In Need of Iron and Fizz

Really, all appearances to the contrary...I'm not...

Really, honest, I don’t try to be a Drama Queen. It just happens.

A friend just posted an appropriate passage from Tom Robbins’s novel Jitterbug Perfume. A young Indian woman, Kudra, has developed a passion for scents (and the mixing thereof) only to find herself arranged to marry a rope maker. Robbins writes the following which resonates loudly with me:

Rope. The Gods have a great sense of humor, don’t they? If you lack the iron and the fizz to take control of your own life, if you insist on leaving your fate to the gods, then the gods will repay your weakness by having a grin or two at your expense. Should you fail to pilot you own ship, don’t be surprised at what inappropriate port you find yourself docked. The dull and prosaic will be granted adventures that will dice their central nervous systems like an onion, romantic dreamers will end up in the rope yard. You may protest that it is too much to ask of an uneducated fifteen-year-old girl that she defy her family, her society, her weighty cultural and religious heritage in order to pursue a dream that she doesn’t really understand. Of course it is asking too much. The price of self-destiny is never cheap, and in certain situations it is unthinkable. But to achieve the marvelous, it is precisely the unthinkable that must be thought.

Clearly, I’m not piloting my ship correctly.

While I don’t think I’m “dull and prosaic”, my adventures have been such that my central nervous system feels minced and not just chopped. Perhaps if my adventures had meaning.

I wrote a blog post yesterday morning while waiting on the electrician. He’d rigged things so I had heat throughout the house, but only power in the kitchen – no internet, phone, hot water, or whirlpool baths. I’ll upload that post tomorrow, maybe[There’s newly developed laptop drama.] In it, I lamented having as my goal wanting to be bored. Finally, I was well and truly bored. I’d been stuck in my house, more or less, for a week without power and/or heat.

When did we have to start paying Knights in Shining Armor?

This morning, while waiting on the electrician to come and finish the replacement of my circuit box, I tripped over the cat in the dark and spilled my cup of coffee on the laptop. Guess what won’t work? My entire life is in that thing. Oh, sure, I can get the stuff off the hard drive by taking it to a shop, but if trying to dry it out doesn’t work, I’m going to be living without a laptop. I’ve really gotten attached to that thing.

I read somewhere that in such instances one should immediately remove the battery, dry everything off with a towel as much as possible, turn upside down and wait 24 to 48 hours. This is what I’m doing. I also chant, “please oh please oh please oh please” a lot. We’ll see.

I arrived home to power, heat, a working dishwasher, and a closet bi-fold door that will now shut. I was rather disgruntled at not to be able to curl up on the sofa with the laptop and proclaim my joy to the world. More importantly, I’ve got a boatload of photos and emails that I HAVE TO HAVE. I have a week’s worth of work on there. This laptop thing is a disaster. I’m not even done with one disaster. . . And so I lament the drama of my life.

Wall O'Art

Fortunately, my blue room makes me smile and I used the traditional laptop time to hang the “art” that just arrived in the mail. Yes, Virginia, you can buy prints of fine art for $4.99. The hanging went reasonably well. I bought these new-fangled hanger thingies that made it a breeze. No more wall anchors for this chickie.

For a better balance of color, I had to move things around on the top of the desk. The arrangement still needs work. The Moss West Virginia poster needs to relocate to another room, the one Georgia O’Keefe needs to move to the to-be vacated-wall and another Georgia (Morning Glories, perhaps) needs to be procured to complete that section of the room.

This Matisse *really* knocks me out - Decorative Figure. . .

Over the desk is now the perfect spot for Matisse’s Decorative Figure on an Ornamental Ground – one of his odalisques. I’ve been looking for this thing FOREVER and finally found the print at a reasonable price – next paycheck maybe.

 I have a thing for Matisse –he just knocks me out. I like Georgia, but she’s no Matisse. The two of them together are a yin/yang that please me. Tom Robbins also rocks my world and one of his novels features Matisse’s Blue Nude – I love how the circles of my affections intersect.

[Oh yes, I can hear you art snobs rolling your eyes. Yes, I chose prints to go with the room. But please remember the room was painted the color it is to go with the objets d’art that were already in the room. And besides, I bought prints that I had always liked – I didn’t just go shopping for blues. So there. As for my pedestrian taste – sue me.]

The print I haven't found yet.

So, yes, back to Tom Robbins – I’m lamenting the meaning of all this chaos. The big stuff I can handle – bone marrow transplants, etc. – it’s all this little crap that’s getting to me. I well and truly feel as if I’m being nibbled to death by ducks – the mundane is going to do me in if I don’t find the oars of my metaphorical boat and start rowing in a different direction. Ah. . .but what direction might that be?

Hell if I know. 

I do know I need fizz that doesn’t fizzle and iron that doesn’t rust.  And adventures that are  little less prosaic (and expensive).

Adventures in Home Improvement (no doubt to be continued ad nauseam)

Lao Tzu might say Don't Sweat the Small Stuff. It's all Small Stuff. It is. It is.

If not for enjoying the pleasure of how well the blue paint for the family room turned out, I would be in a fetal position.  Today’s meditation is Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff.

I’ve mentioned that all efforts in the barn are one step forward, two steps back. Sure, it’s a cliché, but clichés exist for a reason. [Go ahead, ask me about the time the freak tornado landed in Cabell County when the roofing crew was installing the barn’s first real roof. And two of the roofers crashed through the only room of the house with a finished ceiling.]

The craziness started just before the holidays. Circuits kept blowing – either the furnace circuit or the electrical outlet next to this desk (which, by the way, looks absolutely fabulous after a thorough cleaning and set against the blue).

The ancient furnace when it was only 10 years old - now roughly 22 years.

I didn’t think too much of the problem. We were in the midst of that bitter cold and the furnace was cranking nonstop. It’s an old furnace which is on the list of things that need to be replaced and replaced soon.

Then I discovered water in the plumbing closet – dripping from pipes and bathing my walls in a fine mist with significant splashes, and a waterfall now and again. [I believe I’ve effected a fix, temporary, to deal with the problem. Knock on wood.]

And then the dishwasher circuit blew. I’ve already talked about the dishwasher along with the sparks emitted from the top of the hot water heater. Ancient burial ground, I’m telling you.

Grrrrrrr.

Yesterday, I loaded the dishwasher with the blue porcelain and other objets d’art to wash, in cold water. I duly discovered the dishwasher soap to be frozen. Since I do, in fact, store the dishwasher soap INSIDE the house, this was a puzzlement. It’s not been cold enough, by a long shot, for stuff to freeze inside a cupboard inside the barn, with a furnace that does, albeit temperamentally, run.

The furnace circuit tripped just after I’d started the dishwasher to wash. I reset the furnace only to have the dishwasher (and light in the laundry room) go out again.

It seems I can run the dishwasher OR the furnace, but not both. (Guess which one I’m going to pick.) I cannot run the dishwasher under any circumstances with hot water.

In the midst of this chaos, I’m on the phone dealing with a Significant Personal Problem and attending to work tasks (the paid employment type) so as to not have to burn more annual leave to deal with domestic crises.

Good riddance despite the cause.

While on hold with the crisis and waiting for work stuff to scan, I dust the banker’s lamp that USED to sit just to the left of the laptop. The lightbulb exploded and, yup you guessed it, sparks flew and the circuit tripped.

It was, to borrow a phrase and mangle it, an Awful, Horrible, No Good, Rotten, Stinking Very, Very, Very Bad Day.

Mmmmmmmmm.

The ray of sunshine in all of this is the fact that this room looks great. And I’m not even done (damn the dishwasher).

My benchmark for decorating success is if it looks like it always should have been thus said decorating is a Great Success. The family room was born to be blue and it’s a pity it took so many years to uncover that fact.

[And losing the ugly lamp on this desk and replacing it with a much loved Tiffany reproduction was a stroke of serendipity – I’ve been looking for the right place for this lamp to live.]

I have a thing for Matisse - I'll probably explain it in another post someday.

After a night’s sleep which included some really bizarre and amusing dreams, I feel enough of my wa has been restored that I can hum Onward Christian Soldiers and deal with matters at hand – all of them including the predicted winter storm that will find me walking the hill again. [Provisions will be acquired today with the time-honored Appalachian Snow Panic Method.].

For the moment, until the ancient spirits get playful and/or vindictive again, I am hopeful that I can maneuver through all this with grace and style. [Famous last words, perhaps.]

Futilely, the puppies waited for heat from the vent. I moved the space heater over there to fulfill hopes and dreams. Kerosene heater is on the list of provisioons to purchase today.

Ommm.

[Sigh. The furnace just tripped again and now the circuit won’t reset. Plus the circuit is hot. This can’t be good. I knew the above was famous last words. I jinxed myself. 

It’s all small stuff.  It’s all small stuff.  It’s all small stuff.  Today’s meditation is It’s All  Small Stuff.]

It’s all small stuff.  Truly.

Patron of the Arts (and Crafts)

Sherri's Multimedia Painting

Sherri's Multimedia Painting

Surprisingly, I had Friday night off. Now I could have called in and asked if they needed an extra body. Almost assuredly, they would have said yes and I would have had a few more dollars to throw at my creditors. However.

However, I have worked a great many hours this past month and a couple minutes with the calculator indicated I could enjoy Friday evening without much more austerity than is already in place.

I ended up at my good friend’s house for what we term a “sistering.” Women gather and we talk about stuff. We talk and we talk – about our kids, our classes, our dreams, our aspirations, about how good the lasagna is. One of the craziest evenings involved the en masse arrival of the lesbians after which, somewhat perplexingly, we all ended up sitting around talking about boys and whether or not size matters. (The other memorable occasion was the night we were all PMSing and the potluck was ENTIRELY comprised of chocolate.)

My friend, the host, teaches art history and the guest list is often, usually, comprised of artists.

I have a love/hate relationship with the artsy crowd.

Willy on Great-Grandmother's Afghan

Willy on Great-Grandmother's Afghan

Now my mother is into crafts. She has always been thus. She’s fully aware of the difference between arts and crafts, although like most of us, she doesn’t know exactly where the dividing line is. The female members of both branches of the family tree are into crafts. A few of them dabble in the arts. They crochet, they knit, they tole paint, they quilt, and they paint ceramic figurines and execute paintings. They make collages and jewelry. Christmas will find them in quite a frenzy.

My mother is not big on the crochet/knitting thing, but she makes up for it with power tools, sanders, and every shade of acrylic paint Michael’s sells. She also sews. She’s actually very good at sewing. I was tortured throughout my childhood with my mother trying to teach me how to sew.

The disasters are family stories – the time I hemmed my dress (which I had no intention of ever wearing) to my jeans. And then there was the time I made kitchen curtains without any thread in the bobbin and couldn’t figure out why they kept falling off the rod.

I am afraid of my sewing machine and after the slight concussion of a few weeks ago, I am doubly afeared. It used to just silently glare at me and taunt me to try and fill the bobbin. Now, it seems, its malevolence has branched into physically harming me when I have no intention of pressing it into service.

That love/hate relationship centers on the fact that I love that talent/ability and hate that I don’t have it.

I did manage to spray paint this piece <br>I bought at auction for a $1.

I did spray paint this piece I bought for a $1.

I arrive at the sistering on Friday to discover that two of the guests did a run through Michael’s and purchased an astonishing amount of beads, wires, thingie-dos and other accoutrements for the making of jewelry. The idea was that we would all sit around talking (about boys or no) while making necklaces, earrings, bracelets, anklets, etc. etc.

I had a right awful day Friday. I immediately envisioned myself lopping off a finger with the needle nose plier-thingies and spending the night in the Emergency Room. Or somehow crafting earrings that would turn my ears black with gangrene. Or, worse, having all the art students laugh at me. I have a good ear for music, but can’t sing a note anyone besides me has ever heard. I also have a good eye for design, but can’t execute.  (I’ve spent 25 years trying to learn how to crochet and my only accomplishment is the ability to chain if I concentrate really hard.)

I know my limitations.

Generally, I’m not too concerned about being laughed at and poke more fun at myself than the others could even begin to match. But. I had a right awful day Friday and was trying to control my twitching.

I demurred.

Voila!  Bodily adornment for me, me, me!

Voila! Bodily adornment for me, me, me!

I insisted it would be far better and I would enjoy myself far more watching them turn hobby supply store goods into bodily adornments. I ate lasagna, drank wine, and watched women make jewelry.

The creative process (whether art or craft) intrigues me. I love watching artists and craftspersons execute. It doesn’t matter if it’s the well-turned leg of a piece of furniture or the execution of a piece of sculpture. Watching that ability to take raw goods and turn it into something visually appealing is a great form of entertainment.

In this case, I watched pieces of this and that turn into a necklace and a pair of earrings. From the beginning, it was the intention of the maker to give them to me. She kept asking my opinion and asking me to make decisions about the choice of components. I kept telling her I would be far happier and it would mean more to me if she made me what she wanted to make.

I left with a lovely ensemble of malachite and dragonflies.

The one thing I can do that I’m good at is needlework. Years ago I took up needlepoint as something to do while watching television. I loved the process. I loved the process more than the finished product. Of all the stuff I did, I only managed to actually frame a couple of pieces. In The Closet I Am Afraid Of languishes finished projects unframed and unstuffed. The act is enough.

In memory of Donnie.

In memory of Donnie.

Needlepoint is damned expensive. I regarded it as worth it, because the moving meditation of pulling thread and yarn in and out of canvas was soul-soothing. But as with so many areas of my life, the cost of both time and money became insupportable. When I had the time, I turned to cross stitch and simple embroidery to fulfill my need to poke a needle in and out of fabric. While I enjoyed the act of cross stitching, I hated the end results. There’s something about cross stitch that offends my sensibilities. The only piece I ever displayed was the one I made while my best friend was dying of cancer.

Back in January, I had another attack of Needleworkitis. At ridiculous expense, I purchased a kit of needlepoint boasting an image that I’m not thrilled with. Needlepoint is damned expensive and I went for the clearance stuff. The kit itself bears a ridiculous price, but even worse is the added expense of all the other crap – stretcher bars, thread organizers, hoops, needles, magnifying glasses, and carrying cases. (And as fate would have it, I have not had time to relearn the stitches – something I must do before I can bring myself to tackle this project which cost me far more than was prudent.)

Like many people with ADD, I have a love of containers. It’s been postulated that those of us with ADD love (love, love, love) containers because we’re embroiled in a constant battle to organize our minds and our surroundings.

Containers and yarn and books, oh my!

Containers and yarn and books, oh my!

HMOKeefe claims to not be ADD, but I’m dubious. He has containers for his containers. He puts stuff in containers, holders, cases, bags and boxes and then puts those things into containers, holders, cases, bags and boxes so that the end result is a lot like Russian nesting dolls. On our vacation, I had a suitcase, an overnight bag and a purse into which everything was tossed willy nilly. He had 77 tote bags filled with containers of containers that like that old Barrel of Monkeys game I was uncommonly fond of as a child eventually revealed the item he intended to need. Now that I think about it, perhaps he’s not ADD. He actually uses his containers. Still. I think there’s some sort of pathology there.

As I sat there watching the jewelry process, I was equally intrigued by the containers. I submit the entire guest list of Friday evening is ADD. Not only did they spend a boatload of money on beads and whatnot, they also purchased containers, dividers, and all manner of stuff to organize the supplies.

I’ve gotten off-topic. (We ADD people tend to do that.)

Birthday quilt from Sherri.

Birthday quilt from Sherri.

My point, I think, is that while I’m relatively talentless in the arts and crafts area, I love having things people I know have made. Fortunately, I’m surrounded by people who do have talent and see fit to give it to me. The objects themselves are wonderful, but the bonus of knowing the artist and, sometimes, watching it made is an even greater thrill. I asked on Friday if I could be considered a patron of the arts if I never actually paid for any of the stuff I have. I was assured that was not unusual.

So. As an impoverished patron of the arts, feel free to make something and give it to me. (I draw the line at plastic canvas – it’s a long story. If your medium is plastic canvas you’ll need to find another patron.)

Maiden, Mother, Crone

I told the artist I liked this one best, so mine will be similar.

I told the artist I liked this one best, so mine will be similar.

My best friend is an art historian and teaches at the local university.  As such, she gets first crack at the student art up for sale.  Her latest purchase has made a green-eyed monster out of me.  This envy-provoking art is a triptych of three female torsos carved out of wood.  They’re life sized and just incredible. 

I’ve been anti-stuff for awhile and, other than some plants, this is the first thing that has had me shouting, “Damn!  I want that!  Want it now! Gotta have it! Now!”

We were having dinner on the art historian’s deck last night with the artist.  I was telling Melissa what a terrible person her art was making of me.  One thing led to another and I found myself commissioning my own triptych.  I’m not sure what the time frame is, but, Lord knows, I need to get cracking on figuring out how to pay for it.

Last night, I was quite sure that I would hang them in the master bedroom opposite my bed.  I have 20 feet of blank wall that would set them off well.  The problem is they would be up over the loft opening and the closets.  I won’t be able to touch them.  Sculpture must be touched to be appreciated – besides, I don’t get much occasion to fondle goodly-sized breasts.  So I’ve been wandering about the house looking for the best spot to showcase my beauties-to-be.  Right now, the stairwell is looking like the best choice.  That will probably change – any changes to decor require much fretting and analysis of aesthetic concerns.

I mentioned earlier that I give myself a birthday present each year.  I allot myself $100 and these are more than that (but still insanely inexpensive).  I’m turning 50 this year and a maiden, mother, crone triptych seems appropriate. (Especially given the roar of menopause.)

I’m very excited.

White Antherium and The Lady of Shalott

White Antherium and John William Waterhouse Print

White Antherium and John William Waterhouse Print

I like Tennyson ‘s poem The Lady of Shalott and, consequently, I like John William Waterhouse’s painting inspired (I think) by the poem.  At great expense, I framed a cheap print and hung it over my faux fireplace.   The glass of the framing is reflecting the atrium door and the lushness of my private forest that all this damn rain has provoked.   (There are blessings even in the annoyances of life.)  The Waterhouse painting and the Tennyson poem have significance for me.  I’m particularly struck by the line “I am half-sick of shadows.” 

It’s been a rough time for those of us who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder and/or Clinical Depression.  That line resonates because whenever I bottom out the sentiment hauls me back up.  I am heartily sick of shadows.  All this rain isn’t helping, but I’m on my way back up.  Here’s Tennyson’s poem:  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

On either side the river lie
Long fields of barley and of rye,
That clothe the wold and meet the sky;
And through the field the road run by
To many-tower’d Camelot;
And up and down the people go,
Gazing where the lilies blow
Round an island there below,
The island of Shalott.

Willows whiten, aspens quiver,
Little breezes dusk and shiver
Through the wave that runs for ever
By the island in the river
Flowing down to Camelot.
Four grey walls, and four grey towers,
Overlook a space of flowers,
And the silent isle imbowers
The Lady of Shalott.

By the margin, willow veil’d,
Slide the heavy barges trail’d
By slow horses; and unhail’d
The shallop flitteth silken-sail’d
Skimming down to Camelot:
But who hath seen her wave her hand?
Or at the casement seen her stand?
Or is she known in all the land,
The Lady of Shalott?

Only reapers, reaping early,
In among the bearded barley
Hear a song that echoes cheerly
From the river winding clearly;
Down to tower’d Camelot;
And by the moon the reaper weary,
Piling sheaves in uplands airy,
Listening, whispers, ” ‘Tis the fairy
The Lady of Shalott.”

There she weaves by night and day
A magic web with colours gay.
She has heard a whisper say,
A curse is on her if she stay
To look down to Camelot.
She knows not what the curse may be,
And so she weaveth steadily,
And little other care hath she,
The Lady of Shalott.

And moving through a mirror clear
That hangs before her all the year,
Shadows of the world appear.
There she sees the highway near
Winding down to Camelot;
There the river eddy whirls,
And there the surly village churls,
And the red cloaks of market girls
Pass onward from Shalott.

Sometimes a troop of damsels glad,
An abbot on an ambling pad,
Sometimes a curly shepherd lad,
Or long-hair’d page in crimson clad
Goes by to tower’d Camelot;
And sometimes through the mirror blue
The knights come riding two and two.
She hath no loyal Knight and true,
The Lady of Shalott.

But in her web she still delights
To weave the mirror’s magic sights,
For often through the silent nights
A funeral, with plumes and lights
And music, went to Camelot;
Or when the Moon was overhead,
Came two young lovers lately wed.
“I am half sick of shadows,” said
The Lady of Shalott.

A bow-shot from her bower-eaves,
He rode between the barley sheaves,
The sun came dazzling thro’ the leaves,
And flamed upon the brazen greaves
Of bold Sir Lancelot.
A red-cross knight for ever kneel’d
To a lady in his shield,
That sparkled on the yellow field,
Beside remote Shalott.

The gemmy bridle glitter’d free,
Like to some branch of stars we see
Hung in the golden Galaxy.
The bridle bells rang merrily
As he rode down to Camelot:
And from his blazon’d baldric slung
A mighty silver bugle hung,
And as he rode his armor rung
Beside remote Shalott.

All in the blue unclouded weather
Thick-jewell’d shone the saddle-leather,
The helmet and the helmet-feather
Burn’d like one burning flame together,
As he rode down to Camelot.
As often thro’ the purple night,
Below the starry clusters bright,
Some bearded meteor, burning bright,
Moves over still Shalott.

His broad clear brow in sunlight glow’d;
On burnish’d hooves his war-horse trode;
From underneath his helmet flow’d
His coal-black curls as on he rode,
As he rode down to Camelot.
From the bank and from the river
He flashed into the crystal mirror,
“Tirra lirra,” by the river
Sang Sir Lancelot.

She left the web, she left the loom,
She made three paces through the room,
She saw the water-lily bloom,
She saw the helmet and the plume,
She look’d down to Camelot.
Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror crack’d from side to side;
“The curse is come upon me,” cried
The Lady of Shalott.

In the stormy east-wind straining,
The pale yellow woods were waning,
The broad stream in his banks complaining.
Heavily the low sky raining
Over tower’d Camelot;
Down she came and found a boat
Beneath a willow left afloat,
And around about the prow she wrote
The Lady of Shalott.

And down the river’s dim expanse
Like some bold seer in a trance,
Seeing all his own mischance —
With a glassy countenance
Did she look to Camelot.
And at the closing of the day
She loosed the chain, and down she lay;
The broad stream bore her far away,
The Lady of Shalott.

Lying, robed in snowy white
That loosely flew to left and right —
The leaves upon her falling light —
Thro’ the noises of the night,
She floated down to Camelot:
And as the boat-head wound along
The willowy hills and fields among,
They heard her singing her last song,
The Lady of Shalott.

Heard a carol, mournful, holy,
Chanted loudly, chanted lowly,
Till her blood was frozen slowly,
And her eyes were darkened wholly,
Turn’d to tower’d Camelot.
For ere she reach’d upon the tide
The first house by the water-side,
Singing in her song she died,
The Lady of Shalott.

Under tower and balcony,
By garden-wall and gallery,
A gleaming shape she floated by,
Dead-pale between the houses high,
Silent into Camelot.
Out upon the wharfs they came,
Knight and Burgher, Lord and Dame,
And around the prow they read her name,
The Lady of Shalott.

Who is this? And what is here?
And in the lighted palace near
Died the sound of royal cheer;
And they crossed themselves for fear,
All the Knights at Camelot;
But Lancelot mused a little space
He said, “She has a lovely face;
God in his mercy lend her grace,
The Lady of Shalott.”

–Tennyson