Memorial Day Weekend. County Road 39 or Route 27 or Sunrise Highway is clogged beginning at Hampton Bays and funneling into Southampton where the highway ends at the Lobster Inn, bumper to bumper all the way; it is the initiation of the summer season, the end of normalcy as we know it, the incursion of festive celebrants, the advent of blatant conspicuous consumption on a monumental level.
We stay at home in the summer whenever possible, off the roads, out of the stores. I shop late at night or at the crack of dawn, before the assault begins. Now you must take a ticket from a machine at the mouth of the parking lot before you enter, and then you drive around and around looking for a spot, as rare as hen’s teeth. If the little ticket floats off of the windshield in a whiff of summer breeze, a waiting constable will quickly issue a summons for violation of town statute which incurs a costly fee in lieu of wasted time fighting it. Hoards of couples and trios of festive excited young women in trendy dress, coiffed and made up to the enth degree to look casual, dressed in the most de rigeur of provocative alluring fashion descend like locusts ready to decimate every thing in their path, now they are shopping for the necessities of entertainment and festivity, their hopes and dreams of romance and good times a brightly burning flame at their brittle cores. They no longer talk through every activity non stop to celphones seemingly attached to their heads, but instead are ticatacking perpetually, text messaging all and even sundry about each and every movement that they make, comment on everything they see, list their plans and activities ad naseum.
It is a new and different way of life, here, which we love because of the well regulated beauty of the area, and the pristine and well appointed nature of our environs. We pay the price, willingly, and allow ourselves the additional privilege of grumbling about it all. But in the old days, this weekend as every holiday was an occasion for the family to convene for a long visit. Vast pots of incredible varieties of food were prepared and consumed; barbecued ribs and chicken, burgers and hot dogs and salads and fresh bread and side dishes, multicolored striated glass bowls of salsa, guacamole and sour cream called out to tostitos, strawberry shortcake sat patiently on the sideboard for the gluttony to abate. Grown children came with their own babies and toddlers, friends joined the crowd. There was music that was drowned out by the loud hoots and screams of joy and monumental splashes issuing from the pool as people jumped and were pushed and just splashed around. What I remember most is the smiles, smiles on every face except for those that were not evident for the laughter that overwhelmed them. Happy days.
Now I am a pariah, the more so for telling my story and daring to put it into print for the world to see, the seemingly most unforgivable crime of all. I have refused to knuckle under, to slink away, to end my life, to just lie down and die. They, known to the world at large as the forgivers and forgetters as they have quietly accepted as one of the holy tenets of their new faith, offer me no leniency, because I have committed the most unforgivable sin of all, I have defended myself from the lies and misinformation that I know has influenced them all, caused this rift between us. And yet, they are so certain that what they believe is true, that they show me no compassion in their defense of their misinformation. That was why I needed to tell it all. And their response is not to hear me out and consider my words, but to mindlessly attack full blast, full steam ahead, to go for the kill. I think this is a bit excessive, but it is what it is.
Strangely enough, somehow I have survived even this, come out the other side free from pain, accepting of whatever is and will be. It has not been easy, but I have learned some valuable lessons about life and love and the malevolence of people with agendas.
I just think silently, what a shame for them.
This morning I am finally going to work in my studio after a long absence. I am like a bride in her pristine lacy negligee approaching the marriage bed for the first time. I am filled with a sensation of apprehension combined with joy and expectation. It has been too long since I permitted myself to create art; it is who I am, an artist. The last four years I have worn the hat and mantle of author, spending every waking moment it seems attached to my computer like some weird permutation of a Stephen King or Koontz combination creature as I complete my memoirs.
It’s true, this has been a phenomenon of my own invention; knowing my proclivity towards procrastination and the insatiable lure of my craft I had made a pact with myself, more like an ultimatum. After my first encounter with cancer, a looming sense of mortality and foreboding lurking over me, I had decided that it was now or never as far as finishing my story went. I had been working on it for forty years, and the idea that I would leave it behind unfinished filled me with disappointment and regret, and not a little fury with myself for neglecting to complete it. So the ultimatum: you may not work on any art or go into your studio until the story is complete and published. Now four years after that memorable day the thing, grown like Topsy into four books, a trilogy with a sequel totaling nearly two thousand pages in all, is out and done and completed. Not that the drama doesn’t continue, but I am done with it.
So here I am in my precious studio, and although my first steps were tentative I am right back into the thick of things. My dreams of late and for a long while have been of flinging thick viscous pigment onto huge welcoming canvases, creating evocative figures and lush beckoning flowers, thick rock formations and textured mountainous compositions in earthtones with sensational purple depths; gluing odds and ends of spindle and rotted wood, rusty machine parts, toy cars and beads and so much more onto assemblages…multiples of them…and those mosaic fountains left unfinished as my muse pulled me into the strange world of the assembling of words, the construction of verbal images.
But like a well directed robot I have returned not as a novitiate, wandering around and wondering what to do next but as a focused automaton with a solid goal. This re-entry thing had been completed when Eliska and I spent that time re-organizing and cleaning up. It has always been my modus operandi to commence the most productive of art times with menial tasks. So the preparation for the planned book launch and studio open house was a kind of prelude to the main action of this opera, and here I am, charged and ready to go. Still, I am compelled to begin with a menial chore albeit one of monstrous proportions as necessary to the necessary warm up mode.
It is this mosaic table top that needs to be repaired, not any normal mosaic table top, but one that I designed and created back in ’97 that first summer in the Sag Harbor house. The table sat on the rear deck overlooking the pool and garden and vast woods; it was a crappy white plastic top that Bruce Friedle, my sculptor and inveterate dumpster diving buddy had gifted me, ‘Here, take this thing, I don’t want it, you can do something with it’, and I, never one to turn down a promising freebe acquiesced with visions of projects vying for supremacy in my mind. First, it was going to be the back for one of my toy assemblages that were my passion at that moment, and then, after Bruce gave me that gorgeous wrought iron table base as well, I wondered if I might convert it into some kind of art form table top to go with the base.
The ultimate decision was not yet there until that day I found myself returning from the court complex in Islip where I had been called by an attorney whom I occasionally assisted in those awful always unjust and ugly divorce, custody, false allegations, spousal battery and sex abuse cases; I had never been able to resist because of my own history, painful as they always were, horrific as the memories they recalled were bound to evoke. This day had been a particularly ugly and painful session with remarkably unsatisfying and unjust ramifications and I was completely bummed, a state of mind that was not helped by the quantity of bumper to bumper traffic that had mysteriously waited for my voyage home to appear. But I know my way around this island, and I always had a plan to counter this sort of thing, short cuts and tantalizing places to stop and pass the time of day, fabric outlets, junk stores, art supply places, nurseries…
This time I noodled up service roads until I was forced by a dead end to maneuver strategically up and down side streets to reconnect with the right road and there it was. A yard sale in the middle of the week, who knew? It just appeared there right in front of me like an oasis, promising refreshments of all kinds. One never knew what would be found at one of these. So I parked and wandered over to peruse the offerings, enjoying that faint quivering sensation of expectation that is never quelled until everything has been reviewed and there is no hope left; this was a particularly uninspiring presentation, and there was no one there supervising, so I almost turned tail and left.
At that moment, a scruffy elderly man wandered oh so slowly from the rear of the home, and I instructed myself to leave quickly in order to avoid a futile and boring potential conversation with him, but I was too late and the usual puerile empty pleasantries ensued. Soon, after I asked him if he had anything else and he asked me what I did, I mentioned that I was an artist and his face lit up and he asked me if I had any interest in mosaics. Did I! Yeah. So he put his hand up palm facing me as if to say wait, and disappeared for a long while into his garage, returning just as I was thinking about how to sneak away without appearing rude. He carried a huge carton, and when he set it down I saw that it was filled with jars and coffee cans laden with Venetian glass mosaics of every color, somewhat dulled by years and dust and filth, leaves and pine needles and mouse droppings. Ugh. But Tantalus drew me closer, and before I knew what I had done I had asked him how much he wanted for it all.
Two hundred dollars, he stated matter of factly, and although I knew that what he had there was worth closer to thousands, my financial status of this moment did not allow even this reasonable amount that he requested. I began to say my “I’m sorries” and “good byes”, but he stopped me, “wait”, he said. “I can see that you would really like them, and I have no use for them at this time, so you might as well just take them…Make me an offer I can’t refuse”, he said. So I asked him if he would accept fifty dollars, feeling just a little shame, and he surprised me by saying yes. I allowed him to carry the cumbersome carton to the car, took my treasure and left, feeling a tremendous sensation of joy and fulfillment, drove home in the by now slightly alleviated traffic, singing all the way home in accompaniment with the radio.
I unpacked the boxes and jars and cans, soaked the tiles in soapy water laced with clorox, humming all the time, dried the little treasures out on old bath towels, sorted and re jarred them, my head spinning with ideas. Mirror frames and bottles to hold candles and, and, and, table tops. Soon I was out there on the deck arranging colors onto a design that I had just drawn onto Bruce’s plastic table top; the design and placement took hours and hours, but the gluing of the tiny tiles took days. Soon though, it was complete and grouted and sealed, and was the star attraction in my new garden, despite the other artistic wonders that were deployed all around. We enjoyed it throughout our residence at that house, and later moved it to my new garden in East Hampton where it appeared well at home in a small circle in the woods surrounded by a wall of river rock, a border of hostas and pink dwarf spirea, pink carpet roses, electric blue hydrangea, mauve rhododendrons, and white pine. It enjoyed those first few years, I am sure, was well shined by rain and watering system in summer, well wrapped in quilts and tarps each winter.
But the year the cancer came back and I had no strength or will after more surgery and radiation to do anything at all except cling in desperation to my laptop I depended on errant gardeners and handymen to fulfill the tasks to which I had always been coordinator in chief and main instrument of labor. So Pascual decided that the table top would be best protected if he placed it face down onto the bluestone patio floor that winter as he closed up the garden, and distracted by pain and ennui and weakness, I never noticed, not even the following spring when he returned to open the garden and lifted the table top to see that most of the mosaics were left on the ground. He and his assistant, like good employees, swept up the debris and disposed of it. By a stroke of luck I suddenly noticed what was happening as I glanced with desultory ennui from the window, and ran out to discover to my dismay that the table was ruined. Some of the tiles remained, although they were loosened, many of them were gone. “Where are the tiles, I asked with dismay and horror, my heart sinking into my stomach, where did you put them?” Pascual shrugged, he didn’t know, but I rifled through all the trash and was able to save a good number of them, stored them once again in jars and coffee tins, carefully placed those sections still adhered to one another by grout and pure luck carefully stacked onto a wide plate where they remained for these last four years until I determined that yes indeed, this was the year I was going to resurrect my table top. It seemed a futile project, one without merit or reason, but I was determined. The top itself was in dire straits because a thick glass round that had protected the pitiful remnant what was left of the intricate tile work all this time, also a gift from Bruce, had been cracked this past winter in the midst of one of those awful storms that appeared in some circles to dispute global warming if you took them literally instead of confronting actual science. I had carefully brought it inside and set it up in the studio, planning its resurrection as soon as the books were complete, and here I am.
So drowning in the depths of profound inertia and sudden disabling depression exacerbated by the recent postings by Tracy on Facebook that celebrated her family, her family that does not include me, inspired by my fantasies of creation I determined to resurrect my life and ventured into the studio this past Monday morning.
And that is how I came to be cutting and trimming and cleaning and restyling my table top. I am a bulldog clenching that steak in my teeth, refusing to let go. Despite creaking aching back and arms I am persevering, completing this chore. I will finish fixing my table and it will be better than before. It’s completion will be a symbol of my return to my art, will be the first step in my determined quest to complete all of the works that have been already done in my mind. I will not be deterred.
Last week was the first anniversary of the publication of “Innocence Lost”, Book I of my Trilogy with a Sequel, “An Untenable Fragrance of Violets”. And by happenstance today is Bastille Day, the French day of Independence from tyranny. It is the day after the grave and obscene travesty that passes for justice in this country, the acquittal of George Zimmerman who was charged with murder for the shooting of Trayvon Martin. It amazes me that the crowds of supporters outside did not storm the castle, so to speak, when the verdict was published. After a sleepless night following weeks of watching every moment of the trial that was shown on cable news, the two things came together in my mind, hence this blog.
The thing is, that the whole idea of injustice was the inspiration for my story, although it embraces much more than that. It is one of the reasons that the story is so long, four books, nearly two thousand pages; it is about my life as an artist, a mother, mother, wife, feminist, activist, survivor and so much more and it is set in the midst of ongoing history. As it happens, “Book II, Unintended Circumstances” concerns the years in which I endured a continuing custody battle for six of my seven children initiated by their father. This was my introduction into the court system, and to the vast and all-encompassing world of injustice, legal and personal, my personal introduction to conspiracy.
Justice in this country, more often than not, is not about facts and truth, but about power and control and connections. “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” In later years when I had experienced first-hand the vagaries and fickleness of the justice system in personal legal matters in which I inadvertently got involved while doing business, I was driven to study law and became a paralegal, got involved in it all first hand, a very illuminating time. [The rest of the books to a large degree deal with the fallout and ramifications of those unintended circumstances.]
So with some legal training and experience in matters jurisprudential I watched the facts and testimony in this case of the State of Florida versus George Zimmerman unfold, and listened carefully to the presentations of the counsel for both sides, and I saw a very clear picture of guilt, clearly saw that he was guilty as charged of Second Degree Murder. I thought that perhaps, given the machinations of the defense, the location of the trial, Florida, the jury might agree to the lesser of the charges, Manslaughter, as a compromise. Never, never, did I expect that they would vote to acquit. Talk about shock and awe. But then I began to think about it, bring my own experience to it.
I recall that saying, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know, and how my former husband, father of six of my children, used his connections with judges, made while he was Bar Association and Kiwanis vice or president to take my children away from me. Have you ever heard the maxim, “They never take children away from the mother?” My book tells this story. But…in this case, I think about the circumstances of this present trial and the by now very well-known incident that led to it.
Trayvon Martin was profiled, stalked, arrested, convicted (without benefit of trial by a jury of one who was also his judge), sentenced to death, and shot by an unofficial, unauthorized law enforcement wannabe for the crime of walking in the rain at night while black; George Zimmerman was acquitted of Second Degree Murder and of the lesser charge of Manslaughter although the evidence clearly showed that he profiled, stalked, and shot Trayvon; that he lied, changed his story, concocted the story to fit parameters of the law which he had studied, had studied martial arts and had himself only minor injuries. That he knew the street name very well that he claimed not to recall, had even mentioned it to one police officer directly after the incident, that the gun was hidden behind him under his pants, that Trayvon could not have seen or reached it, that he was indeed not even near the concrete where he claims to have been battered, that there were no marks on Trayvon that would indicate his part in this alleged attack on George, etc, etc,etc. Trayvon was then convicted during George’s trial by the defense attorneys of being a typical black criminal who had viciously attacked George and therefore deserved to be killed. How could this have happened? How could the jury have been so blind, so misdirected?
Think about it…
George Zimmerman’s father is or was a judge. In the very town that the trial was held. These jurors live in that town, their families live, work, play in that town. Do you not think that there might have been a consciousness and perhaps fear of repercussions if they had decided other than to acquit? A judge has far reaching tentacles of power and control in things such as these; explicit threats do not need to be made, the danger is implicit. And what about the NRA? It is common knowledge that Florida is an “NRA state”, owned and operated by… the gun culture and industry; all of those same ramifications flourish in that setting. Right to carry, right to carry concealed, guns for all, stand your ground, all of these seemingly just laws that are so pervasive in this Florida society, as well as so many other places, are impenetrable as doctrines and a way of life. The six women on the jury…what were their beliefs regarding all of this, and given that they are part and parcel of this culture, what chance did Trayvon Martin have for justice in this venue? About as much as I had of keeping custody of my own children in my former husband’s venue, not the one where I resided and where we were known but where he had all of his connections. I was convicted of needing surgery while mother and requesting temporary help from the children’s father who had little interest in them except vengeance against me and being exempt from child support. Did I mention that he is a lawyer? [Note: I did get custody of the children back years later after a long battle after exposure of the thing by the media. This is not to say that all of our lives were not ruined, destroyed by the conflict, that ramifications are not yet unfolding these many years later.] Again, the jurists…what were the ideas held in their individual families? Could they have made another decision and gone home to peace and acquiescence? Would their continuing lives have become a kind of Hell? What choices did they really have in this climate? What were the odds of Justice happening at all?
Sic transit Gloria mundi. That means, that’s the way the world goes….
But is this the way it should be?
Our visit Saturday from JoAnne, Francine and Lori was marvelous, Julie and Mike came along also. A belated multiple birthday bash [Joe, and JoAnne and me] combined with Father’s Day, usually a Memorial Day weekend thing this year postponed until this week. It was good to see them and spend time with them. But there’s another birthday coming up, and lest I forget that day my memory being what it is these days, Happy Birthday in advance, Lynnie. Lynnie is my youngest of the ten, my staunchest allie and friend. Always available twenty four seven despite her multiple responsibilities and her busy complicated schedule, lives less than five miles away. Her two kids, my precious brilliant grandkids Amanda and TJ outdo themselves daily with their ongoing achievements.
Love them all to pieces.
So I am naming this blog after him in my strange journey to escape reality, and I cannot remember his name, a name that roles off the tongue like my own, a name that has been a part of the lives of everyone in my generation and beyond and before. A poet who moved to the woods and built his own home, sculpted an entire existence from nature and left overs, lived off the land in peace and tranquility…still, utilizing all of my bag of tricks, descriptive narration, the letters of the alphabet, word association and my trusty thesaurus, I am unable to bring him to mind. Oh, Him, yes, his name, sadly, no. Will it come to me in the near future? I am no longer certain of anything…uh oh, Walden. Waldens pond. Maybe.
There, I’ve got it…
Henry David Thoreau…Yes? Yes.
So here’s the thing…I have determined to find and purchase a property, it doesn’t matter where, as long as in is huge and is located on the top of a mountain, surrounded in the back by forest primeval and in the front by rolling hills and valleys, field and wood and stream. And it must have a lake, or a pond, or a place where I may build one. A giant barn, or a spot to construct one. A cozy cottage. A parcel all around to plant into a vast garden. It may need renovation that; will be my joy.
I will soon begin the immense chore of packing my untenable belongings, organizing and listing and labeling clothing, dishes, artwork, collections…something that somehow at this moment I am yet unable to do, without the promise of new surroundings and building and planning to tantalize my unwilling limbs and brain. I will take it all and relocate as far away from here as I am able to move, and leave no forwarding address.
Family and friends, you ask? NO. There are no longer many friends, and of family there is no one. I have been cast out, left to rot, been told in no certain terms that I am no longer part of that group. My efforts to explain have been taken with the same intolerance and disinterest as they have ever been. I am the enemy, the Goth and Visigoth barricaded from the gates of the castle, I am the Golem. I am that awful creature, lacking any possibility of redemption, Toxic Mom.
Tracy B Heffner-Jones- “I realize, for me, my favorite moments are really those I SHARE with the people that know and LOVE me, I AM SO THANKFUL for the wonderful opportunity to see my family!”
Loving and benign, you say? Maybe yes. Isn’t it wonderful that this child has a family to love? And that she is thankful for the people she knows that love her? Yes. Wonderful.
Let me tell you, though, it is a chimera, a fantasy built on lies and evil intentions, a true golem constructed of ugly mud falsehood and conspiracy and vengeance. Where does one go with that and be left with anything good? What happens when the mud stagnates and crumbles, when the illusion blows away in a breeze of reality. What will she, will they all, be left with then?
Here’s the thing. I am not waiting any longer for the truth to emerge; the victims have become one with the conspiracy. And I am done.
As I immerse myself mutely insensate in my daily escape into my Facebook addiction, answers suddenly appear in my mind. Answers to why I am so unable to focus, to concentrate on all those things on my list…things I want or need to do.
Yesterday I was discussing this in the midst of bleak desperation with my friend John, how I have all these things I want to do and yet can’t seem to get to any of them. My friend said that I am just overwhelmed, making unrealistic demands on myself, and yet…
It’s true, I lost an entire year after that fourth breast cancer surgery and the resultant eight weeks of radiation therapy, although I did turn lemons into lemonade when I wrote about the experience. I just began to feel like myself again this spring. Last summer, I never even got to go into the pool, my favorite thing, and for all these months had not the energy to lift myself from my bed, barely did those chores that were necessary, like cooking and eating. It’s true, the fourth book was just completed and published in April…there was a lot of concentrated work involved.
Maybe that’s the answer. Writing; I have spent the last four years totally focused on the writing of my memoir, which evolved into a four book saga. I had given myself a dictum at the time I turned my attention to the necessary completion of the project; I was to involve myself in nothing, not my art, not anything else that might interest me, until the book was finished. And that is what I did.
Now, attached still to my laptop as if by umbilicus, I am unable break that self-imposed, self-perpetuating habit, and have transposed my attention to other computer and cyber related functions. I am promoting my books, I tell myself, sharing my interests with like-minded folks in cyberspace, as garden and studio beckon futilely.
Instead of creation, I have managed to tear myself away from my sacred cyber world and spent large blocks of the last months reading thrillers, my favorite book form, on the patio, in the midst of garden profusion, watching the burbling pool and pond, swimming in the warm waters of my pool. Yes, I have created a garden of sorts in pots, a profusion of floral and vegetative wonder, but not like the old days. My friend Christina tells me that it is cancer PTSD that assails us both; that along with John’s theory that I expect too much of myself, may be the answer.
Well, someone must have planted those pots, someone is keeping the pond clean and the waters of the stream going, the fish fed. Someone is cleaning filters, turning on pumps and heaters and watering systems, watering flower pots by hand daily. But that was stuff I used to do before I even began my work. Projects have been arranged and ordered in the studio, lists have been made in order of importance, yet nothing is done. I am reading, swimming, cooking and eating, looking after Joe and the three rescue dogs one of whom is not doing so well…
As I sit on flowered cushions on deep copper wrought iron seat at my table beneath the rollup awning, best purchase I ever made, reading, munching on cheese and crackers, Tostitos and salsa, Bing cherries…sipping iced tea, reading, I glance around at the forest primeval that surrounds us, check out the various shrubs and flowers that I have naturalized into the panorama, enjoying this three dimensional painting that I have created, I smile inwardly, feel a small whisper of self-praise that turns into a tiny kernel of inspiration, and yet, thoughts of those neglected art projects swirling in my mind remain sentient as I look down again at the words swimming on the page, continue my reading.
Later, I am compelled to pick the latest tomatoes that have ripened on my now seven foot high tomato tree growing in a massive terra cotta pot that is comprised of eight assorted plants, beefsteak to grape exploding beyond the confines of its hand crafted bamboo cage. I add them to the blue Meissen foundling bowl that sits on the kitchen counter, piled high, overflowing, pop a couple into my salivating mouth, try to devise yet another way to eat tomatoes besides the ones I have already done…
So much pressure, so much stress…so much to do. My ‘to do’ list is pages long, But I can feel the life forces draining from my being. I am without the energy to even begin the work. Each morning I make that penultimate list in my mind, frequently write it all down in my omnipresent notebook hoping to cross off completed projects as they happen, like the old days. Can’t even get started these days. Even when I do, get started, I don’t last very long, fade quickly, need to take a rest. So much to do. Series of old paintings to complete. Dishes to smash, mosaics to glue and grout…assemblages to glue and more and more. Is the reason I cannot seem to get to work in the studio, that now that the books are complete and I am free of my past, have no more history haunting my memory, there is no longer a reason to escape?
What about that list I need to make for Lynnie, of things to take care of after I am gone. This could happen at any moment, I have no illusions. I am seventy four years old. I can feel my body shutting down. Is it a kind of death wish? If you wash the car, it will rain. If you complete the list, you will not die. Maybe I am hoping… Life has such a different feel to it these days, sad and meaningless, without ambition, empty and redundant. Groundhog Day. Get up, get washed, brush teeth and hair. Breakfast and laundry. Check email and Facebook. Water plants. Ho hum. Time for lunch. Read by the pool and feel guilty because the list is sitting their untouched. Roses are not deadheaded, sculptures are not glued together, closets remain disorganized, necessary files are here and there in all parts of the house. This will not do. I am not doing anything. Reading cheesy murder mysteries and spy thrillers out by the pool. A quick swim. Guilt. Recrimination. Hasn’t there been enough of that? And yet, it sometimes, piling up, gunny sacking, feeding on itself, a giant monster getting ever larger, suffocating me with galloping depression.
Yes. My friends, advisors, counselors, Facebook memes, magazine essays, television reports all tell me to lay off. Stop demanding so much of myself, relax. Don’t worry, be happy. Yet, I cannot. It is too much a part of me, a necessary part of my modus operandi. Work is best accomplished under pressure, there is no excuse for sloth, there must be something to show for each and every day, a completed work of art, garden, writing. But no, guilt takes over and exacerbates that incipient depression, where will it end?
The pressure continues to build, and even less is happening. One day bleeds into the other, morning into night, night into morning. It is necessary to hold onto the minutes for dear life, as they race to get away. Guilt overwhelms and thoughts of ending life become more and more prescient. NO. That cannot be. It is too final, even that, even given the pressure of omnipresent ennui and hopelessness. NO. Don’t give me platitudes and aphorisms, inspirational quotations, Timeline photos of charming places, flowers, kittens and puppies, it is not the answer.
But there is always a revelation if you manage to survive to find it. I awaken one morning with the realization that I no longer need to struggle, to fight that good fight, to do battle with achievement and goals. I have earned my rest, I can just stop and rest and smell roses and read by the pool and not worry if I no longer compete anything at all. I need no longer make demands on myself, administer demerits; wallow in guilt for my failings. I am not just saying it, I am feeling it, and I also feel a great sensation of peace come over me. Who knew?
Trees and garden, revelation: no more pressure, peace…
Lying on my back in the pool watching the sky…white clouds that look like dogs of yore…beware the dogs of yore…hahaha
The Italian cook, garden, pungent plants, tomatoes, oregano, and basil; inhale the fragrance, an aroma diet. Tiny plants, eight in one giant pot, they told me at the nursery not to do it, one pot per plant, but I am stubborn. Eight plants to encompass eight varieties from grape and cherry to beefsteak… a couple of a\heirlooms. I watch them grow, day by day, rapidly, touch the stems and leaves…the aroma lingers on my fingers. I build a bamboo cage from pruned dead stems, crisscross, tied with tie wraps, attach the errant strands of plants each say as they grow so enthusiastically. Soon, I have a tomato tree, five, then six, then seven feet high covered with those tiny yellow blossoms. Now as I check daily, rubbing my fingers against the leaves again to loosen that pungent tomato smell, I am seeing tiny green tomatoes. Excitement is palpable, expectation tantalizes. Every morning I check them water them feed them, my newest babies. Soon, you can see the differentiations, clusters of tiny marble like fruit, branches of groups, medium size. Puckered tops of giant beefsteaks. Some are early, others later. It is a surprise every day. Meanwhile, Basil is growing and growing, huge pungent leaves, shiny and bright. I pick the first red tomatoes tentatively, hoping I am not being precipitous, tear off some basil leaves, race inside and make tomato basil salad with mozzarella cheese. Then the sorcerer’s apprentice takes over once again as he ever has in my life, and I am picking tomatoes, big ones, small ones, giant ones…arranging them in bowls, wracking my brain for recipes … how many things can you do with tomatoes? What have I done? There are more and more ripe tomatoes, ripening faster than I can fix them, eat them. Salads and sauces, they are all over the place…
Melting snow and the pond has a coating of translucent water ten inches deep, just like Lake Panamoka so many years ago…
Yesterday Joey got lost in the woods, running back and forth, panicking, unable to traverse the melting drifts that for so many weeks were solid ice…
In the advent of St. Patricks Day I order my traditional cabbage, corned beef, and ground turkey to make my quintessential yearly comfort foods including stuffed cabbage, sweet and sour like grandma’s…oh yeah, and the traditional sliced fresh seeded rye and dark brown mustard…there will be enough for an army, or for the entire family, as if there were the slightest possibility of even one of them….
So as I cut and mix and boil and saute I wonder why I am doing this… It is such a effort to make my body move and work. I force myself onward on pure stubborn grit. I fight fatigue that threatens to overcome me. I forget to look down. Why must I always look down? Because of Lacie, the old dog that forgets her manners and dislikes the cold outside. You got it. I step in a steaming invisible pile of doggy surprise. Instant hysteria, deep rumbling sluicing tears and sobs from within.
Remembering Joe. Look down, damn it, but in those last recent times he forgot and there was Hell to pay. My thinly stretched nerves split and splintered and I would lose it, later, unable to forgive myself for so doing. Screaming and yowling again at my own culpability I remove my shoe, grab the putty knife, the doggy rug shampoo, the old dedicated nail brush, and begin to clean…am I mourning the indignity and labor or the memory…tears subside…
Now the stuffed cabbage is simmering and its delightful fumes envelop the entire house. Tomorrow I will do the corned beef…it would be doubly sacrilegious to cook them at the same time, and there is just me…
The snow has melted and Joey can easily find his way around…
I have placed peppermint infused cotton balls near all probable identified mouse entries in the kitchen and laundry room…
The rest of my grocery order is on its way… [the errors and the rant]
I will make them take back the rancid roasted veggie focaccia and the non orange juice…
This is one years worth of blogs, never posted in the midst of adversity. There is a certain continuity…
Good to see you again… I say.
I open the door…
It’s been a long time, I hear, a bit petulant, sarcastic…
Well, it’s not like I’ve been doing nothing, you know.
I wrote four books over the last five years…
And I had three cancer surgeries and complications and radiation therapy and, and and…Now I am the petulant one. And Joe was sick and he died and so much more.
There is that old magnetism, that old pull and I feel myself being drawn into the magic…there is that tingling in my nether extremities…What does it all mean?
Tracy and I have set out on our marathon agenda this bright warm sunny March Saturday morning. We have been housebound, winterbound…except for necessities like medical stuff and the like… The snow has not even melted completely, but there is a smell of hope and spring in the air.
We have already done lunch, haircuts, TJ Maxx, and Big Lots, covered an acre of territory and now we are attacking Home Depot. Having tucked Tracy’s kitchen floor time samples into our basket and checked out appliances, we have moved onto the happy part of our trek; the garden department. I have filled the cart with bags of summer bulbs, dahlias, elephant ears, caladium, with thoughts of coming garden delights. Then we move onto the place where they display indoor plants, electric purple orchids and a range of greenery. I have removed my jacket, light weight as it is, because it has become so warm, nearly sixty where it has been in the teens for so long. My baggy magenta sweater is warm enough for now.
Tracy spots a display of those spiral fake bamboo plants that are really engineered Shefflera cuttings that are supposed to be good luck, and we need to check the price because the nearby dollar store has them for three dollars.
So, excited, I reach up spontaneously to that top shelf for the price tag, reach up over the display of tiny cacti babies in two inch plastic pots. In a moment a dozen of the cacti leap up and grab my sweater, right there under my upper arm. Ouch.
Immediately Tracy and I begin attempting to remove the little spiny plants which have come loose from their little plastic homes…Home Depot is notorious for neglecting to water their plants and the dry crumbly earth releases them easily…the problem is that they are CACTI, and as such are impossible to grasp without pain and injury. I must keep my arm raised, for to lower it would engage the plants and their spines with yet another part of my sweater and body. My arm is tiring. We begin to giggle. Soon, our giggles morph into guffaws complete with tears running down our faces. It becomes impossible to do anything at all, but laugh.
Finally, finally, worried that store personnel may appear suddenly with stern censure and who knows what retribution in mind, we manage between chortles to loosen the poor plants and return them to their little pots. Now Tracy begins to remove the small white spines, one by one, from my sweater. As she pulls them off they flutter to the ground. We believe. But there has been static electricity going on.
Now they are all attached to my rear end. Tracy is now pulling them off the seat of my pants.
We are exhausted from laughing.
9 Chatfields Lane
East Hampton, NY 11937
Phone: (631) 907-2936