In The Studio |Ramblings by Rose Mary

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Unusual People

“All men are children and of one family. The sun sends them off to bed and wakes them in the morning.”

Henry David Thoreau – Walden

“Each man beareth upon him the entire stamp of the human condition.”

Michel de Montaigne – Essays

The 16th Century Montaigne was the “inventor” of the essay form, and his writing is considered the basis of French thought. I agree with him that we all partake of the same human condition. We are all variations on the same theme, so to speak. However, there are people who either because of their personalities, deeds or circumstances stand out in my memory.

     During our travels, Bill and I have met many interesting people. I think of these brief, but memorable, encounters where our paths chanced to meet as “convergences.”

ECCENTRICS  HAVE  MORE  FUN!

I admire the character in Jenny Joseph’s “Warning” in which she asserts that when she’s an old woman she’ll wear a purple dress and a red hat, gobble up all the samples at the grocery and spend her pension on brandy, summer gloves and satin sandals to make up for the sobriety of her youth. 

     Eccentrics are never boring. They march to their own drummer and are perfectly willing to let others do the same. Often they have the gift of laughter. They are enthusiasts and rejoice in flouting convention. They never say to me, “Oh Rose Mary!” in the smug, disapproving , patronizing tone of voice  that I interpret as meaning, “How could you possibly think that or be so impractical. Surely, you don’t mean what you’re saying.”

     A beloved Irvington resident was a brilliant woman who had taught biology at Shortridge High School. Many people were the delighted recipients of her oatmeal cookies – “So healthy you know!”

     She was a birder par excellence who took a couple of generations of children bird-watching along Pleasant Run Creek. One summer day I met her as she trudged along dressed in a long brown coat, had and muffler, I said, “You look so hot!” “I am hot, but one must cover up so as not to frighten the birds.”

     When she was volunteered for Meals on Wheels she never missed a delivery. People finally wondered how she accomplished this without a car. She walked her route! When she died many regretted her passing.

     When I was a girl once in a while I’d see an erect, nattily attired gentleman dress in Panama hat, black suit, white shirt and spats sedately stroll up Franklin St. “Mom, Mom!” I’d yell, “Here comes Cousin Harry.” 

    “Oh no!” Mother would moan. As he drew near, one saw that Harry’s shirt had yellowed with age, that the suit was frayed and missing buttons and that his high-top shoes had seen better days.

     Harry was a first-class moocher who came for lunch and stayed for days. He carried socks and underwear in his briefcase – just in case. When he visited us, he descended on us en prince as the French say. He expected to be waited on and did not deign to thank people for their hospitality. My father’s sister, an eccentric herself, put him up for months at a time. After a disagreement, he wrote a letter threatening never to darken her door again. Her reply was succinct: “Goodbye!”

For a while, Harry was Uncle Si, a radio personality who told jokes on the level of why did the chicken cross the road? Later he eked out a modest living by traveling around central Indiana via the Central Swallow Bus, selling magazine subscriptions to physicians and others to supplement his moistest inheritance.

     Dad said that Harry had always been odd. Fancying himself quite a dandy, Harry brushed his hair into a pompadour. As a hazing prank, the boys at Wabash College shaved a streak down the middle of his head. That ended Harry’s college career.

     Harry lived in a cluttered apartment in an old brick house a block away from the Riley house in Main St. in Greenfield. His table was set for eight people, and most of the dishes were dirty. Mother thought that

rather like the guests at the Mad Hatter’s tea party in Alice In Wonderland he moved from place to place and had a grand washing up when all of the dishes were dirty.

     Back in the days when farm people came to town on Saturday to buy staples and sell their produce, a couple always went to the Kroger store where my sister, Beverly, worked to sell their eggs. Fascinated by the lady’s face that was as white as a Geisha’s, Beverly finally asked the lady what she used for make-up. She used white shoe polish and moistened red crepe paper to use for rouge.

     One Saturday a friend and I thought that her head looked rather odd. Upon closer examination, we realized that she had used a brassiere to tie her hair back. During the summertime, the husband was always barefoot and had manure between his toes. They always seemed happy and had a twinkle in their eyes. Their eccentricities harmed no one.

One Saturday he went into the store and said, “Got no eggs today,”

“Why not?” the store manager asked.

“Wa-a-l it was like this: I thought I’d be cure an’ throw an egg at

th’ Missus. She threw one back, and purty soon we-uns was in the biggest egg fight you ever seen. We busted ever one of them dern eggs!

     I think that I’ve been a sober, frugal and non-disruptive citizen during the seventy-plus years that I’ve lived. I haven’t given anyone much grief and I’ve done mostly what society expected of me, but I’m beginning to feel an itch. I want to become a frivolous, satin-shoes-and-summer-gloves person. I’d like to have a red nightgown, Fannie Mae chocolates, good Champagne every day, and the nerve to dress exactly as I please.

PROUD TO BE A WOMAN

“You’ve come a long way baby, to get where you’ve got to today!”

Virginia Slims cigarette ad

Baby, women didn’t get to where we are today by accident. It took years of contentious struggle involving a two-pronged effort to get the franchise and to control the alcoholism that damaged many families. Women couldn’t vote or control their own property. There was virtually a saloon on every corner where the politi-al deals were made.

     My friend, Sarah Ward, wrote a book about Lillian Stevens, one of the founders of the temperance movement. During the late 1800’s, Stevens visited an official to urge him to enforce alcohol laws. He pulled his hat over his eyes, put his feet on his desk, ate an orange and said that it was none of her business. She said, “I shall make it my business to defeat you; and the time will surely come when you will be sorry you did not remove your hat, take your feet from your desk and offer me half the orange.” She trampled through plowed fields to line up the votes of males, and after his defeat he apologized.

     During the 90th anniversary of the passage of the suffrage amendment, I received several emailed pages of capsule biographies and photographs of suffragettes. There they are, some of the women whom I consider my spiritual ancestresses and upon whose shoulders every modern American female has stood. They were derided, considered a bunch of nuts, jailed, and abused because they demonstrated.

     On November 15, 1917, the warden ordered forty prison guards at a Virginia workhouse to teach jailed suffragists a lesson. Wielding clubs, they went on a rampage against 33 women who’d been convicted of obstructing sidewalk traffic.

     They chained Lucy Burns’ hands to the bars above her head and left her hanging overnight. Here’s sweet-faced Dora Lewis, wearing a be-flowered hat. They hurled her into a cell and smashed her head against an iron bed, knocking her out cold. Her cellmate thought that she had suffered a heart attack.

     During a hunger strike, they forced a tube down Alice Paul’s nose and poured liquid into her until she vomited. She was tortured for weeks until word was smuggled to the press. President Woodrow Wilson and his cronies tried to have her declared insane. The psychiatrist bravely refused.

    This all happened a long time ago in the era of our grandmothers and great-grandmothers. Women have so much personal freedom today that the past may seem irrelevant. However, the past still exists in many countries. I am so fortunate to be an American woman.

     Many women say that they aren’t interested in argumentative issues like politics and government. Just think what the temperance and suffrage advocates accomplished because they were involved in something larger than their own comfortable lives, because they bravely spoke out. Granted, prohibition didn’t last, but at least some control was established over alcohol.

     It bothers me when women trivialize the lives and interests of other women, saying, “Thank goodness my friends are men!” I invited several women friends to a party where each one spike about a suffragist and proposed a champagne toast in her honor. (I toasted Lillian Stevens with water!) My friends make me proud both of our ancestresses and of modern women,

     I wish I’d known Doris Haddock who walked from California to Washington, D.C. when she was 88 to promote campaign finance reform. She said, “Democracy isn’t just something you have. It’s something you do!” Right on sister!

A  VERY  SPECIAL  PERSON

“You may have tangible wealth untold, caskets of gold. Richer than me you can never be – I had a mother who read to me.

Strickland Gillian – “The Reading Mother”

Born in 1899, my mother’s love of literature was fueled by Old Granny who read to her and my Uncles by the hour. Her heart’s desire was to become educated, but when she finished the eighth grade and mentioned attending high school, my grandfather who was himself a teacher, said that she’d have to support herself. She often said, “To me, Heaven will be a place where I’ll sit at the feet of scholars and get the education I never had.”

     Education was not compulsory, so Mother did housework at the home of a Knightstown physician and married when she was sixteen years old. She bore seven children, two of whom did not survive, and was often hungry during the Great Depression. She became a floral designer after my father lost his eyesight and baby-sat many evening to help me attend college.

     After my father’s death, she married Edgar Wallace of New Castle and was never poor again, although she lived as if she were, much to the irritation of her children. She dearly loved bacon, but she was so frugal that she cut a pound of bacon into three parts, used one for bean seasoning and fried the other two a couple of slices at a time. “Mother,” we’d say, “You can afford to eat a pound of bacon every day if you want to!” She feard the Depresson might return, and she wanted to leave her children “a little something” and enough to bury her.

     Mother believed that to be a true Christian you had to accept all people, regardless of their race, creed or nationality. She continued to grown in her sense of humanity until her death. After breaking her hip, she told me, “You know, two gay men live behind me. I didn’t approve of gay people. I changed my mind when those fellows brought me food, checked on me and did little chores for me. I have seen the errors of my ways. If Christ accepts all people, then I must.” She was mist upset by racial prejudice. “Some folks will be mighty surprised if they make it to Heaven and discover God is black!”

      This woman with only an eighth-grade education could recite whole poems. A favorite was “Abou Ben Adhem” about Ibrahim son of Adhem, a Muslim saint who received a warning from God and gave up his throne during the 8th Century. He became a mystic and a nomadic wanderer, working to earn his keep.

     From the time I was a little child until her death she recited it to me, and it shaped my feelings about prejudice and the need to accept all kinds of people. Here’s the poem that Leigh Hunt, a friend of Keats and Shelley, wrote about Ben Adhem.

Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase)

Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,

And saw, within the moonlight in his room,

Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,

An Angel writing in a book of gold:

Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,

And to the Presence in the room he said,

“What writest thou?” The vision raised its head,

And with a look made all of sweet accord

Answered, “The names of those who love the Lord.”

“A is mine one?” said Abou. “Nay, not so,

Replied the Angel. Abou spike more low,

But cheerily still; and said, “I pray thee then,

Write me as one who loves his fellow men.”

The Angel wrote, and vanished. The next night

It came again with a great wakening light,

And showed the names whom love of God had blessed,

And, lo! Ben Adhem’s name led all the rest!

THE  MAN  WHO  CAN’T  GO  HOME

Bill and I befriended Vadel shortly after 9/11 when he was thirty years old and a clerk at a gas station. A customer cursed Vadel whose skin is the color of café’ au lait and told him to go back where he came from.

     Vadel calls me his American mom and loves to talk politics with “Mr. Bill.” Our acquaintance opened a window onto a world that has little in common with my Indiana background. His native land has a very different terrestrial “address” from the shade trees, cornfields, and small town of rural Indiana where I grew up or the big city where I cur-rently live.

     He comes from the Islamic Republic of Mauritania – Land of the Moors – located in northwest Africa near Algeria. It lies within the great Sahara Desert that receives only five inches of rain a year and encom- passes 3,500,000 square miles and stretches 3,000 miles from the Atlan-tic to the Red Sea.

     When I first met Vadel, I envisioned the stiff of romance: sand dunes, tents, camels and caravans; veiled, mysterious women and sheiks in flowing robes; oases and date palms – all burning under a relentless sun during the day and chilling under a vast, star-filled sky at night. The romance is there , all right, but so is a reality that includes a dictatorial government, poverty, various exotic diseases, and a life expectancy of sixty-one compared with nearly eighty in the U.S.

     Longing for his mother and his homeland and enticed with the offer of a government job, Vadel returned home three years ago. I thought that we’d never see him again. One night he called; “Hi, Mom, I’m back. I quit my job because I didn’t like the system.” After the obligatory round of courtesies inquiring about each other’s relative, I asked him when he was going to settle down and get married. “Ah, but that is my big news, Mom. I am married, and we are expecting a child.”

     “Gracious! Is your wife with you?”

     “No, she must remain in Mauritania to take care of my mother who is ill.” He explained that one has one’s mother only for a while, but a wife for a ling time. He went back to work and attended college. He left again and occasionally calls from Senegal where he is spending a few months with his wife and baby in a house he owns there.

Perhaps you wonder why he doesn’t return to Mauritania. He can’t go home. Vadel is a revolutionary, albeit a peaceful one. “No guns, Rose, and absolutely no communism.” His father, an Islamic scholar, was murdered, and one of his uncles was executed because he was involved in an unsuccessful coup d état.

     When we were in France a few years ago I had a long telephone conversation with his brother who’s a professor there. He said, “Vadel’s problem is that he can’t keep his mouth shut.”

GULFS  TOO  BROAD  TO  BRIDGE

Vadel invited us to have lunch. He was dressed in Mauritanian garb, a flowing, open-sided white tunic worn over a shirt and pants, a long black scarf around his neck and sandals on his bare feet.

     When we entered his apartment, I was surprised for a minute to see only a bed, a bookcase, with a television, and a set of gym equipment. He told me that he worked out at home because he could not go to the “Y.” When I asked why not, he replied that he would not undress in front of others. Modesty is a prime trait of Muslims.

      In many countries people do not sit at tables and chairs as we do. I have seen many pictures of both Sheiks and Nomads sitting on oriental rugs. Knowing his preference, I always indicate the floor with a sweep of my hand, and that is where he usually sits in our home.

     We followed Vadel’s example in his home by removing our shoes. “Sit however you please, as we would do in Mauritania – like this,” he said and demonstrated by first sitting cross-legged on the floor and then reclining on his side as the Romans did at banquets. He gave us cush-ions to use, and we leaned our backs against the bed. The informality of it was fun, but I must admit that my arthritic bones prefer tables and chairs!

     He placed his prayer rug on the floor in front of us. This would serve as our table. He set out on it cartons of fruit juices such as mango, bottles of pop and water along with plates of dried figs and dates. The plump, succulent dates that he buys in Chicago were the best that I have tasted.

     While we nibbled that dates and figs, there was a steady stream of conversation – much of it about politics – always politics! From time to time he went to the kitchen to check on the food and returned with flat bread and plates for Bill and me, but no knives for forks. “Here are plates for you, but I am going to eat as I might in Mauritania with out a plate.” He said that he usually eats fast food, but he had prepared a dish of braised meat shanks with slices of tomatoes which we ate – interspersed with dates and pita bread – with our fingers. He also set out a dessert similar to baklava.

     Vadel lived up to what I have read of people of the Middle Eastern and North African countries, how they press food on guests as a measure of their hospitality. “Eat some more, Rose! You’re not eating!”

     “Vadel, I’m full! I’ve eaten most of the dessert!”

“Beel, eat, eat; you aren’t eating enough!”

“No, no!”

“You must eat, Beel! Here let me give you this piece of meat!”

By the time we left we were absolutely stuffed.

     I took him to meet my seventy-something sister, Christine. she was delighted to meet Vadel, as she’d read my columns about him. After chatting for an hour or so, Vadel and I drove back to Indianapolis. As soon as we got in the car, he said, “Rose, doesn’t your sister have a family?”

     “Indeed she does! She has eight children and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

     He thundered, “Then why is no one there with her?”

     Stunned by the vehemence of this usually mild-mannered man, I said, “For goodness sake! What do you mean?’

     “Where are her children; where are her grandchildren and little great grandchildren?”

     “Vadel, one daughter lives with her but goes to work. The rest of her family live in other towns.”

     “They should be with here with her! Old people should not be left alone!”

     I called Christine, and we had a merry chat. “Good grief!” she exclaimed. “The very thought of constantly having even my adult family here, let alone the kiddies, makes me shudder! It would drive me nuts – too much energy, too much noise, too much confusion! I’m glad to see ‘em come, and I’m glad to see ‘em go! In fact, as soon as you left I took a little nap in my recliner.”

GULFS  TOO  BROAD  TO  BRIDGE -CONTINUED-

Breathes there the man, with soul so dead

Who never to himself hath said,

This is my own, my native land!

whose heart hath ne’er within him burn’d

As home his footsteps he hath turn’d

From wandering on a foreign strand!

Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) – “The Lay of the Last Minstrel”

Or as Dorothy put it, “There’s no place like home!”  Vadel yearns for his homeland, no matter how bad it may seem to us. Before her death, our friend, Phyllis Otto, explained this by saying, “Think about the columns that you’ve written about your deep feelings for the days of your youth. I think that all of us live the child within us.” 

     Vadel talked about the Nomads: “I miss the sand dunes and the stars and couscous. If I could return to Mauritania I would head for the desert and the Nomads as fast as I could! You pay for nothing; they give you your food. We are a very hospitable people. Everybody is welcome to come into our homes. Money is not important to us, and our old people are never left alone.

     “The Nomads move every day because if they stay too long in one place their camels get sick. They get up very early in the morning and milk the camels for breakfast. some ride, some walk. I tell you, those people can walk! You should see how I can ride a camel! the chief of the tribe must now a lot. He can go into a big mixture of animals and know just by appearances which beasts belong to his tribe.”

     There are things that Americans cannot understand or accept. Mauritania has a rigid caste and tribal system that Vadel says we could never understand. At the top are two parallel classes of light-skinned Moors – a scholar class and a military class. The keepers of meats are a very respected class. Other castes exist for various occupations such as artisans. One’s class is inherited; occupations are passed down from father to son. Vadel said, “If you are not a member of the singer class, even if you have a marvelous voice, no one would come to hear you sing!”

     At the very bottom of the class structure are the slaves, descendants of dark-skinned people from other African countries who were sold into slavery. Vadel describes the slaves as cherished family retainers who live with their owners, eat at the same table with them and who must be taken care of by their owners. A slave can be freed if his owner wishes or buy his freedom. I found that my reaction with colored by our own history. When one says the word “slave” to me, visions come to mind of the evils of the slavery which once existed in this country. Paternalistic or not, slavery is slavery.

     One time when I was paying for gas I told Vadel that I was going to Knightstown. “What? You’re traveling? You must take this water!” I explained that I was going only 30 miles. “I insist. You might get thirsty.” After that he literally would chase me to the car. Next Bill started coming home with yogurt smoothies. When Eric and Stacey Cox, publishers of the Knightstown Banner, stopped to meet him they too had to accept drinks. I came to the conclusion that this was a result of his desert heritage.

     My mother would have loved Vadel. Oh, what debates about religion they would have had! His sunny friendliness conquers people and changes hearts. When I took him to Knightstown he said, “I must stop at the station and by water.” He returned to the car and said, “You remember that guy who was so mean to me after 9/11? He was in line in front of me just now. when I started to pay the clerk said, “That man already paid for your stuff.” I thanked him as he was leafing, and he said, ‘That’s okay.’ Rose can you explain this?”

     “Yes. He has come to realize how wrong and prejudiced he was. He couldn’t bring himself to apologize to you in words, so he tried to make up for it by a generous act.”

     Perhaps we could all profit from this story.

THE  FRENCH  HAVE  NOT  FORGOTTEN

I was at the park in St. Brieuc, Brittany, where people were admiring a cygnet. An interesting  old woman and I chatted about how proud the swan parents seemed to be of their baby. A few days later, I asked a gentleman the name of a fish at the market. He said, “Are you the American teach of French whom my wife met?”

     “Oui Monsieur” He invited me to go to their home for tea the next day. I took some cookies. He had been a music teacher and played Chopin for me. The room that did double duty as their dining room/living room was about ten by ten, and the music reverberated in my ears.

     I took another treat when I visited again. Madam said, “Merci, beaucoup! We are so poor. We lost two houses in Normandy during the bombing. That took away our security.”

     “Did you fight in the war, Monsieur?”

     “Certainement! Those filthy Parisians used us Bretons for cannon fodder!”

     Don’t believe it when they say that the French are ungrateful for our sacrifices during World War II. During another trip to France with Jean and her husband, we took a tour of the Normandy beaches close to the anniversary of the Invasion. At the end of the tour, we went to the museum and saw a movie. There were may French people in attendance. I said in French to the lady seated next to me, “Madame, I am very pleased to see so many French people here.”

     She began to cry and replied, also in French, “Madam, we French will never forget what you Americans did for us. Jamais! (Never!) People all around us exclaimed, “Jamais, jamais!”

Two Stories of Survival

     When Jean and we spent two weeks in the south of France we stopped at Aix en Provence, the university city where Cezanne had his studio. The old cities of France have very little parking. We arrived during the morning rush hour, and Jean had no luck at finding a place to park. Clever Bill saw a sign for the office of the French Red Cross. “Go into their lot! You can pay a courtesy call as an executive of the American Red Cross.”

     We went to the reception desk where I explained who Jean was. The secretary called out a gentleman who greeted us warmly. As he spoke no English, I interpreted. “You are most welcome here and may leave your car here as long as you like.” He ushered us into his office.

“I want to tell you my story,” he said. “I have dedicated my life to the Red Cross, and I love America because the American Red Cross saved my life. During World War II when I was twenty years old, the Germans sent me to a prisoner-of-war camp in Germany

     He described the conditions at the camp. Jean cried, and my voice trembled as I translated. “Each day we were given one little loaf of bread to eat. One little loaf of bread isn’t very much for a boy of twenty. I know beyond any doubt that I would have starved if the American Red Cross hadn’t sent food packages. I say to you from the bottom of my heart, “Veve l’Amérique et les Américains!” (Long live America and the Americans)

     “He abandons everything to serve his country!” Society of the Cincinnati.

     The Vrabel’s and we stayed at the Château de Boucéel in Normandy. A little Knights Templar Chapel remains of an older Château. The current 1763 château with a lake and peacocks belongs to the Count and Countess Régis de Roquefeuil-Cahuzac who greeted us warmly. He earned a degree in Chiropractic in Chicago.

     We sat around his desk while he told an amazing story. After D-Day the Germans confiscated every kind of conveyance. His father, Count Arnaud, was a courier for the Resistance, carrying messages in his bicycle’s lamp. Soldiers demanded his bicycle. he was terrified that they’d find the message. He talked them into letting him keep the headlamp as a souvenir. A soldier even helped him unscrew it.

     One morning 80 men from the Gestapo surrounded the château. Count Arnaud told them that his wallet and I.D. were in the basement. Incredibly, the officer sent him alone to get them where he destroyed compromising papers by swallowing some and hiding others in bottles of cider.

     A machine gun was hidden under the couch. The cool-headed Count invited the officer to sit there. The soldiers searched everywhere but didn’t ask their commanding officer to move. Had they discovered the gun; they would have shot the Count immediately.

     He was put in a prison camp and was to be deported on the “Death Train” that went to Buchenwald Concentration Camp from which few returned. The deportations were organized alphabetically with Nazi efficiency. His letter would be called soon.

     Count Régis said, “Father knew that Résistance men were hiding in the Victory Café across the street and used a mirror to flash Morse code messages. They got word out about the train, and the railroad bridge was bombed.

     Eventually, Arnaud escaped, had many adventures, and lived to return to the château. Count Régis showed us the book of exquisitely executed cartoon that Count Arnaud drew about his experiences.

     Count Régis is a member of the Society of the Cincinnati, named for Cincinnatus, a Roman who returned to his plow after leading his troops to victory, Henry Knox started it after the American Revolution. Its hereditary membership reads like a Who’s Who of the American Revolution: Hamilton, von Steuben, Greene, Lafayette, Rochambeau, de Grasse, and Kosciusko.

      George Washington was President General of the Society until his death. The French Navy presented him with a diamond-encrusted pin in the shape of an eagle that has been worn by each succeeding President of the Society. Count Régis’ uncle was one of the Presidents. What a thrill it must be to wear something once worn by the great Washington!

     Régis is also a member of La Société de la Mémoire (Society of Remembrance) whose members tend the graves of the American soldiers in the nearby St. James Cemetery. Count Régis said, “I chose to honor a pilot named George Mick who was killed at the age of 24 on September 5, 1944. I am so touched and pleased to lay flowers that I myself choose and cut on that young Americans grave. You see that bridge was bombed on September 9, and I like to think that George Mick participated in my father’s salvation.” He continued very softly, “No we French have not forgotten. We shall never forget what the Americans did!”

     Early in the morning before we left to return to the States, I went alone to the library and looked again at the drawings. Looking around the pretty room, I thought, “This land was made for warm-hearted people like our hosts and for lovely houses with sweeping lawns and parading peacocks. This land was made for peace.” and then the barbarians came. Again, and again them came… In homage, I laid my hand on the Count’s most prized possession that he keeps on his desk – the little bicycle lamp.

In The Studio | Ramblings by Rose Mary

Coming June 5, 2021!

Ramblings A Stoll Down Memory Lane with Henry David Thoreau by Rose Mary Clarke 10th Anniversary Edition

HE  SAID,  SHE  SAID

During a debate, a member of the French National Assembly shouted, “But there is a difference between men and women!” Another member shouted in return, “Vive la differénce!” Amen to that!

     I enjoy NPR’s “Car Talk.” Mind you, I barely know the difference between a dipstick and a differential, but those guys are a hoot! Here are some of their quips about the war between the sexes:

     His wife looks grumpy. He says, “What have I done now?” Translation: “Which thing have you caught me doing now?”

     “You cook just like my Mother!” Translation: “My mom used a smoke alarm for a timer too.”

     At a dress shop: “That dress looks terrific on you!” Translation: “I hope this is the last dress she tries on; I’m starving.”

     One of Bill’s brothers avoided saysing that he disliked a dress by saying, “On you it looks good!”

     Our annual houseboat trip produced a good conversation. Bill Vrabel says that he said, “I wonder what time it is.”

     His wife Jean says that he said, “What time did we get up?”

     She went inside, looked at the clock, returned and said. “We got up at about 6:20, twenty minutes ago.”

     “I didn’t want to know what time we got up; I asked what time it is now.”

     “That’s not what you said.” “Yes, it is.” “No, it’s not.” “Is too.” “Isn’t.”

     She brought this minor marital skirmish to an end by saying “Whatever.”

     I laughed merrily. Bill Clarke and I have often terminated a disagreement when one of us says, “Whatever…” Mind you this is in no way a concession of defeat. We each still believe that we’re right, but realize that no purpose will be served by further wrangling.

     I laughed even harder when Jean said, “He doesn’t remember what we’ve said so often that I’ve threatened to get a tape recorder and record our conversations.

     “Ditto my dear, ditto!” I responded.

     Men and women appear to be from different planets. Women expect  men to deduce the meaning of what they say.

Men what a flat “yes” or “no” answer: “Are these dishes clean or dirty.” 

     I assure you that I would not run the dishwasher for two forks, a cup and a bowl.”

     “That’s not what I asked.”

     Neil told Bill, “I wear a suit, answer people’s questions and solve problems all day. When I get home, I don’t know anything.”

     Hal and Sherry help out with a large family of their grandchildren.

     She: “How could you possibly send one of our grandchildren to school, wearing clothes that don’t match.”

     He: “All of the necessary parts were covered, weren’t they?”

     Sometimes men have selective hearing. When Sherry or Rian yells something out the door at their husbands one of the fellows says, “Huh?”; and the other says, “What?”

     All women understand the all-purpose, “Oh well…” that has a multiplicity of meanings to fit various circumstances: “Oh well, there’s nothing to be done about it… Oh well, that’s just the way things are… Oh well, what can you expect?… Oh well, same-old, same-old!”

     As both my parents used to say about the opposite sex, “You can’t live with ‘em and you can’t live without ‘em.”

     Oh well….

ONLY  THE  PATIENT  SURVIVE

Can a stacker and a stuffer achieve marital harmony? Bill is a stacker, and I’m a stuffer. He piles things up on horizontal surfaces. I stuff them out of sight. He looked over my shoulder when I was writing this and said, “I’m not a stacker – I’m just organized!”

     Can a marriage with a shared toothpaste tube be totally contented? A couple who share toothpaste will not long be at peace. Bill squeezes “correctly.” My tube’s a crinkled mess. I was delighted when we bought a house with separate bathrooms. If I want to let my hose hang on the towel rack for a week, that’s my business!

     What about sharing a closet? Double trouble! Please consult my monograph on ways to hex a marriage! The imcomparable Erma Bombeck wrote about opening her closet door and discovering that a bund of hot-blooded hangers had mated and produced chains of tangles of hangers that to an hour to unravel. Two people’s hangers would create even more vexation. Pme s[pise a;waus sighs, “I just have a few inches of closet space. She has the rest!”

     Who controls the TV tuner? Who surfs the channels? “And the forecast is…” CLICK “John! Marsha…” CLICK “And he’s out at third…” CLICK “And I say to you sinners…” CLICK “Back to the beginning…. falling barometer.” Bill saw a newspaper quip: “Men don’t watch what’s on television; they watch what else is on!”

    Who refuses to ask for directions when lost? The “Sally Forth” cartoon showed the couple driving around while lost. When they were stopped at a light, their daughter stuck her head out the window and helled at a passerby, “Help! Help! We’re lost and my Dad won’t stop and ask for directions!”

     Who waits until the tank is empty before buying gas? Not I. On the other hand, I’m bad about checking the oil.

     Who puts ice cube trays with one cube left in them back in the freezer? I don’t!

     Can a night owl and an early bird coexist? I greet the dawn with pleasure. Bill sees it only when forced to. On the other hand,  I snooze in my chair while he watches TV. Perhaps out differing sleep schedule is the secret of our marriage’s longevity.

     Does having a joint checking account enhance a marriage? This is a no-brainer since neither of us is good at accounting. If we’d had a joint account, we’d have ended up in divorce court years ago!

     Who snatches light bulbs? “Rose Mary! There is no light buld in the living room lamp.” “I know, dear. I needed it in the kitchen.” “You are going to drive me crazy!”

     Who screws the lids on so tightly that one spouse can’t get them off while the other tightens them haphazardly? “Bill will you please unscrew this lid you got too tight.”

     “Rose Mary! Look at this mess because the lid fell off. You are going to drive me crazy!

     Can Mr. Perfectionist and Mrs. Slapdash reach accord? He carefully reolds the paper in its original order. He winds the vacuum cleaner cord in a figure eight. I jam it oneot the holder any old way. “Why should I waste prescious seconds of my life, winding the vacuum cleaner cord into a figure eight?” “Because it’s the right way.” He was in the Army; I wasn’t.

     Yep, only the patient survive.

SURPRISE !

Friends and we went to a suburb of Columbus, Ohio, to attend a surprise birthday party for a couple who turned sixty. We made hotel reservations and arrived at the appointed time along with a merry throng.

     This party fit the anatomy of surprise parties. First cam the pretext. One daughter is a dancer: “I have free ticket to the ballet. Will you go with me and my boyfriend?” The first IU basketball game was that height. Further, her father would rather have cleaned public restrooms than attend the ballet at any time, but he agreed to go to please his daughter.

     Their daughters, whom Bill and I hadn’t seen for many years, were in a state of excitement. One daughter had flown in from California. The eldest daughter explained how most of her children weren’t told about the party until late, lest they spill the beans to their best buddy, their grandpa. Watching the daughters all grown up and beautiful, what fun it was to see the dramatic gestures and speech patterns pass on by their mother. Finally, the great moment approached: The lights were turned off, People shushed each other: “Blah, blah, blah…. Shh! Shh! Shh!”

   And indeed, Hal and Sherry were astonished when they entered to shrieks of “Surprise!” After the guests left, the family was all up until 2:00 AM, re-hashing the evening. That family will carry with them a vivid, living memory of that party all the days of their lives.  

     That evening brought back memories of the surprise party that I threw for Bill’s fiftieth. I didn’t work outside the home at that time, so I started stealing money from his pockets a year in advance and dinging it in a shoe box.

     My pretext was a lunch for our houseboat crew. Bill was not at all pleased. “I have to turn in grades,” he grumbled. I persisted. I stored food in our neighbors’ freezer and lied about goodies stored in ours, saying that they were for one of Vicki’s friends. The sewer backed up in the basement two days before the party. I had exhausted my checking account and spent the shoebox full of cash on food and alcohol but talked the plumber into coming anyway.

     My dear little mother who was staying with us during an illness and Vicki were there. After lunch, Bill wondered why one of our friends was vacuuming the dining room rug while others were washing dishes and clearing away. He suspected nothing until he saw Ruth Hester, an elderly colleague who had retired, coming up the front walk.

     I had invited nearly a hundered people, and out house was filled with good food and drink and laughter and hugs and exclamations of pleasure from people who hadn’t seen each other recently. No one who was there will forget a former colleague’s gift. Lucy’s husband carried in a big platter covered by a towel. She said, “Now Bill, I don’t want you to feel that you’ve reached fifty without ever getting ahead.”

     She whisked off the towel: Picture the dressed-up guests’ exclamations of horror at the sight of a dead boar’s head: “Eek!” “How awful!” “Gag!” “Lucy, I’m going to kill you!”

Surprise! Boars Head
Surprise! Boars Head

SETTING  OUT

People eat fast food in their cars as they rush hither and thither to sporting event, practices and meetings. Our “must-do,” jam-packed, frenetic activity is stress making and no more productive than more leisurely eras. We are so busy doing that we pay little heed to truly living.

     Vicki loved to have luch at Ayres Tea Room because they made it a really special experience with coloring books, crayons, a present from a treasure chest, sandwiches served in a hobo bandana, and pretty ice crea confections – ballerinas, clowns and such. These days many people probably don’t have time for long lunches with little kids.

     Another of her favorite meals was Sunday evening candlelit high tea, a custom that Bill inherited from his parents. The food was mainly leftovers, supplemented by little thin sandwiches and snacks. What made it special was that it was served on the best china with the silver tea service and sterling silver.

     Reading the Mitford books by Jan Karon is like taking a refreshing little mental journey to a more tranquil place. the protagonist, a sixty-something Episcopal priest, is always up to his clerical collar in endless to-do lists. His wife, a famous author and illustrator of childrens books, stuggles with deadlines.

     They start taking domestic retreats – little breaks away from the demands of their individual lives. These are simple things such as taking a walk and having a picnic of champagne and peaches served with crys-tal glasses and linen napkins, One evening they were so exhausted and stressed out that they ordered Chinese, locked their bedroom door and ate while reclining on their bed.

     Two of the characters are Miss Sadie, Mitfords richest resident, and Louella, her life-long companion. Miss Sadie has grown old and is no longer able to cook, but won’t admit it. Louella complains to Father Tim, “Miss Sadie don’t cook no more. She just sets out. She sets out white bread and bologna.”

     Quite by accident Bill and I started a Friday evening custom that we call “Setting out.” Friends came to spend the weekend. We were too busy to cook and too tired to fight the Friday night crowds at restaurants. I bought snacks, frozen hors d’oeuvre, cheeses, and chopped up tomatoes and toasted Italian bread for bruschetta. Bill and Jean arrived bearing a gift of chilled champagne.

     “We’re setting out.” I told them the sotry about Miss Sadie and Louella. We put on our pajamas, pulled comfortable chairs close together and at from TV trays. We drank many toasts and ate bruschetta while a frozen hors d’oeuvre baked. When the timer would go off one of us would take out an appetizer and put a new one in the oven. What a relaxing time that was: good friends, savory morsels, champagne and conversation!

     From that Friday evening was born a satisfying custom. The assortment upon which we graze varies: my favorite miniature quiches, mozzarella sticks, quesadillas, miniature pizzas, egg rolls, crusty French bread and cheese… I can hear our physician clucking! Obviously, this is not a health food diet!

     We guard this jealously and fend off the telephone calls and items from our lengthy must-do list which try to over-run it. The Friday eve-ning setting out has become a sacrosanct part of our busy calendar. It is something that we plan for and count on

     Ordinary customs as well as the splendid ones such as Christmas celebrations enhance our lives. We need to take a close look at what we are doing in our lives and make more room for quiet times of intimacy with our spouses and out friends.

MY  OTHER  MOTHER

Bill and I agreed that there would be none of that “mother-in-law stuff.” I was blessed in having Bill’s darling mother for eight years. She was a petite woman with flashing eyes and batty eyelashes. She was very meticulous, and my mother who loved her dearly called her “fixy.” She was always busy doing something so that when she came to visit for a week or two at a time, I told her, “Do whatever you want as if you were at home while we’re at school.” That’s the only time in our married lives when my bras, underpants and Bill’s shorts were ironed! An expert seamstress, she altered my clothing.

     She certainly was nothing like her demanding, bossy Tartar of a mother-in-law who came from England to visit for a whole year. “What? You’re putting sage in the stuffing? One does not put sage in the stuffing. One uses parsley!”

     Our mothers never competed or sulked.

     Bill’s mother delighted in teaching me how to prepare his favor-ites such as standing rib roast and Yorkshire pudding. She told me the secret ingredint in her turkey stuffing: “add a little liquor left in the bottom of the roaster that you baked the ham in.” The stuffing was delicious, but I overdid. It gave both of our mothers indigestion!

     I heard a young newlywed sneer about how her mother-in-law had asked if she’d like to learn how to cook her husband’s favorite dishes. “I told her in no uncertain terms that as a liberated woman I had better uses for my time.” I feel a warm glow when I remember the times that Bill’s mother and I cooked together.

     She was very frugal. Her parents took in parentless children, but were very poor. Their kitchen was wallpapered with newspapers. Bill’s father came here from England because he was a younger son, and ther ewas no opportunity there for him. When he was in the money they lived in a grand house, and Bill’s mother had a maid and lovely evening gowns.

     When disaster struck they lost the house and spent their last even-ing there, sitting on packing crates and drinking their last bottle of Champagne. That Christmas she cut up her silk and satin gowns and made fancy lingerie for Bill’s sister Joyce, who was in high school.

     Our mothers lived by the adage, “Make do, use it up, wear it out.” Watching her open Christmas presents was a maddening experience because she carefully peeled off the take and removed the paper that she ironed and recycled. (We found over 50 margarine tubs after my mother’s death.)

     Bill’s sister-in-law, Esther said, “Mom Clarke was never flustered when unexpected people showed up at mealtime. She’d  go out in the garden, pick some things, get into the pantry and turn out a feast.”

     Traveling brings out the best or worst in people. She went with us when we drove to California to attend a wedding. She took travelling with six-month old Vicki in a car with no air conditioning in her stride. The car broke down near the top of a mountain in the wilds of Utah. Bill decided that the only thing to do was to release the brake and roll back down to a villiage. He noticed that his mother was intently watching out the back window and asked if she was scared. “No, I’m not scared, but if I’m going over a precipice, I want to see where I’m going!”

     Before Bill and I left on a trip to revisit some of the places that we had loved and travel down through the strata of our time to our early days together, I got out an old album of pictures of that trip. There she is in a yellowing snapshot, standing on the edge of Cedar Breaks National Monument in sourther Utah.

     Bill and I went back to Cedar Breaks. As I stood there where we had stood so close together forty-five years ago, I was two people: the twenty something Rose Mary standing with her beloved second mother who lives on in memory and the Rose Mary of today who – must I admit it? – is growing old in her turn.

HOPING

People used to warble a song about how happy “Mollie and me – and baby makes three” – were in their “blue Heaven, a little nest that’s nestled where the roses bloom.” It was taken for granted that most girls would marry soon after high school. 

     Marriage was a real vocation for which a girl began planning even before she started dating. She had no idea of whom she would marry. She just assumed that one day she would marry and raise a family in a little nest for which she and her prince charming and patiently saved and worked.       

     Many girls started hope chests. (some jokingly called it their “hopeless chest.”) Those chests symbolized dreams and longings. Girls were proud of the various items that they collected for when they set up housekeeping. Do people even talk about setting up housekeeping these days?

     Figuring that I was hopeless, I never started a hope chest. I consulted Clara Keesling Donaldson a high school girlfriend. “Oh my, yes! I most certainly do still have my hoe chest. It holds my treasures.” She received her Lane cedar chest as a Christmas gift when she was fourteen.

     It represented the effort of three generations of the women of her family, and even her father who gave her a Sunbeam toaster that she used for nearly fifty years. Her hope chest contains the story of the lives of many women of those days.

     She treasures a set of tea towels that her grandmother Darling embroidered. My mother and manty other housewives lived according to schedules of chores similar to that listed on these towels: Monday – washing; Tuesday – ironing; Wednesday – cleaning; Thursday – sewing; Friday – grocery day; Saturday – baking; Sunday – church and family dinner. My mother did the washing in a wringer washer, hung it to dry out on a line, and always cooked bean soup that she didn’t have to watch. Before I was born she used a washboard.

     Clara periodically looks through the precious gifts so lovingly crafted such as items that her grandmother Keesling crocheted. During the years just after World War II, my mother and sisters crocheted doilies that looked like veritable confections of spun sugar – stiffly starched, layer upon layer that were six or eight inches high. Flat doilies covered the arms and backs of chairs to protect them from wear and men’s hair tonic. These days, we’d just buy new furniture!  

Isabel, Clara’s mother, contributed potholders, cookbooks and aprons. Clara still uses a quilt made by one of her grandmothers. She accumulated aluminum measuring cups in different colors, mixing  bowls, a roaster, cast iron skillets and copper-bottomed Revere Ware pans that she bought through a club and still uses. I prize my grandmother’s cast iron skillets that stainless steel and Teflon cannot equal. Some of my other acquaintances belonged to a silverware club.

     Some brides assembled trousseaux of clothing to last them through the first year of marriage. Finally after all the years of saving, hoping, dreaming and the engagement that often lasted a year, the great day arrived. “Destination” weddings were unheard of. Weddings featured solos such as “Because” (God made thee mine) and “The Lord’s Prayer.” Receptions held in the church basements were simple affairs of line sherbet and 7-Up.

     The bride and groom opened presents in front of the guests – an exhausting process, bit gratifying to the givers. After the bride changed into her “going-away” outfit that included a hat, gloves and corsage, their car was followed through town by a cavalcade of honking cars. Moral codes have changed since that era, and it isn’t unusual for the housekeeping and “baby-makes-three” to come before the wedding.

     Not all of those girls’ hopes came to pass. Here’s the poignant sotry of a ceceased, unmarried relative: Her heirs found her hope chest full of the stuff of her girlish dreams that she had optimistally saved up so long ago for the great day that never came…

In The Studio | Ramblings by Rose Mary

Love  And  Marriage,  Friends And Family

Henry David Thoreau was turned down by a woman whom he loved until his death. He said that the only cure for love was to love more.

     Can anything compare to a companionable spouse and family? How fortunate I’ve been – not only in having my own family, but Bill’s! The older I become, the more that I have realized that I have many acquaintances, but very few friends. Below are some of Thoreau’s words about friendship:

Friends cherish one another. They are kind to one another’s dreams

Friendship is a miracel… It is an exercise of the purest impagination and of the rearst faith.

The most I can do for my friend is simply to be his friend.

Be true to your work, your word and your friend.

MEMOIRS  OF  A  BEAST  OF  BURDEN -THE  NEWLYWEDS-

As a Realtor, I took great pleasure from visiting homes. It warmed my heart to see the looks of pride and affection on the faces of couples when they showed off their various do-it-yourself projects. They’d say, “We papered this room ourselves!” or “Bob is such a good plumber!” or “Betty made the curtains!” As I watched their smug pride, I smiled when I visualize what really went on during their efforts.  

     My speculations were confirmed by my sister Christine. Orville had once worked as a carpenter and did all of their remodeling with Christine as his helper. she especially hated to help hang wall paper. It was, “Christine! Too much paste! Too much paste!” or “Not enough paste, not enough paste! Must you slop paste on the good side of the paper?… Christine! You’ve cut it too short again! Too long, too long!”

     My initiation took place soon after our marriage when we bought a new refrigerator and decided to move the old one to the basement. I said, “We’ll get a couple of friends to help.” We don’t need help; we can do it ourselves.” I have heard this phrase all during the years of our marriage. Self-reliance is the trait of a do-it-yourselfer. “Don’t worry! I have a plan.” Another phrase I’ve often heard during our marriage. “You just help me push the refrigerator to the basement door.”

     There was much grunting, moaning and panting interspersed with “Left, Rose Mary. You’re pushing it to the right. Left, left, left!” “Whose left,” I yelled. “Yours or mine?”

     We manhandled the fridge to the basement door where we discovered that it was half an inch too wide. Sighing, Bill said, “Help me back it up-I’ll have to take the door off.”

     He announced the plan: “I’ll tie this nice thick rope that I’ve been keeping in the trunk of the car around the fridge. Then we’ll lay it on its back and lower it down the stairs.” He paid no attention to my query about the age of the rope. While we were laying it down, he yelled, “My toe! That was my toe! You always turn loose of things too soon!” True, this has been one of my many shortcomings.

     Bill sat on the floor with his legs extended on either side of the fridge. “Now, I’ll brace my feet against the sides of the doorway, and then we’ll let it down. Now, we’ll push it gently and slowly… Easy… easy, dear…That’s it!” Thus encouraged, I gave it a really hard shove. The rope broke with a large snap, followed by and awful grinding noise and a loud bang. As I left to go to the bedroom, the last thing I saw was Bill, mouth agape, and holding a frayed piece of rope. I went to the bedroom because even the stupidest wife of a do-it-yourselfer know better than to laugh in front of him. The fridge still worked perfectly. Why is it that his stuff always turns out fine, but my botches – such as the time I cut the curtains two inches short – can’t be fixed?

MEMOIRS  OF  A  BEAST  OF  BURDEN -THAT  OLD  HOUSE-

We decided to buy “our very own home.” Since I had left teaching, we couldn’t afford much. We found a turn-of-the-century, four-bedroom house on N. Ritter that was in an estate. It was a “charmer” with big rooms, two fireplaces, two window seats, hardwoods natural woodwork.

     You understand, Rose Mary, we won’t be able to hire help. We’ll have to do everything ourselves.”

     We learned about Caveat emptor – let the buyer beware – two hours before closing when the Realtor told us that someone had broken off a water faucet upstairs so that the water had run all over the house. He said, “It’ll be a better house than it was before.”  We used a steamer and a razor blade to remove the paint-soaked wallpaper. Termites swarmed; We hadn’t known enough to ask for a clear termite report. The down-stairs woodwork had to be stripped and refinished because of boiling water from the steamer. Since I had no fix – it talents, my lot became such things as the dull chore of filling cracks in the plaster.

     We got through that first year with a minimum of bickering. Now it was time to tackle major remodeling. First, as a sort of hors d’oeuvre that might have left Bill hors de combat, he decided to paint the topmost trim of the three-story house. The ladder wouldn’t reach that height, so he positioned it on the porch roof. I was certain that I’d be a widow by evening. Bill looked down and saw me crying. “Are you crying? Well how do you think that makes me feel. Stop it right now!” That wasn’t the last time that I shed tears.

     The kitchen ceiling was ready to tumble down. No one should be admitted to the brotherhood of do-it-yourselfers until they’ve knocked down and replaced a plaster ceiling. Heavy chunks of plaster danger-ously come crashing down, and soot like dirt and grit fill the air and penetrate your eyes, your hair and clothing. It took one evening to knock down the plaster and several days to clean everything in the house.

     Next sheets of plasterboard had to be carried in. Plasterboard is limber, heavy and fragile. “Now we must be very careful not to knock off the corners, Dear,”  Bill said in the most patient, husbandly voice.

Bet me!

     I asked how we were going to get the sheets of plasterboard up to the nine-foot-tall ceiling. Ignoring my suggestion that we needed help, Bill announced his plan: He brought in a big “T” that he’d nailed together out of two-by-fours. He said, “I’ll climb the ladder with a sheet of plasterboard and hold it against the ceiling. You hoist the other end up, using the “T” to brace it, and I’ll nail it in place.

     He went up the ladder: “Now!” he yelled. “Get your end under the “T”! Hurry!” It was impossible to hurry with a heavy nine-foot two-by-four in a small kitchen. “Hurry!” he moaned.

     “I’m hurrying, I’m hurrying.”

     He shrieked, “Get it straight!” Husband, plasterboard and “T” made a rapid descent. Leaning against the wall, he said quietly, “It was my intent that you would lift your end and brace it rather than knocking me off the ladder with my cross.” Resignedly, “Lets start over.”

     Finally I said, “I simply cannot manage a nine-foot-long two-by-four. Let me be the beast of burden and go up the ladder while you manage the board.”

     Weak-kneed, I got half way up the ladder.

     “Are you ok, hon?”

     “Don’t talk to me – just hurry!” I screeched. At last the first board was in place. Bill came up the ladder and nailed it. The second sheet was easier. I stumbled up the ladder with the third sheet that had one inch cut off it to fit as it butted against the wall. Bill braced his end while I balanced mine against the ceiling with my head since my arms were as limp as spaghetti. It overlapped the preceeding board.

I said, “It doesn’t fit,”

“Push it over.”

I pushed. “No good.”

“It has to fit!” he roared.

I yelled, “It doesn’t.”

He joined me on the ladder.

     “Sigh… You’re right; it’s a quarter of an inch too wide at this end. The ceiling is crooked.” There’s no such thing as a straight line in an old house. From that point on, every sheet had to be taken up, marked and taken back down and cut before being installed.

     I was grateful when our neighbor brought in a pitcher of lemon-aid. However, I suspected that she came to gloat just as I had done when her husband, a professional carpet installer, yelled “Damn it Linda! You tracked adhesive all over the new tiles.”

     Our worst argument cam when Bill decided to move a big cedar wardrobe our predecessors had left in the attic and turn it into a backyard playhouse for Vicki. “We’ll never get this thing down these narrow stairs. It’s too heavy.”

“Don’t let it slip! Don’t let it fall on me!”

“I can’t hold it much longer.”

“Don’t you dare let go!”

At last, after grunting, pushing and pulling, we were at the bottom of the narrow stairs. The wardrobe was wedged like a cork in a bottle.

I said from my position up in the stairway, “I thought you said you measured it.”

“I did measure it,” Bill yelled. “It’s half and inch too wide.”

“Now what are you going to do?” I snarled. “I don’t have time to be stuck in the attic all day.”

He said, “I don’t know what I’m going to do.” Later: “You have to do something soon because I have to use the bathroom.” (This has been the norm during the most difficult times.)

Eventually he had to cut it in two with a saw in order to move it. By this time, he was so angry with me that he wouldn’t even let me help him carry it out. “Obviously, you did not wish to help me. I’ll do it myself.” When he heard that I was writing about our fix-up experiences, he said, “You’re going to include the wardrobe story, aren’t you?” After all these years, he isn’t angry anymore, but I’m not so sure about me!

BATS  IN  OUR  BELFRY  AND  SPIDERS IN OUR BATH

During the first summer we were married, en route to California we arrived in Las Vegas at 2:00 AM and stopped at the first available motel. I noticed that the door didn’t fit tightly. Las Vegas is in the desert, and in the desert live tarantulas. “Don’t worry!” said Bill.

     While I was brushing my teeth I saw out of the corner of my eye large black shapes hopping around. “Spiders!”  I shrieked. “Spiders in the bathroom!” I lunged out of the bathroom, tripped and fell onto our heavy suitcase.

     “For heaven’s sake! Rose Mary, those are not spiders; they’re crickets!”

     “I don’t care. If crickets can get in so can tarantulas.”

     “Rose Mary, there are no tarantulas here. Crickets wouldn’t stay anywhere near tarantulas. Anyway, Hon, tarantulas are shy creatures and much more frightened of you than you are of them,” he informed me in his most patient, most husbandly voice.

     Go tell it to the marines!  

     “… Look what you’ve done!” I had broken the latch on our Samsonite suitcase that was advertised as being indestructible.

     I discovered that the Clarke family is not invincible. One night I met Bill hustling along as he returned from a campground restroom. He had his jacket pulled up over his head. “What’s going on?”

     “Bats!” Bats flying around the light! No Clarke can stand ‘em. They get in your hair, lay eggs and drive you crazy!” 

     “Pooh! That’s just an old wives’ tale. Bats have sonar, A bat won’t run into you unless it’s ill.”

     “Yeah that means it’s rabid.”

     In my most soothing voice I said, “Dear that’s highly unlikely. Bats are very beneficial. They eat tons of mosquitoes, Actually, a bat is just a mouse with wings.” Ever the linguist, I instructed, “In fact the Berman word is Fledermaus – flying mouse.”

     “I don’t want to hear about it.”

     Bill has an ashtray that says, “Don’t confuse me with the facts!” We know that our phobias are illogical. We developed a mutual defense pact. Fortunately, we are phobic about the same things!  

     I dreaded it when there was a bat in our Irvington house because I knew whose job it was to get rid of it. Bill’s brother–in–law, playing chivalrous knight to Bill’s sister’s damsel in distress, whopped bats with a tennis racket which their sonar doesn’t detect. After reading this essay, one of Bill’s nephews said, “Why do you think we keep a tennis racket on each side of our bed?” Bill’s teenage nephew and he carefully calculated the ricochet and shot a bat in the basement with a .22!

     Knowing that bats can be rabid, I carried an open umbrella for protection while going through my bat drill. I proceeded from room to room, turning off lights behind the intruder until, continually attracted to light, it’d fly out the the porch light. I was probably considered a neigh-borhood eccentric by those who saw me wantering around under an imbrella in our house at night while Bill watched through the window.

     One summer night the sheet under which we were sleeping went SWOOSH! “What’s going on?” I yelled.

     Next to me lay a mummy-like figure. “Bat!Bat!”

     “Dear you’re just dreaming,” I said in my honeyed tone, hoping he’d go back to sleep so I wouldn’t have to get up at 3:00 AM. I lay there, staring at the white ceiling. Sure enough, a black shape cam fluttering through.

     “There too is a bat!”

     “All right, all right, I’m getting up,” I grumbled.

     One night after we came home from a movie I was making coffee. I heard a faint voice from upstairs:

     “Rose Mary…”

“What?”

Mumble, Mumble: “Rose Mary…”

“Well what?”

“Bat, bat!”

“Where are you?”

“…closet.”

I leisurely started the bat drill. “Rose Mary…hurry!”

“You’ll have to be patient”

Faintly: “I have to use the bathrooom!”

We camped in Colorado at a campground that had pit toilets. One evening at dusk, there were long, long legs on the wall. I sidled out and ran to Bill. Not wanting to pass my fear onto Vicki, I whispered breathlessly, “You know those things I don’t like? There’s a really mammoth one in the women’s toilet.”

     “Well, what do you expect me to do? I cannot go in there.”

     “You have to. If you don’t I’ll never be able to go in there again! PLEASE!” Urgent whisper: “I swear to God it’s a trantula.”

     “Oh for heaven’s sake. All right, I’m coming.” When he came out he was laughing so hard that he could barely speak. “Come here and look.”

     “No!”

     He yanked me into the toilet and shined the flashlight on the wall. “Your tarantual is nothing but a knothoke with a bunch of cracks around it.”

     Red-faced, I said “Well , it sure looks real, doesn’t it? could have fooled anyone!”

     One night Jean, Sherry and Hal were sleeping in the main cabin of the houseboat. Jean sensed something flying back and forth above her face. She turned on the light. Bat! Like a pair of ghosts, she and Sherry stood with sheets over their heads while a sleepy Hal tried unsuccessfully to find the bat. The next day they lied to Bill and told him that it had flown out.

     We don’t have bats in our current home, but Bill still has to defend me against spiders. Last summer I stood on a bench while Bill whopped a huge one with the fly swatter! Mother swooped spiders up in towels and flung towel and all into the yard. Sometimes there were two or three towels out there until she figured the spiders had decamped. Vicki didn’t inherit our phobias. Instead she’s afraid of snakes. Go figure!

I  CAN  STILL  HEAR  THEIR   VOICES

The night grows late. If we’re at Bill’s sister Pat’s house, she plays the piano. Glasses are lifted, and voices are raised in one song: Bill’s brother Rick says, “Here’s a good one.” He warbles “I’ve got a girl just like the girl who married dear old Dad.” Next the Do-wah’s perform, using whisks and kitchen spoons as microphones. Composed of Bill and his nephews and nieces, the group originated during a Qualifications weekend house party at our house. “Gonna’ take a sentimental journey…” Rick’s wife Esther, starts “Grandma’s Lye Soap,” followed by a Michigander song about a little Dutchman, Johnny Brubeck who ground up all the neighbor’s cats and dogs in his sausage machine. On through the repertoire that includes English songs taught by Bill’s father and later songs such as “The Mashed Potato” and “Blowin’ In The Wind.” Vicki who’s up way past her bedtime keeps asking, “When are they going to do it?” Children attend what Vicki called “Clarke Parties” because there are no dirty jokes or swearing. At last Bill’s brother, Jack begins, “Oh I’ve got a lovely bunch of coconuts….” and leads a conga line around through the house.

     Parties at Joyce’s home included political debates that Bill, Joyce and their brother, Lex, loved. Lex’s wife, Sally, and several others detested them. One memorable night, to get his turn, Bill stood on a chair and yelled, “I have the floor!” Bill and I went to bed at 3:00 AM on cots in the back room that adjoined the kitchen. He awakened me at 6:00, wailing plaintively, “Rose Mary, can you cope?” One whole side of his head was white. Vicki had emptied Joyce’s sugar and flour canisters on him.

     My family played cards. Dad and Mom played bridge with Earl and Toots, and Dad and my brother Earl, played cribbage. The family gathered for Sunday afternoon poker parties. I remember still lying in bed and hearing my Uncle Ivan or Aunt Nola shout, “Pedro!” or Mary Beck yell, “Shoot the moon!: My mother, sisters, nieces and I played Canasta. The dialogue was always, “Pass me some of those chips,” interspersed with “I’ve seen better hands on a horse!” or “Please don’t go out!” I invented The Whiners and the Diners Society with Christine as President (POW), Beverly as Secretary (SOW) and Virginia as Chaplain (CHOW).

     I hear out people still, singing, arguing and shouting…

THE  GREAT  SHOE  HUNT

“I say, beware of all enterprises that require new clothes!”

Henry David Thoreau – Walden

Since Vicki is a mature woman, I had none of the usual mother-of- the bride duties or dithers when she and Tom had a big church wedding. Ah! There was none of the snipping and sniping that sometimes happens between the stressed bride and mother.

     Bill said in April, “Shouldn’t you start looking for something to wear?”

     “There’s plenty of time,” Translation: I was hoping to lose weight since I’d added a gress size – let’s be honest and make that two – since we were married.

     Shopper Vicki offered to help. We hit Von Maur first and found a glitzy top to be worn with white jeans at the rehersal. Then we found a chanpagne-colored suit at Penny’s. By this time, exhaustion had set in; and our toungs were hanging out. I treated us to margaritas followed by a pedicure. Ah, the life of a sybarite shared with a companionable daughter is delightful!

     Next came shoes. Jean offered to go shoe shopping with me at Nordstom. Jean can find five or six pairs of adorable shoes for under $20 a pair. She had no idea of what was to come.

     Not for me Mosstsies Tootsies and other cute, inexpensive shoes in a variety of colors. I never ask for a certain style or color. Instead, I say, “Please bring out whatever you have.” And then I take what I get or leave the store once abain with no shoes! Understanding that my shoes are rediculously expensive, Bill gave me $150 for my birthday.

     Nordstrom prides itself on its huge selection of shoes. The nice clerk asked by size. “Eleven five-A.” The length is bad enough, but five-A with a seven-A heel is impossible. He flinched, but finally produced a few boxes. Ooh! There was this darling pair of gold, mid-heel sandals for only $65. Oh how I wanted those shoes! I took a few steps. They were just a teensy bit too wide so that my toes slid out over the edge of the sole. Sigh….

     Cathy the cartoon character, is packing for vacation. Clutching a pair of shoes to her bosom, she exclaims, “Leave these behind? NEVER!… I love these!… The minute I saw them, I dreamed of the places we’d go together… Every desitnation requires these. I couldn’t leave them! I’ll never leave them!” He husband things, “Just once, I’d like to have the same grip on her heart as her metallic gladiator shoes.”

     Shoes satisfy something in the feminine psyche. Not so with males. If the average man has a pair each of brown and black dress shoes, athletic shoes and perhaps sandals, he is content. Bill says “I don’t see what the big deal is. No shoe is an object of beauty.” Tell that to Jean or Oprah!

     Everyone longs to be “in.” Shoes were just another way in which I was out. All that my long suffering mother could find were Buster Brown Girl Scout shoes that I despised. Oh how I wept when I couldn’t have patent leather Mary Janes to wear for Easter. “I won’t go to church!”

     “Oh yes you will! And I’ve had just about enough of this, Miss!” Picture little Rose Mary in a pink, lace-trimmed dress, had, white gloves and ugly, brown lace-up shoes! I just knew that everyone in church was looking at my feet. The low point was when I had to wear boys’ black basketball shoes for gym long before it was fashionable for females to wear them. Sobbing, I wailed, “Why can’t you cut my toes off?”

THE  GREAT  SHOE  HUNT – CONTINUED – 

          “Lets try here, “ Jean suggested at a small shop.

“Ok but it won’t work,” Nada!

Carson Pirie Scott had nothing.

     When I was twelve Mother discovered Stout’s Shoe Store in Indi-anapolis – oh blessed day! I remember perfectly my first pair of pretty shoes – black suede, sling-back flats with a flower design cut out of the tip. “We’ll try Stout’s, and if they don’t have something, I’ll paint a pair of my old shoes.”

     “Now Rose!”

     “I’m not kidding. I painted a pair of shoes silver and wore them for ten years!”

     Most of the six pairs of shoes at Stout’s were business or old ladies’ shoes. However, there was a stylish pair with straps of a varigated pattern. “Ooh what gorgeous shoes!” exclaimed Jean. The straps were secured with Velcro that could be pulled tight so that my long toes wouldn’t slip out the end.

     Only a woman will understand that I was stricken with shoe lust. I bought those shoes, and only my closest friends and relatives know how much I paid for them. Put it this way, Bill’s gift wasn’t enough.

     We went for a celebratory glass of wine. Jean call friend Jana: “This woman is shurely one of the most hard-to-fit woen in America.” By the time we got home, I was guilt-stricken at having spent more than I’ve ever paid for clothing, including my best business suits and coats. Bill said, “Rose Mary, don’t foret that you had to pay $50 for shoes many years ago.”

     After the wedding, Jeans husband, Bill, said, “Love your shoes! I saw them when you walked down the aisle.”

     Friend Jim said, “You should tell Bill that you want to be buried in those shoes.” Now, of course, I’m afraid to wear the darn things!

     Next came the pantyhose debacle: I bought two pairs of ultra sheer hose. Wisely I tried them on in advance. I couldn’t get the ones with a control top past my thighs. The others were too short. During dinner a third pair slid down to the middle ofmy belly, and its waistband was rollled up and cut into my flab so that I was in agony. What women do for style!

     I should have listened to Thoreau.

A  Year  Later

     Jean called with some important statistics. She decided that she had too many shoes and was calling with the results.

     Jean is a spiritual sister of Oprah, a major shoe maven. Oprah called in a professional organizer to help her purge her huge closet. The organizer asked about a fancy pair of high-heeled boots. Oprah admitted that she never wore them, and the organizer suggested that they be put with the clothes that were going to be auctioned off for charity. “I can’t get rid of these, “ Oprah replied. “They’re closet art!”

     Jean told me what a delightful experience it was going through her boxes and boxes and boxes of shoes: “I had such fun. I’d open a box and say to myself, ‘Oh! These are so cute!’ I had even forgotten some of my shoes.”

     Here are the statistics:

Thrown away                    2 pairs

Donated to charity             4 pairs

Athletic shoes                    4 pairs

Winter                              27 pairs

Summer                            44 pairs

     I mentioned that one of our mutual friends has only eight pairs of shoes. Jean replied, “There is something wrong with any woman who wears a normal size and has only eight pairs of shoes!” Friend Leslie Bady has Jean beat! After reading this, she got rid of 65 pairs of shoes!

In The Studio |The Zentangle Method®

All Things Related To The Zentangle Method®

9 April 2021

This past month I worked on a couple of my “challenged” tiles adding to my #nomistakes collection. However, most of my time has been spent working on Zentangle® Project Pack #13. You can check out the process of one of my #13 tiles here and all of the series in my portfolio.

Project Pack 13 Day 7
Project Pack 13 Day 7

Project Packs are a little like a surprise package or subscription box without a subscription. To loosely quote Forrest Gump “….you never know what you’re gonna get,” until you either order the pack or wait until after the Project Pack and free video has been launched and gather your own supplies. We are encouraged by the folks at Zentangle® to be creative and find a way to create even when it comes to project packs. This is one of the reasons I became a certified teacher (CZT®).

Each pack contains something to draw on such as Zentangle® tiles and the tools needed for the various projects related to the theme for that pack. They are created as a limited series… once they’re sold out they’re gone. However, the great news is, you can and are encouraged, to gather the supplies in each one and follow along with Rick, Maria, Martha and Molly with their free video’s.

The theme for Project Pack #13 was “Transitions.”

“Times of transition challenge us, make us stronger and create beautiful seams in the space between what was and what is to be. As we embrace all the stages of our journey one might also notice that our lives are not linear but rather filled with over lapping layers of experiences that are constantly changing and morphing.”

Zentangle.com

In my case, I chose to use what I had on hand because I had everything needed but a Generals Sketch & Wash pencil and was out of Phi tiles. I created my own tiles using watercolor paper and used a watercolor pencil instead. In this project pack transitions were expressed by moving from a background to foreground and from one tangle to the next. While waiting on my student to arrive for a black tile class, I was working on the tile shown here:

Project Pack 13 Day 3
Project Pack 13 Day 3

When my student arrived, she was excited to see what I had been working on and wanted to try making a variation. We explored the transitions between layers and use of the different tools and colors, transitioning from brown through yellow using a Sakura Glaze gel, watercolor pencils, and Sakura micron PN to create our sunflowers.  

Project Pack #13 Day 3 Class
Project Pack #13 Day 3 Class

While we waited for our “sunflower” tiles to dry we worked on black tiles as we’d planned using Sakura white gel, and white chalk. Tangles used were a type of Diva Dance, Hollibaugh, Tipple and Tortuca.

Black Tile Class 2

Lets Make Something Great Together!

In The Studio | The First Friday

A Review of the Past Month

2 April 2021

While reflecting on this past month I discovered an answer to a question I once asked my Mom, who wrote a weekly column for a couple of local papers, about how she was connected to so many people. She didn’t really have an answer so this is what I think. When we take the time to get to know even a little bit about another person the opportunity to forge new acquaintances and friendships happens. In February you got to meet Featured Artist Chaz Chiafos and last week you got to meet my Featured Artist for March – Sue Dill.

In both cases we have maintained some form of communication. Chaz made sure that I got signed up for his pages on Facebook and signed up for mine. We both follow each other’s progress periodically providing “likes and hearts.” When I drive past his workshop I smile when I see what he’s up to and that other folks have stopped in. Most recently he’s created a painted parrot and a pink flamingo!

In Sue’s case our conversations are via email as she has a voice disorder (why she retired from teaching) and I am hearing impaired. We both chuckled over my comment about “My aren’t we a pair!” She invited me to the White County Art Alliance page on Facebook and we have shared information about our families and things that fascinate us about creativity.

What I’ve actually been up to is mostly working on my Ramblings project (watch for an announcement) and trying to get a little ahead on future blogs so that when the weather is nice – and not muddy – I can spend more time doing the outside things I love such as boating with my hubby Tom as well as what I must do such as yardwork. Tom, Snickers, Lily and I have been taking some walks and learning our “good dog” commands. Last week Snickers got loose in the yard and managed to go down the hill towards our bay which is not fenced. She may have been unable to stop because she came up the shorefront steps soaking wet. She’s a Labrador and only aged two so it didn’t faze her much!

I’ve also been dreaming… there is a saying by Walt Disney, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” In a recent issue of The Artists Magazine there was an article about other artists who have created artwork depicting their current studio or one they have visualized. I spent a couple of days in my porch studio looking at tiny houses and sheds dreaming… configuring… and putting some ideas on paper.

Last year I commandeered Tom’s “mower” shed for storage…. decorations… furniture…. overflow art supplies… my garden tools… my hand and power tools making it my “she shed.” Needless to say, his response to my “Art shed” dream was “Why don’t you use your she shed.” Of course, my response was “No windows, no heat, no AC! Not enough room, it’s too small to be used as a ‘she’ AND ‘art’ shed!” However, this did give me some food for thought so I’ll be going back to the drawing board on this idea. Maybe I should give him back his shed and commandeer the 2 ½ car garage instead!

Lets Make Something Great Together!

In The Studio | Featured Artist

Karen Sue Dill

Hi there and welcome back to my Featured Artist blog. Last month I put out a call to area artist from White County, Indiana on Facebook and got quite a few responses! I still have some open slots left for White County, Indiana 2-D and 3-D artist as well as artisans/makers. Contact me if you’d like to be featured.

Does the name (Karen) Sue Dill sound familiar to you? Although Sue has spent a great deal of her life in Delphi and Lafayette Indiana areas, her connection to White County is that she was a North White Jr. and Sr. High School art teacher starting in 1998 until she retired in 2015 due to an issue involving her voice. While at North White in addition to teaching her students about art history, 2-D and 3-D art and exhibiting her students work locally and regionally she served as the Art Department Chairman.

Before Sue was an art teacher she was a homemaker and helped her husband farm. In her spare time Sue was a self-taught ceramicist as well as a wood carver. She fell in love with woodcarving after a trip to Branson, Missouri and saw the carvings created by Bob Robertson. You can read her story about this HERE

  • The Fur Trader Walnut 16" tall x 5" base NFS
  • Walnut 16" tall x 5" base NFS
  • Catching A Ride - Terra Cotta Clay and Paper clay lid, Acrylic finish $175.00
  • Catching A Ride Terra Cotta Clay Base and Paper clay lid, Acrylic finish $175.00
  • Catching A Ride $175.00

Also during this time, she was selling her ceramic work at a shop in Lafayette as well as competing in several wood carving venues where she won some major awards. After winning monetary awards for her work, she was no longer able to compete at amateur status. As a result, she felt that further education was needed to be able to be competitive with people who had art degrees.

Sue applied to Purdue University and was accepted into the Fine Arts program where she became extremely interested in Art Education. While working on a double major with a B.A. in Fine Arts and Art Education she was named Outstanding Senior in Art Education and awarded the Ralf Beelke Memorial Award for Excellence. Additionally, her work was published in a Purdue publication. After college she went on to teaching.

When Sue retired from teaching she became a self-employed professional free-lance artist creating commissioned work as well pursuing her own designs. Even though she is accomplished in all types of art media such as drawing, painting, print making, ceramics and wood carving Karen is especially drawn to 3-D work and likes to create sculptures inspired by what she sees, especially in nature.

Because she found wood carving somewhat limiting in what she could create Sue began working with other mediums and found that by using recycled paper, paper clay, cardboard and other nonconventional materials and techniques she got the results she was looking for. Sue has named this new body of work “Pulp Fiction Creations” which largely features animals.

This series has become an obsession inspired by the elusive beauty and wonder of Mother Nature. As an artist, I am compelled and inspired by these creatures, and beings, large and small, to recreate them as seen through my own eyes. I do this to honor them while at the same time allowing them their freedom to exist unfettered and unharmed.”

Pulp Fiction Creations
  • Blue Heron Mixed Media 17" Tall 10"x10" base $295.00
  • Blue Heron Mixed Media 17" Tall 10"x10" base $295.00
  • Blue Heron Mixed Media 17" Tall 10"x10" base $295.00
  • Bessie Paper Mache/Paper Clay/Acrylic $295.00
  • Bessie - Paper Mache/Paper Clay/Acrylic $295.00
  • Baby Sea Turtle 3 1/2" long Resin/Acrylic $25.00
  • Baby Sea Turtle
  • Baby Sea Turtle
  • Baby Sea Turtle 3 1/2" long Resin/Acrylic $25.00

You can view Sue’s other available work for sale in person at the Chapel Gallery in Delphi, Indiana

  • Relief Cut Print - The Contained Spirits Collection
  • Relief Cut Print - The Contained Spirits Collection

In The Studio |Ramblings by Rose Mary

Nature

I Have Lived For Nature

Henry David Thoreau wrote in Walden, “Let us spend one day as deliberately as Nature.” One of the reasons why his writing resonates so strongly with me is his deep appreciation of nature. When I sort through my internal photograph album and the columns that I’ve written I see that one of the most important things that I have lived for through all the seasons of my life is the beauty of nature.   

     The process of living – whether it’s the hermit crab’s moving into a new shell when it has outgrown an old one, the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly or the survival of the oldest thing living thing on Earth, a bristle cone pine named Methuselah, never ceases to amaze me. I am reminded that each life is unique and precious.

     Sarah Ward set us a planter of amaryllis bulbs that produced red flowers as large as saucers. There would be two flowers at the top of the stem and two buds that would grow alongside them until a tinge of red appeared, The the first blooms began to droop while the new ones opened. This seems so simple, and yet is so complex. An elegant mechanism must be built into the plant’s genes that directs old blooms to wilt at the proper time so that the sustenance goes to nourish the buds that they might reach glorious maturity.

     I have lived for meadows of wildflowers in the Teton and Rocky mountains, the risings and settings of the sun and for moonglow, I have lived for the call of the cardinal, the loon’s cry and the silvery trill of the wren. I have lived for the blues of the Mediterranean and the Pacific, the vastmess of the Grand Canyon, the vividly hued pinnacles of Bryce Canyon, the leaves of autumn, the snows of winter and daffodils nodding in the April breeze.

     Oh what treasures I’ve stored up in the mind’s eye and ear that are worth more than any amount of money in the bank!

17

UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL WITH NATURE

Up Close & Personal With Nature - Otter
Up Close & Personal With Nature – Otter

Above me it is beautiful,

Below me it is beautiful,

Before me it is beautiful,

Behind me it is beautiful,

All around me it is beautiful.

Listen to the quiet power of beauty.

Indian Chant

Ah, to be with nature! Picture this: Vicki and I are on the top deck of a houseboat on one of the lakes connected by streams that form the huge labyrinthine water-world of Voyageur National Park at the boundary of Minnesota and Canada. An eyebrow of sun peeps over the dense, dew-drenched forest that extends for miles. With the coming of daylight, the water turns blue/purple so that

I understand what Homer meant when he wrote about the wine-colored waters of the Mediterranean. Puffy clouds float on the blue vault of    Heaven. Below them the lake is a silver/blue mirror. It’s so beautiful that it clutches at my heart.

     Shh! Don’t say a word, don’t breathe. Listen to the quiet: Silence has its own unique quality just as do the notes of a symphony. The quietude and loveliness of this place soaks into the very core of my being where the secret Rose Mary dwells, and fill me with peace and serenity.

19

     Such moments of total oneness with the universe are rare, and I carefully examine, catalogue, and store them away so that I can replay my internal view of them in years to come: the scent of wild roses and clean dry earth on the Grand Canyon’s rim: sunrise turning Bryce Canyon’s pinnacles to flame; the pungent aroma of wild sage after a shower at Canyon de Chelly on the Navajo reservation; a wildflower-strewn meadow below the snowy peaks of my beloved Tetons where a moose browses next to a rushing brook into which a water ouzel dives; glorious sunrises and sunset over the ocean; the Adirondacks in autumn; the view of the Pacific from California’s coastal highway…

     The things remind me of the vastness and beauty of this land that is my heritage. A part of me will always dwell among them, stooping to examine a flower, listening to the lap-lap of waves or the wail of gulls, walking barefoot on the seashore…

     I put down my pen and listen with my whole being when a loon utters its wild, free call, I imagine myself as free as the creatures of this place. Perhaps I would soar on the empyrean like a gull or perch like a bald eagle on the tiptop of a pine, surveying my empire. I might stand with pelicans and cormorants on a rock, watching for whom I might devour or live deep in the forest with the shy wolves.

     We were thrilled when an otter swam into the little cove where our boat was moored, It would stick its head out of the water, look around and then with a graceful, arching back dive and resurface with a fish. It would float on its back like a baby with a bottle and devour bones and all, so close that we could hear it. “Crunch, crunch, crunch, munch, munch, munch!” Ah wilderness!

     Ouch! Paradise has its price, We have yet to encounter a snake in the Eden, but there must be ten thousand bugs for every human: spider, Mayflies, clouds of no-see-ums, huge mosquitoes and horrible black, stinging flies. The stores even sell net hats with nets like bee-keepers’ headgear. We agreed that we would never tent-camp here.

     I think that one of the most offensive and ignorant statements that I’ve ever heard was, “What does it matter if some birds or animals become extinct? We can look at them in zoos.” I may never see another otter or hear another loon, but the memory of them is stored in the center of my being and seeing them and the other creatures of this place-living free- has enriched me.

     Of course, I know that neither the loons nor the eagles nor the wolves nor I are entirely free. It’s nice to imagine that it were so…

20

A  PLACE  I’LL  ALWAYS  BE

Friends Bill and Jean asked what they should see out West. “Grand Teton National Park is one of the most beautify places in America!” Les Grands Tetons was slang used by French fur trappers who thought that the mountains resembles women’s breasts. Grands means big; you can figure out Tetons! Snow-capped peaks rise straight up out of pine forests. Blue lakes from a sapphire necklace at their feet. To the East are hills the the trappers named Gros Ventre-Big Belly.

     Bill called to say  that they were at Jenny Lake. I saw what they were seeing in my mind’s eye because Jenny Lake was one of our favorite places to camp. It always took me a long time to cook a meal on the Colman stove because I had to stop frequently to admire Grand Teton Mountain that rises up orver 14,000 feet.

     Down a hill next to the lake is a little grocery. The first time we were there, I thought that the place had been invaded by a nunch of hippies because unshave, barefoot, grubby guys lay sprawled on the porch and in the yard. Actually, there were exhausted climber, just down off the nountains and had removed their hiking boots to ease their feet. Jenny lake is a major trailhead. Climbing is taken seriously. Anyone caught climbing up on the mountainsides without a permit is fined. One summer three young men died when they were playing around on a glacier without using ice axes and slid off.

     We spent a week there with Bill’s brother, sister-in-law and some of their familly. Our campsite was the envy of other campers as we had a beach umbrella over our table and Rick’s portable bar from which he dispensed martinis at cocktail hour and hot buttered rum around the campfire.

     I shall not again hike up a mountain path, but a part of me will always abide in the Teton Mountains. Still young and vigorous in my mind, I stride with long steps up the path that runs through Cascade Canyon next to clear, rushing , boulder-strewn Cascade Creek that bisects an alpine meadow carpeted with wild columbine, Indian paint-brush, larkspur, wild roses, genitians, lupines and many other varieties  of wildflowers. The pure air is scented with pines and flowers. I hear the “meep” of a pica, a little rabbit-like, tailless animal with small ears as I rest on a boulder, watching a browsing moose. Far below lies azure, jewel-like Jenny Lake.

21

     Another time, it is early evenning. Seven-year-old Vicki, Bill and I sit on a log at our cmapsite on a sandy beach at Leigh Lake to which we have backpacked. The twilight hush is broken only by the sleepy peeping of a covey of little Merganser ducks swimming to their night-time roost. slowly a full moon rises, and snow-capped, majestic Mt. Moran across the lake is vividly reflected by moonshine onto the tranquil waters.

     The deep peace of this exquisite moment seeps into my very soul and soothes me. It takes over my consciousness so that I am transported out of myself to a realm of total bliss and serentiy. I can still enter this mystical place by conjuring up in my mind’s eye and bringing to present time this vision of utmost beauty that I beheld nearly fourty years ago…

     Jean called: “These mountains are so beautiful that you get choked up.” I knew what she meant. Great beauty – be it nature, music, art or literature – has a transforming power that sweeps away one’s cares and nourshes one’s inner self. I need to seek out more othen the beauty in my life.

22

ALONE  IN  THE  WOODS

Sometimes I sit in my log cabin as in a cocoon, sheltered by swaying spruces from outside the world… Then the chirp of a swallow winging over the lake reminds me that there’s always a new beginning.

Ann LaBastille – Woodswoman

People get stuck one plateau of living. It’s easier to stay in our familiar ruts. The thought of changing my comfortable existence and striking out into unknown territory frightens me. Also, most of us are bound by the bonds of important relationships.

     If you want to enjoy a real-life adventure from your armchair, do read Woodswoman by Ann LaBastille PhD. I feel a kinship with LaBas-tille because she loved nature and was a fellow admirer of Thoreau’s Walden. As old Granny said, reading makes our worlds match up.

     She abandoned her big-city upbringing to become an ecologist. One summer she worked at a lodge in the Adirondacks wehre she fell in love with the owner and the great North Woods. Then her husband found someone else and told her that she had to leave within two months. What to do?

     Often our lives are like a boar without a rudder, carried hither and thither by the eddies and currents of life. Timidly we can’t make up our minds to act until it’s too late to achieve our innermost desires.

     Bruised in spirit and homeless, she used her freedom to set another course on her own terms in order to heal her spiritual melancholy and homelessness. Having no other choice about the overturning of her life, LaBastille set out to achieveher dream of living all alone in the forest primeval.

     Her tale briefly stirs up a longing within me to set forth on an adventure as she did, but common sense quickly returns, Her account is a fascinating read for the likes of people like me who love nature but don’t want to suffer the discomforts of living at its mercy.

     Iv’e never wielded an ax, cut tress with a chain saw, used a portable generator, fired a gun, tied expert knots in ropes, used a compass with any certainty, used show shoes, or skied. The one time I tried to paddle a canoe, I ran it into the bank. Also, the simple, back-to-nature life turned out to be for more complicated, uncomfortable and dangerous than even she had anticipated.

23

     LaBastille bought 22 acres of land forested with virgin pines, spruces, firs, maples, burches and beeches bordering a lake in one of the most primitive areas of the Adirondack Mountains. Many of the trees were three hundred years old. A tree to me is more than an inanimate object – it is a living presence. I understandi what she means when she writes, “Clearly the land belonged for more to the trees than to any human being.”

     She got her wish to get away from people! The closest settlement was five miles away, and it was twenty-five miles to the nearest town. The dirt road eneded a mile and a half up the lake, There was no path around the lake, electricity or telephone service. There were only a few cottages around the lake, called “camps” in the Aditondacks. Their resisdents all left during the winder when she would be snowed in with only her dog for companionship.

     The main living space of LaBastille’s cabin with only 12 by 12 feet. A tiny kitchen was on the enclosed porch. She built a sleeping loft with a steep ladder going up to it. Imagine having to cram all the impedimenta of our affluent lifestyles into such a tiny space!

     Her refrigerator and little stove worked on propane gas. Heat was an urgent priority as temperatures drop to near freezing even in July and are often several degrees below zero for most of the winter. Friends helped her manhandle a three-hundred-pount, cast iron Franklin stove onto a boat, cross the lake and drag it up the hill.

     LaBastille used a chain saw to cut down dead trees and saw them into logs to last through the winter. This was a matter of life and death as she would freeze to death without heat. She had to tote buckets of water from the lake, Having a supply of water in the cabin at all times was crucial in case of fire. If her isolated cabin burned down during the harsh winter, she would freeze to death because no help was avaiable.

     Think of trudging two hundred feet through ice and snow to visit the outhouse! My childhood home had an outhouse, and I have abso-lutly no inclination to live like that again. It isn’t fun to have to put on a coat and boots to use the restroom. Afraid that her bottom would freeze to the “throne” during the bitterly cold winter, she started keeping the toilet seat inside to keep it warm. Finally she installed a chemical toilet in the kitchen.

     She wrote that while she was building her tiny cabin time slipped backward. She felt like a stubborn pioneer woman swinging her axe.

I was saddened to hear of her death in July 2011.

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THE  WATCHER

In Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” Frodo touched a tree and felt it as a living being. To me trees are almost as much a sentient presence as an animal. I understand people who chain themselves to redwoods, attempting to save them. When I was a girl many people mourned the deaths of Knightstown’s huge elm trees, including one that stood the in schoolyard.

     What some of us prize so highly, others destroy frivolously. They cut down thousand-year-old redwoods for fences and decks. An acquaintance who once owned a lumber company in northern California used to assert that we had trees to spare. Now she sings a different tune. She went back a few years ago, and a friend flew her along the coast. “There was one row of redwoods left; behind them all of the others were gone.” 

     After a wind storm I was stricken when I drove from out Warren Park home along Pleasant Run from the southeast corner of the golf course into Irvington. It was like driving a slalom, turning back and forth because of huge limbs down in the street. Ugly gashes marred the old trees. An Irvington acquaintance reported that it was difficult to get from his Irvington home to the Benton House because there were at least thirty trees down in his neighborhood. “Oh dear,” I said. “Would you check the Kile Oak on your way home?”

     I worry about this venerable burr oak that’s estimated to be between three and four hundred years old. Think of it: It was here when Indians were present and is the oak tree’s equivalent of a giant redwood. Still growing, it’s 92 feet high and has a spread of 125 feet. Its diameter is nearly six feet, and it’s eighteen feet around!

     It is named for the Kiles who built a house near it in 1901. Their daughter, Mae, lived there for 71 years. When she had to leave her only concern was that the oak be preserved. The property was bought with the help of the Lilly Co., the Irvington Historic Society and the Irvington Union of Clubs and is owned by the Irvington Historic Landmarks Foundation that also owns the Benton House. The house was torn down because it was dilapidated.

     I called a neighbor who knew Miss Kile. “She was a very intelligent, ladylike person and was J.K. Lilly’s secretary. She adored that tree and drove tiles down next to its roots and carried buckets of water from her house to pour down them to water the tree.”  Imagine trying to water such a huge tree!

25

     The oak is much more thanjust an inanimate collecton of trunk, branches, roots, and leaves. There’s a cadre of people who care intensely about it. The Irvington Garden Club donates money; master gardener Ed Myers works unstintingly on the grounds; and the Irvington Historic Landmarks Fondation provides funds.

     The neighbor whom I interviewed said, “I wish I could do more to help.” “You watch over the tree, and it needs watchers,” I responded. She replied, “You know, I dometimes believe that it’s the tree who watches over me.”

26

In The Studio |The Zentangle Method®

All Things Related To The Zentangle Method®

12 March 2021

Welcome back! Since we last met up I have been busy with various activities as I mentioned in my 1st Friday blog last week. One of the BIG things I accomplished was finally getting my Zentangle® classes set up here on my website and on my Facebook page.

You may be saying to yourself “why should I bother with taking classes? There’s tons of free videos and examples online.” Rather than re-invent the wheel here’s what the Founders of Zentangle® basically have to say:

“We train Certified Zentangle Teachers™ (CZT®) to teach our Zentangle Method. They understand the background and subtleties of the Zentangle Method which are not obvious from much of free material on the web. There are reasons and techniques; philosophies and principles for everything that we do.”

Zentangle.com

The first class of 9 that I offer is an intro to The Zentangle Method® which is a requirement (with an opportunity to test out of) for all following classes. The reason for this is to make sure that each student studying with me understands the basics, as I was taught, by Zentangle® Founders Rick & Maria.

Intro to The Zentangle Method® Tile #1 Crescent Moon, Florz, Hollibaugh, Printemps

Last month I discussed what is involved in the Intro to The Zentangle Method® class. If you missed it you can check it out here.

  • Black 3.5 tile with Hollibaugh, Tipple, Printemps & Diva Dance
  • Renaissance 3.5 tile with Huggins, Mooka, Dodaah. PP12 Day 2
  • Gray 3.5 tile with Striping & Shattuck
  • White 2" Bijou tile with Verdigogh
  • Renaissance 3Z tile with Fracas, Shattuck, & Purk
  • White Zendala with Sampson & Orbs
  • Gray 5x3" Phi Tile with Diva Dance, Scena & Orbs
  • White 10" Opus Tile with Crescent Moon, Scena, XYP, Pea-nuckle
  • Zen Gems on Bijou Tiles using pencil

From the intro class you can move on to new paper tile colors, shapes and of course tangles! Check some of them out in this slideshow but don’t let them intimidate you! These are examples of my work and some are more advanced and complicated that others.

Zen Gems on Bijou Tiles using pencil
Zen Gems on Bijou Tiles using pencil

A couple of other things I’ve done over the past month is take some classes from other CZT’s. The first one was with Leslie M who taught me how to create Zen Gems which have been very popular with other artists in the Zentangle® community. To see more of Leslie’s work, check out her @leslieinthemoment on Instagram.

Zin Kin® Cousin - Marie Paris
Zin Kin® Cousin – Marie Paris

The other Zentangle® class I took was how to create Zin Kin© offered by Katrina S. She’s currently working on a worldwide project called Zen Kin Cousins©. You can check out more about this activity and perhaps create your own here.

I hope you have a great week and I invite you to join me on this wonderful journey of life and creativity! Book A Class here or by clicking on Book Now on Facebook.
You can follow me on Facebook and Instagram and view my Portfolio HERE

In The Studio | First Friday

A Review of the Past Month

5 March 2021

In February I managed to write about four different topics that are interconnected by an artform. In case you missed them, here are the links: 1st Friday, The Zentangle Method®, Ramblings By Rose Mary, and Featured Artist Chaz Chiafos. In addition to my blogs, I spent quite a bit of time working on Zentangle and Ramblings related projects which I’ll go into more detail about in the next couple of weeks.

I also learned a LOT of new things during the past month. Where I live we got around 11 inches of snow so needless to say I’ve spent most of my time indoors!

Snowy Day

One of the new things was that I decided to try my hand a Paper Quilling also known as Paper Filigree which is an artform all of its own. I’ve always loved working with paper in all sorts of ways ever since I was a child. I can remember making home-made paper out of paper scraps… hmmm… maybe I should try that as soon as the weather is nice again. For the last ten plus years, in addition to drawing and painting, I’ve been scrapbooking and making cards. I often use a Cricut which means LOTS of scrap paper… at least in my world.

One of my Zentangle students, neighbor Gayle, got a chuckle the other day when I said, “Oh here! I have plenty of black scrap paper you can practice on” and opened a filing cabinet drawer of various paper pieces I’ve saved, all in their own folders.

As you can see paper side-tracks me easily! Snooperviser Snickers is showing me what true focus and concentration really looks like and telling me to get back on topic!.

Back to Paper Quilling… it involves using, at minimum, an awl to roll, bend or twist strips of paper which are glued on the end and then pressed or formed into different shapes. These shapes are then glued together to create an animal, flower, a filigree shape or really anything your mind can imagine. People then use the rolled paper to decorate cards, create artwork or jewelry. There are different techniques, tools, and paper strip sizes and colors that can be used. To learn even more check out this great article by Sara Barnes on My Modern Met.

I decided to go online and order a “kit” that came with everything I could possibly want or need to start learning how to do this, new to me, artform. I wish I’d known about the precision glue bottle years ago; I can see it being very useful for a lot of other applications.

Next I watched some YouTube videos to learn the basics of my new tools and quilling. Once I felt comfortable with the basics I found this video by The Paper Craftery and decided to make a heart wreath which was a blast! This is something crafty I can do in front of the T.V. which for me is bonus because while I do love to binge watch shows I can’t just sit there and veg in front of the tube like many people do.

I was pretty pleased with my first attempt at creating something with all of the little rolls and swirls. Time to decide what my next paper quilling project is going to be before the weather’s too nice to stay inside all evening!

The other thing I’ve been working on this past month is looking for local artists to do a feature on. I posted a request on the local Facebook page and was amazed at how many “friends” of creative people were tagging the creatives they knew yet only 5-6 artists contacted me. If you or someone you know is an artist or artisan located in White County, Indiana get in touch!

In The Studio | Featured Artist – Chaz Chiafos

26 Feb 2021

Chaz Chiafos & his Dragon, an ongoing project

I’ve been noticing something about several artistic people I’ve come in contact with lately. Many of them don’t think of their creative spaces as an “art studio.” Ellen works out of a one room “cottage” on her property and Jen has a “she-shed.” This months Featured Artist gave an interesting response about his space and it made me wonder if I was being presumptuous about calling my dedicated creative space a studio, so I looked it up. According to the dictionary a studio is defined as:

1a : the working place of a painter, sculptor, or photographer.

Merriam-Webster.com

Chaz  Chiafos is one of two chainsaw artists, the other is Cody Ruemler, at “Indiana Carvings” which is located on Chaz’s property at 3213 E. Division Rd., Monticello, Indiana. For the past year I have driven past his place and observed the various carvings that he has created, in various stages, sitting out in the yard. Chaz happened to post on a local Facebook group about his business a couple of weeks ago and I contacted him right away for an interview. When I asked what day and time would work best to interview him and see his studio his response was “Stop by any time! I don’t have a studio; I work out of my barn.”

Indiana Carvings, Barn Entrance
Indiana Carvings Studio

When I arrived last week on a very snowy day I was greeted by Chaz’s snoopervisor, Tobor (robot spelled backwards and named by Chaz’s kids) who was hard at work assisting Chaz with wood chip clean-up!

Chad's Snoopervisor Tobor
Tobor a very sweet pup once you’ve been introduced!
Tobor & Wood
Tobor with wood chip

Chaz, bundled up in work Carhart’s, greeted me with a smile and a handshake and I knew in that moment he was a kindred soul! He is a self taught emerging chainsaw artist who was born and raised in Monticello, Indiana. Chaz has lived here his whole life. You may already know him through his landscaping business Hardscapes Unlimited Construction which is also on Instagram. It’s pretty common for emerging artists, myself included, to have other jobs to make ends meet. Add to that, the Coronavirus shut down many fairs and markets this past year and may put a damper on many this year as well.

Good Vibes Only

When Chaz was growing up one of his chores, which he enjoyed, was cutting and splitting wood. He says

“it’s a random coincidence… I can’t draw…. took art in high school and was terrible, but it turns out I have a knack for wood. I feel the flow of the saw and it just happens.”

Of course the one question every artist is asked is ” who or what got you started?” Chaz was initially inspired by Chris Trotter of Wooden Wonders about six or seven years ago when he was in Nashville, Brown County, Indiana. Chaz shared that he happened to see Chris creating a standing horse out of wood and said “I thought it was cool… neat… I never saw wood carved that way.” Today he follows other carvers on Facebook especially Chainsaw Carving World which is a collection of international cavers sharing their work online. What got Chaz started? His immediate response was: “Beer! One night I was sitting around the campfire with a buddy and saw a picture [on the phone] of an eagle. I decided to create one out of a 7 ½ foot silver maple log using a chainsaw. I seem to have a thing for eagles.”

Eagle
Eagle carving made from 7.5′ log of silver maple

Chaz’s creative process involves gathering pictures of different features for the item to be created and combining them to make a blueprint to work from. Then he begins sawing on site for an in-place project or chooses a log based on the size needed and cuts the basic shape. Up to three different chain saw sizes are used on his carvings.

Totem
Using a printout of what he’s going to carve
Chainsaws
3 sizes of chainsaws are used to carve
Beginning a carving
Marking areas to trim away with chainsaw
Wing 1
Wing 2

After Chaz completes everything but the fine details he will switch to a Dremel tool or grinder for that part of his work. He then sands the finished product and puts a finish on it.

Grinders & Dremel
Grinders & Dremel tools are used for finishing touches
Fine Details Front
Fine Details Back
Owl Trio – Finished Product

Fine Details of Owl Trio
A close up of the fine details found in Chaz’s carvings

Unlike many artists out there Chaz’s work does not represent things going on in our world today. A great deal of his art is based on animals. Chaz wants his clients “enjoy what they have asked him to create.” That is what’s important to him. Much of his work is as tall if not taller than he is!.

  • Chaz & Lion
  • Dragon
  • Owl 3
  • Dolphin
  • Eagle, Bears & Fox
  • Bench
  • Baby Yoda
  • Bear
  • Owl 2
  • Parrot
  • Totem Pole

When asked how he prices his work, he responded that “each carving is different so it depends on the size and the amount of detail that goes into it.” Another thing that factors into the final price is delivery of the carving when it is complete. Chaz is willing to hand deliver commissioned work on request anywhere within the U.S.A. for a fee.

About five hours after I left his studio, Chaz sent me a text with this video of what he started and completed in that time. To see more of his completed work you can find him on Indiana Carvings Facebook page. Also look for his group Indiana carvings under groups where you’ll see more of his work in progress videos