Category Archives: family

Still life, figures, and Matisse

The Matisse show at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts takes a novel approach by displaying objects the artist collected along with some of the paintings they appear in. It’s fascinating.


Naturally, I especially enjoyed the textiles but even to see chairs, vases, and pewter coffee pots alongside the paintings they inspired was interesting.

I was shocked to discover, standing in front of the well-known ‘Purple Robe’ portrait below, that early on Matisse was ‘afraid he would never do figures’.

Lucky for us, at some point the artist figured out how to transfer the confidence he felt giving life to inanimate objects to the human figure.

With that and my unpopulated quilts in mind, take a look at the right margin of this slightly wonky tower I’ve been working on. Doesn’t that dark grain suggest a female form — staring up at a butterfly, perhaps? She reminds me of one of Grace’s drawings in its early phases. Mightn’t the nascent figure be saying something — Come on — stitch me into an empty structure! Let me enliven the yard or a room or even the attic!

Somehow this quiet and solitary day felt full. Almost too full.

Our morning walk was replete with scenes like these, peaceful and lush, but riddled with thoughts about aggression, primarily about the differences between aggression expressed from and for power and reactive aggression. They might appear alike from the outside but are worlds apart. Working with Finn has been a real lesson in this, inspiring me to quip from time to time, “Dog training’s taught me that I may be a mouthy bitch, but I’m no alpha.”

Sad, but true. Finn had a set-to right before this yard. Bark, bark, bark. My sister and I are having set-tos all the time, but this week they’re about re-configuring the distance between us. Bark, bark, bark. I can’t take it anymore. It’s amazing I’ve put up with it for this long. If she can’t accept my moving away some, I will vanish from her life. I’ve done it before. I was hoping not to do it again, but I am exhausted, tattered, and unwilling to continue at current decibel levels. Bark. Bark. Bark.

After what seems an impossibly long time without sun, out it came for our afternoon walk, so the day contained cheer, too!

img_4536
img_4552-2Lastly, the TV is all fucked up and you know what that means (wink, wink)! I may be forced to read for a spell here (and miss The Great British Baking Show?) or watch LIVE TV on the tiny shit box in the kitchen. Boo-hoo. Then again, the house is filled with good books waiting to be read.

Five hours

This is an erasure post. The original version was both too long and too revealing. The skeleton version makes less sense but holds more mystery, I think.


In hours, pushed, eye-rolling, huffing.
Five hours. I found her angle.
Risk a fool, like picking a scab. A person,
a villain, at least refusal. If hope
would speed silence!

Little judgment next. I gathered my things.
Later! Bother! In five hours,
the scope, nothing.

What I meant was, I’m wracked. I’m shutting
the door, halfway. An about face. HEAVEN!
It took unreason to drive the welcome —
Oh file, reference — mantra even. Five hours.

Back. Just BE! Oops.
Like morning needing witness,
she would chance fact, impossible
keep. I am
undone.

Ask, “do I want to be tagged home?”

Christ can track down the days, night,
a person.

 

 

 

 

 

White and grey catch up



These peonies bloomed for the first time in years. Gifts, I would say. They seem more like repositories of light than flourishes of cellular organic matter. At the Boston MFA’s Matisse show, I was taken with the shadows of one of the artist’s chairs. Later, with the similarities between peonies and chair-shadows. img_4159

On Wednesday, there was a hearing in Newton to consider a House Resolution asking Judiciary Committee to look into impeachment. I spoke. Lots of others did too. It passed.

img_3807

img_3801Because one objection has been that impeachment is a matter best left on the federal level, I hunted for precedent and found one in the “History of Newton”, by Samuel Francis Smith. If you read the second sentence, swapping ‘the Trump presidency’ for ’embargo’, it sounds like something Charles M. Blow would say.

img_3787-1

I repeated this quote (“My Name is Mary Sutter”, by Robin Oliveira), quipping that I’d like to tatoo it to Nancy Pelosi’s forehead.

On Thursday, I listened to Comey with friends and was impressed and captivated, to say the least, but started feeling ‘off’ around noon and left early.

Came home to a message that my sister had been hospitalized. This wasn’t a surprise — her doctors have been calling for her admission since late March — but still. Her oxygen levels were very low, but after a few days of high volume oxygen and an IV diuretic/catheter to take down swelling, she is much better. They ruled out pulmonary embolism and pneumonia.

Stories and stories dwell in diagnoses, don’t they? Entire lifetimes, in fact. These stories are better left untold for now, though for some reason on Sunday, I spent hours trying.

And now off for my weekly Local Indivisible Power tele-call. Then to the hospital. Then, GODDAMNIT, to the page! Well? Except at 2:00, there’s the weasel Sessions testifying. I don’t expect to be impressed. More like this: Finn slinking up the stairs while I hurl imprecations at the TV.

So, maybe tomorrow?

P.S. The lab work came back negative for both shingles and herpes and since it spread to my arm and since K. has poison ivy right now and since our dog traipses through a band of the oily stuff to get to the field where we play fetch and because I snuggle and kiss Finn constantly, I am now convinced I have a mild case of poison ivy, which makes more sense than a case of shingles with no other symptoms and negative lab work.

 

The power of stuff to undo us

The Weight of Things, Part I

Look at the lovely Rosenthal platter — that flourish along the scalloped edge; delicate blue flowers draping off the rim. I have service for eight plus another smaller platter, a casserole, a tea pot (squat and round) and coffee pot (tall and slender), plus matching sugar and creamer, candlesticks.

They were a wedding gift from my mother.

Recall this: Mother is back from a trip to Germany with her second husband. They are seeing the world! While on the continent she buys an entire set of china for her daughter who, at the age of 33, is at last engaged to be married.

When Mother hands Daughter the crumpled brochure, Daughter doesn’t bother to hide her dismay. Are the dishes too feminine? Is she inclined toward blue these days? Such a fraught exchange!

They’ve been here before. A history of thwarted choices gives Daughter an unhealthy sense that she’s entitled to sour incivility. So many items ticked off! How much did Mother spend, exactly?

There will be a cost to Daughter’s wounding response and she knows it. It’s no longer a gift-giving occasion. It’s all about Mother’s hurt feelings. Daughter’s cooing and back peddling will be accomplished with a combination of guilt, annoyance, and compulsive, middle-child diplomacy. Of course the dishes will be beautiful! It took a second, is all! Of course, it was a generous gesture!

They’ve been here before, too.

Does it matter that I love the dishes now? That as I wash off the residue from last night’s dinner, I do so with care, knowing how inconsolable I’d be if the platter broke — my mother dead and gone these 22 years past. Stuff has the power to undo us sometimes.

The Weight of Things, Part II

We’ve purchased a shed in the sorry acknowledgement that our belongings have outpaced our capacity for sorting, disposal, or storage. The garage is packed: sports equipment, gardening tools, lumber, Christmas decorations, craft booth panels, two table saws, bikes and chairs. There’s beer brewing equipment, scuba gear, coolers, kayak paddles and beach chairs. At least three complete socket wrench sets, possibly more.

img_3262Now picture Son moving to Parts West with two suitcases. His entire apartment is boxed up in the garage, too. Now what? Most is too heavy to ship.

Too heavy indeed! Here are the pots and knives Mother purchased in such industrious cheer — the dish towels and extension cords, an array of spices! He’ll make curry and roast chickens! He’ll eat on Mexican dishes while looking at the spectacular skyline. Oh that view, Mother exclaimed, that view!

And then there was the dreadful pick up eight months later. Utter disarray.

Seeing these things makes for uneasy recollection. For some reason it is the contrast between the early optimism and the later despair that gets to me the most. I don’t know why. The hard questions arise, prime among them — how could I have missed so much?

I know how — because I wasn’t even looking.

It’s a little better now — maybe you can build up an immunity to memory by repeated exposure to triggering belongings. Things have resumed their status as objects. They are once again problems to be solved — sell? donate? keep?

The iron skillet is coming in the house, but — anybody want a waffle iron?

 


Don’t you just hate posts about blogging?

Posts about blogging often have a Catholic air of contrition about them: “Bless me Father, for I have sinned — I have not posted in six days.” Ach, indulge me as I cast before you a post about blogging!

img_2353Earlier this week, I published a few paragraphs about K traveling to a city in China very close to North Korea. It was freaking me out, etc. I thought maybe I could institute a practice of sharing his absence in real time because of our barky friend, Finn — but then thought the better of it. Why advertise vulnerability? (Since K’s now en route from Beijing to Newark, it’s public again).

[By the way, I don’t need my husband to be within Seoul’s radiation range to care about nuclear escalation — (in fact two others in my indivisible group and I have an appointment to speak with Representative Joe Kennedy about this next week). Let’s just say that the possibility of immediate personal harm amplifies concern].

img_2486

Then I started a post about housekeeping. Part nod to the need for discrete tasks with tangible results in a world spinning out of control and part nostalgic lament. (And yes, I really am picking detritus out from between the floor boards with a fowl pin!)

The house is tidier than ever. The raking more thorough. It’s hard not to wonder: what was so impossible about keeping a neat house while the boys were growing up?

Not wanting a question so fundamentally unfair to myself to linger unanswered, I considered an exercise in prescriptive memoir. Let’s document the positive!

I have a terrible memory, but this warping of recollection in the direction of personal failing is something else. It hurts.

But then it all felt incredibly disingenuous and anyway, in the process of rereading journals to “build my case,” I kept finding stuff that highlighted my missteps. Whoops! I got jammed. Really jammed.

I consulted my dear Byron Katie and got a little unstuck.

I’m tired of taking sides.

And anyway, wouldn’t a disordered lament make me more vulnerable and therefore be more interesting than some tidy, upbeat chirp of a post, which corrective or not, is ultimately self-congratulatory?

Messy then. Less messy now. So what.

I’ll leave you with a few of the pictures I scared up. I’ve made no attempt to span the years or to be thorough in any way (you know me better than that!)

img_2392







IMG_2011

20140713-020129-7289027.jpgmay 2014 192

celebratingblizzard-D-to-left

Bombs and bluebells

Dalian, China doesn’t share a border with North Korea but it’s pretty close, just across the Bay of Korea.

There’s K, dapper in a crisp green and blue plaid shirt and charcoal grey slacks, packing. I crack open an eye: “a little overdressed for nuclear warfare, aren’t you?”

This weekend I almost googled “radiation fall out” but raked some more instead.

And speaking of bombs, the Boston Marathon is today. We must’ve heard forty helicopters and dozens of sirens over the weekend. No, make that dozens of sirens on each of Saturday and Sunday. Practice, I guess. K thought each was an emergency. “Can’t be. Can’t be,” I kept saying.

I’m not going this year (we live pretty close to Heartbreak Hill). Instead, I plan to *write, walk the dog, write, play fetch with the dog, write, eat lunch. Repeat from * substituting supper on second round.

Finn wanted a quick game before Ks cab to the airport arrived (did I mention he’s going to Dalian, on Korea Bay?) but it was too early. It’s school vacation week and some of our neighbors will be sleeping in.

The Virginia Bluebells are up. The maples bud at last.

At the curb, I do my best Sean Spicer, “Say hello to Kim Young She!”

Easter was hot. But today should be cooler — perfect for the race.

Pull up the storms!

The windows are open. The temperatures rise. I rake the ground with bare fingers, gloved hands, and big or small rakes, depending. Everywhere, flora pokes up.

img_2153
Here’s a good question: to whom are you accountable?

To children, husband: yes. To creative source and self (overlapping, but not the same): yes. To my dog: yes. To God: no (even on a believing day, my god isn’t hands on enough to be keeping score). To my moral conscience: yes.

To my sister? Not absolutely. Not what I owe both of my boys or what I’d owe my parents were they still around. And, I am not accountable to my parents on behalf of my sister, especially since some of her problems are their fault. Today I separate what I might owe her as my sister and what she thinks I owe her.

img_8345

If one form of accountability cancels out another, I must resolve in favor of self. Period. Period. You have no idea how difficult this is. I am not seeking advice or sympathy but hoping to strengthen resolve by marking a change of direction.