June 17, 2020

Day 90

When this self-isolation began, I knew it would take a while for the Covid-19 virus to be contained and controlled.  I did not think of actual numbers, just "some distant day."  It's day 90, and while our governor has gradually eased restrictions, I'm still not ready to proceed unchecked into the day.  Masks, in my life, are a part of my life now.  In fact, the reminder note on the inside of my front door now reads "Keys,   Phone,    Pants,    Mask."  And I don't really see an end in sight, at least not until a vaccine is developed, tested, and is as widely available as the flu vaccine.

In the last 78 days since my last blog, much has happened in the world and in my 'hood.  The most striking is the protests against racial inequities.  We have over 400 years of racial inequity in this country; it was here at our first settlements, it was here and thriving during the American Revolution.  It was not eliminated by the Civil War - it simply changed it spots.  And today, we still see, DAILY, how we judge others and treat them according to what we have internalized.

I grew up in Virginia, with segregation, with Jim Crow.  Racial inequity was so ingrained in our daily lives, that it was never discussed.  We learned to not ask why, or how, or when.  We simply accepted it as the status quo.  I do not think of myself as racist, but that is a mirage.  Every time I look at someone, I see the color of their skin.  I am trying, daily, to change that.  Some days are better than others.  But I have a lot to learn.

We are taught as toddlers to differentiate -- color; size; taste.  We group things by similarities, and we learn that things we like are "good," and the things we don't like are "bad."  It's part of being socialized and "domesticated," as I read another blogger describe it.  So, then things like me are good, and things not like me are bad.  The transition to race becomes easy.

We have now equipped our police with riot shields, mace, helmets, kevlar, rubber bullets, tasers.  And we treat them as front-line warriors to protect the public from the "bad" guys.  Tell me, how  can we equip warriors and not expect them to act as warriors, when they have not been trained to differentiate between the good guys and the bad guys?  When all they know is what was educated in them as toddlers - "us" and "them"?  And then that education continued, as is readily available in every media, every religious institution, every format?

When is enough, enough?  When is it too much?  When will we accept we are wrong to continue to look at things (and EACH OTHER) as how we are different, and not as how we are the same?

March 30, 2020

Day 12 of self-isolation

Oh, where DOES the time go?  It really HAS been 10 days since my last blog!  Things in Delaware are moving erratically.  Some of the grocery stores are opening at 6 ayem for elderly (that's us'uns, over 60) to shop, along with the at-risk population.
The governor has issued another update to his Emergency Declaration.  Any visitors traveling into the state MUST self-quarantine for 14 days.  the only ifs, ands or buts are for medical care for self, or to care for family.  if you're traveling through, just keep going.  If you're an Essential Business, it's ok to come and go.  There is a large at-risk population here in Delaware, and it is mostly centered in the high-growth areas along the coasts -- the beaches, to be exact.  And that is where everyone went 9 days ago when the temps hit 70+  --   to the beach.
So, to my friends who have second homes here, and to visitors, We love you. We really do.  But PLEASE STAY HOME!  Our hospitals, our infrastructure, our toilet paper and hand sanitizer supplies, they are all stretched right now.  Even our hospitals and essential medical providers do not have enough PPE's to maintain sanitary and healthy medical environments.  Please shelter in place.
Read; write (keep a journal of this very real world-wide pandemic for yourself, and for the begets; go for walks; grab a video-conference app (there are plenty out there) and SEE the faces of your family and friends.  Paint.  Listen to Music. Take a Course on-line!  YOU CAN DO THIS!!
COVID19 is changing our lives; how we individually come out of this is our personal responsibility. 
I refuse to call this virus anything other than Covid19; we cannot stoop so low as to blame this on any one person, race, country, or thing.  Our scientists have posited what could happen should a global epidemic strike.  Our government knew in January this was coming.  We are left holding the bag, waiting for something new to happen, when we can do something.  Our love and compassion will shine through; our teachers, our health-care professionals, our neighbors, we all are stepping in and stepping up.  We will come out of this better and smarter and wiser.


March 20, 2020

The Epidemic, Spring, and Me

Today is the first full day of spring, and it's already 72 degrees on my apartment porch.  The pear trees, daffs, flowering cherries, maples and and a number of other pollen-laden plants are having at it.  Allergies abound, and an epidemic is in full swing.

I'm not going to talk about the panic buying at the stores, or the hordes of people coming to the beaches in this encouraged self-isolation.  There are enough hand-wringers out there.  What is amazing and so damned encouraging to me is that in light of the fact that the federal government has known about the impending epidemic for two months now, and subsequently failed to notify even the state or local governments, the Helpers arrived.

Teachers, at a moment's notice, figured out how to stream classes and rewrite their class syllabuses to accommodate distance teaching. Local governments, state, county, and city, have taken action across the country to take care of their citizens.  Restaurants and school districts are enacting free lunch schedules for kids, whether at-risk, or not.  Individuals are reaching out, contacting those who are alone, scared, at-risk. And their care is still evolving.

We've lived in a society of Instant Gratification for several decades, and it has been encouraged by the internet.  We have instant access to our friends, to news, to gossip, to information.  Our circles of friends has become world-wide, and we communicate on a regular basis.

I found a letter recently, written by a great-grand-uncle to his sister, in the late 1870's.  he gave her sad news, of the death of his wife.  The letter took weeks to arrive.  The sister could not go to the funeral, grieve with the family, talk to her brother.  It was all done silently, remotely, and weeks later.  Today, we know instantly of every happening locally and at a distance -- no waiting weeks for newspapers or letters to arrive, or news to filter from foreign correspondents to their editors, to the publications, to us.  The good news is that we know--quickly..The bad news is that we know--quickly.  what matters is how we deal with it.  Attitude is everything. 

My two greatest incentives to do anything are anticipation of reward and fear of punishment: gold stars or switches.  I have enough - toilet paper, hand sanitizer, soap, food, although I'm not hoarding.  I know this will pass.  I know that our society has been through worse.  I know how quickly fear can spread on the wings of rumor.

Breathe, my friends, breathe.  we will get through this.  We will be changed.  We will know our own strengths and weaknesses better.  we will cement friendships, and lose friends.  We will rediscover our core values of compassion, patience, care, love, and community.   We are better than our base instincts to hoard and isolate, for we are stronger together.  And, there are always helpers.  Look for them.  Support them.  Become one.  Be safe.  And wash your hands like you mean it.

March 10, 2020

I continue to be amazed at what happens with the time!!  All of a sudden, it's March, and it's been a month since I last updated this blog.  Golly, I am a wee bit embarrassed!
Two major things are happening:  The Big Draw Festival DE, and a sketching workshop I took over the weekend.  (We'll just save the other things for later!!)
 Last October the Mispillion Art League conducted a Big Draw Festival for the first time.  Although the Festival itself originated in England 20 years ago, we decided in a "Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland Let's have a show" moment, to conduct one ourselves.  And since it was a BIG Draw, we decided to do it for the entire month, rather than just a single event.  And, since we had never conducted an event like this before, we had to start from scratch and invent the wheel!  We carried out 25 free Saturday events for children and families, and an additional 25 or so classes and workshops at reduced fees.  In total, we had over 1800 participants (those we could count, since most of our events were outside and traffic was very free-flowing.)  we painted in the street with our feet, built a HUGE sandcastle out of 8 tons of sand, had arts activities at 4 other arts organizations in town (music, dance, theater, museum), painted with coffee, and painted a mandala on our entryway into the Art League.
The theme has changed this year, to one of The Big Green Draw - A Climate of Change.  And, we're doing it again!!  We've changed our focus to include art with recycled materials and encompassing a larger geographic range in the city. And we've started planning, with weekly meetings and on-going assignments.  And, I'm the co-chair.
Second, the workshop.  I just finished a two-day sketching workshop with Pat Southern-Pearce, a Bolton, England (it's near Manchester) artist who has the most amazing sketchbooks and art!  (look for her work on her Facebook page.)
I started painting 20 years ago, after a lifetime of being admonished "don't think about art, because you'll never be able to make a living at it."  So, I came late into the entire field.  My first instructor was a classic watercolorist (don't use black and save the whites of the paper for the whites in the painting).  And she used ONLY watercolor, no other media.  I moved to acrylics and collage, where there was more freedom of media, but it still seemed to me that anything using watercolors should still be purely watercolor.  Well, Pat changed that!  We sketched on beige, grey, and black (yes, black!) papers, used markers, pencils, acrylics, inks, chalks, watercolor pencils, and glue sticks to create deeply personal stories of our days.  What a concept!  Finally, permission to use anything I wanted, without reservation!  I'm still recovering.  and I just may never recover!  (At least, I hope!)

February 6, 2020

Be Careful What You Ask For

Early last week I commented to a friend that I thought the landlord (outside) had forgotten to pay the heating bill.  The was immediately followed by two days of 70 degree weather.  (Note to self:  be careful what you ask for.)

A year ago I was looking around my 4-bedroom house, bemoaning the fact that I had too much stuff, including too many bedrooms.  In July I moved - drastically reducing the available space for "stuff," and going from essentially eight rooms to 4.  The biggest challenge was the reduction in space, from close to 3000 square feet to 1000.  (Note to self:  be careful what you ask for.)

One of the interesting things about this new space, is that there are only 2 closets, each located in a bedroom.  And the bigger bathroom is attached to the bedroom with the smaller closet. This created a massive decision -- bigger bathroom, or bigger closet?  By the way, there is no hall closet for coats. (Note to self:  be careful what you ask for.  Second note to self:  you have to ask for what you want.)

If you're following along, you get the drift.  In order to get what you ask for, you have to know what you want.  Feel free to change the pronouns in the previous sentence.  One of the hardest things I have had to learn in this life-walk is to ask for what I want.  As a Baby Boomer and a female raised in the South, women were taught to be demure, quiet , and willing to put everyone else's wants and needs before their own.  And, coming from a long line of martyrs, this was not difficult.  I give a lot of credit to my mother, who entered nursing in the '30's as a necessity to support her family.  So growing up, I never had heavy expectations put on me regarding what I shouldn't do (art is a different topic), but there were no clear-cut guidelines as to what I could do.  I found myself directionless -- not knowing even what I wanted.

The good news in all of the ensuing confusion was that I was given the freedom to try many things.  The cultural expectations of  my parents' generation was that once you found a job, you stayed there.  Once you found a home, you stayed there, but you were permitted to move in you needed more room.  The changing of jobs, moving to different cities, even changes in life-style, were met with raised eyebrow and a question about the "stability" of the person moving.  WWII changed most of that, both form the new-found roles of women, to the ability to move and change.

All that we do in our lives is helped by standing on the shoulders of that who have gone before.  I confess, there are times I wish I were born later, that I could go back to college and major in what really excites me now, alter relationships, change my path.  But what comes to me at the close of the day is that I am right where I'm supposed to be, notes to self nothwithstanding.

January 28, 2020

January

It's cloudy again.  And winter, although we've seen only a light dusting of snow here in Delaware. The rare days of sun, even those days were the sun is out for a five-minute pass-through, these days fill my soul during the interminable grayness of of January and February.
So, I stay inside, reading and writing, and the unending drudgery of unpacking boxes.  Usually unpacking means simply "to put away."  but in this new apartment I have coalesced 20+ years of living and accumulating in a large house into a 1000 square foot apartment.  And what has coalesced into the remaining boxes in the attached garage is purely and simply "art supplies."
The life of an artist is fraught with the overwhelming realization that everything is "art supplies."  empty toilet paper rolls?  Art supplies.  Old earrings?  Art supplies.  Crumpled tissue paper?  Art supplies.  You get the idea.  My Art Supplies garage runneth over.  There's no room for the car, but there is room for more Art Supplies.  And the part that whelms me over, is that sorting through all of those are supplies entails handling them, individually, and usually more than once.  This takes "Swedish Death Cleaning" in a different direction.
Usually the above-mentioned Swedish Death Cleaning involves making hard decisions about purging possessions that the Heirs definitely do not want, need, or desire.  Such as grandmother's china; the silver; crystal; furniture that has been in the family for aeons. 
Sorting Art Supplies is much more fun.  The question of "does anyone in the family want/need/desire this old brush" is moot.  This is now a personal loss of Extreme Magnitude, because I can still USE that brush.  Along with 79 other brushes I have collected over the years.  Collage papers, printed instructions on making quill pens from goose feathers, trying to decide if dried watercolor tubes can be rescued, sorting water containers, old acrylic mediums, emails about shows -- all of this requires introspection, thought, and more than anything else, decision and letting go.
Now, granted, much of this is just "stuff."  Replaceable, duplication, and more-or-less unimportant.  Clothing, furniture, kitchen ware, this can be recycled to someone who can use it.  Much of Art Supplies is unimportant to anyone else unless they are also artists and creators. And getting rid of, recycling, giving away, re-purposing, donating, call it what you will - being shut of - Art Supplies feels like a denial of one's own Creativity.
It's hard.  It's tearful.  It sucks.  It's necessary.  It's drudgery.  It's January.

January 21, 2020

Why I Write

Ok.  I'm not sure what just happened.  Today is January 21, and I SWEAR I just posted my earlier blog only last week.  But, suddenly, it's 19 days later!  What HAPPENED???  Think I've been caught in a time warp . . . where is Spock when I need him?

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, or in this case, the apartment, I've been busy.  We've had unseasonable warm weather, followed abruptly by unseasonable cold.  I'm discovering cold drafts I didn't know existed, but I am watching the setting sun move farther and farther north on the horizon.  The massive exterior repairs on my apartment building, started before Thanksgiving, ended last week (to my great relief), and the new year is definitely upon us.

I've been thinking a lot lately about poetry, how it's written, why it's written.  A friend at my writers' group asked me why I write the poems I've been sharing.  I could only explain, that the greatest impact on how I write has come from the oldest poets, not their personal ages, but the ages in which they wrote.  I love the Icelandic sagas; anonymous Irish poetry and ballads, the Epic of Gilgamesh, and especially, Beowulf.  My favorite translations are the older ones; their rhythm, language, internal rhyme schemes and alliteration.  I was introduced to Beowulf in high school, senior English.  A classmate had memorized several lines of Beowulf and would recite it before class as we were settling for roll-call.  The line that stuck with me for the last 55 years has been "when twilight deepens to dark in the sky."  (This is the J Duncan Spaeth translation, by the way.)  Poetry is aural -- to be fully appreciated, it must be HEARD; to be read with the ears as much as with the eyes.  Withing the somber setting of Beowulf introducing himself to the king, Hgrothgar, this line is inserted.  I have the instant image of this dusk in my mind, thanks to the original writers and to Dr Spaeth, and hearing it recited brings me inner joy.

That's key for me -- image.  A poet must be concise in language, for the reader can tire and move on. I write fairly short poems, usually around 20-24 lines, so I have to get the images across quickly and succinctly.  And, more than anything, I want the reader to think, "oh, I hadn't thought of it that way!"
Our instant connections through internet means we are bombarded with information, news, views, cute puppies, and much, much to ponder.  There comes a time in my day when I simply want to relax, to let images was over me, and ponder, and mull.  Poets, more than any other writing genre, observe.  They observe people, they observe things, they observe their world.  And they share their observations quickly, with force and conviction, rhythm and rhyme, feeling and nuance.  Many of us had to memorize poetry in school.  And whether poetry, or song lyrics, there are memories conveyed within the lines as we remember and recite.

A good line or phrase, whether in poetry or prose, stays with us; and those words evoke other times and places and people.  It is the observation that sticks, whether it's crowds of daffodils, the great silkie, twilight, or a wine-dark sea, we just say "wow."