Thursday, October 29, 2009

Tea with the Sparrow

The Sparrow has moved out of the black galleon that was in her family for years and now lives in a small, sunny, absolutely lovely and orderly apartment that feels just right.

We had tea on Sunday, sitting at her kitchen table where she often looks out of the window, happily, thinking and writing. I was looking at the house across the street that's all dolled up for Halloween, all sorts of stuff scattered around. The sun was out and I wondered why on earth I'd never thought of putting a table near a window and watching.

The Sparrow has at least three places in her new apartment where she writes plus a new and absolutely gorgeous computer. She is at work on another book. Is it the sixth? 

It was wonderful to see her in this new space, to know that she's working well and living nicely.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


So, this is difficult. I've managed to have a career as a photographer in a rather under-the-table manner, enough to get me tenure, enough shows to make me look credible. I've done a lot of work. And still do a lot of work.

But now I'm in different territory. My obsession with writing -- poetry and memoir -- has become obvious with the nearly publication of a chapbook of poetry (at this point, I automatically type   go to New Releases) because that's what I've been doing...e-mailing and facebooking friends to convince them to buy a copy. 

I wouldn't do this if the press-run didn't depend on the number of pre-publication sales. Part of me, the old part of me that loved doing everything in secret, wouldn't have told anyone about this and wouldn't have cared since the publisher will publish it even if no pre-release copies sell. He just won't publish as many. But he does send many e-mails about how to sell the book. And he sends a weekly update on how many have sold. That makes me feel just rotten. I haven't sold enough. I've got to hustle. Who can I write? 

This is unpleasant, but it's part of my having gone back to therapy in the effort to define the next ten years in a better way than I've defined the past. I'd like to have fun and do what I want and feel good about myself. I do feel good about myself when I'm working. I love to work -- take photographs, video, work in clay, write.  But it's the in-between that just doesn't seem interesting enough.

But today I talked with a friend, who had an equally, if not significantly worse, childhood than I did and she has suffered from the same problem of wanting to learn how to have 'fun,' but she's decided it doesn't matter any more. She accepts who she is, a person who loves working (and she works extremely hard) and then fills in the rest somehow. I must say that her description of how she fills it in sounded enviable, but if I'm absolutely honest, it's not all that different from what I do except that I don't see it as enough. But this brief conversation, one of those four or five minute happenings on the sidewalk when it's just warm enough, gave me a new perspective. 

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Familiar, noticed again.

I've seen these trees countless times, driving up and around UMass/Boston. They are part of the mental landscape in a not very attractive environment.

And they are on the cover of a text book on beginning black-and-white photography that Henry Horenstein wrote and that I recommended for years before I realized that no one was going to read anything except the mimeographed data guide and I'm not too sure about that. Or if anyone was going to read anything it would come from the pile of books that I'd left up in the photo lab.

Maybe I'm noticing color more because Krissy's ex, Chris, is living downstairs and he's from California and Florida so he's entirely surprised by the changes in the leaves. For whatever reason I've never noticed these trees when they were in their gold stage, as they were today when I got there early enough to have time to walk down and photograph them. I'm not at all fond of color images, but here we go -- gold trees looking good in pictures and in reality.

And the fox that isn't art isn't entirely  useful in chasing away the Canadian geese -- its function. I was surprised the first time I saw the two of them, placed at odd angles in a field, not understanding what on earth they could be for and thinking that they were, probably, art. There always used to be a class that specialized in making installations all around campus and there was a time, near the end of the semester, when pieces would appear in the corner of the library or as motifs on the top of roofs. 

But Canadian geese are another thing altogether and to be avoided at all costs. My dog, Bogie, otherwise a discreet gentleman of the highest order, thinks that goose turds are caviar. He's wild with hunger in any park that geese frequent. And that leads to the all-night poops. He'll wake up, jump off the bed and sit, staring at me. If I don't get up right away, he makes low, throaty noises, very politely, until I make the right motions. Even if I'm slow getting putting on a coat and shoes, he remains polite, then runs down the stairs, out the door and around back. Sometimes this goes on two or three times during the night if he's been in a park where there are a lot of Canadian geese and I've not kept him on the leash and watched carefully. 

I hate Canadian geese.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Juan Antonio Molina

I was really surprised to find such a thoughtful and critical piece as an afterthought to a book of black-and-white photographs of Cuba.

It was written by Juan Antonio Molina and here are some quotes that I copied --

An Adult Game
     I tend to approach photography as if it were a way to remember moments I have not lived, a way to become persons I have not been, a way to experience the lives of others. I enjoy reading a photograph as fiction, as one reads literature or a play. At least, this was how I approached literature and theater as a child. That is to say, like a game.
     If once such fantasy was child's play, not it is a game for adults. I cannot see every photograph as a harmless object, or every photographed reality as pleasant or charming. To play at being the other also implicates us in embracing other's pain. This goes beyond compassion or complicity, since I cannot pity anyone whose pain, wants, and frustrations I have appropriated.

     When I first opened the book of photographs, I immediately disliked them, without giving them much of a chance. They were elegant, beautifully printed and chilly. The scenes might be viewed as compelling if I had wanted to see this small village and their inhabitants as actors in a tragedy. I imagine them as poor, but I imagine them as noisy, colorful and complex. The photographs, as many photographs do, reduced them to tableaus in which a tragic moment had just concluded. It wasn't as if I imagined their lives were without tragedy, but that I doubted that almost every moment of this photographers visit was involved in witnessing them. (Think here of E. Eugene Smith's photographs of the nurse midwife.)

     Usually the afterwords that accompany a book of photographs are glowing. I found it remarkable that his wasn't. That he used the word appropriation, which is what we photographers do, circling like sharks, waiting for the image we want to compose itself in the viewfinder, then snapping the shutter. Sometimes our images are loving, full of vitality, allowing a viewer to find a spark of humanity or generosity in the subjects. Sometimes they are elegant, beautifully composed and chilling.

     Right now I am suffering from worries about appropriation. I am feverishly writing what I hear in the mornings on the backside of the racetrack. Not only do I realize that the proper and technical names skip out of my mind instantly, but I know that there are many complex and many tiny details that I don't know enough to understand. But I am in love with these people, with the ecosystem (for want of a better word to describe their gated environment and the lives of working with and training thoroughbreds). And hoping that I have the skill to transfer the vitality along with the tragedies. I am appropriating their words and hoping...............

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Blogs Appropriation

I was just stealing blogs to follow from Miriam Levine. I know that they're free for the taking, but I haven't really found my own blog, on my own, yet, except the one by a photographer in somewhere like Argentina who photographed exotic bison and I wasn't smart enough to grab it.

But today I was reading a blog that Mim reads, a section about teaching in a writing program which was very interesting. 

The form of teaching that I've done, the photograph as a visual statement equivalent to a poem, essay, a short story, often accompanied by words, usually documentary, isn't written about all that much. I was extremely lucky that I taught in an urban university, that the students were often first generation in their families to go to college, generally  had poor primary educations, sometimes had language difficulties so that I could emphasize the process, rather than the product, and what a person might learn from doing a project. 

I was always curious to watch some students start the semester with little to show but technical failure, one ruined roll of film after another  (before we got to the important stuff -- what a person wants to say with images), but then catch on and move ahead like a house a fire. Or the super critical person (usually a woman) who could do nothing that pleased her, even if I was dancing on my toes with enthusiasm. 

I liked the easy interaction, looking at contact sheets to find out what might be curious or unusual in those 36 images. For instance, today I saw two contact sheets of photographs taken for the 1st project. This young woman had started photographing some guys who live in a ratty apartment in Mission Hill. Here are these fellows making hideous looking food in their scrubby kitchen, a neon sign that probably advertised beer as the main decor. Interesting, even though the lighting was terrible. But she wasn't pleased with those photographs and had settled on Beacon Hill as the subject for her project. Now, I'm not a fan of Beacon Hill which has been beaten to death by photographers, lodging predictable images in all of our minds. So, she had all the predictable images that are fine, actually, even better than adequate. But she also included photographs a friend of hers wrapping a gift in some store in the Beacon Hill neighborhood. So, here's this rather neat sales person, in a very clean environment, carefully folding paper, cutting string. These photographs seemed like such a wonderful comparison to those taken of the fellows in Mission Hill and more interesting than the perfectly successful, read conventional, images from Beacon Hill.    Yes, I influenced her, by supporting and emphasizing elements from the work she'd already done.....   But hopefully I'm broadening her ability to take risks, to go for the least likely project.

I try to emphasize that it's better to fail at a project that's just too hard to accomplish (too subtle, or amorphous, technically difficult) than to succeed at one that can be done well with almost no effort.

I'm lucky not to have taught at an art school, not to have helped produce more intending-to-become-artists who will almost inevitably not become them. Art schools usually have fiercely competitive students which is probably to the good because you have to have a thick hide once you get out in the art world. 

The fact that few students I've taught have wanted to become serious artists has allowed me to encourage a far more supportive class environment, help foster a sense of safety within the group and during critiques.   

Actually, many artists are not particularly nice people. I know that's an awful thing to say and I once lost a job I needed desperately because I said it. I was one of three finalists who would teach at some alternative school. If I remember correctly, many of the students were pregnant and young. All had had poor educational experiences and none had many advantages. Just the sort of group I really like to work with. 

I was supposed to think of some group project on the spot. Though I don't normally think well on my feel, I immediately imaged these young woman working with a group of elderly folks, taking photographs with the elderly women, each group doing interviews, collecting stories and writing. I fell in love with the project on the spot because it, too, was what I'd like to be doing.    
Unfortunately, the woman conducting the interview happened to say something like: "Oh, this has been so wonderful. Artists are just the most interesting, open and generous people." And, even though I had a daughter to support, needed that job desperately, I could not help saying something like: "Are you kidding me? They're selfish, self preoccupied and stingy."  Now, that's not entirely true. I know that. 

But many artists are single minded, narrowly focused, preoccupied, often jealous and certainly competitive. Unless they are blessed with a fierce social conscience or remarkable curiosity. 

I'm not sure if my sour opinion was why I didn't get the job. Perhaps it was because they preferred a male photographer as a role model. Or maybe he had a stronger project idea. Or maybe I seemed too passive. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Yesterday, as I was driving with Krissy and Chris, Happy, Bogie and Tulip, to walk in the park, I started telling them the story of the Crying Dishwasher's dog named Rajah who lived with them for fifteen years. The story is on his blog, but the gist of it is that when they picked up the dog at what I presume was a pound, they were told that he had a little problem -- leaping a ten foot fence every night and reappearing on the doorstep in the morning. When they got him home, they left him inside to go get dog food and he was gone when they got back, having torn a hole in the screen. As the Dishwasher put it, he lived his life not being contained. I think it's a great story of a family who was owned by this adventuresome dog...and there's a nice photo of the very alert Rajah who looks the tiniest bit like Happy, Krissy's dog, who they found somewhere on the streets of L.A. The look of a dog who knows what it wants...

Of course K & C both said -- here you go again, telling us a morbid story. The dog died! 

Well, yes, but the dog lived sixteen years! Fifteen with the Dishwasher. A good life for Rajah.

Maybe I told it because of Lolly, Chris's dog, who is almost nineteen, a Staffordshire terrier who doesn't do much now except sleep and pee on newspapers and lie in comfort under covers, her big head with a black patch across one eye sticking out. She is covered with pink bumps and lumps, her eyes are getting glassy, she's hard of hearing and much adored.

Anyway, my telling the story of Rajah prompted them to talk about finding Ella on 9/11, a wreck of a dog that had crawled into a slight incline by the road and was, it seemed, preparing to die. Chris went to get the car and Krissy stayed with her. They took her to the vet who said -- well, if she lives through the night....   And she did. 

They had her for three years, three months and some number of days. She already had cancer when they got her, nothing to be done about that, and she leaked for all that time. Krissy washed the sheets every day. But the dog got them and they got the dog, who fit in perfectly with Lolly and with Krissy's dog, Pacco, who had been rescued from a dumpster in an L.A. studio.

Pacco was his own story with Krissy going to great lengths to  keep him way beyond the time he should have gone. Love of her life.

And there's Happy who should be a lesson to us all on how to get what you want by insisting, sticking your nose in and pushing. I wish I was up for a role model, but it's too late for me to follow her lead. My habits are established, but I do admire her persistence. What's interesting is that she's smart, so I can train her to follow me up the stairs and not push all the other dogs out of the way. As long as Krissy isn't around. Krissy let's her do anything and it's very funny to watch Happy pull her on the leash as they race across the park after a squirrel. Sometimes Happy runs free, races back and forth, totally happy in spite of a heart murmur she supposedly has. She's fast as lightening on short, squat legs, maybe part Jack Russell.

I'd just received an email from Joy, who runs the animal rescue place where I got Tulip this early summer. I'd e-mailed her a couple of photos and, in her reply, she mentioned that Tulip had been a mass of knotted hair, was unable to walk, skin and bones when they got her. They had to sedate her to shave her down so they could see what kind of dog she was. That explains why she won't let me trim her bangs and why she bit my finger the one time I tried.

Anyway, I also told K&C about the NPR program I heard, an interview with the guy from the New York Times who has done the investigative work about water, the environment, and why it's important to filter tap water. I haven't been following the series, but there's one more large article to go and then, I suppose, it will be a book. But the reason a person should filter tap water which is, possibly, fine to drink has to do with the fact that the chlorination process leaves a bi-product that causes bladder cancer in a small number of peopler. I also wanted to put in a plug for the fact that bottled water isn't necessarily pure so stop buying it cause all those bottles are just going into the landfill or floating around in the ocean and that's an avoidable shame. So, they said -- oh, no, another horrible story. Is there going to be a third? You can't go beyond that. 

So, the addition to this story is that today, when Krissy and Chris went for a walk, they found a filthy little male Shih Tzu with a sore, pink rear, brought it back, washed it upstairs here and then showed me their prize when I got back. He's adorable, even wet and worn. And he's tempting. But they put an ad on Craig's List and someone is coming over to meet him tomorrow who can afford to take him to the vet, have him altered and cured. But, oh, he's such an easy little dog, smaller than Bogie, love of my life, pale gray and white, with that same calm disposition and he allows himself to be bathed and touched. 

Tulip, I hope you're reading this!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Jericho Brown, Readings and Teaching

Yesterday I heard Jericho Brown read at the Brookline Poetry series and, afterwards, thought a lot about the performance aspects of poetry readings and of teaching. He's a gracious, handsome man with many elegant braids down his very straight back. I'd like to channel his ability to stand there, eyes closed, until he's ready to speak, and then, to perform his work, sometimes with a little smile, sometimes just with intensity. I doubt that it's possible for me to develop any elements of this intense, (seemingly) secure delivery. But I have always felt comfortable teaching, as if I'm in my element, relaxed and easy, somewhat invisible, but effective. 

What I really want to do now is to stop teaching -- leave this part-time job, the leftovers after I retired and left the position. It's too painful to have been good at what I did, and now to feel inadequate because there's too little time to do enough. I used to include the lowest level student, now I can only work toward the better ones. That doesn't feel right.

What's quite amazing is that I went to a party at Lorna and Warren's house and, at the end of the evening, talked very briefly to a woman who is a caretaker for the elderly. She's sixty-seven, needs to make some money and wants to remain active. She works two twelve-hour shifts a week. That sounds good. Someone else told me about a similar job early this summer, but I lost that information. I managed to keep hold of the card this woman gave me on Friday evening and e-mailed her this afternoon. That's moving, in some direction.

By the end of the week, I'm hoping to do a budget with the help of a friend. Then I'll know whether I really do have to keep on working, not that I want to stop. I'm programmed to work. I like working. Not working seems like death. Being creatively productive isn't enough. That's not work. That's a necessity.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Uterine Biopsy

Five or six years ago, when I was told to schedule a breast biopsy, I put it off for quite a while. My excuse was that there was a search for a printmaker in our department and, if I missed any of the interviews, I wouldn't be able to vote for or against the candidate. There was one specific person who I thought would be perfect for the job, would fit the odd student body that many, younger artist-wanna-be-teachers wouldn't particularly like since it would be so unlike teaching in an art school. I was determined to have a say in this decision.

And, as it turned out, it made no difference that I waited. I'd been reassured that it was probably just a fatty lump, not anything to worry about, though biopsys are necessary for all lumps. But anxiety about this procedure sat in the bottom of my mind for all those weeks, an underlying worry that I couldn't hide.

The lump was benign. And my candidate did get the position. And I thought I learned that it was worse to put off something than to get it over right away.

However, when I was told that I needed a uterine biopsy, I also put it off. My lining is 6.4, rather than the general 4. The probable reason is that I've taken hormone replacements, though I'm down to the mildest form that hardly counts and won't lead to breast cancer.

I was capable of dismissing nagging awareness of this looming event, and wasn't worried, oddly, until an hour before the procedure. A friend rode along with me for comfort and I didn't imagine anything ghastly was going to happen. But, as I got to the parking lot of the doctor's office, I was getting pretty jittery and slipped an eighth of a valium into my mouth.

Part of the reason I was anxious was that the doctor mentioned, during our phone conversation, that she would try to get my IUD out while she was at it. That was put in almost 45 years ago when my daughter was born in New York Hospital in the upper east side of New York. I was told then that there was an experimental trial of IUDs and that mine wouldn't have a string. Over the years several doctors mentioned that they could try to fish-hook it out, but I was never in a place where that sounded like fun or when I wanted to have another child.

When the doctor asked me to sign the waver, she asked whether she could pull the IUD out if the string came out while she was performing the biopsy. "But I have a lippes loop," I said, "They don't have strings."
"No, they all do. Is it alright if I pull it out if the string comes out? It's not painful."
"You won't find a string," I said.

The biopsy isn't all that difficult. A bit contracting-ish, but not, in my case, anything I would fuss about. (Perhaps my pain tolerance is high because I had a friend who thought this was the depth of hell.) The doctor tried a couple of times, making contact with the loop, but I am apparently right. No string. So the biopsy seemed okay to her, though she still has to get the results. It's possible that 6.4 is normalish for me. At least it's not something to worry about now.

Remarkably, I had time to think about her certainty that lippes loops all had strings as I got dressed and went to her office. Was it possible, I asked her, that the doctors saw a young unmarried woman having just given birth to a baby in 1965 and decided that an IUD without a string was better for her? "They do that all the time in China," she said. She's certain that all lippes loops had strings, even that long ago, in the dark ages. It was possible, she thought, that they cut off the string.
"I'm sorry," she said.

If I were capable of figuring out how to do this research, I'd probably take a look about whether those IUDs were ever manufactured without strings. That would help me wrestle with the idea that young doctors might have made a decision about providing this form of birth control without my informed consent.

I have a sense that there was some worry about me as a young mother, perhaps someone asked if I wanted to talk to social worker while I was in the hospital. I know that the nurses offered me clothes for the baby as if I had no resources. I refused them.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


Yesterday I woke up realizing that I've decided that I'll stay here in Boston. That's a big commitment because I keep wanting to escape.

For a while, after a friend had moved to New York, I'd fantasized about going back there, even though I know it's nothing like those old sixties and early seventies days. That it's now unaffordable. I can barely afford this life, so it's nuts to think about that one. 

So, I made that decision. It was a big one because I just hated Boston when I moved up here just as bussing started. This city seemed to have an appallingly wretched history of racism. I couldn't forgive it for that. Is it better? I suppose it is, nominally. The country is better, nominally. Barak Obama is President. I never thought that would happen in my lifetime. 

I'll move somewhere else, somewhere that doesn't require upkeep and shoveling.  That's the next decision. What I can afford and where. And then when.

I was extremely happy to wake up knowing this. Usually I wake up with some clear thought of what's gone wrong in the past, very specific and painful images. incidents, as if my mind has had a chance to gather punishing material while I slept.  That happened today, but not yesterday. That was to the good.

Suffolk Downs, slot machines

One of the decisions I have to make is to take my own work seriously.

Today I did an interview with Harry, part of this long-on-going series for a proposed video and a book about the people who work on the backside of the racetrack. I thought I was done with interviewing, but during this meet I met Harry and Jeff, both interesting trainers on either side of the spectrum. Harry's sort-of-thinking of giving up training, though he will stay working with horses, since they've been part of his life since he was a kid, growing up on a farm in North Carolina. (Or was it South?) When his mother went to work in the fields, he'd pretend he was sick, stay in bed until she left, then go to hang around with the guys and the horses, and leave to get home and back in bed just before she did.

Harry has a very spectacular laugh -- heh   heh    heh, heh, heh. I can hear him coming around the shedrow, sometimes walking a horse, sometimes riding one, talking to somebody and laughing. He's one of the trainers who rides his horses, so he gets a real feel for them. His horses haven't done all that well this meet and he and Jeff are in a race together on Wednesday, so they've decided they won't talk that day, not until after the races. Heh,   heh,  heh. 

Jeff got a cheap horse and has made a lot of money from him. Harry says, "Better to be lucky than smart." He means you can only tell so much by looking at a horse, even if you know a lot. And you'd better be lucky that you've got one that wants to run. Then you can get him fit.

Jeff's a lot of fun and has an interesting take on getting back into training after having a construction business, but he only talked for five minutes because he had to leave for church. He promised that he'll think of things to say and tape again next time.

The track is really quiet on Sunday because there's no training for this meet, a new decision that may be designed to save money. Who knows? 

A lot of people are devoted to Suffolk Downs, have built lives around living near here, have families, pay taxes, etc., etc., all that can be said in the long argument to the legislature to pass a measure that will allow slot machines at the track which will save jobs for a lot of people. As Harry puts it, all the costs have risen and the purses here have dropped. I've been interviewing for four years and that's always been the big concern -- will Suffolk get the slots, will the investment that Mr. Fields made in keeping it open prove to have been the right one?

Of course, there are a lot of arguments against gaming -- all the damage that slot machines will do to further gambling addictions. And I might buy this if the Commonwealth hadn't brought out their own form of gambling -- lottery tickets. I see people who no doubt lead very marginal lives standing at my local 7/11 buying fists full of lottery tickets. Hoping.  

Last week, when a groom was walking a white horse by, I asked Jeff about it. "Oh, yes, a good horse, a great horse, a stakes horse, won a lot of money. They keep him around, walk him, take him up to the track to watch sometimes." Today I asked Harry about that horse and he said, "Yeah, made them a lot of money. They keep him as a pet. He did a lot for them and they're doing a lot for him," and then went on to say that most trainers aren't connected to a farm, don't have any way of keeping any of their good horses around. Harry also works on a farm for a woman who has the space to do this, to keep a horse for twenty years, to give it a good life.

And then he told me another story about a horse that had won a lot of races. It started as a two-year old and after some time, the owner decided it should have a four month break, get out onto the farm, turned out into pasture. But when it got there, it stopped eating, lost weight. After thirty days, they took it back to the track and it started eating. Some horses, he said, they don't want to be put out to pasture. 

So, in my attempt to make decisions, my decision is to work seriously in putting together all this valuable material....................... to stop stalling.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Almost Unbearable

I find it almost unbearable to think that Helen lived on 19th Street and I lived on 5th Street all those years ago and we never knew it.

I'm sure I mind this more than she would because I needed a role model and there she was, someone from high school. Or there she wasn't. The only person briefly left from my life in high school was my deeply depressed, probably terminally lost and always mournful boyfriend who hadn't had a decent time of it and who did, thank you, give me his old enlarger which turned out to be a most useful present. 

All my friends were either working freelance or teaching very young children or not doing much of anything except setting goals that they'd probably never meet. My exemplary friend, the one who had a loving husband, didn't have to work so she could write.

So, I would have benefited from knowing Helen who was a mid-wife. At least that's what I think now. Maybe then I was too caught in some strange web from the past that it would take me years to shake off and allow me to at least work marginally in shelters for the homeless. But knowing Helen might have given me an earlier wedge into that life. Maybe.

When we met in September, we started talking about people we might have known in common as soon as we got into her car after she picked me up at the bus station. Did you know Jeanne Lee? She did. Jeanne had been a close friend who had grown up with my daughter's father in the Bronx. Our daughters were close friends. I was enormously sad when I found out that she'd died in Mexico where she's gone for treatment for colon cancer. We'd lost touch, as often happened with Jeanne's travels, but I had never doubted that we'd see each other again.
And I'd met Helen's best friend through Jeanne, Maxine who was then married to a bass player, a sweet guy who Helen told me moved to Paris after they divorced. I'm sure I knew that anyway.

I never asked if she knew Bob Moses, a drummer who is now teaching at Berkley who I haven't seen in years, but is a great figure for young musicians. 

I'd forgotten about (OH, NO, NO, NO, THIS WAS ENTIRELY WRONG. WRONG NAME, MISTAKE OF AGE? MISTAKE OF NOT KNOWING WHAT I WAS DOING...THE SENTIMENT WAS CORRECT, BUT NOT THE MAN) until I heard his music on the car this week. He's one of the guys I slept with just because he asked. I'm sure Helen wasn't doing that and that would have been a good role model because I was seriously out of control, a fact that no therapist seemed to be able to fix. I had no value to myself. Anyway, I don't particularly care if Helen had met him when we all lived more-or-less in the same area.

I'm extremely glad to have met Helen again. But I'm finding it all unbearably sad. 

The other day I heard from some stranger on one of these sites and he remembered me from New York, remembered Krissy when she was three, had seen her father's exhibit of drawings in a small gallery somewhere downtown. He'd run into him recently at a convention and asked about Krissy who he hasn't seen in years. All those men who left their children behind as they went somewhere else, somewhere to start new lives that probably didn't amount to much. I actually feel sorrier for them, almost unbearably sorry, for what they missed out on. But I wish I didn't know he was somewhere, being asked about his daughter who he wasn't brave enough to be in contact with because he would have had to cope with some serious anger at having been abandoned.

Why are people so afraid of anger that they can't move through it to the other side?

Helen told me quite wonderful things about music, the way one thinks of it as shapes -- diamonds, rectangles, lines. As she was driving and talking, I was imagining those shapes in color. The diamond was red, the rectangle was yellow. She went on to talk more about music, something which clearly has an important place in her life now, something she was smart enough to dive into now that she's living in a farm way up in Maine, reaching back to a passion she'd had in high school and left to be useful and giving and engaged that now has become a way of building a fine community of like-minded musicians, an enriching occupation. I was really happy to hear that and very glad to meet her again.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

summer catastropies

I'm so happy that summer is over. That doesn't mean that I don't expect fall catastrophies (spelling?), but that at least the summer ones are almost over. I knew I needed the roof to be patched since Krissy had discovered the problem in one corner of the attic. I didn't know that it was leaking in around the chimney and that the plaster was beginning to crumble in what I laughing call my darkroom (no longer used in this age of digital printing.) The small dog almost noticeable in the photograph is probably another catastrophy, a rescue dog that I saw on line. But at least she's endearing.

Then there was the yard. It's been years since I've really been able to work in it, though I have memories of all the perennials (mostly shade growing since there were trees.)

Krissy and Chris decided to make me a present of having everything trimmed by the man next door. He has taken down every tree, every shrub in his yard and was not the right choice. But, frankly, I no longer care. I had to laugh when I saw the after, which I consider to be a graveyard for overgrown bushes. But I honestly feel fine about it, though it would have been better had I been allowed to supervise. At least the large rhododendron would have remained in tact. But, what the hell, I hated the color of the blooms. And it was a very nice gesture on their part.

And then there was a long, mysterious time of getting bitten when I slept. My hands, arms, face. That went on for months because I couldn't face that an errant bedbug must have hitched a ride in a friend's luggage. My doctor had never seen this type of bite and they didn't match anything I'd found in my middle-of-the-night web searches. But I learned much later that, in some people, the bites can leave large, red welts or surprising swelling. It took months to figure that out and get an exterminator. I don't know when I'll get everything back in order.

It was all expensive. But the roof doesn't leak. The plants will grow back. And there are no more bites. That's to the good.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Rain on the Backside

It will rain like this again, a spectacular downpour. But it probably won't be as warm. The horses aren't being bathed often since they don't sweat so much now that it's colder. Jeff's wearing sweat pants under his shorts, a hat and jacket. Junior wears a jacket. I have a jacket over my sweatshirt and turtleneck when I wash buckets. Horses wear blankets if they've been sponged off or come back from training.

There are only nineteen live racing days left until the meet ends and everyone goes somewhere. Like packing up the circus.

But this was a glorious day. And my camera recovered a few days after after I dropped it into my raincoat pocket that was full of water.

Litchfield Road

Last night my exemplary friend, Janie, the only woman I knew in the sixties and seventies with a husband, a good marriage, nice little boys, was having a party in the Litchfield Road house. She'd prepared all the food, trays of elegant offerings. There were many guests. The only way that I could help was to work on the continually necessary clean up.

When everyone left, I realized that I was living there with Krissy. How was I going to pay the mortgage? And, then I realized how lonely it was. A little girl and me, rattling around in that house.

I thought about moving, selling it and buying a new place. How would I go about that? And then I realized that I could rent a room. Probably my half-brother's room. He was sixteen when I was born, so he was away in the army for much of my childhood and traveling in Europe, using his first inheritance from his grandfather, when our mother died. He had a double bed. I could, perhaps, rent his room to a couple. Would that be better? Should I advertise this in the New York Times? It was already Thursday. What day did they accept ads? Or would it be better to put the ad in the local paper.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


Tonight I took the frozen chocolate chip cookie that Helen had packed for me before we got in her car for the trip back to my bus in Portland after the reunion. I never imagined eating it because I knew I'd never eat another cookie after gorging on brownies in my anxiety over the dinner the night before.

But tonight I needed the cookie. Today I went for a consultation with a psychiatrist. I gave up on therapy when I was sixty, deciding that enough was enough. But it's clearly time to start again because I have been sick and tired of myself for the last five years. I still work hard writing and washing water buckets, walk the dogs, take photographs and write a blog, but it's myself that I'm sick and tired of, not what I do.

I thought I had a cogent explanation of what I'd like to accomplish in this next go-round -- maybe I have ten years left (knowing it could be longer, could be less, could be whatever), knowing that I'm possessed by a wretched unconscious that provides horrendous dreams when I've managed to get by it's tentacles, and wanting to learn how to make decisions. The decision part is imperative because generally I've rolled with the punches. 

On of the difficulties of growing up in a lot of chaos, and then proceeding to create much more for yourself and your child, is that you tend to fall into situations rather than think about, believe in, choices. 

This therapist said that most people consult a therapist the way they consult a doctor -- because something specific is wrong. I'm just tired of myself.

I have another appointment. I'm glad.