be.  I’m encouraged when friends tell me that someone they know has been on Lasix for the past 10 or 15 or 20 years.

I’ve also made the decision to get a kitten for me and Albert.  I think a new little life mingling with our present life would make us both happy, keep us positive.  Would be a companion for Albert when I’m out and would be a link to both of us and create a sense of continuity.

Friends and family have been notified.  We’ve mourned, we’ve celebrated, we have hope.  If they hear of someone who needs a home for a kitten, they know someone who has a home.

At times, my heart is engulfed with sorrow; unbidden tears roll down my face, my nose runs like sap in the spring.  I pet Albert, he purrs.  For now, all is well.

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