Thursday, February 4, 2016

A February note…….

 I have absolutely no idea why I took the dog for a walk and came back, having decided to write on this blog which I've ignored since last May.

I've been preoccupied with long projects, eight months of daily self-portraits that started in December 2014. It took me months to finish the digital prints which meant buying a new printer, expensive paper and learning new skills…and I can't say that I learned them all that well.

Then taking a nine-month course on writing a memoir which ended about two weeks ago. Now I'm working it even more seriously. This is a book I started about a thousand years ago, when I was in my late twenties and finishing up college through the Goddard Adult Degree Program. Will I finish it?

I've also worked on a long website about Briar Hill Farm and George and Arlene Brown. I met them in 2012 when I did my first video of George talking about how much he pays for hay, grain, feed, help and so on each year. At that point there was hope that the only Thoroughbred racetrack in Massachusetts would be saved and their business would remain stable. The closing of  Suffolk Downs had a profound impact on hundreds of people who worked on the backside and also to those who raise Thoroughbreds.  The website is    You might like listening to the Browns and looking at young horses.

My beloved dog, Bogie, died in June. He'd managed 15 years, with only a bad last few months. An excellent companion, gentle and polite, very accommodating. It's remarkable that his trainer, Jenifer Vickery, actually found another Shih Tzu for me. This dog has been left in a park, found by a young rabbi and her husband. Luckily she was training her real dog with Jenifer and that's how the connection was made and I got Boris Karloff. It took a long time to come up with his name. I considered Benedict Cumberbatch and also Leonard Nimoy, but neither seemed quite right. I wasn't entirely happy with him at first. He's small and rather too fetching. But he's grown on me and I've figured out how to prevent him from peeing in the kitchen at night. I thought he was smarter than I am. And he almost was. It's take quite a bit of cleverness on my part. He's without conscience and I was used to Bogie's earnest obedience.
Boris is very sociable and I'm going to a gallery opening tonight because he likes them so much. That's how I learned that he can stand on his hind legs, looking fetching, begging for a treat. I would never have guess. I'm not comfortable at openings since I can't think of anything to say, but he has such a great time that I'm forced to take him.

When he and I were taking a walk in Charlestown, a man stopped to admire him, announcing that he's an Imperial Shih Tzu. I'd never heard of that and looked up this new aspect of that breed when I got home. It turns out that this type of dog is quite suspect, the concoction of unconscionable breeders who are trying to create teacup dogs and that no one should buy one…. under any circumstances...they have trouble adjusting to heat and cold…. and are to be avoided. Boris is just about at the end of that weight scale and might just count as a regular Shih Tzu…  rather than an inconvenient impostor.

Boris hates snow and has to be carried over it. It's been an unusually warm winter. I can hardly believe it since I was prepared for something like the level of snow that we had last year. It's hard to know whether to be pleased about this since it's clearly a sign of global warming……….

I have missed knowing what the Cuban in London is doing, but have been able to catch sight of the Tearful Dishwasher's children on Instagram. I fell in love with it …… after I used my iPhone camera with the Hueless app for the self-portraits. It's very touching to see photographs of people who live in Iran, Germany, Italy…………   My pictures are pretty ordinary…and my name on Instagram is M_Melissa_Shook…..I used it since there are two other Melissa Shooks…one is a wedding photographer and the other was murdered by her husband in Florida some years ago.

Strange to be back on the blog……Happy New Year and thank you………..

Sunday, March 15, 2015

A quick post

So, the site won't let me start at the top….with the guy from Blick who was so helpful and charming. It was his birthday and he'd done a touch up on his hair for the occasion.
I bought some blue splat, brand name, but haven't used it yet…
I thought he looked gorgeous.

And then there's the still snow from two days ago. It's gotten on my nerves.

And there's Bogie going to the groomer who shaved him down…he was a huge mess, now he's a scrawny clean dog who doesn't look like himself.

and here's the bag of water that I am trying to shoot into him every day. I had a terrible time learning how to do this and had help from a neighbor who had experience with his cat…. that helped. And I managed for two days and then last night, the whole bag dripped out, somewhere. It's Sunday and I can't get any more until I go back to the vet office tomorrow…

He has kidney failure and the odds aren't good…but I'll keep him going as long as he isn't in pain, not that I can entirely tell what pain is for him.

 Fifteen years. He's been the best companion, endlessly polite,until recently. And he did some service…as a therapy dog, not just for me.

I have to finish my taxes today. I've been stalling…and they have to go in the mail tomorrow...

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Atlantic Works and snow...

 If you crank up the heat, it's deliciously pleasant, sunlight changing in curious ways that continually interrupted my drawing.

I was armed with food, a book, a drawing tablet, pens and charcoal, two folders of poems and a book to write in…I thought I'd stay for three and a half hours and brought enough work for eight.

Saturday and one of the few days I've driven since this all started, almost a month ago. It's been impossible to get out of the drive on most days, that last little bit, the inability to make the curve necessary to miss the black SUV…but early on in this I was almost in two accidents…it's impossible to see over the snowbanks and an SUV was speeding along and almost hit me…and then when I back out, not being able to see on-coming cars and not being able to start once I got going because of the ice, I almost hit a car…give one pause.

I called Margaret early and asked if she'd give me a ride down to the Mass. General Clinic because I was going to catch the shuttle into MGH to ale my first class on Aging Gracefully. I had hoped it would cover nutrition and exercise, but it's centered on meditation.  So, I left five hours before it started since it was either walk there or go early with Margaret…and wander around the hospital with my book, iPhone and camera. A good choice. I spent most of the time in a lower level cafeteria, reading and then talking with a friend in LA………a total Tuesday luxury since I hadn't been out, away, somewhere else, in another environment, without the dog sitting next to me in a long time.

There are twelve people in the class that's held in a small room that's extremely warm. Not every was there, given the weather. We watched a power pout presentation about reduction of stress, something that could have been more reasonably covered with a handout and a decent discussion. The young woman who runs it has a smiling voice coated with good cheer and optimism. We spent 15 minutes meditating at the end of the power point…. I hate meditation…… gives me the willies and all the times, over these many years, that I was told how beneficial it is, I resisted even though those were the times when meditation thrived.

I knew that Herbert Benson had written an important book about meditation…etc…and that friends of mine read it…and that I should..and now I'm going to eight classes at an institute named for him… and I'm going to see what happens. Open mind. Even though I'm a normally unobedient person. I'll try. I think walking meditation or listening meditation will be easier. Sitting is difficult since my body, which I'm not allowed to call miserable and cranky and ghastly, doesn't like sitting even though I force it for the laptop and drawing.

 The shuttle back to Chelsea broke down so we all waited for a long time. And then I walked home. I could add many more photographs of how hard it was to get back here, walking in the road sometimes, on sidewalks between mounds, etc., but I felt very successful. I had been OUT. ALL DAY. FORWARD AND BACK.

Thank you……………….

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The heat didn't go off in this blizzard……..

and it didn't go off in the first…two storms between and the second highest snow fall in Boston since 1979….that year when my daughter went out in it to do normal things and I stayed inside watching it on TV. I can't believe that. Or I didn't believe that, but now I do…

my big event for last week was going to the lovely Dr. He to have the pin put in my implant… and then I got another rag drawing tablet of the size I've been using and a couple small ones…  part of me thinks this is silly, a waste of time when I could be writing, but perhaps I have no words, perhaps I feel too trapped in here.

I'm dependent on the man next door who I pay to shovel except that the plows push hard ice and snow back into the 2 feet I need to turn out of the drive, hard enough because the piles are so high that I can't make a decent arch without possibly hitting the SUV parked across the street.

I'm always interested in poets writing about the fields outside of their homes, the blossoming trees, the stars. They don't live anywhere near where I do. I'm not quite as close to neighbors as I could be because there is a useless piece of land between my house and that of Carlos and Maria. When I pull into the driveway, I can tell if she's drying the laundry because I small the sheet she uses to take away wrinkles. Sometimes the man on the other side smokes on his upstairs porch and often I see the tenants of Carlos walk back and forth. Of course they can see me, too.

This morning I took a photograph from my front door. It doesn't show the snow back which is probably 5 feet…but does make it clear that my yard is full up to the top of the fence.

I've done really well until about three days ago. Perhaps i got tense in the dentist office even though she's so competent…and say okey dokey sometimes. I asked where she learned that and she explain how much is learned form television when a person first comes here and that families in China were allowed to have a second child if the first had downs syndrome sine the child supports aged parents. She has the mot delightful laugh and is picking up her parents on Tuesday after their mostly-wintr in China. Her father would like to see snow so she hopes it might just get freshened up a bit which I think is possible since snow if predicted for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday….but not blizzards….    I like her very much, but I just can't hope for more snow.

The tedious thing is that I missed two drawing classes and the eye doctor appointment which was put off until this coming Wednesday. On Tuesday I'm starting a program on aging successfully. You may laugh.

 This is the cat bowl that I was filled at night and taking in once the birds came to eat. After Brian caught the cat which had been out for years, he decided there was another, put the trap out the next day and damn, there was another not too happy cat in there, gray striped. I was quite surprised. I couldn't get a good look at him because he was very nervous, but I'm sure I had never seem him before. Brian says, "Chelsea. There are always more cats."

 Sherlock spends a great deal of time taking care of himself. I have interrupted him as he's going after his stomach…He's very fastidious, though he'd been more suitable as a scrabbled up cat, a nick here and there since he's given to great annoyance. He counts how much food Bogie gets since the dog whines and begs for just a few more treats in his bowl if he's going to eat that awful renal failure food…  But, by the time it's nine in the evening, and I've gotten up 7 or 8 time to give something more since he wild NOT go to sleep until this mysterious process of filling up is over, Sherlock just watches from a chair in the living room.

Thanks for reading this…..excuse the spelling mistakes, I really do have to get to that eye doctor appointment so I can have the laser treatment and be back to where I was, but it's just too much effort to correct everything….

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Atlantic Works Gallery sitting………..

For the first time in weeks I had a reprieve of six hours from sitting in the house (which is one way of getting a lot of work done) because the fellow across the street and then my faithful shoveler from next door worked on the driveway so that I could actually back out and get in again without too much crunching noise as the car hit the ice banks..

and I was scheduled to gallery sit at Atlantic Works from 2-6. After a bit of a problem getting in the first door, success getting in the second and the happy sight of Rachel and her husband almost finished with photographing hfer work, I was there for my four hours…armed with drawing paper, stuff to sort and my computer.

Fortunately, after about an hour, a woman who has a studio down the hall came in and she told me how to turn up the heat…down the hall…"Crank it up," she said and I did…that helped a great deal…"Turn it down before you leave."

The gallery has a view of the harbor (or maybe it's Chelsea Creek?) and shore on two sides and buildings on the third….one of which was half covered with white plastic and reminded me that I used to take photographs whenever I saw this white wrapping covering any building, hoping to eventually print an homage to Cristo….  I can't tell you how many images I took for this never-happened project.

 Two of the drawings that Audrina, who I went to the supermarket with to buy food for the opening…too much food for an evening that was so cold….had fallen off, but I pressed them back and took this photograph which in no way represents the cool white of the paper and the tones of her drawings.

But the shadows her nails and the shelf make are apparent. I wasn't taking 'real' photographs as Rachel and her husband had been doing…with lights and tripod, but amusing myself with my point-and-shoot, not the beloved one that wore itself out with hard, long service, but the replacement which has no heart.

On one of my pacings, I found a pack of cards that were made by Stephanie Arnett (sp?) and her husband as part of a road-trip to Marfa…they take a curious stance on Judd's bastion, photos they took with extensive details printed on the back about most, all, many of the small businesses in town..I really enjoyed reading about all of them, including hours they were open, numbers to phone, details of the food served…a nice part of what I vaguely understand is a long alternative Biennial Project that a group of the gallery members, including Anna and Bo, have been working on.  I forget the real title of the project…I imagine there's a website about it…and I'll try to find out the address..

 By this time, I'd finished most of what I could do, eaten two cookies from the closet and some of the food I brought to tide me over and started to take photographs of segments of the work…this is part of a drawing by Chas…two others are below in their original form, though the color is off...

 This show the gallery…or part of it, Walter and Rachel's work….Chas is in the tiny room in the back corners and Audina and I aren't visible...
 My drawings, 4 of 6, with the illegible writing.
 This pleasant fellow came in wearing moon boots which he said are very old, twenty years maybe, uncomfortable, patched with gaffer's tape, but absolutely waterproof as none of his other boots are.

The snow on Saturday was about 30" with another foot or so expected over today and tomorrow.

He stopped by to see the Pyromania show, on his way back from somewhere..he drops in every five or six months so it was my good fortune that the gallery was on his route…even though it was not
the show he wanted.

These are segments of Rachel's work…she is very seriously investigating and working with sculpture though she was deeply and successfully involved with theatre in Israel before she and her husband moved here. I wish I'd known about the experimental theatre she started in Somerville..what I was most interested, in listening to a little bit of her history, is how long she and her company worked on each presentation, six months if I remember correctly, developing a sense of community and slowly enriching the production. Interesting.

These hardly do justice to her work….especially to the figure that plays off Degas' ballet dancer in the MFA, but I hope she doesn't mine my including them.

When Walter installing my work up, Rachel asked if I was going to keep the shadows or put pins in the lower edges of the drawings.

She also drew my attention to the illegibility of the writing and suggested that I do a little booklet so that the viewer can read a typed version of what I've written. I think that's a good idea…and would probably do something like that if I show them again. She considers the audience in a way I never do.

These are some of the shadows of my drawings. The other ones that show the pins weren't in focus.

Walter's sculpture, above and here…with details of his work.

And isn't this gorgeous? The light in here is lovely in the day, with a curious pattern of shadows that move across the side wall…I was hoping to photograph them, but no sun.

I left a little after five, having been told by the woman with the studio down the hall who came in to look at the show, that it didn't make sense to stay until six on such a cold night, with or without snow.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Snowing and Drawing….

 On the night of the blizzard, I promised myself that if the electricity and heat didn't go off, I wouldn't complain. So, I'm not complaining, but paying the kind man next door to do the shoveling. This time I imagine my car being drivable in two days…..

I've spent several days inside drawing tree knots or rather someone is using my hand to make these drawings because they are in a style I find unimaginable…very chilly and quite precise….
but I figure that if I keep going, doing as many as I can which is maximally three a day since they take so long, I will get a quite a number finished before the real person comes back and starts drawing in the way she knows how to draw --

I've enjoyed photographing tree knots, not knowing quite what I'd do with the photographs…the way I've photographed all the mushrooms I've found growing in the parks, not knowing what I'll do with them.

 I've joined Atlantic Works Gallery in East Boston, a situation that's comfortably like going back to the sixties with a collective of wacky packers,  completely enjoyable.
I have ten drawings in the show of the five new gallery members. I hadn't realized that my writing is totally illegible, but I know now… not that I care much. I don't seem to ever care.

But it was pleasant installing it…Walter helped me….so that was a quick task…. And I slouched around for a while, helping if I could…

Audrina and I shopped for the opening food at Shaws, a sorry supermarket, …and she packed almost everything in her cloth bag since she is a vegetarian and a non-plastic person, young and capable of lugging huge amounts. By the time we got to the gallery, my back had given up and she did a lot of the setting up while I lay on the floor.  

I managed to last over an hour at the opening….It was an extremely cold night, extremely….I enjoyed the gallery folks, pleasant folks…  I'll have pictures of the gallery next week since I'm gallery sitting on Saturday…2-6, not many people visit the gallery, so more time to draw…

My new vice was The Grand, a BBC production, bless those Brits, a soap opera that gave great pleasure, set just after the first world war when veterans were suffering and times were changing…there was a gorgeous old madam who ran a brothel. as a main character and a couple of murders, two brothers at odds with each other, etc…what could be better….  Unfortunately, there was only 18 episodes…   alas…Now I'm on to The Paradise…not nearly as up my alley…

thank you…….for reading..

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Pyrromania and the cat

 My daughter salvaged 16 or 17 strays with a lot of work, energy and Brian, who is devoted to saving cats and has a network to pick them up, have them altered and find them homes.

He doesn't like to take cats from Chelsea because many of them have diseases, but he tricks the giant, as my daughter would say, picks them up anyway.

This old guy had been around for many years. He was fed by two people on the street in back and by me, when the birds didn't eat his food. If you could see closely, you'd see that I dropped a lot of food on him after he hustled me from the car to the bowl.

I hadn't known whether he was eating the food I put out, though I could see his footsteps in the snow, or whether the birds were getting it all.

But Brian got him. He left a cage here early on Saturday and by mid-afternoon, the old guy went in and sat there, waiting quietly. Brian later called me to say that he was very calm and had obviously been an indoor cat that was abandoned. There's a lot of abandoning of cats around here.

I felt seriously guilty that I'd pulled him from his routine since he'd worked out a life, but I felt much better after Brian told me how calm he was and that it won't be hard to place him.

 This is purple, or Geileise, trying to get on my lap. She could easily squash me with her clumsy eagerness.

The Wolf Hound seems to be primordial, like wild turkeys that I saw recently near Mim's house where seven or eight seem to have quite a happy existence.
These are the pieces for the pyromania show. They looked very quiet in that lovely space, so nicely sunlit, but okay.

There's a lot of writing and a little drawing and the paper is quite terrific. I bought a bunch of sheets from someone, intending to draw mushrooms on them. But I didn't. And couldn't imagine that I'd have any use for them, but they worked well for this…lovely paper with odd edges and a heavy texture.

Thank you for reading…and take care...
This is the last of the gorgeous scarecrow that my daughter made for the community garden a few summers ago. It was a painted mask of her face with shells for eyes and ears, the head attached to a stick body. I liked it a lot and it wore quiet well until I just had to bring it back here and finally, finally, finally sent it off….    I'm sorry I didn't hang on longer, but that's often the way it goes…hanging on too long or letting go too soon….