Waiting for Nothing to Happen–2 books

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.

War

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.

The Universe is plotting to make me feel old

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.

Waiting for nothing to happen

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.

Books in pandemic

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.

Finally

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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.

This is book number 90.

Book #89

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.

Book Cover-

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.

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We sit shiva, mourning, for up to a week.

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We say Kaddish, a prayer to remember who we have lost.

 

I have been lazy and remiss

in posting about my books. I told about Maurie’s book, No. 87, but neglected 85 and 86, which are fold books and 88 and 89, both accordion books. The fold books begin with square pieces of card stock folded into four squares. I actually made four different books but they are so similar I’m counting them as two. Three of the books are images of reflections, one is a staircase.

Light art board covered with hand decorated paper

Art board covered with hand decorated papers

Reflections in Pittsburgh, New York and Japan

Reflections in Pittsburgh, New York and Japan

Text on bottom of carousel

Text on bottom of carousel

Stairway carousel fold book. Pictures taken at our book exchange party since I no longer own it.

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The two accordion books are quite different. The first one, which I made shortly after I returned from Japan contains photos of Mt. Fuji, mostly taken from the workshop. The cover is one of the prints of Mt. Fuji I made in the workshop.

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I will tell about the second accordion book in my next post. Soon, I promise.

Last days

We returned to Tokyo on Saturday. I immediately went to Beaver Bread for my bread fix. Much as I love being in Japan the food gives me considerable difficulty. Too much salt. After a couple of weeks I get waterlogged and my diet tends to regress to yogurt, bananas and good bread, if I can get it.

Effectively the workshop was finished, but we had a few more things to do. We were scheduled to go to an art show opening on Saturday evening. First we went to a special shopping area. On our way we saw this wonderful little parade, complete with drumming. This is the second one I’ve seen on this trip. Not sure what they are about. The first, which was at Sensoji Temple, clearly had something to do with sake, since there was a huge cask of it on the float. 

The art show was in a building that was formerly a middle school, now occupied by galleries and some tech start-ups. The opening was at the Mi-lab gallery, the people who ran our workshop. 

On Sunday I went to the Nezu Museum, which has a huge garden I had never seen. It was filled with trees, almost a forest but with many interesting stone lanterns. Although I enjoyed it, I would never have fallen in love with gardens had it been the only one I saw.

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I spent the remainder of the day wandering around Ginza and a little time in Ueno. 

Yesterday, Monday, was our last day. As a group we went to Team Lab borderless, a huge hi-tech installation. It was very exciting at first with all of the colored lights and movement, but somehow, after we were there for awhile, I wanted more from it.

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From there I went to another garden I had never been to: Kyu Shiba Rikyu. This was a truly special garden and I fell in love all over again. It was the perfect ending for my trip.

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May 24

is my birthday. I have celebrated each year since my 80th as a gift. This year my celebration was to go to Japan again and go to the workshop. It has been a great birthday and everyone at the workshop helped me celebrate. Without Nicolo, our teacher and translator, it would not have been possible for me to participate. Our workspace was on the second floor of the house and none of the stairs had bannisters, without which I don’t climb stairs. Nicolo helped me up and down the stairs, each time with great patience and love. He also gave me a charming birthday present.

Our Sensei, Chihiro Taki, let me buy a print from her at a lower price. She wanted to give it to me, but I could not accept such a gift. I love the print and only wish I could afford to buy one of her large prints. I did not even ask the price.

Erin, Katie and Yoonmi went out of their way, and made it all possible for me. I don’t like to be needy and special, but I have begun to need help under certain circumstances. They have been very kind and loving.

Everyone at the workshop sang Happy Birthday to me, and our hosts brought out slices of a melon for our dessert. This is a rare treat in Japan. And another rare treat: Fuji was visible all day and from everywhere I went.

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Since I finished printing on Thursday and wasn’t inspired to carve another block, I spent the morning working on the blog and then went for a walk down to Lake Kawaguchi.

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After lunch I went upstairs to look at my dried, finished prints. This is the first time I have ever done any printing like this. I enjoyed doing it but will probably never continue. I don’t have space to set up a studio and I’m too deeply immersed in book making and computer graphics. As I began working I knew I would have no standards for this work. To properly carve the woodblock and print an edition where every print looks more or less the same, requires strict attention to every possible variable: carving clean, deeply cut negative space; the amount of water on your paper; amount of pigment in the color you mix; amount of nori you put on the block along with the color. My carving was never deep enough; too much pressure on the hands. My paper was too wet or not wet enough. Each of my prints is different. I am happy that I have completed work to bring home, never mind quality.

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We had a big show and tell. Everyone worked hard and produced amazing work considering we had only a short time to work.