Thursday, December 24, 2015

Sixto the Christmas Cat



Once again, Sixto adorns my Christmas card, staring wistfully up at the December moon. I'm not sure why the December sky is so spectacular to me. Maybe it's because of the clarity caused by the absence of humidity, of that the air is thinner. Maybe it's just my imagination.
We spent the afternoon in Cleveland, at one of the restored theaters in Playhouse Square, watching a production of "A Chrostmas Carol" by the Great Lakes Theater Company. It was in thevOhio Theater, where I saw the incredible 8 hour "Nicholas Nickelby" some thirty years ago. It's one of the smaller theaters, so all the Sears are good. Live theater today is downright magical in its use of lighting and special effects, and small, moveable sets where the action moves almost cinematically, but still theatrically. It was a real treat, John's Christmas gift to the family.
Afterwards we had an early dinner at a pub in the artsy Larchmere area near Shaker Heights. They have  homemade perogis from Slavic Village, the best in Ohio, as well as other great pub grub. The ambient music is oldies from the 40s.
It was a lovely time and the moon rose as we drove  home, big and round and pure silver, just the way Sixto sees it here.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all and to all a "Good Night."

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

O Blog, Poor Blog!


I am guilty of blog neglect. It's not that my life isn't exciting enough to write about, which is true, but that time flies so speedily by.  I am slow these days. It takes me a couple of hours just to read two newspapers every , a bit of a slog because  of crummy eyesight, even though I try to skip the Middle East mess and the latest shooting. I do read the Op-Ed page, including both liberal and conservative think pieces. Clears my lethargy right up. I marvel at the right wingers' complaints about my president, and what they think he should do about the mess his predecessor made of the world. Most of what they think he should do he is already doing, but apparently they don't read the news about that.
As for the current state of the Republican Party, it is my belief that the red-faced bloviator is out to destroy the GOP and is having a lot of fun with that. His gutless competitors need to  speak up and start trying to bring some sanity into play. I am not of their party, but if I were, I would be mad as hell. I don't have much faith in the average American voter anyway, but this time it's  ridiculous.
We had a lovely Thanksgiving, with the whole family together. The girls -uh- women from far away fixed great meals every evening, and everyone worked on the major feast. I even made the favorite company Jello, so- called because we only had it when company came. Other than that, my lily-white hands never  ventured into the kitchen except to eat.
Having everyone home is a little different these days. There's stil
l a plethora of talk, talk, talk, but then the devices come out. Must check the email, then FB, and next thing you know there is silence and an unearthly bluish glow on the faces. We're all guilty.
Polly's friend Chris was here, too, so we really had a full house. All the visitors enjoyed the new downtown and the coffee shops. The pop-corn shop was wisely avoided, thus saving us all from sugar shock. We had one dinner at the Pufferbelly, a warm and cozy place, especially at this time of year.
Then the visitors dispersed, leaving many leftovers, but an empty house. Polly will be back for
Christmas. Since Emily lives in the land that invented Christmas, she and her family stay put.
It was a fine Thanksgiving, the holiday now known for bargain shopping.

The above picture is how the woods looked about three weeks ago. It is quite nekkid now.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Leaf Peeping in Lisbon


We recently took a Fall jaunt down to one of my favorite Ohio towns, Lisbon. Originally settled in the early 19th century,  there are still old red brick townhouses along some of the streets. There is a magnificent Victorian stone courthouse and a fed brick business district., which has, like most of these formerly busy town centers, been pre-emptied by outlying strip malls. The town library is large and impressive, and the local historical society is housed in a 200 year old stone house.
There used to be two diners, one on either end of the central area. Both were famous for their pies, but only one still remains. It is the ultimate shiny steel diner from the 40s, serving diner eats and great pies, one of which is oatmeal pie, better than you would think.
What makes Lusbon more interesting to me are a couple of local eccentrics, the almost cliche characters of small towns. One was Clement Vallandigham, the leader of the Ohio Copperhead  group, those who sympathized with the Confedeacy during the Civil War. He had plans to overthrow the government, but obviously failed in that endeavor.  President Lincoln pretty much ignored him as any kind of threat. He had been a U.S. Congressman before the war. His large red brick home on the upscale west end of town has a sign, so maybe the town still likes its infamous but obscure claim to fame.
Another notorious resident was a Jacob Beihart, founder of the Spirit Fuit Sociery, one of those late 19th century intentional communities. It was based on the idea that the human soul was but a bud, not yet grown into the full fruit of spirituality,  or something like that. Beilhart  was a seeker, influenced by men like Kellog, founder of the Battle Creek Sanatorium, where proper nutrition was the path to physical and mental health, and  system.C.W. Post, inventor of Postum, a healthy alternative to coffee. Post also, Mr. Bielhart later discovered, had fathered Beihart's two children. The Fruit Society seems to have been a kind of humanistic belief system, and to the townfolk that smacked of things like "free love,"among other things. The members did believe in human responsibility for behavior,  .and there were several scandals involving young women who came from other places to join the group. Eventually the group moved to Illinois and faded out in a few years. I don't know where in Lisbon the commune settlement was located, but the farmland around the area is idyllic enough for any Eden in which to develop a fruitful soul.
We  ended our Lisbon adventure with hamburgers and oatmeal pie at the diner.


Friday, October 30, 2015

The View



This is what I see from my living room window. The Fall colors are brilliant this year, in spite of a rather drought-y September. The trees are keeping the leaves on, even though we've had a few heavy rains in early October.  I think this will be the last week for color, though.
Last week I introduced a friend to the golden tunnel on Lake Rockwell Road. I love showing that to people. Since I was a rambler when I drove, I had a number of very fine places to admire in the different seasons. Northeast Ohio has the kinds of seasons which make for variety, which mark the passage of time. There are unpleasant periods- February, July -  which make one pathetically grateful for those lovely days in May and October.
My friend Frances is moving to the San Francisco area, and I notice that she has been posting colorful
photos of autumn trees on her FB page, perhaps to remember us Easterners when she leaves here in a few weeks. We'll think of her this winter, and send her photos of gray skies and snow to keep her from being too homesick.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Bouquet Killer



Years ago there was a sappy song, "You Don't Send Me Flowers," very popular with moony-eyed wannabe lovers. Barbra and Neil moaned in harmony, while listeners shed a tear or two over the negligent suitor, who found, no doubt,that liquor was quicker than flowers, to paraphrase Ogden Nash. (The first line of his poem was, "Candy is dandy." He didn't mention flowers.)
I like flowers and flower gardens, the scents and colors are lovely to see and smell. I used to grow a nice little garden, and looked forward to enjoying whatever showed up in warm weather. I have friends who are terrific growers of all sorts of beautiful blooms. They are kind enough to share these with me.
Unfortunately, once these pretty things are put into a vase and set out to be seen, I have a tendency to forget about them, even if they are in front of me on the table where I eat. After a few days of neglect,  or, actually, many days of my ignoring their existence, it suddenly occurs to me that they are quite dead, deceased, no longer vibrant, no longer pleasantly aromatic, and have morphed into garbage. They do notdeserve such a humiliating demise.
Of course I feel bad about this. They were meant to enhance my environment and give me pleasure, and I have turned them into the setting for Miss Miss Havesham's moldering wedding table.
On the rare occasions when I have received an ornate arrangement from a florist shop, the same thing happens. It is one thing to neglect posies shoved into a random vase, but quite unseemly to do the same to a bouquet  accompanied by ribbons and a fancy container. The same dead floral fate ensues.
I am simply unworthy.
Please don't send me flowers.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Notes on a Pleasant Weekend


On Saturday, the Stevenses from near Philadelphia were in Kent for a visit with old friends. Nancy and Joe treated me to dinner at the Pufferbelly, which before its conversion into a restaurant thirty years ago had been the old Erie depot. It was great to see them and spend time catching up. I realized I had known them half my life. Nancy and I met  through paraprofessional training for the crisis line which was then on the KSU campus. We were about the only non-students in the group. She was much younger than I, but very much a grown- up. I think we were a bit bemused by the younger folks, for whom some of the drug culture was not so foreign. Her husband was finishing his architecture degree and she was working as a secretary for a couple of hippie lawyers. She is very smart and funny, two qualities I enjoy very much in friends.
Unbeknownst to me, who had been asked to make a reservation for the event, the Pufferbelly was celebrating their version of Oktoberfest, with appropriate German cuisine, like bratwurst and wienerschnitzel. The food was good, but there was also a brass band about eight feet from our table, playing such German favorites as the "Beer Barrel Polka" and " New York, New York." Yes.
There was a lot to talk about, since they had recently returned from a very interesting trip to Scandinavia. Somehow we managed and celebrated further by going to the popcorn shop up in Acorn Alley for their homemade ice cream. All in all it was a fine visit with two fine people.
Sunday was a beautiful day, and John drove me up through Geauga County and points north to check out the state of autumn foliage. It's not quite at its best, but  the blue sky and pastoral scenery was quite satisfying. We explored side roads, rambling here and there and finding more color the farther north we went.
Suddenly, we were in an area with Amish buggies and pedestrians out for a Sunday walk along the narrow roads.  Next came a white painted cross-hatch fence, a large white building that had an air of some kind of meeting place. John followed the fence around a corner, where it stretched out ahead beside the road as far as one could see. There were a lot of statues, which turned out to be not stone, but concrete, statues of indeterminate creatures. Then there was a small hills , topped by a flagpole from which an enormous American flag was flapping, topped by an equally enormous crown. Then an open gate, through which you could see mounted cameras, and a large sign: THE KINGS. John got it right away: it was the estate of Don King, the infamous fight promoter, mentor and exploiter of famous boxers, like Mike Tyson. Interestingly, Tyson's now vacant mansion/
compound is not far away, but both are basically in the middle of nowhere.
I doubt that Mr. King was in residence. There are many buildings visible within that white fence, some well kept residences, the grounds studded with concrete  images of whatever Mr. King fancies as art. I wonder what the Amish neighbors make of this display. I wonder what they make of his hair, if they have caught sight of him, perhaps a sort of upside-down beard?
All in all an enjoyable weekend involving a welcome visit with dear friends and an unexpected obscure encounter with fame.


Sunday, September 27, 2015

Things People Say


Sometimes it is not easy to maintain a non-judgmental attitude. Sometimes one must keep the jaw from dropping after hearing utter nonsense from an adult a human being. No civilized response is available. Back in olden days one could snort or fiercely  flutter one's fan, or otherwise indicate displeasure. Alas, those days have passed. There is much uncivil behavior now, of course, masses of it, but I am trying to avoid that sort of thing. It is hard. One must stifle oneself.
The first dumb comment came from a very nice woman in my exercise class. This came in the dressing room. I was in one of the booths, trying to peel my wet suit off.  She was discussing her prayer group from her church. They meet once week and pray like bastards for all sorts of worthy causes and people and all. Sometimes they invite others to attend, individuals or social groups. Then she said, "We invited  the Girl Scout troop, but then we thought about that new law, and had to uninvited them." The new law? Not exactly a law, but the recent Supreme Court decision concerning gay marriage. And perhaps the fact that the  scouting organizations now accept gay leaders and scouts. No one said anything to her. This nice woman is the type who wishes everyone a blessed day. Last year she asked if we minded if she  would say prayer for someone's sick relative. Well, who's going to refuse? Almost everyone bowed her head. So she did that thing that evangelicals on TV do so well, an ad lib ramble that went on quite a while. That was one thing. But refusing to have a bunch of little girls at her prayer meeting was, I am sure, not pleasing to God, if one exists.
Then a couple of weeks ago, when I went to get my hair cut, I had to wait. When I sat down a woman  couple of seats over smiled and said, " Oh, I'm so glad you're here, so I'll have someone to talk with while I wait." That was fine with me. Then she pointed to her book on the seat between us. "You've got to read this book!" I looked down and it was a book by Dr. Ben Carson, the favorite of the Tea Party intelligentsia. I smiled and said that he was not my kind of candidate, very politely. She told me what a brilliant man he was and that his wife had played violin in a symphony orchestra and also had
a beautiful singing voice. Well, we went on to chat. She had worked at the university and was pleased that her children had their education there tuition free. They had all done well and had good jobs. Her oldest son had had his own printing business. That is, she stated further, until Obama ruined it and caused him to lose it. "oh," I said, "How did that happen?" "well," she replied, " you know, all that new technology, so people could do their own printing."
Now in either of these situations I could have just said, "What the HELL are you talking  about."
But I didn't. To the salon lady, I did say that I wasn't sure that president Obama had  anything to do with computer technology, but decided that whatever convoluted reasoning had led her to that belief
would not yield to rationality.
And them I was told by another person that when that time comes, that time when only true believers will be swept up into heaven, exactly 144,000 Jews will get to join them, and that information is in the bible. I was given chapter and verse, but I just don't want to look it up. We Catholics  were
discouraged from reading the bible, lest we fall victim to misinterpretation. For once, the Church was
right. 144',000?  Isn't that, like, 12 gross or something? And who's counting them?
As for the Girl Scout disinviter, I still like her, but not so much anymore. I am, of course, judgmental as all get-out, but I do stifle.
And if anyone reading this is offended, you're on the wrong page here.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Blue and Gold



The title does not refer to my alma mater's colors, the ones worn by the sports teams and the logo of Kent State University.  It refers to the kind of glorious weather that September is having. We'll probably pay for it in January, but one must live in the present and just enjoy these beautiful days on sunshine and blue skies.
We do need rain. We went up to Gordon Square a couple of weeks ago to see "Nashville," Robert Altman's grim tribute to the Bicentennial of the U.S of A., a cheery, music filled film that ends in bloodshed, featuring cameos by Jeff Goldblum, Julie Chistie and a few others who apparently wandered onto the set. Fine movie, viewed in a great Art Deco theater on the near west side of Cleveland which is being restored. We met DCB, our NPR  friend who knows Cleveland well.
Thanks to him, we ended up at a very fine restaurant housed in a former bank. It was packed with the Bright young Things who are inhabiting the city and making things happen.  I had a braised  Romaine salad. Interesting. Anyway, I bring this up because it rained buckets, cascades, drenches. The drive back to Kent was downright scary, even though I was not the one who was driving. The heavy rain was welcomed by all of us with tan lawns.
Unfortunately, this week I have not been enjoying this lovely weather. A year ago, my dentist recommended having a molar removed, since it had a deep decay spot on one root. At the time I just was not in the mood to go through that sort of thing, especially since I would need a permanent bridge, which costs more than my 1968 VW square back cost brand new. So I put it off. Nothing hurt, so wothehell, as Archie the cockroach used to say.so I had to go back to my dentist a month or so ago on account of having taken advantage of the Monday five bucks admissions and free popcorn deal at our local theater. Old gums, even when a person flosses and brushes diligently cannot always avoid being  infiltrated by the odd hull. So I was again told to take care of that bad tooth. So I did, on
Monday last.
I would rather have gone to the five buck Monday flick, sans popcorn. However, the tooth needed to be removed. It was quite an ordeal. The endodontist is very good, highly qualified and all. It took over an hour and both he and I were exhausted by the time he dug it out. It didn't help that he kept saying it would have been a LOT  easier if I had come in last year.  I finally I said, "I am an old person and I just didn't want to do this." That seemed to work and he didn't say I should have come in last year again.
I'd rather have hip replacement surgery again than go through dental surgery. I wasn't "a little
uncomfortable." I was and still am in pain, but healing. I have been living on yogurt, applesauce and cottage cheese. No hot coffee either. I'll live. However, whenever I have to spend thousands on dentistry, I always think of the waste of money if I should be hit by a truck soon afterwards.
And I am enjoying the beautiful late September days, at least looking at it through the window, while cuddling an ice pack against my face.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Go Set This



I listened on BBC Radio to a reading of the best selling "Go Set A Watchman," supposedly written by Harper Lee. She is now in a nursing home, prohibited from speaking publicly about herself or her work. This "new" book was written before "To Kill a Mockingbird," everyone's favorite book, made into everyone's favorite movie.
I love both. The book is so reminiscent of my own childhood in Georgia, l lived at the same time as the period in the book, the thirties. When they made the movie, the houses and the street looked like the neighborhood I'd lived in. I knew what everything felt like, smelled like and sounded like. When my own children were young and saw the movie, they identified Atticus Finch with their own father, who had died so young, and they were right. John Burnell was tall and slender and wore dark-rimmed glasses. He was a gentle, kind and honest person. He also was a staunch civil rights oriented person, a sociology professor who was denied tenure at a small liberal arts college for leading a student protest against discrimination at a local skating rink, a protest which made the front page of the twin paper, thus angering the college president, a Southerner who was not happy about the burgeoning civil rights activities going on at that time. ( The college was in the North.) john continued his actions for justice here at Kent State, which also caused  some administrators to chastise him and other young professors over housing discrimination. He was far from a rabble rouser, but a quiet man who used logic and persuasive techniques. For this reason, his children, a couple of whom did not get to know him, found Atticus the  personification, or the essence of their father.  I suspect that there are many others even those who grew up with their fathers, who see Atticus Finch as a significant figure.
This leads me to "Watchman."  The first word out was the somewhat hysterical news that in this book, Atticus is a racist!  Good grief! The man who bravely defended Tom Robinson?
Well, let me tell you how I see this book. My friend Annie called it preachy, and it is. What it preaches, as Atticus and Jean Louise's uncle are preaching is the tiresome whine in the 50s by the entitled, genteel whites of the South is this: " our way of life, the rules we have lived by for generations, are not ready for the changes being forced upon us. The Negro is  not ready for what they are demanding. Surely you can see that, Jean Louise? Changes will come, but we must move slowly."
Now that's the kind of thing one heard over and over from that class of white Southern men. Lee ( or whoever wrote this thing)' does throw in a non-elite lawyer who grew up a Cracker, but he has also bought into white supremacy, and cautions Jean Louise, who has been white hot with anger after finding out that Atticus had attended a White Citizen's Council meeting, which he explains he did to know what people's concerns were. Atticus also claims that the Klan started out as some kind of civic organization. Really?!!  Where'd that come from?  These three men all carefully explain to the former Scout that they are just going to make sure that everyone is "ready."
It doesn't seem to occur to them there are Southerners who have been waiting for over a hundred years or more for full citizenship of a country they've helped to build, have worked in servitude, have helped to shape the culture of the South. No, the white folks are just not ready. At the time this attitude infuriated many of us, and now here comes this book which the publishers wisely rejected, with the advice to Lee that she focus on the earlier story of Atticus and the children and his heroic action in a small Alabama town in the 30s. It's a good thing they did, or Harper Lee would have been blasted as an apologist for segregation and racial inequality and we would not have the magic of "To Kil a Mockingbird."
So was Atticus a racist? You bet, but not the kind you identify with lynching and burning Black churches. Even worse, he and his kind were the very ones who could have changed things much earlier, but didn't, and then decried the efforts that rose from the Black activists.
Sorry, Harper Lee.

Monday, August 31, 2015

August



I have written before about how much I love August. This summer has gone so fast that it sneaked up on me. We've had such variable weather, mostly cool, and in the first two months, enough rain to make you think of building an ark. The garden has delivered about three anorexic tomatoes and no green peppers. The herbs are looking puny, and the only things bursting with blooms are the marigolds, which have never looked so good.
Attendance at the county fair was down, as was the number of exhibitors. One of our aerobics ladies, a wizaed of the baked goods competition, said that even the number of entries was way down in both that category and the vegetable display. One reason for the low attendance may have been that the schools started a week before the fair. I didn't go this year or last, for that matter. There was a time when Polly had goats, that we all entered something and felt like genuine country folk. Polly won a blue ribbon for her Apple  (I have typed the a word four times and Spellcheck insists on capitalizing it, no doubt under orders from the ghost of Steve Jobs; I thought of changing it to pecan, but that would be wrong.)  pie, and her goat Finney always won at least one hideous trophy. I entered a macrame piece ( macrame was big then) but I don't remember if I got a ribbon for it.
Before this month ends,  I have to mention and illustrate the incredible sunsets. Surrounded by trees, we don't get the full effect, but people have been posting  some pretty spectacular photos. We've had the gorgeous blue with puffy white clouds skies,  and until recently lots of greenery. Right now it's dry and the lawns are tan and a bit crunchy underfoot. not unusual for the end of summer and early September. Well, that's the weather report for today.
And how's the weather in your neck of the woods? (Shades of my father!)

Monday, August 24, 2015

Out of the Loop



I think it started somewhere around the fourth or fifth season of "Dancing With the Stars," maybe a little later. Or maybe the last five or six years of SNL. With  "Saturday Night Live" it was with the guest musicians.  There is always the excited preface, hyping what is to come. For DWTS,  in the weeks preceding the first show, there is the sense of suspense over which stars we shall see. Who are the famous stars we will watch sweating and straining for the next few weeks, wearing sequins and tulle and diaphanous bits of colored cloth as they twirl about? Actually I haven't watched it for a long time, for reasons to follow' but I still remember this giddy hype.
In the first years, it was a guilty pleasure, fun to watch, and impressive to see non-dancers achieve what my friend  Tom called fancy maneuvers, and wondrous feats with their feet. The judges were experts, actually judging and seemed to know and explain the art of ballroom dancing. I have never been a good dancer, even in doing the simple box step, so I am in awe of anyone who can manage this skill at all, to say nothing of the intricate routines these people were able to develop over a few months, people like actors, singers  and athletes, people whose names and occupations you knew. Even then the term "star" was a bit of a stretch, but they were famous enough that I didn't have to Google them, if Google was around then.
It started happening little by little. When the announcement of a certain season was made, I had no idea who half the people were. If they were stars it was on some planet out of my my own universe. Apparently those people who open their lives to  "reality" TV are now stars, and everyone knows them except for me. I am completely out of the loop. I quit watching DWTS, which is probably all right with them.
About SNL. That started, as I wrote about above, with the musical guests. In the good old days they had Paul Simon, James Taylor, Mick Jagger, sting and all those great singer-songwriters  who sang music with tunes and words. Then they started with the grunge groups, the boy groups, the rap
groups, and the music is back to three chords and repepetative words. I do not know who these people are.
The only contemporary pop stars whose names I know are Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga, and that's only because you can't get away from them, rather like Madonna thirty some years ago. They're rather like the Donald Trumps of pop music. Half the time I don't know who the guest hosts of SNL are either. They may be from some cable TV show I don't watch. They still bring in recognizable people, though and the new cast is pretty good. I don't know their names, though. By the time I learn their names, they'll be off to Hollywood like the rest of the old crowd.
I don't mind being out of the loop. I have  one of my own.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Politics as Farce



There is now proof positive that Fox News is all about entertainment, not honest information. I did not watch the "debate," since I do not have cable. ( Who needs 250 channels when you only watch 6 or 8 at the most?) However, I have watched replays of what was apparently the crucial content: the constant focus on  the least likely and least likeable contender, whose name I shall not use, since he or his minions probably Google it every ten minutes.
First of all, he was,by some happenstance - hah! - placed front and center on the stage. Couldn't miss him if you tried which nobody  tried to do. If the strategy was to amuse, or irritate, they sucmnceeded. If they were going for their usual yahoo audience, they succeeded. Qualifying his crude, rude comments about women and immigrants from Mexico ( Aren't all Spanish speaking immigrants Mexicans?)' as a protest against "political correctness" he then felt free use the language of the terminally ignorant.
Of course,the result of his being encouraged by the moderators to spew his venom is that he's been constantly in the news ever since. His bloated face looms out from print, the Internet and TV like  a wayward comet. (I couldn't resist doing a caricature myself. It's just too easy.)
If I were one of those other candidates, I'd sue Fox News for malfeasance, or something. It was disgraceful.
I am not a Republican, and far from conservative, but I wonder how the GOP is going to overcome the damage he is doing to their cause. Perhaps if the media could restrain themselves from ratings or selling papers, and focus on some sane presentation of serious presidential possibilities, say,  people who don't  believe the earths is 5000 years old, and that  the hand  of  man may have something to  do with climate change, and that just because she's a female a woman like  Sarah Palin is not presidential timber, then perhaps they might put up someone fairly decent for me to vote against next year.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Sixto Loves Me, I Think


I've mentioned before that Sixto the cat is a lap cat, a situation I've used to avoid things like making tea or starting dinner when he is in place. John is still his main person. However, last weekend, John took off for a folk festival in Canada. For almost four days, I could hardly get Sixto off my lap.
In the morning, I'd be reading the paper, and he'd crash through it to curl up on my lap. He'd occasionally  start by making a few head bumps, gazing soulfully into my eyes.
When I'd get up, dumping him off, he'd start grooming himself nonchalantly. As soon as I sat down, the process started over. He doesn't just curl up and snooze. He likes the flop down, roll onto his back, curl his front paws over his nose and peer up at me for a while before he drops off to sleep. He's not a large cat, but he requires a lot of space because of  having to arrange the proper draping of his very long tail. In hot weather, having even a small furry cat on one's lap can be an uncomfortable addition to one's person.
He knew John was back before I did. From a sound sleep, on Monday evening, he suddenly woke up, jumped off my lap and got to the front door just as John opened it to come in. It was a bit uncanny. I guess I'm an adequate substitute when his main person is gone. Even now, though, he is favoring me with his presence, perhaps thinking John may abandon him again. So I think I have risen to a substitute main person.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Swift Summer




Summers, at least the typical Ohio kind, have never been my favorite season. Usually humid, dog breath heat prevails, and it seems to last for months. Summer is the hot version of February, the longest month of the year in Ohio. Last year and this year, however, we have been blessed with beautiful days and nights of moderate temperatures and low humidity. It may mean that climate change is heading us into the predicted disaster, and I should be worried, but I am enjoying its effects here in Ohio.
We had rain throughout June and most of July, so the trees, shrubbery, gardens and lawns, are brilliant green. Usually by now brown lawns and dry leaves are common. Not this year. I know that in the West, things are not good, and I do hope that there will be some relief for drought stricken areas out there. It seems a bit unfair that we have gotten so much rain when that part of the country needs so much.
Perhaps because we've had this lovely weather, stemmer has just sped by. School starts in two weeks. If I were a kid I'd be pretty ticked off about that. Some people  out in the country are very upset, because school starts before the county fair, which means 4H kids will have to play hooky the first  or second week of school, or miss the chance to show what they have spent the last year working on. This is still a rural county, and even  as this is changing, the Portage County Fair, a century and a half or more old, is an extremely important  tradition for everyone. There will be more than just kids playing hooky that week, and summer will still be with us.
Tonight there is supposed to be a blue moon. I hope it's a clear enough night to see it. Dix's woods are in full summer mode and wonderful to look at.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Michael



A week ago, only  last Friday, I spent the day at his home in Kettering, Ohio. Two weeks before that, he had been diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic lung cancer. He had been told that with chemo he could live for at least a year; without chemo he had about 6 months. As a doctor, he knew a lot about what chemo could be like. At the time he told me that he was having a hard time processing the whole idea of being told he had a fatal disease.
A week later, having chosen chemo, the morning he was to start, he changed his mind., and asked his wife Marian to call hospice. When I arrived Friday morning, the first thing he said to me was, "This is surreal." The second thing he said was, "I'm disappointed. It's not supposed to be like this." He wanted it to be over. He remembered how it had been with our father. Two weeks after he had been diagnosed with lymphoma, he passed quietly away. Michael had told me that he hoped he could do the same. However, Michael's mind was ready to go, but his body was not.
When I got the message this past Tuesday that his struggle was over, I was relieved for him, but surprised that it had happened so quickly.  It is said that the mind is a powerful engine of the human spirit. I think his will was stronger than the disease.
Michael was eight years younger than I. I told him during that last visit that I forgave him for displacing my role as the baby of the family, a role I had enjoyed all those eight years. He was this little red, scrawny baby and not at all interesting those first few months. Soon enough he turned into this pink cheeked , blue- eyed cherub with soft blond curls.  (Less than two years later his role as the baby of the family was ended with the arrival of Edward, who still has that position.)
We were living in Atlanta during this time. Somewhere there is an adorable picture of Michael sitting  in a little rocking chair, with a very serious look on his face. I remember him as a fairly quiet child, rather sober, and always sensitive. Mother's Southern lady friends made a fuss over him and pronounced his name  "Mike-e-all."
When he was four and a half and Edward was just three, our father got a new job in Ohio. They saw their first snow. They still had their little southern accents. I spent a lot of time with these two little boys, since I had not met any friends the first year, because the school I went to was far away from the neighborhood we lived in. They were very good company, those two little blond  boys.
Moving to the present, Michael,  the former baby brother, grew into one of the kindest,  gentlest of men. He never lost the boy in him, which made for an interesting and loving father and grandfather. He never stopped learning and exploring the complexities of life. He still found wonder in nature, science, history art and music. He told me once that he regretted spending his time at Notre Dame in pre-med. H e said that only taught him how to get into med school. He wished he had studied the humanities. He made up for that, though. He read constantly, fiction, non- fiction, loved  good movies - especially Turner Classic Movies on TV, loved toys, and basketball. Although he had retired from his medical practice, he kept up with current information in other  fields  besides orthopedics.
His passing leaves an empty space in the family, but with many loving, pleasant memories of this fine husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle, friend, healer, little blond boy and great  human being called Michael.

Since I wrote this post, I have received the picture of little Michael below, thanks to one of his grandsons.



Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Freedom, O Freedom!



There is a phrase I keep reading and hearing, relating to the presence of our military in the Middle East, that they are "fighting for our freedom." This sort of thing began during the Vietnam years., to justify our intrusion in what was basically a civil war after the departure of the French.
Well, let's see. Our war history, if you exclude the French and Indian war, in which the native  people of this land were fighting for THEIR  freedom,  began with the Revolutionary War. That Was actually a fight for our freedom from England, and our freedom to form a new government for people without the oppression of British rule,  like taxation without representation and all.
The War of 1812 is rather vague and involved press gangs and the Battle of nearby Lake Erie and piracy and all, but I think "fighting for our freedom" fits there.I could Google it to sound more historically learned, but let's say The freedom thing works.I had an ancestor who jumped ship and became an American, and a traitor to his native land. He told everyone he did it for freedom...probably.
Another vague war was the Mexican American battle, in which my great-grandfather participated, but I think that saved Texas for the U.S.A., which was probably a mistake, but there was a kind of freedom involved there, at least for Texans, who did most of the fighting. I think.
Next came the Civil War, or the War Between the States, which is apparently not quite over yet for some flag lovers. Each side was fighting for its freedom, and one side was wrong. I have to say that the Northern side was the true champion of freedom, fighting for the preservation of the United States, and for the freedom of those Americans who were enslaved. I  had ancestors on both sides.
WWI was not about our freedom, but about assisting the European continent in quashing tyranny, at least for a while. Our participation lasted a little over a year, from April 1917 to November 1918. One of my uncles was in that war and suffered from what was then called shell-shock. He was a gentle, small town boy and it took time for him to recover. We are now observing the centenary of this terrible war, with TV documentaries and dramas about the period in Europe. My mother remembered Liberty cabbage as the name for sauerkraut, to avoid using any words reminiscent of German. I don't know if "our freedom" was bandied about, but history has been candid and harsh about the causes and effects of this dreadful conflict. Try to see "Paths of Glory," one of Kubrick's early films.
The next war for us is WWII, the one known as the righteous war. Going in, I don't think most of us knew  about the horrors of the Holocaust. What was evident was Hitler's determination to conquer as much of Europe as he could, and probably come after the U.S. after that. Then Japan bombed the American base at Pearl Harbor.  It seemed possible that we could be bombed or invaded and truly succumb to attacks from either direction. So we were at war for good reason, but we didn't hear that phrase about fighting for our freedom. Toward the end of the war, when everything became known about the extent of the Nazi's evil, it was a war worth fighting, and a war for the freedom of many. It also delivered us into the age of the nuclear bomb, at the expense of thousands of innocent civilians in Japan, still a topic of  serious debate. Another uncle, the younger brother pf the WWI uncle,  served in the South Pacific. He was in his 30s. My late husband served four years stateside  in the army as a clerk and an MP. My brother enlisted from college and was sent to Yale and then to medical school, but the war was over.
The war in Korea was another civil war in a country far away and our participation was fear driven, played out during the "Red Scare," when the House Un-American Activities Committee and Joseph McCarthy had  the country's leadership convinced that the Communists were going to take over this country from within, aided by writers and movie actors and singers like Pete Seeger. Abetted by J. Edgar Hoover, this belief made for a surreal oppression of free speech ( Ohio State had a gag rule on speakers at public functions at the university.) if the term " fighting for our freedom" had been used about the Korean conflict the irony would have killed us.
The Vietnam war was more of the same, only deadlier and more cynical. It lasted longer than any other war, it introduced weapons of horror and long lasting damage to humans and other living things, and it was based on lies. That's when the "They're fighting for out freedom"  shibboleth became the justification for destroying people and damaging the lives of thousands of young Americans in a war based on fear and lies. It divided  the country and accomplished nothing, and our freedom had nothing to do with it.
Nothing was gained on learned  from that terrible time. And once again that "freedom" thing is constantly being used about the mess in the Middle East, which has been going on,
as an active war, for 12 years now and seems to have no end in sight and may well come down to a genuine fight for our freedom because of the awful chaos we've created.
When that time comes, I'll accept that phrase, but right now it means nothing but bluster in an attempt to glide over the inexcusable blunders made by so-called leaders.


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Another Book Appears



Emily decided that a book I did about my Atlanta childhood in the 1930s  needed to be published. I had sent it out a number of times back  when almost  every publisher would accept unsolicited mss., and although a couple of them liked it, they didn't like it enough to publish it. In those days I would send a black and white dummy, which didn't do much for the illustrations. These days publishers do no want manuscripts or any over the transom submissions. One needs an agent, and getting an agent if you haven't been published is difficult.
At any rate, I quit sending things out years ago. I had the  book about my mother published at my own expense, mainly for my family. I was very pleased with how it turned out and it was well received by May's many descendants, an inter-family best seller.
Several people I know have had books published through Blurb, another for hire publisher. It's an easy to use system, if you have normal eyesight, which I do not. When Emily was here last year, she had a lot of my illustrations scanned and was determined to have "The Last Summer" published. It's a different system from the way my other book was done. The  book costs more, for one thing. They have the same "publish as ordered" production method, but do not offer an author's discount.
They did a very nice job with the printing, and Emily did a superb job with the layout and overall design. She chose the font and color of the text, both of which reflect the time period of the book. Speaking of the time period, one publisher had said that children looking at this book would wonder why there was no Tv set pictured. Apparently he figured that people still dress the same way today as the adults pictured in the illustrations.

You can find out more about it here.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Transitioning


At the risk of being offensive, in  light of Caitlyn Jenner's recent transition, I do wonder why she found it necessary to spend so much money and pain on her appearance as a glamorous woman. She looks nothing like her former self. She haS been "sculpted" into a facsimile of feminine "beauty," as defined By current cultural standards, as exemplified by her former step- family, for instance.
I  don't know that much about transgender identity, only that it seems to be a very complex and internal sense  of gender confusion and selfhood. It can create much pain, anxiety and uncertainty in someone who experiences  it throughout childhood and adolescence. With more knowledge, more people being open and courageous about accepting their gender identity, perhaps that kind of suffering will be lessened.
What I am wondering about Is not the authenticity of this issue, but of the need to transition not as an ordinary woman, but as some kind of artificial movie star version of a woman, an ideal of the male imagination of how a woman should look, as in the case of Caitlyn Jenner. Many years ago, the early transgendered women like Christine Jorgenson and Renee Richrads were attractiveness but didn't look as if they had been manufactured into facsimiles of Vogue models  by teams of plastic surgeons. Even now, I am sure there are ordinary looking women who were once males without looking like Jenner. The thing is, they are not famous, they are not wealthy enough, or maybe they just want to be themselves as women without the need to look like something else, now that they are comfortable in their own skin.
Just sayin.'

Monday, June 8, 2015

Missing Friends


In the last several months, two old friends have died, friends who go back fifty years. I met one through the other. One I have not seen for many years, since she and her family left Kent many years ago. The other I have seen for at least two years, since I had to quit driving. Phone calls and letters have substituted for face to face tome.
France's diet his past winter, and I learned of her death through the local paper. Even though she had not lived in Kent for over forty years, she had grown up here, and I assume her family knew that there were still people here who would want to know. I had last talked with her about a year  ago, but had been out of touch since then.
Frances was the daughter of one of my favorite English professors, although I did not meet her until I moved back to Kent in the late 50s. She had married young, right out of college and had six children before she was thirty, which I found unusual in someone who was not Catholic. Her children were all bright and attractive, but older than mine. France's was a writer and editor after her family got older, intelligent and interesting. She would come back to Kent while her parents were still alive, and we would get together and talk and talk. She and her husband went through s divorce - not her choice- and she had some hilarious stories about getting back into the dating game. She finally remarried, a man she met while working on as an  editor, and it was a good marriage. Our communication was  sporadic, but always it was as if we had just met a couple of weeks ago. Our last conversation came after the death of her oldest daughter, Sarah, a beautiful, brilliant woman. I think that loss broke  her heart, and I had not heard from her since. My other friend, Pat, said that Frances told her she had given up after that loss, and I have no contact with the family and have no details of Frances's death.
Pat, the other lost friend, died two weeks ago of ultiple myeloma. She'd  been fighting it for four years. I had not seen her for most of that time, but kept in touch. I met her and Frances  at about the same time. We all were at the stage of having small children, and spent a lot of time together. Pat had three sons, roughly about the ages of mine. They lived in what was then "the country " although now you can see the university from their balcony. Pat was a remarkable woman, as is her husband, who is an artist. They decided to bring their boys up to know how to do things. With their father it was using tools and  learning how to make things. ( he was building their house when they were little.) With Pat, it was learning how to cook and sew and manage a household, not because she was a woman, but because they needed to know how to be competent human beings. When they were all in school, she began teaching kindergarten in their local school, which she did for over 30 some years. In the meantime, she began to devote her spare time to creating the most magical miniature houses. You can see her museum quality results  by clicking on "Pat's Amzing Miniatures on the list of friend's blogs on the right.
Both of these women were asignicant part of my young adults oh. They enriched that time for me and I am so glad  I knew them and will never forget them. One thing about getting to be my age is that you find yourself knowing more people who are gone than living people. Many others of my old friends are no more. That's the way it is., but they live in my memory.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Missing May


Good grief! I have completely skipped over the month of May. I'm not sure why that happened. I wasn't binge watching anything on my IPad. I had no out of town company, at least not until the end of the month. I wasn't sick. My online art class  ended somewhere around the middle of the month. Perhaps I had nothing to write about. That's never stopped me before, of course. Perhaps I am just lazy. Yeah, that's it.
The online drawing class did require a lot of physical and mental energy. I must say that I really enjoyed it. I was tempted to go for a third session, but the room where my drawing table is located is not comfortable in the summer, so I shall wait until Fall to do it again. There were, in this second session, some really terrific students, whose work was inspiring and exciting. There were two women from the U.K., one from England and one from Ireland, both of whom did some interesting drawings. It's always fun to work with Susan Shie, too.
My friend Susan B. came  up for a short visit. She had spent the month of January in Florence, and had done some  very fine photos of that beautiful area of Italy. On my first trip abroad she and I had spent a week in Florence. It was December, so the tourist traffic was minimal, and it was such a terrific place to be, a whole city as one big museum, the seat of the Renaissace. You can walk where the Medicis  and Dante walked, to say nothing of Giotto and Michelangelo. I envy her that month. She and a friend rented an apartment overlooking the Duomo. She said they had plenty of room, but my traveling days are over. I just can't do that kind of walking any more. I"m glad I have been able to go to all those magical places in Europe in the past, so I can't complain.
I am definitely not looking forward to the looming presidential brouhaha. The Republicans are desperately seeking ways to deny that President Obama has succeeded in improving things in the country. There was a fine op-Ed piece by Eugene Robinson the other day.  He covered all if the potential Republican candidates on their ideas of how to solve the ISIS crisis ( there's a catchy couplet for ya) and what each one has come up with is what Mr. Obama is already doing. The TV interviewers never do any follow-up questions after they ask for specifics  from people like Cruz or Santorum or others who make brash statements about how they would deal with some of the difficult challenges facing a president. They are never challenged. Those so-called " debates" are unsubstantive farces, not worth the time and money wasted on them. And, my God, I think they're starting this summer.
Well, since I missed May, I offer my last project for the drawing class, a picture of my parents' November, 1922 wedding. One of them is named May, and she is wearing a midnight blue velvet wedding gown.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Spring Awakening


Yeah, I know that's the name of a musical about young  people confused about sex, but I'm talking about the woods across the street. I've been doing a series of drawings for almost a year of the changes the seasons bring to that neighborhood patch of land where local children have played, made forts, sledded, ice skated through the trees at the bottom of the hill, and discovered varieties of bugs, plants, rocks and fungi for over fifty years. For many years the peepers have announced the arrival of spring. Sadly, because of the constant mosquito spraying for the swampy area at the foot of the sledding hill, I haven't heard those singing froglets for a while, so I have to look for other signs.
Things seem to happen suddenly: one day, everything is brown  and gray; the next there is a thin veil of green skimming over the tops of the trees, and the darker, thicker green cloak covers the bushes below. It's just beginning now,  and in a few more days, the woods will look like summer and stay that way until the middle of October.
It's today's beginning touches of tentative green over gray that I like more than the fullness of summer. That's spring to me.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Update



Last year, in a blog post on April 26, I wrote about a series of documentaries I had been watching on the horrors of the Nazi death camps. I mentioned a former SS man who had been an Aughwitz guard. He was unrepentant, insisting it had to be done, including the deaths of children. He said they would have grown up as more Jews, bringing down the whole vworld. He claimed that the only reason he was participating in this film was that he wanted to counteract those who were denying that these things had ever happened. He wanted everyone to know that it HAD happened, the camps and the
deaths of all those people. But he wasn't sorry about it.
In my post I asked the question: Why is this man still here? He looked prosperous and well cared for. But he was a murderer, a thief, a monster.
Well, in today's paper I read that he is now on trial. I don't know when that documentary was made, but I think it was fairly recent. He was not under arrest at that time. But he is now 94 and on trial. Two women, one now from Toronto and one from Hungary are witnesses to his Auchwitz activities. They were teenagers at the time, and they remember him. They said they are not there to see punishment meted out, but to undergo the process of seeing the guilt he bears, and some closure for themselves.
I find this remarkable. Was this documentary and his admitting that he was an SS guard create the opportunity for his arrest after all these years? Did he think he was invulnerable? His comments in that film were so shocking that I still can't understand how he could have lived free for so long. He has had some 70 years more of life, more years than millions of the victims of that undeniable Holicaust.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Spring and Drawing

 


I am continuing the online drawing class I took in March. It's rather addicting. Several of the same people have signed up again. I'm not producing any "art," but I'm having fun drawing a variety of things in a giant sketchboo. figure I may have to keep doing this class untilI fill it up. We're supposed to draw every day, and each week we have a special assignment based on a topic that Susan gives us. This week it is Something Fishy. So far people are doing some pretty colorful, jewel-like drawings. The illustration here is a practice drawing I did in my IPastel computer program, which I can't use for the class. For the class assignment I paired up the boy on the dolphin with a mermaid. I like this one here better, because with this version I can get the iridescence of the fish scales, which I couldn't seem to accomplish on paper. But one of the good things about the class is that I am actually doing some drawing on paper,  leaving the IPad,  enjoying it.
Spring is actually here at last, and this week-end there are leaves popping out on the trees. To add to the seasonal turning, in the past week I've had two Apollo's Fire concerts. A week ago I won four tickets to an afternoon mini-concert for families, examining Vivaldi's Spring, showing the audience how the composer brought in the sounds of the season and demonstrating the instruments and the players' roles in the piece. It was informal and witty. I took Cynthia and Sally and we had a fine time. Went to Corky and Lenny's deli after for brisket.
Then this past Thursday Ann Waters and I went over to Akron to hear them do all four seasons with the full orchestra. After last week's performance, Cynyhia had made me a little painting of Jeannette Sorrell, the orchestra's founder and director, tuning her harpsichord, wearing a beautiful dark blue dress, with the sun shining through a chapel window, lighting up her brilliant red hair. I decided to make a copy of it to give to Ms. Sorrell after this week's concert ( Ann knows her well). Well, the concert was astounding, a full house, stomping, clapping, cheering and uplifted. Ann and I caught Jeanette as she came out and I gave her the picture. The cellist was with her, and they both loved it and she was very pleased to have it. She is probably still wondering who that strange old lady was, and maybe thinks I did the painting. Actually, I did a version of it for my drawing class. We had gotten to the performance last week early. It was in a chapel at one of Cleveland's great churches, and the scene was lovely. Thursday night's was in a huge class Lutheran church in Akron, with great acoustics.
I have missing my Cleveland Orchestra concerts, so it was great to hear an excellent professional group playing full out in a great space.
There is so much good music around here.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

In Like a Wet Lamb, or Eau d;agneau


March stayed pretty lion-like for a few weeks, and April so far is like unto wet lamb. Not only that, but mornings are like the Hound of the Badkerville's foggy moors.  But the ice is gone, finally, and it's much warmer. Not shirt sleeves warm, but well above the below zero weather of the past couple of months. It's not green yet, but I hear that crocuses and daffodils have appeared here and there. Spring in Northeastern Ohio takes its time, but it is very much worth the wait, a beautiful season which we deserve.
I finished my month of online Lucky Drawing 102 and enjoyed it very much. I had to get used to drawing large, since most of what I've done lately has been on the small side, and we were using an 11 x 14 sketchbook, sometimes using a double spread, making it 22 x 28 mega-drawing. It was a lot of work, but so much fun that I've signed up for another hitch. I've been impressed by the work of the other students in the class, and we all love the instructor, the artist Susan Shie. (You can Google her.)
Other than that I haven't done much. Got hooked on "  Parenthood" on Netflix, which I found extremely annoying, but had to find out what happened next. One of the child characters had a reading problem, and from how the writers handled it, in Berkley, California, home of one of the best universities in the country, the schools have never heard of reading specialists, or testing to ascertain what a kid might need in the way of assistance. They just decide to make him repeat the grade. It's full of dumb things like that, so that the characters can experience major crises rather than find out where they could resolve manufactured issues. Ya gotta have problems in plots or you'd have no show, but this one really makes Californians look idiotic.
Another good thing about the drawing class is that it got me away from such mind-numbing time wasters.
Probably.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A Foggy Day, Harbinger of Spring



This cruel winter is winding down. Last week there were 7 or 8 inches of snow on the ground. The first warmish day, a dense fog hung about for most of the time. I love fog. I like the mystery of how it can transform familiar spaces and change one's orientation to reality. I like how it makes haloes around street lights at night. I like how it creates a feeling of isolation, so that my house seems to be far from any other houses, as if I'm on an island far away from land.
In the last few days, all that snow is gone. The ground is brown, with a gray-green cast. For those living in low areas or near creeks and rivers, there's water everywhere. There's still a chill in the air, but we have had a few days of sweater weather. Some people here in northeast Ohio have crocuses and snowdrops blooming already. The ice is mostly gone, although John found the trail in one of the MtroParks ice covered yesterday when he went for a hike.
Saturday night, when Sally and I were returning from a concert, we found a crowd of students along University Drive, out on the muddy lawns of fraternity houses, enjoying their beer and music as if it were late April and 70 degrees instead of 40.
It's been a loooong winter.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Online Art Class



I am having fun with the Lucky Drawing Class. (Lucky is Susan Shie's nickname.) we have to draw something every day by setting a timer  for 10 minutes and drawing whatever comes to mind. I believe this is one of those concepts left over from the hippie era, when a little mind altering substance helped the process along. No matter, it results in making me put down this IPad and doing something real and tangible. If you like what comes up, you can spend  more time and make a finished drawing.
Besides this, we have a more direct and complicated assignment each week. The one due tomorrow is to draw one's closet with a surprise in it. Could be a clothes closet, a supply closet, etc., and draw what's in it, plus something unexpected. I haven't finished mine yet, but I think it will be  all right if I don't screw it up.
For some reason, Sixto is interested, suddenly, in my drawing table, my drawing pencils, erasers, anything loose, which he likes to pat and push around. I kept thinking that he had never done this before. Then I realized that the last time I was in there, there was no Sixto around. It has been around 2 and 1/2 years since I was working on those Amish scenes. I've also been using a painting app to illustrate this blog, mainly because my scanner broke and I couldn't scan drawings any more as I had done before.
For the drawing class, we are working in a very large size skettchbook, so we photograph our drawings and download them to a personal album on a FB site, which is basically our virtual classroom. There we can get feedback from Lucky and other members of the class. Way cool, I think.
Above is one of my drawings from one of those  timed exercises. I made these window figures from this plasticky stuff I got in Germany, called Fenster Farben. They are transparent and cheerful little things especially in the winter.
 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Roaring In



March began very traditionally, with a snowstorm. The snow started Saturday, but our first day of the month when Spring starts was arctic. The outlook is not good. I have missed quite a few of my water aerobics classes this winter, mainly to avoid losing my footing as I skid down the walk to my friend's car. Ice seems to form even though John keeps shoveling every flake almost as soon as it falls. He lent me his YakTraks, and I have my walking sticks, but it is treacherous for an aged person such as I am to risk breaking my body into little pieces.
Two good things during March are the Sunday pancake breakfasts in maple syrup country, and the Lenten fish-fries down at the town of St. Joseph. Even though I broke my hip at the latter some years back, I still enjoy the food and community spirit in that little German Catholic village.
I am also starting an online drawing class offered by Susan Shie, a gifted artist and fun person I got to know when we both participated in Artsweek down at  a school in Sugarcreek. I taught a week of storytelling for middle-school students,  and Susan, or Lucky taught kids to paint story chairs. She's a fantastic and nationally known art quilter and painter, and also very funny. Until I had  to give up driving, I had taken some kind of art class every year for  a long time, just to keep my hand in and to learn new skills. This should be fun. This is Lucky's second online class, but she's been teaching for years. She'll give us assignments, we'll take photos of each one, download them into our own album and post them on a special Facebook page. We'll be working in a large format, which I find intimidating, but I think it will be much fun and challenging.One exercise will be to spend 10 minutes evry morning to draw something, whatever comes to mind. This morning, after aerobics class, I started by making watery colors, like the pool I exercise in, and Sixto joined me, right on my drawing table, rubbing my face and covetring part of the paper with his tail and one of his paws. So that's what I drew. 

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Winter and I



Although I was born in New Jersey, we moved tomAtlanta when I was 4 years old, and that became the definitive homeplace of my childhood. I didn't think of myself as a Southerner; even though my father was from Alabama, I identified with the Yankee side of my mother. But the South was where I lived during the most formative years, shaped also by the Great Depression, which had an effect on all those of my generation.
Southern winters were mild then, sweater weather mostly. I would see pictures of snow, ice skaters, kids on sleds, kids building snow men and having snowball fights. It seemed to be related to fairy tales, not quite real. Then, one late winter we had a snowstorm, right there in Atlannta. Our front yard was covered in soft, white snow, like in the picture books....all 2 or 3 inches of  it. Of course we were not prepared for it: no heavy jackets, no boots, no hats or mittens. I think we probably went out init anyway, because school was canceled for a couple of days, and I think if we'd stayed inside our mother would have run away from home.
Another year we had an ice storm, a very scary sort of thing,Mitch warnings of live wires on the streets that would instantly fry you to death. No school, of course. The power was out, too. Before the storm, I had just started reading "Tom Sawyer," and continued to read it by candlelight. Our mother stayed put, even though we were all in the house all day, not allowed outside, last we step on one of those deadly live wires. Those two freakish winter storms were the extent of my experience with winter must be like Up North.
When I was in the middle of seventh grade, my father took a job in Ohio. He left before Christmas, leaving our mother  to do the packing up and buying a new used car and driving it from Atlanta to Springfield, Ohio, with five children, none of whom wanted to leave Atlanta. My older brother had just turned 16, and had just gotten his drver's license. He and Mother picked out a 1934 Dodge sedan, and 5 days after Christmas 1939' we set out for the unknown. We'd never even met anyone from Ohio. This was long before the days of freeways; most  highways were two lane roads.
Everything was fine until we crossed the Ohio River and ran into snow. Neither my mother nor my brother had ever driven in the stuff. I just remember being sure we'd all be killed. In the dark of night, we slid off the road into a snowbank, but didn't die. A kind man pulled us out, and we spent the rest of the night in one of those precursors of the motel, a "tourist cabin," one of a series of little one room wooden shack s with a pot-bellied stove that glowed red but didn't give off enough heat to warm our Southern bones. We safely arrived in Springfield the next day, New Year's Eve.
Arriving in Ohio in the winter gave us plenty of opportunities to experience snow, and plenty of it. We acquired the needed clothing, including ugly galoshes, which closed with snaps and didn't keep our feet warm at all.
The snow was disappointing. In those days, heating with coal furnaces was common, so the lovely looking white stuff had a grimy gray coating the next day. It also developed a crust that would wound your ankles as you sank into it. We lived in half of a double house with a gas street lamp in front of it
that cast a dim and depressing yellow light over the gray snow.
That was my introduction to the reality of snow, and even though it's been over 75 years, and it doesn't get gray from coal dust,  I have never really liked it much, except on nights when the moon is full, shining  on it, and I'm inside, warm, looking out.



Saturday, February 21, 2015

The American Dream


I have wondered what exactly the "American Dream" is. It seemed to be a popular expression during the Reagan administration. The first time I heard it was from Arnold Schwazaneger, who claimed he had achieved the Amewican dweam, so I thought maybe it meant a person could go from being a body building immigrant to marrying a president's niece, making movies, getting elected to office and becoming very rich. I heard it attached to home ownership as the ultimate achievement of the Dream during the Cheney years.
I decided to Google it. It was coined in 1931 by a historian and writer named James Truslow Adams. He said that the Dream is that "life should be richer and fuller through achievement to the best of one's ability regardless of  social class."
This has been adapted over the years to fit the politicians' approach to particular voters. Those who work hard to achieve success have fulfilled the requirement entitling them to attain the Dream. Working "hard" is a relative term, as is "success."At any rate it sounds reasonable and fair that anyone can achieve in this country regatdless of "social class," which we are not supposed to have in America. Really? Some claim that the American Dream has its roots in the Declaration of Indepence, the part about "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."  (There are those who swear this statement  is in the Constitutio, and that it's a law!)
So far as I can see, the current interpretation of the American Dream seems to pertain to material accumulation and status. There's nothing about the ideals of freedom and equality in most current interpretations of this American Dream. The originator of the phrase made a fairly simple  statement which has come to mean something other than the hope that one could make a good life here. He wrote this in 1931 at the onset of the Depression, perhaps in the spirit of American optimism.
And Arnold's Dream turned into a bit of a nightmare for the president's niece.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Brrrr!



Like most of the Northeast, we are experiencing a lot of snow, a lot of ice, and very, very low temperatures. (As I wrote that last word, I recalled how my father used to pronounce that word in his Alabama accent: tem-per-at- tires,  each syllable distinct.) Many   mornings, our outdoor thermometer pointer is below the zero mark, rising into the high teens by afternoon, then going back down. We have had a lot of sun, though, which makes everything outside white and blue and cheerful. A person needs sunglasses. Right now it's snowing, just what is called a snow shower.  Enough of the weather report, since it's not news in the winter.
I am spending most of my time binge watching past TV series on this IPad, thanks to Netflix streaming video. It's addictive, even though the one I'm working at right now is the much acclaimed Friday Night Lights, acclaimed by lovers of plunging necklines, shrill Texas women and hapless teenagers ( played by 25  year old actors) and their equally hapless parents. Oh, and there's football, lots of football. .There's a serious continuity problem - people appear and disappear with no explanation, plot lines get confused about what happened in the last season. Perhaps this is because the networs changed the day and time so often, and then it went to a different network altogether.
Why am I continuing to watch it? Because it's always, mostly, sunny in Texas. That's why all the girls and women wear cleavage down to here clothing. Maybe that's what the critics liked about it. Another interesting, if curious, thing is that no one has a doorbell in this town. They have cell phones, computers and such, but every time someone goes to a home, they knock on the door....Rap!  Rap! Rap! Knuckles of steel they have. Strange. Maybe in the final episode the reason for this phenomenon will be revealed. So I'll stick it out to the bitter end.
 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Valentine's Day



when my granddaughters were little, I used to make them Valentines and birthday cards. I had a book on pop-up cards, and had great fun devising cards with moving parts and little surprises that they enjoyed ( I heard), and I felt like a fairly good grandmother. I have gotten out of the habit of doing those cards and send them Jacquie Lawson cyber cards, which are beautiful, but not particularly personal.
I have gotten a bit lazy about drawing and painting in general, at least with real materials.
I have a couple of drawing apps on this IPad, which I have been using to illustrate this blog. My favorite is IPastels, because it is easy to use without much of a learning curve. I have a couple of others which are more complicated, and probably more versatile. IPastels has a great pallete, a wonderful range of colors, and works much like real life pastels. It lacks an efficient zoom function, the thing you need for fine detail, but I'm gradually learning to use what it has without smearing everything. It also doesn't have any choice of support surface, which another app I use does.
Another interesting feature of cyber art is that there are a number of filters one can use on a finished piece, which can create interesting variations in the work. I have used these filters on a number  of illustrations on this blog. The picture below shows how a filter has affected the picture above.
To get myself back to real work, I am contemplating an online are course given by a wonderful artist I know, hoping to jump start myself into getting back into the studio and de-sluggify myself,
artistically.


Saturday, January 31, 2015

January


The first month of 2015 has gone by so rapidly and so coldly. Lots of zeroes and near zeroes with plenty of snow to go along with it. I bought some very nice new warm boots before the snow fell, and they are working out quite nicely.
John escaped for a trip to the South, but got back in time for more snow. And just in time to shovel it. While he was gone, good old Earl showed up to clear a path out to the curb so my friends could pick me up to go to our water aerobics class. It seems incongruous to be putting on a bathing suit this time of year, but the pool is warm and the exercise is vigorous and you bundle up coining and going.
Three houses next to me have turned into student housing. In two cases, the houses were bought by parents for their daughters to live in while they're going to the university. The two girls, from two different families, are each sharing their houses with two friends. That makes three people in each house, which is against the housing code, which was developed when I was on the Kent Board of Health. The main problem is that these six students, plus two more students in the third house, all have cars, which they park on the street of this formerly quiet street. This has made it difficult for my friends and family to pick me up. One good thing about the snow is that when there iare over 2 inches deep, on-street parking is verboten, so that the snow plows can do their job. I don't know where they are parking now, but most of the cars have disappeared for the time being. All of the cars make it obvious that there are too many students living in these houses. The former off-campus student holding area has been destroyed in the expansion of the university, including a massive newcarchiture building and the so-called Esplanade, a paved walkway which cuts through campus and leads to the downtown so that students can go there and spend money. Anyway, I have left a note on a car and also asked a couple of the students not to park in front of my house, and they have been good about it so far. But I do  hate to see our quiet street turned into an adjunct of the university.
 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Academic Momologuing



Since I live in a university town, where my husband once taught, many of my friends and acquaintances are or have been professors. Many of them are now retired. They are intelligent, interesting people, highly knowledgeable not only in their special area, but having a breadth of interests.
However, for some after retirement, there is a condition I call Professor's Disease.This  disease comes from having classrooms full of students in thrall to the professor's wisdom for some thirty years or so. The main symptom is "I'll talk, you'll listen,"  resulting in one-way conversations. They are not necessarily boring, but when one is on the receiving end, there is a sense that there may be a pop quiz after half an hour or so of listening, or pretending to listen, to what amounts to a sort of lecture. These folks can go on and on for some time, perhaps for fifty minutes, the usual period for a class. In the case of a seminar, it could be two hours. I've often felt that if I raised my hand, I might make a comment or ask a question, but I'm afraid that might encourage an additional flow of verbiage.
In good weather they can be seen downtown, like a pointer at a pheasant hunt, holding one or two people immobilized, except for the faint nods,  at bay while  offering the latest scholarly take on politics, the state of higher education, etc. etc. etc. it must be terrible not to have those classrooms in one's life any longer.
I mentioned this disease to a friend, and she said that on occasions when she is at social events and doesn't feel  like engaging in conversation, these are the people she seeks out, knowing that the ball is in another's court, and she can relax and enjoy her drink and appear to be sociable. And, as I mentioned, they can be interesting.
They are not good at listening, so if their hair is on fire, they may not hear what you are saying. That's why it's important to keep a drink in hand, preferably non-alcoholic.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Relativity of History



Yesterday, on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, there was a free showing of the film "Selma," for high school students in Akron. In this morning's paper, several students were interviewed to get their reactions to the film. Their response was that it was good to "learn history," I had two reactions to their responses: why didn't they already know about this, and their calling it "history."
There  have been, even recently, some excellent documentaries on the civil rights movements of the sixties, to say nothing of that superb "Eyes on the Prize" series. Are they not using these things in schools these days? They don't even have to read text books to learn about one of the major issues of the 20th   century.
Then I realized that this "history" was 50 years ago, and that the parents of these kids probably weren't even born when all this was going on, and had no idea of the events, the struggles, the dangers and the bravery of young Black students and their parents in the South at the time. When I was the age of the kids who saw "Selma," fifty years ago to me would have been the late 19th century -ancient times to a 15 year old.
Fifty years ago to me, however, does not seem that long ago at all. I vividly remember seeing on television Black people rallying for voting rights being knocked off their feet by fire hoses, being attacked by police dogs, being beaten by nightsticks by the local police. I was shocked that President Kennedy stayed silent, absolutely ignoring what was happening to American citizens. I sat down and wrote a scathing letter to him, but never mailed it, feeling helpless. This is the president whose picture graced many Black homes. In those days the Southern Democrats wielded most of the power in the Senate, and they weren't about to do anything either. I can't remember how long it took Kennedy to react, but his lack of outrage at the violence in Selma was a  lasting disappointment to me.
I think in the end it was the Selma March, and the participation if so many people from all over the
country, that turned the tide, but not until there was more violence and several deaths, and the hateful
Bull Connor, the "law man," who beat and bullied anyone who crossed his path.
Yesterday, there was an article in the Akron Beacon Journal about the Selma Sympathy March, fifty years ago. My friends, Shirley and Marty Baron and I were in that march, part of the crowd of 2500' white and Black citizens who felt the need to do something. I'll never forget how quiet the march was. This was before the murder of Viola Liuzzo, the woman in the Selma March in Alabama who was shot and killed, but I found myself wondering if someone in one of the buildings we walked by might decide to take some potshots at us, and what was I, a widow with four young children, doing by participating in this event? Even in the north, there were many angry people, upset that "they" were demanding equal rights.
It's hard to believe that was fifty years ago. It's also hard to believe that the struggle goes on, and that there is no Martin Luther King, Jr. to provide the kind of leadership we all need.