Finn and I hauled our groggy souls across the puddles in the lane and up the path to the studio this morning and just like that… we both had smiles on our faces.
Not only was our quarantine delivery box full… but the scents of a friend left behind had both our tails wagging.
Thanks to you Sue, our coffers are full to brimming and the added bonus of saying hi over the sack of flour…priceless.
I’m only back here for a quick dip because it seems I forgot to add some artwork to yesterday’s post.
There is only one painting from the archives which speaks… nay it screams all the colors of green that are burgeoning here in the studio yard…
Fiddlehead Primavera – 2006
From my salad days. After a long day of framing pictures at the Harvard Coop I would make my way home from Cambridge late in the evening. The Red Line bus would stop at the Star market across from the Mt. Auburn cemetery. The overhead electric cable would often slip its grip there so I sometimes had enough time to run in, grab a bag of mussels, the fiddleheads, some butter and a bottle of wine… and make it back on the same bus. All for under ten dollars.
Bend towards the light even in this week of storms be the hope for us all.
Gotta start with the veg. A few of the flats are ready for planting out there in the big bad world…but we’ve had days of stormy rainy chilly weather and the little dears just shivered and quaked when I suggested we take a walk outside.
This flat of tomato seedlings is making a gallant effort to feed us, and every glimmer of hope gets a round of applause here in the studio.
Our angels have been checking in…thank you all.
All the many birthday wishes and calls for Herself were overwhelming and she is still smiling from the love.
Our social media platforms come alive with stories of helpers and random acts of kindness which makes such a difference.
Neighbor Sue is preparing a grocery grab and has generously offered to take one for the team of elders and pick up whatever we are running low on. So, in my standard operating mode of neurotic overlord, I have prepared a list…and a C19 shopping kit…
Masks, gloves, and list organized by aisles and accompanied by photos of specific products.
I know this will make her laugh. She puts up with my crazy in such a kind way.
Bagged and ready for her on the porch it will not see the light of day because our store opens for “Vulnerable Patrons” at 6am.
Bless you Sue. I’ll have that extra gasoline for your mower when next you are ready.
On another note of community connections… We have heard from a Vineyard friend who winters in NYC. Worried about all our pals there it was good to hear from her, someone behind the barricades as it were, and to share some quarantine stories. It gets very real at the epicenter on every level. Keeping the lines of communication open just to listen feels important now.
Here in the studio the days have adapted to the waves of crisis and have evolved into a new normal.
Having stayed up later than usual… this week we are immersed in 16th century England as we watch Wolf Hall in companion to my re-listening to Hilary Mantel’s series as I paint. Tidings to her for completing this trilogy in time for the quarantine so I can listen to over a hundred hours of Tudors comings and goings. Ironically ? the first book chronicles waves of a seasonal corona virus like disease that topples much of the continent year after year. Helps me to understand our current medical experts’ predictions…
anyway…up late means rising later than usual.
So, Finn and I have been missing the sunrises and wandering over to the studio well into the morn.
Then we do our news/network and email diving, or I do while she secures the perimeter. Then she settles in to guard the gates and I begin to put out fires which have smoldered whilst we dreamt. Cromwell you influencer you…
This morning’s pile of woe was not virus related but it began last night when I went to print out some reference photos only to find that the new ink cartridge would not fit. After an hour of scratching my head and searching through old orders and googling info it has come to pass that I…with the help of Amazon’s misleading product searching…ordered the wrong replacements. To the tune of hundreds and hundreds of dollars. Ordered in January they are no longer returnable.
I have since remedied this by ordering an entire new set of inks from a more reputable source, B & H Photo. But being in NYC and in the middle of this crisis, I expect there to be delays in shipping…if they ship at all. This can be worked around and is of course not life threatening but I bring it up here in the hopes that I can find another artist or photographer or company who might have this printer in need of ink for which my cartridges do fit…
The Epson SC-P800
I edited this to include a photo of the correct model. And I happen to have loads of ink just waiting to fill one out there…
The ink was purchased in January and I’d be happy to sell for a nice discount and ship for free.
It’s a shame to let this go to waste.
the mornings do seem to be given over to managing life in the new world order and soon I hope to be spending those hours in the garden.
With this new normal comes a new goal… to be painting at the easel by noon. It is now 11:55 and the board of health has insisted that I take a shower before handling tiny brushes so this is how that deadline slips oh so easily into early afternoon… and then there are those PT stretches to do… and the stack of bills which have been released from their final stage of porch decon to be paid… and a quick game or three of Mahjong just to let the dust settle… before looking up at the panel before me and choosing where to begin.
Denise and I have been planning THE GROCERY TRIP for a week now. She is a hydro-geologist genius who cleans up Superfund sites for a living. That requires, and she meets brilliantly, a highly specialized degree of scientific comprehension, and an even higher set of workplace safety standards…all of which go way beyond my everyday life. So she is the absolute go to when there is a toxic mess.
Both of us live in households with compromised immune systems so the goals we set are to minimize risk of bringing this C19 creature into our bodies and living spaces. Unlike many selfish idiots out there, we take social distancing seriously and the advice to move around in this world as if WE are contagious and don’t want to give it to our neighbors seems like a minimal standard of protection to meet.
They always have fresh local produce and we’ve grown to rely on their other healthy and groovy products to fill in the food gaps. But during this pandemic they have stepped up in another way and are open for the first hour for seniors and immune-compromised shoppers. I apparently, and shockingly, qualify for both categories. We also figured that the “viral load” would be significantly less given that the volume of shoppers here is small at that hour compared to our big town grocery store.
We exchanged a few texts with suggestions for safety precautions and then Denise, the scientist, came up with a 3 page document, “Standard Operating Procedure for Grocery Store Trips”. She said I could share it and here are some of the highlights…
This is provided to describe the process used by the author to go to the grocery store. The author does not assume any legal liability for others following this document. This is intended to reduce risk, not eliminate it.
Hazard Virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)
Pathways (how you can get it)
Inhalation of the virus in the air (aerosol)
Mucus membranes (eyes, nose)
Dermal contact with contaminated surfaces (touching, then touching your face)
Virus viability on surfaces (how long it lives)
Aerosols (respiration, coughs) – up to 3 hours
Copper – 4 hours
Cardboard- 24 hours
Plastic – 2 to 3 days
Stainless steel – 2 to 3 days
Based on this information assume all air and surfaces are contaminated
Hazard Mitigation (how to reduce the risk of exposure)
Use of personal protection equipment (PPE) to prevent dermal contact and inhalation
Only one person per trip
Post-potential exposure decontamination
Kill the virus
Disinfectants (hard surfaces)
Ultraviolet (UV) light (sunlight) – for items than cannot be easily washed or disinfected – do not rely on this.
Physical Removal by washing (clothing)
Personal Protective Equipment
Homemade facemask – to prevent inhalation. I use a bandana folded to cover the nose and mouth, held in place with rubber bands or string.
Safety glasses – to prevent aerosol and dermal exposure to mucus membranes (eyes)
Gloves (nitrile gloves if you happen to have some, other gloves if not available, if using other gloves clean/wash before use) – To prevent dermal contact with contaminated surfaces
Long sleeve shirt, pants, socks, shoes over a layer of inner clothing like leggings and sports bra (or no bra) or t-shirt so you do not flash the neighborhood when disrobing outside – Outer protective layer for your body to prevent contact with your skin
She goes on to itemize lists for…Trip Preparation, Trip Safety Protocol, and Decontamination Proceedures…
Step 1 – Purchased items
Wipe cans and boxes down with disinfectant solution
Produce – remove outer bag and place in box
Move items to area where you can come get them so someone else or you can get after you decontaminate yourself
Place bags in bag for recycling or put reusable bags in bag for washer
Step 2 – Personal Decontamination
While outside removal PPE, outer clothing first takin care to not touch your under clothing, followed by safety glasses, homemade mask. Place in bag so they can be placed in washing without touching them.
Place shoes in the sun or leave outside, do not bring them into the house.
Place items in washer.
Proceed to shower
I follow up with a neti pot flush using sterile water and saline solution and a gargle with warm saltwater (I know this is not scientifically proven, it makes me feel better)
After decontamination, put away groceries that are temporarily stored in the staging location.
Step 3 – Put away groceries, wash produce
Step 4 – Decontaminate the staging area, door knobs, car surfaces
Here she is with her trial PPE…
So, yesterday…Denise took one for the team and made the first trip. It went well and with the exception of a few items missing on shelves she is home safely with a month’s worth of food and supplies.
Based on her success…today was my turn.
Coincidentally, just before I left, I watched a video on FB where a medical pro gave his tips on how to decontaminate shopping items when you get them home. Denise nailed it.
I did not take any pics of my PPE, but Herself got a kick out of it. There was only one other car in the lot at 8 when they opened and the staff far outnumbered the eventual shoppers I saw. Plenty of space to distance and a very respectful exchange was experienced each time I encountered fellow shoppers reaching for items on the same shelf. The store was well stocked, except for flour and one or two other items on my list which were not essential. I was able to secure enough food for what I hope will last 2 weeks to a month. By that time the garden should be producing spring greens and early veg to add to the staples and proteins.
Denise reports that Leg Up will soon be reducing their hours to be open 10-6, 10-11 for us old farts.
As for the home decontamination scene. There was a lot more clorox wiping than I expected…that video suggested wiping the outside of all bags to be put in the freezer which made sense. And I will refine the staging areas in the near future. But so far so good.
The truck, which is currently a hay and birdseed silo…will double for decon 1 – items in original packaging that are stored away from weather and contact while virus germs dissipate – 3-5 days.
The porch decon includes several stages… veg out of bags ready to rebag before coming into kitchen…
Then we have the clean up on aisle three…
Bleach Bucket –
Sudsy bucket to wash clothes…for those of us who do not have a washing machine…
All of that, from shopping trip to decon took two hours.
Then strip down to the buffo… toss clothes and shoes in the sudsy bucket… fast enough that Herself cannot get her phone out of her pocket in time to take a pic of that hot mess for this blog… and directly into the shower… and presto-chango… our coffers are refilled and we can settle back into our happy world of self-quarantine.
And we can do that because of all the others in our community and around the world who are sacrificing themselves to keep those store stocked, the testing stations staffed and the health care facilities open. Also a shout out to our local trash collectors, postal workers, and delivery drivers. Thank you to all those helpers who make it possible for the rest of us to do the right thing and stay home.
I feel 10 pounds lighter. Our increased load of anxieties which met my normal state of neurosis head on can take a deep breath and relax now. With the help of our pal Denise…and all those other helpers… we have achieved our Hunter Gatherer badge.
My other reward…the lingering smell of bacon.
Maybe NOW I can get back to the easel and let go of these constant waves of fear and find some of the more playful Muses and remember how to paint.
There is no other human on the planet that I would rather be in quarantine with.
Your buddy Finn and I will do our best in this season of lock down to celebrate the wonders of you in our lives. We will lay a golden carpet of forsythia blooms to brighten your step, take you on a treasure hunt to find the purple crocus, and serenade you as you soak up the sunny sky chair breezes.
From the “Nature finds a way” division of the Ledge…
When, way back in January, or was that February, we, meaning Kory… with me directing from without, frantically threw everything in the studio kitchen out onto the studio porch after finding yet another round of rodential invasion…
the bench filled up with things that were destined to live in the garage… but needed to be sorted… so that never happened.
Herself has been wanting to clear it off so guests could have a place to sit.
But we don’t get many guests, and now…well… we have had to implement a staging area for decontamination of deliveries from the big bad world.
You may be able to imagine my surprise when upon reaching for the blue bag our resident wren flew up and at me and, with a powerful shrillness, bade me to step away from her nest.
Twice in the days since I have impulsively reached for that bag. And both times I swore at my forgetfulness… almost as solemnly as she swore at me.
So yesterday I decided a tactile barricade was needed.
Not for her, but for me.
A quarantine within the quarantine.
It takes a village. Take care of each other out there.
Here’s a very early piece, so early that I was still painting in my old studio… and it was Gulliver by my side.
A Dissembling Breeze – 2002
My studio is on stilts. Telephone polls really. Sixteen feet in the air. We live in a flood zone by this gently flowing creek. During hurricane Agnes in the early 70’s the entire cabin was under water. The single foot of it’s chimney remaining above water gaining mythological proportions. So when they rebuilt the washed away garage it had to be above the highest flood level.
The supporting beams and joists underneath my tree top studio are exposed. For the last two seasons an industrious couple of sparrows have been constructing a condo under there. Massive in scale I suspect them to be former hippies ever redesigning the commune. Celebrating diversity, they have woven in feathers from every visiting species and a generous helping of wool from Pat’s grandmother’s hooked rug which rests on the steps beneath.
The other day, on our fifty foot commute to work, Gully and I found the nest fallen to the pavement below. A treasure for me… at some cost to the dear ones.
For months thereafter we heard them busily knocking about below our painting feet. The subsequent structures lacked some vital element because they lasted only an average of a few days.
It has been a dry hot summer. I don’t expect them back until spring now. In the meantime I am collecting a pile of feathers and pine needles and dog hair at the base of the studio steps. We are not expecting rain.
The apprentice patiently awaits our next delivery…
I’m a bit behind. Been putting out insurance fires, medication issues, juggling tax documents, cooking perishables, and monitoring the stock market.
No, are you kidding I don’t know squat about the stock market but apparently I like to watch disasters in the making or the ticking I actually gave over dozens of minutes of my precious life to watching those numbers bounce around in free fall this week.
Mesmerizing, I was interested to learn about the internal brake thing which automatically stops trading. That stopped my heart when it happened in real time. And, because we have a tiny little bit of our savings tied up in those numbers some how…
I quickly took the advice of experts… and snapped right on out of that window.
And went outside. The distractions and emergency shut downs that have shaken our worlds have also put me a bit behind in the gardening department.
I keep a running journal to help me remember what to plant and when. Last year I dug deep, as it were, and invested, with Kory’s help, in building new beds and starting my Ruth Stout Garden, and now I have a journal full of useful information to be going on with.
As we saw in the first ledge post, there was good news to report about the soil under all that hay. Some pics from last season show how I used boxes filled with compost to provide some fertile growing medium while the ground beneath, which had been lawn, was slowly being converted, by the creatures within, to something more conducive to garden ready soil.
Made me happy in this lock downed moment to see all that green again…
At the end of the season we raked all of the remaining organic matter flatish, and made a footpath of wood chips then covered it all with a fresh foot or so of hay.
Where we had compost, roughly chopped up plant material and cardboard…the soil is now beautifully decomposed. There was one area in the back where I only had hay on top of last year’s soil and that is still anaerobic, sticky mud. We’ll see if the potatoes object because I planted some of them in that muck.
Yesterday Herself and Finn and myself enjoyed the ridiculously hot weather…76 degrees…and planted the Greens Bed.
This is what remained from the winter under cover. Beets in the back are probably not going to form but I’ll give them another week. Carrots are in great shape. Spinach which I’ve been enjoying all winter looks better after a heavy cleaning but I’ve got new seeds starting in other beds so this batch, which is very leggy, may be retired.
With 6 typed of lettuce seeds planted and some radishes as well, the whole thing got a blanket thrown over it.
They are just fine as painting models… but seem to be unsatisfied with the sunflower seeds I have been providing them all winter. They found the pea seeds which we had planted on St. Pat’s day and ripped that bed up. So…I threw more seeds in and put up the dreaded tunnel.
Hopefully they will get the message.
In October I noticed they were spending some time in the herb bed. I thought it was to bury nuts but no, they were eating the Chard. Since I had planted that for winter harvest I decided to cover it over. The plants didn’t produce much so I lifted the fleece and let the sun rain down.
The squirrels rejoiced and this is what is left. Eh, it’s time to start new plants anyway.
In that same bed, on the farside, is a magnificent crop of Cress.
It grew uncovered all through our mild winter-that-wasn’t and now it’s feisty and fiery flavor of pepper and spice is a brilliant addition to every dish. Somewhere I read it is one of the most densely vitamin and mineral rich plants. Double the benefits. This is a land cress variety which likes shade. It loves hanging out behind the grape arbor. I’ve got extra seeds if anyone wants to try some.
And so far, the squirrels don’t seem to have cottoned on to this delicacy.
Later on today we will start another flat of the seeds I need to catch up on and some of the hot weather lovers like tomatoes and peppers.
But as for my day job.
I guess it is appropriate to pay homage to some of my more squirrely Muses…
Stay frosty out there everyone…and be kind.
Squirreled Away – 2016
Last year it was the Cardinal, His Holiness Wolsey the basher of windows.
This winter, it was Sir Squirrel, the chomper of walnuts.
He who kept me company, through the snowy storms, perched on the air-conditioning unit, just outside my easel window, flaunting his propitious, hoarding prowess, and watching.
We watched each other actually. Watched out for each other may be more accurate.
When we got that Nor’easter, which dumped 4 feet of fresh snow, on the already whitened studio yard, it took me three days to dig out a path for Finnegan to get to her privy.
I noticed that Sir Sq. had been a no show and made a wee annex to Finn’s run from the arbor vitae to his window perch.
The mere work of a teaspoon, but it sufficed for him to re-surface and check back in to make sure I was ok, and able to lift those tiny brushes after all that shoveling.
Sitting there, sporting new pairs of both snow shoes and sunglasses, and chewing on a particularly prodigious nut, he must have noticed I was looking ever so slightly famished, because, after devouring a full three quarters thereof, he reached out to offer me a nibble…
See, that’s what I’m talking about…
it takes a village.
A Little Night Knitting – 2018
On those long winter nights alone on an island pining for her captain
the rhythmic click click clicking of the long metal needles is heard
as they catch the moon beams dancing over waves
that somewhere oceans away
have lapped along the starboard side of a weathered wooden ship.
As she knits and purls and knits and purls
the tips of those needles wave a tiny patter of light
a private message in a language of their own sweet and sacred semaphore.
Living with six feet of separation… in the hopes of staying on this side of the garden… which as you can see has just begun…
And potatoes newly nestled in Ruth’s bed…
I’ve been thinking a lot about how lucky I am, as an artist, to actually enjoy working at home. Social distancing is my norm. The creative life is not always lived in isolation, but art often begins there.
Making art is about making sense of the world around us and within.
The irony is not lost on me in these early days when artists of all types are filling the airwaves with song and words and paintings…
Spontaneous acts of generosity offering touchstones to beauty portals of peace that simply reach out to remind us of the importance and precious value of our common human existance…
When, for the price of a presidential golf trip, how many schools could bring back the stolen art and music education to teach new generations to make that art.
Maybe that will be one new thing that we change after so much tearing down that is to come.
So, yeah, I feel very lucky to still be able to walk over from the log cabin each day and walk around the studio yard with Finn as the sun rises over the hill and know that my easel awaits and the brushes are ready…
I am very scared. Anxiety and raw fear blend with the persistent vulnerability of aging so that those familiar edges have now become ledges.
But, so far, the Muses have not wavered.
They greet me at the door. Remind me of our new family motto…
So I’m going to join the chorus and start sending out little postcards from the studio.
To share some of what is still so good in our world some paintings that speak to me of that and the constant reminder that the garden gives me that grace abides.
I begin with Skip…Swan Song – An abstract Chilmark Aria
This is Skip.
One of this world’s truly authentic selves.
A person for whom the esthetics of beauty is the fundamental element of existence.
Someone deeply connected to nature’s expressions, who finds art and music and dance vibrating between all living things, and whose joyful spirit, when unleashed, can fill an island with song.
Over a year ago I asked Skip to model for me. I had some ideas. Skip had other ideas.
We met and shared some croissants and coffee, listened to each others’ stories, talked about art, and Findhorn, and philosophy, and listened some more.
Then we set out to seek the muses. Skip pointed me down up-island roads that were hidden from maps, we stopped for stone walls, and wildlife, wildflowers, and whispers.
There were stories behind every corner, pebbles on the road, on Skips’ journey, and a few on mine, and new ones we were creating together.
Skip is a painter. And one of the things we talked about was including one of those paintings …in my painting. We brought it along, and let the muses decide.
We ended up at the bluff, Camp Sunrise. A melding of sacred spaces. The morning sun had risen to clear October skies, and the meadow was just waking up to the light.
This is the part where I get emotional.
Because the morning sessions I spent working with Skip studying and working, in that profoundly familiar space, was the last time I saw the house, perched on the edge of the planet, in all her grace and glory, before they demolished it.
We all knew it was coming. The time when nature’s pounding would erode the bluff, wearing away at the land, until there was no where else for the houses to rest.
In my island time… which began as the great gift of knowing Lynn Langmuir, whose generous heart was deeper than the ocean, and steadier than her beloved stone wall, that very wall which wanders through this painting… over the thirty plus years I have been coming to this bluff, the chicken coop of a farm house, had twice been moved back from that threatening edge.
It is hard to imagine, in this painting, that there is a 40 foot drop from bluff to beach, just a mere five feet from the edge of her front porch.
And, still, this old Yankee stalwart ship-of-a-shack, she stood proud, holding her own, and by that I mean generations of the Langmuir family, and the many who were welcomed by them, into the embrace of this enchanted space.
But the land…ran out. And so, while the other, more modern structures of garage and bunkhouse, were able to be moved out back and beyond the wetlands, to the farthest section of the parcel, the bones of this old gal had been deemed too fragile for the move.
You couldn’t tell, from our distant vantage point, that while Skip and I gamboled among the stones, and communed with the muses, the house had been emptied of all its touchstones.
The old wicker woven lounging chair was gone… the daybeds stripped of their sleep-softened pillows, kitchen shelves bare of the pastel colored fiesta ware, paperback mysteries of Riggs and Craig, no longer insulating the cubby-holed shelves.
Puzzles and kite string, checkers and cribbage… amber eyed owls who lit up the hearth, journals of writings from visiting friends, with new chapters each year for us all to catch up.
New nicks, and old, from bumps on the bedroom lintel, where a hundred layers on the yellow painted symbol of a duck…reminding us to.
The tears in each sink from the iron and rust, the old brown barn coat ever-hanging on the white wooden hooks behind the green door.
All these objects, and a hundred more … they have been the keeper of our memories.
The sunny days, the stormy nights, we grew up in that house, on the bluff, as she grew old, and, in her weathered-shingled way, became… the things we are made of.
This painting then, for the house, is her swan song.
Skip sings it for us all, an aria as abstract as the tapestry of souls who have ducked to cross her threshold, and sought refuge in her wings.