Saturday, May 27, 2017

Eyes




I have glaucoma. For the past four years it has been controlled with expensive eye drops, then suddenly the eyedrops weren't working anymore. Glaucoma is a condition where the pressure inside the eye is too high, which begins to destroy the optic nerve, leading, eventually, to blindness. My pressure was too high, despite the drops.

So, here's the thing about glaucoma—you don't know there is anything wrong for a long time, or until your eye doctor checks your pressure and discovers the condition. My vision was not affected in any way I was aware of, but, according to my doctor, I was in something of a crisis. She sent me to a glaucoma specialist. He recommended we try a laser procedure—one eye first—to see if that would lower the pressure. It did—but not enough. So this last Tuesday I had an eye surgery called a trabeculectomy, again on one eye. I was nervous, knowing that this was a serious modification to my very eyeball and held higher risks than the previous treatment I'd had. The surgery itself was OK—good drugs get one through it with minimum trauma! Now I am healing, which will take awhile. Only later will I know if this will be the solution to keeping my eye pressure at a safe level. If it does, we will do it again, to the other eye.

I have had a lot of time to think, and I have a tendency to think too much. Maybe what I mean is that I worry. The day after the surgery the Doctor said it looked good. My vision in the operated on eye was pretty bad, but he assured me that was normal and it would get better. The next day it was worse and I panicked. A very bad day. I was cursing the idea of disfiguring what had seemed a perfectly good eye and rendering it useless! The next day it began to clear and today, even more. My anxiety has lifted considerably. I have many restrictions as I heal—don't bend over, don't lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk, don't sleep on the affected side, wear a shield over the eye at night, eye drops every two hours... Healing my eye is my job for the next few weeks. And I hope for the best. And I try not to worry. The "best" is stopping glaucoma's progress. The damage that has been done cannot be undone, and unlike my friends who are having cataract surgeries, my eyesight will not be better after surgery than it was before.

Glaucoma is hereditary. My father had it. But you may have it regardless of heredity. It is also more common than you might imagine. I know at least four people who also have it. Have your eyes checked every year. Just do it. Don't think "they seem fine." Mine seemed fine too.

So I celebrate the gift of sight and am enjoying a beautiful day here and all the beauty my eyes can see. Send me a good thought for a good outcome and take care of yourselves...












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Friday, May 12, 2017

Yeah, I know...

It's been more than a month. I used to post to this blog so regularly, so frequently. I had stories to tell, things to share. Maybe I've told all my stories, or maybe I'm just telling them in different ways and in different places. I'd like to think there are still stories in me.

Story about what I'm doing with threads and fabrics and colors:

I'm still working small and smaller.



This one is about 6" wide


This one is about 2" wide, copper hanger

That chair, by the way, is in my house. The colors have been changed to indulge my imagination. I wish that pillow existed in the real world. I am finding pleasure in reimagining the everyday items from my life. I started a little list on a scrap of paper of things I want to draw and reproduce as little fabric pictures—shoes, suitcase, lamps, backpack, hat...

Knitting story:

When I started knitting a couple years ago, in a quest for a form of creative meditation, I started with inexpensive yarn, so I could make lots of mistakes and knit a lot. Repetition and perseverance are, I believe, the only way to master hand skills. Then a lovely friend gave me a gift of a ball of extraordinarily beautiful yarn that knits up as a color gradation from one color to another. I was very much afraid of ruining it, so it took me awhile to gather courage to use it, and time to find a pattern worthy of it. There are mistakes in this scarf, but I can overlook them and be happy every time I look at it. The color thrills me. The pattern confounded me and ultimately taught me.



Next up, I needed an easier, less stressful project, so I knitted a shawl to cover the foot of our bed and keep my always cold feet warm. Since mastering that fancy lacy motif in my scarf, I decided to incorporate it into the foot-warmer.



Encouraged by the relative success of both of these projects, I took a gift card my daughter gave me two years ago to my favorite yarn shop and bought the deliciously soft, outrageously expensive, silk/cotton yarn needed to knit a large lace shawl. It is very challenging and I'm going to be plugging away at it for awhile.



And that serene, meditative knitting state I was after? I have not yet achieved that. When following the complicated chart for this shawl, i try to keep my hands, arms and shoulders relaxed, but I find my toes are clenched and beginning to cramp. I stop, uncurl my feet, shake out the tension and resume. Serenity is not achieved without effort!

Spring story:

Finally.






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Sunday, April 09, 2017

Birthday week

I've had so many birthdays now (71 of them) that you'd think there would be no reason to celebrate it again, but I did anyway. My thoughtful daughter brought grandchildren and flowers and gift card to my favorite art supply store over and Ray told me I had to wait for the weekend for his gift. I thought about my mother and how much I loved her and how I miss her, because birthdays are really about the person who brought you into the world.



And maybe because it was my birthday, it seemed like a good day to finally get a weight off my shoulders that has been sitting there for a couple years. I took on the job of gathering the photos and text to self-publish a small book for the Twelve by Twelve group as a document of our second project—the one that came after our first book was published. It has been a hard project—many hours laying it out, proof-reading, tweaking, making changes, interrupted by long periods when it went on the back burner while I worked on other things. It was finally finished months ago, but I kept having second thoughts and the longer I procrastinated, the harder it became to just make the decision to send it to print. But I did, this week, on my birthday, and then I sent an email to the other eleven and they all got excited and happy and we all ordered books! It is available on Amazon. You can get the details here.



This birthday week then handed us a crazy storm Friday morning with strong winds that blew down power lines and uprooted trees and left the city littered with debris and dangerous roads. We had no damage and didn't lose our power, but near the path where Beth and I walk, at least 5 trees were uprooted and scattered like twigs.




Whew. I was more than ready for my birthday surprise, which was an overnight trip down the road to Forest Grove and the McMenamin's Grand Lodge, where we spent the night. The McMenamin brothers are famous around this area for turning historic old building—schools, theaters, the old county poor farm, and such—into delightfully artsy and interesting pubs and hotels. The Grand Lodge in Forest Grove was an historic (and grand!) Masonic Lodge, now hotel/restaurant/theater. We enjoyed a good bottle of wine, a nice dinner, followed by a dip in the soaking pool. We strolled the grounds, explored a bit of the charming little town and enjoyed the quirky Grand Lodge ambiance. The McMenamins employ a number of artists to produce the very distinctive decor and artwork in all their establishments, always incorporating elements of the lore and history of the properties they inhabit. It's always a treat!



















This morning we drove home through farmland and vineyards and stopped at Farmington Gardens where we bought a few plants for the garden.









I think that orange coleus was a great find—and the perfect ending for my eventful birthday week.

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Sunday, April 02, 2017

Small

Once again, over the past few months, I've found myself working on things uncomfortably out of my comfortable scale. My comfortable scale is small—that place where you come in close and recalibrate your eyes to focus in on individual threads and tiny pieces. Exhibitors don't like that scale. I understand. They have walls to fill. They want wow works that drag casual passersby in off the street. So I have been responding to calls for big art. Big art can be exhausting. The way I work is slow. It's a considerable investment in time and materials and often, in the time it takes to get to the final bits, I am so tired of looking at the darned thing my enthusiasm for it is gone. And when it comes to pricing big work, well, it's always a compromise between what my time is worth versus what the market will bear. So when I finished the last one on my list last week I could hardly wait to do something quickly, using things I could easily lay my hands on. A couple hours later this:



That night I dreamed of chairs and the next morning I wandered around my house snapping photos to work from and have finished these in the past few days.




I really like "drawing" with my sewing machine, which is really only effective on a small scale. And wire hangers. Something satisfying about bending and hammering wire. And something even more satisfying about finishing something before I am thoroughly sick of it!

One corner of my design wall is filling up with "small". (The light switch gives an idea of scale)




Small feels good for now.


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Monday, March 27, 2017

Escaping the gray

I love Oregon. I love Portland. There is no place I would rather live, truly. But...

In normal years February is oppressively gray. Rain, yes, but mostly it is the gray sky and dim, dusty light of February that makes it such a hard month to get through. But we get through it. This year it has essentially been February since last October. It has been the grayest, rainiest, snowiest, and seemingly the longest, winter in recorded memory. It has rained (or snowed) almost every day up to, and including today. Going anywhere outside one's own house became pure misery. But Saturday morning I had had enough. The sun was out—who knew for how long— and I needed to get out! I had not been downtown in a longtime. The last time was when, in a similar fit of cabin fever I had discovered a new-to-me art store. I had not visited my favorite inspirational store, Cargo, since it moved across the river, so it seemed like a worthy adventure to track it down. I confess I seldom buy anything there—it's more like a museum experience for me, and on Saturday morning it worked some magic to wander and ponder and touch the curiosities and beautiful objects they so artfully gather from around the world. The gray in my brain began to clear.




























The next morning the rain was back, with a vengeance, and now Ray was having his own attack of gray-induced, claustrophobia. Knowing the positive effect my outing the previous day had had on me, I was happy to accompany him to his version of happy color/retail inspiration—the garden center. It worked.







Will our long, gray winter ever end? Maybe. Today has offered us sun breaks between showers, and signs on my morning walk, that behind the gray the earth really does know it is spring.







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Friday, March 17, 2017

Cuba: The beautiful

In the two weeks since our return from Cuba, we have pored over our photos, and remembered, again and again, every moment. We agree it was, maybe, our best trip ever. We have realized how little we knew and that what preconceived ideas we had didn't quite line up with reality. We went with open minds and hearts and realize that our brief time, while enlightening in many ways, was a mere glimpse of a complex culture. What I keep remembering, though, are moments of grace and beauty, that are a thread, a theme. Art, in all its incarnations, is, it seems, Cuba's heart. Music everywhere. Not the kind of elevator music we experience in our "everywhere" but real, live, excellent music—the violinist in the breakfast room, the guitarist in the square, the combo on the patio, the chamber orchestra in the museum.










Art everywhere—



























In Havana we visited a professional dance company, housed in a derelict old building with boarded up windows and dangerous stairs, but the young dancers thrilled and amazed










In Cienfuegos we fell in love with a company of children carrying forward traditional dance of Cuba.







In Santa Clara, Senior Citizens taught us the basics of traditional Cuban danzón.



Most beautiful, in Cuba, are the people. Did you expect them to be downtrodden, heavily burdened by an oppressive system, suffering? I confess, I kind of did expect that, but it is not what I saw. What I saw was a vibrant spirit, humor, intelligence, pride and an enthusiasm for life.












And for natural beauty, it is just hard to beat a tropical island.
















So, I will finish my Cuba posts with this iconic Cuban image—Havana sunset along the Malecon.




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