Holy crap! Today was Memorial Day in the US…and you know what that means…Shopping! Barbecues! White shoes until Labor Day! Flags! Flags! More flags and bunting!!! Because people died and we have to show our respect, right?
Banks closed. Stores open.
WTF??? Well gather ’round, girls an’ boys, ’cause Arty Life has a story to tell you.
Once Thrice upon a time my son was in Iraq.
He was not there for the scenery.
I can say, without a doubt, that I spent all three of his deployments AND the time in between deployments AND the four years after he got out when they could still call him back…I spent all that time dwelling in the various stages of bat-shit crazyland.
That’s right…BAT-SHIT CRAAAAAAAAAZY LAND!
It ain’t easy being a warrior mom. In fact it sucks.
Because war sucks.
On his 21st birthday, FirstBorn told me he felt like he was 40. Said his hair was coming in gray. Well hell, he did some growing up in a way that most of us will NEVER know. But in the end we were lucky. He came home.
But not all of his friends did.
I stopped painting back then, started writing. Writing when life was one-step-at-a-time-make-it-through-another-day-fragile. When every car coming up the lane was cause to stop and hold my breath until it passed our drive.
When I didn’t know if I would ever see my son again.
I wrote. I wrote and I wrote and I wrote.
I wrote my heart. And I kept it close. Shared parts of it with one or two friends.
They read it and gently suggested I ‘talk’ to someone.
Someone who wouldn’t have a clue. Who wouldn’t understand. Who didn’t know what it was like to have people shooting at their kid. Don’t think so.
So I ‘talked’ to my computer. For years.
And in the end, I came home too.
When Mama was young her father built his family a summer cottage on the Long Island Sound. The cottage was bare bones simple. Rooms were small, walls were thin, kids all slept up the ladder steep stairs in the unfinished attic.
There wasn’t a flush toilet until I was five or six. And the bathroom, when it was finally built, wasn’t inside the house. You had to go out through the back door to the little shed attached to the back of the kitchen. Nothing but the basics, the toilet and a sink, but heaven compared to the two seater at the back of the lot.
I dimly recall an outdoor shower but I don’t remember using it much. We spent most all day at the beach and if I was crusty with salt, well, that was all part of summer. Every summer. Along with sunburns and lazy afternoons reading in the hammock, a big canvas thing strung between a couple of trees. There were card games and coloring books and jig saw puzzles. There was no TV.
It. Was. Heaven.
Four generations of family called it home in the summer. Aunts and uncles, grandparents and cousins. We took turns and overlapped. And when the cousins were quasi adults in college and wanted a private place to…entertain, it became the winter weekend no-tell motel.
It’s a wonder we never bumped into each other.
We went to a family reunion there when FirstBorn was a baby. Flew in from California. By this time my grandparents were long gone. But their children, their grandkids and the great grands were all there.
It was the last time we were all together. People moved away. People died. The cottage was empty most of the year, even in summers. Eventually the decision was made to sell it. The new people tore it down and built their own house. A real house, a year round house.
Sound Beach. Our history grew into our vocabulary. When we liked something we said it reminded us of Sound Beach. Norway reminds us of Sound Beach. The narrow country lanes in my part of California are like the narrow roads we drove there. Wicker chairs. Hammocks. Hot summer nights. We were summer people, we never lived there but it was HOME.
This morning I woke up to an email from my sister, the one in Norway. A friend had been visiting Long Island. Armed with the address and Google Earth, she took pictures of the new place on our old property.
It gave me such great pleasure to see the house they built. A home with flower baskets on the front porch. Painted yellow, almost the same color as the cottage. It sits back from the road, with a lawn in the front. It’s well kept and looks comfortable. Looks like family.
Nana would’ve loved it. Mama would’ve loved it. And me? I could move right in.
I didn’t think I’d ever want to see the new house. But life is about growth and change. Moving forward. My family shares the memories of a magical place. But we have moved on.
And now it’s time for others to make memories of their own.
My latest canvas…
The new! improved! Studio Grande!!!
Sheetrock’s up. Taped and textured. Next step is priming. And then painting. First I have to pick the paint. White. But which one? There may be fifty shades of gray but there are approximately fifty thousand hundred million Shades Of. WHITE!!!
But the door will be painted red. Red I can do.
This view is from the door. Cabinets will run the length of both walls under the windows. We’re picking them up at Ikea this Saturday.By Monday they’ll be built and in place, waiting for the concrete counters that Mr. Spouse will pour the following week.
Cross your fingers, girls and boys…the counters WILL be poured next week! Yes. They. Will.
Going to put a vent fan on the back wall between the two windows. That will be where I do encaustics and spray stinky stuff.
Another view of the wall o’windows. I just love this wall.
And a view from the encaustic area towards the front.
Still have to take the tarps off the skylights.
Still have to do a lot of things. But we’re getting closer. And I’m
thinking knowing my art is going to blossom in here!
“When you got nuthin’ to say, give ’em pictures.” Mark Twain
Okay, Mark Twain didn’t really say that. But a hundred something years ago, Samuel Clemens, AKA Mark Twain, spent a fair amount of time here in California’s gold country. Some of it right here in my town.
So I figure a man known for exaggeration and literary license, a man who might’ve walked the very land I call home, would give me a 19th century equivalent of a high five and tell me to go for it. Lie through my teeth for a great quote. He would. He really would say that.
Not that I’m lying. I’m just being...creative.
The point is, I’ve got nuthin’ to say tonight. Because I’m as deep fried as an order of the Colonel’s extra crispy. Mr. Spouse was in Dallas this weekend and I’ve been left to my own devises. Which means I’ve been PAINTING. Happy happy happy dance time! I’ve got seven…SEVEN canvases going this weekend. Two are done, one damn near and the rest are somewhere in between.
Got nuthin’ to say…BUT I GOT PICTURES!!!
So here’s a peek at a couple of the paintings. Crappy photo alert. Snapshots with the old point and shoot.
'Catholic Girls Wear Plaid' by Susan Lobb-Porter
Remember this one from last week? Catholic Girls Wear Plaid. I’m thinking it’s done now.
This one is going to have something to do with a poodle skirt. I think. It’s still way early in the process.
'Spike Anne' by Susan Lobb-Porter
And this little guy, ‘Spike Anne’ (5X7) is a fun pup I think I’ll include in my children’s collection. Did I tell you I’m going to have a children’s collection? Well yes, I am. One of these days… FYI, if memory serves me right, and it doesn’t always these days…Spike Anne was the name Mr. Spouse and I called FirstBorn when he was in utero. Figured we covered our bases with that one.
So that was my weekend. How was yours?
I came home from work tonight and realized I really had to water the fruit trees. I planted them a couple months ago, two apples and a pear. I planted them on a terrace Mr. Spouse built last year.
Mr. Spouse does like to build things, especially when it involves stone.
We backfilled the terrace with Gucci dirt. Topped it with pony poop. Got a GREAT crop o’weeds growing between the trees. Thick and lush, waist high. Orchard grass. Rye grass. Wild peas. The biggest clover you’ve ever seen.
Umm…too green to whack just yet. Too tall to mow. But they blend in with the rest of our forest home. And yes, they will go away soon enough. A little slatted table will take their place. A couple of colorful chairs.
Meanwhile, it’s Sophie’s favorite place. She disappears in there. The weeds close over her head. She’s too busy hunting to come when called…all sorts of critters call the terrace home. Lots of rodent holes and I’ve seen a bunny or two.
Which is why I’m not bothering with a garden this year.
I had to water the trees by hand. Haul the water up the hill two buckets at a time. The hose was otherwise engaged and the irrigation isn’t in yet. So it was just me and a couple of buckets in A Little House in the Big Woods moment. Which is fitting since we DO live in the big woods.
Me and the buckets and the bees. Bazillions of big fat bees buzzing around the peas and clover. They weren’t bothered by me and I wasn’t bothered by them. By the way, do you realize how hard it is to photograph those suckers? They move faster than my auto focus.
A piece of clover caught on my shoe and followed me into the house. Told you it was big!
This time last year we woke up to snow. Ah, spring!