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Author: Marilyn

The Challenge Basket

The Challenge Basket

The program for the January meeting of the Bay Area Basket Makers (BABM) was to distribute materials for making a Challenge Basket. We each brought basketry materials to share, and we each went home with a grocery sack full of everything from waxed linen, to reed, beads, a leather strap, seagrass, yarn, and more.

Materials in my grocery sack

The first challenge for me was getting to the meeting! Last year I didn’t get to any of the meetings for various reasons. I even missed the Christmas party due to neck and shoulder pain from overwork in the yard the day before.

Some of the members got right to work on their baskets at the meeting, but I decided to bring the sack home and do a small amount of planning before I started. I looked through my large collection of baskets I’ve made in classes, gotten from other BABM members, and bought at estate sales for ideas on how to begin.

I knew I wanted to use the twining method of building this basket because it is my favorite technique. I actually discovered I had a basket from an unknown maker that probably was a challenge basket because of the variety of odd materials and the different techniques she used.

Twining requires spokes so the two cords can twist between them. I needed to sort out which materials in my sack would make good spokes. Because of the volume of stuff to work with, it was going to be a large basket. I decided on a length of the spokes I wanted, and cut them from the heavy paper cord and the black plastic strapping in my sack.

We were also allowed to add a few additional materials of our own. I needed more spokes, so I rummaged around in my stash and found some plastic wrapped wire I had from my father’s wire stash which I inherited in 1996 when I moved my parents to California from Ohio.

The bottom of the basket

Starting this kind of basket is the most difficult part, in my opinion. The spokes need to be held together as the first row or two of the weaving elements go under and over each one. It can also be started by plaiting the elements over and under each other, but if they are very different that doesn’t work so well. If the spokes are different, they should be alternated around the basket. I stared by holding the materials together with clothespin type clips and weaving under – over with a thin, coated wire for about three rounds.

I twined with seagrass until the bottom was the size I wanted for the base. Then I did two more rounds of seagrass while bending the spokes upward. At this point I started using the variety of other materials, each for about two or three rounds. After about eight rounds the basket looked like this.

Building up the sides

Some of the materials, such as reed, had to be soaked to make them pliable for twining. The things that came off palm trees were soaked and then cut into thin strips. I decided to knot the ends of yarn together when I got to the end of them, and I left them hanging on the outside of the basket. Reed and seagrass ends were tucked inside. Once I was working on the sides the twining was pure fun! I had forgotten how fast it goes and how much enjoyment this gives me.

One side of the basket

As the basket grew, I needed to add a few more spokes because the spaces between them had gotten too wide in a few areas. Some basket makers work hard to keep the shape of the basket in a traditional shape, but I prefer to see what the materials want to do. Especially when a large variety of materials is used, the basket has a mind of its own.

Detail of the top

As the weaving nears the top of the basket, how to finish the top is the challenge. I had decided as I was choosing my spokes that I would most likely tuck each spoke into the next one over as the easiest finish. The black strapping spokes were turned over the last inside row and tucked into their own space. The wire spokes had little metal connectors on them and I wanted to leave them on the ends as a novel embellishment. I easily wound each wire around a tiny knitting needle for a funky finish.

The finished basket

At this point I still had beads to add onto some ends of waxed linen on the other side from this photo. I also cleaned up loose ends inside the basket, and shortened some of the yarn ends near the bottom. The cork from Robert’s New Year’s Eve champagne was sitting on my work table and got included in one of the early rounds of yarn.  2020 is off to a good start, I’d say.

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Year End Wrap-up

Year End Wrap-up

In the last six weeks I haven’t written here for a number of reasons, but mostly because I didn’t feel I had anything much to say, and like everyone else, just trying to keep up with my To Do List has been a challenge.

In October, I stopped at the library to pick up an item I had requested, and while there I looked at the “New” book shelf and found an interesting looking fiction book titled “Flight Portfolio” by Julie Orringer. This is a story about an American man who went to France during World War II to help the artists in Europe emigrate to the U.S. Having been born during the war, I was taught nothing about it in school growing up.

Cover of the book

This story takes place in about 1939–40, is very well written, and at many points is hilarious. I was reading a chapter each evening before going to sleep, and every night I was eager to learn what would happen next.

At the end of the book there is a five-page author’s note where I learned that it is based on the life of Varian Fry who is the main character, and some fictional characters based on implications of her research, which couldn’t be acknowledged at the time it happened.

_____________

My living room has a large picture window and about the only time I spend in this room is checking on whatever activity is going on across the street. The man is a general contractor which means he does all kinds of jobs and there is constant coming and going. One day, I glanced out the dining room window at what looked like a wall. In the living room I saw this:

View from my livingroom

It didn’t stay there very long.

Huge Rainbow

On December 22, during a gentle rain I saw this beautiful, full rainbow, at times even a double rainbow, from that same picture window.

_________

I continue to frequent estate sales near my home, usually on the second day of the sale. It is a great way to pick up odd tools, other items of fascination, and supplies for collage like fabric, old books, canvass board, and odd papers with handwriting on them.

A few weeks ago, there were two estate sales on the same street! At the first one I found a flannel nightgown, a “Pajamagram” with the tag still on it, brand new for just $5.

At the second sale, I couldn’t pass up what I’m calling a collage cookbook. This book has 815 pages. Has finger indexes like a dictionary, was published in 1939 for the San Francisco Examiner, and is titled the Prudence Penny Cookbook.

Well used 1939 cookbook
Cookbook from other side

 

 

 

 

 

 

The owner made some handwritten notes on some recipes, but mostly added in recipes from newspapers, boxes, magazines, and typed recipe cards, which she pasted over pictures or taped to the top of pages with similar recipes.

Sample page from inside cookbook

I’ve never seen anything like it. I joked with the cashier, who is my former mailman, that I was taking it off his hands. He charged me a dollar for the book and two other small items. Such a deal!

On that nutty note, I wish you all a Happy New Year, full of whatever brings you joy.          2020 – Bring it on.

 

 

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Colors and Shades of November

Colors and Shades of November

Ronald William Thayer

The photo above is my brother’s senior college photo taken in 1970. He was set to graduate from Kent State in Ohio that year, when state troopers were sent to the campus. I never did understand what that was about. Only the graduates and their parents had been allowed to attend the graduation ceremony, held somewhere, my mother told me several weeks after the event.

I was married, living in Cincinnati with my ten month old son, Chris. On the second Sunday of July, my mother called with the news that Ron had been in a motor vehicle accident during the night, and was hospitalized with a traumatic brain injury. He never regained consciousness and died on July 31st. I had been looking forward to getting to know him as an adult instead of an annoying kid.

Today would have been his 72nd birthday.  Happy Birthday, Ron.

                                                            ∼∼∼

Last month, I optimistically started an online painting / mixed media course and got through the first few videos on practicing with the materials. At the same time, I was trying to get some things repaired around the house. I replaced the cracked windshield I had driven with for two years.

I made arrangements to have a sprinkler line reworked that had broken sometime in 2017. The broken pipe was somewhere under the cement patio that was here when I bought my house in 1997. In the process of the repair person assessing the situation, the broken line was turned on several times, so he could observe where the water was coming from.

The empty fountain

The patio has a built-in fountain with a statue which was working fine when the sprinkler repair man was here, but by the next morning it had totally drained out of water. I couldn’t believe my eyes to see the pump chugging along with no water. I found several soft wet spots on the inside wall of the fountain and two places where I could insert a screwdriver between the floor of the fountain and the side wall.

After the sprinkler line was completed, I began repairing the fountain, patching numerous places in the concrete that seemed soft and the two holes I had found. Some days later, I put sealer on the repairs. Then, I spent a day painting the entire interior of the fountain.

Fountain working again

Since it is November, the trees are coming unglued, which results in a whole new set of garden activities, mainly hauling leaves out to the street for pickup.

Leaves along the path in my garden

In the last two weeks, I’ve washed – outside and inside – most of my 23 windows and three glass-pane doors. Now I’m ready for rain.

Meanwhile, the work table in my studio has accumulated all sorts of items that need to be put away before I can get back to that course I started. There are collage materials I’ve picked up in the yard – pieces of a disintegrating tarp, bird feathers, and wire scraps the repair man left.

There are also books that came in the mail I haven’t had time to look at yet. A promotional gift pack that some little girl would like, but I don’t know who to give it to. A leaf painting from my Thursday art group to finish. Instructions for what to bring to the January Basket Makers meeting.

Under all that are the nine good-size sheets of watercolor paper patiently waiting for me to play on them. I will need to watch that video again.

So, I have actually done some painting this month. Just not the kind of painting I had expected I would be doing.

Chinese Tallow Tree in my backyard

 

 

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Family Football

Family Football

How long has it been since you were at a high school football game on a Friday night? For me, it probably would have been 59 years, until last week.

I remember one game in particular from back in 1960, when a certain young man was kind to me on a bitter cold Friday night in northern Ohio. My date had gone off to visit with some of his friends several rows away and left me sitting with Ray, whose usual date had not come to the game because she had a cold. We always double dated to the games because Ray had access to the family car, and my date didn’t have that privilege.

I remember Ray talking with me as the game progressed, and at half time he went and got us hot chocolate. Five years later, I married Ray, who was Chris’s father.

Fortunately, last Friday’s game was not freezing cold, as we watched my grandson, Vinnie Marquez, number 7, play at Oakmont High School in Roseville, California.

A few weeks ago, a friend of Chris, who lives in Stockton, was on Facebook at one of Vin’s games, and I thought “I guess I’m not a very good grandma because I haven’t been to any of his games.” I suppose I could have gone to a game, but I tend to wait to be invited to things.

Then suddenly, I was specifically invited to attend this game. It was “honor the seniors” night, where senior football players, cheer leaders, dance team, and band members walked out on the field with their families as the announcer identified each family member by name.

The players and cheer leaders walked before the game began, the others at half time. And they took video and still photos, which showed up on my iPhone on Saturday and Sunday.

Chris, Marilyn, Vinnie, and Jeremy in the middle of the football field on Friday, October 25, 2019

Vinnie has been playing football since he was seven. I had seen him play once about five years ago when his school played another team in Stockton at St. Mary’s school. At that game, I had trouble keeping track of him on the field, but this time he was easy to spot on most of the plays. He plays wide receiver, so he is all over the place. He also holds the ball for the kick after a touchdown.

The Oakmont Vikings started the season well – undefeated the first four games. But once the other teams got up to speed, they have lost a few games. The opposing team from Rio Linda won the toss and had a big lead at the end of the first quarter. Oakmont fought back, but lost 35 – 63.

A month ago, I never expected I’d be sitting on bleachers on a night in October. Life has its little surprises and gifts, like sitting around relaxing with family—a welcome respite after ten weeks of cutting ivy in my yard.

If you want to know what happened between the football game in 1960 and now, you can read the whole story in my memoir, “Looking for Connection” available as an eBook on Amazon here.

As for me, I’ll be busy all week cleaning up my yard from the mess the wind made on Sunday.

 

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Watching it All Unravel

Watching it All Unravel

Side view of collage

Ten years ago, I carefully shortened the sleeves on a jacket I had made on a knitting machine some years before. I didn’t want the whole sleeve to unravel, so I sewed bias tape on each of them before I cut them. Of course, the discarded part did start to unravel, and I was fascinated to watch the loops relax and let go.

I used that fabric in a large, forty inch square collage. The base was three sheets of heavy corrugated cardboard glued together that had been some of the packing on something we bought while remodeling the apartment that is attached behind my free standing garage. I covered this with a knitted dress-weight material that has a free-form design in sky blue, coral, and yellow on white, which folds around to the back side. The collage is framed with a piece of rope sewn to the fabric around the edge.

At the time we were being told that light bulbs would no longer be made— only those squiggly fluorescent things, that we could no longer use our fireplaces, that GMO foods were going to replace what we were eating, and people were buying “carbon footprints” so they could travel on airplanes without feeling guilty.

Close up of knitted sleeve

Magazine photos were pasted randomly on the fabric. The unraveling sleeve was added along the left side. The chaos in the center is a tangle of red bias tape and strips of a basket-making material from some kind of grass woven together.

Detail of red tape

At a give-a-way of basketry materials, I had picked up a sheaf of gold construction paper that had been stored rolled up for a long time, and had gotten wet on one side and corroded nicely so you can see the layers. I positioned this on the right side of the board on top of a photo copy of our founding documents—“We the People . . .”

Detail of yellow paper

I was surprised and pleased that it made it into one of the Lodi Art Center’s annual shows when they were being held at Woodbridge Winery.

This collage has been hanging above the clothes dryer in the utility room in back of the apartment behind the garage for the last five years because there was enough wall space next to the attached shelving.

Watching it All Unravel

While I was rummaging around in that room last week, I took the time to stand there and remember making this collage. It had felt like life as I knew it was unraveling when I made it. I was ahead of my time—now it feels like that again, but for different reasons.

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The Artist as Junk Collector

The Artist as Junk Collector

Detail of new yard art

I learned about recycling at a very early age. I remember stepping on vegetable cans, probably before I went to kindergarten. The procedure was to empty the vegetables into a pan, rinse the can, remove the bottom with the hand crank can opener, step on the can to flatten it, and insert the top and bottom into the flattened can. I was the person who flattened the can.  “They need it for the war,” Mother said.

When I was weaving, I recall reading how Polish artist Magdalena Abakanowicz scavenged the docks near her home for sections of rope for her sculptures because she couldn’t buy materials.

I’ve always picked up stuff from the ground and brought it home – shells, sticks, pine cones, stones. When I started making baskets, I picked up more stuff. As near as I can remember, my junk collecting went into high gear when I bought my house in Stockton. The house had been cleaned and freshly painted in parts of the inside.

But the garage was full of things the previous owners, and before that her parents, didn’t take with them. Drawers of screws, nails, nuts, thing-a-ma-jigs, rusty old tools, and scraps of wood, as well as a shed full of clay pots.

At an estate sale, I got a set of old army flat files that just happened to have handfuls of rusty little parts of things which got added to my growing collection. A few years ago, I started noticing interesting junk in parking lots, like eye-glass frames now flattened by traffic. All those little plastic pieces that come with electronics as part of the packaging also get added to my stash.

Almost twenty years ago at a National Basketry Organization conference, I was in a workshop taught by John Garrett who worked with metals. From time to time I checked his website and saw that he had moved on to making large wall pieces using what looked like metal and plastic items hanging in strings.

Fascinated, I decided someday I would try to make something similar using some of this junk I’ve collected. I’ve reached the point where, if I plan to do it someday, I’d best get on with it soon!

Early last year the florescent ceiling light in my kitchen broke and my sons installed a new LED fixture. The rigid plastic cover was about to go into my recycling bin when I decided it might be useful to make that junk piece I wanted to do. I was on the lookout at estate sales for something that would work as a base. I found a former towel rack that was the perfect size. I had some kind of a dish rack I picked up years ago that became the top to hold the strings.

Little by little I thought my way through the project. I bought four 100 count packs of slip rings online.

Front view of yard art

I found hose clamps at Harbor Freight to hold the slip rings to the top. I drilled holes every 3/8ths of an inch across the top of the kitchen light cover, and wired the dish rack to the plastic with wire I had kept from my father’s workbench.

I had planned to hang some small white plastic scoops that come in a supplement on the rings, but realized that they wouldn’t show up against the plastic back. Reds and oranges worked best so I went through my stash again. The main problems were how to attach things that didn’t have any holes in them. Old keys worked well, colored cable ties were easy. I had a box of blue plastic rings that came with bottles of milk, which my cats used to love to play with. They went onto the slip rings easily.

The whole construction measures roughly 45 inches tall by 14 inches across. It is sitting against a wall of my storage shed under an overhanging roof where it gets a gentle breeze but not a lot of wind. Maybe I should add some jingle bells to it.

The front view photo above may look like there is something else behind it, but that is the shadow because I took some photos in full sun, hoping to get the shine on the rings.

Side view of yard art

 

I was surprised how quickly it went together on one of those 100+ days when I worked indoors on it.

 

My boyfriend teases me, that when I’m gone my sons will toss all my junk into a dumpster. That’s okay with me, but before that happens I should think up some other junk projects.

Detail of end of strings on yard art
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The Little Things

The Little Things

Close-up of a section of my word collage

Over the summer, I have been trying out different materials and combinations of papers by somewhat following projects in the book “Creative Paint Workshop” by Ann Baldwin. I say “somewhat” because I don’t have some of the exact colors of paint she uses, and it is not locally available. I am starting to understand how glazes work and which colors go well together. For me, reading about the process doesn’t explain it. I have to experience it at the end of my brush to “get it.”

The other difference is that in the last two collages I wrote about, I was using papers from my trips that had certain meanings for me which I didn’t want to cover up completely. In this collage, I used pages of words taken from an assortment of old books, magazines, and my stash which I randomly selected. It is called a Word Collage because there are no images.

I remember seeing a large collage of words at one of the local art shows some years ago. The artist had carefully pasted down sentences, and phrases of words, line by line, horizontal and vertical, many of them well known sayings, and in the center was an image of a yellow rubber duck. I liked the idea, wished I had time to stand there and read the whole thing, and realized what an incredible amount of work it had been to make.

In addition to using no images, I did not build up texture with fabric, cardboard, or molding paste. I started with a piece of watercolor paper which had a few dabs of paint here and there. I pasted down papers from old books, magazines, and a library signature card.

First layers of papers and paint

I added a few rubber stamp images, letters made with a stencil, and a first layer of acrylic Quinacridone Burnt Orange paint. The different papers take up the paint differently because some are really old, and magazine paper has a different finish than books. I filled in the white spots with Transparent Yellow Iron Oxide. I added fluid Paynes gray around the edges.

Library signature card
Page from old dictionary

At some point I noticed that the page from the shorthand book had a title: “The Little Things.” With all the talk in the papers and on the radio, (I don’t do TV), about how divided we all are, it occurred to me that in personal relationships it’s often the little things “that divide us — that catch our attention.” So I picked up my Sharpie and wrote that phrase under the shorthand paper.

Page from shorthand book

The very dark area on the left side is an attempt to try a technique in the book. The instructions were to put a clear layer of matt medium over the first layer of paper and again after the paint layer. Then paint an area with regular acrylic Paynes gray put on thickly, and while it is still wet, write into it with a rubber paint shaper to reveal the lighter paint underneath in the letters. My try at this didn’t come out as well as I hoped it would, partly, I think because the paint I used is old and a bit lumpy.

The finished word collage

In the process of layering these paints, I noticed that fluid Paynes gray going over the yellow produces a sort of green hue which I liked, so I carefully touched a few more areas here and there to spread that green about.

The yellow shape in the lower left corner is the first leaf to turn color and fall off my birch trees. It sat on my kitchen counter for a week or more, until it became the final touch in this collage.

I like the idea of making collage using words, especially if I just grab various papers and paste them down, noticing what the words say as I look at it later, and pondering what they might mean to me now.

 

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Finding the Focal Point

Finding the Focal Point

I returned from my June trip to Florida with a large envelope of papers from my week at the American Conchologists annual convention, so of course, I needed to make a collage with them.

First layer

I had the beautiful green and blue resort guide and the mandatory wrist band, along with the light blue convention brochure with shells and a pair of glasses like R. Tucker Abbott wore, whose 100th birthday we were celebrating. Parking tickets from the beach, as well as the one week fishing license I bought in case I happened to pick up a shell inhabited by a hermit crab. I had a dozen bidding tags from the silent auctions of beautiful shells, papers from the Parade of Snails where I had two entries, and raffle tickets.

 

I used Yes Paste to adhere some of these items onto a sheet of watercolor paper for my first layer. I added green and yellow acrylic paint to blend the edges with the base.

Paint added after first layer pasted

I still had all the papers from the flights to and from Ft. Myers, Florida. I had two boarding passes and a transfer tag going to Florida. Coming back I had a total of seven boarding passes. Having checked our of my room and turned in my rental car, the curb agent printed out the first boarding pass, but couldn’t print one for the second flight because it had been cancelled.

The indoor agent, after spending forty minutes on the phone to get advise on how to get me back to California, printed out three boarding passes and hand wrote on a blank pass – at my request – the arrival time and departure time for each flight. When I got to the gate, I inquired about the pre-boarding option because I’m always holding up the aisle getting my carry on stuff settled. She printed out a new set of boarding passes.

Going through security in Ft. Myers, my carry-on was selected for a random search, so I was handed a form on heavy paper telling me that my bag had been inspected, even though I was standing right there watching her plow through my precious new shells from the auctions.

I checked two bags on the trip home. The small one, containing my dirty laundry, didn’t make the third flight due to the tight schedule which generated a full page “Courtesy Lost/Delayed Incident Receipt” as well as another tag on the bag when it was delivered the next day.

Second layer of papers

I added a second layer of some parts of these papers and more paint. When I looked at my work the next day, I saw that I had light and medium areas, but almost no dark areas. To solve this problem I went out into the yard and cleaned up some areas that needed attention for several days.

When I got back to my collage, I experimented with turning the work around to see which way I like best. I still didn’t have a good focal point. Mostly a blue card stood out as the main focus!

Orange paint added. Turned top to bottom.

A few days later while thinking about the trip as a whole, I realized that the most memorable moment was early Wednesday evening as I was waiting with others in the lobby for the Welcome Party to begin. Suddenly, I was greeted by a man I had met in January of 2013 when the shelling trip I was on had lodging at his beach-side guest house in Panama. He and his wife had spotted me in the crowd. They proceeded to tell me all about the year long round-the-world trip they were about to begin. Half an hour later, I was listening to him give a piano concert for all of us.  Such a wonderful memory.

The next day, still not knowing how to fix the collage, I remembered that the Conchologists magazine had written about his performance at the convention and had a photo of him at the piano. Why not make him the focal point? I made a color copy of the photo to add to the collage. I even used the trimmings from the photo as dark elements along with a bit of dark paint.

Remembering Captiva

Yes, I know he is upside down. I like it best that way.

 

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New Prayer Flags

New Prayer Flags

Detail of new Prayer flags seen from the yard.

On the first of August, my local mixed media group made prayer flags. Our hostess had cut out rectangles of fabric for us to work on so they would all be the same size. Our group has a custom of making these flags when one of our members needs our prayerful support, and give them to her to enjoy.

The first time I made prayer flags at home I used a fairly heavy fabric, probably about twelve inches by fifteen inches, and strung them on a thick cord so I could hang them in my yard between trees.

The next summer, when I was in the mountains with the basket makers, one of the members brought supplies and even a sewing machine so we all could make flags out of silk. We painted them with Dye-na-Flow fabric dye, working outdoors under the towering trees. We painted a ten inch strip about forty inches across. When they were dry, we sewed bias tape across the top so they could be hung up when we got home. We made three cuts in the painted silk fabric, upward from the free side to the bias tape, so they would flap in the breeze.

I hung mine across the beam on my carport, just outside my kitchen window, where I see them every day. After about two years they began to shred in the winter storms. I retrieved the pieces to use in collage.

Two years ago when I visited my son and my three granddaughters, I took acrylic paint and silk fabric with me and we painted prayer flags outdoors. The girls hung them in their bedroom windows. I brought mine home and replaced the old ones which were nearly gone.

The rains this past spring trashed what was left of those flags. I had already put “New Prayer Flags” on my summer to-do list, so last week I got out some odd fabric and made another set. I’m not sure where my silk fabric is, and didn’t want to search for it. This fabric is dressy, probably a polyester, in a pale pastel orange, with a woven pattern. These are also a longer length than the previous ones I made.

I never quite know what to paint on the flags, and the dye is somewhat tricky to control, since I don’t use it often. I decided to try some stencils. I was pleased that the dye worked well with the stencils. I attached an extra long length of bias tape across the top so I could hang a bell on each side of the flags. I only made two cuts this time because I didn’t plan where the cuts would go before I painted. When the Delta Breeze is blowing, I sometimes here the bells ring.

Prayer Flags seen from my kitchen window.

Once I got my new flags installed, I got started on the rest of my to-do list. I’m in the process of a reorganization of the closet and cupboard spaces. I’ve been trying on garments I no longer wear, many of which no longer fit well because my body has changed shape. My feet no longer like most of the shoes I have enjoyed wearing for years.

The rest of this week is supposed to be very hot, so I won’t be doing much outside. From what I hear on the radio, much of the nation is having a hot summer.

I’m still working with my shell collection, going through family by family, trying to correctly identify each shell and updating both the handwritten log and the digital record.

And I may even get to some collage making. Stay cool and make some art!

 

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Seven Weeks without Writing

Seven Weeks without Writing

Beginning of collage using map from a day trip along the Columbia River near Portland

I can hardly believe it has been two months since I wrote anything here. No excuses – I just haven’t felt I had anything much to say. When I wrote on June 5th, I talked about managing my energy, and I’m still working on that.

The week after my last blog I was getting ready for a cross country trip to the Conchologists of America convention on Captiva Island, Florida. I was gathering together things I wanted to take, a few each day, which turned out to be a really good thing. The day before I left, I heard yard-work noise in my next door neighbor’s yard. When I checked, I saw that a man was pulling vegetation off the low hanging wires that run behind both of our houses.

I had been fretting about this vine growing in the neighbor’s yard that had somehow gotten up into these wires years ago. Each year the mass of vines got larger and was advancing westward to where they now were about six feet into my back lot line, climbing into the tree in the yard behind mine which was hanging over the fence and beginning to touch the roof of my storage shed. Fortunately, I was able to get the man to remove the mess from my yard for a small amount of money.

Shortly after he left, another man came by to discuss the problems I am having with some of the sprinklers in the yard. I was very glad I had almost finished packing the day before.

In the June 5 blog I also talked about how driving seemed more difficult than I was used to. I may have discovered the reason. In December last year I got new glasses and contacts. I was frustrated with the new contacts but couldn’t figure out why and decided that maybe it was just a getting older thing. If I was in a familiar place, like the grocery I go to most of the time, things seemed okay except that I noticed I was more comfortable wearing my prescription sunglasses while in the store. But if I went into a store I didn’t know, I was having trouble finding things. Everything looked fuzzy and I was just more comfortable staying at home. And at home I couldn’t read what I was writing on my desktop computer unless I leaned way over the desk.

I arrived in Florida after dark, got in an unfamiliar rental car, and started the forty mile drive to the resort on Captiva Island. I had a simple map with the main roads on it, but needed to make the correct turns to reach the causeway to the islands. On the roads that had large well lighted overhead signs I was doing okay, but the local signs on the side of the road were not readable until I was right next to them.

I did make the correct turn and located the road to the causeway. As I was driving, I remembered that my old contacts from last year were now my spare ones and were in my suitcase. In the morning I put those on and I could see a lot better. Since I’ve been home I’ve been seeing my eye doctor as he tries to figure out what is off with the new lenses. This is still a work in progress.

I have a number of other situations going on that seem to require numerous steps to resolve and need the help of other people, so nothing is happening quickly, and the issues hang out in the back of my mind.

My yard, being a mini fruit farm, takes a lot of time in early summer. First were the apricots in May. It is always a game of how long can I leave the fruit on the tree to ripen and still get some of it before the squirrels take them all. They managed to eat all the early crop of figs before any of them ripened. With the pleasant weather we had in June, I was picking strawberries and blackberries every day, and so were the birds.

When I saw how fast the white nectarines were disappearing from the tree, I picked the largest ones, and the next day the tree was completely empty. I guess squirrels don’t like plums as much as other fruits because there were more than enough for both of us. Of course it helped that the tree hadn’t been trimmed the last two years.

So a week ago my son, Chris, and grandson, Vinnie, came to Stockton and we trimmed all the fruit trees, and other growth hanging over the fence, which had grown too big and too high for me to reach. We moved an amazing amount of foliage out of my yard.

I started a collage on July 13 using items from my April trip to Camas, Washington. (See photo at top of blog.) I worked on it three days in a row, and then couldn’t get back to it until last weekend, when it was too hot to be outside. I’m not one of those artists who can do ten minutes a day and come up with wonderful work. But I think I’m about finished with it now.

Remembering the fun I had with my son Dave

For the rest of the summer – August and September – I have ivy to cut back the full length of my yard on the west side, and drawers and closets to clean out of things I don’t use. My shell collector self wants to continue organizing the collection every day, while my inner teenager wants to sit around reading, with ice tea and ice cream. I hope you are enjoying your summer.

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