January 2010

…my life would be totally different.

That’s my  Deep Thought  for February.

Because if I drank beer ( a beverage I still can’t stand the taste of) when I went to Ireland, I would have spent more time in pubs getting drunk and flirting with black-haired blue-eyed Irishmen,  and less time doing this:

(Note: clever use of tea cup instead of Triscuit.)

For those of you reading along, we are in the Febraury chapter, page 31, of When Wanderers Cease to Roam. If you have my book, this is Back Story Stuff  but if you don’t have my book, well, then, this is Story Stuff.

I wasn’t always an immensely talented watercolor artist. Once upon a time I  was a dedicated embroiderer. So, when I was in a panic about turning 30 [in 1986] and I bought a one-way ticket to the most outlandish place I could think of — Ireland — (I was a big U2 fan) of course I packed about 100 skeins of beautiful French embroidery floss.

In Galway I bought some muslin, a light-weight muslin that gave me problems, but which I stubbornly refused to stop sewing on.

And that’s what I did on my down time  in Ireland: I sewed. I sewed on park benches, I sewed (one memorable rainy Bank Holiday in Roscommon) in the waiting room of a bus shelter for eight hours; I sewed in the evenings in the common rooms of youth hostels. The above Celtic sampler is what I sewed. It took me six weeks. I made it up as I went along — that’s why it’s such a jumble. Also, I did say that I was a mite depressed during this time; maybe that also shows in the wayward looks of it.

That bird (above) in the lower right corner is the bird that is was the Irish pence coin at the time; the harp of course is a national symbol; the creatures hovering above the letters “e ” and “f” are, I believe, from the Book of Kells, and the various knots are various knots.

That piece of embroidery shows up in my book on page 31:

You will never believe how I got that stitch work onto the page:

I took my embroidery to Staples and I laid it down on a color copier. Then I cut up the color copy and taped bits of it along the edge of my journal page. That ratty taped-up color copy is what I turned in to Bloomsbury when I gave them my manuscript; Bloomsbury is such a high-quality printer that what they give you in the book is their scan of my color copy of my embroidery and you can still see the stitches!  (It’s all chain stitch, by the way.)

Trade secrets, my dears, trade secrets.

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Don’t Cry For Me  Por Favor-hor: These are my working conditions. (Sob.) I have to paint around big fat furry kitty butts.

But I digress. The thing I wanted to discuss today was something that nobody ever told me about getting older. Which is, the older you get, the more things make you cry. What is up with that?

I think I went through the first 20 years of adulthood (age 19 to 39) without crying more than three times. TOTAL. (Because of cats: the older I get, the more it sucks that we have to outlive our pet kitties. If we are lucky.)

But then I turned 40, and little things started to make me cry. TV COMMERCIALS started to make me cry. And now, I’m lucky if I can make it through a week without puddling up.

I did a talk on Tuesday night (it went well — whew) and I had to drop part of it because I didn’t think I could do it without crying: I have a thing about hugging trees. I love to hug trees. And there’s a special tree here on Long Island that is extremely worthy of hugging, a hundred-year old American Elm tree (you know how 100 million elm trees died in the 1950s due to Dutch Elm disease? Well, there’s one elm tree here on Long Island that has so far escaped the disease and it’s the first elm tree that I  have ever hugged and lo, there is nothing like putting your arms around a lone elm tree…). Yes, I talked about the elm tree on Long Island, but I couldn’t bring myself to talk about THIS elm tree http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2010/01/08/us/AP-US-The-Old-Man-and-the-Tree.html 

because it was only going to make me cry.

And then my friend Melinda sent me a YouTube video that made me cry and it ISN’T EVEN ABOUT CATS:   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ds8ryWd5aFw

The other wierd thing about getting older is that I laugh more: I’ve been watching TV sitcoms for…what? 40 years? 50 years? (Ouch.) And I have NEVER laughed out loud while watching them, even when Barney Fife was being his most braggadocious, or when My Favorite Martian got himself in a right pickle, or when Davy Jones got the punch line to any one of the Monkees’ jokes.

Except now. Now I can’t get through an episode of Community (NBC, Thursday nights at 8) , or The Big Bang Theory (CBS, Monday nights at 9:30) , or Flight of the Conchords (HBO Whenever) without laughing. OUTLOUD.

Am I getting stupid?

Or am I just getting old? Old enough to realize, in a way that I never could when I was young, that happiness is so very accidental, so much a happenstance of chance and fleeting moments and hard work, that I can only cry (or laugh) at the bravery of those who  make joy out of this sad and angry and doomed old world? (Bad news this week from Haiti, from the Massachusettes special election, from the Supreme Court ruling about corporate funding for elections: I just want to cry.) Those people who dance in their winter coats, who love a tree for 50 years, who hit those high notes, who make us laugh — I think they are more death-defying than prayer or “art” or stone monuments. I think they are love, and kindness — and that gets me.

Oh jeeze. Am I getting nice in my old age?     That’s sooo not like me.

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January dawn light, through frost-covered windows, shines onto my bedroom curtains,

and makes me remember this light on a dusky winter walk a few days before, in upstate New York:

When the sun unexpectedly shone for a bright moment on a snowy day in upstate New York, I ran to this window:


That same sun beam was lighting up this corner of the library.  (What do you read on a day like this? That bookcase contains nothing but murder mysteries — I recommend something English, written before 1950.)

Back to that icy sparkling window: in the upper left hand corner is a peek at the backyard:


This is what the backyard looks like:

In the front yard, there is a gazebo where you can sit and look at loons and beavers on the pond.

And when it snows the very next day, this is what the snow around the gazebo looks like at night:



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