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Tuesday, September 22

by the sea

We often rent a house at the beach when we are here in Oregon. Sometimes for a weekend, sometimes for a week. This year it was a weekend and we packed the car with kids, grandkids, dogs, luggage, bags of food and headed out. I have a new respect for the "clowns in a Volkswagen" schtick. The kids were remarkably patient considering the level of discomfort.

The beach was at the end of our little road. The Oregon Coast is beautiful, no matter where you pull off to experience it. The State does not allow anyone to "own" a piece of the beach, so no matter where you go there is free, open access to the ocean. There are often huge rock formations in the water, little islands, whimsical but solid.

Off we went, down the road to the beach,adults, kids, dogs. The sun was warm, the breeze cool, the ocean cold and churning. It was awesome.

I have dipped my toes in the Pacific again. Life is good.


That is the only word I can come up with after visiting Bryce Canyon. There are 19 "pull outs" on the suggested route through the park and we stopped at all of them, camera in hand. You could only get  a glimpse of the view as you pulled into the little lots. Thick log railings protected and obscured the view. So, it would slowly reveal itself as you walked to the rail. I couldn't help but say things aloud as I approached. Insightful things, like : "you gotta be kidding!", "Get out!",  "Holy crap!". I took a lot of pictures.
But I also forced myself to put the camera down and just be there. Be at the edge of this marvel, in the warm Fall sun, the soft breeze, the circling hawk. This is where you are supposed to admit to "feeling small". But I didn't feel small. I felt connected, expanded, blessed.

Tuesday, September 15

the crying man

We drove through the Utah wilderness at night, the mountains  unseen but present. Few cars on this lonely stretch of road and little Oliver  is restless. Russ thinks he’s cold, I think he is affected by the unfamiliar toography because his little head swivels back and forth like doggie radar. Once night falls, he is spooked by the looming shadows of the mountains. He trembles until I pull my sweatshirt over him, but soon he has popped his head out to check and the trembling begins again. I hug him to me but that only helps for a moment. I can’t wait to stop for the night, if only to see him happy again.

We find a pet friendly Comfort Inn in Richfield, about 2 hours from Bryce Canyon. Nice place. Beautiful hotel, friendly people, coffee and cold drinks available all night and a crying man in the lobby. I check us in, find that the credit card I am using for hotels is missing. I was very organized this trip. This card for gas, this card for hotels, this card for “stuff”. Losing my hotel card would screw the pooch as they say. I assume I will find it, but the crying man cuts into my concentration and I pull out the gas card and tell her to just use this, I will have to do what the GPS lady does: recalculate. My OCD whimpers.

The crying man is tall, black, handsome, big like an athlete. He has a a trendy hair do, like tiny braids close to his head and a red shirt, loose over his jeans. He is pacing in tiny circles and whimpering. By the time we get into our room, just a ew feet from the front desk, he is weeping. I turn to him and say “are you OK?” but his reply is garbled and my concern makes him cry harder. The women at the desk keep asking what is wrong and can they help. The crying intensifies. I close my door and hope this ends well, but it is sad and a bit scary.

Russell goes out  to find us some food. I peek through the little glass thingy in the door every so often to see what’s happening. His weeping has turned to wailing. It is real and I can feel his heart breaking and nobody can get through the pain to help him. I know they will need to call the cops and they do. I hate to say it, but the events of this past year flash through my mind when I look through the peep hole and see this  black man losing control, with 3 white cops surrounding him. My heart is in my throat. But I needn’t worry. They were so kind to him, so gentle . They tried for quite a while to reason with him, find out what was wrong, let him know they were there to help. His anguish intensified. And then he started yelling for them to shoot him. “Please shoot me, please. Shoot me!” He wailed and pleaded for them to put him out of his misery.  My heart was breaking for him. Russ came back with food and said there was an ambulance outside. He goes out to get our bags.

I wait a few minutes and see that the EMT’s have come with a stretcher and now they and the cops are trying to get the man to go with them for help. They need to cuff him and all hell breaks loose. He is terrified of being handcuffed. He begs, he pleads, he screams, but they cuff him. They have to. 

And then he is on the gurney, tied down, crying, but on his way to help. I pressed my forehead to the door, beneath the little peephole and listened to the quiet and tried to make sense of what had taken 10 minutes to unfold, but felt like a lifetime. I felt so sad for him. For whatever made him cry and ask to be killed by three strangers in uniform.

The desk clerk said he had been working up to this all day. From the time he checked in, he would come into the lobby and pace and stare at the TV and go back to his room. Russ asked the cop if he thought the crying man would be OK and he shook his head no.

It felt kind of wrong to turn on TV, and pull out our fast food, to carry on as if nothing had happened. The two of us and our dogs, safe and happy, looking forward to tomorrow. The big man in a red shirt, strapped down in an ambulance, looking forward only to pain.  I don’t know where to put all of this in my heart’

stormin' the mid west

Nebraska, I hate to say it, but your endless flat fields of corn and brush can be boring. We decided to consider them calming and zen-like, but, truth be told, I read a lot. Around 8 we decided to stop at the next town for the night. We were enjoying the dramatic sky. To our left, clear sky with the beginnings of a golden sunset over the fields. To our right, black clouds with flashes of lightning buried deep within. The ragged edge of the black clouds inched over to the gold and  the light show started in earnest. Rolling bands of lightning that lit the night. We were not yet alarmed. In fact, Russ was taking video.

Then all Hell broke loose and, as loathe I am to use such a hackneyed phrase, I gotta say it was exactly that. With no warning we were slammed with wind, hail, rain. It was like a body blow. The cars stopped dead in the road. Slowly, the drivers got their bearings and began to inch cautiously to a shoulder they could not see. We all stopped then and waited. The rain was so intense, the hail so thick, that the car became a cocoon. There was no light save the occasional lightning and the two red circles of the brake lights in front of us that looked like carnations through the ice. The car rocked. Russ inched forward and it was like driving over rocks. He stopped. The storm didn’t.

I was terrified. All I could think of was that a tornado was coming. We were on the border of Iowa and Nebraska, in the plains, in a violent storm. All I could see was Dorothy riding her bike with Toto in the basket. I saw cars spinning up into the clouds. I ran an endless reel of old movies showing people clinging desperately to door jambs and car doors, only to be swept away and found in trees later. Yes, it seems silly now, but I was out of my element. I can handle a blizzard, this was nature on attack. AT one point I told Russ to please stop inching forward and he said he wasn’t. the car was in park. It was the wind.

The storm seemed to never end. I was whimpering “Oh my God” over and over. I admitted to Russell that I was afraid. Really afraid. I never do that. I am the brave girl. The dogs were silent and still, their ears down. They huddled together. They never moved, never whimpered.  Russ was taking video.

After what seemed like forever, but was probably 5 minutes, there was enough of a lull that you could see out the windows again. A big truck went by and Russ pulled out to follow him. The road was coated with hail stones and it felt like we were riding over rumble strips. I was trembling and my heart was beating so hard I swear my t-shirt was moving to its beat.

When we finally checked into our room, I lay in the bed, taking deep breaths and both dogs came to lie beside me: Quincy tucked himself along my side, Oliver put his tiny paws on my shoulder and rested his head in my neck. I like to think they were soothing me, but it may have been a mutual comforting.

Emergency blasts came over the TV several times in the next few hours, but we were safe, warm, together. I am always thankful when that it the case, but never more than that night.

Wednesday, September 9

stuck in the middle

The world starts to change when you hit deep into the midwest.  New York is green and lush and rolling. Ohio is green but flat. And then you hit Iowa and the air is like a blanket of heat, rich with mist. It feels like work to walk through it. The sky opens up and the shape of the world we live on is revealed. It curves at the edges, dips into the sunset, defies boundaries. Sunsets here are different than the charming ones we have over Lake Erie. They are intense. fire on the ground, gray chasing red across the fields. It is here that I start to feel that we are on a journey. The dogs are calmer here, as if the flat earth and open sky soothes them. We will stop soon. I want to catch Stephen Colbert’s debut.  We will bring in the cooler and snack on tomato sandwiches with tons of salt and mayo. fontanella cheese and watermelon, oatmeal raisin cookies, raspberry tea. I’m hungry thinking of it.  Tomorrow we head toward Nebraska, the last flat state, the entry to the mountains and the world spins and changes again. When we tell people that we are about to drive cross country, the question always is: How long does it take? I want to say “several lifetimes” but they wouldn’t understand. The last sliver of fire is slipping off the edge. The sky behind it is slate and blue with streaks of white. 

My quote of the day? Enjoy the journey.

lessons learned, blessings earned?

It’s been a long time since I blogged. Months and months. Yes, I’ve been busy with shows and work and doctors. But I’m thinking the demon between me and my blog is Facebook. I spend creative time replying, sharing, liking, pontificating, LOLing. No time for creative writing. Enough.

So..Let’s review the Summer show season this way: rain, rain, wonderful, lousy, wonderful, heat, pretty good, frustrating, wonderful and wonderful. I would like to share words of wisdom about making a living as a show artist, but since I haven’t figured it out for myself yet, I would be a false prophet. I’ll put it like this…you have to love the life, love what you do and be willing to eat pasta 4 nights a week. We are on a month-long road trip right now and my show money pretty much is paying for it, so I am content.

What did I learn this year? Well, I learned that it is a balm to the soul when people respond to your work. Since moving into more collage work, what I am showing and selling is part of who I am and that makes acceptance and rejection more personal than I would like. I get a lot of incredible feed back from potential customers, but it is hard for me to close the deal on a purchase, no matter what the price. And, trust me, I am underpriced. As a fellow show circuit artist likes to remind us: we don’t  make anything anyone needs. Well, I think people need art, but I know whet he means.

I love making collage. I do. When I started out, I was a papermaker. That didn’t last long. I liked it, but it was labor intensive and messy. When you can get a beautiful Thai marble 2 X 3 ft sheet for 5 bucks you not only get better paper, you get time to make stuff with it.  So I became a book maker. (Who knew you could make books??) I was unable to part with even a scrap of the papers left over from making books, and so I worked them into collage, starting with cards, then magnets and, finally, large pieces. I work quotations  in because I believe words are art and people respond to them. 

And so, here we are. Another Summer show season “in the books”. Another holiday season on the horizon.  And, in between, a road trip. It’s a good life.

Oh, and speaking of that, Doc says he sees no new cancer and what he does see is apparently scar tissue. He’s been watching it for a while and it has been stable so it seems to be “inactive” or some such thing. So, no more chemo. We are just going to watch it. He smiled at me.  My joints already feel better, my nails are growing back and we are on the road.

As one of my quotes reads: “nothing is worth more than this day”.