Albert’s Birthday

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Albert on the computer, Mar 16, ‘10

March 26, ‘15

Yesterday was Albert’s birthday.  He’s now 6 years old.  He and I first met on May 25, ‘09, when I went to my veterinarian’s office to see the kittens there,  instantly fell in love with him and adopted him to come home and be in my life.

There have been a few ‘events’ where I haven’t been 100% pleased with his behavior, but overall, and perhaps because of/despite those ‘events’,  we’ve forged a strong and satisfying human / non-human bond.

The few ‘events.’

 One: In our first 4 ½  years he’s peed 3 times on my feather comforter, feather pillows and once on my feather mattress.

The first time was somewhat forgivable as he was 5 months old and committed this act the day he was neutered and still coming out of anesthesia.  The 2nd and 3rd time were ‘territorial’ – when he seemed to have felt threatened by other cats.

The laundry load was incredible for all 3 events.  Feather filled comforter, mattress and pillows are extremely difficult to wash and take a very long time to dry.   The pillows and comforter I washed in the washing machine but the mattress had to be done in the tub.  I was fortunate we had days and days of sun, because it took days and days for those things to dry and had we had rain — can’t even think about it….  By the time the 3rd event rolled around, Albert had spared the mattress and only got the pillows and comforter and by that time, I had a Washer and a Dryer which made wash and dry time much easier.

After events #2 and #3, I gave much serious thought to sending him to live in a no-kill cat sanctuary and donate money for his upkeep.

I twice chose the option of attempting to change his behavior which (so far, knock on wood) seems to have worked.  Hopefully, the 3rd time was the last….

Two:  5 years ago, he slept on the keyboard of my then computer and caused it to ‘fry.’

I lost everything that was in that computer.  The first time I caught him sleeping on the keyboard, I thought he was cute and photographed him, so I had no one to blame but myself for the death of that computer; cats like to sleep in warm spots and I went away for the day inadvertently leaving the keyboard uncovered and a warm spot for him to sleep.  Since that time, I’m more scrupulous about putting the lid down on the laptop when I’m leaving the room or going away for a few hours. He’s also learned to keep his feet and body away from the new computer.

I had to use a Netbook that up until then I only used to store material for  teaching watercolor classes.  I used the Netbook for over a year until I could afford another full-size computer.  The Netbook was a lousy computer but better than no computer at all.

Three:  I’m certain that Albert – who, up until his illness,  liked to sit on tables and knock things off –had something to do with losing my car, house and client keys 5 years ago, which was a major pain in the neck to replace all keys.

I’m fairly sure that he knocked the keys into a trash basket under the table and I unknowingly emptied the trash in the basket into the trash going to the curb, before I knew that the keys had gone missing.  That’s the only way I can explain that particular mystery.

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There’s challenges to every relationship and those were the toughest ones to deal with between me and Albert.  Looking back these past 6 years, I have to say that, overall, having this sweet little non-human being in my life has been worth any hardship because there’s been much laughter and happiness with him in my life.

Yesterday, being his special day, the atmosphere in this house was celebratory.  Also, the sun was shining.  I celebrated his life with heartfelt speeches and a blossoming Gerbera Daisy dedicated to him as well as cooking chicken thighs for his dinner.  Family and friends sent best wishes.  Friends came to visit last night and we sang “Happy Birthday” to him.  He greeted and touched each and every one of us.  We all felt pleased and happy that he joined us for the entirety of the visit and seemed to have a good time.  We all applauded him when he ate his chicken and then his ice cream with great gusto.

Celebrating helped lift all our spirits from the terrible pall of this winter and Albert’s illness.  Even Albert seemed uplifted.

The terrible winter, while obviously winding down, is still somewhat with us as today is gray, dreary and unusually cold for this time of year.  Albert is still ill, but very much alive and having as good a life as possible.

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Vernal Equinox Day 1 and 2 in very few words.

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Snow sifts from leaden sieves,

It powders all the wood,

It fills with alabaster wool

The wrinkles of the road.

 

It makes an even face        

Of mountain and of plain,—

Unbroken forehead from the east

Unto the east again.

 

It reaches to the fence,

It wraps it, rail by rail,

Till it is lost in fleeces;

It flings a crystal veil

 

On stump and stack and stem,—

The summer’s empty room,

Acres of seams where harvests were,

Recordless, but for them….

Emily Dickinson

 

March 20, ‘15

The color of today is gray and streaked with slanted lines of falling snow.  The temperature is COLD.  Yep, the First Day of Spring; snow is falling, the furnace is running.  Today looks and feels like any of the many days of cold and falling snow  we’ve experienced all Winter.

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March 21, ‘15

2nd day of Spring.  Blurred visibility due to straight down falling snow.  Cold.  Furnace running.  Again, everything is covered with snow.

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This is what I’m looking forward to on this wintry spring day.

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Not quite Winter, not quite Spring….

Not quite Winter, not quite spring….

a barway

Barway

corner orchard

Corner Orchard

As artists, we are always seeking to express that which has not been expressed.

Julia Cameron

March 19, ‘15

The color of today is much like the color in these 2 paintings.   Snow is still covering the ground – not as much snow as in the top photo, nor as little snow as there is in the bottom photo.  It’s cold today, in the high 20’s right now and not expected to go much higher than 34 degrees later this afternoon.  Snow is forecast for tomorrow—the Vernal Equinox!   The expected accumulation is that there will be 2 – 6 inches.  The best thing about the forecast for today is the SUN!    Also good news: the fierce and howling winds of yesterday have subsided to breeziness.

The winds have been so fierce for the past few days that they made it difficult to drive a car in a straight line.  I went to visit friends for dinner in a town 25 miles from home.  Driving back in the fierce winds and suddenly encountering many icy patches on the road from where the sun had been melting snowbanks during the day made me feel especially vulnerable.  I was glad to arrive safely,  and relax from the tension of driving home.

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One of the great things about these past winter months has been the time spent with my Junior High very dear friend who I met in our first week of 7th grade.  At this point in time, we’re both working less and have more time for the important things in life – re-connecting with friends, re-connecting with each other, connecting to who we were in the past and filling in the spaces with our stories of where we were, how we were and what we were doing, thinking, feeling in the times where there are large gaps when we lost touch.

Yesterday was also quite sunny.  My friend came to my house around 10 with her painting kit and we sat down to work and talk and had a lovely 2 or so hours.    We sat in my sunny window, working, talking, watching the clouds scudding across the sky, the trees waving in the wind and the shadows changing color and shape on the snow in the yard next door.   Albert is comfortable with D by now. He joined us, basking in a pool of sun at my feet.  At my moment of being aware of feeling happy and thinking ‘it doesn’t get much better than this’ a very long skein of Canada Geese flew over from southeast to north west in their characteristic V-form.  There must have been hundreds of geese in that skein as it took a few minutes for them to pass over.  We could hear them honking over the sounds of the wind.  They made a beautiful pattern in the sky.  They were arranged in a very sharply angled V-shape, as if to make a knife  form that would collectively pierce the winds and turbulent skies.  To me, the geese sounded elated, as if to be flying in high winds and make a beautiful pattern in the sky was something they could do easily and enjoyed enormously.  I know I felt elated to see and hear them and it was good to feel so.

After the geese had flown over and all we could hear was the wind, we noticed that 2 hours had passed since we first sat down and now we were hungry.  We decided to go around the corner and have lunch at a local diner.  We left Albert sleeping in the sun.  At the diner, our waitress seated us in a sunny corner and our conversation – and much more laughter – continued.  And, as it seemed to me, suddenly another 2 hours had passed and it was time to move on to other things in our day.

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The two paintings are from an on-going series of work done in my childhood neighborhood.  I grew up in an old farm house that was surrounded by land belonging to a large Dairy Farm and Apple Orchard in NW CT.  I haven’t worked on this series too much in recent years because I’ve allowed other things to take precedent.  When I drove through the farm land on a visit my mother this past week, I noticed that trees and other landmarks are changing and some are disappearing.  I’d like to spend more time working there in the next year and hope that’s something I’ll be able to work into my life during the coming year.

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Albert is doing well.  He’s mildly handicapped by his large belly.  He’s still happy.  He makes me happy. I don’t sense any undue suffering on his part.  I bought him another 30 day supply of lasix.

I received the last bit of money owed me by my former employer.  I don’t know what’s next.  Right now, all is well.

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Maybe Spring?

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When we look for a guarantee of success,

we are asking to make risk-free art– but art, by definition, is risky. 

Julia Cameron

March 16, ‘15

The color in my immediate world today is lower, duller than the color in the above painting from ’05.   But, it’s a similar day, an end of winter kind of day where all is still and the light is pale.  There’s no wind and not much in the way of sound.

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This painting from January 9, ’05 is the last painting of the barn next door as I’d known the barn for almost 10 years.  I don’t recall exactly when but somewhere between Jan 9 and Feb 13 – on a night that was as quiet and soundless as today, the roof of the barn caved in.  There was no warning.  Suddenly, out of a soundless night came the sound of a massive crashing, creaking and crumbling.  The noise lasted for perhaps 30 seconds, and the night again became without sound.  My sister was with me; we had to convince each other we’d actually heard something.   We grabbed a flashlight and went out to see what had crashed and found that the roof of the barn had actually caved in and now filled the inside of the barn.  It was sad news.  It had been a beautiful barn.  The people who owned the barn had hoped to restore it someday but the roof was too far gone to hold up from weather damage until they had the money for new roof beams and actual roofing.  We’d had days and days of rain and then ice; it was all too heavy for the old roof to withstand.  The caved-in roof was a sad sight throughout the remainder of ’05.

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The temperature today so far is close to 45 degrees.  I’m dressed for warmth, but not suited-up in bulky clothing against wicked bitter cold or feeling a penetrating chill despite heat.  The furnace hasn’t come on for hours, which in part explains why today seems so quiet.   The guy next door came out for a smoke on his porch and is wearing a light jacket, not his regular Alaskan winter clothing.  Spring may actually be close.

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This is one of the paintings I washed in the sink and have been working on almost exclusively for the past 3 days.

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Freshly washed

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Lighter lights, darker darks, the overall tone is more even….  It’s still a Work In Process.

The only area I haven’t touched on this painting, and have no plans to touch, are the sunflowers.  The rest of the painting has been washed as clean as possible and then remodeled using Indigo and White.    I’ve added a bit of color to the two leaves.  There’s still much work to be done – on the horse and the bowl, bottom and top, particularly.  At one time I’d thought to cut off the sunflowers and throw the rest away but after the wash and the work, am glad I didn’t.  There’s a postcard in this painting but no peaches.  The postcard is a reproduction of a painting by Picasso.  The subject is Gertrude Stein, one of his patrons.  The portrait of Gertrude Stein is said to be a predecessor of some of Picasso’s Cubist paintings, particularly one of his better known paintings, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.  I’m a Picasso fan and bought the postcard at The Metropolitan Museum after I’d seen the Gertrude Stein portrait there, back in the day when I frequently went to The City.  The oak leaves and the tiny golden apple came from a walk in the woods close to where I lived.  The sunflowers were artificial, made of crepe paper and bought at a local Craft Supply shop.  The bowl and top is the replacement for the Chinese Bowl that I accidentally broke.  The replacement bowl was handpainted in Taiwan.  The feed sack and  blue dish towel are all too familiar in my paintings.  The embroidered cloth was an old bureau scarf I bought at the local Thrift.  It had a huge hole in it that I usually managed to hide when I used it in a setup.

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Mud Season

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Come with rain, O loud Southwester!

 Bring the singer, bring the nester;

 Give the buried flower a dream;

 Make the settled snow-bank steam;

 Find the brown beneath the white;

 But whate’er you do to-night,

 Bathe my window, make it flow,

 Melt it as the ice will go;

 Melt the glass and leave the sticks

 Like a hermit’s crucifix;

 Burst into my narrow stall;

 Swing the picture on the wall;

 Run the rattling pages o’er;

 Scatter poems on the floor;

 Turn the poet out of door.

Robert Frost

Mar. 14, ‘15

The color of my immediate world today is similar to the color in this painting from Mar 27, ’05 – which was also Easter, that year.

Grassy spots are beginning to appear on lawns, and in fields.  The bare ground is a muddled, green-gray-brownish color.  The roads –and most paved areas — are shiny and wet from the rain we had all night and from melting snow all day.  The temperature is in the low 40’s – definitely a warming trend compared to the very low temperatures we’ve been experiencing throughout the past 2 months.  There are still large areas covered with snow but those areas are dirty, gray and rotten at the edges.

In the past few days, my compost buckets reappeared as the height of the snow was reduced by melting.  Quite soon I’ll be obliged to deal with those bukets; as soon as I can stir the contents.  I have 6 2 lb. coffee cans stacked on my back porch that are filled with egg shells and kitchen scraps from the past 3 months to add to the compost buckets.  With the melting snow, I can almost see a way clear to wheel my recycle bin to the curb.  My recyclables have reached critical mass.  When the bin is emptied, I have a huge garbage bag filled with recyclables to place in the bin plus the empty coffee cans presently containing kitchen scraps.

I’m looking forward to the beginning stages of working on Garden ’15!

Around 9:30 a.m., the power suddenly went out.  All winter I’ve hoped this wouldn’t happen because without power, no heat and without heat, frozen pipes – and many other hardships.  When the power went out this morning, it was inconvenient but with the temp in the low 40’s, not nearly as frightening as it would have been last week or the week before.  Power was restored a little after 10.

Mud Season seems to be here officially.  It’s a dirty and messy time, but one of the sure signs of Spring!

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In recent days I’ve spent much time re-working many more paintings.  I’ve given quite a few a good wash in the tub before re-working all the tones from dark to light.  I’ll post more photos when the changes I’ve made are apparent.

The past 3 or 4 days have been most peaceful. Today is the only day we’ve had gray skies and rain.  The days with sun have been wonderful.  I’ve had visits and lunches with friends and my mother.  I work on my paintings while listening to TED talks on Youtube for hours at a time.   Sometimes I listen to hours of classical music, also on Youtube.

Albert is doing well for a sick cat.  He’s still enjoying his life and is sleeping next to me.  I’m grateful for every day that he’s as well as he is.

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Cabin Fever on the Wane

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Mar 9, 15

The color of today is similar to the color in the above painting.  The sun is strong and bright.  There’s no wind.  I stepped onto the porch to get the mail.  There was no sting of bitter cold in the air.  There was a hint of the scent of spring.  I think Winter’s back isn’t quite broken, but almost….

I looked through the paintings for March I did in that Winter of ’05 and noticed there had been snow storms throughout the month.  But, the color has changed from deep cold to mild cold – like today — and all these signs are Hopeful.

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I’ve done many hours of work on a painting in my Redux pile.  One in particular has gotten a lot of time and attention.  Working on it has helped me pass many a Snow-bound hour.

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As of late November, ’14

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heavily washed areas

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As of Mar 9, ’15

I’ve given the overall painting a good washing with clear, warm water.    In many areas  I washed off a great deal of paint.  (Middle photo)

I spent quite a few hours  re-building the tone using various shades of Indigo– the neutral darks and grays and mixing in white to make pale grays.

I spent quite a few hours lightening and high-lighting with white.

I’ve been using thin, built-up layers of white to fill in holes and to white-out darks that were too dark & wouldn’t wash out.

Next, I’ll start adding thin glazes of hue – color – & replace the color I washed out.  This painting is almost where I’d like it to be and I’m pleased

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For some reason, Albert likes to sleep on this painting.  I have no idea what he likes about it but I do know that when I leave it on the floor, he’ll push aside the paintings on the top so he can sleep on this painting — even when it’s not in the sun.  Since his illness, this painting has taken on a special meaning to me because of his interest.  I was working on this painting earlier today because Albert chose to sleep in the intense sunlight that was pouring over the rug near the window.

In recent weeks, his coughing fits have subsided; many days have gone by where he hasn’t coughed at all.  This morning, he’s been coughing far more than is usual and my level of concern is heightened.

The day is growing warmer and the spring birds have been singing.  The immediate world is glaring white.  The snow is going ‘rotten’ from the warmth of today.

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More Cabin Fever

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Fire and Ice

Some say the world will end in fire,

Some say in ice.

From what I’ve tasted of desire

I hold with those who favor fire.

But if it had to perish twice,

I think I know enough of hate

To say that for destruction ice

Is also great

And would suffice.

Robert Frost

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Mar 5, ‘15

These two watercolors represent the color of today.

SLS stands for South Lake Street and the numbers are the date the painting was done.  There are 120 paintings in this series I call Watercolor Journal.  I did them to maintain my sanity in a very difficult time of my life.

Each painting was a Meditation and Therapy.  When I started the series, my brother’s multiple myeloma had returned, after he’d been in remission for more than a year.  He died in April, ‘05.  The paintings in this series are, to me, like pictograms, and bring back many memories of my brother and that time.  Most of the views are from my chair in my living room near a big window with north east light.  This is what I saw out the window from where I sat.  For a changed perspective on my view, all I had to do was move my chair one way or the other.

By 2005, I’d lived in my South Lake St apartment for 10 years.  I already had done many scenes from the big window with the great light, so had experience, a method, a routine, a color scheme.  All I had to do was show up at the workplace, pick up a pencil and begin;  soon, prior experience took over and my mind was free-wheeling.  That was the therapy.  The Meditation had to do with the thoughts that entered my mind as I worked. The thoughts were examined and let go to make room for another thought which was examined and let go, and so on.  The work and the image I was building was my Center.  Everything is in the work; sorrow, joy, anger, grief, bitterness, sweetness, anguish, despair, acceptance, intense gratitude….

Each painting is the same size, done on the same kind of paper.

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You know you have Cabin Fever when your thoughts and conversations with others contain these words: ”I’m SO sick of….” And the blank contains words such as “snow, shoveling snow, wading through snow, watching snow fall, staying home because of snow, needing to rush out and buy necessities before it snows again…”  Today, I filled in the blank with the words ‘static electricity’ after I had an irrationally angry moment due to being sick of static electricity and gray, cheerless days.  I’m also sick of hat hair, heavy winter clothing and never-ending winter dirt.  To name a few….

Friends and family are all sick of winter, too.  Our rants are sometimes hilarious.

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Albert is cuddled up to my side, sleeping.  I’m grateful for every day he’s not suffering and we can prolong the inevitable – which I sense is creeping in between us – but, not today.  I’ve been making chicken broth for him and he loves it.  I mix it into his wet food so that he gets more water into his system as well as nutrition.  I love that he still loves to eat.  If he wants to ‘eat me out of house and home’, fine with me.

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I’m getting a similar sense of Therapy and Meditation as I did from Watercolor Journeal in the work I’ve been doing on the Redux paintings.  I go to my workplace in the morning, pick up the brush, that ‘something’ kicks in and my mind is free-wheeling.  I’ve been working on 20 or so paintings that I’d offer for sale for $20 – $60 per painting.  I’m enjoying most every moment.  I’m working on these paintings to present to the gallery I checked-out a few weeks ago and am aiming for the end of March.

I’ve pretty much decided that if these 20 or so paintings aren’t sold by the end of June, I’m going to shred them and use the shreds in my compost.   It seems a proper means of disposal for these small creations that gave me so much pleasure in the doing.

I’ve also been working on the larger paintings which were always intended for another show but where or when that show will appear, is still a mystery to me.  I’m working under the theory that if I have them ready, a show will appear.  I’m leaving a lot to The Universe, these days.

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I received a check from my former employer.  It was for less than I’d billed her.  It was a computer generated check.  That mystery continues….

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