Postcards from the Ledge – 22

I remember this heart piercing quiet now.
In Finnegan’s wake the studio may feel empty…
but it is full of paintings.

The logistics have all been ironed out for this year’s Granary Gallery show to travel on up to the island.

With the wicked virus floating around, we are most gratefully relying on the helpers in our world to make it safe for us to manage the parts of this workflow that require contact with the outside world. This week the frames arrive, thank you Julie and Kory. Next week the trailer gets loaded, thank you Matt and Paul. And then it gets hooked up and driven north.

Now all those thank yous are in advance and it will take some powerful angel to sync these steps smoothly into place…
luckily we have a brand new one.

Seems fitting then to show you today’s painting…

In the Derby’s Wake  –  16 x 20


Finnegan Loretta Neill

This morning her smile was every bit as bright as the day we met.

She loved us so deep
and for eleven and a half wonderful years
this sweet girl filled every minute of those days with that love.

Herself said we would never ever ever be ready for this.
But this week Finnegan let us know that she was.

I’m going to keep this picture
of her last smile
and thank Finn every day for being here.


Postcards from the Ledge – 7

So…yesterday I turned 62.

A wonderful day book-ended with a spell in the sky chair. This sunset deepened and lasted for almost two hours. Ta very much nature goddesses.

And a heartfelt thank you to all who reached out to send birthday greetings. You all know what it means and it seems like one of the ways this crisis is impacting our worlds is that the tenor and quality of distance socializing feels genuinely kinder. So let’s keep paying that forward. Good on Ya humans !

We were told to expect clouds all day yesterday so, when the sunshine hung around and around I gave in and putzed in the garden.One ridiculous caper found us wetting ourselves after trying to move just one bale of straw. Now it was rain soaked so that added extra weight but I’m guessing close to 80 lbs. I can normally lift dry bales with some effort and, as you’ve read here,  I used to be able to point a finger and rely on Kory to tote those bales.

Alas, the virus, so Pat and I tried…and collapsed after that first bale.

Lunch felt like a good idea so we retreated and treated ourselves to a viewing of …Fantastic Fungi. Wow. Our son Jon turned us on to this movie and movement. You can rent or buy it only from their website…click here. I highly recommend for every curious mind…especially for inquisitive youngsters. They are going to get to see and drive monumental changes in our planet in their lifetimes based on this science. Pick the biggest screen you have access to and get the room nice and dark…enjoy.

The rest of the day was peaceful…planting here and there and checking under the fleece…

The salad bed planted two weeks ago is coming along…slooooowly. Carrots and those beets on the left and spinach on the right had overwintered. I yanked most of the beets as the roots were gnarly. Carrots ok. Spinach ok too. Three lines of lettuce seeds had no germination so I replanted. Radishes are firing up. Side dressing of Dr. Earth’s organic fertilizer and a good soaking and back goes the fleece.

A mediocre supper of Ina’s roasted shrimp, (the shrimp had lots of freezer burn and it should have been 400 degrees in that oven) was lifted by a wonderful sauce of mayo, ketchup, mirin, touch of teriyaki, capers and curry. And we binged two more episodes of Ozark. Late comers we are only on season one. Whew the dreams I had after that…suffice it to say it was a relief to open my eyes this morning and see that the orange jump suit had been left in that nightmare.

These posts are getting long and are mostly just my own way of leaving breadcrumbs, but I will share this morning’s escapade as a PSA.

We had to go out into the world to take Finn to the vet.

It’s all good…don’t fret…Saren…she’s fine…

But part of our goal is to stay on top of a couple of issues that trouble the old gal and part of that regimen is regular shots and meds that we had run out of. In this state, Veterinary Hospitals are considered essential but they are asking to hold off on normal checkups and shots with the exception of Rabies vaccinations. Fortunately for Finn she was due for a rabies booster. And fortunately for us, eternal gratitude to Saren for all things dog here, our vet practice is bang on top of this new world order.

Hill Street Veterinary Hospital

…and a great shout out to Finn’s hero…Dr. Sara Alfano.

They have walk-in hours in the mornings, and a carefully orchestrated protocol for curbside care.

After hearing the tenor of the experts changing over the weekend, alerting that the coming couple of weeks would see the worst impact of this virus, we decided that a quick controlled visit now would be best for Finn.

The only exception to our own protocol was that Pat got to ride along. The poor dear hasn’t been in her car, Martha, for almost a month and that deprivation has been real for her.

Finn requires the aid of a very heavy ramp to help her into the back of the Volvo but we work well as a team and not being able to do HER absolute favorite thing…riding shotgun for her buddy in the car…is an even greater deprivation around here. So…the whole damn family loaded up.

Gloved and masked we drove up and parked. Called the office. They got things ready. Tech came out with mask and  I got Finn out. They whisked her up the ramp and into the clinic. Dr. Sara called on my phone and we chatted about Finn’s treatment and meds and got to check in on her, Sara. As one of our special people…we worry. All good she says. The tech brought our girl back out with a bag of meds. We paid via phone. And Bob’s your uncle that was that.

We took the long way home so we could see the flowers and our favorite trees and, since I got out of the car and was in contact with the bag and the harness Finn wears which they had touched, I performed the decon drill and gave Finn an extra treat and here we are.

A great big high five paw of a thank you to the staff and Docs who made that experience go so smoothly. It honestly felt very weird to leave the house, to see other humans, so little traffic, a small group of teenagers in the high school parking lot standing six feet apart and chatting. And I was hyper aware of the invisible villain lurking just beyond the closed windows of the car.

It feels good to have that addressed and done with and now, after a quick walk around the sunny garden, I can settle back in at the easel.

I think these three are a perfect fit for today…all were Saren’s dogs and all were Finn’s pals…but her Bestie was and always be… Tallie…

Nina – 2010

Margie -2010

Tallie – 2010


Postcards from the Ledge – 6

The last few days have been grim.
The siren calls from hospital workers,
the mounting numbers of casualties,
the criminally incompetent leadership from the oval office,
the crippling anxiety that washes over us…
wave after unrelenting wave.

The last few days have been sparkling.
The return of the indigo bunting outside my window,
flats of winter seedlings getting their first feel of wind,
Finnegan laying peacefully in the sunshine,
lazy conversations over the morning kitchen table with my love,
and the glorious unrelenting waves…
of that brilliant new green.

While I admit to finding myself frozen in my easel chair,
not able to summon the creative energy to pick up even the tiniest of brushes,
I am showing up every day.
I know the Muses are here and I’m listening,
but it sounds like static now…loudly buzzing and confusing.

And what I know about that
is to get up outta that chair and go outside.

The glorious gift of having Herself by our sides
during these stay at home days
means Finn and I are at our happiest in our happy place…
wallowing in the brightening colors of the studio garden…

My organizer using her superpower…

Anyone who needs or wants some of this plastic just holler…

While she sorted…I planted…

Two rows of peas planted in Ruth…which is a bit spicy to read back…

And…at the end of that glorious day…a bit of well earned sky chair rest…

So today’s painting will be a very early work which honors another of my love’s superpowers…

The Folder – 2000

This is quite simply inspired by my friend Rex. He is a poet. Our histories have walked side by side for over forty years. Our paths have criss-crossed over most of them. Our souls have always been as one.

And it is for Pat, my folder.

The Folder

Folded things speak well of you
when you’re out of the room.
They hold the near future captive,
like children about to go on recess
or sexual pleasure at the brim of control.
I think of the pressure of your hand
smoothing over the cloth napkin,
the bedsheet, the piece of clothing
that signals the meal to come,
the lovemaking, the spent day —
and how you stack the bath towels
as high as they’ll go, as a driver
well keep the fuel tank near full
during times of shortage. I step out
of the shower looking to the center
of my life, where you have folded it.
Creases will have nothing to do
with edges: It’s no accident
that ledges are ledges and valleys,
so far removed from any real
horizon, where people most often
choose to put down roots and grow.
I like to imagine that God, who,
faced with formlessness, folded
the world into manageable corners,
sent me you to repeat the gesture.
Rex Wilder


Postcards from the Ledge – 5b

8:55 am –

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.


Postcards from the Ledge – 5

Oh little Brandywine…you can do it !!!

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.

Double UGH.

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.

Anyway…

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.

11:59

Stay frosty out there fellow travelers.

And remember…Tits UP !!!


Postcards from the Ledge – 3

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.

 

 


Postcards from the Ledge -2

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.

Because…squirrels.

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.

Making Art…

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.

AND…

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.


Finnegan smiling at 11

This is a very special day for our family.

We have had a Bernese Mt. Dog by our sides for the last three decades.
Gabriel, Gulliver and Finnegan.

Finn is the first one to see her 11th birthday and she still shows up for work with that smile every day.

Our hearts are full to bursting with love for this champion of our souls and we are gonna give her some special treats today.

Happy Birthday Finn !!!


Shrimp Mousse Season

Shrimp Bowl  –  2008

“Always approach the shrimp bowl as you own it.”    Mary McGrory

‘Tis the season…of Shrimp Mousse

In the all kitchens of my adulthood
Along the margins of each recipe
Tucked and retucked
inbetween the pages of all the cookbooks
I have written in  tiny script
some words to mark the making
and the maker each time I make my way
back to that particular recipe.

A trail of micro journaled jigsaw pieces
which periodically get reassembled as I return
to refresh the ingredient lists
for old and new favorites.

Yesterday, after chatting with dear Peg
about birds and pity and beaches and pools,
I pulled out the well worn card
with her original instructions
for her shrimp mousse.

It has been updated and upgraded
and tweaked over the years, but the bones
remain strong and the sentiment
has become crystalized.

The first entry I wrote on the card was…

1 Jan 2000 – The world has celebrated.
We made it ! Now for some special treats to start
off the new millenium.

What follows are regular entries just about that time
almost every year with the exception
of the few years interim when I seem to have lost
that original card. I do remember the desperate searching
but it seems that the Muses returned it a few years ago…

22 December 2016 – Thought I had lost this recipe –
but in the wild autumn of home repairs -when both kitchens
had to be redone – it was found. Now we are in the dark ages –
and need some peace.

And here we are… planning on making a double batch I sat
down with all three of the Shrimp Mousse incarnations
and when Herself wandered into the studio kitchen
I was smiling through tears.

Chronicled on that little slip of paper
was celebrating the “first day of full time Artisanship”
The last walk with our Gulliver
and the first snowy Christmas with Finn
and this year’s entry made all the more special
to be able to write that we are all still together
around that kitchen table
a bit gimpier
and slower afoot
and settled deeply
into our seasons
of happiness.