Tag Archives: grief

Denver eats, return

Watching Deadline Whitehouse, making chicken stock and dinner — I must be home. The sky is leaden, rain imminent — I must be home.

Trip to see younger son in Colorado was a little disorienting because we had no room to furnish or apartment to find or supplies to buy. Didn’t drop several hundred dollars at Target, so we went out to eat instead!

Best meal in Denver was not either of the three-dollar-sign dinners, but rather a reasonably priced lunch at Rotary Eats, one of the stalls in a place called Avanti. Avanti : like a food court, only good!

Exterior of Avanti, above, and interior, below.

My selections were roasted chicken thighs, roasted cauliflower with tahini sauce and golden raisins, and the best homemade potato chips I’ve ever had.

Our first special dinner was at The Black Cat in Boulder. The place gets great reviews and takes seriously the farm to table model of dining, but I didn’t like all the pickled vegetables or the flavor of the sauce served with my artisanal pork, so I was a little disappointed. I’m prepared to admit that the fault lay with my palette and not the food preparation. Salad was outstanding — greens picked that morning! — as was the service.

Brunch at “duo” in Denver proved disappointing, too, probably because I’ve had southern biscuits and the biscuits in my breakfast were grainy and muffin-like. K loved his meal, shown next to mine below.

(Biscuits and gravy with two eggs).

Sharing the meal with Denver friends we see about once a year, Marc and Kim, was great though. Marc and I went to law school together.

The other restaurant in the “duo” is located in Vermont.

We had another special dinner in Denver at a place called Vesta. I had braised lamb shank on a hot pepper infused polenta. Delicious! The meat fell off the bone, as it should! Those yellow chips are deep fried garlic slivers — insanely good.

The place is known for its sauces, so we started with a selection. The most popular was the hot pepper, horseradish a strong second.

I’ll leave you with “crack bacon.” I misread the menu at the breakfast joint “Syrup” and thought the dish was “cracked bacon” (as in crispy). Oh no. The strips were sautéed in brown sugar. Caramelized. They meant “crack” as in instantly addictive!

The phone is ringing and it’s not my sister. If you’re tired of her and my relationship, consider this post done!

My sister got very anxious whenever I left town — amped up worry informed mostly by abandonment issues and imagined travel mishaps. She never could keep straight the dates, so for weeks ahead of time, I would have to keep reiterating the plan. It got annoying. It didn’t help to write it on her calendar because usually her calendars went missing.

My sister magnanimously deemed my time away as vacation from her, partly because she knew I needed a little separation and partly because she kept forgetting about cell phones. Even so, to her utter amazement and gratitude, I’d generally check in at least once while away.

Obviously, this trip there was none of that. And no quick call immediately upon arrival home to quell her anxious misery. I missed that a little because her intense relief at my being back was a form of welcome.

On the other hand, there’s the relief: no need to scramble and rush up to the North Shore for a visit during the very same days when I need to settle back into being home. The car engine smelled like burning rubber or oil today while out for groceries. Instead of irritation I felt only gratitude — it wasn’t happening en route to Salem! I wasn’t gonna have to juggle car repair and a trip to Salem! I was headed home, where I would stay for the rest of the day!

It’s been two months and a week since she died — a fact I find amazing.

Looking back and forward

Tomorrow, Salem apartment inspection and key hand over. A finality, there.

The house and garage at this end are stuffed in spite of vigorous give aways and throw outs. But it can all wait ’til I get back.

This windowsill photo was taken roughly one year before my sister died just before the movers came. Who knew how little time she had left.

Aside from an eye hemorrhaged enough to warrant an urgent care visit yesterday, everything continues apace. The crocus are up, Euros obtained, tickets to the Villa Borghesi purchased, and a keyboard for tablet ordered (my old lap top is heavy!)

Also: filled the freezer with chicken pot pies, single serve pizzas, and meatballs. Otherwise, in my absence K might subsist on rice cakes and peanut butter (funny. Not funny).

It looks like I’ll be needing a raincoat in Italy and guess what? I DON’T CARE.

Spring temps at last

The clouds slid slowly to the west. Blackbirds darted from treetop to treetop while fat jays swooped down onto sodden, yellow lawns. I wore gloves but it was in the 40’s. Finally! We passed the husky — Sasha? — who stares (and then stares some more). Finn did just fine. “See the doggie?” Treat. Treat. “See the doggie?” Treat. Move on.

I listened with one earbud to a Pod Save America episode entitled “Peak Stupid.” You can guess what it was about. I might be all out of outrage for the moment.

Once home, I lifted myself out of the chair to check caller ID. The ACLU again — for what? — the fiftieth time in a month? Instead of annoyance, there was a twinge of recognition that it will never again be my sister calling. My intrusive, demanding, unreasonable sister.

Maybe it’s time, at last, to ditch the landline. Do any of you still have one?

Today, a charity comes to Saint Peter Street in Salem to look at my sister’s furniture. I hope they take a piece or two.

Now, at least, I am waking at my more usual time of 6:30. Since March 13, I’ve been waking at the approximate time of my sister’s death: 5:30. Lying awake in the dark.

Is she “gone”? How does one gauge these things? There hasn’t really been a moment when I felt her spirit near or when I felt a notably fresh absence.

Does that make me dense, somehow ill equipped to feel these things? Or should I take my sister at her word?

Not that long ago, I might have jokingly asserted that I hoped she wasn’t going to be a pain in the ass from the other side. She retorted, “Shit! I’ll have better things to do than haunt you!”

She could be funny. So could I.

The Clip Files, Intro

The support and love that readers offered here moved me profoundly. Thank you! I’d considered turning comments off for the announcement that my sister had died and I’m glad I didn’t know how! Locally, friends have stepped up with legion acts of generosity. Flowers. Dinners. Errands. Packing up the apartment. Prayers. The word that I hear in my head this week to describe friendships is: MIGHTY.

My sister had many compulsions, all of which added up to a disordered life and her premature death at 64. She’d been incapacitated physically for most of the last ten years and morbidly obese for nearly the entirety of her adult life.

Her need was bottomless, her rage explosive, the triggers countless. There were many times over the last nine years when I didn’t think I would survive her. But I offered up a battered loyalty.

Relating to my sister was so crushingly difficult that the demands placed by her remaining mess feel very nearly trivial.

Her clip file, however, poses special problems. For one thing it’s huge — the equivalent of ten banker’s boxes? Fifteen? It’s hard to tell yet, because I keep finding more.

The collection was housed in boxes that lined the walls and spilled into her teensy living spaces. Also in cardboard lids, recycled Kleenex containers, drawers and scattered on table tops. Bills and medical statements mixed in. Foil packs of albuterol buried. While fetching her things (coffee, lunch, address book), I constantly tripped over some box or other. Consolidation, not allowed. I felt a constant, smoldering resentment of all her fucking paper.

So here’s one of many contradictions: how could a visual person, a former artist of some promise, someone still interested in images of nature, interior design, archeology, ancient religious iconography, ALSO be a person who let her living space look like a literal dump?

(For the first three or four years in Salem apartment Number One, at the outset of every visit, my sister would make the same cheery-but-shame-filled queries: “Doesn’t it look better? Can you tell I’ve made progress?”

Me: nearly speechless with disbelief, sputtering some lame agreement).

So you’d think I’d be standing at the recycling bin, chucking it all with a flourish. A big exhalation of relief. Garbage at last! But here’s the second contradiction: I’m not.

The above assemblage represents just a third of the images she pulled while at the nursing home. She couldn’t sit up. Had no scissors. Knew she was dying. But she kept at it.

As for myself, being a collage artist who also sometimes uses images as writing prompts, I view these papers as a treasure trove.

My sister’s legacy.

The second they assume an ugly weight, which might be tomorrow, I’ll recycle.

But not yet.

Nitty gritty for Hearts for Charleston Quilt

 

NBC News

Does thinking about the nitty gritty offer relief in the face of the unthinkable? Perhaps.

This link provides short bios of the victims: NBC News.

nbc news

Nine victims of the Charleston church shooting. Top row: Cynthia Hurd, Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton Middle row: Daniel Simmons, Rev. Depayne Middleton Doctor, Tywanza Sanders Bottom row: Myra Thompson, Ethel Lee Lance, Susie Jackson          Via Facebook and Getty Images

christ-deemallon-assemblage

African Christ – work in progress

I am rethinking the stitching of names onto the squares. Hold off on that for now, please. I think they might look better embroidered on strips that go all around the edge of the assembled nine block, rather than on the hearts or strips themselves. Some of the names are quite long and I don’t want them to get lost.

WEAVING STRIPS

This weaving method is simple. Some of the genius variations that Jude Hill has created are listed in links toward the end of this post. I encourage you to take a look at just a quick sampling of her work– even those of you who have been following her.  The method here is hers, the tricks are learned from her. The artistry will be all yours and mine — I hope!

Jude teaches two basic approaches. You can lay your strips on top of a backing cloth and weave (which is what I will demonstrate), or you can ‘anchor’ an uncut cloth to a backing with a single row of stitching, then cut that top piece into strips and weave into that.
IMG_9745The finished area should measure 10″. Please leave at least 1/4″ all round, or more, for flexibility at assembly.

I have chosen light and dark blue for a checkerboard affect, because symbolically I think that speaks to the intersection of people of different colors. In a checkerboard, each hue has equal weight. It is harmonious. So, I like that here. You are welcome to go in another direction. IMG_9717

It is easier to start in the middle and work toward each edge in turn.start in middle and work to one edgeLaying a ruler or piece of cardstock on top helps keep things from moving around too much. When you approach the edge, the strips won’t want to stay folded back, so you might want to use a weight. A ruler is good. Here I use scissors.
IMG_9721

To turn the square when you are done going in one direction — slide something firm underneath, like a plastic placemat.
IMG_9728Then rotate and repeat process.IMG_9730

IMG_9739Then, pin. I use a lot straight pins, knowing I may get stuck. As Mo pointed out yesterday, it might mean bleeding into the cloth. I can think of no better cloth to offer our blood to. But the point is (no pun intended), you may want to use safety pins. I find them too fussy.

Then, to adhere the layers with thread, it is up to you whether you want to do a LARGE BASTE, an INVISIBLE BASTE* a la Jude, or just dig right in and start stitching — across and down, in matching or contrasting threads. A woven square this large will flop around quite a bit without a lot of basting, so I will do a fair amount.

For both the basting as well as the initial finish stitching, it helps to have a firm work surface — one that a needle can encounter without you worrying. If you have a glass top table, that works. I have been using a laptop lap desk that a friend gave me. It has a hard plastic surface and is the right size. Once the layers are integrated enough, you will be able to lap quilt without these concerns.

The heart can be a color of your choosing. Except for the red, the ones I have shown are a little too big, covering up too much of the weaving. As mentioned earlier, I will use traditional applique (with turned under edge), but you may use raw edge applique.

FABRIC

Any fabric is good. I like, though, that so many of you have indicated that you plan to use indigo. This will unify whatever other fabrics come in, making it easier for me to trust this, the way one trusts a potluck. Just please do me the favor of selecting fabric that a needle will easily stitch (i.e. no batik!! no jean-weight denim.)

DATE: August 31. Email me for my address when it comes time.

INSPIRATION

So much inspiration from Jude at Spirit Cloth! It would be impossible to overstate how much I value this generous, extraordinarily talented, ever-evolving and yet humble and curious, artist.  Here are just a few samples from her blog: ‘one step further‘, ‘weaving sanity‘, ‘just corners and squares‘ (this post includes a YouTube video), ‘creative growth‘, ‘some old moon‘, and ‘lining things up in December‘.

Here are a few of my weavings created after taking one of her online classes.
tops for sachetsreturning to 'treasure map' idea, this time with star map and red X's marking the spotIMG_5845I’ve archived some of the heart pieces I’ve made or photographed on flickr, here.

People stand outside as parishioners leave the Emanuel A.M.E. Church, Sunday, June 21, 2015, in Charleston, S.C., four days after a mass shooting at the church claimed the lives of its pastor and eight others. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

People stand outside as parishioners leave the Emanuel A.M.E. Church, Sunday, June 21, 2015, in Charleston, S.C., four days after a mass shooting at the church claimed the lives of its pastor and eight others. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

* Invisible baste is when you grab just a teeny knick of fabric on the top and let most of the thread between stitches run underneath. That way you can leave the stitches in when you are done, even if the thread is contrasting.

Specs done in a hurry

IMG_9738Specs in a hurry — how else can they be done by someone afflicted by (graced with?!!) ADD?!

But seriously, running off to final of 16 dog obedience classes, then I’m making lunch for one of my favorite people whose birthday it is today, then I have to babysit a delivery window (we are finally going to replace the rotting deck rails, and YES, with a rot-proof composite) and then it’s the Newton, Mass. Charleston Vigil at 6:30 at City Hall. So, a more detailed ‘how-to’ post will come tomorrow, not today.

But the quick answer to when and how big is: 10.5 inches square, nine strips across and down, a heart about 4″ across, and August 31 deadline.

Mo, I realized shipping from Australia adds time, so if this feels too tight, l’ll work with that.

I was going to ask for as much indigo as possible for obvious reasons, but people are already volunteering. So there will be a lot of indigo. Whatever else gets mixed in will work, I’m sure. I made my strips 10″ long and used nine each way of unequal length, but you are welcome to use more or less.

My heart is going to be traditional applique (meaning edges stitched under), but rough edge is okay, too. My heart currently might be a little bigger than I want. I’m guessing about four inches across would be good. I want to embroider a word on my square too — this is optional. At first I thought I’d stitch it across the heart, but now I think I’ll stitch it in the woven section.

A few extra squares are welcome!

Jack’s gifts to me — One

atop-graveMany thanks to the kind readers
from all over the world
who took the time to stop here and offer their condolences.

I mean it. The outpouring truly has meant a lot to me, partly because it would no matter what, and partly because this has been an unusually solitary week with K. in China and the boys running in and out (mostly out).

river-cross

added to “River House” quilt last week

Tending the grave? Wishing for heaven? The passing of my parents did not produce these responses. But Jack’s death has. I suppose this difference is further testament to the kind of love we feel for our pets. I haven’t wanted there to be a heaven since I was in my “pious phase” (that was second grade, during which time I fervently wanted to be a nun — mostly for the rosary beads and gilt-edged missals, I’ll admit — clearly, another story). This week, though, I was cottoning to the idea of eventually reuniting with our dog. Of being the recipient of his ‘help across’. I found myself uttering the cliche farewell, “See you on the other side, sweet Jack!”

There will be a number of posts about the gifts Jack has given me, but I’ll end here with one of the most immediate ones — lying under the catalpa tree this week, with my spine resting on the earth and my face oriented skyward, my heart softened as I watched the late summer sun move through the catalpa branches. Illuminating the undersides of its giant leaves. Glaring across the picket fence. Then disappearing. The acknowledgement that I still reside in this sensual world — this achingly beautiful world — while he does not, made me sad. But the fact that I was pausing to notice such beauty, and was marveling with fewer defenses than usual at how fleeting it all is, were things I could thank Jack for. And I did.