I had about two hours before we were heading to the movie, so I went looking for a place to paint. I’ve done this spot at the Wilcox Dairy ice cream stand before, but I sold the painting and wanted a bigger one. The new one isn’t done yet, but I have still got something good out of the afternoon.
I got some water from the ice cream stand and chatted with the woman who is running it now. Fifteen years ago a friend of ours ran it, Planting a beautiful herb garden nearby so customers could sit and enjoy the flowers as they eat their Sundays. Her son and my son were friends when they toddlers. Now the son of the new ice cream lady is helping mind the ice cream stand.
He noticed me setting up my easel and asked his mom if he could come over to watch. I had the sky started and had blocked in the outlines by the time my new companion arrived.
We chatted about how to paint and where to get paint. He said he wished he could pay for lessons. I reminded him that once he started painting, someday he would show somebody else the ropes. Then my young “apprentice” pointed out a crate in front of the ice cream stand that belonged to him. He asked if I would put it in the painting, and I agreed.
I hadn’t got that far by the time it was time to go to the movie,but I’m coming back to it now. When it’s done I think I’ll take my new pal a copy.
Looking at paintings is like touching an artist’s soul – even if the artist lived 400 years ago. Most of my art is about finding a constructive outlet for anger or depression and not much of a soul to touch, but every once in a while I think, it would be great to create a painting or piece of literature that people are still enjoying in 400 years (even 30 would be awesome).
I think the drive to create legacy lives in most people. It drives a lot of parenting decisions, it creates careers. Some people leave behind buildings or stadiums. Others leave behind Love Canal. Most of us leave something in between. But, as I’ve been tossing out the things in my life that don’t ‘spark joy’ (my diet, my treadmill, my bills), I also think about the things I’m leaving my kids.
In 40 or 50 years Thing1 and Thing2 will still have to do a hefty excavation job (I don’t expect to develop a commitment to cleaning at this stage of my life), but as I try to make sure my unwanted items find new homes somewhere besides the landfill, I’ve started thinking about the things I acquire or keep and about the burdens I’ll leave behind.
Once you go down that road, the first lie you tell ourself is that you won’t ever buy anything brand new (except food or a new pack of underwear every once in a while). If you’re plus-sized like me, that’s not always an option (most second hand shops seem to stock lots of pre-shrunk size 8s), but you can make things last or (for the truly delusional) diet.
Dieting is tough, but the real tough stuff is the things I create.
My art is my outlet. Art, for me, is process and processing.
Art is also a pile of plastic paint tubes. It’s books. It’s covered canvases that may be recycled or hang on a wall or someday end up in the miscellaneous pile at a thrift store with the rest of the aging ‘masterpieces’ that served as someone else’s outlet. It’s something I’ve been considering more carefully as I think about the world I want to leave my kids.
Thing2 is a natural packrat and a sentimentalist to boot, so I know some of my unwanted art will end up on his walls someday, but I do worry about the plastic tubes and the chemicals. I think about the resources used to produce a book that will end up in the library tag sale room and wonder if my creating is taking something more important from Thing1 and Thing2’s futures.
Ultimately, I think it will come down, not to not creating, but rather being mindful about creation. And, mindfulness is what art is really all about.
Working weekends torpedoes your social life, and, when you work at home with most of your work friends in different cities or states your social opportunities are limited to begin with. I compound those factors with a relatively introverted personality — I had almost perfected the shut-in lifestyle before I decided to go back to school to keep my brain from atrophying. So when plans go awry, as they did this weekend, you really feel it. Feelings get spackled over and patched up, but I find what really puts a new coat of paint on the weekend is getting a glimpse of the people and things that make life – shut-in or out-and-aloud — worthwhile.
Thing2, a study in social-butterflying, had his Saturday calendar filled before I knew that someone’s kid had been dropped off. He and his bestie headed out to re-enact their favorite Star Wars battles in the muddy, snow speckled yard. It’s a warmer day – in the fifties, and the boys disappeared into the woods for awhile, reappearing to prove that they were still breathing but dirty, only when I rang the school bell that hangs outside our front door. Katy-the-Wonder-Dog waited for them to tire out and, when they took a break, sitting down on the stoop on the deck, she went over to them to add a few kisses to her social calendar.
I stopped working long enough to appreciate how sometimes just watching that part of the world go by is as satisfying as any day out.
I honestly wanted to do nothing more than absolutely nothing yesterday.
Yesterday, I woke up as a square. An odd square. A product of two odd primes. It’s the fourth time I’ve been the square of primes, and, in all probability the last, as I’ll have to be 121 to celebrate the next truly odd birthday. For this birthday oddity I’d planned a trip to the University of New Hampshire for the last college visit before my first son has to figure out which dotted line he’ll sign.
But that wasn’t what made it odd — or wonderful.
For the past two weeks Thing1 has been dealing with anemia brought on by his disease. He could not tolerate a drive of any length, so we had postponed the UNH visit already. The newest drug, however, seemed to hit pause on his symptoms, and his affable nature had re-emerged over the last day or two. We knew this was the last best chance to go.
We got Thing2 to school and then headed down to the hospital. Thing1 needed bloodwork to check trough levels for one of the five drugs trying to control his auto-immune disorder. It was already 9 by then, and Thing1 was ready for Breakfast Number 2 — a side effect and a sign he was starting to feel more himself.
Treating the day like a field trip day (if it were run by an really over-indulgent teacher), I took him to our favorite diner in Bennington (my next blog will be titled ‘Diners I have Known’). We’ve been going there since Thing1 was in a car seat carrier, and my eyes started sweating as I watched my gentle giant pick out two entrees for a ‘snack’ (although it could have been tears brought on by the impending dent in my wallet).
“Mom,” he said in that tone that said other people could see me getting emotional as my baby prepared to leave the nest. There would be a few more warnings.
After breakfast we headed east toward the other side of Vermont and then to the east side of New Hampshire.
We stopped for a break during the three and a half hour drive. A girl playing scratch tickets, reminded me of a failed lesson in probability from another road trip a decade ago. On a whim, I bought a ticket, thinking he’d be my good luck charm again. Ten years ago, I’d told him we’d paid a tax on people who are bad at math and wound up winning on three $50 scratch tickets in a row. I’d chalked it up to some ‘magic’ which had everything to do with being with my seven-year-old and nothing to do with Math. Yesterday I lost, of course. Thing1 is too old and skeptical to channel that kind of magic anymore, but we were both laughing as I scraped the silver goo off the losing numbers. He’s still my good luck charm.
It had been a long time since I’ve heard Thing1 really laugh.
We got UNH and asked our questions before walking around. Thing1 loved it and was even more undecided about his future. A few more drives around the bucolic campus, we headed back to meet the Big Guy and Thing2 in Vermont for dinner.
It poured most of the time until we got near the Vermont border. It rained from Bellows Falls to Londonderry and got foggy as we headed over Bromley mountain to Manchester.
My body was getting weary from the travel and from the constant travel and worry of the last few months. It was as if a day of not worrying — of seeing Thing1 happy and debating over pleasant aspects of his future — had let my muscles relax too much for a moment.
When we got the the restaurant, Thing1 mentioned a worrying symptom that had appeared, and we knew the tension release was temporary. In reality it’s always temporary, but it is always welcome.
When we got home, I got my sketchbook, planning to doodle and promptly passed out on the sofa with Thing1 next to me and eleven year old Thing2 draped over the cats that came to sit on my legs. I woke up long enough to send Thing2 and myself to bed for the dreamless, satisfying sleep that only an exhaustingly perfect day can produce.
And the oddest thing was that it was the best present I hadn’t even thought to ask for.