I am blessed. Let me enumerate just a few of my blessings. The obvious first is my new studio. The location, right on the street to the Recreation Center and the library, means everyone I know drives by my place. And they are beginning to stop in! The space is perfect. I have room to make art, and to line up cabinets with my supplies all around. And the show-space will be perfect for displaying my art. The lighting is perfect. The swamp cooler has handled this latest heatwave. George, the guy in Appliance Junkies, and his wife Joyce greet me each day with cheerful good mornings. His customers, and he has many, are looking into my space. Three walked in yesterday, and I am not yet set up for visitors.
The kittens. They are beautiful, gray and tan with big ears and fuzzy fur. Manzi comes and sits in my lap regularly. Junipurr is a bit more reticent. They play together, wrestling and attacking each other for hours. They animate the space. I am never alone. And, they do a wonderful job of attracting customers. Yesterday one woman stood in the window for ten minutes watching them play. She came right in when I invited her.
Friends. I have never had so many close friends. Leslie lives next door. She keeps my dogs when I am gone. They do not even miss me. And she looks at my art with a critical eye. I need that. Patti has agreed to be the back-up kitty helper. I went to a movie Monday. I knew Junie and Manzi would be fine. Sue (OK, I am trying to call her Zushka, her legal, Slovak name) provides laughs. I do not think we have ever gotten together when she has not laughed fifty different times. She gets migraine headaches, finances are rough. But she always presents as happy. Although I am not currently in a 12 Step program, I need reminders from time to time. She gives me those. She knows the program. This used to be Judie’s role. I am so blessed to have someone slip seamlessly into that. Lynda is supportive. Karen is an artist and reassures me when things do not go just right. I could go on and on with all the people I talk to, laugh with, share intimate details regularly.
And I have found Don Reitz Ranch. This was the eleven-acre land where the world renowned pot maker worked until his death a few years ago, Now this land, in beautiful Sycamore Canyon, ten miles from my studio, or my house, is a memorial to Mr. Reitz and his work. For a reasonable price I can go and work there whenever. They provide clay, glazes and firing. Lessons are coming. Ever since I was 25, and took an adult ed sculpture class, I have yearned to stick my hands back into clay. It feels magical. And now I can go out there twice a week to get my hands dirty. The sculpture bases I am making for my wood will enhance my work, provide variety for what I am doing.
My health. Yes. I have to take acetaminophen on a regular basis for hip pain. But it covers it. I do not sleep well, awakening at least three or four times a night. I could easily fall into a “I hate my dentures” funk. Their taste in my mouth, their looseness, their sound when I chew, the slime my mouth makes around them. But I am teaching myself to learn to love them. Arthritis makes my fingers stiff. My balance is not the greatest. Headaches visit from time to time. But I remember when my life was all about poor health. The multiple hospitalizations, the fifteen different pills to take each day. the dependence on oxygen, the deep pain of fibro, and its accompanying fog. But I am 71. Things could be worse, still. You gotta know when I count blessings, health is now at the top of my list.
My family. I am down to two sons and two grandsons. My sons never call. I have only seen three pictures of Jesse in the first two months of his life—no Grandma brag-book! But I move over to the positive. Both boys are healthy, successful in their careers. There will be a time, eventually, when family moves back into the center of my life.
I could not enumerate blessings without a mention of Baruch and Dodi. They continue to entertain me, keep me company, and bring me joy. Baruch, who used to bark at a stem of grass blowing across the street, made it around six blocks with only one bark this morning. Could have been eight. Good training! Dodi? She thinks she controls my house. She has learned the power of pee. No walk? She will pee on my pillow. Bedtime? When she is ready to go to bed, she comes into the kitchen to tell me. She sends Baruch is for the warning. Then, she pees on the space where I sleep. I have learned the value of closed doors! They play with Bennie, from next door, divide their loyalties between me and Leslie, but overall, they enhance my life every day. And their insistence on a walk means I get exercise regularly.
I have found a faith-community. Center for Universal Love is not the staid Jewish community I had grown accustomed to, but Pastor Arvil’s music is heart-achingly beautiful, I have so many friends there, and I make new ones every week. I find the messages thought-provoking, turning to Einstein, for example one week, discussing parenting skills in the 50s and its longterm impact on our lives the next. I am leading a Sister Circle this Friday, and that has been an outlet for my writing. I am sure there will be more.
I heard yesterday I was juried into Made in Clarkdale, a local art show run every December. Last year I was turned down for this. My nose was pushed out of joint! But in the end, their suggestions from last year contributed to the improvement in my pieces this year. And I am doing Open Studios with the Art Council. These will provide me with peer review which I use well. Hopefully it will also mean a few sales.
My writing, recently dormant, has returned. Writing gives me balance, helps me see my realities on the page. It spurs on my creativity. I have loved having this gift for years, and I welcome it back. The opportunity to write blogs on a regular basis contributes to this Renaissance.
I could go on and on with this gratitude list. I remember, two or three years ago the days I could barely get out of bed. Depression socked me in. The outside heat, friends off on vacations, or otherwise engaged. Remaining health questions. I wrote gratitude lists then as a way to boost my spirits. I set the goal of having 20 reasons to feel gratitude. There were days when all I could do was write Baruch and Dodi’s names over and over to get to my 20 blessings. Today I am most grateful for my ever-expanding list of reasons for true happiness. I know many of the reasons I was depressed have not gone away. I could still focus on the heat wave, the isolation of living here in the Verde Valley without any restaurants or shopping, my lack of contact with my sons. but I have learned every day is a choice. I choose where to put my focus. When I find all the reasons I am blessed, the challenges fall into the shadows, not influencing my mood. I am truly grateful for this life!
And, I look forward to the celebration ten days from now when I officially open my studio, share all my gratitude with my friends. Be sure you mark your calendars for September 18 between 5 p.m. and 10. Juanita’s food, friends’ music and a delicious cake from Violette’s Bakery. More reasons to celebrate!
"With all the beauty surrounding me here above the Verde Valley, how could I not create more beauty?"