A View in the Early Morning

35747326_869932896527686_535398442592108544_nA view in early morning. The Fever Few has flourished. I got a start of it in the 50’s from Mrs Jaaden’s garden near the old cabin in Kingston WA, where we used to spend some summers, and it must have come down with us from married graduate student housing in Seattle. It volunteers wherever it can find a foot-hold.

35682274_869932949861014_4674083436447662080_nThe claw-footed bathtub on the porch has been languishing, dead leaves in the bottom, and last week I filled it with blooming plants that look happy.

The fish we’ve newly acquired have learned that it’s OK to swim right to the top, that they’ll find food there. For the first few days they lurked at the very bottom.

35423098_869933013194341_1641224234933944320_nHester’s Father’s Day card to Tom, appropriately a tiny seahorse admiring her Dad, is in the foreground. This Dad has just been “graduated” from Hospice care back to Medicare, he’s so much stronger: it was a change we anticipated, and we can go back when we need to. We need to keep the hospital bed, and hope that can be arranged without our having to rent one.

Trying to keep up a life outside the house and the daily routines, I went on Tuesdays in April and May, when Lorna was here, to take a basket-making class. It was taught at the Multnomah Arts Center by a young woman who was 1/16th Native American, remembered her grandmother and had learned the craft from family members.

image1I will always remember the feel of the wet cedar strips and how the raffia worked in differently. And when you were doing the finishing off, it helped to hear the sequence of the directions in your head: “Wrap your bundle, fold diagonally, reach under, pull down and up, feel it thunk into place.”

IMG_0460The form we used was a 2×6 block of wood. You can see the change in shape that occurred when I took the block out.

The teacher, Stephanie, had traditional tattoos on her chin, and invited us to photograph a sheet of directions so we could do other baskets at home.

35508625_870214136499562_1919803785211805696_nThe Lime trees are in bloom by the Walgreens parking lot at 21st and West Burnside…as in Unter den Linden …one of the sweetest smells in flower-dom.

IMG_0515On Sunday we did go to the 10:00 service, left after communion, drove upriver, and had lunch in the Walking Man pub in Stevenson. The only time we’ve been here before, it was pouring rain.

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Subject: Bless you for that dear letter

unnamed (43)I’m sitting here knitting, thinking of the people who have written and called. Many people think that ”Hospice Care” means a person is imminently dying, but that kind of late referral is only one reason.

Tom is still here, and the Hospice support is wonderful. I asked for it early, getting a hospital bed, a weekly nurse visit, twice-a-week bath aide, so I don’t get overwhelmed, and it really does make a difference. We go to bed and sleep very early. I can get 8-9 hours sleep, and then have the quiet hours from 4-7 AM all by myself.

Hester and Len came for supper last night. Today we are going to Benihana for lunch, partly to be out of the way while Aurelia cleans. Tom, (son) Ed Carpenter, Bets Stover, Virny Maxam, several other friends plus an agency person eight hours a week, come in and take over so I can go off. And Tom can be on his own when he’s just napping or sitting in his chair.

unnamed (42)He’s very much himself and has been since the awful “hospital psychosis” wore off. So the days go on. The broken dogwood branch was just hanging on by enough of a thread that when I cut pieces off, they went and bloomed, bravely.

From May 3 – This bed of Rue

IMG_1710There’s something about a wild flower, in the shade out back by the trash shed, coming up year after year, that’s heartening. I don’t know where I found it, but I put it in there probably in the late ‘60’s.

We have another week of sun starting. The chard I planted along with several other sets of seeds has germinated already. Tom is doing a bunch of exercises as I write, ones he made up himself that he can do in his rocking-chair.

New patterns turn up. One of them for me is going down the hill to QFC at 6:30 or 7, before Tom wakes up, doing a shopping, getting a coffee, and sitting for a while doing my Sudoku, enjoying the anonymity, watching people start their day.image1 (2)

One of our helpers yesterday brought Tennyson’s Ulysses to read aloud to Tom. I’ve put it in my journal so I won’t lose it and can read it to him myself later.

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Fast Changes

image3Just two weeks ago, we were putting up “Red Cattails.”

And now we are immersed in Hospice care, accepting help gratefully from beloved family, friends and new helpers. Tom went through some very fast changes, kidneys revealed to be struggling, calcium levels very high. We think we’ll be able to stay home: hospital bed, etc., all in place. Whether Tom’s clarity of mind returns remains to be seen. But he doesn’t seem to be in pain or distress, even still at times is himself altogether. Will continue to post on here.

image1 (1)He was just in the hospital for two nights and that happened to coincide with my being able to hear a magnificent performance at Trinity of Bach’s B Minor Mass. Got a score at Powell’s that day, their last one. Things do sometimes happen just right.

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When ‘Working Big’ Is No Longer Possible

Last summer when he could walk longer distances following his foot surgery, Tom went off down to his studio for the first time in months. He came back to the outside table near the front door with a few odd pieces he’d picked up.

Over the next few weeks we picked up some bird cages at the perpetual garage sale near Miller Road and Cedar Hills Blvd. A cousin brought him the remnants of a fine brass corkscrew that had finally broken, knowing he’d like the shape.

Gradually these six pieces emerged, sometimes with my help in finding bases, wood or stone, wiring an angel to the roof of a birdcage, providing transportation.

 

The wire figures in the white cage are ones Hester and I brought Tom from Paris. “The Dying Gaul” and the “Venus” are reproductions that have associations for the two of us too complicated to explain. The cheese box base was given to us by a friend, a store owner, in Westport, NY, and transported home on the train.

The six pieces take on character for us, and even though there’s really no place to put them, they have a place in our lives and in our house.

IMG_3303Recently, two of Tom’s works changed ownership over in Sunriver. A friend of our son’s, with his wife, bought from her cousin a lovely house that we had stayed in years ago and that held two of Tom’s works the cousin had purchased from Tom’s exhibits in the ‘90’s.

Only when they were discussing what contents of the house would be included in the purchase did Tom’s name emerge, accompanied by surprise, exclamations and delight.

What’s remarkable is that one of these works, “Endangered Species” (also the title of the show), comes as a new work to the artist, the making of it buried in time. Happily, he finds it a pleasure to see, and doubly a pleasure to know it will continue to have a home where it is appreciated.IMG_3294

 

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Solid Ice

IMG_1347It may be melting down there, but up here it’s 24 degrees, and solid ice. We got several inches between 4-10 PM. We thank Julia Carr for shopping for us,  and Hester for a wonderful lunch visit with Emily, Lily and Noah, who are visiting from Brooklyn, and for the hamentaschen which I just had for breakfast, and for all that clean-up: burying compost, emptying trash, etc.

At lunch, Hester and Noah hauled the elephant rocker up from downstairs. There was even time for stories.image1

And speaking of Brooklyn, we also had a nice visit last week from Dexter and Keri.

We have watched up through Episode 8 of “The Crown,” delighted that at last we are using the new receiver more up to its capabilities. And we’ve almost finished reading aloud Isabel Allende’s The Japanese Lover.

A new revelation yesterday afternoon: Tom said, “If you don’t fill me in, I really can’t tell WHAT’S going on!” Between Queen Elizabeth, Princess Margaret Rose, and Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, there’s small wonder.  And in the Allende book, back and forth over four generations, over a period of 75 years, with two concurrent stories added on, Irina’s and Ichimei’s, Tom now doesn’t carry in his head one thread through another.

IMG_1348He says he loves the reading, the way I read, maybe the sound of my voice, and in fact also the immediate events in the book. He laughs at the jokes. In the TV series at one point, looking at the Queen Mother, he said, “We saw her,” remembering 1979 when we attended the graduation of our friend Håkan Nilsson at Westminster Abbey, when the real Queen Mother was present and very visible, waving happily from the procession. So there it is.

A nice note: a friend’s wife sent an email the other day, watching a hockey game on TV.  Her husband, Tom’s classmate at South Kent, had said, “Tom Buell was the best hockey player in our school.”28059517_10215919308359995_7903771317475209822_n

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Ursula Gone

IMG_E2462In the last letter she wrote me, back in September, 2017, she knew she had to harbor her strength and described herself as being “stove-in.” That dear friend with whom we had traveled, the four of us, to so many corners of the earth, recognized we probably wouldn’t be together again. This picture was taken at the bottom of the world, aboard the Terra Australis, at one of many meals we were served. It’s formal compared to so many other images that flood our minds now, but her wonderful smile is there.
She ended that last letter this way:

“ …Here’s the litany.  But it’s for the bad hour.  You won’t need it, out at sea, with forests going by and glaciers looming ahead!

xo u

A Litany for the Bad Hour

i

I am the desert
I am the sea

I am the high hills
and the river in the valley

ii

I am rain
and the earth that drinks it

I am sunlight
and the leaves that live on it

I am stars
and the nothing between them

iii

I am what I have always been
and what I will always be

(I have not seen this published anywhere else, so I will add this, for her:
© Ursula K. Le Guin, 2018)

She wrote it just this way, with no punctuation. When I found it, looking back over her letters the day after she died, it came with her voice, almost a comfort. The forests and the glaciers she refers to in her note were ones we had viewed together, and I had a sense of continuity and blessedness that will persist for good.

unnamed (4)Tom and I were aboard a Holland-America ship from Seattle to Alaska and back, a trip we had made with Ursula and Charles twenty-five years before. Then, we left from Vancouver, B.C., going up and back by the inland passage. It was the first of those many trips, and I think confirmed our feeling that we did well together.

I didn’t realize until much later that these embroideries Ursula was inventing and making during those trips would come to be mine, one by one.

In the writing group I’m with this term, our task this week is to discuss chant and mantra. Ursula’s Litany for the Bad Hour is now in my head and runs itself whenever I pause and “go inside.” So it becomes a mantra, given, and for any hour.

Feeling All of a Piece

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(From a Facebook post today on my account, which you can find by clicking HERE.)

In the middle of a Facebook conversation with Roger Dorband and others this morning, I left to go get the paper and another jug of water. As I went out the door and turned to the car, there was a mountainside lit up and made to glow by the sun that had just risen.

Tom and I spend these days differently now than we did fifty years ago, reading aloud, finding a place to draw, my reconstructing for him the pattern of the days, since his mind no longer fits the pieces together in a way that makes sense, and it baffles him occasionally. We’ve come south by train for a few weeks of sun and warmth.

Today we may take a cab to the museum since the Film Festival will make parking impossible. I can anticipate and remember the many times and exhibits we’ve loved there, and I’ll have to remember how to rebuild just enough of that for Tom so he can look forward to it too. Otherwise, it must seem to him like plunging off into a terrible void.

I realize how this medium allows me company and conversation I really need. It puts me right in a friend’s kitchen, sharing thoughts and laughter, some resignation, hugs and observations we’ve done before and will do again. Real conversations by phone, like last night with Hester, are life-lines, too. It begins to feel all of a piece.

From Borrego Springs, California