December 2017

My big sore nose still hurts. Not a lot, but enough to make me whiney and cranky. And then I was pulling out of my gym one morning last week and saw this:

According to a woman who was one car and two minutes ahead of me, the Lexus SUV didn’t stop to let the truck make the curve; the Lexus SUV driver saw the big truck turning towards her, but she just blew on her horn and rammed right into the undercarriage of the 18-wheeler. This is not unusual for Long Island Lexus people. Long Island Lexus people think they own the streets. However, I never thought that one would be stupid enough to play chicken with an 18-wheeler…but I guess I was wrong.

So that was one consolation for my nose woes: at least there was one other person who was having a worse day than I, and oh how sweet that it was a Lexus person!!

And then it rained for two days; and then we had a house guest for two days; and then we were really tired from having a house guest for two days, and then OMG it has been beastly cold here on the north shore of Long Island this past week. So, No, we have not trekked out to our favorite beach on the north shore of Long Island yet this new year to glorify our drinking habits with a fancy Solstice theme, so, No, I don’t have any pictures of the sun set to show you.

But I can offer you a photo of the Breakfast Club at my house:

That’s my neighbor’s cat, Dennis, second from the left (above). The rest are all mine. I’m rich with cats.

It’s been so cold this week (20 degrees F) that I was fretting about my outdoor cat, Steve. So today I added two wind break/walls to Steve’s little nest under the holly tree by my front stoop, and I piled up lots of additional new straw so that when he steps into his nest, he sinks up to the tippy-top of his ear-tips into a nasty-hamock of cosy, insulated, all-natural fibers:

He seems happy here, and he’s got a cubby in the garage in case he ever wanted to curl up inside an insulated kitty house. But it still doesn’t seem right for a kitty to spend his days and dark, freezing nights outside, but Steve resists all my attempts to lure him indoors so I fret. Yes, I do. I fret.

I also fret about my “job”, which is to paint Claude Monet’s famous garden in Giverny, France. This (below) is the scene I want to paint, a part of Claude Monet’s famous garden in Giverny, France, called The Ladies’ Circle:

These photos are from my 2013 visit to the garden (not my 2015 visit), in May when the cherry trees were in bloom:

No wonder Monet never painted this part of the garden, and no wonder that I have never seen this part of the garden photographed for any of those grand coffee table books about the garden:

This part of Monet’s garden is impossible to portray as picturesque. It’s partly because of the lay of the land — a lawn bordered by flower beds on the sloping terrain — and partly because that huge Paulownia tree (which has a very ungraceful trunk):

I have tried, and tried, and tried agains and again, and failed each time, to paint this place as a Spring scene, so my new strategy has been to try to paint it in Summer, when the tree’s ungainliness will be partly hidden by foliage. I also changed my point of view.

The most crucial part of this painting is the background, which must indicate abundance and frothy greenery without getting specific. On my FOURTH try, I got this:

Ideally, the background blobs should sound something like a cool pop song from the olden days. Kind of glamorous, like Petula Clarke singing “Don’t Sleep in the Subway, Darling”. Or, from the ’80s: Everything But The Girl doing “Miss You”. Know what I mean?

My favorite way to create a background that doesn’t overwhelm the picture with information, yet still creates a bit of interest, is to let the watercolor bleed into thought-provoking shapes:

I just realized that my preferred background music (see above) is a sad song about rain. I might be kind of depressed.

That damn Paulownia tree is just too quirky for my tastes, but I have to report it as faithfully as I can since this is for a picture book about Monet’s garden. I just can’t re-invent the bits I don’t like:

I’m hoping that the right crop will bring this pic to life:

OK, painting the flowers was fun:

And then I painted in a little, but necessary, tree and ruined the pic. Still, it was one of the least crappy pictures I’ve painted of this impossible view:

Lower right, that’s how the wrong little tree ruined the pic.

So far, all my attempts at panting this maddening Ladies’ Circle look like this:

But I’m a Capricorn. I’m scrappy. I’m determined. I’m conceited, distrusting, and unimaginative (according to any Air, Water, or Fire sign). Capricorns are not cuddly people.

This pissant Ladies’ Circle will not defeat me.

I’m good for ONE MORE TRY.

Done. Maybe. But maybe not.

On second thought, definitely not. Which comes as a surprise to me, since I only loaded up all these pix because I thought I’d got it, finally. So this is an unexpected twist to today’s blog. I hate when that happens.

I had a short discussion the other day, with Top Cat, about New Year’s Resolutions for 2018.  TC doesn’t want to make any, and that’s fine; we usually don’t bother. But we were very stick-in-the-muddish this year and we want to travel more in 2018 so we sat in silence, each of us trying to think of a place we really wanted to go to. Then we had a few more glasses of wine and I got a brilliant idea about what I should do with my life, and I jotted it down, and the next day I checked my scribbles and the message I had for myself for what to do in 2018 was this:

Hang out with owls.

Yeah. I’m going to see if I can make that happen.

Happy New Year to all you Dear Readers, whether it’s a Summer eve or a Winter one — I hope it’s the first day of a spectacular year, feathers and all.

P.S. I think I’m going to take one more stab at the Ladies’ Circle. Any suggestions?

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Happy ChrisHanuKwanSolstice everyone.

My hopes that the Winter Solstice here on the north shore of Long Island would be as balmy as it was in 2015 have been dashed.

Winter Solstice, 2015.

It is slightly above freezing today, the first full day of Winter here on the north shore of Long Island. Top Cat and I will head out to our favorite beach and toast the return of light in about seven hours. This year, however, the champagne seems redundant since I’m still way high from last night. Whew. One benedryl at bedtime and I am still a bit loopy the next morning.

I should mention that on top of the benedryl, I had spent most of the day before high as a kite on Xanax, a drug that I would happily abuse if falling asleep while sitting up was my thing. Maybe I should back up:

Last Friday I had to take care of two bits of skin cancer. It’s not my first go-round with basal cell carcinoma, but the two times I’ve had it previously, the nasty bits were on my shoulder and on my neck: easy stuff. This time, however, I had a twofer, both on my nose, which is right smack in the middle of my face. And this time it was going to be Mohs surgery, which if you are into grossing yourself out you should definitely Google.

What I saw on the internet was so revolting that I asked my doctor for some Xanax that I could take for the operation so that I would be calm during the procedure and not scream too loudly. The Xanax worked so well that when I got out of surgery and glimpsed myself in a mirror and saw the pile of size of bandages on my schnoz I laughed and laughed and insisted that Top Cat take pictures of me. In fact, I was in such a good mood that I became convinced that this is how I should be spending the entire Drumpf presidency, loaded to my eyeballs.

All things must pass, and lo when the Xanax wore off, I was just a girl, with a very sore nose, once again witnessing the demise of our democracy.

Yesterday I went back to the plastic surgeon to have the stitches removed, a process that required another liberal dose of happy pills. I downed the Xanax and settled into a chair in the crowded waiting room and closed my eyes. I did not notice that my consciousness had wandered far, far away until one of the sea creatures that I was playing poker with looked up from its cards and said something in French, which I thought might be my name, and then I heard a distinctly human voice say it again and I knew it was the nurse wondering where the hell Vivian was and I realized Vivian was me.

I get chatty when I’m high. After rambling on about how I didn’t leave the house because of the huge stonking bandages on my face except to go to the liquor store and the library (because: priorities) I remember telling the surgeon that I hoped when the bandages came off that I wouldn’t look like Golda Meir. “Who’s Golda Meir?” she asked. Everybody is so young these days.

“A muppet,” I said, because I knew a coherent explanation for my reference was out of the question.

Golda Meir, a great lady. But not one that you would call “button nosed”.

So now I have smaller, but still big, bandages on my nose and I have several more go-rounds of grafts and other gross stuff which makes me want to puke. AND I’M ALL OUT OF XANAX.

Mama cat Candy, the calico, with her boys Taffy and Lickety. You can see the family resemblance. The boys got their mother’s nose.

In honor of this wondrous day of Solstice I tried to paint a special 2017 ChrisHanuKwanSolstice picture for you all . . .

. . . but this kept happening:

So let’s look back on some of my favorite views of my beloved Long Island Sound, starting with this sun set from long ago:

P.S. I can see (above) that I used a paper towel to blot the paper to keep the yellow paint from bleeding into the blue paint and achieve some interesting effects. I haven’t done that in a long time. I should try that again soon.

I remember being very surprised that I could pull this off (above), when I was still in the early days of my painting, that is, do a picture that left so much of the white paper showing.

I have no idea how I got that diagonal color bleed in the sky. I should play around with my old Grumbacher paints more.

All these images are from my first book, When Wanderers Cease to Roam, and they are reproduced in the book in their original size in case you haven’t seen them before and don’t know that these pictures are very small. Bigger than a Triscuit, but smaller than a baby bunny.

But my ChrisHanuKwanSolstice wishes for you, Dear Readers, are bigger than the sky: I wish you all the adventure of mindfulness, the joy of discovery, and the wonder of living each day with an open heart and mind.

P.S. I am still totally high. I just realized that it seems that I published this post when it was supposed to be in draft mode so all the while I was working on it this morning it was live on the internets. So now you know how the sausage is made.

 

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November 2, 2017, and it still looks like Summer in my back yard:

We have a teeny tiny baby Japanese Maple out there by the old fence which Top Cat grew from a three-inch seedling. It’s supposed to turn a brilliant shade of scarlet in the Fall but I was wondering, since the season has been such s dud this year, if we would get any color from it in 2017…so here is a selection of the photos I took every morning, around 8am, to track the foliage of Autumn on Long Island.  That’s the Japanese Dogwood in the foreground — the maple is that bitty bright green bush in the back.

And then came December 9, 2017:

Righteous fluff!

This past Saturday gave us our first snowfall on Long Island and you know what that means!!

It’s time for the Cat-O-Meter!

Beginning shortly after the first flakes began to fall at approx. 10:55am,  I took approx. hourly photos of this feisty bunch of felines until it got dark, at approx. 4 o’clock pm. From left to right this is Candy, Taffy, Lickety, and Cindy:

As you can see, my cats move at approx. the same rate as glaciers.  Which means, movement that can only be detected by time-lapse photography.

Our next door neighbor’s cat, Dennis, was also with us during the storm, and he too obliged me with hourly photo updates on how he was coping with the weather (in our dining room window seat):

Dennis gave up his snow watch around the four-hour mark, and moved onto the dining room table, where I was folding laundry and he thought I needed the help of a kitty:

I kept busy on this cold and snowy day by working hard, painting so many new ways of not getting Monet’s garden quite right, and then I  painted two pictures that almost — almostGot It, which I will happily share next week by which time I HOPE TO HELL I will have painted something spiffy.

But until then, Dear Readers, no Long Island snow storm would be complete without the official Vivian Swift Champagne-O-Meter although in this case we are using a fine Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand that is my current favorite tipple:

And then it was getting dark and the snow was topping out at approx. three inches and the wine looked to be just about perfectly Winter-Chilled. . .

. . . so that was the end of the first Champagne-O-Meter of the 2017 Snow Season and we put that bottle of Kim Crawford to good use. By pouring it into glasses.

No doubt, Dear Readers, you are as gob-smacked and high-falouti as I am about the way last Tuesday turned out at the Alabama special election for Senator. THANK YOU to all the good people of the Yellowhammer State for choosing decency and yes, it’s a sad day when you have to congratulate people on not voting for a racist pedophile Christian taliban, but we live in strange times and we are taking about Alabama, the Heart of Dixie.

Thank you, African-American voters who turned out for Doug Jones; Thank you, educated urban Democrats who turned out for Doug Jones; Thank you to the 22,819 Republicans who chose the write-in option for their vote (at least you didn’t vote for the pervert in the cowboy hat); Thank you to the unnumbered Republicans who switched their vote from red to blue.

To quote Frank Bruni of the New York Times, Alabamians showed The Powers That Be . . .

. . .  that there are limits to what voters will tolerate, in terms of the lies they’ll believe, the vices they’ll ignore and the distance they’ll stray from civilized norms.

If Alabama isn’t beyond redemption, then the country isn’t, either. To use a word that Moore would appreciate: hallelujah.

As I type this, Roy Moore has not yet conceded. He and his supporters are probably feeling as if God has played a mean trick on them, or maybe they think it’s the Jews what done him in.  But Alabama needs healing, so let me be one of the first to bring us all together, unite us as Americans, highlight the one thing that we call all agree on. And here it is:

 I know we can all agree that Steve is pretty damn cute, curled up in his little straw nest under the big bush on the side of the front stoop, snug and dry on a snowy day on Long Island.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

 

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I have decided that from now on, I want every weekend to have five days. I don’t care where the five days come from, whether it means that we borrow a few days from the months we don’t like (I vote we get rid of February and March) or we just make up new day names (how about a Vinoday, a Dancerday, and a Dwadleday?)  I just want five days a week to be weekend-ish.

Last week Top Cat and I tried out this new five-day-weekend arrangement that I’d like to negotiate with the universe, and we went away (on an airplane!) for the weekend, which started on Wednesday afternoon (after we got off the plane) and ended on Sunday night (we took the plane back to Long Island on Monday morning). (Plane travel is so grotty that it cannot be counted in as part of the weekend-ish scenario.)

I can’t say that we were at the top of our game on this trip. Top Cat forgot to reserve a car and I forgot to pack a toothbrush. But it only takes about 10 minutes to get a car at Raleigh Airport and it’s not hard to get a toothbrush at Bynam’s Drug Store, where I got to eavesdrop on the ladies who were taking about a guy named Donny Joe, not the one who works at the church but the one who makes those birthday cakes that everyone likes.

So, yes, we had landed in southern America, and as soon as we hit the bricks there, which on the cusp of December does not mean that all your good porch-sitting days are over, I knew I would LOVE this place . . . 

. . . because you can bring your Sadie DoG to Santa’s village to get her picture taken (Sadie’s mom told her: Ears Up, Sadie; Ears Up!):

In those last two photos I tried to drop a clue about where we went (check out the flags) but I won’t be coy any longer. We went to the little town of New Bern, North Carolina (pop. 26,524) for no reason but we were on a tour of visiting’ our southern friends and New Bern was on the map.

They have a thing about bears in New Bern. So does old Bern, a city in Switzerland that has lent its coat of arms to their Tar Heel namesake.

Bern and New Bern have a lot in common. They are both on maps, and one is ranked among the Top 10 places in the world to live for quality of life and is the de facto capital of Switzerland from where the Universal Postal Union operates, which coordinates postal policies among member nations of the U.N. and has established that:

  1. There should be a uniform flat rate to mail a letter anywhere in the world
  2. Postal authorities should give equal treatment to foreign and domestic mail
  3. Each country should retain all money it has collected for international postage.

and the other was the birth place of Pepsi-Cola.

During our two-day perusal of New Bern, we went on a pub crawl (first night) that led us to enter our first Trivia Night contest (second night). We came in third, and if I had known which order of monks have 6 million of their bones buried in Rome (the Capuchins) or the name of the largest Native American tribe (it’s the Cherokee, not the Sioux) I could have come in 2nd. However, our 3rd prize covered our bar bill, so, Nice!

We saw the sun set over the Trent River . . . 

. . . and then we walked into town for dinner at a place where the chef was a guy from Baltimore so we knew the crab cakes would be awesome. And they were.

Day Three put us in the small town of Washington (pop. 9,801), where all the boats docked on the Pamlico River are required to be festively attired for the Holiday season:


It was almost 8 o’clock when we walked through the empty downtown (no pub crawl this night) :

But the next day we were back out on Main Street for the Christmas Parade:

Later, I got to meet this goat (her name is Eleanor):

I didn’t get to meet these Scotties, but I  LOVE THEM:

I LOVE THIS GUY TOO:

Days Four and Five were celebrated in the town of Oriental (pop. 882), where I got to visit my freind’s famous, hand-made Blue Bottle garden:

. . . and her new cat, Nieko, who is doing her best to teach their old DoG, Jack (who is not that crazy about little cats at all), some advanced catology re: the Two Bodies/One Space Theorem of Napping:

Seriously, I want to get in on that velvet cushion.

It was a very good weekend.

The quote that I am using for my header today is from Ernest Howard Crosby (1856 – 1907) and it describes how I feel about living in America these days. Right before I started to type this blog I listened to  Al Franken speak from the floor of the Senate in order to resign his seat as the junior Senator from Minnesota and I’m very sad. I’m very sad that he had to resign while there is a Republican sitting in the White House who has bragged, on tape, about his numerous sexual assaults on women, and while there is a pedophile running for the Senate in Alabama with the full support of his party. . . the Republican party, of course. I’m sad that America has gone bat-shit crazy.

It is clear that all a Republican has to do is simply deny all allegations, and their colleagues in the Senate and House will just shrug their shoulders, or pretend that it’s a matter for “the people” to decide. The Democrats, on the other hand, have made clear that they believe what women say and there will be zero tolerance for sexual harassment, and they mean it. They actually live up to the values they say they represent but Jesus, I’m tired and sad about being on the right side when I imagine that Donald Trump, Roy Jones, and U. S. Representative Blake Farenthold (he’s the guy from Texas’ 27th district who owes the taxpayers $84,000 for settlement of his sexual harassment case) are celebrating that they are members of the Republican party today.  And their wives, I’m sure, are thankful that they are married to such godly men who stand for the Christian values that will make American great again.

However: North Carolina GOP Sen. Thom Tillis, the finance chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (which removed their financial support of Roy Moore on Nov. 10) said the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm will be “standing firm” against helping Moore and, if he is elected, has called for an ethics investigation into allegations of sexual assault and misconduct against him.

Well, that’s something. But it’s not enough to not make me a little less homesick for the America I used to be proud of.

Photo credit: Getty Images

Thank you for letting me be part of your pre-weekend preparations. Whether you are porch sitting, pub crawling,  trivia contesting,  parading in your finest red jammies, or overthrowing the patriarchy this weekend, I hope it renews your spirit and refreshes your passion for your mission in life. I hope you get to hear your favorite Christmas carol and that you sing along and dance around and shake off the grunge of current events and do it good.

Oh, and there’s THIS:

Australia’s Parliament has voted to approve same-sex marriage following a protracted and often bitter debate that was finally settled in a nationwide referendum last month that overwhelmingly backed the move.

In a country where there had been 22 unsuccessful attempts in Parliament to legalize same-sex marriage since 2004, this should be seen as the triumph of a democracy learning to live up to its values.

Well done, Australia:

Fomer Prime Minister Tony Abbott, a staunch critic of same-sex marriage, said: “When it comes to same-sex marriage, some countries have introduced it via the courts, some via Parliament, and others — Ireland and now Australia — by vote of the people,” Mr. Abbott said. “And that is the best way because it resolves this matter beyond doubt or quibble.”

Remember: Beyond doubt or quibble, the majority of the people of the United States voted for Hillary for President. Every day since November 11, 2016, I have wished that I lived in a country where that mattered.

See you here next Friday. XX OO.

 

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