Some Lighter Times

The other day I posted the recipe for a Turbo Tonic on Facebook. It came from a friend in Australia who considers this her favorite drink. It is equal parts gin and cold coffee, then tonic water and lime or lemon…just add ice. It sort of dresses up, or down, a gin and tonic. Reviews have been mixed among those mostly not committing themselves to actually trying it. But so far one good convert.

I was sharing the recipe with our kids on a group call. We do this twice a week to make isolation a bit more bearable. We also have a drink on these calls and then they mail the labels from those bottles so they can be added to the Covid Coping Book. The book is close to being filled up with labels and I will have to make another…maybe more than one to get us all through.

So in one of these calls and after a drink of a Turbo Tonic, I told my kids that when I was a child, I did this very fun but very strange thing. To get a nickel from friends so my brother and I could go to the Saturday movie in this very small and very up north town, we would charge them to see us eat poison ivy, shatter old plates over one another’s heads, and as a big finale, but only after a good rain we did the following:

Note: Let me be clear here, it was early fifties. Eisenhower was president and we were pretty much left to amuse ourselves. There was no weekly allowance for doing chores that were just part of being in a household with others. And my brother and I were pretty creative…both growing up to be artists. We were quite sure it was poison ivy because we asked our mom and if you hit the top of the head with the center of the chipped, thrown out plate, it did not hurt but shattered perfectly.

So after a good rain and water filled the ditches, we would take an old rusty bread pan and catch what we called “rain fish” from the ditch and enough of the water so he could swim around. These fish only were in the ditches after a rain and we had no idea how they suddenly appeared. We also had a length of rubber hose that was about four feet long.

So any kid who would eat poison ivy had no problem charging their friends another nickel to see them slurp out the water without swallowing the fish. Yes, crazy, I know that. But a nickel is a nickel. The fun part was we had a friend, David, who just knew he could also do it. He got that fish in his mouth every time. The secret is that you have to keep the hose at the tail end of the fish…..away from where he is headed.

So our kids were not all that surprised when I told them about this in the call. They know that I have very few people to talk to and share stories. Plus they are kind and seem to be genuinely interested in my childhood.

So here is the outcome of that call. As a treat on our next call our son made this drink to “share” with me. It is not rusty but still a bread pan. He added some gin and lime to give the water flavor, tossed in some miniature Swedish fish and found a flexible straw.

I am sure all those limes were to simulate ditch side vegetation.

I was delighted beyond words to see this ingenuity! If he had been here in person, I would have paid him a nickel. He is sending me the fish and the “hose” so I can make my own in a bread pan….and of course there was some alcohol added….gin or vodka, I will get his recipe.

And more drawings a day.

My stacking these rocks

does not make them easier

to draw on the page.


A nice wildflower

but then  added another

rock to yesterday.

Lovely fennel bush

has leaves that are bursting forth

like breathy whispers.


The fennel has bloomed

and yet still is unable

to stop leafing out.


And a bit more news today. It has taken quite awhile to get this post written. Yesterday our air conditioner went out. First off I had the fellow visit it outside to hear the noise. Ah Ha it has frozen up. We will turn on the fan to make it unfreeze. Visiting the actual machine in the basement, Ah Ha it is the capacitor.  Good he has another one in his truck. Gets the old one unscrewed and realizes it is the fan blades! Unbolts the fan to see that most of the blades have banged themselves loose. Ah Ha we will order a new fan! Then on close examination the motor may have been damaged. Ah Ha let’s get a new motor, too!

Fine, whatever it takes. He has to go visit his pastor to fix something there. I ask him not to put the pastor ahead of us. I tell him his pastor has connections and maybe he (pastor) could try that first.

I am assured that he won’t forget us and will get back with me later today about whether parts are available tonight or tomorrow morning. This man is big, covered with tattoos, looks to be about mid thirties and since, like I said there are few people to talk to, he is happy to share that he is fifty-two, is a grandfather to an eighteen year old boy getting his driver’s license, belongs to a motorcycles for missions organization, and he never, not once, stops smiling and assuring me that it will all get better.

I get his card just in case I get down and drinking alcohol from a bread pan doesn’t help. When he comes back I will ask him to just glance at my dehumidifier and tell me why that has decided not to run.

That is it for today. Except that the caregiver has car troubles, there is no one else to fill in and Lee is dragging rocks about on his own. My studio time sorting out pages for The Stoat Story will have to wait til Wednesday.

Til later.


Some Days Are Hard

This is Lee’s rake. He has used it for a long time. It does not do much but he used it anyway. It’s condition is due to his trying to uproot rocks and roots. When I found out I could order and curbside pickup at the hardware, I got him a new one, a bright red handled one. Besides that, I got two new bottles of super glue to put things back together.

I can’t put his brain back together. I can’t offer much in the way of comfort when he cries, confused and wanting to go “home”. I just rub his shoulders, tell him who I am, where we live and how long we have been together….fifty-three years. He remembers none of that and thinks I am not being truthful. This only happens on cloudy days and late in the day. I know it will happen more often as time goes on but it is just so hard.

I don’t dare cry, I don’t show any emotion that will make it harder for him. I simply chat away, filling in the empty spaces of his sobs. And then it is over. I suggest a drink or a dish of ice cream or a walk around the yard.

We are isolated. The joy comes from twice weekly group calls to family and the mail box when a friend sends him postcards with his name written large enough for him to read, when another friend sends hand drawn postcards that always have his name somewhere on the card…and those thoughtful friends from down under who remember me with kindness. He does not know who the people are behind the cards but likes that he is thought of. So thank you to the precious few who do this for him and me.

He continues to line up rocks. I continue to adjust to a life that has changed so drastically.  Here are some things I pointed out to him the other day.

I think how wonderful it would be to crawl deep into here and not come out…..but I won’t.

And some of his new installations along the driveway.

This morning he brought me four small rocks like the ones above. I thanked him and said that tomorrow morning I was going to do a drawing of them all stacked up in my drawing a day book. He was happy with that idea and we carried them into the drawing “place”.

Here are the last four days of drawings.

These small clay-like rocks

were drawn with difficulties

in finding their forms.


It is the subtle

planes of gradual levels

that making drawing hard.


Rock from Canada

was such a wonderful gift

from Jo McEwen.


Sent from Alaska

is this flattish round smooth stone

allowed in the house.


I look forward to tomorrow’s drawing time and getting Lee’s approval.

The other day I found some journals with only writings of observations. Here are two from a fairly recent trip down under.

Helen’s favorite drink , a turbo tonic. Equal parts cold coffee and gin, add tonic and lemon or lime…makes no difference.

(I think I will fix this drink tonight for our family call at seven.)

The room fills with the noise of women. Collectively it is not the sound of voices, but deep-throated cockatoos. The room rattles. There is a steady chink of wine glasses. The only discernible voice is the one next to me and it is a shame I have no interest in what I hear. The voice you want to listen to is at the back – where the faces show interest and intensity. I want to know what warrants that.

Women are hard to gather together when it is required – not so much when an inner voice instead, demands their presence. The carpet is hotel lobby red with evenly spaced medallions of green leafy shapes forced into squares. I sit by the podium because I can use the table to hold my own glass of wine.

Whimagery – “the interaction of thought and light, and reveals the hitherto unknown aspects of history.” Also, the release of our minds into fantasy in order to enrich our imaginations.”

Hetrotopia is the otherness of place…Michel Fucoult…think of your reflection in the mirror….you are there and here at the same time…both places.

Those two words and their meanings seem to be very much where I am now, here and not here, both places full of the never ending thoughts of my own imaginings.

Okay, til later. I need to do some trimming of the test form for the Stoat Story. Lee is outside with his caretaker and some rocks.


Back in Studio and Printing

Before I get to printing, here is the man who will put in a nice winding trail for Lee to wander and place some of his rocks. It will go in and out of the woods and switchback in places too steep to head straight back to the studio door.

And the last four days of drawings a day.

Old oregano

has very sparse leaves and blooms.

But is still potent.


Grape vines continue

to stretch out with grasping reach

of aspirations.

A Eucalyptus!

I bought all that the store had.

Five of seven live!


Distorted effort

of one of the surviving

Eucalyptus trees.


Now to the printing I had a chance to try yesterday. On Wednesday afternoon I worked on a small acrylic plate from Melbourne Etching, First the drawing, then place the plate over and copy.

I was inspired by the butterfly bushes in the yard.

Here is the first print….paper too wet.

I am sooo out of practice! The first test prints while I get the feel of wiping the plate.

And the one I picked out to add watercolors.

It felt so good to be back in the studio. I can etch plates over drawings upstairs and then use the time Lee has a minder to get back to printing.

I have approved the samples of The Stoat Story so will also be working on those books. Most of them will be mailed with the rest of the Bush Books to Australia. So grateful for the supporters down under. And their payments will be to Kangaroo Island restoration.

More later.

What Keeps Me Busy Right Now

The sudden changes from hot to cool rain take an emotional toll. Today I have four hours to get this blog done and then maybe, just maybe try to make a new print of something….anything! I worry my inks will dry up or I won’t find my tools or I won’t know what to make an image of or I will have forgotten how to do any of it. Hot humidity does that….makes you feel totally incapable.

Here is the back yard before rain last night.

And during the rain.

When the yard man returns I am going to have him carve a trail for Lee to walk down through here. Something winding that will bring him back to the house. He is now digging up rocks to place in lines around the driveway. I think I am beginning to not only see the necessity for him to do that, but how satisfying it must be for him to find a way to make an order out of chaos that must be going on in his head at times.

Normally he will drop off to sleep before I have read a paragraph to him but he stayed awake for the entire reading of Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. It was fun to read. I cried at three places in the book which confused him because he was not getting the sadness of something happening. I just took another sip of single malt and got hold of myself, we laughed and I read on. It is that kind of story….relatable.

So just because, here is the front yard in the rain last evening.

Thank heaven the tree trimmer came last month or I would not be able to see through the leaves.

I am now helping Lee get dressed after his shower. Making sure his shorts are on with the fly in the front, helping him steer into his undershirt and sweat shirt. He can do socks and jeans with zipper, button and belt buckling and strap the velcro on his shoes. He can brush his hair, part it but forgets to then brush it away from the part. He can brush his teeth but needs the toothpaste put on. He can still use his electric shaver but misses quite a bit. And I must say it is hard to use that shaver on someone else’s face. I can’t seem to have him make all those necessary contortions that men do to tighten their skin in different areas. But it was fun trying. Once he can’t feel any more whiskers, he says I am finished, and thanks me for doing it.

The other day I took out the Responsibility Hands sketchbook and started filling it in with some new things he has forgotten.

He had filled a glass with Worcestershire sauce thinking it was beer….I caught that just in time. I could see why it happened. The bottle was the right size, it was brown and what came out looked like a nice deep porter. I think I got him to understand that the beer is only kept in the garage refrigerator, not the one in the kitchen that holds too many strange and nasty things that look like beer. I think our dining out days might be over now. He gets confused on his utensils and piles up whatever he considers non-edible on his napkin or on the table. Whatever is considered edible he cuts into the smallest pieces and mixes it all together.

I think I should write a book about living with dementia, how frustrating and funny it is at the same time. Document the slow decline and use these images as illustrations. I don’t know when I would have the time now.  Right now I am getting concerned with other ideas of things that I feel are important to get done. You know how it is when you wake up at three in the morning and say, “I really need to do that!” Then in the morning if you think of it again, you talk yourself out of it.

Well, I am not going to do that anymore. I am going to take care of it so I can sleep through the night and wait for the next idea to wake me up.

The drawings a day continue. I am making them larger, letting them run onto the facing page.

The inspiration for these drawings is this bed of black bamboo filling a stone-walled horse trough that we bought from a farm supply place for just that purpose….keeping the bamboo contained.

Within just a sprig

of black bamboo its elegance

is so apparent.


Old broken bamboo

fill in among all the new

and middle aged stalks.


Cautiously picked this

prickly stem of leaves and bloom.

Is it nettles?


Butterfly bush stem

of intense violet blooms

on ends of branches.

I still have three hours left of my four hour reprieve. I made new mailing labels on the printer. The very few books for a forest restoration charity in this country have mostly been mailed out. Only three of the ten Bush Books picked up interest in this country…the rest go to Australia and most of those mailed along with the Stoat Story.

My sample of the Stoat Story should arrive this week for me to go over and assemble. What works perfectly in our heads needs to be tested in reality. I am glad that Gwen Diehn reminded me of her son’s printing business. He has been most helpful long distance and seems to get what I am saying in emails. As soon as I get those sheets and turn them into books with hard covers, I will mail them out.  Thank you again to those who wanted one and plan to donate to the National Forests Organization here in this country and another that benefits the restoration of forests on Kangaroo Island off the coast of South Australia. The exact addresses/websites will be mailed with each book.

Okay, I am going to sign off now.

Til later.