Today I am celebrating two dogs. Wonderful dogs. Dogs that top off any cuteness scale you can conceive. Happy eighth birthday to Dodi, and seventh to Baruch. I cannot believe we have had so many years of happiness, love, laughter and a bit of stubbornness just for good measure.
Dodi was the vision of my first roommate here in Arizona. She greeted me, the first day she picked me up with a stuffed red doxie, saying, “This is the dog we will find for you, and you will always be happy. Linda was truly a psychic!
Six weeks later Linda and I drove to Tucson and back in a day to get Dodi. She had been raised in a kennel with 20 doxies and three great Danes, no people. He was in Iran, his wife too depressed to deal with her kennel-full of pups. Dodi was engulfed in sadness, loneliness when she came into my home. For the next three months she was almost unmanageable. Not used to living in a house, she pooped everywhere. I dragged her around the neighborhood on a leash, her tail tucked under her legs. I even considered taking he back to Tucson. My dear friend Judi came and did hours and hours of Reiki on Dodi. That brought her around. She became the delightful, conceited princess she still is.
For the next year Dodi and I shared a love of fashion. Dodi was particular in her dress for the dogpark, had a different coat for her walk, each day. This culminated in her wonderful calendar with twelve different seasonal-appropriate costumes. Dodi and I believed we were in this for the duration.
Then at a Mahjongg game my friend Susan announced, “I met your dog at the Humane Society today.” She knew Dodi. Who was she talking about? Baruch! He was a picture of fears and trauma. So badly abused he could only sit in my lap and tremble, he was terrified of the world, his one safety-spot being Dodi. He had been picked up by the dog control in a dumpster in the Cottonwood Public Library Parking lot after running several miles through a dark, rainy January night. We waited the required five days to be sure he had been abandoned, then another three days to recover from his being “fixed.” We brought him home.
I named this wonderful dog Baruch. His pound name was Benji, so the B’s matched. Baruch because he was blessed, we were blessed to take in this sweet little boy. Early on he learned if he was really bad he would hear the entire blessing, “Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu, Melech Ha Olam.” (Blessed are You, King of the Universe). This made for uncomfortable Passover Seders!
Over the past six years we have shared many adventures, and many wonderful people. The Mahjongg games where the dogs moved from lap to lap, the walks around Verde Santa Fe, the three years with Larry—dinners, walks, movies, wonderful Patti, J, Sue, and now Laina.
But more importantly, I am celebrating the birthdays of two dogs, and the shared lives we have enjoyed. Beautiful, conceited Dodi. Who could compete with those long, red ears? Sweet Baruch. What trauma could still invade your thoughts, pull in such nightmares over all these years?
I have heard that dogs who are seven and eight are “middle-aged.” Not Dodi and Baruch! Dodi still goes out regularly on her lizard hunts. 100 plus degrees? No deterrent for the adventures lying under each of the sticks in her carefully conceived stick obstacle course. And Baruch. He cannot find enough ways to be loved, too many people to under his ears.
Here is to more years as an unrivaled, happy threesome, ready for the next adventure, the next person, ready to love on Baruch, admire Dodi’s red hair, ready to come into our lives.
The moon, she is a silver chalice,
filled and refilled with our Eternal’s love.
We listen. Her ethereal song swirls across the skies.
We join her in dance, our partner in firmament’s ballet.
We are enfolded within the chords of moon’s holy hymn.
She intones the many verses, we join in her chorus.
Her countenance, a mirrors the brilliance of the sun.
Her ebbs and flows give way to a carpet of glittery stars.
A shy ingenue, the moon blushes in the black of night;
a harlot, she winks, sinks into a provocative bow.
The moon, a silver flute, within the astral orchestra,
plays the solos in many heavenly concertos.
Spilling sparks of celestial grace, the moon
wraps around us in a shawl of ivory lace.
Her heart, our steadfast companion,
a ceaseless reminder of the fidelity of our God.
The evolution of my art. I returned a number of my current pieces to the Jerome Art Center yesterday. The steep steps. Art-tossed hallways. Summer sun relentlessly beating in through the windows. Memories.
But my smudge bowls, my abstract masks mounted on burls of wood, my main-stay, the Awareness Vessels. This was a new place for them to hang out. And they found themselves right at home.
From glops of papier mache and splashes of bright acrylics. Transform the wood, my mantra! Hung on sinews. Propped on rocks. The wood snuggled into its surroundings. I tried to call it art. The room got pretty messy. Puddles of those plastic-paints, dust, dirt, dead bugs. The stairs got too steep. The mess took over. I retreated down the hill, settled in with dead refrigerators as mentors.
My new hang-out was Reitz Ceramic Ranch. A long, long-term dream. Rub my hands in clay, pinch it, bring it to life, freeze it into a new gesture. Just as my initial wood assemblages moved through adolescence awkwardness, so, too did my ceramic pieces. I had to learn how to this out, remove the gunky papier mache.. I had to learn to thin-out the clay, to trust its drying processes.
I am still in the beginning throes of relating to clay. I yearn for its sculptural beauties, but do not have the skills to rip out the armatures needed to support clay’s plastic properties as it stretches too high, too thinly. Last week’s tragedy with the arm-root piece is still quite fresh. My good friend, Michael, he gently reminded me to breathe as I stood in the midst of a potential fatality. “Ann. You have a remarkable eye. You can see the shapes that nobody else sees this clay might take. But you have not worked with it long enough to find the skills to bring out that beauty.”
On bad days I sit back in the workroom and compare my work to everyone else around me. I lose the sense of me as an artist. Michael’s carved bowls, graceful, curved covered pots. Linda’s thinned figures, simple, elegant. Why can’t I do that? Why am I not good enough, yet?
A card-reader came through my almost-show last night. He said the prominent card was the one stating I wanted recognition. How true! My writing never got the recognition I craved. That craving is all-encompassing. Ever since the days of acrylic-coated drift wood I have been trying from time-to-time to pedal this so-called art to galleries. And then I cringe when I see it hunched over near the colorful photos of Cathedral Rock, the sparkly crystal necklaces.
Last night was a good one. We only enticed two people to climb the stairs, to peruse my latest entries into the “This is Art” sweepstakes. But both people bought smudge-bowls. Both of them saw the remarkable evolution of my art,. We reminisced over the messy Jerome studio, the thick, the heavy bases and the smeared, glopped papier-mache. My bowls have more grace. The wood’s energy is showcased in a thinner bowl. I am evolving as an artist!
This week-end assignment I’ve gave myself, In addition to setting up my creations in Jerome: Make two 32-piece chess sets, two slabbed larger mindfulness vessels, three abstract masks, clean my bedroom, write this blog, and decide whether to unite with The Welcome Wagon. Oh yes, and go see the movie RBG. I wonder why I feel stretched, sometimes.
Anyway, the Welcome Wagon. $250 a month promises to get my name out to 57 brand new home-owners per month with a postcard, a booklet and a coupon for goodies if they come to Adrift. I find this decision has two parts to it. One is the cost. At $250 a month I need to sell about 7 pieces per month to break even. My goal has been to re-home about 5 pieces a month, and birthday gifts have been my fallback. I attracted 35 people to the last Open Studios, but only sold $25 over the three days. Is the cost realistic?
My other concern is the idea of selling 7 different pieces. That means I have to have seven-plus pieces ready to go each month. At this stage in my art process this means producing the work, and also releasing the work. Can I put enough art into the glaze firings, each month? Can I take those pieces and add the right piece of driftwood, make it stick, paint the joint? How much of my time will this involve? Will I be moving beyond the “hobby” stage? And the releasing of these pieces? I can let those smudge pots go. But is my delicate bowl even in Jerome, the tan one with the curvy root forming a handle? And hot-tub? This curvaceous piece of wood looks like a gnome lounging in a tub. And I stuck a cactus in to keep him company. I smile at him regularly. Can I let him, and the others like him, go to new homes? Welcome Wagon would be a challenge.
So life as a budding 72-year-old artist continues. The roller coaster of this is wonderful, I am a miserable failure! I belong is that name-brand gallery. The trash can is where this will all end up! Good/bad? I try to hold the memories of nights like last night, where the pieces which still seem chunky, where the glazes were less than remarkable received raves. I force myself to accept the fact my art is worthy of the time, the energy, the joy I pour into it.
And “Hot Tub”, one of my current favorites I allowed to travel up the hill? Sue, up at Red Bench is providing custody for him. Am I ready for him not to return to Adrift? Yes! Welcome Wagon? We will see!
1968, A full fifty years have passed. So many experiences for me since then. Career. Marriage. Children. Divorce. An African detour early on. Cross-country moves. A whole new life within my art in only the past two years. Yet, indelibly etched in my memory are the two assassinations within two months of each other 1968. My emotional pain, my disappointments, my total loss of faith in this country's institutions.
I was so moved by Martin Luther King. I had met him two years before, had marched with him, attended his rally’s, even spoke directly with him. His moral principles. His eloquent style of speaking. Yes. He had been forced from his comfortable role as the nation’s conscience in Civil Rights in the south, to the conscience for the Viet Nam War, and for the poor in general. His constituency was not as clearly defined. And so many Whites wanted to see him fail. His power, influence, particularly outside poor black Southerners had fallen somewhat. Threatened Whites breathed more easily around him.
And the Viet Nam war. So contentious. So big a chasm between me and my friends and the “older” generation. We did not want to see our colleagues shipped off to die in what we saw as a meaningless war. Strategies for winning, or for even getting out, were non-existent. I marched to the Oakland draft board over and over. I begged and pleaded with the recruits not to surrender to the Draft, to take a step back instead.
The draft was so laden in our class structure. The poor boys were taken. My friends in university classes, in plans to move to Canada, in schemes to be disqualified—maybe poor eyes, low weight, bad knees. !-Y’s were at a premium. Young men were inventing conscientious objector philosophies. The talk among everyone in my peer group at UC Berkeley was the best way to avoid this draft.
I remember the day King was killed. I was tutoring a young black girl in West Oakland. We heard the news. I abruptly ended my session, raced out of the house, and onto the nearest bus toward Berkeley. For the first time in several years I did not feel safe in a Black community.
King’s funeral was broadcast throughout the student union of the UC campus. We all joined, sobbing as we watched his family, listening in disbelief to the eulogies.
But, our hopes were pinned on Kennedy. Back in March, about a month before King was killed, LBJ pulled out of the presidential race, leaving the nomination to Humphrey. Sure, at one time we might have favored Humphrey, but he was too aligned with Johnson and the war. Along came Bobby Kennedy. Extraordinary man. He could calm anti-war voters, could speak, as Johnson once could, to the horrendous poverty and divisions in the country. We trusted him to “fix” Viet Nam.
I remember watching his victory in the California primary more clearly than I remember watching last night’s news. I remember cheering, tears running down my face as he claimed the California primary, was guaranteed the presidential nomination. Then the cameras panned through a kitchen. There he was, one minute walking through, the next minute he was lying down, his bleeding head cradled in some man’s arm.
Shock. Horror. Disbelief, Screams It was revisiting the assassination of his brother four years before—right there on the television, unedited. Our hopes were dashed. Immediately we began to talk of what to do next. Canada? Couldn’t stay in our broken country. The draft would catch the men! We had to get out!
My boyfriend looked into the Peace Corps. We heard they were putting together a contingent to go to teach in Northern Nigeria. Northern Nigeria which was wracked by its own civil war. We asked few questions, packed our bags.
The Democratic convention in Chicago assured our worst fears. Chaos reined. Humphrey was not up for the task. Tricky Dick who had looked sleazy when paired with JFK still looked sleazy. Just nobody to stand against him. No hope for our country. Nigeria here we come!
This seems like yesterday. No. Fifty years ago today. I often ponder what might have happened if Kennedy didn’t walk through that kitchen that night. Would we have moved beyond the divisiveness of that time?
"With all the beauty surrounding me here above the Verde Valley, how could I not create more beauty?"