Let me tell you about an afternoon with a dear friend.
I first met Misha Moon a few years ago, helping your Auntie Katie set up her bookshop, BookswithPictures. Auntie Katie liked her very much, and it turned out, Misha and I liked each other, too. We have shared stories and pictures and marveled at our own progress through life.
Last March, just before the Corona virus shut everything down, we talked all afternoon at The Rocking Frog, a wonderful place that has since closed up shop. It turned out to be the last ‘friend date’ either of us had for over a year.
And this week, Misha and I had coffee together again. This time we met on a very rainy afternoon under the street-side covered patio of Albina Press Coffee shop on Hawthorne.
I got caught up on her news, and she on mine. We listened, shared, celebrated and sympathized. But mostly, we got to be a part of each other’s lives for a few hours. We got to see each other smile and watch the other person’s eyes sparkle as they laughed. We got to be people together.
I have told you about my old friend Ruth Inman. She is an artist in Illinois and we went to high school together. The art and friendship I re-discovered with her during the Covid lockdown really made my life better.
I have shown you these pieces as I have made them; simple watercolor flowers, silly candy wrapper collages, and layered mixed media pieces. They have all been part of my journey from “I can’t draw” to “Sure, I’ll give that a go!”
And now, Ruthie has sent me another gift! It is a big fat envelope of artsy goodies! There are pure Ruthie artist cards…
A delightful postcard of tiny houses…
Some cut outs of cool old photos…
And even a Ruthie Original, this tiny handmade, colorful wallet thingee. Ruthie showed us how to make these last week, and now I am inspired even more!
Of course, I want to use these delightful bits. But I want to use them in a way that does them justice. I will be monkeying around with them for a while, and let you know what comes up.
So I say for the zillionth time, Thanks, Ruthie! Thanks, Art!
Hello on the day after Election Day. It was a very long, bumpy night.
Yesterday it rained here in Portland, so when Auntie Bridgett and I went to run errands, we drove. In and out, as they say, and no one got wet. Quick like bunnies, we were home.
I had my ZOOM Art group with Ruth Inman, where we experimented with techniques for making backgrounds for pictures. That’s good for me, since I am trying to practice painting human faces and they usually need something to make the picture look finished.
But for now, my most successful “human” picture has been Frankenstein. It needs a background, but I can’t decide what it should me. Maybe a purple sky and a faraway castle in a hill…
After lunch I baked the flag cookies I put together yesterday. Grandpa Nelson wanted pinwheel cookies, but flags seemed better for Election Day. I played with the cookie dough like it was clay and came up with a simplified flag. I could have made them red, white and blue, but I really like the chocolate!
It seems that our across-the way-neighbors have been stress cooking, too. They gave us a pint of yummy apple pear butter, which we swapped for some flag cookies. Thanks, John and Stacy.
Dinner was turkey sandwiches while watching Stephen Colbert’s show from last night. By then the polls were closing back East, so we turned on the news. I had some wine for my jangled nerves, and there was a certain amount of pacing.
The Florida teeter-totter kept my stomach in knots, then let me down completely. Vermont and Maryland, California, Oregon and Minnesota going solidly for Joe helped. We watched Stephen Colbert’s Live Election night special, alternating with CNN’s coverage, keeping track of Senate seats, Presidential electors, and trying, trying, to be patient.
By the time both candidates had over 200 electoral votes and CNN said it would be well into Wednesday before the votes were tallied, it was after 10:00 and time for us to hit the sack.
But my worries woke me up at 1:00 in the morning, and what did I see? Mr. Trump, doing exactly what he said he’d do, declaring victory and insisting that counting any more votes would be ‘stealing’ the election.
This morning, Grandpa Nelson is confident that Mr. Biden will be able to to eke out a victory, if all goes well in Nevada, Wisconsin and Michigan. But then what? We would still be in a country where half our fellow citizens have seen Trump’s lying, ignorance, and denial of human rights, and say, “Yeah, that’s just fine.”
I am sad and disgusted and feel like looking for a new country.
It has been a really difficult week. Heavy smoke from the Oregon fires has kept us inside and is making everyone feel sick. The virus that President Trump ignored is still killing a thousand people a day, and our government seems determined to punish anyone who disagrees with it. It has been very hard to find any happy.
Yesterday I wrote a letter to my brother Tim (yes, I type my letters) and illustrated it with forests and smoke. It was a sad picture, but it made me feel better to put something in paper.
I gathered up my watercolors and played with some of the skills Ruth Inman has taught me in our online art group.
First, I taped the paper down, and really soaked it. While it was wet, I gave a wash of bright yellow and orange, making sure it was nice and random.
While the paper was still damp, I used a toilet paper roll to make big circles and a rolled up strip of regular paper to make small ones…. just a few. Then I let everything dry.
This next process takes the longest because you have to let things dry between layers. If you try and paint everything at once, it all runs together. Over the course of the afternoon I put in the petals and centers of the flowers.
When that layer seemed “done”, I let it all dry. Then I got out the Elegant Writer pen Ruth had sent me and put in the details of the flowers. It was fun to see the orange and yellow pop against the black lines.
And I felt better. Something about the bright colors, the creative process and the control of this little piece of paper allowed me to feel joy for the first time in days. I recommend this ‘art therapy’ to anyone feeling sad.
We will get through this and find light in the other side, I know. And art will help.
I am sorry if all my taking about painting is boring you, but I feel as though I have discovered a new super power, and I just love it!
Starting from single daisies to sunflowers and coneflowers, I have graduated to vases. Using a full, whole sheet of watercolor paper for the first time, I was nervous. I wanted to get it right. So I sketched, erased, and sketched some more.
Remembering my lessons from Ruth Inman and Auntie Bridgett Spicer, I started light so I could add darker colors later.
As I got more confident as to what the picture should look like, I put in more colors, the vase, and tabletop.
Once I had put in the shadows between the flowers, I let the paint dry before moving on to colored pencils.
This is the longest part of making the painting. There are hundreds of tiny lines and dots of a dozen different colors to put in, and you never know where until you stare at it a long time. Sometimes you need some grey to make a shadow deeper, sometimes a yellow to bring a flower forward.
And, of course, it was only then that I realized….. I had forgotten the background. Big, happy sigh. And back to work.
During the shutdown, we are having to find new ways to keep busy and make the days fun. We are reading, painting, and learning. And sometimes, we go on a picnic!
Friday was National Teddy Bear Picnic Day, believe it or not. It was also the first really warm day here in Portland. So we celebrated.
Auntie Bridgett and I packed up easy picnic food like hard boiled eggs, tomatoes and celery, goat cheese and blueberries, and a few cookies. We also packed blankets and my guitar, and tiny dishes. And of course, the bears. Not ALL the bears, for sure, but four wonderful friends.
We carried our provisions and our friends up to Laurelhurst Park. We have seen the park be very busy, and we wanted a quiet spot where we could be distanced. We found a high bank above the main walkway, where we could see but not be too close to anyone. We set up a big blanket and real food for us, and a tiny blanket and pretend food (well, mostly drink) for the bears.
As we enjoyed our shady supper, a few folks came by and took notice. It was fun to make people smile at our silliness.
When we had eaten, Auntie Bridgett and I tried singing The Teddy Bears Picnic song, written in 1907 by Irish Songwriter Jimmy Flannigan. It was the first time we’ve played and sung together in over a year, and we were rusty. But the bears didn’t complain and we got better before we quit, so that’s something.
“If you go down in the woods today,
You’re sure of a big surprise,
If you go down in the woods today,
You’d better go in disguise…”
We even had a bee visiter who enjoyed the clovers right by our feet!
It was actually starting to get a little cool by then, and the sun was thinking about going down, so we packed up and headed home.
As the Corona shut down continues into summer, the world outside continues to get more beautiful day by day. We have had an unusually cool summer so far in Portland. I remember our first summer here, with temperatures of 111 degrees for a few days, and am grateful that we are enjoying mostly mid-70s . This, plus a few random showers, have made the flowers very happy.
Being inside most of the time, I have tried my hand at water coloring different types of flowers. I started with daisies and moved onto sunflowers, shading them with colored pencils as needed. The other day I found a great picture of some coneflowers online, and worked to paint them.
I was pleased with my first attempt, and am working on my second. The slight tremor in my right hand isn’t getting in my way as much as I expected and I am feeling more confident.
Then yesterday, or our way to the market, we met this fabulous specimen! A real, live coneflower! I took her picture and will use it for my next attempt.
Art imitating life imitating art imitating life….. It’s a perfect cycle.
So, the other day I was remembering how my Momma encouraged us to deal with sad times by finding things to be grateful for. And then yesterday, coming back from running errands, I found the Gratitude Tree.
This is a tree planted in the parkway at SE 36th and Main Street. I don’t know how long it has been there, and don’t know how I have missed it until now. Indeed, I may have seen it, but since I didn’t NEED it, it didn’t register. Brains are like that.
Anyway, I stopped and had a good visit with the Gratitude Tree. It carries the website http://www.gratitudedojo.com and is covered with Manila tags, which are attached to a rope by thin wire. Hundreds of people have written what they are grateful for and attached their thanks.
These acknowledgements of gifts great and small made me smile. And, like the Grinch, my heart grew a few sizes. Even in the midst of racial upheavals and violence, an international pandemic and incompetent leadership, there is a lot to be grateful for.
I don’t know who has provided our neighborhood with this wonderful way to put our joy and appreciation on display. I wish I did. I would make them a batch of cookies and write them a limerick.
Cookies don’t travel well online, but here is the limerick.
Since we are staying in so much and we can’t get out for concerts or shows, movies and games have become more important in our evening plans.
Our household doesn’t like some very popular types of movies. The string of DC and Marvel comics-based super heroes do not thrill us. We don’t care for violence or explosions. I guess we are kind of old fashioned.
So, we like old fashioned movies!
Alfred Hitchcock’s classics are very well written and suspenseful while much less violent than modern movies of their genre. We enjoy them very much.
Old musicals from the 30s, 40s, and 50s are wonderful to watch when we need a break from reality, when going out for a hot dog can be a health threat and politics as usual has ceased to work for anyone but the politicians.
Last night we watched 1933s Flying Down to Rio, and it was delightful. Besides the incredible clothes and manic facial expressions, it was Fred Astaire’s and Ginger Rogers’ first movie together. They didn’t play the lead characters, but were supporting bigger stars, Dolores del Rio and Gene Raymond as star-crossed lovers. They only had one full-on dance number, “The Carioca”, but their humor and chemistry were obvious, and they went on to make nine more movies together.
So, in case you are old fashioned too, here are my (mostly) black and white movie recommendations:
The Thin Man series, starring William Powell and Myrna Loy as society detectives. The original is the best, but they are all good, with actors like Jimmy Stewart in unexpected roles.
Hitchcock’s movies are all good, but my favorites are Dial M for Murder, Rear Window, and To Catch a Thief.
Musicals : Anything with Fred Astaire and/ or Ginger Rogers, and movies with Gene Kelly and his casually athletic dance moves, like On the Town or Brigadoon.
I also like the old Katharine Hepburn/ Spencer Tracy pair-ups like Adam’s Rib and Pat and Mike. I am a sucker for smart aleck-y dialogue mixed with romance.
I hope you enjoy some of these, and maybe discover some of your own favorites.
We haven’t been able to go out to a play, concert, or movie since mid-March, so we’ve been watching more television. We are not fans of police dramas or car chases, scary movies or even sit-coms.
Nope. We like documentaries, history, and cooking shows.
Alton Brown is always fun and educational in his approach to cooking, and the Great British Baking Show is delightfully dotty. I have gotten more adventurous in my baking because of Mary Berry’s demonstration lessons.
But the hidden gem is a British series called Time Team. This show ran from 1994 to 2014 on BBC 4 and is all about actual archeological digs in England. It is hosted by Tony Robinson, who I first knew as “Baldrick” on the old Black Adder series, and is unapologetically British.
Tony presents the digs, which happen all over the UK, but the actual archeology is done by Dr. Mick Aston, Dr. Carenza Lewis, and Phil Harding. Each of these very real and very educated people has their role to play, because each dig is seen as a story in and of itself. It has exposition, character development, conflict, mystery, and resolution.
Since they are all called by their first names, I will, too. Mick is the academic, fascinated by Anglo-Saxon history and dubious of anything too obvious. Carenza is enthusiastic but cautious, making sure the diggers don’t damage history while exploring it.
And then there’s Phil Harding, who has the best voice on tv. He comes from Wiltshire, southwest of London, and has a West Country accent like Rubeus Hagrid. He is enthusiastic about every aspect of his work, happiest on his knees with a trowel, looking for bits and bobs of history. His main answer to every conflict is, “Ya gotta dig.”
There are other folks, of course. Geophysics, the folks who see into the ground with radar and magnetometers, archivists who find the old records, and the artist who makes everything come to life. They all add to the mix for a perfectly satisfying dive into British history.
I have learned about Iron Age foundries in the Midlands, Roman villas near London, Anglo Saxon churches in Cornwall, and even a World War II Spitfire crash in Brittany, on a rare foray to the Continent. Time Team is like a class with five of the coolest professors ever.
I know you like learning new things. Maybe you could find Time Team on YouTube, like we did, and enjoy!