We woke up this morning to what looks like a sea change in the country. Thank you to the voters of Georgia for getting us to this day!
Anxiously watching the news these past few days I have been working in my new marks sketchbook. Here is the evolution to where I drew in it this morning.
I turned the page and drew some more quick line drawings of a couple of things in the room and then a less structured outline for filling in with marks.
Then on the short page drew myself with one earring.
Next I thought to pattern her scarf.
Turned the page to make a new outline to fill in and then sketch models with jackets.
This morning I filled in one of the coats and gave two of them an earring and the third a scarf.
What I am really enjoying is the tight structure imposed on the random drawings. I get to be loose and tight at the same time and on the same page. I have no idea where this is going but I would not mind filling the entire book with these types of illustrations. Four more ink pens have been ordered. No writing has occurred to me to put in the book so far.
But I have been working on my short story about Ellie, the recently widowed older woman in the Kind Gesture story….the novella that can be found on my website. The other day I left her finishing off her lunch, reminiscing about her childhood, and getting ready to dig a hole. When I first wrote about her, she was fixing lunch for her friend, Margaret. She is an abominable cook and a recent vegetarian which actually allows for poor cooking. All the short stories must have a relation to the kitchen. If I did not set limits I could be all over the place….more than I am now.
And I have redone the tether lines for the book and will make perfect copies to take to a printer…..just as soon as my Epson ink shows up. Just yesterday we received mail sent three weeks ago.
That is it for now. I need to go back to the news and see what is going on.
Patrick taking Lee down to feed the animals the day before he went back home. It was a good two weeks of having him here. The two of them worked daily in the shop on turning wine bottles into glasses and wind chimes. Patrick also got to do a bit of wood turning. Lee’s biggest and I think only job was running the vacuum after any dust that showed up. Instead of the shop triggering memories of all the things he used to do, Lee seems to think the shop is Patrick’s shop and he gets to help keep it clean when Patrick is using it.
Thinking Lee might take a sad turn after Patrick left, I filled yesterday with making lasagna for the freezer, baking banana bread and letting him vacuum the dead fern leaves out on the porch. This morning while the cleaning lady was here I took him for a drive out to the dam where we walked in better weather and before Covid. The caregiver is here now and I have several hours to write.
Speaking of which I now have the finished Trusting the Tether Line book. The only change I might make is increasing the font size…what is a 9 in Book Antiqua is a smaller 9 in Garamond. It can not be much larger because one of the poems has just enough length for one page but not enough to make it look right on two pages. Funny how all those types of things go into the decisions of how you want a book to look and feel.
Cover with heavy card stock. Hard covers would make the book feel more distant from the reader.
There are two signatures of six folios each. As a friend pointed out, “You can always do a volume 2 if you are not through writing on this subject.”
The tether line starts on the title page and continues through the last page. I had to run all the tether lines on the pages first…both sides of the paper. And because my printer had not been used in awhile, the ink bursts out even though I cleaned the heads twice. That process used up even more ink, not to mention paper, so now I am waiting for my order from Epson to arrive before I can make more of this book.
Only the tether line appears on the left side. I like the feel of this book in the hand. I like the words. Here is the introduction that appears on the first page after the title page. No Pages are numbered because there is no need to think of the order of things.
Introduction to Trusting the Tether Line
We have shared a life of over fifty years with the last several in the company of dementia.
The diagnosis brought shock, grief, anger and fear of how we were going to make it through all the changes that had to be made. Our lives were not just interrupted but irrevocably altered to meet the needs of the one afflicted and the other left coping.
I needed to find ways to help me deal with all the new responsibilities. At first I stitched endlessly into a rotting linen shawl trying to make it whole again. Holding onto that cloth and being covered by it at the same time was comforting. Next I traced the outline of my hands six times in a sketchbook and slowly filled the space inside with drawings of the things he could no longer do. By doing this I could actually see how much I was needed and how much I was taking care of. After that I began to write poetry that was a short glimpse into our lives.
Friends encouraged me to write about living with dementia because it might be helpful to others. The best I have to offer is the sharing of those poems.
Of course that introduction is laid out to properly fit onto the narrow page.
And the newest short poem I wanted on the last page.
I wish, I wish, I wish
I wish, I wish….
until I don’t
I had known
that would happen.
I would like to find a way to get this book into print but the format of the pages matters to the content, so not sure if that would even be possible. In the meantime because I have this precious time for writing, I am thinking of doing a volume of short stories. It will let me go back to that town in North Carolina from Kind Gestures and visit some women I miss. And there are those notes of overheard conversations in diners, the overworked tools in the kitchen that have so many memories and experiences, and on and on….
There is so much more than Lee and me to put on paper.
You are welcome to just skip this one and wait for something better, something pretty, something fun. This may not be your cup of tea.
I am holed up in the office downstairs. This Leunig cartoon showed up on my facebook page this morning. It came on the heels of long distance kindness. Saturday a note came from two old neighbors that were part of our kids childhood. Tears flowed down my face as I read such nice words that they think of me often and hope I am hanging in there. They read my blog just to catch up on Lee and I.
Sunday morning we are at the diner for breakfast. Lee is not in a particularly pleasant mood….which is rare nowadays. He says that he doesn’t want to be there. Without warning again tears drip down as I think, “Is this one more thing I am losing?”
The day before I was talking with my daughter and told her that I honestly think I have lost myself. Now I was thinking that those years of Sunday breakfasts were coming to a close….those silly napkin wrapper things that were something to smile about might be over. I used my napkin to wipe tears away when Lee said I looked sad. He told me his omelette was good to make me feel better. And I told him that I would not count on us always having to go to breakfast on Sunday mornings, that I would ask him first if he wanted to go. We left it there.
And this morning an email from a friend in St. Louis catching me up on her husbands illness as she cares for him. She has in home care assisting, she has relatives that check in daily along with her friends, and her art group has set up a meals delivery service to help her out.
We picked the wrong place to live. I only have the paid for friends of home care. Someone stays with Lee for four hours three times a week so I can come downstairs and do something on my own. Work in the studio on something that I have no idea what to do with afterwards, write on my blog about times when it all seems too much.
I know there are people out there who are in similar situations and they read my words that sometimes help, but not today. Today is a letting-it-out day.
Today is not the time for a once a week call to tell me all the fun things you are doing and the great places you are going. Not today.
It took a couple of months for an out of town friend who regularly visits the folk school to let me know that she could not interest anyone she knew here to come by and check on us…check on me. The only surprise there was she remembered to tell me after two months of, “I am going to get someone to come over.”
I will not take Lee away from the only place he knows. Our doctors are here. We both need that security right now. But I will leave eventually with few regrets….and find a new home closer to those who send the type of kindness that brings tears to my eyes.
On a lighter note for those of you looking after someone with dementia. This morning Lee was thrashing around in the bathroom. He couldn’t get his pants open. On inspection, he had put on two pairs of shorts…one frontwards and one backwards. I told him to pull the whole bunch of clothes down and just sit. I told him,”I’ve been doing it for years and it works just as well.” We both laughed at that.
And lately he knows his arms are supposed to go in the sleeves of his shirt but he has been going up the sleeves from the wrist end and comes to find me with no idea what comes next. When we get the shirt worked off and I remind him to climb up through the bottom he says, “Boy am I stupid.” And I tell him that with two arms things are just twice as hard to figure out….and he is satisfied with that and we move on.
Now he is upstairs with his care giver. The care this one gives is to just sit with him and talk or watch TV. The other one has him doing exercises for his range of motion and memory. He laughs more with the one who makes him move.
I am going to go over to the studio and pick up the papers and cloth that I dyed with Eucalyptus. I am going to bury my nose in them and think of my long distance friends in Australia who are getting ready to head to the Grampians and take workshops, and have flat whites, and try not to buy too much cloth and paper and thread……and….
And I am going to pull myself together. Suck it up.
And as soon as five o’clock comes and the caregiver leaves, I am having a good full bodied single malt and pouring Lee a Southern Comfort….and we will go on the porch and remember better times…..and smile.
I met Lin in a workshop I was teaching in 2008 titled, Book, Basket, Box: Placement for Memory. She was building a place for the recollections of a deeply religious upbringing. Both parents were gone and Lin wanted to build objects and images to hold the power of how they shaped her faith and religious beliefs. As Lin put it, “God was always at our table.”
I never went to church as a weekly practice, but I did know some Bible stories from early days at Sunday school. Lin knew all of those and more.
In her house the Old Testament was kept handy and referred to often. She loved the security of pious, good parents and told us many funny and loving stories of her childhood. Lin was an excellent story teller and when she would put her words on paper in cards to Lee and I after staying for a few days, we would read them over and over and laugh.
We got on well in that first workshop and Lin would return for other ones. But the best of times were when she came to my studio for private time, often with another student she met in that earlier class. They stayed in the apartment and had all their meals with Lee and me. He did most of the cooking because I stayed in the studio or took off with them to find just the right piece for Lin’s work in country flea markets.
Her goal was to continue with work based on Old Testament stories. She did not talk about having an exhibition of the work. Lin thought that the sculptures would be misinterpreted as a negative on being raised in a highly religious home. And she knew that in the South the work could be seen as blasphemous. I wanted her to push for exhibition outside of the South but she had little interest in doing that. Over the many years of her doing the work here in my studio I took pictures as best I could, just to have a record of the work. And when she left for home all the pieces were carefully packed into boxes…..mostly not to unpacked again.
I keep this picture of Lin working in my studio as a reminder of her dedication to her art about the faith she was raised with, up until her death a few years ago.
Her primary medium for showing the stories of her childhood were old composition dolls. When she arrived on Sunday her car was loaded with these dolls, piles of rusty things, old foundry molds, skeletal remains, hides, old bibles, tools, paints…..there was no surface not filled with the things she might need to make her sculptures.
The fearful stories of a vengeful God in the old testament were somehow softened by the use of dolls a little girl would have played with. Because of the age and sorry shape of some of the dolls she either brought with her or we would find at antique shops, they were sometimes creepy to say the least. And really fit the part they were portraying in Lin’s story telling.
I took pictures of all of the pieces. She only worked on them here and I would move all my own work out of the way to make room for the complexities of assembling parts.
Eve in The Garden of Eden
And a view of the back with rib bone.
Every single doll needed to have these muslin torsos where each evening when Lin went back to the apartment after dinner, she would write the entire story from her bibles.
Samson before the writing. We looked hard to find a doll that could pass as a male figure in the stories.
And the words added.
Jonah and the Whale was a tour d’force. Made from an antique doll buggy with foundry mold and horns for the tail emerging from the water.
This is the first one she did in the studio and remains my favorite because of the sweetness of the face on the child being warned of what will happen to their body if they don’t obey.
I also loved that Lin found a doll that had a white child’s face but the rubber arms and leg turned a dark brown. This one really fit the story perfectly.
The story here is written on the large cast paper shell below Moses and the turtle shell. Those “bullrush” leaves were unused golf club handle wraps. (She could find the best stuff).
Somewhere there was a story about God and a Wounded Man.
And the start of Lott’s Wife. It took some maneuvering to get her to look back at the attached salt pillar. I don’t think this one was ever finished…but a great start.
And another story of what God would take away if…..
The story of Passover really came to life when Lin found the exact same doll she had as a child to play the part and we talked an old man who owned a leather shop out of his prized goat mask. The bed for this child is an old rusty tool box we found at our favorite shop where the owner would look at what we piled up and toss a price out there….we always agreed to whatever he wanted for his junk.
And another favorite because Lee was always handy to make some parts…in this case the coffin for the one left behind…”two women were working in the field, one was chosen and the other left behind.”
I like how the chosen one got lifted to Heaven so fast she lost her shoe and sock.
And Lin wanted to use some of her dolls to address the child’s nightly prayer…”If I should die before I wake….”
We got her soul to rise by making a transparency to attach to the arch. The little dark girl in the last bed is glancing over in disbelief. The beds are all assembled foundry molds and rusty rings for headboards. I really liked the little girl still saying her prayers.
This one on baptizing children at home was also a very good one.
A curved fishing lure that fit the curve of the wire fishing bucket, the boat buoy with a small bible opened to the page for instruction, her Sunday best dress and head tilted back….
When Lin and I were at the favorite junk shop she looked into a bucket of rusty nails and saw The Sacred Heart. She gladly paid what he wanted for the rusty strings wrapped around a nail.
Several of Lin’s pieces were about the futility of war.
An old ammo pouch, bible pages tucked into bullets and two left feet.
The sadness of war. Lin went on to do many more like this.
She sometimes used her own family in pieces like this Specimen Family.
I miss having her things strewn around all my available space. I miss her.
I miss being in the company of artists who work this hard for no other reason than they have something to say…and it never really mattered who was listening.
After Lin passed away I wrote her husband to not feel bad if he just took all those dozens of boxes to the dump. It was okay. Lin’s joy was in the connections each piece brought her to the memory of loving parents with a solid faith.
I also told him to not even think about loading them all up and bringing them to me.
What I showed here is a fraction of the pieces she made. The photos are as good as I could get them at the time.
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