The Ice Storm Cometh

28 January 09

The view from my easel window…view-from-easel


It’s not a very impressive storm…but given the lack of snow this year…which is my fault for buying a brand new snow blower two winters ago…it is notable.

If I could include an audio file it would be the sound of one long giant CRUNCH… there is a thick layer of solid ice on top of this snow and Gully and I sound like we’re inside the auditory canals of someone eating grape nuts…without milk.

So what’s the view outside of your studio windows ?????


Brushes in the wind

17 January 2009

In the wake of yesterday’s news of the death of Andrew Wyeth it has been somber in the studio. The view outside my window, of a weathered Pennsylvania stone barn and raw umber fields of stubbled winter cornshalks, echoes his own corner of farm land not far from here … and it settles my soul.

Many of you know our tradition of hanging wind chimes in the gardens in honor of loved ones who have died…and you won’t be surprised that this one will need to be special. I’ve decided to make it out of my old brushes.

In my studio, brushes live their lives in stages. I buy in bulk and on sale and only when I’m desparate and the new ones live in a state of reverence in the best of the old jars and mugs until I absolutely have to have that pristine spring and flow. The “working new” then get prime real estate on the table alongside my easel. Separated carefully from the grunts and wiped with the softest rags before being put up at night.

Try as I might, it doesn’t take long before they blend into the rest of the crew and their sabled edges begin to fray and the glossy sheen of their nickel plated ferrules no longer brags. I wean them out every other day or so …the hardest worn, stiffest bristled get tossed into an empty liquin box. When that is full, and the pile has spilled over onto the table, and Gully’s tail has knocked four or five of them on the floor and under the air purifier…then I gather them all up for a serious cleaning.

Last night I threw this bunch into a coffee can with about half an inch of Windsor Newton Brush Restorer  in the bottom. I learned the hard way that this stuff will melt the finish off of the wood, seeing as it is paint !, so I try to make sure it stays only on the bristles. They hang about in that overnight and then I settle in for the tedious second stage which is to scrub them in the tub of Masters Brush Cleaner. Then the big rinse and they’re laid out to dry.

Clean Up

The best of that batch are returned to their staging areas …

Ready to Go

 and the stragglers who refused to come clean are relegated to the graveyard…a box under my workbench…


which, until today, had been the final resting place.

But now I’ve got a better use for them. I’ll let you know when I’ve got Andy’s windchime up.

In the meantime… I’m curious … where do your old brushes go ?


9 Januray 09

Gulliver found this dear little sparrow in the studio yard early this morning.    We didn’t know then that she was a messanger.


We had just left Pat in the log cabin packing a suitcase and getting ready for her first full day of hospice care for Mae.  As Gully and I were  finishing our breakfast Pat came into the studio kitchen with a stunned look on her face and said that Mae had died last night.  After spending part of almost every day for the last few weeks with Mae in her home and with her family and watching her do hours of yoga and exercises each day and telling stories of her decades of union organizing around the globe and dancing with her husband and protesting against the war every friday since it began years ago…and all with a memory sharper than every one of ours combined…it was shocking news. But after hearing Mae’s conviction that she was ready, indeed eager…to die…and not at all interested in being a burdensome invalid … it made Pat smile to realize Mae’s spirit trumped us all.

Mae Millstone        95 yrs of truth telling activism…

May flights of sparrow sing thee to thy rest …. PEACE.

Mae Millstone  
YORK Mae Millstone, 95, died Friday, January 9, 2009, at her home in the company of her family. She was the widow of Harry Millstone, who died in 1999, and to whom she had been married for 60 years. She was born September 17, 1913, in Philadelphia, the daughter of Hyman and Dora (Shedlovsky) Kaplan. She graduated in 1934 from Pennsylvania State University with both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in sociology. She then worked for the National Recovery Administration in Pennsylvania as a special investigator, making sure that workers were being paid the required wages and that working conditions for home employment were not being abused. Later, she was employed as a supervisor with the Public Health Service on a project studying chronic disease in west coast mining towns. In 1936, she moved to Detroit, Mich., for the next phase of the project, compiling information and preparing a statistical report. There, she met Harry Millstone, a union organizer for the CIO. Their marriage in 1938 began a partnership of mutual interest in and work for the labor movement. In Newark, N.J., Ms. Millstone was associate editor of the Fur & Leather Worker magazine. After moving to Williamsport in 1941, she served as education and welfare director for the Fur & Leather Workers union. She moved with her family to York in 1961, where she became the editor of the women’s pages for The Gazette and Daily newspaper. She worked to broaden the range of articles on those pages by including information about nutrition, health, and consumer education. A lifelong activist and supporter of progressive causes, she was involved in voter registration drives, opposition to the Vietnam war, support for the civil rights movement, and women’s issues. In recent years, she was an outspoken critic of the war in Iraq and participated in regular peace vigils in downtown York. She was also an escort for patients at the local offices of Planned Parenthood. She was preceded in death by both her husband, Harry, and her daughter, Amy Millstone. She is survived by a son, David H. Millstone of Lebanon, N.H.; two stepgrandchildren; and two step great-grandchildren. At her request, her body was donated to the Humanity Gifts Registry to be used in the education of medical students. Local arrangements were handled by the John W. Keffer Funeral Home and Crematory, Inc., 902 Mt. Rose Ave., York. A memorial service will be held at a later date. Contributions in her memory may be made either to Planned Parenthood of Central Pennsylvania, 728 S. Beaver St., York, PA 17401; or to the Jane Addams Peace Association, 565 Boylston St., Boston, MA 02116.

Muse Returns to Studio

8 January 2009

A cold sunny morning … and after a couple of dark and scary days it is most welcome.

Winter is rough on old dogs. But for Bernese Mt. Dogs, of any age… it is also heaven…IF… it snows. Which… it has not…here…so far.

Our stalwart guardian Gulliver has been struggling lately with her ageing mountain climbing legs refusing to cooperate. We have wall to wall non-slip carpets in both studio and cabin … which has been a boon for her ageing human charges as well. So, in anticipation of the ice storm predicted earlier this week, Gully and I took some extra laps around the yard to soak up the rays and limber the joints…and took one step too many and her front leg snapped. I can hardly bear to write that sentence…just breaks your heart to see a big dog come up lame…and this seemed to be a re-injuring of a fracture she received two years ago when negotiating another winter of ice storms.

With the lessons learned from that experience, and a ramp that Saren loaned us, we hunkered down for complete rest and managed to get through the next two days of ice and freezing rain and I found a harness on line, Web Master Harness , (which was originally designed for search and rescue dogs but is now being used for rehabilitation and assisting ailing pups)… and we watched and waited.

Gulliver’s job is to be my shadow, my guardian, my taskmaster, my muse. She keeps me focused, which is a huge job these days, and never lets me out of her sight. So it was hard for her to have to stay home when I walked over to the studio. OK, Harder for me.

Yesterday, when the new harness arrived she slipped into it with no hesitation, was patient while I fumbled to get the right fit, and has worn it proudly ever since. It is a wonder. Has lots of padding, a handle that allows me to lift her easily and without adding to her pain. And, with both back legs wobbly, and one front one clipped, I can take some of the strain off of the remaining solid peg. So with that little bit of extra help…she is back at her post behind my easel.

Gully will turn 10 in March.  There have been lots of bumps along her road to strengthen her character and soften my rough edges. We may limp through the rest of her days but I’ll be right beside her holding on tight.


Today is a good day.

Now we’ve got to get to work.