Monthly Archives: August 2016

Walking with Dad


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I was about half way to Hannigan Road yesterday, walking my dog down the Fox Lake Road, when I heard the low rumble of the County road truck. Darla does not chase cars, or even seem to notice them, most of the time. She barely gives them a glance as they go by. If I don’t grab her and pull her away, she won’t even yield her walkway, which is right down the middle of the road. We’re working on it.

However, all of my dogs have always hated the road trucks. Perhaps it’s the sound they make when scraping gravel or snow from the roads, or just the noise of the diesel engines. It might be because they pass by slowly, sometimes stop nearby, and often turn around in front of my house. I don’t know.

Maggie looked at cars as a means of meeting folks, and would run right up to them and jump on the door to greet the driver. She’d always want to attack the road truck, though. Clover was afraid of cars, and generally gave them a wide berth. Except for Randy’s car, which she would lay in wait for, and ambush as he drove by. And the road truck, her mortal enemy. She taught Rosa Parks everything she knew, so the little dog grew up hating the road trucks, too. Now Rosa has taught Darla, and my quiet household erupts in wild leaping and barking whenever one of them drives by.

Not knowing how Darla would react when encountering the truck on the road, I hurried to grab her collar and lead her to the side of the road. We waited together until it passed by, then continued on our way. The truck was grading the road yesterday. With the big blade down but at a slight angle, it was scraping and leveling the gravel road, one half at a time. As it went down one side of the road, it pushed a mound of dirt and leaves into the center. It would do the same thing coming back down the other side of the road. A final pass would “crown” the road, smoothing the dirt mounded in the center.

As we continued our walk, my Dad had joined us. It was the smell that brought him to mind. In the same way that freshly cut grass transports me back to my childhood summer Sundays, when Dad would mow the lawn, worked earth brings thoughts of the spring of the year, and Dad in the garden. Dragging the plow behind his small tractor, he worked the clay soil every year, trying to soften and enrich it with additions of grass clippings, manure and mounds of seaweed.

I think Dad always had a garden. When we were tiny, he worked up a small plot of ground, and taught us to space the seeds by measuring the distance with our hands. He was always thrilled to see things grow. He would compete with any of his gardening friends for the earliest radishes, hottest peppers, tallest corn or largest squash. He was proud to carry in a harvest of peas or beans or tomatoes.

Though Dad was a smart man with good stories and many abilities, the garden is what I associate most closely with him. When I leaned close to give him a hug, for most of his life Dad smelled a little of smoke and tobacco; there was usually a hint of beer or something stronger; always, Dad smelled like the earth. It makes me happy that – as the old woman I am and almost twenty years after my Dad has left this earth – something as simple as the smell of freshly turned soil can bring him right back.

Tuesday: Exercises in Writing #13


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Today, I turn again to Old Friend from Far Away by Natalie Goldberg.

Public school had it all wrong with their topics: justice; morality; liberty; freedom; education. These words are too big, too abstract. There is no juice…The word “morality” makes the mind vague. Now give me “stealing” and I will probably end up writing about morality. Give me “morality” as the topic and I’ll say it’s a good thing and my mind will blank out. As a matter of fact, beware of the man who can pontificate about morality. He will probably steal you blind.

She then offers a list of topics “that have different dimensions – meaning the concrete and the abstract, the tangible and intangible.” Of these, I selected:

What you carry – in a purse, a backpack/what you carry inside

When I walk down the Fox Lake Road with my big dog, I travel light. I usually carry one lidded cup, filled with coffee or water, depending on the time of day, my mood and – now – a new self-betterment program I’ve embarked on that involves drinking more water. My little point and shoot camera comes on the walk because, though we rarely alter from our route, every single day is a different sight. In season, I bring one can of insect repellent. If it’s cool enough for a jacket, I wear one and use the pockets. If not, I can carry it all in my two hands.

Every other excursion is more involved. My purse is a large, soft bag with handles that can go over my shoulder. It has one good-sized inner pocket that holds wallet, check book, a pad of duplicate receipts, coin purse and an assortment of pencils and pens.  That leaves the rest of the bag for everything else. I always have two cloth shopping bags folded in there, to pull out if I go to the grocery store, to carry my purchases. I never leave home without reading material. I get quite panicky if I don’t have a book or magazine, in case I should find myself with time and opportunity to read.

I always carry a journal. I use it to jot down bits of dialogue or events, ideas for titles of art work, color combinations to explore, quotes from whatever I’m reading, books I want to look into or movies I might like to see, ideas for articles or blogs, words I want to look up, memorable meals and anything else that comes my way. My last journal had, among other things, the details of two meals – three years apart – that I enjoyed with my sisters, and the scribbled notes for a eulogy for my sister, Sheila, written hurriedly from the passenger seat during a tearful trip down-state. I have recently converted to the bullet journal method which combines, in a perfect world, everything I would normally put in a journal, plus my day-to-day planner, gratitude journal and Christmas shopping list!

If I’m on my way to work, I fill a thermos and pack a lunch. It fits in a plastic-lined bag with handles. That way, after giving the dogs pats and love, their special treat, and the direction to “take good care of things,” I can throw my heavy purse over one shoulder, put the lunch bag over my arm, pick up my full cup of coffee, and still have one hand free to open and close the door.

As for the intangibles, well…I carry a long list of things I have to do, things I should do and – on the periphery, almost crowded out by the others – the things I want to do. I carry along the hurtful things I’ve done and the stupid or embarrassing things I’ve done. I know, because they all still cause a cringe or a blush or a shudder or a sigh when they pop into my mind. I hold onto insults and criticism forever, it seems, no matter how how hard I try to let it go. I carry the lessons I’ve learned and the love I’ve been given. I carry the people who have touched my life, in my heart, always.



Another Day


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Another Monday, another week beginning.

Yesterday, I wouldn’t have counted on it. Disaster seemed to be waiting around every corner. Life seemed dangerous.

In the morning, as Darla and I walked down the Fox Lake Road, the cars (two) that we encountered seemed especially large and powerful as I walked in their path to retrieve my big dog from the middle of the road where she stubbornly insists on walking. The drivers appeared less forgiving than usual. Even little Rosa Parks – having forgotten, by the time we got back, that it was her own decision to stay home – took on a grumpy attitude about not being included in the walk.

At the hardware store, I continued my work in the paint aisle. I was climbing up and down ladders with heavy gallons of paint for five hours. Between stepping too high on a short ladder, leaning too far from the heights of the tall ladder or stepping down before I reached the bottom rung, an accident seemed imminent. After my helper left for the day, I courted catastrophe with every misstep. After running through several possible scenarios in my mind – all of which ended with my broken body not being discovered until the store opened Monday morning – I decided to call it a day.

Home, the dogs and I made the rounds to pick blackberries. After recent rains, the bushes are loaded. I especially like the canes that grow tall in the middle of wild juniper bushes…even if getting them is a guarantee of scrapes and scratches, and a risk of a turned ankle, or worse. The juniper branches grow horizontally and form an impenetrable snarl at ground level. To get to the berries, it’s necessary to walk on the springy branches, with nothing much to hold on to for balance or support. I was thinking of how a broken leg would alter my day-to-day existence as I pushed on to scale the rickety slab wood fence, to get to the bushes behind it. I gathered four cups of berries, safe and sound.

Later, as I was trying to go to sleep, I was plagued, as usual, with thoughts of unfinished tasks, and all the things I have to do. My worries were interrupted by other concerns. I became overly aware of my breathing (too slow? too shallow? is that a rattle in my chest?), my heartbeat (too quick?), every single ache (thrombosis? aneurysm? cancer?), and a sudden piercing pain in my head (am I having a stroke?). I filled my time until sleep came by plotting my funeral.

At five AM, I got up to take the little dog outside. Coming back in, I slid the door closed with – somehow – two of my fingers in the way. Ouch!! It was really painful! It still is! Both fingers are bruised; I may lose a nail. Was that the disaster that seemed to be waiting for me all day yesterday? If so, I’m glad to have it out of the way!

And here is Monday, another day.

The 52 Lists Project #35


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List the obstacles that stand in the way of facing your dreams:

This is a short list, but true, and not a fun list to contemplate. At a different stage in my life, I might have produced a self-incriminating list (lack of courage, lack of effort, lack of daring) that would suggest that I wasn’t trying hard enough. Now, at this age, I can honestly say I have tried. This is what is left.

  • Lack of time. I have tried, at times, to drastically reduce the hours I spend sleeping, but my productivity wanes in direct proportion to my lack of rest. It is almost unbelievable the number of things I have set aside, to open up a bit more time. I simply cannot create more hours in a day.
  • Lack of money. I work. I earn a decent wage. I am a careful spender. Still, there’s barely enough – sometimes not even enough – to take care of monthly expenditures. There is certainly not extra.
  • Lack of willingness to bet everything with no guarantee of success. I don’t have a lot, but this roof over my head, a steady paycheck coming in, and the means of taking care of myself are precious. So, I won’t quit my job, sell my house or give up what little security in the future that I have. It’s exhilarating to think of putting it all on the line, to become a published author, a world-renowned artist, even a first-class magazine editor…but I know that the willingness to sacrifice everything still does not ensure success. And whenever I forget, my sister Brenda will remind me.

The Things I Don’t Know


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“The things I don’t know”  is way too large a subject to cover here. The topic is actually the things I don’t know about computers. That seemed like too many words for the title, so. In fact, the things I don’t know about computers is probably too much to go into on this page, but I’ll start.

I can’t get my old (Windows XP) computer to communicate with my new modem. That may be a vision problem instead of ignorance of computers as, honest to God, I am just guessing at many of the letters and numbers in the Key Code. My new computer (Windows 8) allowed me the option of just hitting a button on the modem to get computer and modem hooked up. After several attempts at typing in the correct sequence of characters, I pushed the button. And felt, momentarily, like a computer genius!

Since my old computer cannot communicate with the modem, I can’t go on-line with it to download my photos from the stored files to my Facebook or WordPress sites. I don’t know how to get photos from my camera onto my new computer. There is not a place to insert the SD card.I am forced to use photos I downloaded last month, before this nightmare started!

I do have an external hard drive. I finally managed to hook it up to the old computer, and figured out how to load some documents and pictures onto it. If I unplug the little fan that keeps my new computer from overheating, I can plug the external hard drive in there. I can’t, however, figure out how to access the data that’s on it. It just sits there, while the computer threatens to overheat.

Having the old computer to fall back on allowed me to be lazy about learning the different quirks and methods of the new one. Now, I have to figure it out. As long as I am surrounded by things I understand, I feel pretty smart. Whenever I find myself in the position of having to figure something out, though, the thing that presents itself first and most clearly to me is just how much I don’t know. When it comes to computers, the list is long!

Running Late


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Yesterday was a long, hard day.

At the hardware store, I was up and down stairs, on and off of ladders, and carrying heavy gallon jugs from the back of the store to the front. I took a break in order to run down to the Community Center to do a recording. Home in the evening, I wandered the property to get the ripe blackberries. By the time I was ready to come in for the night, I was exhausted. Too tired to read, to write, or even to think.

In case today goes the same way, I thought I’d better get my writing done before I leave the house. Still, there’s hardly time. After getting up three times in the night to let the dogs out, I hit the snooze button on the alarm clock a couple times too often this morning. I wandered around the yard with the dogs while the coffee brewed. I showered as soon as I came in. I sat down here with my first cup of coffee, intending to write. I had a few ideas to choose between and expand on…until I noticed the time.

Already, I should be in my car and on my way to town. Instead, I am sitting here in my bathrobe. I still have to dress, pack a lunch, pack a thermos, prepare my little dog’s medicine, and give both dogs a treat before heading out the door.

I’m late. Again!

Timeout for Art: Color



I don’t remember the title of this small collagraph, approximately 9″ x 18″.

I put the plate together with the intention of having a foil for experimenting with different color combinations. The large, overlapping areas that take up most of the picture plane have contrasting textures to add interest and weight to whatever colors I use there. The small band of organic shapes across the bottom lets me pull in bits of complementary or contrasting hues, for balance. Some combinations worked better than others, of course, but all expanded my experience.

I like this one, with that large mass of pink.