I always fancied myself some kind of fancy New York City or Parisian writer. I could almost see myself in Paris having deep conversations with Ernie. Sometimes I thought I might be a good English professor mulling over The Oven Bird and all of Emily Dickinson’s poems about death.
When my fear of flying and then my fear of overcrowded spaces settled in, I had resigned myself to the ordinary. An ordinary life not in LA or Buenos Aires, but just in the middle of nowhere here in upstate NY.
But this week, scanning away for comma errors, writing an afterword for the book project that hopefully will be in the designer’s hands by midnight tonight, I realized that there just is no better place to be than wherever I am. There is no secret writing place, there are no wonderful people hiding out in clubs in NY. There all around me, the writing places and the wonderful people.
Happy Father’s Day to a lovely husband
who when Two roads diverge in a wood, takes the one less traveled by
and it is the highest one
he feeds, walks, and medicates our dogs which I insisted
he loves his children
he loves his sisters and their children
he loves my family
he gardens and reads Amazon Kindle books at night
Cicero, he says, had it right: “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”
he is not an apologist
he is loved by most people
about his former spouse, he only reports that she is a gentle soul
and that her belief in him made all the difference
(girls…this is the kind of man you want to marry)
he holds hurtful people with grace and tenderness “we are all broken,” he says
he demands little of life and people
and is so delighted at each of their offerings “that was so sweet that they brought the fruit”
he lets me fight my own battles
but holds bad words about me to account
and asks that I too be gentle with the universe “don’t paint things and people with broad stokes”
There is so much more…Happy Father’s Day Ram!
**for the love of a husband is a phrase associated with my blog on analytics. but I never wrote that phrase until now
I am reading the book Hallelujah Anyway by Anne Lamott. I am thinking about what mercy means and I am thinking about how many different forms mercy takes.
This story is about my French friend, Jeanne G. I lived with Jeanne for about a year in 1992-93. Jeanne was retired from Wall Street and had a darling house, it looked like a cottage inside and out. Jeanne also had a great cat named Feefe. We had lovely conversations over dinner each night. Jeanne told me about life in France and life in New York City and she had many, many stories to tell.
We lived together during the last big New York State blizzard in 1993. With snow pouring from the sky, Jeanne rustled up the best shrimp dish I have ever eaten. We sat on opposite ends of her dining table all set up with the best China and I loved the celebratory feel of that snow storm.
Jeanne’s house was cozy, the living room invited you in and I sat during that snow storm reading People of the Lie by M. Scott Peck with eyes wide open. I thumbed through Vogue and People, grew my hair out, and got contacts…my life was changing in the protection of this sweet cottage one mile from my job.
A theme for Jeanne as she told her stories about people was luck. Luck, really? I remember thinking, So unAmerican…don’t we all just pull ourselves up from whatever happy horse shi__ we happen to fall in and live the Dream with the white picket fence and the 4th of July fireworks.
Not from Jeanne’s perspective. She would tell me vignettes…oh, this person, she had luck in life, then she had no luck, then she had luck again. She might be telling me about some poor woman who worked all her life and had nothing to show for it in the end. “A good person, no luck in life.” And then, another person, “Oh her husband divorced her, but he was wealthy and gave her very good alimony, she had a lot of luck in life, lived to be 92 and died peacefully in her sleep.”
When the Iraq war broke out (before I lived with Jeanne), I asked her if she was worried, she said, “No, I lived through World War II.” Her stories of World War II included her work in the resistance, hunting for beet roots in a war-torn country, and the pale that settles over everyone when war is fought on your land.
One day, Jeanne said to me, “You will have to move out by the end of the month. My cousins are coming from France and I need your bedroom.”
I was heartbroken. I loved my happy place at Jeanne’s. I loved her cat Feefe who stayed up with me all night when I was sick. The day I left, she was on her front walk, and she said, “Claire, I’ wish you all the best in life. Good luck to you.”
I felt like I’d never see her again, and indeed, in the context of roommate relationships, I never did. But we remained friends as the years rolled forward. In 2000, one of the last times I saw Jeanne, she, her daughter (a dear friend) and I went for a long walk and picked blackberries on our trail. The trail at my house where I met my husband in 1995.
“Claire,” Jeanne said. “See how lovely everything turned out for you. I knew if you stayed with me, things would not have been good for you.”
“You did?” I was stunned. “Yes, you could have stayed there forever, I had the room, the cousins were only coming for a visit from France, but I knew you needed to leave. And look at your luck.”
Luck indeed. I like to think as I read this book by Anne Lamott, there is a little bit of mercy thrown in…RIP Jeanne G.
the other day. I was so sure that I started looking online to see if she had moved back to the area. I haven’t talked to her since soon after 9 11, when she called me to see how things were over here in upstate NY. She had moved out to Phoenix to become a Montessori teacher after we worked together in a doctor’s office.
Since our last call, I think maybe we touched base once on Facebook. I started thinking about how much I hoped she was back in town, how much fun it would be to go to Friendlys again with her and have a really gritty conversation about life over turkey and mashed potatoes. I thought about how real and how color blind she was and most importantly, how hopeful.
I recalled helping Regina on a few of her projects. She decided one year to create and host a party for children at the Ithaca Southside Community Center. Many people came and it was a success.
I thought about how she had lost her parents when she was just a child and how sad that made her feel, how different perhaps her life might have been. Regina was not bitter, she easily could have been.
Not only was she not bitter, I thought she had a wisdom in seeing things most people miss. She told me once how sad it is that the black folk and white folk have so much damaging conflict. She thought it ironic since they have so much in common: economic disenfranchisement among many things.
Regina wanted to be a teacher. She loved children and loved taking them under her wing. She was good at it, often babysitting a relative’s four little ones who had lost their mother. So Regina decided to go back to school in mid-life to become a Montessori teacher.
I remember her packing up…going through her things…what to take, what to dump. I looked on amazed that she had old Tiger Beats! She hated to throw them out and for some reason, I think she insisted on taking them with her. I like to think it was because they represented a happy time for her.
My husband and I gave Regina’s relative a computer we weren’t using. Soon after we gave it to her cousin, it died. I apologized to her later…she said, “Oh no, that is ok, because that was the beginning of more and better computers for my cousin.”
We had so many laughs and heart to hearts at the office where we worked, that one year, on my birthday, I was surprised that of all the people who forgot, she did. But then, toward the end of my day, Regina showed up, gift in hand. It was the coffee mug pictured here. I was delighted. I get it out often when I want to put a smile on my face.
It never occurred to me I would not see Regina again. So when I thought I saw her three weeks ago, I had to call her. I’m way too late, she passed on in 2012!. She was only in her late 50s, a sure sign that only the good die young.
You wake up and you are retired. That is how life is. And you are thinking pizza, the kind you would make if you had the recipe for the perfect crust.
Only a few people on the planet have that recipe, the one for the perfect crust. You had it once in New York City but you can’t remember where or in what decade.
You know though that the pizza shop you discovered on the way to your wife’s job has the crust recipe. You also think, on this particular day, that you really want pizza. Not too much cheese (the cholesterol, the gallbladder), a little sausage, a little pepperoni, some veggies … you can see the perfect pie and so you leave early for your destination to order it.
A bright young man takes your order…he pays attention, he gets it, as they say. You have an uplifting talk and proceed to pick your wife up. The pizza tantalizes you with its smell, you only glimpsed it as it slid from the wood tray to the box, but you saw its crispy edges.
You reach for your cell phone, call your wife (Still in her office), and share the good news: “Hurry up, I’ve got the pizza.”
Home, you open the box…what a picture…a mandala Mona Lisa. Grateful, you think of the young man, the art, and how great it is to get that one perfect pizza pie.
“Art is the lie that enables us to realize the truth.”
― Pablo Picasso
There is a company, Stampington Press, which produces many magazines about art and blogging and journaling.
This is the process I use and I find it a great escape, but check out the many magazines they offer online and in many stores, and see what process you want to design for yourself.
First, I pick some materials. In this case a photograph from 2008 of a Magnolia tree in bloom.
(If you are doing a hand piece, grab some paper, and a few tools: magic markers, pens, colored pencils, stickers, bling, and/or whatever you like, but don’t feel you must have the whole art supply cabinet with you. Once you have a few items, sit with them and see what emerges.)
Second, I pick some tools. In this case, Photoshop.
Third, I start playing. I work with this e-media in my day job, so to make it fun, I just try different filters and things I know how to do. In this case I duplicated and cropped the picture 4xs to make the frame, which also has lighting adjustments made to it.
Then I played with the Magnolia photo itself, enlarging it and filtering it.
Finally, I saved it and then started layering the layers. Then, all of a sudden: this photo was done.
I named it what lies beneath because it reminds me of a time when I bought a picture only to find others underneath it. A common experience for flea market investigators. I thought it would be fun to find a quote to go with it so I googled art quotes and Goodreads showed the quote by Picasso at the top. Serendipity, I guess.