Good-bye, snow. So long to my sweet dogs. Good riddance to my job; it’s nice to leave it for a while. I’m leaving the island today, as the first step in travels that will eventually bring me to a warm weather location with four of my sisters.
I have plans to relax. I intend to write and read and draw. I will walk on the beach, and relish the sunshine. I won’t be back here until March. I’m not bringing my computer, so I doubt I’ll be posting a blog until I’m home again. I’ll tell you all about it then. For now, farewell, take care, so long…
I woke up today to lots of fresh snow, with wind. My coffee was barely brewed before the electricity went out. Well. Immediately, that puts most of the morning plans on hold. No electricity means no internet and no computer. So, no time spent looking at social media, checking the news and playing internet Scrabble. No writing my Tuesday blog.
In addition, when the electricity is out, I have to be careful of my water use. No cooking. No lights, though that’s not an issue when the outage is in the daytime hours. I’ve hooked my land-line back up, so I have a working telephone even when the power goes out. The first thing I did was call to report the outage. The automated system informed me that they were already aware of it, and working hard to fix it.
Next, I made a few other calls that were on my to-do list. One, regarding vaccinations my dogs are due for; one to arrange for the mainland car at the end of this week. I called a friend to see if we could meet up on my way downstate this Friday; no answer, there, so I’ll have to try again later. I called my sister, to let her know when I’d be arriving at her house. She was out, too, so I left a message.
I wrote in my journal. With no distractions to pull me away, I wrote a whole three pages this morning. I wrote of my frustrations at how all of my habits, goals and resolutions were falling by the wayside. I renewed my intention to get back on track.
My yoga program was next. Right on cue, as it has been one of the things I’ve been neglecting lately. I have often been going through the first five exercises, basically the “warm up,” and calling it done. Today, I made my best effort at all of the positions.
I walked the dogs. That is a firm habit, almost no matter what the weather, and certainly not dependent on electricity. The road had not been plowed, though, and the winds were a little unnerving. Our walk down the Fox Lake Road is a walk between large stands of trees. When the high winds set those trees in motion, I get nervous. Still, we got a decent walk in.
Home again, and still no power. I took a cup of lukewarm coffee up to the studio. I added a few elements to a new collage, and contemplated how to finish the others I’ve been working on. I sorted a stack of collagraph plates. I pulled out a sketchbook, and found the pen I wanted to use. Rusty as my drawing skills are, I did a few “thumbnail” sketches, reminding myself that only practice will bring back ability.
I pulled out my suitcase, next, and unpacked it. I put my “vacation clothes” in it two months ago, when my sisters and I first planned our Florida trip. Now that it is less than a week away, I’ve been thinking I should do a review of what I was bringing. Try things on. make sure everything is wrinkle-free; determine that I have remembered all the necessities. I did a little editing of the contents, and set aside my choices to be tossed in the dryer to be refreshed before putting them back in the suitcase.
I’d purchased a new, lightweight, messenger-style bag to replace my purse. Large enough to hold all of my carry-on needs (wallet, toothbrush, journal, book, sketchbook, bullet journal, e-reader and earphones), but easy to carry and small enough to stow under an airplane seat. When it arrived, I was disappointed in the color. Not enough to send it back, but still. Today, I pulled out my needle and some fine wool yarn, and embellished it just a little.
By the time the power came back on, I was feeling pretty good about my days accomplishments. A day without electricity turned into a blessing in disguise!
All the contributing factors were there; everything pointed to it being a really lousy day. My little dogs were both having allergy-fueled ear issues, which kept them up scratching wildly at the itchy places, and kept me up rubbing ears and soothing them. When we slept, we didn’t sleep well. Until morning, when I slept right through the alarm.
It was a bitter-cold day: freezing temperatures with sub-zero wind chills. Too cold for our morning walk. The dogs didn’t protest when I cancelled. Frustrated already in my lack of persistence with my exercise program, this added fuel to my negative self-criticism.
I got to work late, and cranky. I’m not sure if my work partner was also in a bad mood, or if mine was enough for both of us. Usually, we get along well, and enjoy working together. On this day, all day, it seemed like we were barely avoiding conflict.
I learned, that day, of the recent death of an old friend. Though I’d seen Elaine only rarely in the last several years, we were young together once. And now she’s gone. Sad news to add to my already miserable attitude.
After work, I had to go to the grocery store. Having just paid a big bill, my checkbook had barely thirty dollars in it. I needed dog food, coffee and milk. Going up and down the necessary aisles, I was computing the cost as I went along. That old habit made me feel even more bleak. I don’t usually have to watch pennies that closely. What a crummy day!
Walking past the meat counter, I spotted a beautiful rib-eye steak in the case. Now I enjoy a steak on rare occasions, but I have never bought a piece of meat like that from our little market on Beaver Island. I’ve bought chuck steak, when the price is right, to cook like a roast and enjoy for two or three meals. Usually, I buy their good ground beef, or chicken. On this day, without a second thought to the $12.99-per-pound, I asked for that steak.
Quickly to the counter, then, before another impulse should throw my budget completely off track. As I loaded my few purchases onto the conveyor belt, I noticed bundles of cellophane wrapped miniature roses in many colors, right beside the cash register. For Valentine’s Day, of course. “How much are the flowers?” was out of my mouth before I could stop it. The price, $9.99 per bundle, did not stop me either. I chose a bouquet of deep red-orange, and dug to the back of my wallet for a hidden twenty-dollar bill.
Home, I greeted the dogs, and took them for a short walk. They felt the extreme cold, too, and were relieved when I turned around. I unloaded the car, and unpacked my groceries. I trimmed the stems of the flowers, and arranged them in a vase. I lit all the candles: the two pillars in the bathroom, the lemon-scented jar candle in the kitchen, and a half-dozen votives on the dining room table.
While the dogs ate their dinner, I prepared my own. As I cooked, I thought of Elaine. We travelled together, many years ago, Elaine, my sister Brenda, and I, to our college classes. We discussed our children, our love-lives, and our course work. We read aloud from our papers, wanting, at that point, only positive feedback before we turned them in. We reviewed our teachers, our classmates and our partners with cruel honesty that made us laugh hysterically.
I cleaned and sliced a big mound of mushrooms, and sautéed them in butter, with one small hot pepper, sliced thin. I seasoned the steak with garlic powder and lots of pepper, and put it under the broiler. When it was nearly done, I cut a large plum tomato into wedges, and added it to the pan with the mushrooms.
I lifted the steak onto my plate, and spooned the mushroom-pepper-tomato combination over the top. I pulled out my big book of modern female artists, to page through while I ate. A perfect accompaniment to an absolutely fabulous meal!
It could have been a really lousy day. It almost was. As it turned out, though, it wasn’t half bad!
It’s only February, and already I’m garnering quite a collection of neglected commitments.
My diet, rigorously followed for three months, has shown no weight-loss results. I get on the scale every morning, and have actually watched the numbers creep upward. One day last week, discouraged, tired, and frustrated with other things, I completely abandoned my healthy eating regimen. In a big way. Potato chips. Pot stickers. Ginger snaps. The next morning, I found I had lost two and a half pounds! In twenty-four hours! I have to admit, I thought long and hard about adapting a potato chip-pot sticker-ginger snap diet. But, no, with two warm-weather vacations coming up, I’m back to smoothies and soups and salads.
My exercise plan is often abbreviated to the tiniest fraction. A one-minute plank combined with a five minute medicine ball routine counts as weight-training. I have to push myself to continue beyond the few basic warm-up yoga moves. My morning and evening dog walks continue, though weather conditions have shortened our distance on several days.
Having cleared my studio to the point where I can work in it, I have put my ambitious reorganizing plans on hold. The up-side of that news is that I have been actually getting into the studio to make art. Still, I don’t want to abandon my original goals. Any large projects, painting or printmaking, will demand a much more orderly space. Encaustic painting, which I am determined to experiment with this winter, will not be possible until I’ve completely cleared the space. Molten wax, heat guns and propane torches do not mix with clutter!
I’ve missed two Sunday blogs in a row. I’m struggling to find something meaningful to write about. Have I already said everything I have to say? Have I told all the stories? Sometimes it feels that way. Especially in the winter, when there is little going on around here.
Winter has definitely settled in. We note every change in the weather: a few more inches of snow on the roads; an especially cold day: a little more ice forming in the harbor. We greet everyone that we see, but it’s rare to see anyone new. The faces are all the same. They all seem to wear the same expression, too. No one is too rushed, though most folks have winter projects going. Resigned to winter. Settled in. Looking toward spring.
Social skills are not one of my strengths. Some people would scoff at that statement, if they encountered me at my workplace. It’s true, I have developed a knack for being out-going and helpful when the situation demands it.
In the restaurant, I could always greet the customers warmly, and describe the day’s luncheon specials perfectly. Now, at the hardware store, I’ve transferred that ability to where it is needed. Ask me about the merits of various types of paint or stain, and I’ll give you the run-down. If you want to discuss the properties of various caulks, I’m in. I’m even pretty good at commiserating about the weather. Beyond that, though, not so much.
I keep a half-dozen really good jokes, to bring out on rare occasions when the time seems right. The trouble is, if too much time passes between the telling, my delivery is off. Or I forget the sequence. Or the punchline. Or the humor depends on certain circumstances. One of my favorite jokes involved Nixon, Kissinger, Communism and Coca~Cola. Needless to say, time has sucked the humor right out of it!
I only know one real magic trick. It’s simple, but a good one. I showed my grandsons at Christmas-time, and they were pretty impressed. Then I showed them how to do it; I won’t be around forever, so may as well pass it on. I used to know a good card trick, too, but I’ve forgotten it.
Mostly, in social situations, I just say whatever is expected. I can honestly empathize with many positions, and nod in understanding. I respond favorably when that seems appropriate, and I laugh when laughter is called for. I murmur “I’m so sorry…” when sympathy is what is needed.
When someone tries to “draw me out,” one of two thing will usually occur. I may pull back, defensively, give answers of one or two words only, and attempt to change the subject. Or, I will tell all that is asked and more, going back to my childhood, or even to my birth, including my own “amateur psychiatrist” opinions on how this or that came to be, until I have thoroughly embarrassed both myself and the questioner. And driven myself right back into the shell.
Writing seems to be the exception to my social awkwardness. Here, I hold a – granted, mostly one-sided – conversation. I talk about myself, with humor and humility, without embarrassment. I speak of other things, without feeling the need to sound like an expert. This is just me, talking. Sometimes I have something to say; sometimes I don’t.
I think one of the best things I have going for me is the ability to sit down here and write, whether or not I have something important to say. Sometimes I choose a photo, and the photo guides the direction of the essay; sometimes I have an idea that’s been knocking around in my thoughts for a few days, and I flesh it out as I write. Sometimes, like today, I just start writing, and a theme shapes up as I go along. Something from nothing. That feels kind of like a magic trick, too!