Friday, November 30, 2007
I have been thinking a lot about material possessions. For me a great deal of memory and old narratives inheres in the things I have. This photograph, for instance, came to me when my mother's younger sister moved to much smaller living space. She dismantled her photo albums, and sent the photos to where she thought they would be most appreciated or usefui. This came with a small envelope mosly filled with pictures of me before I was five or six. (Susan was born when I was almost four.) The envelope represented a slice of time from about 1935-1941. Since the photos were all loose, they were easy to scan, and I scanned them almost at once. In this way, they went to the head of the line in the scanning projects that I hope to do, which includes a childhood album with many of the same pictures, or pictures taken at the same time as well as the whole era of my children from about 1956-1985 or so. Most of this is on slides and represents new equipment needed, planning and a significant investment of time. We won't deal here with whether there is any need (or demand) for these digital archives--this project is almost totally motivated by my wishing to work with the resulting images and making them into little narratives of their own, or perhaps having them to use in collages and other art work.
The crease in the upper right reminds me that this picture was sent from Scotia, New York to family in Mesa, Arizona. The copy in my baby book has been protected and has no crease, so the crease is part of the history. There is also a note on the back of the picture in my mother's striking and individual handwriting about Susan's progress. (She was a premature child and had already been hospitalized for scarlet fever.) I remember that when I was taken to see her in the hospital, we could look at her through a window, because she was in isolation. Associated with this is a memory of a small pink toy pig in a wire cradle. It was about 3 inches long and was made of some sort of plaster or chalky material with a shiny pink coating that peeled off. Later I used the pig like sidewalk chalk to draw hopscotch games on the sidewalk of First Street.. It wasn't suitable for an infant, so I must have gotten it about that time, even though I seem to remember it was hers and I wanted it--but I have tried many times to remember more than this, because the pig is so strongly connected in my memory with that visit to the window of the isolation ward. But this is all I have been able to recall.
The striped chair was slipcovered by my mother, the stripes were a dark coral on a cream ground. The sofa she did was done in the same pattern in brown stripes. These stripes appear in many photographs of this time, particularly at Christmas, which took place in the living room. Mother was proud of the workmanship in these slipcovers, which featured a beautiful even piping, inserted in the seams, and fitted the furniture without a wrinkle.
So, this one small photo reminds me of my own childhood, my sister's illness, my Aunt Louise, my mother's sewing skills and my baby sister. The slipcovers are gone, but if I had a piece of the fabric, that, too, would be precious to me.
Which brings me to a central question: in this time when people are being bombed out or driven from their homes, or cannot find work there to sustain themselves; when floods, tornado or fire takes away everything a family possesses in a few moments, how silly am I to remember, and treasure, the feel of a small pink chalk pig in my hand and the way he wore down--first his head, then his trunk--until only the tail end was left.
In the last couple of years, I notice more and more that bits and tags of language and song, or even just single, discrete words pop into my head for no reason. I can, and do, chase down the rest of the song or poem, or the definition or origin of a word through my beloved Google.
These bits and sounds--my father singing Annie Laurie--will vanish when I do, or even before. What we remember, why we remember, the uses of memory, the gathering and organization of family relics, these things interest me. I just bought The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature by Steven Pinker, which I am hoping will deal with some of these issues. I haven’t started to read it yet. Good night.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
We saw the tail end of an Ovation show about Goya narrated by that neat art snob, Robert Hughes, tonight. We had seen the whole show before, but the detailed views of so many paintings make it one I could view many times over. Thinking about Goya--his deafness, his joy and renewal when he escaped from the Spanish court, his mighty etchings telling truths about war and the strong and terrifying dark paintings painted on the walls of one of his late residences--is really to think about art, the uses of art and the human spirit. Good night.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
This was made with my first digital camera and I have used versions of it in many different ways. I like the variety of shapes. I don't suppose you need to know that the blue shapes in the lower left corner are the end of a black lab who walked into the photo, but that's the truth. This dog is a very important member of my son's family and I am pleased that he is there.
Today we took our Wolfi to the vet to have his anal gland expressed. If you don't know about this doggy medical problem, be thankful and don't ask! We got some frozen yoghurt on the wayhome--served by a very slow girl who gave HUGE servings as if to compensate for her lack of speed.
Today I found a web site with lost of information on collage and any beautiful collages. Here is her list of artist's block tips, but the whole blog is very interesting. Her list of collage and art links looks like it might keep my interested for weeks. Check it out!
Monday, November 26, 2007
The first summer we were here we raised 200 chickens. We ordered male chicks and "caponized" them with a hormone pellet injected (with a small razor-sharp tool with a hollow tube for the cylindrical pellet) under the skin of the neck. I don't think this is done any more for obvious reasons. We discarded the necks, but I have wondered if that was good enough precaution. I cleaned every one of those chickens for the freeezer that summer--we skinned instead of plucking) Those chickens had the best succulence and flavor of any I have ever tasted.
There are eight million stories, even in the country. This has been one of them.
Friday, November 23, 2007
I am thankful for our environmental protection agencies, such as: The National Resources Defense Council; The Nature Conservancy and the many local and regional groups that are working desperately hard to try to preserve natural places, plants and animals, including us, from the many threats that face us all.
I am grateful for the help I have had from poetry and art teachers. I am extremely grateful for the love and understanding of my brother Robert and my friend Paul who encouraged me in my writing. I am thankful for all the people I have met in writing, haiku and art groups. They have made my life very rich.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
I love flowers, photography and computers. I've got my eye on a camera modified to take infrared-type pictures, and my new printer is on the way via UPS. Also reading, painting and writing.
There are other things not to be thankful for in this world. But not today. Happy Thanksgiving.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Tomorrow we get ready for a simplified T Day with just the two of us. It will be slightly festive, but simplified.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Here I am (far right) with all my brothers and sisters in 1953. Our fabled farmhouse (built 1840-1860) was without heat when we moved in and had one faucet (the sink drained into a milk can) and a few bare hanging lightbulbs. We used to bathe in a tub we filled with the hose running upstairs and then warmed with stove-heated kettles of hot water. I got to bathe first, thankfully, then Susan, then the boys in a group. Little Marjory got her own purer baby bath.
There were rotten potatoes in the cellar that had grown long sprouts. There were rats and mice. We called it The Farm. My parents bought me two $75-dollar horses, Sis and Cindy. They gave us $10 off on Sis, a roan, after we bought Cindy, a sturdy red-brown horse with a black mane and tail. Both horses were with foal.
This place is the basis for much of our family folklore. I lived here less than three years, then went away to college, marriage and the rest of my life. But my brothers spent some fine years here and we still love to think about the 140 acres and barns that went with the place. My sister (light dress, next to me) went back recently to visit, and sent me a photograph, which inspired this trip down Memory Lane.
My parents moved to Ohio from here in 1957 and I have never been back, nor attended a high school reunion. I have heard that the US government spruces that we planted have turned our pasture into a piney woods. I am afraid it would make me deeply sad to return.
Behind us, and downhill, is the Mohawk River and on the other side is the GE Research Lab where a lot of our friends worked in the 1940s and 1950s. It's a very different world now, I sewed the skirt (dark rose color) and blouse (sheer with tiny flowers) I am wearing and used the blouse pattern (it had three pretty tucks across the front) to make more blouses to take to college. I made lots of similar skirts without a pattern.
My adored youngest brother, Robert, (second from left) died almost ten years ago. I will always miss him. It doesn't seem so long ago that this picture was taken, but it has been more than fifty years. We were still absorbing, then, the knowledge of the atom bomb, and had never heard anything about a place called Viet Nam. We did not yet have a TV, although some people we knew did. And since we lived near Schenectady, there were good channels we didn't get to watch. America at midcentury in New York State. one family, dressed for church and lining up to have a picture taken.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
Friday, November 16, 2007
Marilyn throws away stuff all the time. I have to admit I was slightly inspired to throw away a garbage bag or two full. But I ordered another book from Amazon and waited for the spasm to pass. Tomorrow I have a get-together with friends all day. Maybe I can closet-weed next week.
This picture (which reminds me of a pueblo) is simplified from one I took in Wolverine, MI, juat after the goat-packing demonstration. See October 14, 2007 in this blog for more about goat-packing.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
This morning I was finishing the New Yorker that came yesterday instead of starting on my planned productive tasks of the day.
I had a strange experience reading this: for a fraction of a moment, when reading
“. . . why they are in Iraq:” I felt that we were NOT in Iraq, that the decision was still to be made. I felt a lifting, a bliss, surely my country wouldn’t go so wrong. It lasted less than a minute, I am sure, but it was a very powerful feeling and I certainly missed it when I had to relinquish it.
And now we have been in Iraq on murky excuses for years and no resolution in sight. I am grateful every day that my sons are too old, but two of my grandsons are 19 and 21 and thus just ripe if the draft were reinstated. I have the greatest love and pity for those psrents whose sons have died or been maimed in this conflict. I wish for the restoration of the moral footing of my country every day.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
When we got home I was surprised at many things I had forgotten, since most of the work was done just before we left at the end of the first week in May. The first time I went up the stairs, I was thrilled all over again. It's quite nice to be home but there is a lot of reshuffling, closet cleaning and rehanging of pictures to be done.
See here for another use of the Nik copper filter.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Monday, November 12, 2007
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
This afternoon, on the way home, I traveled through high western lands in Idaho, Oregon and Nevada. I thought often of Jim, whose haiku name was Ouzel, that little water bird who harvests his meals at the bottom of flowing streams.
rabbitbrush seed clusters
their ghostly pallor
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
We will remember how he brought a basket of smooth stones for us to feel and hold and look at carefully. we will remember his yearly haibun which he read at our Holiday gathering. Most of all we will remember his understanding thoughfulness in conversation. Good night, Jim. Rest peacefully.