I watched the sun rise over Lake Michigan in Door County, then watched the setting sun make the buildings in downtown Chicago look like spires of light as I drove through the city to pick up Charna and Hannah and take them to dinner before we went to watch my grandson and his band. It was a long day and I’m still a little tired. I’m trying to rearrange my appointments and drive back to Pittsburgh tomorrow. I feel like I’ve been away long enough.
Tomorrow we go back to our real lives. No more walks along the beach; no more discussions about our art work; no more meals waiting for us and all of the wonderful camaraderie. My week in Door County is always one of the best of the year.
Today was beautiful after two days of rain, but I only got a couple of short walks along the beach. Wet sand penetrated my shoes so I took a few pictures of the geese and went back. I love walking along the beach hunting the treasure of dead fish and small pieces of driftwood. Years ago, playing on the beach at Lake Michigan was an entirely different experience, with clean sand and warm bodies on blankets soaking up the sun. Here, about 250 miles to the north and 65 years later on Lake Michigan, zebra mussel shells, seaweed, dead fish, driftwood and a couple of helium balloons cover the beach.
I haven’t done much artwork, but I can’t wait to get home and work on the dead fish.
Time does not behave as usual here; it expands to encompass many events then passes slowly. We arrived with clear skies and sunshine on Monday afternoon and again on Tuesday. Yesterday and today we have had rain, a gray lake and lots of waves. I love to walk along the beach occasionally picking up pieces of driftwood and photographing masses of detritus left by the waves. Years ago, while I was going to art school, I photographed alewives along a beach in Indiana. The fish were larger than what I photographed this week, alewives in Wisconsin. Perhaps I’ll make a book of dead fish.
The rain stopped long enough yesterday for us to visit a wonderful garden and go to a play in the evening, Our theme this year has been serendipity, or as Jan says, “serene deputy” and the rain didn’t begin again until we got into our cars to return home.
We actually get work done in between eating and walking and visiting. I am still working on French knots for my book cover. Jan and Sandy are both working on books. Anna, a newcomer to our group, has been the most prolific, with wonderful cards and a quilt top. When the rain stops I’ll go back to the beach for more pictures of dead fish.
Early for my meeting with Neill the next day, I went to look at places I recall living in. First on Harding Ave: I don’t remember the address, but it was a 2 story building with concrete stairs across the street from a large gravel covered field that fronted Volta School. I remember this vividly because of the many times I fell on my knees on the gravel and went around for weeks with infected, scabby knees. The field has been chopped in half and a building covers the half nearest my house, but I can’t find the house. I’ve tried looking on Google maps and came up with nothing. It’s 73 years;why do I think it would remain unchanged. I went on to the next place, a 2-story building with four apartments. The building had changed for the better, all cleaned and painted. I don’t know who lives in the neighborhood, but it looks great. The playground next to the house is fenced in and looks clean. Only one surprise, the synagogue my parents and grandmother attended, and where I went to Hebrew school and which subsequently became a Korean church, a huge beautiful building, has been torn down and is now a parking lot. The last place I lived, the house I loved, looks good, the neighborhood looks good, marred only by an enormous, unfinished, totally our of place castle that fronts on the highway and dwarfs all the nearby houses. Built on every square inch of land it has remained unfinished and up for sale for several years.
Lunch with Neill and a little more nostalgia then dinner with Betty. My days have been filled with lunches and dinners and breakfast with Eli and Hannah on Saturday. Sunday I walked and breakfasted on Marilyn and Arnie, then met artist friends at an exhibit. Monday morning we drove to Door County for our yearly art camp.
It has been a busy month; I just haven’t felt like writing. I’m waiting for that connection between my brain and the computer that Eli says will come, so my hands won’t be involved and the transfer will be instantaneous. Raja and daughters, on their way east to visit battlefields, stopped here last week; probably the best days all month. Two excellent Osher classes occupied my Wednesdays: “Memoir writing,” which I will probably never do but gave a lot of thought, and “The Written Word: The Vanishing Journalist” a kind of oral memoir of a retired journalist. Also took a movement class, Dalcroze Eurhythmics, four sessions at CMU. I can’t explain it, but it was fun.
My sister-in-law died of lung cancer. She looked awful when I saw her last month in Chicago, so I wasn’t surprised. Worse, has been watching my friend of some 50 years. who fell and is having a difficult recovery. Talking to her long distance is more troubling than visiting her. I will see her again in September when I return on my way to Door County.
I finally went to the doctor about my arthritic knees. They took x-rays then gave me a cortisone shot in each knee. I am happy to report I am now walking without pain and have started exercising again. That’s great. I am going to New York early next month and it would have been terrible if I couldn’t walk there.
Funny thing about blog writing. I really sat down to write about books and almost forgot after turning out the previous paragraphs. I’ve read several books this month, some I wanted to read, another forced on me from my funky book club. The best was The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng, about the only survivor of a Japanese work camp in Malaysia who feels compelled to make a Japanese garden in memory of her sister. Along with the great story and great characters are wonderfully clear and erudite explanations about Japanese gardens and a clear exposition of both the good and the terrifying in the Japanese character. Having fallen in love with some aspects of Japanese culture I often have trouble looking at their extremes of cruelty, xenophobia and kitsch. I have to keep remembering most of us are guilty of the terrible stuff, but few of us achieve the sublime.
We are supposed to be making art. That’s always the plan. We worked hard on Monday, a little bit on Tuesday and Wednesday. Today we’re still sitting and talking. We know each other for thirty years or more. Somehow we never run out of things to talk about. Tuesday evening we went to a play on the other side of the peninsula, which faces west over Green Bay and gave us a wonderful sunset.
The sky was overcast with a slight drizzle all the way up here. That’s ideal for a long drive; no sun in the eyes, no huge downpour to cope with. We stopped at the Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan and saw three interesting shows. The drawing show and Carol Prusa show were both wonderful, but I particularly loved Emery Blagdon. He made what is frequently termed “outsider” or “”visionary” art: creations which come from the soul made by someone with no training who probably never terms them art or thinks of himself or herself as an artist. I would love to go around the world looking at this kind of art.
After another stop for ice cream we arrived in Sturgeon Bay where Anita and Kathy were waiting for us and we will spend the week. I am sitting and writing and looking out at Lake Michigan and listening to the waves coming ashore. Lake Michigan could be an ocean; there are no other shorelines in sight. I saw it when I drove into Chicago and followed it several hundred miles to get up here.
Yesterday we actually did some work. Sandy taught us about image transfer. Most of her techniques involved laser prints. I want to do it with inkjet prints and still haven’t found a satisfactory method. We have one more technique to try today.
I have taken lots of photos and can’t properly sort and handle them until I return to Pittsburgh. Here is one I took in the botanic garden just outside of Chicago.
Sandy sent this wonderful thank you note:
Special thanks to Ruthe for all her help putting the blog together…..and especially this year adding Picasa to my computer. What a blessing that was in doing this blog!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And thanks to Ruthe also for all her excellent instruction on the books, and for the "Paper in Three Dimensions" book. Thanks to Jan, our worthy Best of Show, all the blood, sweat and talent who kept everyone laughing.I'm a richer woman for the experience of last week. Loving you all, Sandy
At breakfast with Eli this morning I said I would not want to move back here. Walking downtown afterwards I could feel the power and energy of the city and realized I still loved it. The sun was shining; lots of people on the streets; the city looked wonderful. Once I knew every building, every alcove and alley. Now there are many surprises. Walking toward the Daley Center I stopped to take a picture. Someone came over to me and said the Stanley Cup was there. I could stand in line to have my picture taken with it, or just take a picture of it. It’s there, somewhere, behind the Picasso sculpture.
My destination was the Cultural Center, one of my favorite places. I saw an exhibit of jewelry made with handmade paper by Arte Papel Oaxaca. Unfortunately there was no catalog, they wouldn’t let me take photos and there is only this one article I could find on the web. I’d love to show you more, or better, I‘d like to go and be part of the collective.
An exhibit about Louis Sullivan, the architect, was also very interesting; lots of photos and information.
A newly created space within the Center is Project Onward, a studio and gallery for artists with mental and developmental disabilities. There was a lot of good work and a lot going on within the studio. I was much impressed.
Back at Sandy’s in Arlington; filled with swirling, unstructured thoughts, about bookmaking, about my friends, about the week, and about me. I feel so much better when I have people around me and lots of challenges. All week I was much younger than my 76 years. My hip still aches and sometimes I have trouble walking, but I was happy and nothing bothered me.
Being teacher for the week was a great pleasure and I was sorry to see it end. We left Anita’s about 11 am and drove south on the scenic route, sailing past the ice cream store but stopping at The Flying Pig, a combined garden center and gallery of outsider art, great things to look at and charming ladies running the it. What a great place!
Sunday morning, the sun shone briefly on too much heat and humidity for 8 am, then thunder and lightning filled the sky. After the storm was over, I drove over to Carol, not far away. Family day, or, at least, family afternoon. Carol invited some of my cousins for lunch. It’s a kind of family reunion each year when I come back here, but each year our numbers grow smaller. This year’s theme seems to be a recounting of all the people we’ve lost. Many of my friends in Chicago were older and long gone. It made it easier for me to leave Chicago thirteen years ago. Did I mention, this is nostalgia trip time?
In Chicago with good friend Betty and feeling very lucky. Found a parking space a block away at 6:05 Sunday night. From 6 pm a permit is required for parking. Could I get to Betty’s, get the permit and get back to the car before the cops came? Decided I couldn’t give up the space, so I really scurried. The cop was there when we returned, busy with someone else. Very lucky. Found two parking spaces Monday night. Didn’t like the first one. Very, very lucky.
We went out to Rockford to see a Japanese garden. Do you think I’m obsessed? Rockford is about 2 hours away; I’ve only been there once before, many years ago, before the Japanese garden was built, and long before I cared about Japanese gardens. The garden was lovely; worth the drive, but somehow American Japanese gardens are never as satisfying as Japanese Japanese gardens. It has something to do with the trees.