I have lived on Samish Island now for one year and three months. It has been a year of learning and adapting and change. Mostly it has been good and mostly I am happy. There are things I miss. The companionship and community of my long-time friends in Seattle are foremost. I am making new friends on the island and in the nearby sweet town of Edison.
The months of July and August and now September have raced by. We have had a wet and cool May and June and then it got hot and has stayed hot.
My little raised planting beds have hosted lettuce, chard, and kale and cherry tomatoes and one little red pepper. The squash are now in full reign towering over everything even climbing over the top of a five foot wire basket—delicata—and zuchini. Lordy! So many zuchini!
The packets of wild flower seeds I sowed in the spring produced a sea of bright blooms still going strong and the deer didn’t eat them! They did eat the leaves of the strawberries. But the surprise was the French Sorel which I sowed in rows in a container. That sorel has produced several devine tureens of soup—delicious chilled and warm.
And so life goes on. Ups and down. Harvesting what I have sowed. More surprises to come.
I’ve rarely heard this word spoken. I know what it means and when Emma Thompson spoke it in her role as Nancy in the film “Good Luck to You, Leo Grande” I was surprised. Later I thought it was the perfect time to trot that word out and think about it. It means strong desire, especially sexual desire. And, for the first time in her life, Nancy was greatly desirous of many things related to that topic. The scene where she reads her “wish” list to Leo is a momentous moment for her and, I wonder, how many of us have a like list with no one to fulfill it? Or no one who is able or willing to fulfill it?
I see Cupid’s name buried in concupiscence. Cupid or Eros was the child of Venus and Mercury. The word cupid came from the Latin cupere which means to desire. I’m sorry in modern times that Cupid is portrayed as a fat baby with a tiny bow and a quiver of arrows. I prefer the depiction of Eros the Greek’s god of love and sex as shown above.
You might remember that lust was one of the 7 deadly sins. Joining anger, covetousness, envy, gluttony, pride, and sloth which were a heavy burden for early Catholics to bear. The relief of their sins often entailed giving money to the church and receiving other penences meted out by clergy. Well, of course, Nancy would know all this—she taught religious education during her career. She was very well versed in concupiscense. In theory, if not in fact!
I don’t know if you have seen the movie, but please do. It is marvelous for many reasons. Older women, young men, sexuality, body image, sex workers, marital sex, nudity, candor, honesty, and yes, lust, all handled in one film shot mostly in one room, with two very talented actors. Daryl McCormack, Leo, in the film was pitch perfect in a role that could have gone wrong and did not. And Emma Thompson, brilliant! A Goddess!
I was moved, blazingly happy, wishful, jealous (a deadly sin) and hopeful as I watched the film spellbound. I cried at the end—for joy, really. Nancy and Leo’s conversations took place in one small hotel room, over four different sessions. Nancy learning to ask for and receive what she wants: intimacy, orgasm, and self-awareness. And Leo got what he needs: understanding, trust, and respect.
Maybe we should consider adopting a more vigorous and virile image of the god of love, sex and desire. It might be a very positive change. It certainly was for Nancy.
I took this picture just after I woke up. An altar to beauty and an altar to memory. Each item on that table, including the table itself, evokes a memory of person, place—a moment—in time past. I suppose if Marcel Proust can write an enormous book about searching for memories of past times, I can manage a blog post.
I have just marked four months in my new home on Samish Island—no boat or ferry needed—a land bridge was built from earth dug up by early farmers in the valley to build dikes to keep their farms from flooding. I live in a little house built in the late 19th Century. It began life as the Atlanta Tavern. And later it became the home of early pioneers on the island. I’m sitting on land between Padilla Bay and the Samish Sea which was the home of Native Americans for hundreds of years. It is very beautiful.
So that table. Wood with inlaid marquetry. Slender. Just the correct size to stand across from the foot of my bed. It belonged to my dear friends, Jeff and Helene. They gave it to me when they left Seattle for Brooklyn. I think of them each time I touch the table.
At one end of the table I have placed a beautiful 19th Century etching of Jerusalem—the city on the hill. My sisters Rebecca, Deborah, and Troya bought it for me when they came to visit Seattle many years ago. I was very touched at their thoughtfulness. I love the golden light. The winding road up to the city. I remember my first visit to Israel and the road from Ben Gurion Airport taking me up the hill. What a long ride that was so many years ago. So many stories, lives, so much history.
But what catches your eye, the star of the show, is the glorious hand- painted maquette—a weavers guide—that runs almost the entire length of the table. It is painted on paper—old, wrinkled but still vibrant. Sound like anyone you know?
I bought that piece from a dealer in Tacoma many years ago for my wonderful store in Seattle—Found Objects. Actually, I bought maybe a hundred or so of similar pieces which I pinned to the very high walls in Found Objects creating a visual symphony. Each piece in varied size, design and color was somehow harmonious together. I sold all of them save this one.
Memories of Found Objects are always happy ones. I am touched when I meet someone who remembers the store and tells me about something they own that they bought at the store. I feel so honored to know that they found a treasure that made them happy. Found Objects was a work of love. A joy. Wonderful staff, wonderful customers, and a wonderful landlord—Melvin Poll—may he rest in peace.
Tall candle sticks made of odd pieces of plumbing and pipes kinda eccentric and irregular suit me just fine. Their dangling crystal drops seem incongruous among the pipe fittings but they make me smile.
The two Chinese bowls I bought from Mike at District are holding blue stone grapes—more offerings to the gods. The bottle of fragrance, a gift from a friend, is also. Aren’t all offerings clouded by mirrors and aromatic smoke?
Lying flat and not easy for you to “read” are some old—very old—scraps of decorative molding. (I shot a separate picture so you can see more detail.) I picked them up out of boxes lying beside the walk way in Florence. Scraps salvaged from the flood that ravaged that city in 1966. Some institution must have been cleaning out its storerooms because I was there in the late 80’s. I took as much of the small carved wooden pieces as I could stuff into my back pack. This larger one was a treasure since it is painted a deep red with gilt trim. I assume there were many such pieces put out for the taking. No one even seemed to notice or care that I was picking from the boxes. I am always reminded of Florence, Rome, and all the other places I visited over many years when I see these lovely pieces hand carved by artisans living hundreds of years ago.
Sitting on top of the painted wooden trim piece is a gift from Curtis Steiner. He came to my home for dinner and brought this along. It’s a sheaf of wheat made of gold wire. You often see these sheafs in the hand of statues from ancient times. I imagine to indicate abundance and good harvest. Curtis is a master at creating an abundance of beauty wherever he treads.
The crystal-handled brush and several others similar to it were purchased at a big out door flea in lower Manhattan. They were all sold at Found Objects but I kept this one. If I remember correctly, my dear friend Betsy was with me on this shopping adventure. She would trundle me from 156th and Riverside Drive where she lives in her trusty old Subaru and schlep me and all the stuff I bought back to the packing store. You’ll hear more about Betsy soon. We’re about to embark on a big road trip from Manhattan to Bal Harbor, Maine. Stay tuned.
The yellow Chinese pot is waiting for an orchid or some other perfect posy to rest inside. I bought it at Housewright Gallery a beautiful store in Seattle I believe the pot is conventionally filled with artists brushes, but I don’t have any of them, so a plant will have to fill in.
We’ve come to the end of the tour or my altar. I am a fortunate woman and I am grateful. I offer the closing words from Mary Oliver’s poem
“The Place I Want to Get Back To”
”If you want to talk about this come to visit. I live in the house near the corner, which I have named Gratitude.”
I began this day reading a text message from Peter which had been preceded by a great card yesterday. Then a long call with Nick topics ranged from being alone (me) and being taken up in the lives and living of a busy father (him).
I had just listened to David Whyte, the poet and author, discussing the value of rest and taking time to be alone with ourselves. I believe my move to this small, remote island was very much about being alone with myself. Having been alone rarely in my life, I am reveling in it now. Solitude is for me a glorious thing.
But Nick reminded me that finding community and friends in this new home I’ve come to—now almost a year—is vital. And he’s correct. It is. And so I took myself to Edison, the nearby town founded in the late 1890’s, where a paella feast was scheduled today.
The venue for the paella adventure was Slough Food one of my favorite places in Edison. I don’t eat paella—shellfish is not on my food list—but I enjoy the place and the people and the rest of the menu which is very tasty.
So alone, and not alone. Two ways of being. Each salutary, each enriching.
On November 12, while attempting to cut a recalcitrant squash in half, I managed to damage my left rotator cuff. Within two hours I was assaulted by crippling pain so acute I could barely move. Early that next morning having spent the night popping Tylenol and dozing upright on a stack of pillow, I had a virtual visit with a physician in Spokane! Yes. I live in Skagit County.
This kind man said I had probably torn my rotator cuff, I needed and X-ray and perhaps an MRI, and Physical Therapy. Fine I said, but the pain. What about the pain? Keep up the Tylenol.
Let me say, and anyone who knows me will verify this, I am not a hypochondriac I am not a whiner. I avoid medical establishments like the plague. I am and have been a very healthy person. So when I say I cannot bear this pain—I cannot bear the pain. I, once upon a time, gave birth to two boys—two and a half years apart—natural childbirth. That is my bar for pain. This shoulder pain was in second place.
Throughout that long day I placed calls, texts and chats with my health care provider asking for pain relief. Nada. On the 17th, I asked a neighbor to drive me to the Mt. Vernon Regional Medical Center ER. She did. After waiting several hours, I was taken for an X-ray of the shoulder and then seen by a kind, responsive doc and sent home with 6 tablets of hydrocodone.
I could relax, I could sleep, I could manage gingerly such things as dressing—in loose things with raglan sleeves, clogs, sweats and so on. I didn’t fix food—I had no appetite. And I slept. Sleep does “knit up the raveled sleeve of care.” It allows the body to heal. By the way, pain pills did arrive from my primary care provider on November 20–8 days after my injury.
So here I am today able to key board, wash dishes, prepare a limited cuisine. Open bottles and pop tops of cans, dress, undress, shampoo my hair, take a walk but not drive. Not yet. My left hand and shoulder begin to ache if I use the hand too long holding the arm crooked at the elbow for as long as it’s taken me to write this makes it hurt. So I have to stop now. But I’ll be back with some of the funnier things that ensued and reflections on distance and solitude. And facing the reality that getting help needs to be planned and in place not a spur of the moment response. No one can plan for every contingency, but I can do better—I must.
Have you ever tried to shampoo a big mop of curly hair with one arm and one hand? Forget the shampoo. Have you tried to wash yourself with one hand. And even more taxing, dry yourself after the shampoo and shower? I realize there are many people who cope with disabilities every day and I now have greater respect for what they must do to accomplish routine self -care.
After I took that shower—first in ten days—I was unable to dry myself. I ended up just rolling on the quilt on my bed and air-drying my hair. Thankfully, the ambient temperature was pleasant. Getting dressed was also a challenge. Certainly no bra—no way—anything over the head, painful. Raglan sleeves, good. Sweats yes. Laces on shoes, not possible. Great jolts of sharp pain would remind me anytime I tried to move my arm away from my side. Mostly I kept it safely tucked on my chest where it liked to stay.
It was so hard to make something to eat. Friends brought soups—easy to manage with one hand—but meal prep was hard. Opening a jar? Not so fast. Pop tops, good. But I had no appetite—I lost five pounds during the first two weeks. I just didn’t eat.
Eventually, with meds and Physical Therapy, the kindness of friends who drove me to PT, and bought groceries for me, I got better. The PT was wonderful. It’s six weeks after the bout with the squash and I am functioning fine. Still tingling in the left hand if I keyboard too long. And most activities are doable. I am still careful with my arm, and have some tender areas. It’s important to keep up the exercises the PT doc gave me. I’m not as diligent as I should be, but when I do them my arm feels much better .
The Atmospheric River dried up or rather converted into a a snow storm on December 25 which continued for several days shutting everything down until January 3. An overnight rain and warmer temps melted all the snow away. I’ll be able to drive somewhere this week.
I was living in California when Suzanne became popular. I remember listening to it over and over trying to puzzle out what the song was about “She feeds you tea and oranges that come all the way from China.” Beautiful imagery and a haunting melody. Sweeter and sexier than Dylan’s music, Cohen made me yearn for a lover who’d be like Suzanne’s. “…you’ve touched her perfect body with your mind.” A man who saw that my body was perfect and who could touch my mind. Touch my mind–always the most important thing. But at the time I was musing on such things, I was a mother of two young boys and married.
“The sun pours down like honey.”
“There are heroes in the seaweed.”
Then came “Bird on a Wire.” I like Leonard’s version and Tim Hardin’s best, but probably owned and listened to Judy Collins’ version first since I bought almost all her albums. The drunk, the prostitute “Why not ask for more?”
“I have tried in my way to be free.”
It was only after I saw The Master–the movie about the Scientology movement–that I finally understood “Famous Blue Raincoat.”
“Yes, and Jane came by with a lock of your hair, she said that you gave it to her that night that you planned to go clear.
Did you ever go clear?”
And then Chelsea Hotel and Janis Joplin and Leonard’s evocation of all that I had ever imagined Janis might be.
“I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel. You were talking so brave and so sweet. Giving me head on the unmade bed while the limosines wait in the street.”
The last line which always breaks my heart.
“That’s all, I don’t even think of you that often.”
And you know that he does.
Now that I’m much, much older I’ve grown to love “Dance Me to the End of Love.” The imagery of a wedding night, the breathless and anxious moments when you’re first alone in the bedroom. The lines that describe being inside your lover. As I move to that melody, the swaying beat, the thrumming heat, I dream that I might melt into the arms of a angel.
“Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin. Dance me through the panic til I’m gathered safely in. Touch me with your naked hand or touch me with your glove. Dance me to the end of love.”
Today. September 6, 2022
Leonard Cohen has gone to the stars. He died November 7, 2016. I went to the Pickford Film Center in Bellingham last week to see Hallelujah the documentary of his life and his music. It is a transcendent film. I was rapt. I was wishing I’d seen him more than once in person. I did see one of his last concerts. Filled the Seattle Center. The Webb Sisters and Susan Robinson backing him up. The gypsy violin. All there, And Leonard gave everything he had, sang Hallelujah last. And, yes, he skipped off the stage.
I just turned 70! Yes, it’s true. As my sweet son said, “Mom, you are an exemplar of the notion that 70 is the new 50.” I said he’s sweet! My birthday falls around Thanksgiving and sometimes on the day itself. It’s also the date my grandfather, OP, died; and John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Those were not happy birthdays at all!
It has always been a festive day (with those exceptions). full of fun, family, food, and football. My dad usually had a game broadcasting on the radio (and later the TV) in every room–except the dining room–and would go from room to room to stay current on the scores. The hard-cooking women would have to time the dinner and desert courses during half-times. My oldest son inherited that footall gene. My cousins have it too–maybe it came from the maternal and the paternal line!
Turning 70 was really painless. My long journey was my present to myself and is really the gift that keeps on giving. I’m still enjoying and processing memories and facts and determining how to integrate them into the memoire I’m writing. My women friends hosted a wonderful birthday lunch which was fun, moving, and very interesting. Each of them is an extremely talented person. I was the lucky beneficiary of their clever take on celebrating such a hoary age.
My yoga instructor left us with the following quote from Rumi this morning: “Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of that which you love.”
Back by popular demand. Well, a few people have asked “What happened to your blog?” So here I am with more to say. A week after I got home we drove to Portland for the Antique Expo. Driving those 186 miles down from Seattle was so easy after routinely knocking off 400-500 miles in one day for six weeks!
We usually attend this Antique Expo twice a year and find it a good show with dealers we’ve come to know and who have good stuff. People always ask, “Where do you get all your stuff?” I respond, “Wherever we go.” It’s easy to find things to buy; much harder to find them at prices which will accommodate a mark-up and the additional 15%
cut the mall owner takes–not to mention paying rent for the space. And the constant query from the buying public: “Is that the best price?” We have two spaces; one at Haystack in Bellevue and one at the venerable Pacific Galleries in Seattle.
You have to get up early–and get to the Expo by 8 a.m. Then you scurry around hoping to score something great before the doors open. Once the doors open everyperson is for her/himself. The vendors are usually way out in front of the buyers and often scoop up some great stuff before we even get inside. They’re not supposed to but “come on.”
Keeping in mind the season here’s some of what we saw, bought and then installed.
The next job is to load up everything, drive home, unload, clean, inventory and relaod, and drive to our spaces and merchandise and fluff the space.
Now we wait to see when the new items sell. Hopefully quickly, but you never know.
I remembered while thinking about writing this post, that my dad once purchased some things at a garage sale. They were signed sketches with the fabric swatches that Walter Plunkett had designed for Scarlett O’Hara‘s costumes in Gone with the Wind. I don’t know what happened to those framed sketches but I do know they’d be worth a lot of money now expecially the one showing Scarlett’s famous green dress made from the family drapes! Maybe I got my love of antiques from Dad!
I believe in angels. In fact, I wrote an article 20 years ago about encountering an angel which was published in Moment Magazine. “Angel at Ostia” is the title as I recall. On this trip I know that on numerous occasions angels helped me along the 7,000+ miles I’ve driven. I hope to be safely home by tomorrow evening but if any are hovering nearby, stick around, please.
I know that there were several occasions on this trip where I could have killed or been killed–or both–by vehicular homocide. There was one instance traveling at rush hour with the setting sun blinding me when I was forced onto an off ramp I could not really see. I’m convinced that something assisted me to the shelter of a bank parking lot. Eventually two kind souls helped me get to shelter
The imagery of sheltering wings and a peaceful place has sustained me through some long and exhausting days. There were also the angels who took human form like the couple in the Burlington Outlet parking lot where I had retreated from the freeways to seek directions.
I saw them exiting the store and approached them, first assuring them that I was not going to ask for bus money to San Francisco! They chuckled and took me into their van, booted up their laptop, found directions, and then drove onto the freeway with me following until they signalled me to get off at the appropriate exit.
I think this trip has reinforced for me my feeling that people are mostly good and usually willing to help in almost any way they can. I hope that I can live up to celestial expectations.
I’ve never been to Balloon Fest in Albuquerque but I have now. It is a wonderful experience. The Greatest Show Off Earth!
We arrived about 5 a.m. in the pitch black and watched the balloons being readied for launch.
Soon the sky is filled with balloons. It is really impossible to describe the delight and the excitement of watching each of the beautiful “creatures” fill with air and rise serenely and gracefully into the sky.