I must demur

I am Elwha, cat.”

I love my brother, but I must demur with him. He worries so.

It is true that we nearly starved as kittens. Our first mother disappeared and we cried and cried. We were picked up and brought to a strange cage place, with many many animals. It smells of fear and grief. Some of the cats are older and displaced. They have lost their families and are very sad.

Still, there was food! My brother is worse off than me, and often shoulders me aside when the food comes. I slap him with my claws if he is difficult and I get enough to eat. They give us more food than we can finish.

People handle us and pet us daily. At first I don’t like it but then I do. Elwha has a louder purr than me but I don’t care. The people must earn it.

Two women come one day and handle me and Elwha. They leave. Two days later we go to a very strange place and sleep. I wake groggy and kick my brother. The women are back and we are put in a smaller cage. This worries me but I am so groggy that I cannot fight. We are shaken for a while and then she lets us out.

In what turns out to be home and she is Mother now.

I am helping Elwha with his installations in the bowl. It is silly. We are not going to be starved. In fact, Elwha was getting portly and now he is a finer figure of a tom. Mother feeds us in separate rooms. I don’t put offerings in MY bowl, but I am willing to help him. We both enjoy the tissue paper, especially when it is red. It’s a bit of a waste to get it wet, but it makes him happy. I enjoyed shredding the last piece on the stairs, like a scene of death and destruction. I would dearly love to do the same to the birds, but Mother takes us out with harness only. I still like to go out.

I am Sol Duc.

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: demur.

Sterling

Mary and Nissa are at the fundraiser. Only $100 each!

“I am the man for the job,” says Joe. He is elegant in a suit and tie and crisp white shirt. “I don’t lie. I don’t break laws. I don’t even speed! I am a man of sterling character!”

Mary and Nissa enjoy the fundraiser very much. Nissa is driving Mary home afterwards.

“He’s so wonderful! And that meal! Did you see all the silver? He is the man for the job!”

Nissa turns the car into Mary’s driveway. She turns the car off and looks at Mary.

“What?” says Mary.

Nissa pulls a spoon out of her pocket.

“You stole a silver spoon?” says Mary, appalled.

Nissa breaks it in half. It splinters.

“Wood. With silver paint. Don’t be fooled, Mary.” Nissa hands Mary the two wooden halves and Mary stares at them. Nissa gets out to help Mary in to the house.

After she is situated, walker within reach, Mary says, “I may rethink that donation I was going to make. Thank you for coming with me, Nissa.”

Nissa smiles. “You are welcome. Thank you for taking me.”

__________________________

The woman in the picture is new to my home. She has a tag that reads “Chubby Purple Mama”. She was made by an artist in town, Karen Renee Page, who died in September. Many dolls were given for a fundraiser. This doll has crystals and a piece of wood in her belly. Without them she is not balanced. I added one of the chalcedony nodules that I find here on the beach.

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: sterling.

quiet woman 2

mirror mirror

I am culpable as the mirror
hiding hiding hiding
curious about you
what is it you want to see?

I am always surprised
when a man lays his fantasy over me

I have hidden and studied people
for many years
now realize that that is why
the fantasy gets overlaid

I did not know
I was hiding behind a mirror

I think about four men
serial monogamy
over fifteen years
a year break after each

a mirror reflects
a man’s own anima: his ideal woman

all four so different
yet there is a thread that binds
trauma like my trauma
and closer and closer to an opposite

I do not want to be a mirror
any more

the connection of the damaged child
I tried so very hard not to trigger
until the mirror broke
I hold pieces up in my bleeding hands

they leave when the mirror breaks
now I understand

this time was hardest and least hard
at the same time
I could almost see what was happening
almost

and now I can see
and break the pattern with the mirror

my friend says
why don’t you let them see
who you really are?
they would never have let me work

I had to wear the doctor mask
even with other doctors

the nurses and the staff saw through it
right away
they’d call me for patient needs
and knew I’d answer

did I have to wear the doctor mask
or did I wear it to feel safe?

water over the dam
but it’s time to take down the dam
and be myself
and not a mirror

I didn’t know this quiet woman is me

_________________________

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: ART!

Doll culture

When I was married, my husband described my parents as “Time-Warp Beatniks”. That is a good description. We had no television until I was nine and my sister was six, because my parents disapproved of television. This lack made me even less social at school, even though I was never ever good a small talk. I still don’t understand the small talk code.

My mother disliked Barbie, so she conspired with her brothers. We had five girls and two boys in my maternal cousin generation. My mother got the four younger girls all 8 inch china dolls, instead of Barbie. The next summer, the younger boy got one too, since the girls were all sewing and building furniture and generally going to town with them.

I was also given the doll in the picture. She was my grandmother’s china doll, Katherine White Burling. I do not know who sewed the dress that she has on, possibly my great grandmother. The stitches are by hand and tiny. We understood that the dolls’s world was in the late 1800s and since this doll came with a wardrobe, we sewed doll nine patch quilts and my grandmother helped make demure pantaloons for our dolls.

My sister and I did manage to score Barbies eventually, though our china doll world was much more full. The china dolls went with us to Ontario, to Blind River, Canada, where my maternal family has shacks on a lake. We were all allowed to use scrap wood to build tables and chairs and benches and beds, as long as we PUT THE TOOLS AWAY.

Meanwhile, my paternal grandmother, Evelyn Bayers Ottaway, was a brilliant knitter. She taught me to knit at age 8, but it didn’t really take. I learned again in Denmark and still knit. Grandma Ottaway knit elaborate Barbie clothes on microscopic needles. I still have a few of them. They were in the late 1960s and early 70s and really beautiful. One was a tiny knit stole, with a mohair, lined with brown satin. My china dolls stole it from my Barbies. Or perhaps there was an exchange, I don’t know.

The hand sewing came in handy. I have had surgeons ask me where I learned to stitch. “Doll clothes,” I say. They tend to look confused at that.

At one point I had a patient here who was indigenous to the area and age 104. She told me, “When I was in my twenties, even if I dressed like the Caucasian women, they would get up and move to a different pew if I sat by them in church.” I apologized. She told me not to worry, things are changing. So in the photograph, the woman behind my grandmother’s doll is an indigenous weaver. There is a tiny baby on a cradle board. They are having tea together. That is wishful thinking on my part, but we are allowed to wish for peace and work for harmony. Two cultures, still trying to come together with respect.

Blessings and peace you.

__________________________

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: culture.

abstract

This is a cell phone snap from a few days. It reminds me of Jackson Pollock’s paintings, all the complex colors and layers.

The tide was way way way out and it’s a snap of the green layer on the beach. Gorgeous. The beaches here are an endless wonder.

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: wonder.

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.

Y is for Yellow

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

My parents both loved puns and my mother loved gardening. Cowslips is an etching that is then painted with watercolors. She has a whole series of pun flower etchings.

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