Choosing My Times and Places

In the last few weeks I have found the perfect, uninterrupted time and place to write what gets distracted here at home. It is the local cocktail bar when hardly anyone is there. And besides that, no one wants to intrude on an old lady with a legal pad and pen.

The respectful bartender brings my drink, a Manhattan, and then she leaves me to it. I have been working on a new short story and what the characters want to say comes easier for them in this setting. I can listen in here.

I needed to know how the Dewey Decimal System actually works. It is a curiosity that might play a part in the new story. So I went to the local library to ask. It is all decorated for the holidays.

I loved seeing all these different newspapers laid out for the patrons who come in to kill time waiting for the one they came in with to make a decision on who comes home with them. Anyway, the librarian and an assistant were very helpful with my questions. But as usual what happens most times is that too much information can dilute the passions of inquiry.

So here it is Saturday. A dreary Saturday. I am way overdue for this blog. I looked out the front door and found I still avoid looking at how close the houses are.

Lee’s ashes are on the way to the stone place. They will be returned in assorted sizes for us to place around as of February 2…Groundhog Day! I am all settled up with the funeral home and reminded the director that the next time he sees me I won’t be talking much but he now knows what to do.  I reached for his hand and was reminded again how hard their profession must be at times.

I was trying to tell someone recently that I am sorting my life into “then” and “now”. Just because so much is in the “then” does not mean it’s effects are not part of the “now”. It only means that I don’t live there anymore. My “now” place is filling up with the things I want to be involved with. New neighbors who are so much more interested in who and what I am. The other night I asked the new young couple, she, a doctor, he, a home care giver, over for red wine and pizza. So refreshing it was. Both interested in art and their new neighborhood. We plan on meeting up again over a nice red. I catch up with other neighbors on my walks or at tai chi classes. It is a nice place to be and so much more accepting than the “then” place left behind.

The other day, looking for my address book that has the contacts I send Christmas cards to, I found no less than three business card books of everyone Lee and I needed to count on to make our lives easier….repairmen, window washers, tax helpers, in fact loads of helpers. All of them part of the “then” , even the “way back when then”. Today I will not lose myself in those memories and thoughts of who might not be with us anymore, but will simply toss them out. The little desk Lee made for me when we were first married made an audible sigh of relief when I pulled them out.

When Patrick and Marla were here for Thanksgiving, I had them change a couple of boats on my shelves. I wanted The River Lethe closer so I could peer inside at the passengers and read their words, all in the past tense. I loved making this boat when Lee was first diagnosed with dementia. It is based on the Greek mythology of the river of forgetfulness, Lethe, flowing to the river Styx where the boat passengers would be taken onward to Hades for judgement. What I loved about the story was that the water from Lethe encouraged the passengers to forget who and what the were, where they came from… In my interpretation, the passengers enter below decks, dropping their baggage before going down further to find a seat. They have all drunk the water. But so has a rather forgetful ferryman who has lost track of whether he is coming or going, so ties the boat up and joins his passengers. All of them in a forgetful state of waiting for what comes next.

I just noticed that a small sculpture I did is directly on the shelf underneath. It is an old tin box with pages made from sandpaper sheets students in a woodworking class gave me when I was teaching at Arrowmont several years ago. They could not understand why I wanted sandpaper that was no good anymore. I told them it was for a sculpture titled, The Irritations of Aging. When a sheet is pulled out it scratches those next to it like dry old skin. On the back of each sheet are snips of writings on the subject of aging from my journals. Only one page has a small copper jingle bell to remind us that there is sometimes a bit of joy to be found in getting older. I rather enjoy fumbling through the pages.

I also took a picture of the autobiographical heads of right and left brain thinking. they gather and confer in the corner of the living room.

My last load of laundry has dried. I will fold, iron and put it away before spending the rest of the day filling the house with the smells of homemade soup.

Til later….

Wonderful Week!

Patrick and Marla, my two interior decorators arrived Monday evening and it was a non-stop whirlwind of getting things done. He worked on finishing up two oak table tops to take to friends who lost theirs that Lee made to a house fire. Marla went along with my idea of using an old book to make ornaments for the Christmas tree.  She was on stars and I was making birds.

Every year when Patrick comes down for Thanksgiving, we set up our idea of a Christmas tree. I am rather fond of those LED lit wrapped wire branches type. Easy to collapse and stuff back in the box. We set up the two I have and called them Sticks and Stones. We also love adding the glass pears I bought years ago that have stayed stuffed with dried up lacy Japanese maple leaves. Here is how it looked going together.

We stopped to have some of the wonderful gin that Marla bought at the Victoria Market in Melbourne and hauled with her the rest of her Australia trip earlier this year.

Gin and tonics in Lee’s first cut wine bottle glasses. Perfect size. We took ourselves off to a local cocktail bar for drinks and pizza. All delicious!

We delivered the tables.

I also delivered the artwork I made for them using bits of their burned house. It was a very nice evening there.

Then it was time to fit in Thanksgiving dinner.

We decided that the living room needed just the right chair added to the space but it had to be the “perfect” chair. We found it at the local furniture store and within an hour of deciding it was necessary we were sitting in it at home.

We had our usual toast to Pacia with her Fresca, cheap whisky, ice, served in Jefferson cups and with a healthy bowl of popcorn made just how she made it. Pacia is a regular at The Spirits Bar…a place we open to old friends we just would like to have another drink with.

This is a small limited edition book I wrote with the help of Lee and Patrick as we reminisced about the good times we had with those who were now gone. The bar opens when we think of them and they just come in, order their favorite drink and visit for awhile…with us or new customers they just met coming in.

And after some remembering and toasting, we relaxed and enjoyed the trees.

And during it all we fitted in a walk on the river…

Patrick and Marla should be halfway home by now. All the laundry is finished, floors cleaned, and now a lengthy blog finished.

More later….

Art, Artwork, Christmas Cards, A Manhattan and Decisions Being Made

Last night I went to an art opening in the town I just left behind. No one from that town but the gallery owner seemed to be there. But a nice crowd from here came out to support Wendy and her wonderful paintings of pets.

It was good to see this show of Wendy’s work. She is a member of our very small art group and we had talked about her practice in the past. To see several pieces of someone’s work in a small space was a treat. I had a brief visit with others who came out for the opening, turned down an invitation to join some of them for dinner back here in town. Instead on the way home I decided to stop at a newly opened bar to sit quietly with a Manhattan, wait for an oven baked pizza to arrive and write on some paper sourced by the bartender. It was a nice quiet place to be alone and write. I might do this on a regular basis of maybe once a week. The atmosphere was just right. I am going to take Patrick and Marla there when they come down this week for Thanksgiving.

I met with the funeral director this week. I assured him I was fine, that there was no sadness because that came to us all quite a while back. Back a few years ago when the reality of dementia settled into our lives. He will be contacting a company out in Santa Fe called Parting Stone to have Lee’s remains turned into between 40 and 80 various sized stones.  Amy, Patrick, Marla and I talked about this before and found it perfect for remains. One of Lee’s pleasures was the placement of stones. And the last several years at our old place, he was forever making rows upon rows of stones.

Each of us has places to put Lee’s stones…places that meant something to him. Like in the Rotary Park in the small town we raised the kids in and he was President for a term, like near our old booth at the Renaissance Festival where he covered his shirt and jeans with a monk’s robe so he and the potter next door (who still does the festival) could share peach schnapps to warm up before sales, the cemetery in our small town by the graves of our elderly very dear friends, sitting next to the bourbon bottle when Patrick wants to share a Manhattan with his dad in remembrance, in the drawer with the hot pads so he can be near when cookies are taken out of the oven…..on and on it goes as we think of the places and people he loved most.

They will do the same with my ashes and make sure a couple of stones end up in Australia.

Needless to say, the funeral director who, like all his counterparts, was so ready to offer tissues, list of things to remember about having a final farewell ceremony, all those things they are trained to do. I gave him a copy of my Spirits Bar book so he would have an idea of how we plan on celebrating his passing from now on. Lee will no longer be the one who keeps everyone who has passed (and we invite back for “one more drink”) favorite drink on hand, but be one of our favorite guests, free to join whatever table or barstool he chooses.

I do want to thank so many sending messages and fun memories they had of Lee. Some of you I will get back to because you were so kind to us during the hard time of adjusting but also because it has been so long and your stories made me smile. Thank you.

I finished the Christmas cards…now just the writing messages and mailing them out.

And finally the artwork for friends who were burned out is framed.

And how it looked before going off for framing.

We are all going to their house for dinner this week. I will take this as a new house warming gift and Patrick will take the new table tops he made to replace the one Lee made for a table we gave them that burned up in their house fire, Some of those burned remains were used in my drawing/stitched piece.

There is one more story…I went over to welcome new neighbors to Riverwalk. I heard one was a doctor and the other a physical therapist. They are quite young…early thirties. I took Anzac cookies to give them. They wanted to know which house I lived in so I pointed out their back porch to my back yard and said the one with the Japanese-looking garden. They saw our stone lantern and remembered I said I was from Brasstown. They asked if I had a koi pond there, a shop with an apartment above, was the house all stone? Turns out they saw the house and considered it their dream house. They even saved pictures of it. At the time it was out of their price range but they never got over how much they loved it. I asked if they liked red or white. They said red. And the next day there was a nice thank you note in the mailbox with a promise that we will enjoy several reds over the winter. They have a years lease on the house and I am hoping to see them several times. Isn’t that a great story? Lee would have loved them.

Better get going. I am supposed to go watch a college football game with a neighbor this afternoon. All I know about football is if the socks slip down, it is college and if they stay up, it is the professionals.

Til later…

Overdue Post and a Passing

Heading to the gym the other morning and caught this sliver of moon and the star that I think is Venus.

Then this from yesterday morning when my mind was on Lee’s time getting near. The image captures the feeling but it was not until just a few minutes ago that his nurse, a wonderful nurse that Lee and I knew from our old gym, called to say Lee is gone. I think he was waiting until I poured the wine. Tonight on the family call we will each be having our favorite drink to toast him on his way.

So, after a call from Josh (nurse) early this morning telling me it would be today I thought I needed something to keep me busy. Since I had the dry point image mostly ready, I decided to print our Christmas cards. It is a nest with eggs and a couple of Christmas balls that the bird took back to its nest. I will watercolor the ornaments to give that touch of color. I used one of the small plates I bought at Melbourne etching to do my dry point. My kitchen became a press studio.

There is something magic about making a drawing, translating it onto a printing plate, inking it up, putting it through the press, and saying “Ah Hah! that will do nicely.” I will do more printing this year.

Sadie and Dilly are keeping warm on the lovely felted lap robe that I bought from a student in Australia and now lives on the bed.

Yesterday the baker on the corner where I have coffee with the guys invited me to have a nice hotdog for lunch. It has been years since I had such a good hotdog. Lee would have loved this one with fried onions.

And just across the street from the coffee place I photographed the fallen leaves. A reminder that everything has a season.

This little face is the best thing to look at.

Lee loved all cats and one of my many photos of him before dementia took over completely is this one holding Sadie.

I am off for a walk before the family call….

More later….