Finish line

I did manage to cross the finish line for the Blogging from A to Z.

It was a bit tricky because I had a last minute trip. I got the tickets last Sunday and flew on Tuesday. I flew back on Friday and got home on Saturday. I traveled super light: no laptop, no big camera, only phone and a small day pack and one change of clothes, so I washed some by hand daily. I am proud that I still got the A to Z done!

I feel more like a finisher than a winner. It does feel good to share so much of my mother’s artwork. Helen Burling Ottaway died at age 61 in 2000, so her artwork did not have much of an internet presence. She is present in the Lake Matinenda Cottage Owners Association here. She and my uncle and other family and friends worked on a Matinenda flora of the wildflowers and plants. There have been two more since.

Hooray for everyone who contributed to or supported or read the Blogging from A to Z this month and hmmm, what should I do next year?

Daily Evil: Z is for Zzzzz

Sleep is not evil. Nor is snoring, though you might think someone is evil at 2 am if their snoring is keeping you up.

This is a small watercolor, 9 by 6 inches. Again, no date, but it is a view near my parent’s house in Chimacum. They loved that house and the views. They moved there in 1996 and my mother was diagnosed with cancer a year later. I want to end with this painting because they were so happy there, even with the cancer. They had wanted to move to the northwest for years, but waited until my grandmother died. She was in her 90s and they were afraid to move her. After she died, it took three years to find a place and sort things and move.

So let’s end with them sleeping and waking to morning and the sun coming over the mountains and the farms around them and the views.

Daily Evil: X is for Xenophobic

Are phobias evil? A fear of strangers or of foreigners. I think a phobia can make someone behave strangely or dangerously and harm others. I think that the isolation of the pandemic has increased our fear, so it may well exacerbate xenophobia. Not only the pandemic, but inflammatory news and war and changing weather patterns and the news that one in five trees is dying in part of California, unable to survive the warming.

This is a watercolor, again no date, but I think it is of the Olympic Mountains. That means it was painted in the last four years of her life, between 1996 and 2000. She and my father bought five acres with a house and barn in Chimacum, off of Center Valley Road. She loved the views up and down the valley. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1997 and died in 2000.

The mountains look like they have a crosshatching, Xes to indicate snow and valleys and places where the snow can’t stick. Or has fallen down.

Daily Evil: W is for Wild

Is wildness evil? What sort of wildness? The forest and waves and wilderness are not things we think of as evil, but some wildness in humans seems very evil. Some is silliness, some is substances, and some is truly violence and cruelty and terror and evil.

This is another of Helen Burling Ottaway’s fantasy etchings, titled The Hunt, number 6 of 30, 1986. A merman with a trident and dogfish, with a variety of tails. The etching is 6.75 by 8, the paper 11 by 15. I like the lines of movement, of waves, from the escaping shark.

Daily Evil: V is for Virago

Virago gives positive and negative definitions, but all female. The most positive ones are of a very strong woman, “like a man”. Is there a male word that means the same thing? A word for a man, where the most positive one is that he’s very strong, “like a woman”. Perhaps “like a woman in labor”. Let’s make one up if we can’t think of one. “Obstetico”, perhaps. A man who complains like he’s a woman in labor, but the positive definition is strong like a woman in labor.

This is a watercolor postcard. Helen Burling Ottaway painted a bunch of postcards, with wonderful detail. These snapdragons could be viragos or obstetricos or perhaps both. This is from 1999, two years into her ovarian cancer. So the song is the Bald Headed Blues.

Daily Evil: U is for Unlikely

Unlikely isn’t evil. Well, I am tired of evil, so U is for Unlikely because I am tossing in a monkey wrench. U for unexpected, too.

Back to etchings: U is for Unicorn. This is titled “The Virgin and the Unicorn II”, number 10/75, 1986, H. Ottaway. The etching is 7 inches by 8 inches and the paper is 11 inches by 15 inches. She would often frame them mounted but not matted, in frames that have a slot to hold the glass away from the picture. She did her own framing and especially disliked cutting glass. I knew when a show was close because she would be framing and grumpy.

Daily Evil: T is for Thief

Time is the evil thief I am thinking of today. This is my sister, Christine Robbins Ottaway, painted by Helen Burling Ottaway in the early 1970s. Time has stolen both of them.

This is another watercolor, over a pencil drawing, 10.5 inches by 14 inches.

Daily Evil: S is for Sneaky

Sneaky. One thing that I think really is evil is gossip. Talking about someone behind their back and spreading rumors and never speaking to the person themselves. But I do not need to punish anyone. The gossip will eat them from the inside, like a cancer, and they will look like fools when they are proven wrong. Curling churlishly with guilt.

I look at the sea and I let it all go.

This watercolor by Helen Burling Ottaway does not have a date. I love the whitecaps using the paper. Tricky to do that, I have tried. My daughter also draws horizons and seascapes, over and over. This is 11 by 15. I suspect it is from the late 1970s or early 1980s, because there is a watercolor of my sister on the beach, similar to this. My paternal grandparents lived on Topsail Island in North Carolina and that is the most likely location.

S is for sneaky and snarky and sea. Here is a snarky song.

Daily Evil: Q is for Quiet

When is it evil to be quiet? When you are witnessing bullying or injustice or someone being harmed. Have you witnessed bullying and stood by and does it bother you?

I am at a dinner, invited. It turns out that the agenda is to talk a partner into staying, because she has quit. Partner one wants partner two to stay. Partner three and I are horrified and don’t want her to stay, but we do not want to say that to her. We frankly can’t wait for her to leave.

The dinner turns in to partner one and two bullying partner three. I am the newest and don’t know what to do. The next day I am ashamed and think, why didn’t I take partner three and leave? What is the matter with me?

Part of it is that I revert to childhood. I survived a complex household with people who were loving sometimes and horrid and drunk at others. Clamming up and being quiet was how I survived. But I am an adult now and I can leave. I can also speak up and say, “Stop. This is not fair. This is an ambush.”

Today’s watercolor is flowers. My mother loved flowers, had a wild and delightful garden, and painted them often. This is a small watercolor, 7 by 10 inches, no date.

I am thinking about the latest shootings. Aren’t we supposed to welcome strangers, for they may be angels in disguise? What did you stock up on during the pandemic? A gun didn’t occur to me. I bought more water filters and wished I could buy for the whole county. I bought seeds. I bought rice and beans. You can’t eat bullets and they aren’t good toilet paper either. I studied local edible plants. What did you buy? So many people are so afraid.

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: nothing. Nothing to see here, folks, move along.

Daily Evil: P is for Persnickety

Again, this might be evil in some situations and not in others.

I interviewed at the National Institutes of Health in the mid 1980s, with Dr. Steve Rosenburg. He asked how good I was with details. I said it depended. He asked what I meant. I said that I was excellent and persnickety when it came to science experiments, but at my present job I had trouble caring about the exact margin widths that the director of the non-profit I was working for wanted. He said that might be important. I said that I agreed, but I would be better off in a lab. He hired me.

I was excellent and persnickety in the lab and went from there to medical school 3 years later.

Etchings are profoundly persnickety. You can’t even do the drawing until you have tarred the zinc plate and then you etch the drawing in acid, take the tar off, ink the plate, run it through the press with paper and put more tar on the plate after you wipe the ink off. And once you get what you want, you have to re-ink the plate for every picture. This etching has two colors, which makes wiping enough ink off to get the lines right very tricky.

This is “Those are the pearls”, 4 out of 25, 1981, Helen Burling Ottaway. The plate size is 8.5 by 11 inches.

I am having to be persnickety about photographing my mother’s works. I am getting better at it, but it’s tricky to get the light right, without shadows. The cats always want to help. Today they are out in the box watching the birds, since they kept walking over the etching. I am jealous of the professionals downtown who have a camera on a frame and can be very very persnickety about the photograph. I may try my tripod, as a weak second. I have my mother’s slides too, so I could try digging those out. She did her own mostly, so I am not sure about them.

Hooray for the letter P!