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Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Painting and Thinking

I think a lot while I paint the hex signs. Yes, my first and primary thoughts are to focus the energies into the sign for the person or people for whom I am painting. But thoughts lead to thoughts which lead to more as I
focus on the sign (today, strength, as I am painting a Mighty Oak) and today my thoughts ran to my recent frustration with being able to paint quickly and accurately, and then on to advise my father gave me when I was young.

You may have gathered -- correctly -- that I no longer fit that description. I am in my 70s, and while "everyone" notes that I am not typical of women of my age, age is showing to me at least. My recent illness meant several weeks when neither my hands nor my eyes wanted to cooperate with the brush. My body is working much better now -- or else I would not be painting -- but it is still more of a challenge than it was last year. And the advice I was given by an elderly painter years back, "just paint between the shakes" doesn't necessarily apply to what I do. He was a fine art painter; his work did not require two, identical, coats of paint be applied to each area of color. Using house paint on the signs does, so not only do I need to accurately follow my light guide lines, I have to accurately retrace those exact steps again, which means I not only have to coordinate the hand, the eyes have to work pretty darn well. And this is getting more difficult.

Somehow, maybe because the energies in this sign are masculine, my mind wandered on to my father's advice: always have "something to fall back on." He meant, whatever your life path, whatever career you aspire to (I was still a student when he laid his words of wisdom on me), make sure you can do something else as well. I took from his words the meaning of something that would be universally required.

At that time, my heart was set on a career in science, astronomy specifically. And yes, even then I wrestled with the notion of doing something "useful" as opposed to something like astronomy, which, at that time at least, seemed pretty irrelevant to daily life. Probably still is, at least to many folks.  He wanted me to be a teacher "as a fall back." Which made sense, in a way, but had no appeal. But as life unfolded, I did not end up in a scientific career but I did end up teaching... a lot. Most of it was not either in a classroom setting or for pay, which is not surprising to me at all, since I came of age not only in the hippie era, but also in the company of the early computer geeks and hackers. "Information wants to be free."

Over the course of my life, I did many jobs "as fall backs." For several years I was the darling of several temp agencies, as I took whatever they threw at me and made the company look good... from detailing cars just off the boat from Japan to fun in a pizza factory, which could have been a plot straight out of "I Love Lucy," to outworking (and essentially replacing) two high school football players at a tent sale, showing huge throw rugs. Over the years, though, my real "fall back" was janitorial work. It was mindless, easy to come by due to high turn over, and paid the bills. And while it was physical, it was not beyond me.

Now, though... I dunno.

Which got me to thinking about the advice we give our kids, and even to ourselves. We try to raise our youngsters to succeed in the world we see coming. The advice we give them, the ideas and skills we try to share, are thoroughly rooted in our perceptions of the world around us. And while we may not always think so, I think those perceptions actually say more about US than they do about the world. We each see the world through our own "filters": our experiences, what we were taught, etc. These are all very personal and individual things.

My dad could no more foresee the world of 2019 -- or 2020, to play with the upcoming year which will have enough memes to drive us all to drink, I fear -- than most of the science fiction writers I read as a youth. And when he gave me his advice, he was still in the prime of his life so had no clue of the challenges that age would bring him, let alone what I would face as a woman going on three times the age he was at the time.

So, in the face of all this, do I have any words for the next generations? Maybe I should just keep my mouth shut, because pretty much, I think they are doing great with the crap that we, unthinking, handed them. I will say, though, DO THINK it through.. all of it. There is always a tendency to "throw the baby out with the bathwater." Not all of alleged progress is good, not all of the past is bad. I hope you choose better than my generation did, overall. Just my opinion, of course, but I wish more of us had understood that we all have to live together on this one planet, had worked harder to work together, with her, and fewer had been lured by the love of money.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Life Throws Curve Balls

The big hex sign awaits spring!
Late summer and early autumn bring a flurry of activity to Fussing Duck Farm and often to hex central as well. Equinox weekend brings the Common Ground Country Fair, an offering of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, which we support big time. Each year, I end up spending all 3 days of the event on site in Unity, managing the Farm and Homestead Speakers' Tent.  While I enjoy this volunteer opportunity, it becomes more exhausting with each year that I age. Dammit, why does getting old have to be such a challenge!

Painting of the big hex got put on hold for the fair, and then we hit a rainy part of autumn (not unusual here... it is a challenge for me to find even one opportunity to scuffle happily through a pile of dry, fallen leaves) and, even worse, I got hit by an unknown illness that kept me alternately freezing/shivering and sweating. At least the first week of this, I was mostly "not here" even though I did not run what I have, in the past considered a high fever. It only hit 101F. Doc thought "'flu" but the swab disagreed and at this point, I guess I will never know. Hope whatever it was, I am immune now, as it took over a month for me to even begin to feel like I was healing and I have not yet...at 6 weeks out, regained all of my strength and endurance.

So, despite Tractor Guy having bought and set up a scaffolding to make my painting easier (it will also serve him as a base of operation for roof repair, later), the big hex is now waiting until spring. While I probably could physically climb and paint now, if I planned my day right... well this *is* Maine and even if the rain were to hold off, the temperatures are dropping below optimal paint parameters. We have snow mixed with rain in tonight's forecast and 7+ inches in the long range forecast for next week!

While I was down for the count, the 25 meat chickens I was raising came to -- and exceeded -- optimal harvest size. I am thankful to have friends who were willing to take up the slack and all of the birds got processed. In fact, I have a hen roasting in the oven as I type this!

Not only did I need help with the fowl, but there were 25' rows of carrots and beets still in the garden, some turnips, cabbage, and a bit of lettuce that the marauding deer had left us. The same friends who took charge of the chicken processing, came out one day and made short work of the carrots and beets and the rest I picked in the last few days, a bit here, a bit there. It feels good to have friends who pitch in and also feels great to have the harvest (except for the Brussels sprouts, which will get picked for Thanksgiving) done!

I am thankful that during my illness, hex orders held off. I have one, a Mighty Oak, that I am completing now and then it appears there will be another break. If you want a sign by Yule or Christmas, I hope you will let me know soon, so I can guarantee it will arrive on time!

I am finally feeling up to doing a little bit of extra stuff, so this coming Saturday, November 9, I am attending the Fall Folk Festival in Dover-Foxcroft, as a spinner. A friend will be a vendor there as well, selling her hand crafted soaps. I will be promoting Dutch Hex Sign by spinning on my decorated
spinning wheel and with a display featuring a small livestock protection sign I painted for my friend's rabbitry (she raises fiber bunnies) and business cards, and hope to generate some local interest in my work...but mostly will be talking about the fine, fun art of spinning wool, and maybe flax, hoping to encourage more folks to take up this delightful pass time.