Tuesday, June 29, 2010

On Writing

One of the reasons I write this blog, is to share my adventures and stories about people and places in and around the Hudson Valley.  A few people recently commented that they really enjoy my writing;  I thank you for taking the time to read this untrained writer's words, and to give me encouragement.

It is a matter of time before I retire from teaching; sometimes I think soon isn't soon enough. I work a high stress job, and though I love it, I know it and wears me out and keeps me from doing other things that I want to do before my end.  I suspect though some of the things will be done for love, some will also have to be done for money, and I wonder if I am interesting enough to make a side living on my writing - my words are simple, though my thoughts can be quite complex and are difficult to sort.

I write from my heart.

I am here for one more day before I fly home.  Though I love spending time with my family, I miss my home, studio, garden, friends, and most of all, my husband. As soon as I get home I will be hitting the studio as I plan on sharing a booth with author friend Heather Rolland, who will be selling her two books - the settings of which take place in the Hudson Valley.  I will be selling my cards and small pieces of art.  It's been a while since I have done a show, so I figure it is a good time to be putting myself out in the public eye.

Photos taken by my old cell phone of a very dank day coming back from Andes on Route 28 near Mt. Tremper where I lived when I left #1.  I have a sketched out small study that I want to paint of the one with the three cabins.  It sums up the soggy mood of a time in my past.  I had to clean them off my phone as Megan has a Droid and she gave me her old LG which has a pull out keyboard and video capacities.  Much nicer than my basic LG.  Life IS good! 

NY here I come!

Patti o

Friday, June 25, 2010

Army Life - the Family

I have spent quite a bit of time on a military base as my daughter is a disabled Veteran, and her husband is currently on his second deployment in Afghanistan.  Fort Campbell straddles both  Kentucky and Tennessee;  Megan and many others have nicknamed it Kentuckasee.  It is at the eastern edge of Tornado Alley, and I can't figure out if it is in the south or the mid-west.  The weather tells me it doesn't matter; the daytime temps have been over 90 since I arrived, though I have not experienced any of the horrid storms Megan tells me rip through here. 

The Army base houses the 101st Airborne DIvision, 5th Special Forces Group, 160th SOAR (ie: the pilots from Black Hawk Down), and other DIvisions.   It is the most deployed base in the US, with about 1/2 of the soldiers in Afghanistan/Iraq, and by late summer, even more will be deployed.

The wives (or as in the case may be at times, the husbands) generally live in on-base housing with their children, unless the spouse is higher ranking and they are able to afford their own house off base. It's a mini city/community, complete with a PX (general department store), commissary (the food store), a Class 6 (where you buy the booze), a hospital, several gyms,a museum, and more that I haven't experienced yet.

To get on and off the base, I must show ID to gate guards.  In order to drive on base, I have to get a special pass, and in order to shop in ANY of the stores, it must be a medical situation.  Since my daughter just had surgery this time around, we had to provide a doctor's note, fill out MORE paperwork, and then I have to present my ID, her Military ID, and the paper to buy something as simple as milk. I suppose they are concerned that civilians will come on base and take advantage of one of the few perks of being in the military; to buy cheap cigarettes and booze, and no tax.  I am only interested in food and toys for the kids, and an occasional bottle of wine.  

From time to time you hear artillery - large booms rock the house, and at night, when I sit on the back patio, I can see and hear helicopters and planes buzzing around the base.  As you drive on base, rows of various kinds of artillery and vehicles (Humvees, large aircraft etc.) can be seen lined up, waiting...for something.

I have met many of the women who are Megan's friends, most of them raising their children on their own when their husbands are gone.  It is a tough life, where women have to be mothers AND fathers and live virtually single lives without the perks of BEING single (ie dating and sex!).  It is a little Peyton Place, where women form bonds in order to survive long deployments, to try and keep depression and frustration at bay.  It is a hard life raising kids without the help of a man, save for the Housing Maintenance guys that come around to fix what is broken on base.

PTSD is a big buzz word here...many of the soldiers come home with it.  Lives get shattered, hearts and homes broken.  I strongly suspect that many here should be on anti-depressants but many of the women Megan knows are on them or on anti-anxiety meds.  If I were here for a longer period of time, I too would join the ranks of those who mark time by the number of butts in the ashtray, and the pills left in the bottle. 

In this age of technology, solders can call home. Many of them have internet access (which they pay dearly for and it hardly works) unless they are stationed way up in the mountains. Family interaction can be done via web-cam as my granddaughter proudly tells me.  This softens the blow, but is a poor replacement for flesh and blood, real hugs and kisses, baths and bedtime stories. It takes a village, or in this case, an entire military base to raise a child.

I am taking my 5 year old granddaughter back to NY with me for a few weeks.  She looks forward to it as much as I do.  She will see her Yiyi, and get to roam the lush Hudson Valley, visit her grandparents, great grandparents, zoos, farms, work in the garden, swim in a myriad of pools and streams.  For a little while she will be spoiled rotten, and maybe forget for a while that her best friend has been moved to another base, that her daddy is far away. 

My daughter is getting her degree (in spite of her recent recurrance of cancer and her other disabilities) in social work so that she can help the families here. They are greatly in need of someone to listen to them, to help them access the things they need the most; counseling, daycare, medical support, and more.  She is a brave girl, and a strong girl, but she too needs help.

I will go home heavy in heart, knowing that I leave them without the help they need, without the zaniness that I sport. We see bumper stickers asking us to support the troops, but it's the families that need the support as well - the struggling lonely spouses, the children missing a parent.  Say your prayers for the soldiers, but also for the families they leave behind.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Few Little Watercolors

Not much time to make art here, but the kids and I did snatch an hour where we all made art; Megan painted her little heart out, and Randy colored with crayons and markers, and experimented with a brush and water.  I think he is old enough for his own first washable marker set and beginner watercolors, so I am on the search for that for his birthday which is coming in early August. It's never too early to start them!

I like Alanna's little sketch of the island, and of Larry and his camera.  Children's art is so pure and at this age they still have confidence in their work, though Alanna did wistfully say: "Mimi, your paints have SO many more colors than mine!"  When she is back home with me we will go to the art supply store to get her the same set. I think they are Yarkas, and they are inexpensive yet very creamy and saturated in color. 

Two of my small post card sized paintings were based upon my own photos; one is a fantasy landscape. Watercolor is a challenge for me, bit I only have 9,750 paintings to go before I am a master at it.

Off to bed as I need a full 6-8 hours to be able to be cheery at 7 am when Randy wakes up. Then, my first trip on the base to find some real food.

Ciao for now, Patti O Painter

Monday, June 21, 2010

Solstice Evening

I haven't made a bit of art since I have been here, save for some photos of the kids, and a couple of night shots when the kids are in bed. I don't know how any artist with little ones gets to do much and it brings me back to the days of mostly single parenting when I worked on my kitchen counters or on the dining room table doing little things to quell my urges.  I don't remember painting for a period of some 8 or 9 years and the only thing I accomplished was some jewelry making and glass work which could be done in a small space and in small bits of free time.

I don't know my digital camera that well, and it is nothing fancy, but sometimes the best things are made with the most simple of tools. After all, some of history's most magnificent sketches were done with a piece of burned wood and paper.

I wanted to make a photograph to celebrate the solstice. It is a night that I love, but also a night that makes me sad as I know the days will start to get shorter, and that my brain chemistry will gradually shift with the amount of light....and I will go into a dark hibernation, like much of the earth in the northeast.

Working with Picassa and the subject matter at hand - a military base in Kentucky, and my trusty Canon Powershot, I bring you tonight's celebratory photograph.  It reminds me of a cross between a hand colored Wallace Nutting photo, one of Parrish's more toned down paintings, and that famous Magritte painting.

No ice cream, no party, no friends, just two little children sleeping in the house, my daughter on the couch, and the twinkle of fireflies on the fresh mowed lawn.  In the quiet I honor the beauty of the light and am grateful for it all.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

In Fort Campbell

It's a very different world here. It feels like a sauna 24/7, and it is currently 97. The storms blow through here fiercely, and we are on the eastern edge of tornado alley. We were delayed landing in Nashville as a series of storms were hitting the city, and the wind tore apart Megan's gazebo.

Flying is always an adventure. Sometimes I think I am better off driving. It took me 11 hours to get here, and I only spent 2.75 hours in the air.  I started out with delays, and ended with delays. I sat, I hovered, I sat. Then there was an accident on the highway and Andrea was stuck in traffic for 45 minutes past my arrival.

But airport sitting makes for good entertainment.  I people watch, and privately chuckle at the fashion faux pas like women trying to negotiate luggage and late planes in micro minis and high heels, men adjusting their bad toupees, old ladies who really should NOT be traveling alone as their have no clue how to get from point A to point B. (that is where I come in to help).I watch the business men sipping on their beers at airport bars, and I chuckle and wonder how many times they will have to get up to pee on the plane.  What fools I think, as I stick to something strong and to the point. 

In spite of the long day, I truly enjoy myself. I look at airport travel as a mini adventure, a mini vacation.  I don't have to cook, I get to read (what a novel thought, no pun intended)  I take myself to breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I talk with strangers. I draw and think.  I enjoy the time alone as I know that the next two weeks will be filled with the demands of a sick daughter and her two little ones and life takes on another form.

The photo---a parting shot of my beloved Hudson Valley.  I miss it so much when I am here.


Monday, June 14, 2010

Spring Trippin: Northern Dutchess Botanicals

I have been all over the Hudson Valley these past few weeks but due to the time demands of my job, family, garden, and friends,  I have not written much.   I do miss my nightly blog musings about what goes on in my head and in my somewhat adventurous world, and tonight I miss it so much that I have decided to put the 10,000 things aside, and share a place every evening until I catch up.

The only thing that keeps my adventures in order is the date stamp on my digital photos and my date book.  I used to keep a journal, but even that takes up too much time.  My recall is purely based upon the chronology of the photos on my memory card.

A few weeks ago we headed over to the Northern Dutchess Botanical Gardens as Larry wanted to check it out. Somehow in our miscommunication (residual dreck from the evening before) I thought we were visiting gardens, not a garden shop.  It was f-in HOT, I had a headache and was very short tempered.  I did not know whether to blame it on my hormones or on stress of the previous evening. 

Through the haze of an intense series of hot flashes and hot sun, I drove the EOS up the steep graveled driveway.   Turbos are not good for such grades unless you put it into its manual mode and drive in low gear.  Once the dust settled a bit, I saw an array of plants unlike anything else I have found at the few greenhouses I frequent - rows upon rows of perennials and annuals, neatly arranged alphabetically.

I wish I had felt better because I would have been a much more enthusiastic photographer and had clearer memories.   In between the thoughts of OH MY GOD I NEED TO SIT DOWN,  was  - WAIT, what is THAT plant??!!  What I do remember I captured here (always fish photos if fish are around)  and I went home with my favorite Victorian Heliotrope, and Larry's long sought after white Japanese anemones. 

The photo gallery on their website has much better photos than I could take that day, and it is a beautiful drive less than 30 minutes from Kingston.  Bring your SUV and a full wallet, as you will be wanting to drive home with a car full of plants that you have always dreamed of.

Patti O Flowers.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Having Faith

I am busy preparing to close up my classroom and to leave for Kentucky on Thursday. My daughter is having surgery to do a bone graft on her leg, and to repair the damage done to her knee by the tumor/cyst on her femur. 

I will be there for two weeks, being nurse, mommy, grandma.  I am fretting a bit because I NEED to get into the studio to paint, and I will have to postpone that for a few weeks.  But I am packing my watercolor pads and my watercolors, and at the very least will make art with them-they are easy to pack and easy to set up.  And, I can share with Alanna.

I was recently rejected from two shows which I really wanted to do.  They are both good exposure for me, but as fate or the jury panel would have it, I did not make it in.  Over the past few years I have learned to face the rejection letter/phone call with honor.  Art is subjective; what one person loves, the next one can hate.   So I chalked it up to "the universe/God knowing that perhaps I will not be able to pull these shows off, or else there is something better down the pike" and I put them in the file of rejection letters, remembering that Beatrix Potter and others were rejected for their work/book ideas.

I did have two pieces at WAAM and the opening was last night. I forced myself to go as the weather was uninspiring, and I had just come from a visit to my mom in the nursing home for her birthday.  I found her ill, and though she was glad to see me, her grayness and inability to eat disturbed me.  Other family issues are going on, and I really was not in the mood to meet and greet.  But I promised a friend that I would bring her, so I mustered up bravado to head out into the world.

I was not however, in the mood for the group of men salaciously checking out the women there, some of whom also showed up at the CPW opening.  They I avoided, greeting and kissing only Jerry, my friend's boyfriend, and spending time talking to one of my ex students, who at 30 is a dashing, debonairre man who does something mysterious in the gold/silver stock business and drives a Jaguar.

I like to see my art in these shows..how it is hung, how it looks, and yes, how it compares to the other art in there.  I just hope it holds its own most of the time.  And it was  good that I went, as I was approached for a few art opportunities, one for a show on "Art by Art Teachers", the other a friend who owns a few shops in town who is interested in my Nursery Crime series of hand made cards, and the last, an enthusiastic artist who fell in love with my abstract piece and said if I were intereseted, she would love to trade a piece of her art for it.  Though I am not ready to part with it, I was honored by the comment.

Afterwards a light dinner at Cucina, the site of the old Deanie's, a place where I sipped on many martinis in the pre child era of my life.  I had a blood orange cosmo, and Karin and I shared a lovely tuna salad, as well as a thin crust pizza with cheeses topped with prosciutto and arugula.

I drove home smiling, feeling inspired and hopeful, and having faith in the events of my life as they unfold...realizing that disappointments are somehow balanced out, and in the end, I can truely say "and it was all good".

Patti O Faithful

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Summer is Arriving

I can taste it now.  Only 6 more teaching days left, followed by a few weeks of grading, proctoring and cleaning up the room.  Then FREEDOM to write, travel, paint, read, swim, garden, COOK.  And in the summer, all of it is pure joy and most of the time any work seems like play.  I look forward to the long days filled with light, to waking up late when I feel like it, and reading in bed. 

Summer seems early this year, as for a month I have been eating greens out of the garden and already some are bolting -  I am on my second sprouting of arugula plants. The wild roses have come and gone and today's wind and rain sent the remaining petals to the ground.  The day lilies are blooming -  something that usually happens in early July.  I  have a golden tan from sleeveless gardening and riding in the EOS.  Spring has been glorious here.

Stay tuned for more consistent blogging now that the pressures of school are slowly fading away for a while.  Blogs this week will feature the work of two local artists who are showing/have studios in Kingston, and my trip to Foxmor Farms. 

There will be much art, garden, and food chat, and whatever other stories seem fit to print here.

Tonight's photo was taken of Alanna last summer in the garden by Larry.  His darkroom is now up and running, the sink being fixed and a new ventillation system installed by our hero man Tom.  This photo represents the epitome of summer; time spent with children/grandchildren,  and play and creative time in the little paradise in my own back yard.   I understand why Monet did not have to travel far to be inspired.