artist date

Recently Jeff posted a great story about what he called an artist date with a friend. At the end of the post he posed the question, “Have you allowed yourself an artist date in a while, if so what, where?” That question started a long trip down memory lane for me, and although I never thought of it in those terms before, I have had a few very memorable artist dates over the years…

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts

In the late 1980s my mother and I found ourselves staying at the YWCA in Boston to be there for my grandfather, who was having by-pass surgery at a hospital there. All the details escape me. But while Grandfather was actually having the surgery, to keep ourselves from going nuts, Mother and I decided to go to the museum and check out a current show. It was something about the object as art, or something like that. Mother had already been diagnosed with and had some treatment for her breast cancer. In her opinion some of the “art” in the show didn’t seem to be worthy of the name, and I had to agree. It was the first and only time I went to an art museum with my mother. The wild taxi ride, zigzagging at high speeds over the crooked little back streets of Boston, back to the hospital, was much more memorable!

I think it must have been in the late 1990s when I visited the Boston Museum of Fine Arts again, this time with Tim. I had chanced across a used coffee table book on Renoir at the Book Barn, which I bought, and then fell in love with paintings, which seemed to me to be expressing celebrations of the simple joys in life. When I learned that Dance at Bougival was at the museum in Boston I had to go see it. When we got there we studied the floor plan to try to figure out where it might be, and set off on our search. As we went from room to room I started to fret, thinking I must have been mistaken about it being there, etc… I almost walked past it, it was on the wall behind us as we entered a room. “Barbara,” Tim said from behind me as he gently tapped me on my shoulder. “Look.” I turned around and there it was! Much larger than I expected, life-sized! And then I had an intense moment of transcendence, don’t know what else to call it. Time seemed to stand still and at the same time the dancing couple was moving. They were as alive as could be. The colors were vivid. I was stunned and got a huge lump in my throat as I tried not to let the tears come.

“Dance at Bougival” by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

That’s when I learned how art is similar to music. One can listen to a recording with great pleasure and appreciation, but there is nothing like live music to stir the soul. And one can also look at a picture of a painting with great pleasure and appreciation, but there is nothing like the original painting with the living spirit of the artist still present on the canvas and in the paint used to create it.

It’s time for me to continue cleaning for tonight’s party. It was too cloudy to see the lunar eclipse last night. 🙁 And I wish I was on Cape Cod — they got 11 inches of snow in Dennis yesterday!!!

fjøsnisse

image by Lennart Helje

It’s been some time since I’ve visited any other blog so there’s that “out of the loop” feeling… I offer here (to the left) a picture of my all-time favorite Christmas card – probably posted it last year on my Gaia blog, but I’d like to have it here on WordPress, for the record. There is comfort in the familiar.

Things continue to get ever more complicated and difficult to balance caring for our elderly ones. Auntie’s endless and capricious demands are making our heads spin. To say she is keeping us on our toes is putting it mildly. And Dad is completely bewildered by recent developments. I can’t fathom much more than he does the ups and downs of his sister’s puzzling ways of coping with each new setback. Since her surgery in September it’s been one thing after another, and I think she is having much difficulty accepting the inevitability of each bit of independence lost.

On top of all this Tim got sick last week, with, of all things, a bladder infection. His habit of ignoring messages his body sends him and carrying on in spite of any sort of pain caught up with him big time. (I won’t even go into the story of how hard it was to convince him that he was having a heart attack three years ago.) Having never had a bladder infection before, he didn’t understand how sick he was until we took his temperature on Wednesday night and it was 102.4°F! Even so, he thought the thermometer might be inaccurate and insisted I take my temperature to verify. Mine was normal. No more if-s, and-s or but-s about it, I promptly escorted him to the urgent care clinic.

After many tests, the doctor there was concerned about the infection reaching Tim’s heart so he gave him an hour-long antibiotic infusion before he sent him home with an antibiotic prescription. As of yesterday (Saturday) he was still getting temperature peaks of 101°F but today it’s finally stayed normal. He’s lost ten pounds. He insists he is returning to work tomorrow and I know there is no way I can stop him. Sigh….. Fortunately he has a follow-up appointment on Thursday to make sure everything is back in working order.

In the wee hours of Tuesday morning we hope to wake up and get a peek at the total lunar eclipse and Tuesday evening we’re having our winter solstice party. I didn’t think too many would be able to make it because it will be a work night, but so far we’ve got 18 planning to come, including us! I’m very excited and am planning on spending the next two days cooking and cleaning, hopefully without any new crisis developing.

Wishing everyone very happy holidays filled with magical moments and the wonders of the season! And don’t forget to leave a bowl of oatmeal out for your local Nisse!

Clark Gable

Last week Auntie had her first visit from a professional companion-homemaker. I was enlisted to be on hand and make sure things went as smoothly as possible. It was a bit of a roller-coaster ride, a difficult transition for her to have “strangers” in her cottage, but after a while she relaxed a little and even put her feet up while the friendly and cheerful young woman cared for the cleaning chores that have become too much for her. (And too much for us!) We’re keeping our fingers crossed that this week she’ll be able to cope without one of us having to be there while the homemaker cleans and shops for her.

I grew up knowing that my paternal grandfather was artistic. Pop, Auntie’s father, carved wood and even crafted his own violin as a young man, and I was told he could also draw. I had been told that my aunt could draw, too, but I had not seen any evidence of it. So I had a lovely surprise when Auntie and I went into her bedroom so the homemaker could vacuum the living room. She pulled a collection of DVDs off of a shelf on her nightstand and brought out two things that were hidden behind the DVDs. One was a jewelry box, but I was far more curious about the other thing. It was a sketch of Clark Gable! Auntie shrugged it off as something she drew a long time ago and had no use for, and so it was given to me!

Today I finally got around to taking the faded and yellowed drawing out of its unattractive frame with broken glass, and photographed it as best I could. On the back Auntie had written, it would seem 70 years ago, “Clark Gable as Rhett Butler in the movie Gone with the Wind, 1940.” I couldn’t resist trying to imagine the 25-year-old girl who drew this. She had already been married for six years and had a four-year-old son. Since she was 42 when I was born, it’s hard for me to picture her young, romantic, and perhaps a little star-struck! I found a better frame for my new treasure and hung it on a wall that gets no sunlight so it won’t fade more than it already has. It looks great with two other drawings I have, one of Dave Mathews and one of Van Morrison. My collection grows…

Edit – December 14, 2010: For some reason looking at the color I call “yellow mud” turns me off. So this morning I finally figured out how to use Photoshop to transform the drawing from color to black and white. Now it is easier on my eyes, anyway…

winter wren

I’ve been meaning to post this video since November 12, when I found it on Val’s blog. All the excitement of Thanksgiving made me forget about it! Watch what the wren does with the little caterpillar! It’s from a website called The Music of Nature. If Janet, Nancy or Ellie is reading this, you can go to the website and the featured video is of the Eastern Towhee, which one of you identified for me as the bird with the “drink your tea” song. Now I can picture it better!

Scrambling around here – Auntie is getting a hospital bed delivered tomorrow and is very impatient to get her old bed and some other furniture out of her cottage. She had a freak out while we were in Virginia and spent a few days with Beverly & John and Dad. She’s back home now and soon will be set up with a professional companion-homemaker for regular help. In case she needs to be with people again, they’re setting up a room for her at Dad’s, and furniture is once again on the move between households. Hope the dust settles by Saturday because the kids are coming over to decorate a tree and we better have one by then!

This is my first holiday season at WordPress and I love the little falling snowflakes feature! I love snow, but today we’re having a big wind and rain storm. Temperatures will be dropping sharply tomorrow… Nice to be cozy and tucked inside…

that’s okay

postcard by Frances Brundage

Well, I have to say that it wasn’t the Thanksgiving trip and visit I was envisioning, but I did find the love in it. As luck would have it, half an hour into the ride I got a sore throat. And it would not turn out to be a little episode of scratchiness announcing a common cold, but rather developed into the worst sore throat I’ve had since I had mononucleosis thirty years ago. (Is it possible to get that twice?) And no one else got sick!

There are bad times
But that’s OK
Just look for love in it
Don’t burn the day away
~ Dave Matthews
♫ (Pig) ♫

A few relatives recommended “Throat Coat” as a remedy, so Tim went out to find some for me. It did help my throat a little for an hour or so at a time. But it took me a few days to figure out that it was also triggering the migraines that kept starting for no other apparent reason. When I stopped the “Throat Coat” they disappeared. So I went back to my green tea and honey.

Thankfully everyone else seemed to be having a good time and I enjoyed watching the goings-on while curled up in a corner of the living room. When I retreated to the bedroom I received frequent visitors, including nine-year-old Khari who was especially sympathetic and attentive. He’s such a thoughtful little guy! And of course Fran was spoiling me by cooking special dishes to accommodate my wheat-free, milk-free, hormone-free diet. The rice stuffing with dates, chestnuts and figs was extra delicious, even if it did hurt to swallow it!

This is now the eighth day of this monster cold virus… throat is improving, but I still have three huge canker sores on my tongue and my voice is still very hoarse. Tucked in at home now with tea, honey, laptop and Tim.

giving thanks

“Autumn Landscape” by Vincent van Gogh

We’ve missed our traditional Thanksgiving celebration for the last two years, once due to a death in the family and then because our hostess extraordinaire was recuperating from surgery. It looks as if all systems are “go” this year, and we’re off to Virginia soon in a caravan of cars for a feast and grand re-connection with Tim’s side of the family. My daughter and nieces are scheming with me for a surprise for my dearly loved sister-in-law, so there is a lot of excitement in the air. It will be so good to get a change of scenery and catch up with family happenings!

Even though things have not been easy lately, I’m very thankful for the many blessings I’m still aware of in my life. The abundant gifts our mother, Earth, offers us… Family near and far away, friends, old and new ones found recently in the blogosphere… Artists and writers past and present who have shared their inspired pictures and words, themselves really… Scientists and naturalists who help me to keep my sense of wonder and awe… Musicians who bring joy to my heart… I’m full of memories of special times with people I’ve loved and still miss, and am full of warm thoughts for those I love and have with me now. I am grateful for all these connections!

Wishing everyone a blessed Thanksgiving!

first snow

“Early Snow” by Konstantin Kryzhitsky

The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of a world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found?
~ J. B. Priestley

It looks as if I have a busy day ahead of me, but my spirits have been lifted by an early snowfall, and, even if the snow will melt away as the day goes on, the feeling of delight it gave me continues… I heard two rumbles of thunder during the night, so I was not expecting to see snow when I got up out of bed! It felt so good to bundle up and go out to warm up the car for Tim, and brush the thick wet stuff off of it. I know I’m weird, but I love going outside in the winter, and this is the time of year when one can see bright yellow leaves from autumn resting on the still-green grass from summer, covered with a dollop of winter white snow.

One year back in the 1980s sometime it happened to snow one day in October, during the peak of fall color on a weekend. We were on a hike deep into the woods of Pachaug State Forest with two other families. It was so very enchanting! Everything seemed bathed in a magical light… (I call it snowlight.) We cooked a meal we brought over a campfire and took in the sounds of nature, the stillness of the snow, the fading light. Even the eight little ones were quietly mesmerized and not complaining about a thing. We reluctantly turned back so we could be out of the woods by dusk.

Things are not going well for Auntie. She’s had a trip to the emergency room in an ambulance and numerous visits to doctors and clinics in the past couple of weeks. Somehow during all this she broke some of her ribs, a painful addition to all her other problems. We’re all feeling the strain.

In my moments of solitude I’ve been exploring the vast treasures to be found at Wikimedia Commons, discovering artists I never knew existed from Ukraine and Norway and other interesting places. I went through a phase years ago where I dragged Tim, Larisa or Fran with me to museums from Boston to New York to Washington, to see all the Renoir paintings I could locate. In the process Larisa fell in love with Rodin. And now that I’ve “discovered” William-Adolphe Bouguereau, I hope to be dragging one or all of them with me to find one of his paintings in the near future!

Early Snow, the painting above, is by Konstantin Kryzhitsky, an Ukrainian painter, who lived from 1858 to 1911.

a sigh of relief, holding my breath

Richard Blumenthal, West Hartford Library, Image: Sage Ross

Congratulations to Senator-Elect Richard Blumenthal!!! So there are enough people in Connecticut who were not swayed by Linda McMahon’s $50 million campaign of corporate arrogance… What a relief!! 🙂 For most of my adult life (20 years or so, I think) I’ve watched Blumenthal in the news on a regular basis as he did a fantastic job as Connecticut’s Attorney General, standing up to powerful corporations and defending the interests of the citizens of this state. Somehow it seems fitting that we had a chance to return the favor and help him fight off an opponent who was willing to spend so much money tearing him down.

And Joe Courtney trounced Janet Peckinpaugh for US Representative, so I’m very happy with who we’re sending to Washington.

But who will be our future governor? Dan Malloy is slightly ahead (by 631 votes) but it is too close to call. They ran out of ballots in Bridgeport yesterday — unbelievable. Last I knew they were counting makeshift ballots by hand. The suspense is frustrating…

Beverly had a unique way of dealing with the stress. At 10:30 or so last night I found her outside in the cold planting some bulbs for me! Woke up early this morning, still no call. Well, we’ll just have to wait. Breathe……..

The Union

Did it again… adopted still another WordPress theme: Elegant Grunge. We were supposed to go to Sea Shanties last night, but when Tim came home from work bone tired, and with more work to do, I assured him I would be more than happy to keep myself amused playing with the new theme…

After Tim left for work this morning I rolled up my sleeves and got started on all the chores that were neglected yesterday. A little later he called and told me to come to the door because he was going to drop off a surprise for me. He had been to Starbucks and handed me the new CD, Elton John/Leon Russell/The Union! It was all I could do to finish up in the kitchen and run up here to listen to it, which I am doing as I write this. It’s fantastic!!!

A little history… When I was a teenager I had a HUGE crush on Leon Russell. The way he played the piano, his long silvery dirty blond hair, and that bizarre voice! Most of all, the intensity in his eyes when performing. A Song for You can still bring me to tears. It’s hard to believe he’s 68 years old now.

I love you in a place where there’s no space or time
I love you for my life ’cause you’re a friend of mine
~ Leon Russell
♫ (A Song for You) ♫

Well, as it turns out, Leon Russell was Elton John’s “biggest influence.” Elton says on the album notes: “…Leon was my man, he was the master as far as I was concerned.” Also, “his music takes me back to one of the most beautiful and fantastic times of my life. It’s not fair that people have forgotten about how wonderful this man’s music was and that makes me angry.” I agree!

Elton John & Leon Russell

Who can forget Leon Russell’s amazing performance at George Harrison’s Concert for BangladeshHearts Have Turned to Stone is playing now – great stuff! Elton John used to open for Leon Russell. Another treat for the ears, Neil Young singing with Elton and Leon on one track, Gone To Shiloh. It’s also remarkable that Leon had brain surgery only weeks before they recorded this album. Perhaps that experience inspired the final, beautiful song he wrote on this CD.

And they knew all the places
I needed to go
All of the people
I needed to know
They knew who I needed
And who needed me
And who would come help me
And who would just let me be

I was in the hands of angels
Until this very day
Inside the hands of angels
What more can I say

~ Leon Russell
♫ (The Hands Of Angels) ♫

After I post this I’m going to burn the album onto my iPod and then, when I’m sure the neighbors are up for the day, play it loud and get some work done around here! Thank you, Elton John, for giving your idol the recognition he so well deserves! And thank you, Tim, my angel.