December 1, ’14

Dec 1, ‘14

Creative survival rule: don’t confuse the end result with the process.  Julia Cameron


Parcheesi #1, Jan ’09 BEFORE


Parcheesi #1, Jan ’09 AFTER

Julia Cameron’s quote is somewhat along the lines of what I was thinking while I was working on this painting this morning  Which is how Painting, Drawing – any creative act in which I engage — if nothing else, keeps me sane and gives me a sense of well-being.  My desire to be part of The Process, the choice to arrange my life in such a way that I’m able to show up to do the work and learn from it on a regular basis, no matter what, I strongly feel is a saving grace.  I am, for sure, a survivor.  My body of work is proof and the story of my life is the story in each painting.

This approx 8” x 10” painting is titled Parcheesi #1, Jan. ’09.   A few days ago I came across this painting while sorting through a pile of past paintings.  The second I laid eyes on this painting as well as Parcheesi #2,  I was back in my bedroom on Culvert St. —  which was also my studio —  during that very cold January of ’09.  The bedroom on Culvert St was large enough to accommodate more furniture than just a bed and bureau; there was enough room to make a winter studio, a place to hunker down and save heating the entire house.  With nothing more than winter in mind I’d  previously moved in the Dreamer Table, a comfortable chair and a lamp with light that equals sunlight plus books and art supplies.  My plan for the winter was to do more drawings, watercolor sketches and a few paintings using up an excess of supplies I had on hand and using some new elements in my work.

The Parcheesi board was one of those new elements I planned on trying and came from a friend.  I love the design on the board and thought it would be a point of interest as a backdrop in a painting.  It will be interesting to see how many times I used the Parcheesi board, the closer I come to organizing all my work.

As interesting as I found it, I was never excited by using the Parcheesi board in a painting; the pattern is all too time-consuming.  This past summer, the Parcheesi board was relegated to Good Will.  I still have all the artificial peaches but the bowl had a crack; it fell apart one day and I trashed it before I moved.

In early December ’08, a few days after I created my winter studio, I’d hurt my right leg badly when, at a Memorial Service for a dear friend, I’d stepped on a big, fat grape someone had dropped on the floor near the buffet.  I stepped on the grape as I was walking hurriedly across the large room with highly polished floors to get a decorated umbrella I needed to lead a line of mourners in a Dixieland style-memorial procession to our friend.  In this kind of procession, we start off mournfully but the more the music takes us away, the sadness is turned into a celebration of the person who died.

My fall happened quickly and the crash was loud.  I saw the huge green grape a nano-second before my foot landed on it and squashed it into a slippery mass.  My right foot slid through the mass, then my leg twisted and I fell to the ground, headed in the opposite direction of my original intent.  As quickly as I’d fallen, I was as quickly back on my feet, as if nothing had happened.  I didn’t feel any pain, at the time, just embarrassment that I’d fallen and that so many people had heard and seen my fall.  I got my umbrella, went to my place at the head of the line and gave my all to the procession.  It wasn’t until an hour or so later I began to feel any pain and another hour or two after that until I got home and took a few aspirin in order to alleviate the growing pain and swelling in my ankle and knee.  The next day, my right ankle was very swollen and my knee so highly swollen I couldn’t pull my jeans past my knee.   My entire right leg was damaged and useless for walking too far or too long.

Thus began a long process of healing which meant many weeks of relative inactivity with my leg in a raised position on a hassock, constant ice packs, pain killer anti-inflammatory drugs and keeping my life going in a semi-crippled condition through that Winter and Spring.  I holed-up in my bedroom and spent days working in my little make-shift studio keeping warm with a space heater, amusing myself with one drawing after another, one watercolor painting after another and lots of Netflix.  I took a few weeks off work but couldn’t afford to take more time.  I was only working 3 days a week anyhow, so after the initial shock and pain of the injury abated, I continued working outside my home.

What frightened me at the time (and still does) is how quickly this injury occurred and how long it took to heal and the effect on my life.  I lived on the 2nd floor; so walking up and down stairs became a huge issue, as did grocery shopping — the long walk from my car to the store then through the store and back to my car and then carrying those groceries from car to the stairs and up the stairs.  I could barely bend my right leg, which was why stairs were such a challenge, not only in going up but going down, as well.  All in all, I felt more old and vulnerable than I’ve ever felt in my life, so far.

It took almost a year for my leg to feel close to normal.  In the spring of ’09, I started going to the gym regularly to take long walks on the treadmill and that was the best thing I could have done to keep healing the injury.  To date, my right knee and right ankle are 2 weak spots on my body and the two spots most prone to injury.

I feel enormously grateful that all in all, it wasn’t worse.

I worked at refurbishing this painting today for a few hours while we had sun.   I have more to do next time there’s sun.  After the arctic chill of the past few weeks, the high today was in the mid-50’s.  By 2 p.m., the day is turning gray and the temperature is going down.  According to the weather forecast, we may be getting a ‘wintry mix’ of snow and rain tomorrow night.

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9 Responses to December 1, ’14

  1. beetleypete says:

    Hi Gretchen. I have absolutely no idea what Parcheesi is, but I enjoyed the story of the injury at the funeral a great deal. I imagined you leading the funeral procession, New Orleans style, strutting your stuff. I had Mac Rebennack (Dr John) in my mind, as I pictured it.
    I also like the blue tones in the second picture. But as you know, I am a sucker for good blues.
    Best wishes from England, Pete.

    • Hi Pete, Parcheesi was, maybe is, a board game for 2 or more players. I have no recollection of how it was played but I always liked the graphics on the board.

      The strutting I did at the Memorial service was my Swan Song, alas. Probably similar to Dr John; I’m sure he was aware of if not an actual part of the New Orleans scene and Dixieland is big in New Orleans, or at least it used to be.

      The friend we were memorializing had been a friend of my father’s and led the procession at my father’s Memorial Service, in 1994. My father was the co-leader of a Dixieland band and his band played at his Memorial Service, with his replacement on the clarinet. Two of the men in the band who played for his friend in ’08 had been in my father’s Dixieland band years before. I wonder if my lack of feeling pain immediately from the fall had something to do with me, a dedicated introvert, being very determined to publicly honor my father’s and my friend by honoring him the way he honored my father — or something like that…. Anyhow, since then, I feel all ‘debts’ have been paid….

      Thanks for the compliment re: the blues in today’s offering. Best, GG

  2. suej says:

    Hi Gretchen, I also like the blue tones in your second image. What a nightmare re your injury….we do take our health for granted and it certainly frightens us regarding the rapidity with which things can go wrong. I have certainly noticed I am no longer the person I was, and have interventions as managing strategies…..

    • Thank you for your comment and validation to me on 2nd image! I like it better now, too, after all the work I did today.

      I certainly looked at things differently after being in so much pain and so handicapped after stepping on an innocuous grape, that’s for sure. I can feel a growing awareness every day of how fortunate I am to be as healthy as I am, also a growing awareness that I’m not as young as I was and need to take greater care.

      One of the positive and enjoyable things about the injury and healing was having so much time to sit and make art without a great deal of needing to go anywhere or do anything.

  3. candidkay says:

    “My desire to be part of The Process, the choice to arrange my life in such a way that I’m able to show up to do the work and learn from it on a regular basis, no matter what, I strongly feel is a saving grace. I am, for sure, a survivor.” Beautifully put. And I understand your point re: how quickly something can happen and how long it takes to recover from it. Hard to live in grace, not fear, when you’ve been through something like that. Kudos to you for trying.

  4. I love the washy areas around the peaches in this piece. This is quite the terrifying story, Gretchen! I think often of how something simple like that could come close to destroying my life as I’ve known it. I have often said that I’m one broken leg away from homelessness. I’m so glad you came through this intact. You’re an inspiration!

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