Things Change, People Die

We know this…Most of us can name things and people that we’ve lost over the course of our lives. I certainly can. However, it really came home to me (again) yesterday when I was continuing with sorting and discarding “stuff.” There is a normal accumulation of things that we do as humans. In fact Stephanie Vogt in her book, A Year to Clear, says that clearing our stuff is a lifelong process. We can count on accumulating and releasing things ad infinitum. However, I believe that I would feel better if I had that sense of spaciousness that she offers in her book. I’d like to look out over the landscape of my little cottage and feel more order, beauty and space now or at least a year from now.

Yesterday, I pulled a couple of boxes of old check registers from the closet shelf. I googled how long do I need to keep check registers. One answer was one year followed by other answers that said at least ten years or perhaps five years. So I decided on seven years. I would hold onto these for seven years. One bit of logic from the google exploration was that they take up so little space so it would be fine to hold onto them forever. My thinking is that it would be one less thing for my family to have to deal with when my time comes.

I started with registers from 2009. The Bank of America branch that I was with in 2009, had dissolved, closed and left us without a B of A locally. So I transferred my account to another local bank. The registers were bound by circular wires. I removed them from the wires and shredded the papers. As I did so, I read who the checks were paid to…I decided to list the people and the shops, cafes or businesses that no longer existed. I came up with at least forty (40) businesses and/or people who were no longer here. The businesses had closed and the people had either died or moved away. It sort of shocked me to realize this. I frequented many of the businesses more than once in 2009. And these people who passed or moved, there were varying degrees of connection to them.

So you adjust, adapt to these losses or changes or find a way to get the need that was once met by them in another way. And sometimes, you just miss them. A sort of nostalgia surrounds them. Like New Sammy’s restaurant in Talent, Oregon near Ashland. Before I had ever been there, I had heard that it was truly a gourmet restaurant with the highest standards. And that the chef was a woman with a Ph.D. who turned to a career in cooking par excellence. That her husband was a wine connoisseur,  a sommelier, who matched the perfect wine with any dessert and entrée. And to have the fullest experience, it was wise to allow his recommended pairings.

I put off going there because I didn’t have anyone to go with, the waiting list was three months out, it was expensive. Then, one day, I was in Ashland and happened to run into this handsome young man that I had met casually in Mount Shasta where we both lived. In the course of our casual conversation, he told me that he was going to New Sammy’s for lunch! I said “I’ve always wanted to go there.” He invited me to meet him there in half-an-hour. I was a believer in serendipities and spontaneity so I met him there. I had what I would say was the best dining experience of my entire life! I agreed to the full meal experience with a most delicious risotto that sat in a broth that I spooned into my mouth until the plate was almost dry. I don’t remember the wine that her husband paired with this dish, but I do remember the satisfaction, the complementary quality of the wine to the risotto.

Then came the dessert, a heavenly chocolate soufflé also paired with a dessert wine. The complete pleasure that I felt at the end of this meal, comfortable and happy cannot be described in words. Gastronomical delights is the phrase that suddenly popped into my mind.

Gabriel, the young man that I was with…the conversation flowed and there was an ease about the whole experience. He was a regular customer there, so he knew the routine and I felt guided by his expertise. Gabriel had stomach ulcers…and he delighted in fine dining which, at times could exacerbate his condition. Being a gourmand, an appreciator of fine dining, this was a bind for him. Yet he allowed himself this pleasure on occasion. I noticed, in my 2009 check register, a couple of checks made out to him. I could only imagine that it was connected to me repaying him for our shared meal. Did we go together a second time? I can’t quite remember. I know that I went by myself one more time. And I vowed I would go again.

However, since then, the sommelier husband has died and recently, the chef closed their restaurant. I knew that cooking was a love of her life as was her husband.
All of this by looking through check registers. Gabriel has died also. A few years ago, I stopped by a friend’s house to say a brief “Hello” and make a delivery…I often shared cake or pies that I baked with friends. Gabriel was sitting on the front porch talking with this friend. I didn’t want to interrupt, made a brief apologetic hello in his direction and left. Gabriel died a few days later–he crashed his car into a tree late one night.

All of this and more stashed in my memory as I shredded some old check registers. There are so many stories that we carry within us. It’s surprising what is invoked by the act of clearing some clutter. It’s no wonder that we put it off. Stephanie Vogt says that is one reason why clearing clutter is so hard…there are the attachments we have ascribed to things. They conjure up so much. I’m taking it slow.

What are you clearing, releasing, saying farewell to? How’s it going for you?

To the Places I’ve Never Been

Clutter has a way of reproducing itself it seems. Today, I ventured into the garage to continue clearing out things that I no longer need or want. I chose one plastic bin and brought it into the house. It is the bin with maps of places that I’d like to go and places where I’ve been. And it’s more than that, isn’t it. There is nostalgia for places that are no longer there–cafes, restaurants, motels, shops, etc.–the many places that were closed permanently due to the Covid virus. There is the remembrance of people I encountered along the way. There are memories of trips I took with someone, although mostly I explored alone.

I decided to make a stack of maps of places that I’d like to go. Bucket list items? There were a few stray papers that I had no trouble tossing. Then, there were the maps of places that I probably won’t visit. A rather big stack…the discarded dream trips. I’m going to package them and leave them on the newspaper stand outside of the post office. Someone is going to find them useful. I suppose I could wait and see if any of my friends might want some of them. No, at the end of the day, I want to feel like I let something go.

Within this bin, there is a surprise or two. I find a letter from an old acquaintance. It is wrapped around a pencil eraser, an emery board and artist’s blending stumps. This was given to me years before I seriously began making art. Reading the letter, I am brought back to a moment in time that I barely remember. His letter begins “Thank you for a delightful lunch in McCloud.” Apparently, I went out to lunch with this man, a gentle soul, sweet and tender. He was an enthusiastic student of life. If I remember correctly, he studied the Bhagavad Gita or some very intense and lengthy text. He delved into the deeper meanings of things and he was joyful. His name was Michael.

I had also tucked in a book published in 1999 “the Y2K Survival Guide and Cookbook,” because we wondered if 2000 was the end of the world (as we knew it)… I’m going to keep it, because, well, what do I know of the future. I found an ad for Stewart Mineral Springs. This was one of the places I relished visiting when I moved to Mt. Shasta. It was without a doubt one of heaven’s gifts to the earth. My sister, Kathryn, visited Stewart’s Springs years before I moved here. She said she felt like the Goddess herself (she was a Goddess). Draped in a flowing white sheet, descending into the Parks Creek pool, she felt transformed. Years later, I followed suit and dipped into the icy pool. It was truly a baptism of sorts surrounded by the abundant nature of this sacred site. It is now privately owned and inaccessible. A loss to the community and others.

And then there’s the article I saved on Blazing Gendered Trails, written in 1996 about groups of women gathering in the rustic outdoors to get in touch with nature…and themselves. Also, a newspaper clipping on Staying in Paris for under $90 by choosing your lodging in a less posh arrondissement. There is a whole newspaper section devoted to a Pilgrimage to the Island of Women, Isla Mujeres, a village off the Yucatan Coast. Waiting in line somewhere, I met a woman and we got to talking. By the time we reached the head of the line, she had written down her contact information and invited me to her retreat place, Gypsy’s by the Sea in Todos Santos…I wonder if she’s still there. Sifting through these articles, I am transported. Imagination is a great vehicle sometimes.

At the bottom of the bin, there is a message to me written in bold red letters:
JUST…
HAVE FUN
LAUGH
LEARN
BE YOURSELF
RELAX
TRUST GOD

…AND YOU’LL HAVE A GREAT TIME!

That sounds like good advice on living life.

Seal is too a Power Animal!

The seal as a power animal is both a land animal and a sea animal, symbolizing adaptability to the water and earth elements. Seal Energy taps into the intuitive while helping you to stay grounded. Some of the other qualities that it represents are playfulness, protection, imagination, strength, good luck, dreams and movement.

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My brother said that this seal looks “somber.” He added “…but who wouldn’t be with one’s habitat being destroyed and population dwindling.”

I told him that if he could see her in person he might think that she embodies power.

“The canvas is 24-inchesx24-inches,” I replied

He texted back, “Yes, I might have misspoken by using the word somber–maybe defiant (which could imply power) would be a better adjective.”

I texted back: “Interesting. I posted the photo on my artist page on Facebook. A friend wrote back: “He is so cute. He looks like he came out of a child’s story book. Beautifully done.”

I guess it is in how one sees it.

I didn’t plan to paint a seal. I didn’t plan to paint an animal. I mostly paint intuitively. I painted what emerged from the canvas and today, it is this seal.

I grew up by the ocean in San Francisco, CA. There was a big rock that we called Seal Rock because that’s where the seals loitered. There was a coin-operated tower viewer through which we could watch the seals as they clambered over the rock, as the waves dashed the rock, as the fog drifted in over the rock and hid it all from our sight.

According to Wikipedia

Seal Rock (or Seal Rocks) is a group of small rock formation islands in the Lands End area of the Outer Richmond District in western San Francisco, California. They are located just offshore in the Pacific Ocean, at the north end of the Ocean Beach, near the Cliff House and Sutro Baths ruins.”

As I type these words from Wikipedia, a nostalgia washes over me like a soft salty ocean wave. And then drifts across the sand into ocean’s memory. I knew these places and like the seals we grew up beside, we took them for granted. It’s often in memory that things take on a lovely patina and sometimes we linger there over the words and the images that they conjure. Lands End, Sutro Baths, Cliff House, Ocean Beach, Seal Rock–all in my backyard as we lived four blocks from Ocean Beach and The Great Highway that ran the length of the beach from the Sunset through the Richmond District. We rarely could see sunsets in the Sunset District. The fog was so thick! The foghorns played our nightly and daily lullaby.

We weren’t allowed to go to the beach on our own. As I got older, I got permission to take my younger siblings there. We walked from Moraga Street, crossed Lawton, Kirkham, then Judah where the streetcars ran. We turned down the street from 44th Avenue to 48th Avenue. At Judah and 48th, there was a tunnel which ran under the Great Highway. We ran through the tunnel, screaming, our voices echoing. The tunnel smelled of urine and the ocean. We probably ran and screamed to chase off any unsavory characters who might be lurking nearby. And then, like a light at the end of life’s tunnel, there was the ocean big, bold and vast. We were so small beside her.

When I was a young mom, I used to take my daughters to Ocean Beach and we’d sit on a cement wall gazing out to sea having our hot chocolate in thermoses with doughnuts. We would sit beside the mesmerizing ocean. The constancy of the waves, the intrusion of the foghorns, the taste of salt on our lips mixing with the bittersweet chocolate. People of all ages and sizes bundled against the cold, running, walking their dogs, walking with a companion or alone. I never really felt alone when I walked solo beside the ocean. I considered the ocean like a mother to me. Familiar and all-embracing.

Memories…a friend is writing her memoir. Mine would be wrapped in sea salt, waves, barking seals, my siblings, fog, and yearning.

This painting of a seal has taken me back in time and conjured up these memories.

Butterfly Dreams

In 2017, for the first time, I signed up for a one year course, Paint Your Heart and Soul, facilitated by fine artist, Olga Furman.  She gathered several amazing artists together.  Each artist supplied one or two lessons over the course of the year.  A new lesson was delivered on a weekly basis.  This was an opportunity to encounter other artists, to learn their techniques and to practice.  This year-long course encouraged the ongoing flow of creativity.

This particular class was taught by Olga Furman, herself.  It became one of my favorites.  One that I returned to again and then morphed into my own works of art.

butterflydream1

There is some collage work in this piece and more practice in drawing and painting a face.

What is interesting about collage is that you use it with discretion.  You also embellish it to make it more your own and to integrate it into the whole painting.

Since butterfly is about transformation, metamorphosis, it holds special meaning for many.  Especially in these times when change feels imminent.  There are the changes that are forced upon us and the changes we choose.  We’ve all heard “The only constant is change.”  Realizing this, we typically resist anyway.  Resistance seems to be built into change.  I do wonder if there is a stage where the butterfly-to-be in the chrysalis resists this transformation.  Did it dream of itself as a butterfly before it emerged as one?

This 8″x10″ painting was sold in a local art gallery.  I found myself missing her.  I remember someone saying once “Never let go of anything sooner than you are ready…” Of course, I can get over it.  But there is a bit of nostalgia over her, my first butterfly fairy.