November 2012

I picked an interesting time to work a garden book! Lucky me, that in the time that I am turning my attention to Claude Monet’s garden at Giverny is the month that Christie’s auction house sells a record-breaking $43 million canvas of his waterlilies (covered in my post called The Price of Pricelessness) AND it’s also the month that this Monet waterlily picture makes headlines:

The $32 million sale of this Claude Monet painting of the Japanese bridge in his garden at Giverny has been voided by law enforcement in London and the United States because the work is stolen property — boosted from the New York townhouse of Imelda Marcos during the downfall of her husband’s corrupt dictatorship in the Philippines in 1986 and kept hidden for 26 years by the thief, Imelda’s maid, until she sold it a year ago. Read the full story here.

But let’s say you do not have tens of millions of dollars to spare for a Monet canvas, or you do not want to risk jail time to own a piece of Giverny. Did you know that you can buy a quilt kit called A Day in Giverny?

Or, if knitting is your craft of choice, you can buy yarn called Giverny:

You can buy a cushion called Giverny…

 

…to go on your Giverny couch

…next to your Giverny console

…or maybe you’d prefer the Giverny end tables?

On the floor, you can lay down a rug called Giverny…

…or install carpeting that also goes by the name Giverny:

You can deck the walls with this mirror called Giverny…

…and on either side, you can hang sconces that are — wait for it!also called “Giverny”!

You’re in luck if you want to re-upholster your whole house with fabric designed under the name Giverny:

Or, if you want some ready-made stuff, you can buy Giverny bedsheets:

I, for one, would find dinner so much tastier if I could eat off of dishes that are labeled Giverny:

Good thing J. Crew gives me a way to wear Giverny:

(Soooo cute!)

 

But I saved the best Giverny for last…because it’s THIS:

A freaking shower door.  Yes, it’s true. They call this shower door “Giverny”, obviously because the word “Giverny” can make people buy anything.

So far, dear readers, in spite of commercial temptation, my Giverny remains all about the garden:

 

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But I’m all for jumping on the merchandising band wagon. Dear readers, I need a product that I can call Giverny, something that is not a chapter in a book because we all know that books are pathetic because people don’t want to buy books, they want to buy crap they can sit on, sleep in, look at themselves in, eat off of, flaunt, or wear. And except for the eating-off-of part, books don’t do any of those things.

So tell me: what should I design? Got an idea for a Vivian Swift Giverny product that will sell like a Taylor Swift CD?

 

 

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Monet’s Garden at Giverny, that is.

Then we lay in the masking fluid:

This is the Grande Allee, of course, at Monet’s garden at Giverny (in September, when the walkway is full of nasturtiums):

Lately I haven’t been painting in sky so this means it’s done:

Full page illustration, 8″ x 7″.

 

Yes, I’ve been working on my flower-painting this week. All you have to do, in order to get better at something at which you stink (see last week’s post), is to just keep at it. I painted for HOURS to get the hang of this. I’m just saying what Thomas Edison said: Sweat It Out, Dude, If You Want To Invent The LIghtbulb.

I’m just saying, too, that there is no need to traipse all the way to Giverny to see a spectacular garden when chances are there is a treasure closer to home. And where I live on the north shore of Long Island, there is a wonderland that we call the William Cullen Bryant estate. Top Cat took us there this past Sunday, about an hour before sunset, to see the last of the magnificent Fall foliage:

I ask you, does this even look real? (Note half-moon bridge made of stone in background.)

As George Harrison, my favorite Beatle, said in the live-in-studio recording of For You Blue on the last ever Beatles album, Let It Be of 1969: “Elbow James is got nothing on this [something].”  I really should Google that line.  It’s been 43 years since I first heard For You Blue and all this time I’ve never had a clue what George was saying, except that it comes back to me at times like this:

Giverny’s got nothing on this corner of Long Island. Yes, that is a perfect little knot garden on a cliff high above the beautiful Long Island Sound, the view from Mr. Bryant’s back porch.

And this is his sunken garden, next to the parterre, which is a lawn for some kind of bowling game, or croquet, I believe.  Oh, yes, Top Cat and I love this garden at the Bryant Estate, in Summer, Winter, and Fall. (I don’t care for Spring so I’ve never been here during those tacky months.) I count this garden as just one of the many benefits of being Mrs. Top Cat, because without him I would never have known that such a darling acre of Earth existed.

But I ask you, why schlepp a whole two miles from your house when you can probably find beauty in your own backyard?

This is Dudley of the Backyard Cats, catching the rays at 6:14 am this morning.  In my backyard, the rule is: Wherever There Is a Sunbeam, There Is Probably a Cat Making The Most of It:

Candy, in camouflage.

Joined by her son, Taffy.

Oscar, in igloo #2.

Bibs, tosey in igloo #1.

Phil, our resident baby possum, enjoying the cat food buffet. We LOVES our Phil. But he shuns the sunshine, so I took this photo at twilight.

I hope you all had a Happy Thanksgiving and avoided the dangerous topics of conversation that can torpedo a family get-together in these yappy, noisy, bloviating times. But as it’s a holiday of Thanksgiving I want to give thanks to you all who read this blog,week by week, giving me your wonderful feedback (see last post re: work-in-progress — I LIKE the “empty space”  advise you gave me — thank you!)

I am so very grateful for your company!

 

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This Claude Monet painting of his beloved waterlilies (1905) was sold at Christie’s New York last week,on Nov. 7, for $43,762,500. Yes, that’s 43 million, seven-hundred sixty-two thousand, five hundred dollars. This is of great interest to me because I just happen to be working on the “Monet” chapter of my Damn Garden Book (sketch, below, in progress):

All the ladies in this picture are versions of me.

Now, if you’ve read my book Le Road Trip you’ll know that I was not really thrilled with my last to Monet’s garden at Giverny — it was crowded and overgrown (in my opinion) and I was in a bad mood. Nevertheless, I have fond memories of the garden from several previous visits and it is those memories that I am trying to communicate. Also, hey — it’s GIVERNY. What garden memoirist can get away with writing a Damn Garden Book without including GIVERNY???    Here’s my illustration of the view from Monet’s bedroom window (a view he was particularly fond of):

Yeah, I know. I’m really crappy at painting flower gardens. Truth to tell, I’m not that crazy about flower gardens, and it shows.

I would much rather gaze at the Japanese maple tree in my front yard than at Monet’s waterlilies, to tell the truth, especially at this time of year:

And the Japanese dogwood tree on the patio is no slouch in the spectacular foliage department either:

If you look real hard you can see Bibs eating his breakfast from his pink bowl in the background, on the left.

Oh! Frost on Fall leaves is ten times more poetic than dew on a rose petal!

And I can tell you: there is nothing at Giverny to compare to the awesomeness of the American Elm tree near my house on Long Island:

I’ve never been tempted to pick a single flower on any of my visits to Giverny, but when it comes to a hundred-year old American Elm…

Here I am putting my crutches to good use to nab me an American Elm leaf to paint. (This photo was taken by my friend Melinda last month — my knee injury is healing just fine and I only use crutches now for whacking at stuff that is annoyingly out of reach.)

Even my dear husband, the Great and Wonderful Top Cat, knows better than to bring me roses. When he wants to be romantic, this is what he brings me:

This is what I love! A bouquet of beautiful fall leaves! My Top Cat gets me, he really does.

Monet had his obsession with the waterlilies  (he painted 250 canvases of his water garden at Giverny from 1899 until his death in 1926) and I have my obsession with Fall leaves:

One of the pages I am most proud of in my book Le Road Trip is page 56:

I am proud to be the first person to have calculated the going rate of a Monet waterlily painting down to the square inch, which was at that time  $23,319.00.

I think this is valuable information in quantifying pricelessness, in that a Monet painting might be so astronomically/mind bogglingly expensive to buy (see above, $43,762,500) that it might as well be priceless, but nothing is truly priceless. Remember, I used to be the Faberge expert for the same Christie’s New York auction house that sold this latest Monet, and I used to put price tags on all kinds of priceless stuff.

When I wrote Le Road Trip, the going rate for a Monet waterlily painting was based on the June 2008 sale at Christie’s London of a 1919 painting that sold for $80,451,178. Yes, that’s 80 million four hundred fifty-one thousand and change. And yes, that’s the record for a Monet at auction.

However, that Monet was big, 40 ” x 80″ , and the one that sold last week for $43,762,500 was about half that size at 35″ x 39″,  so:

The new going rate for a Monet painting of his beloved waterlilies is $32,060.4 per square inch.

And you are in luck! Because the going rate for a painting of my beloved Fall leaves is FREE — which is well and truly PRICELESS — and today I announce the winners of my 2012 Fall Leave Give Away:

Actual leaf not included.

This priceless painting goes to Nadine!    Nadine, send me an email at vivianswift at yahoo dot com and we will discuss shipping etc!

And the winner of this priceless painting:

… is Bobbi!   Bobbi, please see above.

I wish I could send all you dear readers a Fall leaf painting in appreciation for you all, but I would go broke if I handed out priceless paintings every week. I’m no Monet, after all! (Oh, wait. Even if he were alive Monet doesn’t get the millions… Jeeze. Being a famous artist as just as lucrative as being a priceless one.)

And now I have to quit painting Fall leaves so I can figure out how to paint a damn flower garden. See you next Friday — when I hope to have painted a less ugly Giverny..

 

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So not fair. Just when we were getting over Super Storm Sandy, we get this. Well, you know what they say. When life gives you a damn blizzard, break out a brand new Champagne-O-Meter!

The snow started at 11 in the morning…

…and it lasted all damn day. This (above) gave me the only laugh I had the whole time, to see the Champagne-O-Meter sporting its jaunty Blizzard Chapeau.

But by the next morning, I wasn’t laughing anymore. We got a lot of snow, heavy, wet, relentless snow. We lost power at 4:30, got half of it back by 7, and there was much more damage from the blizzard than from the hurricane. NOTE: I refuse to call this blizzard a Nor’easter because I never heard of any damn “Nor’easter” while I was growing up in the damn Nor’east…I only started hearing about “Nor’easters” in the mid-1990s when weather forecasters started using it to jazz up their TV news spots. I loathe the word “Nor’easter”. So I’m going to call this episode of snow and wind, Buster.

Anyhoo…here’s how much trouble Buster gave us (I took these pictures from inside the house, looking out the den picture window):

The backyard cats before Buster.

Lickety during Buster. Don’t worry. As soon as it got dark Lickety came in the house and spent the night curled up on a warm electric blanket.

From the upstairs guest room I got a view of what came down during the night :

But wait a sec…this doesn’t look right…

I don’t usually get a tree-top view from the first-floor kitchen window. And the view from the little window in the mud room usually gives me a clear look all the way to the backyard fence:

But today the view is blocked by our lovely Japanese dogwood tree that normally shades our patio but today is leaning against the back of the house. The tree didn’t fall down, it just bent waaaaaaay over (but our little rhody, still propped up from our rescue last week after Sandy, is still standing!).

The problem is that the trees still have lots of leaves on them, which made them so very heavy when they got eight inches of snow dumped on them. Oh, sure, it’s kind of pretty…

…but it’s scary, too.

You can’t tell, but this is a really BIG tree. Snapshots don’t do Buster justice.

This here is the tree that really has me worried:

We’re counting on our little backyard shed to break the fall when this maple tree comes crashing down towards our house. Looks to me like  it’ll take out the roof above the guest room, maybe wipe out the guest bathroom too, when it tires of teasing us with its hulking presence creeping closer and closer, and says WTF, I’ll Just Go Boom..

And when it does, dear readers, you will read all about it right here.

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Before (the proverbial calm):

 

 

 

On Sunday the sky got dark. We took the warnings seriously and we prepared for the worst: moved all backyard furnishings into the garage, sand bagged the back of the house, stocked up on candles and water, taped up our 1940s-era picture window, stuffed our pockets with batteries, took one last hot shower, got out the potato chips and champagne, and watched the mounting fury.

Evacuation quarters for the backyard cats (in the garage).

The thing about hurricanes is that when they are moving into your front yard (Sandy, being a particularly slow-moving storm, took all damn day to blow into town), they tend to be the sole focus of attention. All we could do was sit and watch, and and listen: what I thought was the sound of gunshots turned out to be trees splitting in half. Power went out at 6:06 Monday night and it stayed dark for the next six days, seventeen hours, and 53 minutes. I tried to take pix of the wind-tossed trees that we were watching through the livingroom windows but snapshots do not do justice to hurricanes. Also, I kept an hourly diary of the Coming of Sandy, but after spending a week in the dark and the cold I have no idea where those notes are and I’m too fed up with all this hurricane misery to bother looking for them.

After (one block radius from my house):

Three houses down from us, this place was the girlhood home of my 86-year old neighbor Ruth until she died in 2010, when new owners gutted it (Ruth was a hoarder) and did a total reno.

This is the picturesque ruin on the corner that the town has been unwilling to condemn out of sympathy for the old bachelor who lives there, but this might be the final straw.

Our only damage was a downed rhododendron on the patio:

Yes, that’s Candy on the roof of the shed, inspecting her domaine.

But Top Cat and our darling neighbor Gary righted the old girl (the rhody, not Candy) and propped her up with boards and we hope she’ll pull through:

On Wednesday night we had a jolly candlelight barbecue with the neighbors, grilling all the turkey burgers and chicken bits from our freezer. The next night the neighbors had us over for an equally celebratory “Empty the Freezer” BBQ (hamburgers and Italian sausages). On Friday we got a rare half-hour of SUNSHINE so I walked a half mile up the road to get a good look at this:

This mess of fallen trees bringing down this tangle of power lines was rumored to be the cause of our blackout. The house behind all this crap has been on the market for over a year (priced to sell at $988,000) and gossip has it that the homeowners are heartbroken that the trees didn’t take it out (it is a brutally “modern” 1970s-era eyesore that is quite the out of place in this neighborhood).

This is what it looks like when the front yard is not cluttered with hurricane debris:

Let me tell you, a hurricane party gets a lot less fun after five days. So when we heard that Governor Christie had declared Atlantic City OPEN FOR BUSINESS on Saturday, we took our business right down to the Jersey Shore for lights, heat, and HOT WATER!!!

I heard a choir of angels when I laid eyes on this hotel bathroom.

First change of clothes, first shower in five days. First good night’s sleep in six. All that, and Chinese food too!

Next order of business was to check out the boardwalk, which I feared had been devastated. I prepared for the worst, but the good news is that the boardwalk looked 100% fine, and the GREAT NEWS is that through the heroic efforts of Alley Cat Allies of Atlantic City the boardwalk citizens looked FABULOUS! (I know you know who  I’m talking about.)

I had brought water for the colony, which this guy is politely drinking, but I can assure you that there was plenty of water, food, and fresh straw bedding in the igloos under the boardwalk…

…and the colony is safe. Whew.

After a glorious 30 hours in Atlantic City it was time to return to our own colony, where it was still pitch black, ice cold, and Chinese-food free. It was so cold that I slept in my clothes, and then got up the next morning and put more clothes on top of the ones I’d slept in to prepare for the worst part of Hurricane Sandy: the cleaning of the one-week non-functional fridge.

I had just hosed bits of rancid cream cheese off the last shelf when I saw the refrigerator light go on

All that is left are reminders of what it was like to be young and single.

…and I knew that my hurricane was over.

Thank you, one and all, dear friends and readers, for your emails and your concern. Compared to the ongoing misery of so many people in our area, Top Cat and I have much to be grateful for, and much work to do in lending a hand in the clean up and the recovery.

 

 

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