Friday, March 28, 2014

Physical therapy & horses

 Since shoveling twice, the sciatic nerve called a halt…and I got another prescription for physical therapy. But first, a week earlier, I tried the advice of a friend and went to the Russian bath house, Dillons, here in Chelsea.What an amazing place. Women's night is Monday, 4-9, and one woman told me she's been going for 20 years, with the exception of an illness, brings her dinner, leaves with her pajamas on when it closes. Quite an amazing place. $23 to get in and use the sauna and steam, neither of which are to my rase, and $45 for an hour massage (plus tip,) four women in a narrow dark room, new age music. My woman had fingers of steal and I could straighten up the next day. Quite amazing. What would my feelings for this little city be if I'd started doing this twenty years ago?

We'll see if the physical therapy works. It did last time, six years ago. But I haven't made much progress so far, one visit only… and an hour drive to the drawing class and too long spent bending my neck over to complete a curious exercise in redrawing into a failed drawing and continuing to work on it. The class is designed for folks who are painters, so I'm a bit lost, but I've watched the bit kids long enough to have learned a few tricks so I knew I could use charcoal, and ink and scissors..all sorts of tools that I could never have imagined using. If I'd been able to stand up and do more than hobble afterwards, it would have been totally successful. I'm so type A that I get furious if I'm impaired, as I often am, by some ache or another.
I've had a lot of chances to take photos of Lee's chickens and Seamus, her Irish Wolf Hound. Now I'm making weekly visits to photograph the puppies that Goose had via c-section. Lee was lent this huge dog to whelp the puppies, a task which is, probably, a good deal harder than helping Thoroughbred mares. She's virtually watched them, except for four hours a night, since the five of them were brought home from the vet, each just about a pound. To me they look like pit bull puppies… or little rats. Highly unimaginable that they will become huge shaggy dogs that lope along agreeably.

The first time I drove to Lee's farm, Lion Spring, it took three hours and many questions to strangers. Now it takes about an hour and 15 minutes. And she's great company, a exuberant talker, my favorite kind of person.
This is my experiment, whether it's possible to link a vimeo video to the blog because I need to make one for the Chelsea Community Garden….
so, hopefully, if anyone gets to watch this video about the puppies, I'll know that my next task, or is it the one after the next task, will be possible.
Lee Lobelentz, Goose & 5 puppies+
https://vimeo.com/89583951
And I've been working on a project with Linda Hart-Buuck about her Thoroughbred, Layla…video taping as she moved from the racetrack to her next career, whatever that turns out to be. Recently, we went out to the barn, another very long drive, and I had the chance to photograph this horse which is a special something or other breed, not a Thoroughbred, but special none-the-less for some reason or another…I don't like horses, actually, they are too big and, to me, unpredictable, especially Thoroughbreds. So I maintain a level of fear about them, but this horse is such a beautify with those gorgeous eyes. The owner has two others and seems to collect them…

So, it's one foot-after-the-other, though I can't keep thinking about discomfort and aging and sorrow. A dear friend died not that long ago, unimaginable. I think about those early days in New York, sharing the kids, all the help she gave me, her laughing nature and sheer practicality. She was the only person I knew who had a similar career as a photographer and teacher, though she worked far harder than I have, and was a far better academic who took all that very seriously. I'm so sorry she's gone.

But it's still one-foot-after-another to accomplish what I can before I can't.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

By request….after a long pause

 I had just about given up on blogging, but I had a request by email yesterday so here's one. I've drowned in video, endless video about Thoroughbreds. The problem has been learning to edit the new final cut pro X…or one problem…which has been solved by weekly appointments with the endlessly patient and informative Tommy…though he firmly believes that a program should be learned before you start to use it, he's been gracious enough to accept that I'm not going to do that and am in the middle of a huge mess of information that I want to get into some order…not only an interactive documentary, but a new blog which I'm working on.

The dogs have gone to L.A. for a long vacation. Bogie, my dog, isn't unhappy. Unfortunately, I found out that he has kidney problems recently so I've taken to feeding him with a spoon. Oh, I hope his former trainer doesn't read that because she told us that some dog had trained his owner to get down on the kitchen floor and feed him with a spoon. I sit on a stool.

I bought this feeder for five dollars and let it hang around for years. But now it's in good use.

This is the 16th cat that my daughter rescued from the back yard. He is one of two that she called big heads and spent weeks in the basement after he was neutered and before he went off to become acclimated to humans and then to find a new home. Last night, after my one-to-one lesson, when my brain had absorbed as much new information as possible, I found another cat in a cat on the back porch. K. had left notes on how to find the two folks who come pick up the cats so I frantically called one and by 7 or 8, a fellow came to pick up the other extremely angry big head. He will be fixed on Friday and then will cool down and hopefully go off to a better life than scrambling around in the cold looking for food.
The very good thing that happened after this cat was taken away was that I called the Verizon help line and was walked through putting in my wifi connection. Another very pleasant fellow patiently took me through the very long process so that I can continue to rescue myself by watching Netflix. I got from Thanksgiving through New Years and then on until now by watching BBC mysteries using some else's  wifi. Now I am on a Canadian program, not nearly as good, but I'm still hooked, Murdoch Mysteries. I'd prefer to be looking at Midsomer Murders. I saw 81. But I think it's too soon to start again.

If you got this far, thank you.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Cataract Surgery....it's easy and painless....

 The day before cataract surgery, I couldn’t remember my phone number and realized that I was nervous. That’s like the story someone told me about going to a medical conference and hearing a speaker say, “I must be nervous. I just took a valium.” I’m like that in the slow-reaction department. Why bother to feel anything since it’s just going to get worse. But I hadn’t bothered to feel anything before the operation since it wouldn’t do any good…

It was getting dark in here and a bit smudgy. I could no longer drive legally at night and it was inevitable. James, who I never manage to correspond with, much as I want to, said to do it five or six months ago. That was when the optometrist suggested that it was time to introduce me to a surgeon. But I wasn't ready.


The operating room was cold, but the process was interesting and the surgeon was willing to describe what I might be seeing…caused by the intensity of the light. I saw three small pink circles in a field of changing color, orange, lavender, green, orange again. Sometimes the dots moved, revealing black as if there was a mask underneath them. Later, when he was taking out the actual cataract, the field was pale gray with white crackles…and I knew when he was putting in the lens because of the extremely narrow lines of white light… 

The nurse had spoken to her supervisor and I had to delete all the photographs I took that included any patients or staff…she stood behind me after the operation and watched, to make sure. But I kept a few blue elbows, which didn’t seem to bother her.

Waiting with all the other people waiting, some older than me, some a bit younger, men and women, the men looking more sprightly, strange as that seems, took far longer than the operation did……….a long time sitting there, trying to write about years ago when I had my toe nail taken off and was in a New York hospital near women with serious problems…a mastectomy, an amputation. And was certain I’d die from the anesthesia. I didn’t. I’ve heard so many stories about how easy this cataract experience is and that when it’s over, it’s over. Never again in that eye. Cataracts don’t redevelop.

I must have been nervous, though, in spite of what I thought because I went to the wrong office for my next morning after-inspection. You are not allowed to make any important decisions for 24 hours after the surgery. This wasn’t a decision and not all that different in terms of mistakes than I do make – arriving an hour too early or too late or on the wrong day. But it was a first for a wrong office, the one in Boston rather than Cambridge.   Oh, well. The surgeon, an incredibly pleasant man, didn’t mind my taking photographs. Many eye doctors are also photographers, though of a very refined and classical bent. Landscapes that are perfectly in focus and beautifully printed.

Now my left eye sees everything in a heavy tinge of light. Whites are really white. My right eye still gives a yellow tinge. Yesterday when I visited friends, their house was yellow when seen with one eye and a very pale, pale yellow, verging on white, when seen with the new lens. I can’t imagine how awful all the photographs I’ve lightened recently must look….  oh, well…






I have to go back next Thursday. And it is difficult to be on the backside with the left eye protected by gauze. I have to find another solution by the time Layla Jane gets taken to her new home on Friday.

Friday, August 23, 2013

 I should, there is that word, should, get up and go to the garden, water the spinach I planted a week or more ago...but that means getting in the car for the umpteenth time today. So, I didn't and remembered that I actually have a blog which I've paid absolutely no attention to since April....

But here's Dolly. She's been Shirley's project and is coming along nicely, thank you. So, she's gone from a pet who I actually enjoyed...to approaching the status of a racehorse which is not as friendly a creature. But she's still gorgeous. I wish she was her old flopping self and hadn't improved so nicely into the profession she was born to...but there you go, that's what happens when a good trainer gets going.

The good accident is happening upon a woman who has  just purchased a Thoroughbred who she will take into her next life and I've been able to video the process of them getting acquainted before the horse leaves the stalls and takes off to a more elegant life. This filly has always been treated gorgeously, so the new owner is not getting a problem horse who needs a lot of work until she becomes secure.

It was rather an accident that I ended up video taping the folks who breed and buy the horses, but I feel into two interesting projects last summer...and here I am, drowning in material.   It's exciting. And I'm glad. But I bought a new video camera. And that meant a new editing program. And that's connected to my new computer, a desktop that I bought almost a year ago, but still don't know how to use properly. Besides, it has it's own technical problems that have been fixed once.   Etc.   I've got great new material and a mountain of technical information to absorb.    

A good space to be in.
And a bad one that just means I have to put one foot in front of the other and get to it.

I'm certain that if I were at the garden, I wouldn't have another squash that's been eaten by what most people seem to think is a woodchuck. My squash plant, singular, probably will decide not to have any more zuchs. My tomatoes, though they are sickly looking, are still prolific and I would have liked to have a couple with my pita and hummus. But, there you go...they are there and I am here.

I've done most of the dishes. And could vacuum. And do more sorting because the decluttering will start again in the fall when it's not so hot upstairs and the track is close to closing for the season and I've had my eyes fixed so that it's not so dark inside my head and I can drive again at night....

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Distractions from Decluttering

The impetus for this particular post came from my attempt to publicize www.run-to-the-roundhouse-nellie, com, the memoir site brainchild of Susan T. Landry that I'm working on, also...

Never imagining I'd have any luck, I fooled around on the web for memoir sites and memoir groups and found Pat McNees, whose link I hope to attach...  Remarkably, she's not only a writer/editor and involved with memoir, but also has a blog on decluttering which is part of her larger concern with death and dying, how to allow us to accept this inevitability with more grace or ease. That preoccupation came from time spent with her father when he was dying and has led to a great deal of work on her part, including a book. You might well want to check her out if you're interested in memoir, writing, hospice, clutter and so forth.
http://www.comfortdying.com/blog.htm?post=905971   This is the site for cluter...on her comfortdying site.
http://www.writersandeditors.com/blog.htm
http://www.writersandeditors.com
http://www.comfortdying.com 
http://www.patmcnees.com
I am inspired to declutter in part from my experience after my father's death when it took 5 or 6 people and almost a week of working full-time sorting and tossing. I knew how much my step-mother had collected over the years, long before she was unable to think and reason. But I imagined that my father with his spare habits would have left next to nothing. No so. We had many laughs, a lot of good meals  and felt considerable dismay an attic of useless things she's bagged, tied and stashed and in the basement, the chairs he'd meant to cane, but forgot about and all those bottles for making wine, etc.

I don't want to leave that caliber of mess for my daughter and so decluttering means, to some extent, thinking about death, my death. But it also centers around the idea of  moving, so there is an underlying positive motive lurking under the massive weight of it all.

But it's slow going. I've thrown out reams of paper from piles I thought I should keep. And have moved files from shelves into the empty space in the file drawers. I have labeled them all with large letters in black and categorized -- a major learning leap. I know it seems crazy to most people to stick (labeled) files into the drawers without any system for easily finding them again, but there you go. That was how I did it for umpteen years. Until this week.

And I liberated a narrow basket under the table (along with two large ones) which contained four thick files of poetry notes from my mentor, George Kalogeris, a gentle man with a quiet voice who provided the backbone for all that writing during a period of four or five years. His neat pencil tics next to lines he liked, his brief suggestions, so important.  What mattered most is that he respected my voice and all its quirkiness. I saved those four thick files, unable to part with the sense of George. But today I'll throw them out since there's absolutely no sense in hanging on to them. I've long ago incorporated his suggestions and I certainly won't look at them again. Why hang on?

Why hang on is the question that dances around every object I pick up, each piece of paper. It's a complicated one. I couldn't learn how to think about this without the pleasant woman I'm paying standing here, talking, looking, offering suggestions. There are many, many good books, some of which you will find listed on Pat McNees' blog, but I don't learn from books. And breaking the habits of the typical adult child of an alcoholic who has lived through and by chaos is very difficult.

I'm skipping two weeks of supervision, but look forward to what I'll learn during my next session.
 In the meantime, I went back to work on a documentary on George and Arlene Brown's Thoroughbred breeding center. We went down there on Sunday to see the newest two babies and I'm hoping to catch an actual delivery, though that's hard to time since they happen between 10pm and 2am. Someone is always in the barn, waiting for signs of a potential delivery since the mares often need help. In the wild, 50 percent of the foals die, as well as some of the mares because the baby was wrong-way-round and the hooves penetrated her uterus and stomach.

Woody is drinking, or at least looking at water, with his mother and Wilson, a bit older, is at the water bucket on his own. George couldn't stop talking about what a marvelous creature Woody is, but I know knowing about horses and can't tell a thing. Best I can do is figure out which kitten is the largest in a litter.
 And water colors are a fabulous distraction. So relaxing. I've started using little talismen that I've kept around over all these years, propping them against a Starbucks cup as a scale, drawing and painting them. And just started self=portraits!
Many of the files on these shelves have been transferred to the empty file draw spaces, but not all of them. I'm not finished with this room by a long shot. Damn, it does take so much time.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Learning and decluttering......

      During the third three-hour sessions with the kindly decluttering supervisor, I realized that, while I had exhibited enough to be put on a tenure track, and enough to actually receive tenure in an Art Department, and have had a few self-portraits shown at MOMA twice, I’m of no real importance as an artist and it’s fine to toss out copies of emails recording the negotiations for two exhibits in Lawrence, for the Bread and Roses strike centennial last year. Certainly it was interesting to work on those videos and the drawing piece, about 100 more-or-less 4x5ish pieces of Reeves BFK.

     I was happy to drive up there on route 28, a meandering road that avoids the highway I’m phobic about. I liked the people I met and thought I did a good-enough job with the interviews, that they’re useful in the history center archive. Maybe someone will watch the DVD’s in some form or another 50 years from now and maybe the folks who I interviewed will watch theirs some years from now and feel pleased about who they were, what they were doing, in 2012. But I’m hardly important enough to keep all that correspondence.
     Now, that was an important realization and will make a difference in the tossing out and decluttering process.

      And, when I woke up this morning, I knew that I’d truly absorbed the lesson of ‘large, bold, black letters on each file folder’ and understood that folders containing related information should be put near similar files. That’s such an easy concept that my decluttering advisor probably has no understanding that I needed her time and her patience for me to finally absorb it. No de-cuttering book, magazine or article  could have taught it to me. I needed a real human, standing here, going over all this stuff, taking out her Sharpie and lettering some folders, for me to understand, absorb, the concept by the next day.

     I’m sure it’s hard for this nice woman to walk into the house and see that I’ve not finished one room before I’ve wandered on to the next. That there are still unsorted piles, visual blobs, in rooms that she’s helped me tackle. Most clients must want a finished product…all surfaces cleared, no piles in corners, a closet door that will close. But what I want is to learn how to think.

     So, our time in the kitchen and so-called living room didn’t teach me anything I didn’t already know – get rid of what you don’t need. But my two sessions in this workroom have taught me the concept of like-with-like and how one might keep files in a way that would prevent the necessity of shuffling through all the labels, faint as the printing is, to find the one I want. Invaluable.

     It really doesn’t look as if there’s been progress. And she might well feel discouraged. In fact she probably has to tell herself, ‘Well, she’s paying me and I can’t force her into finishing what she clearly doesn’t want to finish.’ Though there has been progress between sessions, it never puts paid to one room.
     Hopefully she understands my sense of humor as I grumble along, annoyed that she wants me to find places for the last four unidentified bits and bobs, as she calls them, before I careen into another basket of stuff that’s been sitting on the floor, under the table, for eons.

     She mentioned a coffee table, or something low with a drawer (another concept -- drawers,) that I might buy since she identified my ‘spot’ for working which involves dropping books and papers, envelopes and pens on the floor and keeping whatever is important on a small-low stool – my checkbook and the still life for whatever watercolor I’m mucking away at.
     She is sure that I will understand that the floor is not a place to keep things. And I’m sure that I won’t because it’s so convenient. So, we’ll have to see whether I’m capable of grasping that. Capable of buying something that’s knee height and serves as nicely as the floor does.

     I did pretty well, physically, while she was here. And was careful to lift only one very heavy basket because I was so eager to tear into it. I actually asked her to lift two others, which I felt bad about, why should she lift the symbols of my disorder, but they were smaller and my sciatic nerve was already angry.
     I was capable of carrying a box (a box, does she know how valuable boxes are and how hard it was to let go of that box?) to the car filled with a few things she’d volunteered to take to Goodwill, including the white chamber pot with a small chip that I bought when I taught workshops in Maine a hundred years ago. Why on earth did I buy something as odd as that, as absolutely unrelated to anything I was interested in? I bought it the way I bought old photographs of people I didn’t know, photographs that I’d never look at and had no reason to want except that they were inexpensive and it seemed like the thing to do. I was a photographer, right? A photographer with no general interest in history and no understanding of the early photographic processes, no less.

     I’d taken a Tylenol before we started and planned to take on four hours later. A card table that my friend Lorna was getting rid of was set up in the room because I’d understood, after it took me almost three days to get over our last three-hour session, that bending down to sort things on the floor was truly impossible. And when my back began to hurt, after about twenty minutes, I tried to think of ways to stop aggravating it. Fibromyalgia or resistance to this whole process? It’s not important to know why the aching starts so quickly since that’s an old problem, one I’m used to handling.
     However, by the time I got back upstairs and was actually making myself a healthy dinner (hard to believe,) I had to hold on to the stove, then the kitchen doorway, squealing in pain. Full-blown misery, the kind I often experience if I’ve taken a walk and then gotten right into the car. Terrible. But it doesn’t take long to go away. And I did eat and actually do back exercises.
     I was able to go to an early meeting of Weight Watchers this morning, only to find that I’ve gained THREE POUNDS in one month. I’m a bit achy, but not feeling nearly as bad as I did two weeks ago after our three-hour session. Maybe we can do another session next week. Hopefully.




Sunday, March 24, 2013

Friends

 When we met, my girl might have been three and their first son  might have been a year...give or take a bit.

 I had traded friends with a then friend. She got P., I think, and I got J. who is married to E. and who were, and still are, my exemplary married friends.  Lucky me.

She and I sat in their kitchen in a Park Slope brownstone that they were renovating, drinking coffee, until one of us had to break the conversation to pee. It was heaven. Often I snuck over there to Brooklyn when my daughter was in daycare, on days when I wasn't printing in my friend Will's darkroom on 9th Street. He was teaching me what would make my becoming a teacher possible...excellent darkroom practice, the technical skills I probably wouldn't have absorbed from a less patient, kindly teacher. And J. was teaching me about writing with her patient reading of so much of what I wrote...reading and commenting.
 They moved from Brooklyn, to Beirut, to the environs of Washington, D.C. and most recently to Providence. Where we imaged we'd see each other more often.

She's become wonderfully busy ... I say wonderfully because the organization she's joined has surely benefited from her prioritizing skills, her clear-headed ability to sort through problems and her low-key, well-honed ability to sort out difficult problems and set a tone that makes conciliation possible.

But she's very busy. And I'm busy, too, though not as focused on one specific set of problems, with specific goals.
 As always, I roam all over the map, getting myself tanged into projects and problems. Getting tired. And thinking that even getting on a train to visit them is too much trouble. "I have to think about it" which means that I have to decided whether I've recovered from whatever mess I've gotten into that's knocked my muscles into screams. The latest has been the de-cluttering which is combined with .... and ....and .....and .......(all things that needed to be done, a book to be read, notes to be made, questions to be thought up, photographs to be taken, a meeting to be chaired....and so on...)
 I couldn't believe how easy it was, how pleasant the train was and how quickly those hours at their house went by, that my friends are still my friends....comfortable, talkative, as if we had seen each other just the other day, been talking over the phone constantly instead of occasionally. I had to pinch myself to imagine this is possible and to stop myself from feeling endlessly guilty about how detached I've become.......how distant........

 What a cake, hazelnut and dark chocolate. And coffee............. (in addition to lunch.)
Heaven!