Waiting and waiting and walking. First I started photographing a witch hazel bush in front of the church across the street. The church was being cleaned; the bush was almost destroyed. Today it is thriving and the church is no longer black.
This strange Gingko tree also caught my eye and I photographed it each time I passed by. My first book of Waiting for Nothing to Happen used multiple images of both.
Another year of waiting; another book: Still Waiting for Nothing to Happen. Still walking; now studying the sidewalk.
This is three small books, each with 12 images, tied together with pink ribbon and beads.
As I age time seems to move slower, but also, I seem to have less of it. Yes, I know I have less of it because I have already exceeded the average life expectancy. That’s not what I’m thinking about. Each day I seem to have fewer hours in which to do anything besides taking care of myself. I don’t use makeup or get manicures; none of the usual female time-killing stuff. First, it takes me a long time to get moving after I wake up. All of my joints seem to require a moment of their own to move, or maybe to see if they still can move. Then I spend time eating breakfast; toast and a little cheese usually; coffee is the most important part of it. Allergy drops are supposed to go into my eyes at least ten minutes before I put the contact lenses in. Does my shower take ten minutes? Maybe. Lately, thanks to a new podiatrist, I’ve been treating toe nail fungus. She told me how to apply the stuff, but never said anything about letting it dry or waiting before I put on my stockings. So I do that after my shower. Walking around barefoot, which I hate, I brush my teeth ( about 2 minutes, comb my hair, pull out any hair growing on my chin. I get dressed from the top down and am usually ready to face the day by 10am, but sometimes not until 11.
Generally I function best before 4pm. This doesn’t leave me a lot of time. I try to do anything that involves money, or real thinking, in those few hours. If I do something in the evening, like writing this blog, I won’t post it until I read it tomorrow morning. In addition to all this, I run a zoom exercise class from 3:30 to about 4:15, three times a week; I try to walk for about an hour each day, and now I have a new toy: a compression pump for my swollen legs. I try to use that for an hour a day, also. It requires that my legs are elevated and because I need lots of space, I use the bed. Sometimes I can think of something productive to do while I lay there; too often I’m playing games on the computer. Here is a selfie of my legs in the compression boots.
This device originally belonged to my husband. After he died Robin tried to return it and no one would take it back. She stored it in the basement, bringing it out when it looked like I could use it. The boots are too large for me, necessitating a difficult dance to get them on. I could get my own medicare paid-for device if I had a different diagnosis for my problem. Maybe some day I’ll try to do that. Right now I’m too busy with toe nail fungus.
The siren call of an exhibit of popup books got to me so, enticing three friends, we drove the length of Pennsylvania on Tuesday. I planned on the exhibit at the Rosenbach, the Magic Garden and the Barnes and scheduled it at my convenience not entirely engaging in reality. As we drove reality hit me in the head and I realized everything was closed on Tuesday and Wednesday . Since I was the tour guide quick revisions were necessary.
Tuesday was a long day of driving; we arrived, tired, about 4 o’clock . After walking around for about an hour we had dinner in the hotel. Wednesday was the problem. We started at the Reading Terminal Market, which was filled with people without masks. Then on to Macy’s to see and hear the Wanamaker organ.
The concert, supposed to begin at noon, finally started about 12:20 and continued with long silences until 12:45. I wonder what will happen to the organ when Macy’s finally folds.
Spent the next hour at the nearby Fabric Museum and Workshop; contemporary, somewhat interesting, more than a little strange. Then back to the car, starving, we went to the Italian Market for cheese steaks, three of them, anyway. I don’t eat meat. Driving around South Philly my friends saw a different version of Philadelphia and let me see changes and gentrification in the area where my grandchildren were born. We finished the afternoon with a visit to Ben Franklin’s grave.
Thursday morning I finally got to see the exhibit: first a tour of the Rosenbach library, then Colette Fu and Lothar Meggendorfer. I took an excellent workshop about making popup books with Colette. This is something I want to do, but haven’t gotten there yet. Meggendorfer was an early producer of popup books for children. I was hoping that more of his work would be on display.
We couldn’t leave without going to the Magic Garden. We passed it on Wednesday during out driving tour and had to go back. One of my early books was photos from the Magic Garden. I took more pictures, there was more to see, but I don’t think I will make another book about it.
We had lunch at the nearby Whole Foods. If only our Pittsburgh WF had as much prepared stuff I would never cook. Next stop was home. It’s a long drive across a large state. Mostly it was easy but then the rains came bringing a fabulous sunset and a great end to the trip.
I marched to protest the war in Vietnam. I marched to protest the war in Iraq. I hated all the wars we’ve fought, but none of them has hit me so hard as this war we are not fighting. Perhaps because I began with a deep feeling of sadness from the pandemic. But more important, as I watch Ukraine being destroyed I can relate to the life being lost and envision it happening here in a way I never could watching war fought in the jungle or in the deserts of Iraq or Syria. I know what it means to choose what is most important, or to run away without choosing. And I know how it would feel to be held hostage in a basement or to shelter in a subway. My feelings of sadness and frustration, which began with the pandemic constantly grow larger and deeper and I often wish I could cry.
A friend sent me a video of President Zelensky and his wife Olena playing guitars and singing. Simple, lovely, peaceful and I cried. What a strange, terrible time we are living in. Worst of all everything we are doing brings the climate crisis closer to the tipping point if we are not there already. Putin may build his Russian empire but I don’t think he will enjoy it very long.
After I turned 75 I was told I didn’t need mammograms any more. They said breast tissue changes and mammogram are no longer good predictors. They encouraged breast self exams. It was never my favorite examination so I was happy.
In 2020, in the middle of the Covid lockdown, I thought I felt something and called my doctor who encouraged me to get a mammogram . Let’s not think about the logic at work here. I did a little informal research and found out they now have some kind of 3D imaging. So I called my insurance “concierge” who is supposed to have all the answers, and asked if this required an extra charge, or how do I get it. Answer: this is done routinely. What she did not tell me was that since I said I thought I found a lump, I would be responsible for all kinds of charges. If I had just made an appointment for a routine mammogram, Medicare would pay for the whole thing.
THINK ABOUT THAT ONE!
So I contest the charges on the grounds that they should have told me about it. I certainly gave them a chance. They are the only vendor that isn’t required to tell me a price before I buy; clearly a recipe for extortion. But I pay the bill. Months later I get a bill from a debt collector; the radiologist claims he hasn’t been paid. This one I protest vehemently. Where has he been all this time. He should ask my insurer for the money.
Two years have passed and I thought I was finished. I get a bill from another debt collector telling me I owe $44.49. I decide it’s not worth $44 to figure out if I really owe it two years later. I’m ready to pay the bill. I look at the papers carefully. They do not tell me how to make out the check, where to send it, or any other useful information. Not even an email address. Am I expecting too much?
I had an appointment this morning at Eye and Ear Clinic in Oakland. The clinic is at the top of what is referred to as heart attack hill. Walking the mile on Bayard I am able to avoid most of the hill. I entered the hospital complex at Presby, which is nearby and avoids some of the hill, and was greeted by someone asking if I had an appointment. That’s the standard opener since Covid arrived. Yes, I have an appointment at Eye and Ear. Oh, she said, that’s a long walk. Did someone drop you off? They can take you across the street and drop you right in front. No one dropped me off, and anyway that’s not quite true. Is someone with you? Why can’t you talk to me? I just want directions to get to Eye and Ear.
Finally, understanding only the first part of the directions, I got on the elevator and went to the next info desk. Yes, I have an appointment at Eye and Ear. How do I get there?Is someone with you? Why can’t you talk to me? I just want directions to Eye and Ear.
I have never before been asked if I had someone with me. And why do they assume it would be better to speak to a companion. I am still making my way alone and intend to continue for as long as possible regardless of how old I look or what anyone else thinks.
The audiologist was good. She did not suggest my problem was due to my age or that I should just live with it because of my age. I go back in three weeks to pick up custom ear molds, which are supposed to help my hearing. Stay tuned.
During the last year I’ve been rereading the blog and putting it into book form. I now regret that I stopped writing personal posts. I also regret that I wasn’t more detailed about the people I met. Who were the two ladies in New York I went to lunch with? Not surprisingly, I find I am still ranting about all of the same things: climate change, vagaries of the healthcare system, high cost of persecution drugs. Also, I’m surprised at how much I traveled. It’s no wonder I’ve been feeling so confined for the last three years.
I’ve been very careful. Mostly I stay home. I try to go out and walk in my neighborhood for at least one and a half miles every day.. When the Covid case count is low I get on the bus and walk in a different neighborhood. I want to run away but, at the same time, I’m not unhappy when a flight plan falls through. I’m supposed to go with Kathy to see the Pompeii exhibit at the Carnegie Science Center on Thursday and go to Philadelphia next week. We’ll see.
I’m working on my 108th book called Waiting for Nothing to Happen, Third Year. It’s all pictures of sidewalks. If this goes on for another year, a distinct possibility, maybe I’ll take pictures of bricks.
Now that I’ve gone beyond 100 books, maybe I’ll change the name of the blog. Also, I may make it private for the next few months. If I know you and you want to continue following me, you have to let me know. I’ll give you a little warning before I do it.
Nine months since my last post. Nine months of mostly quarantine. I try to walk every day; at least a mile, sometimes three. Occasionally, during nice weather, I meet someone outside and sit and talk, masked. Once or twice a week I meet with Robin and Steve who are both working from home and even more careful. Otherwise everything by Zoom. I am high risk and It’s a terrible way to die. I haven’t felt like writing, but I have been making books. In fact, I have completed #97. No, I won’t show all of them in this post.
I’ve had two sources of inspiration: my book-making group that met monthly to teach and experiment with new structures and techniques and which I will discuss in another post; and a package of 4 x 6 inch glossy photo paper; a total departure from anything I did in the past. Back when I was a “real” photographer I would never print on glossy paper, never printed anything that small; never printed such an odd assortment of photos. As an iPhone photographer I seldom take a single photo I consider “really good.” But often I can put together a group and make a book. But how to make a book from 4 x 6 paper that you can’t even fold. It cracks.
Looking through my photos I realized I had taken many photos of works of art where I am reflected in the work. I printed out the photos, made an accordion structure where the photos pop up, and glued them in. I don’t know if I’ve ever written this before, but I will make every mistake it’s possible to make. This book exemplifies it. I plan to remake it, printing directly on the paper I use for the structure so I don’t have to glue. Happily I don’t have much of the glossy paper left. So here is the book:
To begin with the cover is too wide. It’s the same size as each sheet, but the sheets are folded. The book is approximately 9 x 9 inches to allow positioning the six inch side as vertical or horizontal. The cover should have been 7 inches wide. By the way, the reflective material I used for the cover was from a blanket Robin got at a race. Then I positioned the photos on the wrong side of the paper. To compensate for the blank right hand page I added image transfers. Some are OK. Many are not. I will do it again; I have plenty of blanket material left and I hope I won’t find more mistakes to make.
This book has been five years in the making. It is about all the gardens I visited in Japan from 2007 to 2013. It contains most of the photos I took in the gardens along with maps and other ephemera. I probably finished the text block in 2014 or 2015. Since then it’s been wrapped in plastic and sitting on a table in my workroom waiting for covers.
My first bad decision was making the word GARDEN in French knots. Sometimes I enjoy embroidery; too often it’s tedious and boring. So the fabric, thread and boards have also been sitting on that table for the last five years.
The book is huge. Two hundred sheets of paper 8.5 x 14 inches plus about 50 additional folded pages for the maps and stuff. Altogether it is more than two inches thick bound with three brass screw posts (Chicago posts). My second bad decision was to pad the covers using quilt batting. It only added a few millimeters of thickness but made it much harder to cut the holes for binding. I had to drill three 1/4 inch holes through the text and covers. I have a Dremel tool but it won’t hold the 1/4 inch bit. I improvised using a hole punch. It was an awful job.
I have been going to almost every protest held here in Pittsburgh, particularly the climate crisis strikes. On October 23 there was a conference about shale gas (fracking) addressed by POTUS and a protest. Many of the speakers were indigenous people from protest groups in other states. They came a long way. Unfortunately not so many people came who had only a short distance to come.
As I stood there, with all of these wonderful, articulate people, and not enough response, I lost hope. Five minutes after I returned home I wrote the words that became #89:
Who will mourn the earth
Where is the wake for the animals
What is the prayer for the birds
Who will sit shiva for the bees
And who will say Kaddish for us
The words stay in my head and I repeat them again and again, a prayer for someone who never prays.
When a close relative dies we are supposed to tear our clothing. In practice, the undertaker pins a black ribbon on our clothing and slashes it.
We sit shiva, mourning, for up to a week.
We say Kaddish, a prayer to remember who we have lost.