Done…

It’s been a really long day. I sincerely hope no one really expected that by turning the page on the calendar, things would be better.

Today I cleaned out all the old oil paints bequeathed me by an old friend and filled her nice paintbox with acrylics. It’s sad when oil paints go bad but they do. I wrapped books I have promised to people and the yard sign I made for my cousin as a prayer, I guess, that she’d live to see it. I followed the news to see how impeachment part deux would play out (but I already knew), and even I think it was a foolish waste of time and made our country even worse than it is. Not that I think the insurrectionists (including 45) should get off scot free, but I think the Amish and Mennonite practice of shunning might be a better direction. We need vaccines, jobs and peace. I don’t think the second impeachment helped because I don’t think 45 gives a rat’s ass about whether he’s impeached or not. He just wants his Twitter account restored.

I’m just going to try to paint my way out of this mess. Paint and walk the dogs. I can’t see any other ropes to which I might hold on. I plan to take a break from WordPress, but we’ll see how that goes. Just know it’s not you, it’s me. ❤

And THEN… A LONG month and it’s only the 11th

This past week was a month long and yesterday was the longest week in the month. I learned from my cousin’s daughter that her mom is in the hospital with COVID. She said the doctor told her it was not looking good and she wanted to let me know ahead of whatever even worse news she might be calling with later. By last night, my cousin was on Remdesivir and spoke on the phone with her daughter. I don’t know how my cousin is this morning, but I think no news might be good news.

I knew my cousin was ill. She called me on my birthday, and, in spite of her already having C-19 and a very hoarse voice, we talked for three hours, a feat of stamina but it was fun. When I expressed concern she just said, “It’s OK. I’m OK with whatever happens.”

We haven’t seen each other since 1999 when we partied like it was 1999 at my Aunt Martha’s 80th birthday party. Linda is a few years older than me, but that didn’t keep us from being close friends growing up. For a while we lived in the same town. Our moms were close. And even after we moved away from Colorado, they visited, we visited. When we returned to Colorado, my cousin had morphed into a young woman and soon after, met the love of her life and got married. Our whole lives whenever we got back together it wasn’t as if no time had passed, but we were able to pick up at our points in our lives and carry on.

I lost her for many years. I didn’t have her right phone number, the address I had didn’t work, her email didn’t work. The last time (before this past year when her daughter found me on Facebook) I spoke to her was 2008 when my Aunt Martha died. I was at my Aunt Jo’s helping with the funeral. My cousin called to tell us she couldn’t come up. We talked a long time and I tried to get her to understand that since Aunt Martha was dead, she probably wouldn’t noticed if Linda (my cousin) wasn’t there so it was all good.

I have kind of a dark sense of humor.

My cousin is on oxygen 24/7 as it is. She’s gone through two bouts of breast cancer and various other physical vicissitudes. Her son lives with her and brought COVID home with him. He drives a shuttle bus for the transit service and they both knew that no matter how careful the transit service was, or he was, it was possible. As they vaccinate frontline workers etc. I wonder where transit workers fit into the schema?

This is a long haul, isn’t it.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2021/01/11/rdp-monday-gnaw/

A New Brush

Lettering is really difficult, maybe in general, but certainly for me. Last week I did a little research into how I could make it easier and do a better job on the garden signs. There are a lot of tools out there but most of the fancy and easy ones seem to be for lettering on paper, not plywood. Then I looked specifically for lettering brushes.

I think it was back in 2009 when I built the art shed outside my house in Descanso, CA and I had some “extra” money (little did I know that the economy was about to go CRASH and my income with it). Anyway, I went online to find my old-time favorite art store in Denver and I bought a bunch of fancy and expensive brushes. I don’t remember the criteria I used, either. Maybe it was totally random, but I ended up with a bunch of very beautiful brushes. I had the belief, then, that I was on the verge of becoming a serious artist. Of course, the economy came in between that belief and reality, but I still had the brushes.

A long time ago, back in college, I learned the difference between real vs. symbolic wealth from Alan Watts. REAL wealth is things that you own. So, I was rich in brushes I didn’t know how to use but cash poor.

Values, right?

So there I was online the other day trying to learn how to letter signs more easily and better and I finally found lettering brushes. I put one in my cart on Dick Blick Art Supplies but didn’t buy it because I KNEW that the giant bouquet of inscrutable brushes, about which I know nothing, might…

Real Wealth

And THERE it was.

“How will I ever us that thing?”

So, having acted on one of my New Year resolutions yesterday, I realized I needed to get AT something, start something fresh, so I started a new sign. At a certain moment, I had to put words on it. I grabbed (well, I was gentler than that) this brush, took a deep breath and picked up a brand new, unused, fresh brush.

I still have a lot to learn, but it was a better lettering experience than I’ve had so far. I thought it was a good sign (ha ha)

Some of the garden signs I’ve painted in the past year…

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2021/01/01/rdp-friday-fresh/

Falling…

I have graduated lenses and they are out of adjustment. Yesterday I took a fall, hurt my shoulder and hit my head. Today I’m just tired and angry. If it had not been for Covid (which I actually blame on Donald Trump) I would have filled the prescription for new glasses I got last, yes, March. Early March. BUT…

The optometrist (we have one) didn’t close his practice but it became (naturally) not the place anyone wanted to go unless they had to. His restrictions are sound and safe as can be, and I just figured, “I’ll hold on until this is over,” but no. First one pair of glasses lost a nose piece then this pair of glasses lost a nose piece leaving everything fvcked up. OK. Well…

I read without my glasses. I do most other things with them, like walking across the room. Yesterday I literally missed the floor, but not with my body. I yelled, “FUCK!” as any sane person would and scared Teddy who thought he’d brought about the apocalypse. From his behavior it now looks to me like someone really hurt that little guy back in his former life.

I picked myself up which is not that easy and pondered whether I needed a thing around my neck yet, Hauled myself up by the kitchen sink, bent my glasses back into some kind of shape, assessed the damage. Head, pretty OK; shoulder screaming bloody murder. I strapped an ice pack around my shoulder and sat down with my traumatized little dog.

Seriously, folks, it was almost the last straw.

You know, I think, “Well, OK, I’ll deal with this. I’m a strong and patient person,” but then I end up hurting myself because of it. Migraines? Part and parcel, I am totally sure. I’m sure I’m not alone. I’m angry. I understand peoples’ frustration with the restrictions, though I don’t exactly sympathize.

I don’t know. My plan tomorrow is to call them, take both pair of glasses, hand them to Victor (the optician) and tell him I need nose pieces and sit there and wait.

I really really really want this to be over. I want Trump gone. I want a vaccine. I want a new glasses prescription. I want people not to have to be scared any more. I want the “dial” we have here in Colorado that tells us the “risks” to vanish from my life. I want my shoulder to quit hurting. I want not to whine like this on my blog.

Meanwhile, I’ve gotten to work on the garden signs. That kind of challenge usually cheers me up. Maybe tomorrow. The clever saying on this one, “Weed it and Reap” is not original with me, but I really like it. I have four boards, 32 x 8 inches.

Random Update 43.7.13.11.b

“It’s time for us to go, but we’ll be back soon,” say the cranes.
“We’re not going anywhere,” say the mountains all around me.
“I’m only here for now,” says the pale ice along the river.
“We’re fine. This is what we were made for,” say the mule deer munching golden grass beside the tracks.
“I’m hungry, but I can hunt,” says the eagle.
“One foot in front of the other,” I think.

~~~

The conditions of a solitary bird are five:
The first, that it flies to the highest point;
the second, that it does not suffer for company,
not even of its own kind;
the third, that it aims its beak to the skies;
the fourth, that it does not have a definite color;
the fifth, that it sings very softly.-

San Juan de la Cruz, Dichos de Luz y Amor

~~~

A few months ago I bought painting panels. At the time I thought, “Oh boy, I’m going to paint BIGGER,” but in the meantime I painted a LOT bigger (twice). Yesterday I unwrapped the panels. 18 x 24. It looks like a postage stamp on my easel. I have no ideas for a painting, either. There was something transformative about painting on a surface that was, if I stood it on its corner, taller than I am. I liked painting that size VERY VERY much, but I don’t see any way to make a habit of it. And then it’s not like I sell a lot of paintings…

The festive season is upon us. My Christmas lights cross the front window. It’s been a long haul and sometimes stoicism only goes so far. Monday was a good day — a new president and a vaccine is out in the world, given to the people who need it most. According to the “plan” I should be vaccinated sometime in March.

I wonder HOW I could have known several months ago that by March I would be back out into the world, but I did know. I think about the world I will go “back” into, and it’s not that different from this world into which I’ve retreated. I realize I’m psychologically trashed. I’m hoping for a president who doesn’t need my constant (and futile) attention. I think of my friend in Italy who said he liked Trump because Trump didn’t involve the US in more wars. I didn’t respond to that, or say that the withdrawal had been happening for a while before Trump, and that Trump’s destabilizing of alliances in Europe was dangerous, too. I don’t want to argue with anyone, least of all someone I’ve known so long and whose friendship I value so much.

If I’ve learned anything through the shitshow of 2020 it’s that my opinion has no impact on anything or anyone but me. Wearing 8 inches of cotton across my face does.

I’m so tired.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/12/16/rdp-wednesday-festive/

The Masks I Like to Wear

The mask in the photo above signifies 1) that it’s cold outside and 2) that I’m out in it. The one in the photo isn’t particularly warm, but it’s OK. My ultimate mask is this one:

One layer of fleece and a layer of whatever Buff puts on its, uh, buffs. This mask means either that the day is very cold or I’m moving at a rate of speed somewhat faster than I walk. In short — I’m on my skis.

We got a skiff of snow last night and I’m getting a sense of how this winter is likely to play out. We might not get a dump (we might), but it will be cold and these little bits at a time will build up to an icy, windblown, five inches. That’s OK with me. I am absolutely NOT picky.

Last year I found myself sliding into the Colorado snow mentality, thinking, “Naw. Not good enough.” What IDIOCY especially for a person on the shady side of the mountain! Carpe Nix!!! (There’s your daily Latin lesson [and mine]) NEVER in Southern California would my thoughts have gone in that direction. As the song says, “Any snow is good snow, so I take what I can get.”

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/12/15/rdp-tuesday-mask/

Migraine Therapy Dog?

I’ve struggled with a migraine for the past four days. I didn’t even know they could last that four days — or longer. It’s also my second migraine in a month. In normal times, they are rare events. And they’re worse. Until this year, if I got one, it just kind of floated through the front of my vision and left me tired for a few hours. This year? They’ve found a whole new level. I learned one thing about them, though, and that is that some dogs are able to detect migraines in people. There are even migraine therapy dogs.

And why did I wonder this? I got up yesterday morning (day 3) thinking, “Well, it has to be over now.”

Bear was whimpering, softly. She never whimpers. I mean, seriously. A dog who’s willing to take on bears and cougars is NOT going to whimper without reason. I opened my door, and she was right there, waiting. Normally when I get up, Bear is outside and runs in when she knows I’m awake. The next thing I knew she was hugging me (Bear sits on her haunches and wraps her front legs around people). “What?” Five minutes later, as I started making coffee, the visual effects of a migraine had returned. Bear has spent most of these three days outside guarding, but her behavior otherwise has been different, too. If I sit on the sofa she is right there as long as I sit there.

So far today she’s acting normal, so maybe it’s finally gone. As for me, I’m just tired, but so far, so good. I just wonder if the fact that, on the surface, I think I’m holding it together well but inside, maybe, I’m not. I think this whole year has been misplaced.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/12/06/rdp-sunday-misplaced/

Are People Just Stupid?

Every day The Washington Post sends me Coronavirus updates. Today the big news is that people traveled and gathered for Thanksgiving and more people than ever are now ill and hospitalized (and dying). Then I read this:

Being told to stay away from family and friends at the holidays is difficult, especially during an extended public health crisis, and there is plenty of evidence that the pandemic is exacting a severe psychological toll. Depression and anxiety are up, alongside drug use and alcohol consumption. Suicidal thoughts are increasing, particularly in young adults. Here are some ways experts say we can be there for loved ones, even if we can’t be there. And a psychologist’s advice about how we can keep our own sadness from evolving into depression

I lost my dad to multiple sclerosis when I was 20. He was only 45. I miss him every day of my life and wonder all the time what it would have been like to have known him well into my adult years. My hero is a woman, an artist, who is exactly my dad’s age, 95. I love our conversations and her perspective on things. She’s awesome. I’m grateful to know her and love her dearly. She’s been virtually isolated at home since this started, but I have yet to hear her whine about it. We all wish we could be with our friends and family, but …

To me it is absolutely totally OBVIOUS that the best way for people to “be there for their loved ones” is to fucking BE THERE meaning HERE on the planet and ALIVE for them.

I’m willing to admit that my need to “gather” is not as strong as many peoples’. I know that. But even IF I had a need to gather, I don’t see myself being “sad” because I can’t. I can SEE that there are legitimate, concrete obstacles in existence right now as far as “gathering” is concerned. My emotion? I don’t have one relative to this unless resignation is an emotion. Or bewilderment that people don’t seem to get that the risk to gathering and traveling is NEVER being able to gather AGAIN. That is pretty clear to me. I have a lot of friends and people I love, but none of them I love more than myself (first of all) and second, I love them too much to want to risk their becoming ill and dying or being permanently damaged.

What’s with people? I’m sad there is a deadly virus. I’m not sad that it keeps me from “gathering.” I know “gathering” will happen and, in the meantime? Far, far far better for me and my friends for me to wander the wildlife refuge alone with my dogs and cranes than to hang out with my friends. And, when it comes to that, when I CAN hang out with my friends (locally), we do it in such a way that the risk is minimized as much as possible. I love them all the more because they respect themselves and me.

Complex vs. Simple Compassion

“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.” Dalai Lama

Compassion is the key to everything, but as I had to learn the hard way, it doesn’t always feel good. I always thought of compassion as being nice to people, seeing their side, walking a mile in their shoes, but at a certain moment in my life I realized it might not mean “being nice” at all.

Being nice is easy. You do the nice thing and walk away feeling good about life the universe and everything — and ones self. But then…

My alcoholic brother.

“You think you’re being compassionate by taking care of him, paying his bills, listening to him on the phone, all of that, but it’s taking a huge toll on you, or why would you be here?”

My therapist.

“But I have to help my brother.”

“Who said? Are you helping him? Is he better because you pay his electric bills? Maybe you’re hurting him.”

I had a whole week to think about that — or hike and run about that.

I got my therapist’s point, and I even saw what I had to do, mechanically. I even saw that my “help” was just helping him NOT recover from alcoholism, and that if I really wanted to help him, I had to stop “helping” him. After that, it wasn’t just me mechanically not “helping” him any more. I had to deal with myself, and that has taken decades. I’ve thought a lot about compassion. Ultimately, compassion is self-care.

We live in a historical moment where compassion is simple. It doesn’t demand therapy or making the excruciating decision to let one’s glorious, talented, beloved little brother go wherever he has to go on his own. It just means we wear a mask when we’re around others to inhibit the spray of germs that issues from our mouths when we speak or breathe. Just this could keep businesses open, could keep people out of hospitals and could save lives. Heroic. But NOoooo. It’s political. Wearing masks inhibits our “freedom” and tramples our rights.

We call people heroes when they pull someone from a burning car wreck, save a child from drowning in a pool, give a kidney to a stranger, but here we are needing government officials to enforce behavior that would make all of us heroes if we just had the compassion to strap a stupid fucking piece of cloth across our nose and mouth.

Here are some smart words and thoughts from a kid.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/11/20/rdp-friday-compassion/

Island of Tranquility in the Midst of National Idiocy

The virus chugs on, the president denies he lost an election, 15 counties in Colorado go to the arbitrarily (?) designated “Level Red” which, when I looked it up only means:

According to the state, ‘level red’ indicates severe risk and is reserved for counties with high levels of transmission, hospitalizations, and positivity rates related to COVID-19. Under this level of restrictions, most indoor activities are prohibited or strictly limited. Among major changes with the shift to ‘level red’ includes a drop to 10 percent capacity at gyms and fitness centers, an 8 PM last call for alcohol, and the closure of indoor dining. 

Surprised that this “Level Red” wasn’t much of a “thing” I saw that we now have an additional level which is “Level Purple.” At that point people would be told to stay at home. It is “a level of more extreme risk than ‘level red’, reserved for counties where hospital capacity is at extreme risk of being overloaded.

I also learned yesterday that scientists have discerned that the virus probably DIDN’T originate in Wuhan, but somewhere in Italy. Va bene.

Such is life in America this morning, November 18, 2020. On a visceral level, since the beginning of this shit show, I’ve “thought,” “Avoid people as much as possible. Wear a mask if you must be around others.” Seems obvious to me, but for some it’s easier said than done.

That said, yesterday my neighbors and I took our little two-car caravan out to the Wildlife Refuge for a saunter. More cranes have arrived. It was a cloudless day with no wind. There was a couple there with a leashed dog so part of our walk was spent taking detours to avoid them. Bear really does not like other dogs. My friends are so amazing that they just went along with the bizarre little circuitous wandering we had to do at the beginning of the walk. It’s not like it was really punishment. We walked in splendor wherever we were.

As always, my neighbor’s husband and I were far behind the girls. We’re just slower. We noticed the girls had stopped ahead of us and were staring into a field. I knew why. There’s a big field with a small pond and the cranes LOVE it.

It was the time of the afternoon when the cranes go from the refuge to a barley field across the street so we were regaled with many large swoops of cranes taking off from this field, flying around us and off. We all stood there a long time watching the magic and talking about life right now. It was a beautiful afternoon, the kind you know belongs in a glass globe on a shelf so whenever you need a good day you can have it again.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/11/18/rdp-wednesday-visceral/