Saturday, June 29, 2013

Endings and Beginnings

Navigated the Bay Bridge interchange this morning about 8:15, car packed to the gunnels with the last load from Cathy Lane, stuff the new owners kindly stored for me. Although I know I will visit the bay area often in the future, it felt, symbolically, like a last goodbye. I'm a little sad, but what better timing than this historic week of affirmations for the GLBT community. Part of my scheduling plan was to sit in on my old Lafayette writing group Friday afternoon. The prompt for this week's writing was "When I was a teenager... Its a great prompt. Just try finishing the sentence yourself. Sharing a story was not on my agenda until the Supreme court ruling came down on Wednesday. Then I could not contain myself and immediately sat down and wrote the following, which my old buddies seemed to applaud. When I was a teenager, my world was foggy grey, the permeating color of Seattle nine months of the year. Not just the shadow of World War 2, the abandonment of my mother, the sudden death of my father, the move to a log cabin with no electricity; not just the culture shock of attending a funky rural high school where scholarship was defined not in calculus but in the number of football touchdowns. Daily with crumpled newspapers I polished the globes of our six kerosene lamps so I could see to read, which I did well into the night. What color are tears, as alone, in the pale copper glow, I turned pages of my confirmation class bible, looking for comfort, searching for answers to my losses and to my secret sexual identity? What color is shame? What color is despair? I gave up on God, keeping even that a secret. Loneliness defined me, though I found comfort in nature. Sometimes, picking ripe wild blackberries in the old cemetery just down the dirt road, dark red juice would stain my fingers and fingernails. I’d plunge my hands into the cold running water of Bear Creek but the burgundy-blackish stains would persist for days. I guess they matched the circles under my eyes. It pleased me that the color seemed indelible; nothing else did. The following year the war ended and we were able to get electricity, but never running water. I could not wait to grow up and move to California, where indeed the sun shone on my life and I experienced the full spectrum of color. Gratitude abounds. Next week I turn 83. Little did I dream that this week rainbow flags would fly over many city halls throughout this country and that the Supreme Court of the USA would affirm my existence. I rejoice. I came across the old charmer above many years ago on a street near downtown Benicia. I painted it on the spot. I hope the flags still fly.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Indulging Yearnings

Finding myself a skosh homesick for my Cathy Lane garden this week, I signed up for the Oakmont free garden tour. About 125 admirers joined me in the same trek. Someone with a clever mind planned it, as each of the five gardens selected demonstrated a different purpose. The largest, 3/4 of an acre, was a hillside home with a grand view of the mountains and part of the Valley of the Moon. Photos of big bobcats and other critters in their natural habitat adorned the patio walls. Another garden was planted carefully with only edibles. A third featured the owner/landscaper/artist's oil paintings set out on easels in various settings, a la Monet. All of them sported drip systems of sophistication. One small garden on the golf course demonstrated deer resistant shrubs only. I learned a lot. Of course I had to hit the nearest nursery today and indulge a little addiction. Some of the plants I have purchased this spring have already died; too much or not enough water, I expect. Alas.
The pot and grouping on the left will at least last for a week or so, I hope, as next week on Monday my sorority sisters from 1948 at the U of Washington are coming to visit, and Tuesday my painting buddies from Water Color Connection are making the same trip up Highway 12. Aren't I lucky to be so loved. The manzanita on the top was taken from the largest acreage on the tour. I think its the largest I've ever seen. Manzanita are so slow growing. I wonder if it was here when Jack London hiked these hills?
The nurseries in Sonoma County do tribute to the county's agricultural heritage. But today's trip to the nearest one, Pritchard's, tickled me when the resident roly poly chicken ducked under this display. Thought I, "What a wonderful respite for -any fat and cuddly hen."

Friday, June 14, 2013


Almost nothing tastes as delicious as heirloom tomatoes fresh from the garden. Agreed? I love them freshly picked, sliced medium wide on a piece of lightly browned toast, adorned with Best Foods mayonnaise, salt and pepper. I created and diddled with the painting above yesterday morning in watercolor class here (which is teacherless during the summer). Its from a photograph of heirlooms spread out for sale in the market in Jack London Square in Oakland. Of course I changed some of the colors, as I am experimenting with Daniel Smith's new Mayan Red pigment. I love the way it granulates but I think its too brash for the tomatoes. In the activity building here, just a few steps from the painting studio, is the community library. Its maintained by volunteers and runs on the honor system, requiring no cards or even signatures for checkouts of books. Often while I am waiting for paint to dry I step down the hall and peruse the shelves for new books. Having just finished The Magician's Assistant, which I could not put down, I'm looking to read everything else by Ann Patchett. I came home with two more. The gym is just a few steps further down the hall. Though I have the best intentions to hit the treadmill before I head home often, like yesterday, I convince myself I'm too hungry for lunch. In Santa Rosa where I live now growing one's own tomatoes is the password for community acceptance. I have five heirloom plants in my slender back yard, and two in pots on the deck. They seem to grow daily, but are not keeping up with my neighbors. In fact the ones interspersed with my roses I used to plant in Oakland seemed hardier. Maybe my Santa Rosa plants are self conscious from my continual peering at their skinny stems?

Friday, June 7, 2013

Old Memories

What memories old cars evoke. Most all of us can emote about our first car, and I am no exception. Recently there was a classic car event here at my retirement community. Almost eighty vintage autos and trucks were were on display, divided between pre-war and post war, meaning WW2. The oldest was 1913. I found myself as interested in the prideful owners as the cars themselves. Clearly they treasured their possessions which were so highly polished a spectator was afraid to breathe on them. A looker could peer inside at the dashboard, or even at the engine, but beware! The owner was on guard. What makes a person collect a vintage auto? I was wishing I had their personal stories, but most of the owners, to my surprise, were rather tight lipped. I snapped a photo of one with the owner sitting on the running board. I hope to paint it soon. My first auto was a 1930 Reo,later Oldsmobile. It stood high and proud, all black. I got it in '46, when I was 16 living in the boonies of Woodinville, Washington, an area now a yuppie community but then very much the sticks with no public transportation. My favorite part of her (I named her Trichinilla Amber Noosepickle, a name I got from an obituary column in the Seattle Times) was the velvet curtains on little rods which pulled closed on all windows making it like a shrine inside. She had no starter, alas, and I would always have to get a boy to wind the wires around something under the hood to start her. It scared me to do it myself because of the sparks. I remember driving her to my high school baccaleaureate. My friend's brother offered to start her for me after the ceremony and played the trick of attaching a stink bomb to the engine. Everyone in the parking lot cracked up laughing at me and I never forgave him. While I was away at camp following high school graduation my mother gave the car to my sister, whose husband wrecked it, so I never got to say goodbye. I've never seen another Reo except on the internet, which has great photos, but I'd dearly love to run my hands over its classic chassis just once more. Some of the vintage autos at the show had been decorated, as below. Art is everywhere!