Friday, January 25, 2013

What Next

About a month ago kindly neighbors up here gave me lovely persimmons from their back yard tree. Though I'm still muddling along trying to figure out what grows in Sonoma County I can verify that persimmons celebrate this climate.  As they ripened I froze the pulp for making my famous persimmon bars. Maybe I'll get to that by spring. Meanwhile I arranged seven in a basket to paint, but before I got to it they turned to mush. With only my preliminary sketch and my fuzzy memory bank, I attempted to paint them in yesterday's Oakmont watercolor class. I had a photo for reference of some heirloom tomatoes I once painted in a different basket. The finished product looks like genetic engineering of persimmons/tomatoes. Oh, well.
Evenings I am reading a worthless novel called NEXT by Michael Crichton. The  protagonist injects his own sperm into a petri dish and produces a half-human/half chimpanzee child. I think my unconscious picked it up and now I have produced persmatoes, or shall we call them tomasimmons? Such silliness on a week that there is so much profound to consider: the 40th anniversary of Roe v Wade, with four states cleverly manipulating licensing to eliminate all abortion services and at the same time the Armed forces lifting the ban on women in combat. In Washington hearings Hillary swung hard at the Republicans who are only thinking of 2016 and none of us got to find out why the State Department has such a limited budget they can't provide adequate security for our embassies.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

One Powerful Loving Lady

About the time I fell and fractured my hip last year I was scheduled for a complicated root canal. I knew it was going to be an ordeal, and my projections were accurate. I dreaded it, but not so much I caused the fall. It was rescheduled for last Thursday. Learning this, my old WCC (watercolor connection) group hosted a potluck dinner for me. How special. The trip was wonderful, emotional, and painful, as I clenched and unclenched my jaws after five hours in the dentist's and endontist's chair. Returning yesterday  (my first trip to the Bay Area since I moved here) the traffic on the freeway  was backed up, so I detoured up the hill by my old home to pick up a painting my neighbor was storing for me, being very careful to not even glance down Cathy Lane, even though I drove right by. I will go back someday, but it is too soon. However I noticed the gate unlocked on Kay Gilliland's beautiful home (garbage day) so I scooted up her driveway. Even the winter garden was full of color, and she had been solo working on a new path with a wooden retaining wall.

Kay is a friend of over forty years and someone I hold in the highest esteem. She has devoted her life to teaching Math; especially to encouraging young women to follow a scientific career. She is known for this in many parts of the world and until last fall, at 86,  she was still supervising student teachers from Mills. She is a pillar in her church and in her community.  Sadly, she has also lost two sons, one to drowning in childhood and one to Aids. Still nothing stop her. Until a year ago she was hiking the High Sierra loop each summer.  I so admire her power and perseverance.

Kay's face so reflects her strength of character. Many times I have tried unsuccessfully to paint her, and twice I have asked my teachers to try. Everyone is challenged. The rendering above is one done for a class demo in Leslie Wilson's class by Leslie herself, about 14 months ago. I hardly recognize it as Kay, but it does show her strength.

When Kay was diagnosed with endometrial cancer, stage 4, last spring, none of us could believe it. She did as her doctors prescribed and started chemo. One round almost killed her. She got good counsel from a friend and opted to go on hospice. I've never known anyone to embrace death with such courage. We visited for an hour and a half yesterday.
Her thick straight grey hair has now turned a mass of curly white from the chemo.  I hardly knew her face, but her chuckle was the same as was the twinkle in her eyes.
I had given her a couple of paintings at my last art show and she had them framed and hanging near her bed. I indicated I'd be down in another three months and she responded she expected to still be here, even though she thought she would have died by now. My respect for her just increases and increases.

As I drove home my back and jaw kind of played ping pong with discomfort. I pulled in  my new home driveway, unpacked very little and collapsed in bed. Today I'm somewhat revived and looking forward to attending the Mac club potluck here.  Each week, it seems, I try something new.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Hood Mountain Contours

I took the photo above from the parking lot of the East Club House today. Its about six blocks from my new home.
After spending most of last Sunday plopped in my red chair watching the reruns of season 2 of Downton Abbey, I worked up steam for a week of adventuring out, usually in heavy coat and wool gloves. One morning I drove, not walked, to the trailhead of Hood Mountain, ten minutes away, the top of which I can see from my modest back yard.  (When Jaymi was here caring for me last month she did the three hour hike to the crest).  I'm beginning to get my bearings for the new geography that surrounds me and I find it beautiful. One day I tried the Oakmont creative writing group; it was pleasant but not mind boggling and the meeting room was so cold I think I will pass and try to start my own group. Another day I tried the water media class. It was also pleasant and I'll probably try it for a couple of months. Then I attended a water color association meeting in town. It was sparsely attended and rather boring as they hassled with agendas and member complaints. Driving home from town is always emotional as I have to drive right by the vet where I had Kodi euthanized. Some days I am sobbing so hard as I drive past that I can't venture out again.
 This morning I attended the art club here where a fine speaker from the DeYoung in San Francisco educated us on paper versus canvas in their vast collections, over150 thousand pieces of paper art in their climate controlled storerooms, with only a little on display at any given time.  I learned enough about etchings and how they are made that I think I'd get such questions right on Jeopardy if they had them.
As usual this afternoon I attended the current events group where I am getting brave enough to speak even though my contributions are not elegant. Today I ventured forth with the question: "What on earth does Obama see in Hagel?" (I can't stand him.) A healthy dialogue followed. Hardly anyone took my side, but that did not diminish my dislike of him. Have I unpacked many  boxes this week? Only one or two. Its too cold in the garage, I tell myself.
Like the gentle contours on Hood Mountain I hope I am learning to go with the flow.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Venturing Out

Mornings here continue icy and I find myself donning coat, scarf and gloves to get to the gym to do my mile on the treadmill at nine. The first morning without my Kodi companion, the frozen water in a pot on the deck looked like this...  I tried to make something magical and uplifting of it but only got images of bugs flying. Tears fell on the ice but did not change the pattern.  
Speaking of bugs, the question of what to do with my rather narrow and colorless back yard is beginning to bug me so last week I googled an old friend, Jennifer Chandler, who once was a landscape architect in Napa. "Yes", she replied, at first failing to tell me she was currently working in Bhutan, and we would do it long distance.  
So I skipped the gym today and drove to town, admiring the thick frost on the grasses and vineyards and trying to see which plants seem to thrive in this climate.  I miss my camellias which must be in grand color in Oakland.  I haven't settled on any yet, but I did see some Mexican ceramics to grace the garden that made me smile