Looking ahead in 2023

I’ve been writing this post in my head for so long, and of course when I sit down to actually write it on the computer, my mind goes blank. I’m giving myself a whole lot of slack lately, because it’s been rough. As far as this blog goes, I keep thinking that once I get my mojo back I will develop it more into my art website and archive the blog and then blog on Substack. Or archive this WordPress blog and move to Substack entirely. I played around with it yesterday and this morning some. I need to learn more about it before I make that decision.

It is always good to write up the year’s summary because I always find that I did a lot more than I thought. Or maybe it seems like it because that’s pretty much the times that I write. Here’s what I find interesting about getting those tapestries finished and ready for display and delivered – the weight of that procrastination was much, much heavier than I thought. I really want to move back to doing book arts and collage more, but I always had that damn unfinished tapestry hanging over my head. I felt like I had to work on it before I could let myself work on other projects, and what happened was that most of the time, I ended up doing nothing. Don’t get me wrong. I am pleased and proud of that tapestry. I am NOT happy that it took me almost eight years to weave and finish it. A lot of that was due to physical issues, but I could have lightened my load by getting it done more quickly when I was able.

My hope is that now that elephant in the room has been released to the jungle, I can play in the studio, maybe do some of these online classes that I bought, and banish the word “SHOULD” from my artist brain this year.

If I can get enough of a body of work together this year and highlight it on this website, maybe I can get some artist residencies after I retire in June 2024. Then I could travel AND do place-based art.

Of course, I have travel on my mind too. I’m not so sure that I’ll attend Focus on Book Arts if they have it this year. Last year I was surprised by the big increase in cost. Part of the reason I could fly to Oregon for this event was that it was always very reasonably priced. Then when they canceled it, it seemed to me that they could have sent an email saying that they needed everyone to register or it would be canceled for low enrollment BEFORE they canceled it. I don’t know what was going on behind the scenes and I know it is a volunteer run event, so I’m not mad, but I am disappointed. I am able to travel because I search out deals way ahead of time. You pretty much have to book airfare several months ahead to get a good price. If I can’t trust that they’ll have the event more than two months ahead of time, that’s a budget problem for me. Refundable fares are more expensive, and I usually go with travel insurance instead. I was also annoyed because I chose FOBA when I could have driven to Convergence which was held at the same time. However, I enjoyed Portland and lucked into getting an art class while I was there, so it turned out okay.

This experience makes me rethink the travel insurance for future trips – maybe I should spend the money on refundable airfare instead. It won’t help with getting my money back for events if something happens to make us cancel our trip on our end though.

Anyway, we are talking about going to Scotland in late May/early June this year. Sandy obviously can’t do much walking, so as long as we can take trains around the countryside, that may be our best bet for sightseeing. Scotland has gorgeous scenery and lots of trains. Then later I want to do a “girls’ trip” with my sister and a friend, and go to Scotland as well as England. Maybe Cornwall or Wales. Maybe somewhere else in Europe. My sister wants to do a river cruise, and that sounds very appealing.

I’ve been saving up my miles with United Airlines, and Sandy and I should be able to buy tickets that are very inexpensive with these miles. Then we’ll be just looking at accommodations and food and land transportation. I’ve told Sandy that he will need to pitch in more money for this trip if we go. As far as airlines go, I’ve had the best experience with United. When we got caught up in that shitstorm of canceled flights just before Memorial Day, they were very helpful and kind. It was Aer Lingus that was the problem because they shut down their customer service counter before the luggage was accounted for, and didn’t even have a sign on their office door in Boston Logan Airport!

I always have to keep in mind that Sandy is not in good health. He can totally fool you into thinking otherwise, which is great – he is not a whiner or complainer – but it is not great that he is often in denial about it. He has multiple issues that are being managed but they are not curable. Everything that I plan has to take that into account – that I might end up being a caretaker instead. Of course, I would really rather not think about it either, but that’s the way it is.

Now I’m going to copy and paste this post into Substack in case WordPress decides to eat it for Sunday dinner. It’s already given me a warning message that I am not allowed to edit this type of post. WHUT YOU MEAN, WORDPRESS? Gah.

GTFO, whatever

Regarding Social Media

This subject has played an outsized claim on my attention this past week. At work, we are constantly pressured to promote our “brand” on all kinds of social media. I’m fairly proficient at Facebook, less so on Instagram and Twitter, and here on WordPress I sort of fumble along. With all the news of the Spacechild Billionaire acquiring Twitter and his ego and job cutting leading to a mass exodus of Twitter users, I took note of where many of the journalists I follow were setting up new digs – a mysterious new world named Mastodon. Part of the Fediverse. Don’t ask me to explain much. The most I can tell you is that it is a international network of many computer servers, run by volunteers. Some communities are very small, some are bursting at the seams and their servers are having problems with the huge Twitter Migration. There aren’t any ads. There are many different features.

So I spent a bit too much time exploring it last night and this morning. I set up an initial account at mstdn.social@slowturnstudio and searched hashtags to find a few interesting people to follow, and on the way found some of the journalists that I follow on Twitter. Then I realized that there were art “instances” (communities) that would be a better fit, so I set up another account at @slowturnstudio@artisan.chat. The addresses are really confusing. I downloaded two different apps to my phone, Mastodon and Tusky. So far I like Tusky better.

I really need to understand Instagram better instead of diving into a completely new platform with a steep learning curve, because we’re talking about creating a work Instagram account. But, here I am.

During the past few months, I have probably spent more time on Twitter than anywhere else. It’s come to be the place that I go for breaking news and to follow some really great journalists. When I first created an account there, it was to follow Steve Martin. Really, that was about it. I even said that in my profile at first. “I’m just here to follow @SteveMartinToGo.” I follow a lot more comedians and actors there now, and I don’t think that Steve Martin tweets much any more.

While I do have a Twitter account, I don’t tweet much. I retweet others. I rarely have any real interaction with others, and that’s okay. I have a lot of that on Facebook and Instagram, and I’m not on Twitter for socialization.

In that way, Mastodon is very different. It could be that so many new people are searching for others to follow. It could be that it has, at this point, a much smaller pool of users for “tooters” to choose from. So far, so good. I’m keeping my Twitter account, but if it crashes or goes mostly right wing, I have a new place to land where I can follow political posts in a well moderated system.

Blather, coffee pot posts, Coronavirus Chronicles, whatever

Looking ahead in 2021

Well, this is certainly a crap shoot, isn’t it? But I will take a stab at it. I can at least visualize what I hope for.

I actually started writing this post several days ago just in case I got a case of the blues and couldn’t do it. But I woke up fairly bright and sassy this morning, after a shower, under clean sheets, with clean leggings and shirt on, which is a step up in my world! I made coffee and oatmeal, and put on earrings. I haven’t worn earrings in months, and my ear holes were starting to close up. So in went my beautiful earrings that I bought in Santa Fe at the market in the plaza. We will eat some field peas and collards at some point today for luck in money.

Tapestry Weavers South plans to have a retreat and exhibition at the same time as the Blue Ridge Fiber Fest. Tapestry Weavers South has its “headquarters” at Yadkin Valley Fiber Arts Center in Elkin, NC, and the Blue Ridge Fiber Fest takes place in Sparta, NC, about a thirty minute drive from Elkin. The plan is early June. All this is within a couple of hours’ drive for me.

Whether I’ll have a tapestry to exhibit remains to be seen. I’d like to finish the lake rain tapestry that I started with my naturally dyed silk threads.

We hope to visit Portugal for two weeks in September, with a stopover in Dublin on the way for a couple of days, since we will fly through there anyway and my sister wants to see Dublin. Some of this may depend on our health. My husband’s health is particularly troubling right now, but we all have issues of some kind. I booked my one plane ticket to get my refund from Orbitz so I’ll be flying on my own and will meet the others in Dublin. I also reserved a couple of rooms in the B&B in Howth where we stayed before, just to make me feel good.

This means that I definitely won’t be doing the art retreat in western Ireland next summer, and maybe not at all.

I anticipate that I will be working from home except for Fridays again through the spring semester depending on how the vaccine gets distributed. I’m not sure how I am going to adjust to going back to work in the office full time. It will be tough, considering how this feeds my agoraphobia, and how my sleep pattern has changed, and how my physical pain has been better working from home.

Yesterday, the state government changed the vaccine schedule so that I am actually in phase 1b group 2, and my family members with serious health risks are in phase 2! This is due to me being educational support staff. I assume that universities are included. If not, I’ll be heading to the back of the line again. I was not particularly happy about this change, due to my intense worry about my family, and that I can actually do my job well from home, but as Sandy said, they can’t really micromanage this to that level. Teachers are essential frontline workers, and so are the housekeepers and other support staff that can’t do their jobs from home.

Hopefully I won’t have to attend any protests, although the state government is probably in worse shape than it was pre-election. Thank God we have Democrats for governor and attorney general, at least.

My main focus is probably going to be downsizing, and getting some house repairs and improvements done once it is safer to let people in the house. However, my expectations are lower about actually being able to move away from here. For one thing, I see how much rent is in places in the US where I’d like to live. Good God. We can’t afford that. It is more than our house payments were! Portugal is still my hope but I’m not sure that I will be able to get the house sold and packed up if Sandy’s health issues do not get resolved or worsen. (And Sandy needs to raise the rent on his condo for sure!)

I’m not going to waste effort on food gardening. Other people can feed the groundhogs.

I’d like to get back to weaving strips of cloth since that seems to be the most relaxing and satisfying thing that I could do. Make some books and use up a lot of my supplies. Get my Etsy shop up and running again. Sell collage packs. I wonder if I can sell old copies of Handwoven and Cloth Paper Scissors and Quilting Arts magazines on Etsy? I’ll have to check. If not, maybe on Ebay.

I hope that Leslie Marsh will do some more workshops at her home/studio at Topsail Beach. I bought her online class for making a tiny book necklace with metal covers, but I have a hard time following through on online classes. I ordered some supplies for soldering. I’m nervous about this one because of my klutziness, but it will be a good skill to master. The book that I made in Leslie’s in person class is one of the nicest books I ever made.

Maybe Kevin will invite me to participate in his home studio show next year. He likes my collage work.

Most of all, I desperately want to get over my artist’s block. To have all this time at home and feel so frozen is incredibly frustrating. I made a couple more masks yesterday, and I’m going to finish up the others today so that I can move on to something else. I have so many online classes on deck that it is crazy. I don’t even remember how many, so I am working on a list. I will need to add one more…after watching MaryBeth Shaw do a live Facebook art journaling session last night, I bought another one called 21 Secrets. And then I remembered that I bought an online class from MaryBeth this summer that I never finished! This is getting out of control.

depression/anxiety, Obsession, whatever

Self therapy session redux

These are some random thoughts around the theme of connection, which has been on my mind very much lately. Expect some curmudgeon-ish talk.

Last night I went to our Tiny Pricks Project gathering, and I was thirty years older than the other three women there. I enjoyed it thoroughly. There was even a baby photo and conversation about teething. And that put my thoughts to work: my angst right now is as much about aging as anything else.

For most of my life I have been the youngest in the crowd. I was a late-in-life surprise baby and my siblings are 8-9 years older than me. I dated boys and men who were older. I married a man who is nine years older than me. I have always preferred the company of older people. So here I am and my friends are increasingly younger. I feel the generation gap. The graduate students often see me as a mother or grandmother figure. Of course their experiences and concerns are different from mine, and if I let myself, I can enjoy listening to them and learn from that, and I will have to get over being shocked if they aren’t familiar with 70s bands and didn’t live in a pre-Internet world and have a definition of sexism that is far more sensitive than the blatant sexism and harassment I experienced. I am not the youngest in the crowd any more. OK Boomer!

I will probably never understand the obsession of some people with being connected to other people constantly on their phones. What’s with the earbuds that are permanent installations on some heads? When I worked for a call center I couldn’t wait to get off the phone so I can’t imagine being wired in during my personal life. Often I don’t answer the phone. If it’s important, they can leave a message or text or email. I don’t get helicopter parenting. It’s funny how those parents don’t see themselves that way. It is such a different world than the one in which I grew up.

My first forty years were cell phone free and somehow we managed not being constantly connected to everybody else. I resisted getting a smart phone until a few years ago and my main reason in finally getting one was for GPS and being able to upload photos. My other influence is my mother, who was more than willing to let her kids go and I doubt very much that we were on her mind every minute of the day. In fact, I am pretty sure that she probably went for hours not thinking about us. In return, she created three very independent adults.

Any kind of loss is very difficult for me, but I can be separated for a long time without anxiety. Friends have broken my heart much more often than lovers. About thirty years ago I decided not to chase after friends who had disengaged and let them come to me if they wished. Most of the time they didn’t, and I was better off. I recently reconnected with one of those friends.

I can also admit that I have been that friend who disengaged. And those who let me go were better off as well.

So I simply feel lost in this century with its constant distractions from what is directly in front of us. I am a victim of these distractions as much as anyone. I have to find a way back to the here and now of my life, and I need to find a way to connect with others without making myself crazy.

The joys of social media are real, and have added a positive dimension to my life that could not have come from anywhere else. Those few folks that don’t do it ask me, where do you find out about these workshops and retreats? Facebook. How did you find out about this artist? Instagram.

Where do I draw the line? Giving up Facebook and Instagram is not an option, not only because of the positive aspects, but because Facebook is part of my job.

I need to get outside more often and leave the phone and camera behind. I love photography but experiencing life through the lens of a camera or the potential shot is not fully connecting. I am very, very tired of technology right now.

coffee pot posts, depression/anxiety, whatever, whining

Self therapy session

My recurring dream these days is that we are living in a rental condo in a very quirky wonderful community but we have forgotten to pay the rent for months and it would take all my savings and then some to pay the back rent. I am afraid of getting evicted because I love it there and often I am planting seedlings in the yard that I raised indoors, and I want to see them grow. I remind myself that in fact we live in a house that we own towards the end of each dream but it repeats itself almost every night.

Despite my absence here I am not in the hole. Lately I feel a bit like I am bobbing up and down as I float in a stream. I keep forgetting to take my meds and I need to figure that out. Sleep deprivation and game addiction are problems. I lost a friend in a terrible car crash a couple of weeks ago, and that was shocking, especially because she was so vivacious and that she was convinced that humans could live far beyond their normal life spans. We had much in common. It made me think deeply about my lack of connections to people “in real life” and the opportunities I have missed by putting them off. I need to find a balance between my need for solitude and my need for in person human friendship.

Work has been busy. I am about to finish one major project and start on another. Much of my mental energy is devoted to reminding myself that this is a great job – it is the best job I ever had and the people I work with directly are fabulous. The university, however, is a frustrating place to work. Because I am fatigued it is difficult to make myself get up in the morning and go to work. When I come home at night I usually don’t feel up to doing art work or cooking dinner. I don’t know how parents manage. It’s a very good thing that we chose the childless life. I fantasize a lot about retirement and I’m only 58.

It feels as if I am living in a band of low static on a TV screen most days.

I don’t like small talk. I often come away from these kind of interactions feeling like I have talked too much or sounded idiotic and I kick myself mentally instead of sleeping. Conversation with younger women often bores me and I find myself thinking about how soon I can get away. I don’t understand a lot of cultural references because I don’t watch much TV. I don’t care about fashion. Every time a friend gets pregnant I know that I am about to lose a friend, because I am horrified about that child’s future on this planet and I don’t think that it would be appropriate to express that. When I see those baby photos, my heart breaks. My talk of cats and travel and books and art probably bores the crap out of these women. I love conversations with the graduate students and faculty and listening to their talk about history and politics. I am addicted to art retreats where I meet other people to whom I can relate.

For most of my life, I have preferred the company of men. If I hang out with male coworkers and friends, I run the risk of rumors, and although I couldn’t care less personally I realize that it is probably a bad idea. This has recently jumped into my head. Sometimes I wonder if I was young in today’s world what gender I would identify as, where I would take that realization. Sometimes I wonder where I am on the autism spectrum. Anyway, I seldom have real friendships with men outside of work any more, and I miss that.

But other days, I feel great. I probably have more friends now than my personality can support – HA! The core group (three of us) of the Tiny Pricks Project Greensboro are getting tightly bonded. The small group of women that Carol and Leslie (our friend who died) began re-extended their invitation for me to join them, and I took the day off last Thursday to do so. The problem is that they meet for lunch on Thursdays, which doesn’t work with my work schedule. However, they do other things too, like go to the beach and the mountains together. I would like to join them. Most of these women are around my age or older. My Facebook friends are eclectic, artistic, and supportive. I feel fortunate in so many ways. I am involved in Tapestry Weavers South, considering the 50+ Artists Community here in Greensboro, and I could always go back to the local fiber guild and Sierra Club.

So I am conflicted and anxious and hopeful and grateful and feeling exceedingly weird.

Thanks for coming to my self therapy session. Maybe I will share some actual news next time! I really am doing some worthwhile stuff. This weekend I will go to Topsail Beach and take a book workshop with Leslie Marsh. So there should be some photos from that next week.

critters, whatever

Looking ahead

I haven’t been able to find this critter since I took this photo and I hope that it is literally hanging out in a chrysalis somewhere nearby. I believe this is a Tiger Swallowtail caterpillar.

Next week should be part bliss and part anxiety as Sandy and I are taking the week off. We’ll do a little bit of nearby traveling and other than that it will be an art staycation for me. We plan to go to Elkin, about a hour’s drive west, for the Tapestry Weavers South retreat and exhibition opening of “Point of View” at the Yadkin Valley Fiber Arts Center. We are also going to drive up to southern Virginia for a day to toodle around the Galax/Fancy Gap/Floyd area. At the end of the week the North Carolina Folk Festival will crank up in downtown Greensboro with Booker T. Jones headlining.

So far it looks like Hurricane Dorian will hit Florida instead of the Carolina coast, but as we know so well in the Southeastern US, hurricanes are unpredictable and can turn on a dime, circle back, sit over an area for days, or turn from Cat 1 to Cat 5 or vice versa within a day. Hurricane Hugo did an enormous amount of damage to Charlotte and the NC mountains even though they are a few hours inland. Flooding can be as damaging as wind. The most I would expect here is a lot of rain (knock on wood), which we’ve been getting anyway. It will be a good excuse to stay inside and weave or sew.

Back Forty, Blather, bloggy stuff, whatever

just ramblin’

Next week I’m taking a staycation and I have a lot of projects in mind and a couple of events to attend, including seeing Gordon Lightfoot in concert at the Carolina Theater in Greensboro – a great venue for a great artist.

Today, I’m considering my priorities in what I want to accomplish and what I need to get done. I’m taking a small weaving workshop on sakiori (Japanese rag weaving technique) that is not far away, so first on the list is to assemble and warp my new-to-me Beka rigid heddle loom, and cut/tear half-inch strips of rags for this workshop next Saturday. This is mainly an exercise in creativity and fun, and usually no matter what the subject is, I learn something from a new teacher.

Secondly, I am going to spend some time catching up on the online courses I signed up for LAST YEAR and this year, with the priority being to warp up my new-to-me Mirrix loom in the four-selvedge technique I’ve learned in Rebecca Mezoff and Sarah Swett’s “Fringeless” online course. I hope that this will lead to me weaving small tapestries for book covers and even pages. Making a tapestry book has long been a goal for me.

Other priorities are preparing “puzzle piece” squares for Jude Hill’s current online course as a traveling project. I’d like to do some more cloth strip weaving and make some bags like the ones I made in India Flint’s “Bagstories” course last year.

Another prep project is to make the components for several books, covers and pages, to have them ready to bind. I want to bind at least one book with some of the signatures I made in Leighanna’s workshop at FOBA, and it is mostly ready.

Also, I just finished the first season of “Stranger Things.” As usual, I am behind on popular shows and normally I can’t handle horror shows or flicks – I tend to have nightmares – but this struck me more as a combination of “Freaks and Geeks” and Stephen King. I will probably finish watching the series next week.

I will need to get my battery replaced in the car. We jumped it off after some difficulty after it sat for a while and I drove it to the mechanic’s shop, then made the unwise decision to drive it back home and see if it cranked in the morning. Now it won’t even click when we try to jump it. If we can get it charged again, I will leave it at the mechanic’s shop and let them replace the battery and check out the rest of the electrical system. Fortunately I walk to work and we can get by with one car most of the time, but it limits what I can do during weekdays when Sandy is working unless I get up at 6:30 and drive him to work and pick him up at 4 p.m. I don’t really want to do that.

Once the heat wave settles down, which according to the forecast should happen around Tuesday, I am going to fire up the electric dehydrator and dry a bunch of cherry tomatoes, which are beginning to produce a lot more than we can eat. The UNCG garden is producing plenty of lemon cucumbers, which I have mostly given away, some zephyr squash, and the Roma tomatoes are beginning to ripen. The pole lima beans are now healthy looking after a Japanese beetle attack, but it has been so hot that they have not blossomed, so I hope for a fall harvest. I’ve harvested and eaten onions – the first onions I’ve ever grown from seed. The garlic bulbs did not separate into cloves so I’ll have to figure out what went wrong. We have had a few peppers of various kinds, mainly Italian frying peppers.

Other than that, I am daydreaming about my plans to go to Ireland next June, probably by myself!!! and Sandy has applied for Social Security, so he can retire at any point he wants to now. Since we can’t retire to Ireland, I want to try to come up with ways to go there fairly often. I have an app on my phone called Hopper that is good at alerting you to price drops and rises in airfare on certain routes and days, and I’ve found quite a few AirBNBs that are very inexpensive. If you reserve way ahead of time, you can usually find good prices. Also, I learned on the recent trip to Oregon that I do just fine with a loaf of good bread, sharp cheese, fresh fruit, and nuts for my meals. I’ll be at an art retreat for a week but I want to spend another week walking on the coast.

Yes, I am trying to maintain my mental health during a time of political horror in my own country. At least the racism is out in the open now, but these fascists are scary. My father fought in World War II. What would he say if he were alive? It’s hard to imagine that we are in this place of meltdown, and I will probably end up writing about my helpless feelings about the fall of our civilization at some point. What do you do when people refuse to believe the truth? It is beyond my comprehension.

Honestly, “Stranger Things” is much less scary and a whole lot more believable.

I will add a statement on the sidebar about the appearance of ads on my blog beginning July 28. It is part of my expense cutting to push my money toward retirement, travel, and art expenses. I won’t see them or have any control over them, but I’m not spending any more money on this blog, and that is when my bill is due to prevent ads. Please, just ignore them. Don’t click on them. I hate advertisements and I do not choose the content.

tapestry, whatever

Yay! I am weaving again. I’ve gotten a bit more done than the photo above shows, but I didn’t get a clear shot of the most recent version. I am weaving this sideways, so I flipped this photo so that you can see it as it will look when hung. I’m a little over halfway through.

One of the things that was worrying me this past month was the possibility of having glaucoma. I finally accepted that possible outcome and stopped losing sleep over it, and then the test showed a healthy optic nerve. I will need to have this extra test once a year, though, since I have high optic nerve pressure.

I’m putting together a steampunk outfit for the Steampunk Ball at Haw River Ballroom on New Year’s Eve. The headdress was made be Jenn Guarino. There will be photos, trust me.

I may be a grinch about Christmas, but I do love the lights.

“98% Water” will travel to the Folk Art Center near Asheville and then Yadkin Arts Center for the Tapestry Weavers South show. I will have at least two books in the Triangle Book Arts show at Artspace in Raleigh. Step by step, inch by inch.

augggghhhh, whatever, whining

The Apocalypse!!!

All eyes on the East Coast are on Hurricane Irma, while Texas is still underwater and the West is on fire.

Climate change deniers confuse and disgust me. I’m a person who depends on logic, and this kind of nonsense wouldn’t sit well with me even if it didn’t mean the destruction of our planet as we know it. The worship of money in this country causes such mental dysfunction that even the fate of the children and grandchildren doesn’t get through the psychological walls of the brainwashed.

I resigned myself quite a while back that it’s too late to do anything meaningful on a large scale now. You can say that’s pessimistic or selfish. I say it’s being realistic, and I don’t much care what other people think about my attitude. So I do what I can in my small corner of the world to make things better in the time we have left, thank God I decided not to have children, and hope like hell that I don’t get reincarnated. I support without criticism whatever anybody is trying to do to improve or save our land, water, air and soil, because all the money in the world will not save us if we don’t save them. The great work is being done without the idea of being rewarded for it.

And there’s the social catastrophe in the United States. You can’t even have a civil discussion here on any controversial subject without getting attacked, even from those who agree with you. Nobody’s listening to each other. There are kneejerk reactions to everything according to whatever filter that person is using. People believe insane things that are based on bullshit propaganda and celebrity tweets. I am very glad that I am a political independent, but no one seems to be immune to this sickness. That’s the way I feel today, and why I won’t address social issues here. It might change by tomorrow. I’m distressed right now.

The current forecast is for Irma to skirt the east coast of Florida and make landfall in Georgia or the southern South Carolina coast and come up through the Carolinas. I feel like we are ready here. We haven’t had any real damage from a hurricane since Fran here in Greensboro, but North Carolina has had more than its share of flooding. Floyd drowned eastern North Carolina. Hugo proved that even 200 miles inland is not immune to serious damage. Matthew submerged the little towns along the Lumber River where I grew up last October.

The states in the West that I fell in love with and hoped to migrate to for our retirement are burning up. Oregon has had much more intense heat waves that we have had in North Carolina this year. Glacier National Park is burning. The Columbia River Gorge is burning. People can’t breathe because of the smoke.

I am concerned that we plan to fly to Colorado for a few days next Wednesday, as we try to do every year to visit my aunt and cousin and celebrate my cousin’s birthday. Right now it looks like that plan is still on track, thank goodness.

But I don’t count on anything. It’s a crazy world, and nothing surprises me anymore.

Back Forty, whatever

August update

It’s been so long since I posted I had to go back to July and figure out what I’ve already written about. Here is the end of August approaching swiftly and I wonder where the time went. I guess I’ll start where I left off.

I’ve been living in my head a LOT in the past six weeks. A couple of friends passed away and it really made me think about how I would like to live and be remembered. When I was in high school and the first go-round in college, I was undiagnosed and self-medicating for depression and anxiety. I was neurotic and obsessive-compulsive and had some kind of romantic view of being a victim of unrequited love, although in hindsight I had plenty of boyfriends and dates and certainly distributed plenty of pain from my side. There was a girl in high school that I was extremely jealous of because she held the attention of a boy that I had a crush on, who I dated now and then but couldn’t seem to capture as a steady boyfriend. The thing was that I really liked this girl a lot, even though I wanted to hate her. One day it occurred to my addled teenaged mind to consider what it was that I liked about her, and how I could learn from that. I remember it so clearly as perhaps the first mature adult thought that I ever had, at the age of seventeen.

That’s what I focused on when Chris and Gaylor died on the same day. I read the comments online from their friends and got more perspectives of the ways they connected with others. Chris was a friend from my early-mid 20s, a musician who was simply a joy to be around. I didn’t really know Gaylor in person. She worked in the library here and I first met her because she read this blog. After my struggles to come to peace with my darlin’ Squirtley Dirtley dying of kidney failure and what I felt was my failure to recognize his suffering earlier, and the loss of Mama Kitty only six months later, I received a print-out of a funny twisted story by Margaret Atwood called “My Cat Goes to Heaven” in the mail with a short note from Gaylor. It was a wonderful gesture and probably the most perfect response to my grief that I’ve ever received.

I don’t quite understand why I am not more freaked out about the state of the world, but I know that it partly has to do with Chris and Gaylor. And that girl from high school. And learning to find gratitude and presence in the moment and place I am now living. And probably a little bit of credit should go to medication.

One development is that I may be looking at gallbladder surgery soon. I have an appointment with a surgeon tomorrow. Now I believe that the problem I had getting over that food poisoning or stomach flu or whatever I had in early July was a gallbladder attack, and residual pain from that. I lost seven pounds in five days and I’ve read since that a rapid weight loss can cause gallstones. In early August I had a gallbladder attack bad enough and long enough for me to get Sandy to take me to the ER in the middle of the night. I was pretty sure what it was because of Sandy’s experience with them – I took him to the ER a couple of times before he had his removed. My pain eased after about 30 minutes in the waiting room so I left without seeing a doctor there. Boy, am I glad that I didn’t have that medical bill to deal with! I had an ultrasound later, and yes, my doctor said that she saw small gallstones and indication of gallbladder disease.

It’s easy surgery, as much as anything can be easy surgery, so I’m not too worried about it. If it means that I don’t have any more attacks and I can eat ice cream again, I’m all in.

At the same time, I’ve been trying to heal my neck and shoulders, and I finally saw an orthopedic doctor and had x-rays taken. I’m so glad, because he told me exactly what I hoped to hear. No major problems, a slight narrowing in one disc where a nerve is getting pinched or irritated, and he believes that it is due to my posture when sitting at the computer all day. A visit to one of the physical therapists there resulted in exercises to stretch and lengthen a muscle group in the back of my neck. I have lowered my monitor screen and will be getting a new office chair. In the meantime, I am much more aware of my habit of leaning my head on my chin, especially toward the end of the day, and tilting my head slightly back to look at my screen. And my tapestry when I am home. The massage therapist almost eliminated my shoulder pain. I feel like I am well on my way to solving this health problem I’ve had for two years!

Not everything has been about my health, although that’s been my main focus. I started weaving “Cathedral” again, although I have to take a lot of breaks and it is slow going. I decided not to buy the big tapestry loom, at least not any time soon.

In the Back Forty, those volunteer field peas have produced enough that I had enough to cook a pot full and freeze a pot full for later. The weather turned quite cool for this time of year, especially yesterday and today as we are between Tropical Storm Harvey moving north and another tropical depression turning away from the NC coast. Because it hasn’t been brutally hot here, my butterbeans set flower again and are producing their second harvest of the season. The fig tree produced the biggest crop ever this summer, and they are done. I dried and froze some, and Sandy and I made a jam with honey and orange juice that we have in the refrigerator now. The second planting of Roma and Juliet tomatoes are doing better, since I put them in the ground with Epsom salts and soil that I’ve nurtured over the last several years. I’ve been drying most of those.

I just got a small lightweight greenhouse kit from Pinetree Seeds, taking advantage of a sale. I’m going to raise a few veggies in it, then move it over the blueberry bush in June just before the berries turn red. Hopefully I’ll get some berries for myself this year, and hopefully it won’t blow away in a storm! I’ll tie it down good and vent it. There’s a chain link fence I can probably use to help anchor it. Also thinking about permaculture more. How I might be able make my space more productive and low maintenance at the same time. I have to look after my body first.

In the back of my mind, I am preparing for the worst, whatever that might be. I have put away bottles of sterilized water for emergencies, and I have a box of food and emergency supplies. I’m considering buying a solar powered small generator with a couple of solar panels, but I’m waffling on it. The time to do it is before you need it, I know. I am still nowhere near being prepared for a catastrophe, but I’m also trying to keep my credit cards paid off.

I love my front porch so much now that it is screened in and the weather is cooler. It makes me happy. I have a smile on my face just thinking about it. I extended the front garden about three feet over onto my absentee landlord neighbor’s property, with a stone pathway and pine needle mulch, no plants. I hope this buffer might save it if they decide to use herbicides to take care of the mess that is taking over there.

We went to see Lyle Lovett and His Large Band at the beautiful Carolina Theater here. Oh, how I love him.

The big eclipse was a disappointment here in Greensboro, North Carolina. It was supposed to be at 93%. Instead, a stray storm decided to sit on top of our city for about exactly the length of the event. I still got some photos, and will share in another post.

In a few weeks, we are going to take a long weekend to see my aunt and cousin in Colorado. My aunt is turning 90 this year, and I love her dearly. She has Alzheimer’s, but is still at the point that she can live on her own. Alzheimer’s is a scourge on my family and one of my greatest fears. I’m looking forward to having a good visit with them. We’re paying for the flights through credit card miles and the rest of the voucher I got for giving up my seat a year ago.

I guess that’s enough for now. I’ll scatter a few photos throughout for visual interest, but mainly I just needed to write. Just remember,