Playful Packrat

My sister freaks out once. “Oh, my gosh. Our parents still have boxes from their last move a decade later. What will we do when they die?”

Me: “Get a storage unit and open a box a year at Christmas for the rest of our lives.”

Her: “That could work.”

I tell my sister that we could start a magazine in response to Real Simple. “We will title it Playful Packrat.” We come from an impressive line of Packr– I mean, Collectors. Collector is honorable and respected. Packrat is, well, unfashionable. Perhaps I should title it Circumspect Collector instead. I know someone who seems to be collecting heavy equipment, which is an interesting choice. One needs more property than I have for parking.

My house would make Marie Kondo shudder. The photograph is the basement: the stack is my mother’s larger artworks. I am moving stuff around now that I am home-on-oxygen instead of running around clinic like a crazy rabbit. And like this writer, https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/maximalist-response-marie-kondo-minimalist-mandate, it ALL gives me joy. Well, ok, not the tiny ants. We are at war. My kitchen may be cluttered but by gosh it’s clean clutter because the tiny ants let me know immediately if I screw up.

Anyhow, my mother died in 2000, my sister in 2012, and my father in 2013. My parents left me their stuff and grandparent stuff, some of which I had never seen, and I still get dead people mail. The colleges and universities are the most persistent. They don’t care if someone is dead, they still mail out the Alumni Magazine. I get U of WI, Cornell, Princeton, U of Oregon, Medical College of VA, OHSU and Williston. Holy moly. U of TN and SUNY Binghamptom have lost track of us, thankfully. I wish I had kept my father’s notes on Beowulf and mailed them to Williston for their library. It would be a sort of just revenge. I still have boxes (my excuse is busy physician) so I will bet that I can find something to mail to each one of those places. Something that they want just as much as I want their Alumni Magazine. With a cover letter that says that my contribution is hidden in the documents. One dollar each.

I have too much stuff but I have now turned middle aged, that is, I am over sixty. So I now am on the downward side and decide, there needs to be outflow rather than inflow. I like my stuff but it’s time to start moving it. My mother was a prolific artist and all of the silent auctions in town will now be blessed by her art. And don’t worry, it is not awful! She has art in the Smithsonian, the National Museum of Women Artists, and a bunch of other places. See my April A to Z for details.

For my father it was books and musical instruments. I still have the guitars. I think there were twelve trumpets? A lute, a harp, a cello — the lute is in very bad shape and the others have gone to someone else and the school, respectively. Recorders, gone. I have flutes, my regular flute and then ones made out of clay, cherry, pvc pipe and bamboo, as well as a Native American flute. I am mostly playing the regular flute, Native American flute and guitar.

I am guilty of books, too. I DO want to read them all, but even if I did nothing but read for the next sixty years, I might not finish. The excuse that some are reference does not fly. Some are pure unsullied entertainment and by gosh, I am keeping those! I am not allowed to go to the book sale next week. I do have a library box but the books are not leaving at the rate they have been arriving in the last year. And it’s my fault.

Anyhow, I am enjoying my clutter. After all, we invented tables to put things on. Sometimes we do have to clear the table for the NEXT project, but no worries! There is always the floor!

Cheering up music:

Z is for Zarasthustra

Last day of April A to Z, blogging about Women Artists and particularly Helen Burling Ottaway, my mother. Can you name five women artists now?

This etching is from 1975. I was fourteen years old. I remember my parents discussing titles of etchings. My father, Malcolm Kenyon Ottaway, would often help title them. This etching is titled “Thus spoke Zarasthustra”. I wish that my parents were alive so that I could ask about this etching. Why Friedrich Nietzsche? When I am fourteen, my father receives his MA in mathematics and leaves SUNY Binghampton for a job at General Electric in Alexandria, Virginia. We move from New York State to Virginia and I start high school that year. I think that Alexandria was a much better place for my mother, all the art and artists, than for my father.

I hope that you have had a wonderful month in April: and I hold those in my heart in the war zones or who are lost and suffering.

ATOZBLOGGINGCHALLENGE2022 #art #Women artists #Helen Burling Ottaway #ATOZCHALLENGE #APRILATOZ

For more information about the #AtoZChallenge, check out this link.

X is for X-Acto knife

I am blogging A to Z about artists, particularly women artists and mostly about my mother, Helen Burling Ottaway.

My mother disliked cutting mats more than almost anything except vacuuming and cutting glass. In the late 1980s and early 1990s my grandmother lived two doors down in Alexandria, Virginia. My mother took over part of the basement for matting, glass cutting and framing. Times right before shows included complaints about cutting mats and glass, her saying that she didn’t have enough things framed (though she always did) and at least one piece of glass broke. The X-Acto knife was the tool for mat cutting at that time. My mother usually cut herself at least once for each show. She was particularly annoyed if she bled on the freshly cut mat or the painting or etching.

Hanging the show involves a lot of time out words as well, but she would get excited once it was hung. Then it was time for dress up. Shows were a command performance: my sister and I were to go as well. We dressed up and talked to people politely and ate the strawberries when my mother was not looking. The opening of the show would include food and usually wine. In small glasses. And no, we weren’t allowed to have any. We had to look at the art and be polite to adults.

The photograph today is another of my poems with my mother’s etching. And look, she has avoided cutting a mat. She bought special frames, with two slots. One holds the glass. The second holds the mat with the mounted etching. If the glass rests on the etching, it can ruin it. She mounted all of our ten prints and poems this way. Clever artist and they look wonderful.

ATOZBLOGGINGCHALLENGE2022 #art #Women artists #Helen Burling Ottaway #ATOZCHALLENGE #Christine Robbins Ottaway #APRILATOZ

For more information about the #AtoZChallenge, check out this link.

W is for Window

There are two Kitchen Window pen and ink drawings, then reproduced in a limited edition: this is Kitchen Window II.

My mother Helen Burling Ottaway always had a wonderfully chaotic garden inside and outside. Kitchen Window is a pen and ink drawing that she then did a limited edition of copies, numbered and signed. She had many dual drawings and etchings. One would be realistic and the second…. maybe the second is what she saw.

ATOZBLOGGINGCHALLENGE2022 #art #Women artists #Helen Burling Ottaway #ATOZCHALLENGE #Christine Robbins Ottaway #APRILATOZ

For more information about the #AtoZChallenge, check out this link.

Stages of PEACE

We have stages of grief. Now if we are going to make peace, we need to break it down into the stages that we need to go through. I think this incorporates and embodies the stages of grief. We need to plan peace. We need a map to get there, and it is not a simple road. We can’t just say I am peaceful. We must do the work. Here are the stages I can think of and I have certainly gotten stuck in some of these stages. What about you? No…or are you in denial? And if not you, I would bet money that you can name someone who you think or feel is stuck in one of these. Takes one to know one though, right? No, maybe that’s wrong. Stop confusing me!

And maybe we don’t all go through all of these stages. Or go through them in the same order. When I watch families grieve after a death, they often fight. They fight about how to grieve. The family members may be in very different stages, or the family may have stages or roles assigned to certain people, who may or may not accept the assigned role. My maternal family has anger assigned to me. I don’t really care any more. Since I am not angry, presumably they can’t handle anger and need to outsource it. I got tired of saying “I am not angry” and being told that yes, you are angry until I would get angry… you see the problem, right? It got ridiculous. My sense of the absurd kicked in and then I would try to really enjoy being angry. You are supposed to give things your best effort, right? Snort.

Message me if you think of some stages that I’ve missed! Then we can all get to work, on working through these. MAKE PEACE, PEACE OUT, PEACE ME, PEACE YOU, PEACE THE WORLD! Might take a while. Get on it, get to work.

Twisting words

Confusion

Denial

Bargaining

Anger

Bitterness

Revenge

Acting Out

Oppositional Defiance

Acceptance

Forgiveness

Healing

Hope

Reconciliation

Peace

_____________

What does the helmet have to do with this? Nothing… I just like the helmet. I keep thinking that it could be a breastplate instead of a helmet. And it is a clue to my May blogging… where am I? Where is this helmet?

making peace

denise levertov writes making peace
that it is an active process
it is not the absence of war
but a process in itself: how do we make it?
Make Peace

how do we wage peace?
wage is not the word
we do not do it for money
we must be more active than hoping
engender peace?
spread peace: like a pandemic
a pandemic of peace

the comfort of peace
the joy of peace
the love of peace

the peace of the grave
the peace of sleep
the peace of heaven
peace here now
peace not distant nor below the earth
peace conscious, aware and present
peace alive, breathing, welling up in everyone
peace here now

a pandemic of peace
a river of peace
peace flowing through and around, above and below us
peace full, peace out, peaced
let us verb it
I am peaced today
I peace you
I peace Russia
I peace the soldiers
I peace the Ukraine
I peace the entire world

I peace you
please, will you peace me?
peace me now, then there will be two
and everyone else
peace the world now
a pandemic of peace
make peace

___________________

I taped a conversation with a wren one morning in Wisconsin. I never saw my wren and clearly I have not got the language down, but she kept talking to me anyhow.

Conversation with a wren.

S is for Shame

I am reading Kim Addonizio’s Ordinary Genius for a Centrum poetry class.

She challenges white poets: why don’t you write about racisim?

I write that we are afraid. I think it is more than that: it is shame. Thinking about her words, I thought about one of my mother’s pieces of art and how it makes me uncomfortable. And that my discomfort with it is new. I wrote this poem.

Race forward

Kim Addonizio asks
Why don’t white poets write about race?

Chickenshits, I think.
Afraid. We are afraid.
My mother called one color Nigger Pink.
She says, “It’s the color that only looks good on black people.”
She looks wicked as she says it and I know that I never should.
She didn’t think she was racist nor a feminist.

One time she says, “Maybe I am a feminist.”
“Why do you say that?” I ask.
“We had a group of women who went to plant trees. None of them could dig a hole.”
“Oh,” I say.
“They didn’t know how to use a shovel!”

She might be horrified how many high school graduates today would call a spade a shovel.

A mentor art teacher says, “Stop being small,” to her. “Get bigger.”
She starts pastel portraits, larger than life.
One that I love is titled “One Fist of Iron.”
Now: don’t lie. What race do you think the person is? And what gender?

Did you guess correctly?
African American and male.

Another friend tells me he is trying to get his father to stop calling Brazil nuts nigger toes.
My mother told me that term too.
And that it was unacceptable.
At my friend’s father’s birthday, I focus my camera on the birthday man.
He holds a bowl of nuts. He says to himself, “I will now eat a politically incorrect nut.” and the camera clicks. I love this photograph because he is 90 and white and reluctantly changing his wicked words.

My mother says there might be hope when a small black child trick or treats her house in black face, in Alexandria, Virginia, in the 1990s.

I think there IS hope, even though the race seems slow and painful and there is so much anger
Look in the mirror, white poets.
And write the words.

One Fist of Iron, by Helen Burling Ottaway

The photograph at the beginning of this is not my mother. It is her mother’s mother, Mary Robbins White. I have pictures of five generations of women with that serious expression. She was the wife of George White, the Congregationalist Minister who was president of Anatolia College in Turkey. They and my grandmother and siblings were escorted to the Turkish border in 1916. George White and his wife were two of the main witnesses of the genocide of the Armenians in Turkey.

Let us not stand by and witness more genocides.

ATOZBLOGGINGCHALLENGE2022 #art #Women artists #Helen Burling Ottaway #ATOZCHALLENGE #APRILATOZ

For more information about the #AtoZChallenge, check out this link.

T is for tree

I am blogging from A to Z about Helen Burling Ottaway, my artist mother, and other women artists.

My mother loved painting trees and doing etchings of trees, but this is a tree peony. Another etching, and this printed with two colors at the same time. Delicate work, to ink the plate with two colors and gently wipe off the excess without mixing them.

ATOZBLOGGINGCHALLENGE2022 #art #Women artists #Helen Burling Ottaway #ATOZCHALLENGE #APRILATOZ

For more information about the #AtoZChallenge, check out this link.