Monday, August 31, 2009

Labor Day 1995 - Boquillas Canyon part 1

I just knew that when we got back to the city today that at least one of our deposits would have come while we were lazing away in the country.  Ah, not so.  Damn people, I’m good but it’s been quite a while since I worked a friggin’ miracle!  Fortunately only one of the jobs has an actual deadline but the art consultant has not replied to any of my persistent emails and phone calls.  I know it’s just because he is busy tying up his previous job, but I still need the time to fabricate his work.

I’ve done nothing but moan and groan about the lack of work and the lack of rain this summer so while I prepare for this business/family gathering/recreation trip, for which I am woefully unprepared mentally, I thought I would entertain you with one of the trip reports from my river guide days.  It’s kind of long so I’m breaking it up into two parts.

General background:  I worked for an outfitter out of Houston TX.  These were three day trips to Big Bend National Park over long holidays, leaving at 7PM on a Friday night and getting back by 5 AM Tuesday morning in time for them to make it to work. The guests would ride a big air-conditioned bus with toilet as it was a long 12 hour straight through drive to the park and put-in while the guides would ride in vans towing trailers with the canoes/rafts and gear.  The outfitter usually ran two trips, a canoe trip and a raft trip in different canyons of the park.  The canoe trip put in earlier and took out later.  Because the raft trip was shorter, those guests got to have showers while waiting for the canoe trip to get to take out.  Then it was pack the trailer, load the bus and head back to Houston with half the guests having come straight off the river and in the same clothes.  Boquillas Canyon, the canyon I was on staff for, was a 33 mile paddle in three days.  Our target hour for take-out on the third day was 2 PM.  Often we didn’t get there til 4 PM.   

This particular trip, I had my 16 year old son with me.

Labor Day - 1995                


Aaron and I got to Don's (the outfitter) a little before six.  We had a fairly small trip so all the guides got to go.  13 boats.  Guide staff was Charles and Renee, me, Dee, Darlene, John, and helpers Jeanne Anne and David.  Darlene and I and Aaron rode the bus to do the meet and greet, intending to get on the van in San Antonio.  We had a different van that Gerald had been working on for weeks to get it ready.  Turns out it wasn't quite ready.  The engine died at the toll booth on the Beltway and they had to jump it with the other van after towing it out of the way by Dave (shuttle driver) who was bringing his truck because he was going on to his land in Terlingua after the trip.  The bus had been at Knox (truck stop) for our usual length of time when the vans finally got there, so after a few minutes, we took off for Petro (another truck stop) in San Antonio.  But not before the engine on our van died again.  They were preparing to jump it, again, when we left.  We got to Petro; 30 minutes, no vans.  45 minutes, no vans.  One hour, no vans.  (Darlene and I are the only WE personnel on board.)  One hour 15 minutes, no vans.  An hour and a half after we got there, the vans finally pulled in.  Our van had run out of gas, then the starter went out.  So there they are on the side of the road, about 12 miles out.  Dave went into San Antonio to get the part for Gerald, took it back to him, and then he came to tell us what had happened.  They finally rolled in.  So off we go again.  Darlene and I decided at some point to just ride the bus all the way.  We were considerably behind at that point and ended up having breakfast outside Sanderson (about 50 miles out from Marathon) at a roadside park.  We got on the van then.  Got to put in, unloaded, packed the canoes.  Had lunch there and then I did the canoe talk and we were off.  Renee was lead, Dee was sweep. 


First day was fairly uneventful after we got on the water, although Aaron, who paddled with Jeanne Anne as I figured that, much as he loved his mom, he would have a better time not paddling with his mom, lost his hat almost immediately, a strainer snatched it off his head, so I had to open my duffel there on the water and get out my spare hat.  We found an appropriate sandbar and made camp a little later than usual, but we had dinner and cleaned up before dark (always a plus).  After everyone went to bed, Aaron and I were sitting on our pallets (we were sleeping out under the stars which are incredible out there) and talking when he looked up and there was a horse standing right in front of us.  All we could see was it's head and neck since we were up on the rise and it was standing below.  It wandered downstream a little then climbed up the rise and then went on downstream.  One of our clients, Connie, was so tired she slept right through dinner.  When I discovered that, I talked to her about it, encouraged her to eat.  Next morning she didn't eat breakfast either, so I expressed my concern a little more strongly, told her to let me know if she wanted something to eat before we stopped for lunch.  But her partner/fiancee was a doctor so I wasn't too concerned, thinking surely, as a doctor, he would see to it that she didn't stress herself too far...wrong-o.  At lunch I told her to be sure and eat, but did not see her do so.

part 2 tomorrow

Sunday, August 30, 2009

gone by

ripening rose hips

I have a feeling that this might be the last lazy weekend for a while.  Next weekend, well next Wednesday really, we leave for Denver and return on Sunday.  Our neice is coming of age and there will be services and parties.  We’re going a few days early to have the opportunity to see some friends we haven’t seen in about 6 years and to meet the architect that got us the big residential job in Colorado Springs last year.  We might even get to go over to the house and see it.  That would be really cool because, though of course I saw each individual panel intimately as we worked on them, I only ever saw it complete on paper at about 1/4th full size.  Part of this job was two walls...the wall around the shower and the wall around the toilet in the master bath, about 24 linear feet in all.  We also did the front door and 7 interior doors.  I haven’t seen even a photo of it because the owner has not allowed any pictures to be taken of the house but apparently he’s not adverse to us coming to see it.  Anyway, this post is not about that job. 

purple coneflower empty seed head

I say this might be the last lazy weekend because now that August is finally coming to an end and summer is over, is really over after Labor Day, people are going to start waking up.  Already I feel myself stirring.  The piece is finished for the Mint Museum’s gala and I have finally started work on some waxes to get the two boxes I started last year finished.  Initially, these two pieces were one but although I loved the way the top came out and I loved the way the box came out, I didn’t love the way they looked together.  This top was actually the third idea I had for the box.  The first one didn’t get made.  The second one I couldn’t figure out how to make it work.  This one looked great in my head on the box, which is about moon phases and mountains, but the reality didn’t hold up.  So now I have come up with my fourth idea for the top and I really think this one is it, but just in case I’ll fall back to my second idea even though I still don’t know how to make it work.

The cool air in the last few mornings has not only got me back in the studio, it is also making me think about working in the garden.  I have plants to plant, others to move, flower beds to expand, ponds to put in, a shop to build. a patio to lay.  Even the cat feels it.  She has been busy striking terror into the hearts of birds and reptiles all morning.

sunflower seeds almost ready

This has been a long slow summer.  I have submitted many proposals this year and the work has been so slow coming in.  I’ve been expecting deposits on two very nice jobs all month.  I also have had another very good proposal accepted and anticipate their deposit soon.  The race has been on all month but no one seems to want to win it.  Now that summer is ending people are going to wake up and say, whoa, it’s September.  When did that happen?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

2,048 = me

image courtesy of

I mentioned in one of my posts (things you probably didn’t want to know) that I am a 12th generation American.  We have two fully documented lineages that go back to the 1600s, one from England, the other from Germany.  The English line got here earlier, 1647, the German line, 1728.  Actually, there is a third lineage (possibly German as well) that goes back even earlier to the 1500s but there is a gap of nearly 200 years in documentation...from a 1561 patent of 400 acres in Northunberland Co, VA to a 1720 birth in VA.  Family legend has it that it is the same line but we don’t have the documentation to back it up.  If true, that would make me 15th or 16th gen.  My grandkids, possibly 17th generation.

I can go back to the early 1600s on the Storm linage. From Hardin to Oder, possibly mid 1500s.  Posey as far as the 1700s, same for Abbott to Pulliam.  Sims and others to mid 1800s.  These are the names the farthest back I know them on the Hall lineage (mid 1600s).  

Thomas Hall and Margery Claxton - arrived Virginia 1647

  John Hall (I) and Elizabeth

    John Hall (II) (wife unknown)

      John Hall (III) and Sarah (last name unknown)

        Nathan Hall and Anne Rowe

          Nancy Hall and Coonrod Storms - moved to Kentucky

            Randolph Storms and Catherine Hardin

             Jonathon Storms and Mary Ellen Posey - moved to Texas

               Sarah Storms and Wilson Sims

                Edith Sims and John De Bace

                  Johnnie Lou Bace and Jack Abbott

                    Ellen Abbott 

11 generations counting backward is 2,048 people to make me, the 12th generation.  2 to make me.  4 to make them.  8 to make them...

I am a little awed by that.  Not that I have so many generations under my belt.  Everyone living has lineages that go back to, well, emergence.  Otherwise we wouldn’t be here, right?  But I have at least a few ancestors that came over to the new world early on.  The earliest known, Thomas Hall, born 1625 in England received a grant of land in Norfolk county VA on the southern branch of the Elizabeth river for transporting six persons to that colony.  My people traveled from Virginia and Pennsylvania to Kentucky and then to Texas.  My line, down to my grandkids, has been in Texas for 7 generations.  I have ancestors that fought in the Revolutionary War and the Civil War.  We have provided the army with sustenance.  We have been slave owners.  We have been preachers and built churches.  We have been kidnapped by Native Americans and had children because of it.  We have been involved in feuds and kicked to death by horses.  We have bought and sold land.  We built railroads and made dresses.  We were an engineer and a doctor and finally to me, an artist and I have seen the line extend two more generations.   I like to think that whatever genetic material I have will continue to march on to the very end.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

fishing Mayan style

Many years ago, when the kids were still young, Husband and I took a week long vacation to Cozumel.  This was before it became as popular as it is today with all the incumbent American influences.  Back then Cancun was the destination of choice and the only people who went to Cozumel were divers and cruise ships.  We had been to Cancun the previous year and though we had fun, we might just as well have gone to Florida it was so Americanized.

In Cozumel we stayed at the last hotel toward the west end of the island from the little town of San Miguel.  It had a small stretch of beach out front, white sand, palm trees and hammocks.  Since we were going to be there a whole week we decided to take in some of the tours they offered like the 8 hour bus ride to the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza.  They had a guy at the hotel in the lobby whose job it was to sign people up.  

Now the thing about Husband is that he is a friendly guy.  He can talk to total strangers as if they were his best friend and often does.  On a later vacation with friends, the four of us would be walking around the little town only to look up and find that Husband was blocks behind us engaged in conversation with someone who spoke English about as well as he spoke Spanish, which is to say, not at all.  They’d be yukking it up like best buds.  I admire that about him.  Before we met I was painfully shy (what you shy?  Yes, yes, actually I was) and it was from him that I learned how to talk to people.  (Probably something better left unlearned as I tend to be honest to the point of bluntness.) 

So here we are in the hotel lobby and Husband is chatting up the tour guy and before I know it, a fishing trip is arranged at no cost to us. This young man’s father, he tells us, has a boat and he will arrange for him (his father) to take us fishing.  His father worked at one of the hotels closer to town in the restaurant there and on his day off, we were to meet him (the father) at the little pier at 8 AM there at the hotel where he worked.  

On the appointed day, Husband and I arrive at the appointed time and meet this man who was going to take us fishing out in the ocean.  He had a helper with him and although the tour guy spoke excellent English, neither of these small Mayan men did and our high school Spanish was nearly nonexistent.  We didn’t talk much but we all did lots of smiling and he started up the small outboard motor and off we went.

This was not a big cruiser of a boat.  It was old and beat up, had a sail and the aforementioned small outboard motor but there was plenty of room for the four of us.  Once past the breakers, he cut the motor off by pulling out the gas line and hoisted the sail until we got far enough out.  They handed us these two old beat up fishing poles with spark plugs tied on the ends of the lines for weights, baited the hooks for us and tossed them out.  While we were using the fishing poles, he and his helper were using just fishing line also with spark plugs tied on the end for weights.  They would hold that line in their hands and then start hauling it in, hand over hand, pulling out fish almost as fast as they could get their hooks baited and thrown back in.  

We had been at an ‘in ocean’ aquarium earlier in the week that was full of tropical fish.  You could snorkel among them and the fish were protected.  We swam among angel fish, butterfly fish, surgeon fish, parrot fish, all those lovelies that live in those tropical waters.  Now, here we were, fishing those same fish.  Those protected beauties we had swam among earlier as well as grouper were now becoming fillets or bait the instant they hit the deck.  I was shocked.  It never occurred to me that the fish we would be catching would be those beautiful creatures.  

Husband caught three or four.  I caught only one, a beautiful parrot fish, the biggest catch of the day between the two of us.  After a while (time has no meaning in Mexico and you are best served not worrying about it), he hoisted sail again and we headed for a little sand bar off the far western end of the island, sticking the gas line into the motor again to start it up when needed to get in close.  

There, on this little sand bar while we drank hot cokes, one of the men made ceviche and the other prepared coals and grilled the freshly caught and filleted fish.  And we all ate.  It was the best fish I have ever eaten in my life.  That fish, that place, those was paradise.  They brought us back, we smiled and laughed and tried to convey our thanks, our wonderment, our happiness.  Husband pressed some money into their hands, a tip, not expected nor required, but accepted.  We walked back down the beach to our hotel and we never saw them again.

That week, I fell in love with the Mayan people.  Their friendliness, their generosity, the aura of their lives drew us back many times.  Always we had a wonderful time, but nothing ever matched that day a total stranger took us fishing simply because his son asked him to.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

the face of turmoil

this was in constant motion... swirls and spirals and waves

I know, I know.  Another post of clouds.  They have been in abundance this summer.  Unfortunately, they have NOT been producing any rain, not on us at least.  But these did last weekend, so I feel they deserve some notice.

the edge of the storm so clearly defined

Monday, August 24, 2009


© Chris Gregerson, 2005

Summer is definitely moving on.  It’s still terribly hot out there but not AS hot.  The fields have all been harvested of their corn and cotton.  The days are now noticeably shorter.  And the grandkids are back in school.  As long and slow as this summer was, I know that this next part will fly like the wind and then it will be year’s end.

With the demise of summer, I also feel my great lethargy of the year beginning to lift a little.  Not lethargy of the body since I have worked hard on the jobs we were fortunate to have, but lethargy of the mind.  I’m beginning to feel the studio calling to me again.  The unfinished pieces out there are starting to want to be finished.  I had the answer to one of those voices this weekend, finally, and I think it’s the right one.

My 80 (90?) something neighbor is getting ready to plant his winter garden.  He pulled out all the struggling summer plants.  Now it’s been tilled, hoed and rowed.

Do birds have speech impediments?  I saw a pair of cardinals Sunday hanging out in the yew tree.  She was singing her bright little sharp note they call to each other with and he kept responding with a muffled pffht.  At one point she rolled her note a little quieter the way people who speak Spanish roll their ‘r’s.  Almost like purring.

When one of my granddaughters came to visit and she was in the little pool, news of the rare water source spread quickly and there was a steady stream of wasps and yellow jackets going to and fro.  They were minding their own business, getting a drink and going on their way but it kept creeping her out.  I spotted this colony under the eaves of the garage yesterday.

The pecan trees started dropping their immature fruit three or four weeks ago, victims of the drought.  I was afraid of that.  Every week there are more and it’s not just the little ones.

This was my project for the weekend.  I have two 32 gallon plastic trash cans I use to collect rain water in.  This is the third, new and improved model.  Pay particular attention to the overflow tube...

and the hose attachment with on/off valve at the bottom.  I’m particularly proud of those.  Now I have to similarly outfit the other two.

Good night.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

not on my watch

I hadn’t planned on writing about Jimmy’s dogs again, at least not for a while anyway.  

When I got up this morning, a little after 7 AM, and opened the back door to let the cat out and greet the day, I could hear those dogs barking over across the 13 acre field back behind the far row of trees and scrub that mark the property lines around here.  Interspersed with the barking were loud cries of fear and agony, human or animal, I couldn’t tell.  I listened to that for a minute or two, came in and told Husband about it and then jumped into the truck and turned down the county road at the end of our street in the direction of the noise.  I passed Jimmy’s house and all 6 of the puppies were standing at the edge of the property looking down the road, a little agitated.  I passed the three or four houses on the county road til I got to the empty lot that backs up on the Tee Pee Motel on the other side of the 13 acre field from us and I could see those dogs had an animal surrounded in the high grass but I couldn’t tell for sure what it was, a young cow I thought, wondering how a cow had got out in that small field.  

I turned the truck around and headed back, flying through the house to put on some long pants and proper shoes.

“Those dogs have an animal cornered out there.” I told Husband.

When I came back through, dressed, he asked me, “What are you gonna do?”

“I don’t know.  Something.” I replied as I headed out the door to the garage.  I was not going to let those dogs kill that poor animal.

I stuffed my pocket full of firecrackers, grabbed a lighter and took off through the 13 acre field (which is full of poison ivy) to the where the ruckus was but couldn’t see or get through the scrub line.  I finally found a spot where I could get a clearer view through the trees and dead fall (also full of poison ivy) to see the dogs on the other side.  I tossed off one firecracker and then two more in quick succession which sent the dogs running.

I cut back across the field and then through Montreal’s side yard to the county road again, on foot, and down to where I had spotted the animal and dogs in the first place.  When I got closer, I could see that it was a big goat tethered to a tree.  The poor thing had wrapped itself around that tree so tight in it’s fear and attempt to get away from the dogs that it could not move more than a step or two.  It looked like the end of it’s tail had been bitten off and both of it’s back legs were bloodied, one worse than the other, but it didn’t seem to be actively bleeding anywhere.  It was trembling so hard it could barely stand.  I tried to soothe it a bit and unhooked it’s tether from it’s collar so I could unwind it from the tree.  The goat took a few steps and then laid down.  I hooked the tether back onto it’s collar, found it’s empty water dish and stood there debating whether or not I should knock on the door of the house there that I was sure the goat belonged to.  I decided against it as the goat was injured but not in any imminent danger of bleeding to death and it was still very early.  Instead, I walked back to my house, got a jug of water and carried it back to the goat and set it’s water dish where it could easily reach it.  I would come back later and make sure they knew the goat was injured.

Walking back to my house as I neared Jimmy’s place, three of the young adult dogs were now in his yard and when they saw me coming they got up and started barking at me.  Two more fire crackers sent them hauling ass out across the corn field.  As I crossed Montreal’s side yard to get to my place I noticed a small brown bundle lying still in the yard.  I was thinking they must have caught a rabbit but when I got closer, it turned out to be one of the puppies.  It was cold but it didn’t look like it had been dead long.  I wondered if those dogs took out their blood lust on the puppy since I had deprived them of the goat.  No way to tell.  It could have already been there and I just didn’t notice it the other times I had cut across his yard to the road.  But then, there would have had to have been 7 puppies and I only ever saw 6.

By the time I finally got back to the house, it was about 7:40 AM.  Why does this shit always happen before I’ve had any friggin’ coffee?

Husband, sitting there having his, says to me, “Next time you do something like that, take your phone with you so if you are laying there on the ground bleeding, you can call someone for help.”  Thanks dear, I love you too.

“You could’ve come with me.” I said to him.

Friday, August 21, 2009

it's not just a dream

My resolve this spring to get moved totally by fall come hell or high water has not been met with equal enthusiasm from Husband.  My willingness to cash in what meager investments we have to ‘git it done’ has fallen on deaf ears.  He says they are increasing a little in value lately.  And the others will levy a penalty until November.  Some progress has been made however.  We bought the lumber for the new shop building last weekend.  It’s all stacked in the garage here at the country house.  Husband is cutting all the boards in advance.  The plan is to have everything ready, get three or four friends or family to help and get it erected in a weekend, kinda like an old fashioned barn-raising.  I guess it didn’t matter that we didn’t get the lumber to frame up the shop earlier because it’s been so brutally hot and dry this summer, triple digits since June, it will still be several weeks before we can even think about getting it put up.  And that’s just the frame.  Who knows when we will get the metal to clad it.  But it is one major step in the right direction. 

Now that we have a job in the shop and the commitment I made to the Mint Museum of Craft is drawing nigh, we are no longer in-between.  I’ve been very busy these past two weeks.  I’m starting to feel the pull of the studio as well.  Too late, I fear, to do me any real good this year.  If my gallery calls in September to see if I have any new work for the SOFA show in Chicago in November, my answer will probably be...not much.  If anything at all.  I’m OK with that.  I mean, I don’t like it but I have only myself to blame since I have been such a slug this year.  I have totally blown the down time.  Actually, I guess it was down time because I wasn’t working, wasn’t compelled to work.  I’ve been a blank, on the surface at least.

We are still waiting on deposits.  I know we have two very nice accepted proposals out there and the deposits are imminent, but then I’ve been thinking that for the past two weeks.  I have another proposal, bigger than those two that I expect will be accepted.  If things follow their usual pattern, they will all come in within weeks of each other and then I will be overwhelmed.  Everybody’s going to want it by year end.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

laid up

I hurt my back this weekend, or rather an old problem sort of flared up.  It’s taking a long time to get to the point when I can do strengthening exercises (the lack of which lately is probably the main reason it reminded me of itself) to keep it at bay because I’ve been busy in the shop this week and can’t just lay around being useless.  Or else I have a pinched nerve.  It feels like that some too.  Really, though, I was being so careful lugging those 4” x 4”s and pavers and slabs of stone around.

Out at the country house, my neighbor to the east is gone much of the time for long periods.  He’s an exotic welder and he’s been working in Africa this year.  He has had two dogs that stayed in the fenced part of his yard while he is gone but sometime during this year, one of them died and the other disappeared.  We don’t know if he knows about the disappeared dog.  The dog got out and we saw it run by and that was the last we saw of it.  This would usually be of no consequence to me except when Montreal’s dog was in the yard, it kept Jimmy’s dogs out of it.

I mentioned in one of my previous posts that Mama Dog is alive and has a new litter.  They’ve been under Jimmy’s house across the road until the last couple of weeks when she has brought the pups out.  The dog pack now consists of Leo (the alpha male), Mama Dog, another adult yellow dog which I guess is Big Puppy.  Little Puppy hasn’t been seen for months.  There are three more, I think, left over from the litter at the beginning of this year.  And now 6 new puppies.  That’s two litters this year.

Now that Mama Dog has moved the puppies out, she seems to have moved them into Montreal’s fenced yard.  When he was gone last spring, the pack moved into his front yard since the dead dog was decaying under the trailer, their usual hangout in Montreal’s big side yard.  Weekend before last I saw them all back there behind Montreal’s house and shooed them out.  This past weekend it looked like they had moved in to stay.  I was not liking that one bit.  I’m pretty sure Montreal wouldn’t want Jimmy’s dogs taking up in his back yard but besides that, I didn’t want them taking up in his backyard.  Because the next step over is MY yard.  And I definitely don’t want them in my yard.  They run like the devil back to Jimmy’s when you throw fire crackers.  And two short pieces of 2” x 4” slammed together works well too.

Well, last Friday, I decided that I was going to shore up the fence and gates so that those dogs couldn’t get back in.  First I ran the dogs out except the puppies went under the house.  I snuck up on them later when they were all cuddled up in a puppy pile in a place they couldn’t easily get away from me (except for one that was under the house) and I dropped the puppies over the fence.  But before I did that, I plugged all the holes and squeeze-through places.

The puppies were not happy.  They kept trying to find a way to squeeze back in.  I guess the last one managed to squeeze out somewhere because I kept my eye on the yard, I didn’t want to trap one of the poor things, and I never saw it.  Mama Dog didn’t seem too concerned either.  Well, I guess I’ll find out Thursday or Friday how well my fence shoring held, if they managed to get back in Montreal’s backyard or not.

Monday, August 17, 2009


Our days are filled with this.

In the late afternoon they coalesce into this and rain on others more north and west of here.  They need it too.

This one cooled off the air, gave us a refreshing breeze, rumbled in the distance.  I could even smell the rain as it went around us.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

post script

image from

My friend Jody, who I met on the river, wrote this comment on yesterday’s post.  He knows me, he knows the story, so well.

"Ellen, that is not the real story. The real story is of the 33 years of living and working together, of building a studio and business, of raising kids, of good times and bad. It is the story of your being so successful; it almost killed you, of the times when you were so poor you didn’t know how to get the car fixed. It is the story of you and Marc almost losing each other. The tale is of you escaping to the canyons of the Rio Grande to find yourself and guiding Marc to find you there. It is of the saga of Pate de Verre, the cracked glass, the firing schedules, the molding process developed by two minds working together. It is of two people joining in a journey with all its twists and turns, highs and lows.

That is the real love story."

I wrote the following before I read his comment today.  I wrote today’s post because the three previous posts make it sound like a fairy tale and it sure seemed that way in the beginning.  I assure you the years that followed were anything but.

33 years is a long time.  As I said in the beginning, there was a time when I thought we weren’t going to make it, was certain we were not going to make it even with all the ties that bound us.  There was a time when it was absolute misery for both of us and the kids.  For years.  And, working together, we were together 24/7.  I had seriously begun to question the sense of destiny, my core belief about the rightness of us.  One of the reasons I got into river guiding was to have time away, days at a time away during which I was literally unreachable.  I had a friend read the tarot cards for me and every card was so right on and so bad until the very last card which was The Sun, about the best card in the whole deck.  I had Dreams again.

But then, almost like the cavalry to the rescue weirdly enough (Reya, here’s an example of the good thing/bad thing), there came that ‘do or die’ moment and we began to do the hard work to fix it.  It took years.  

Now, of course, I’m glad we are here.  Time has a way of dulling the pain and I think the good outweighs the bad.  We are the same and yet we are different.  I’m looking for good from here on out.  Good is relative of course but I think we are done with the bad years.

So what kept us together during those dark years?  I think about that, wonder about that, when so many people just throw it all away rather than deal with it.  I did it.  (Of course any sane woman would have in my situation.)   I try not to judge but I do think, now, that divorce is too easy.

The kids, of course, bound us together.  Neither of us wanted a broken home, I because I had not come from one and he because he had, but they also put a lot of stress on our relationship.  I see this in retrospect.  Life brought out our own special demons and those demons were not on speaking terms.  (Had nothing to do with you kids.)

Our job bound us together.  We had worked together always and so had divided skills.  I did this, he did that.  Neither of us did all.  That was another stress, both vying to be in control.  I have met no one who has thought they could live with their spouse 24/7 much less work together.  But our work together was also part of the healing process, learning the pate de verre was born out of that.

There was also our constant devotion to each other though at times I think it was more a commitment to the commitment.

And, for me at least, there was that sense of pre-determination.  Destiny.  The rightness of us together.  The conviction that there was a reason for us to be together.  How could I have been so wrong?  When I started doubting that it was like the Universe was laughing at me.  Not a happy feeling.

Well, I’m glad we had all those ties that bind.  One less and we may not have made it to 33.  I think I saved his life.  I also think that he gave me mine.  A fair trade by any standard.

A lot of the intensity is gone now and I don’t miss it.  I don’t know if that is from going through the fire or just from living long enough.  We still get annoyed with each other now and then but here is what I learned.  When you love, you love warts and all.  

I’m looking forward to more.  I hope I am so blessed.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

the story

(this is part 3 of a longer story so if you haven’t read the first two parts, you may want to back up and start with Thursday’s post)

Finally, fair readers, here is the story of how we met:

About a year after my divorce, I was dating a guy who had a violent temper and although he had never shown that side to me, I had heard plenty of stories.  He had a roommate who had a sister.  Now, one day, Tommy (the roommate) had borrowed his sister’s truck and needed to take it back to her so Jim (my boyfriend) and I followed him in Jim’s car.  The sister had a boyfriend, Marc, whose apartment she was at so that’s where we were taking the truck.  Marc was friends with Tommy’s younger brother and that’s how he had met Mary (the sister) and Tommy.  Anyway, we three, Tommy, Jim, and I are standing at the door waiting for someone to answer our knock and the door opens and there stands the most beautiful guy I had ever seen.  I was thunderstruck and those were the exact words going through my head...that is the most beautiful guy I have ever seen.  My heart was pounding so hard, my vision had narrowed down to just him, my ears were roaring and all these bells were going off and I’m standing there looking around at everybody else wondering why the hell they can’t hear all the racket.  We went in and sat down and stayed for about 15 minutes, the whole time of which I am pointedly looking anywhere, everywhere but at him, remembering the stories of violence connected to my boyfriend.  I’m thinking that if I look at this guy, everyone in the room is going see it in my face and know what’s going on inside me and I didn’t need the trouble.  Several months later Jim and I quit going out but I remained friends with Tommy, the roommate.  Marc was a receding memory by then and I had started going out with another guy.  

After my divorce, I had moved back in with my parents while I got settled and figured out what I was going to do.  I had started doing etched glass, doing small panels and craft shows trying to convince someone to commission an architectural piece.  So when I finally got my first architectural job, I thought I would look for studio space and actually put a deposit on a space in a warehouse that was being divided up for artists and antique sellers.  The rent was cheap because the place was trashed and we each had to clean up and build out our own space.  I had been there working on it for several hours and came home all dirty and smelly and when I went upstairs, there sat Tommy and Marc.  They had come over and my mother let them in to wait for me to return.  After I got cleaned up we sat around and visited for awhile and when they left, as they got to the car, I called Tommy back to the front door.  When he got to me, I grabbed the front of his shirt and pulled him close and said to him...bring. that. guy. back.  

We count our first date as the 4th of July even though we didn’t go out that weekend.  My family had a beach house in Galveston and early that weekend, Friday morning I guess, I had gone down there to spend the holiday.  When he called me again, I found out that he had had two tickets to the Rolling Stones concert in Dallas for that weekend.  So that’s the date (or non-date) we count as our beginning.  Our first actual date was pretty steamy.  Thirteen months later, we married.

Marc will tell you that he doesn’t really remember the visit to his apartment besides knowing that Jim had a reputation for beating guys up so he paid me no attention.  He says, for him, it was when Tommy took him over to my house that first time and when I came up the stairs all grimy and smiled at him.

Now, for the preface and dream to make sense you have to know that, of course his name is Marc with a ‘c’, he is Jewish, and he’s almost two years younger than me.  And though I had started my little studio before I met Marc, it is because of his belief in me, his devotion, his committment to my abilities, his partnership that this life became a reality for me.  Without him, I might as well have cut off my hands.

Friday, August 14, 2009

the dream

(if you didn’t read yesterday’s post first, you might want to)

The Prophetic Dream:

About 3 years into my now unpleasant marriage, I started having a series of disturbing dreams.  These culminated in a dream whose quality was very different from any dream I had had or have had since and eventually, I was motivated to file for divorce.  This is the dream.

The setting seemed to be a castle or medieval building of some sort, built of stone.  I was dressed in a heavy long gown of a forest green color with long full sleeves, and I was hurrying down an outside roofed corridor alongside the wall of the building.  I had a male companion who was in front of me and there was an air of urgency and fear about us and I kept looking back over my shoulder as if I expected to be apprehended.  We entered a door into a room at the end of this corridor.  The room was empty but we ran to the center of the room and started climbing a set of invisible stairs.  My companion first and then me.  As he climbed and reached the ceiling, he continued up and passed through.  I followed and as I passed through the ceiling, I emerged into the floor of a quiet deep forest.  My companion was nowhere to be seen but I knew the direction to go and hurried off.  Then there was a scene shift and I was back in the castle/building standing in a room on the second level in front of a large window looking down at a man who was standing on the expanse of meadow looking up at me.  He was holding up his arms in supplication and he had no hands.  I was overwhelmed with a feeling of loss and this feeling stayed with me after I woke.

Tomorrow:  The Story

Thursday, August 13, 2009

damn, how did that happen?

Husband/Partner/Lover/Friend and I are having our 33rd anniversary tomorrow.  I have spent more than half my life with this man.  It hasn’t always been easy.  In fact it was damn difficult for a long time and for awhile there I wasn’t sure we were going to make it.  I was sincerely doubting what seemed like destiny at the beginning.  But now that time seems far away.

This is the story of how I met Marc in 3 parts.  It has a preface and a prophetic dream.

The Preface:

I think I’ve always known several things about who he was or was going to be although, at the time, I didn’t know that’s what it meant.  My first boyfriend was in the 3rd grade,  His name was Mark.  He gave me the biggest, flashiest, glass diamond ring you ever saw.  Then several weeks later, he broke up with me, asked for the ring back and gave it to my best friend.  I think he went to a different school the next year.  That’s the first Mark I remember being attracted to.  Throughout my growing up years, three things became sort of constants.  Any boy with the name Mark (and if it was spelled with a ‘c’ he got extra scrutiny) was the subject of interest although I only dated one other Mark besides my 3rd grade heartthrob, any boy who was Jewish also attracted my interest and once there was a boy Marc with a ‘c’ who was Jewish but I quickly lost interest in him, and I tended to be attracted to guys younger than me.  I remember this in retrospect knowing what I know now.  

And so I grew up, dated various guys, had a long term relationship, ended that, had a troubled two years after high school, and one day agreed to a blind date set up for me by the sister of a guy I kinda liked.  Mainly the reason I agreed to it was because when the sister asked the guy for my phone number and told him why she wanted it, he didn’t object.  Kinda pissed me off.  That’s how I met my first husband (whose name was not Marc).  When I opened the door, it was one of those dumbstruck moments when you feel like you already know this person.  We ended up getting married when I was 21 (that’s a whole other story) but I knew, even on our wedding day, that it was already ending in my heart, that I would not stay married to him and that it was the only real way out from under my father’s thumb, a place I desperately no longer wanted to be.  I know that sounds silly in this day and age but back in the early 70s, women were still subordinate and were denied many things.

Tune in tomorrow for The Prophetic Dream.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

two short notes and two short rants


1.  Last year I wrote an article on how to do pate de verre casting for a glass magazine called, oddly enough, Glass....craftsman.  The editor of the section of the magazine this article was a part of has been after me to write another on working with wax for lost wax casting.   Now, in between jobs, I’ve finally sat down to write it.   Organizing my thoughts, figuring out how to describe things I do with my hands while I work on a model, thinking about sequence, thinking about which tools I like best and why.  This is a very different way of writing than I am accustomed to.  Usually, I just open my mind and let it flow.

2.  We’ve finally been getting some rain in the city but the country house is still parched.  We watch as the rain clouds pass over us.  Everything is in a permanent state of wilt, you can’t water it enough.  And now, last weekend, I noticed my two maple trees are not doing well at all.  The leaves at the top are burnt and the others are yellowing.  I tried doing some deep watering for them but I’m afraid if we don’t get some real rain soon, we will lose them.  Those maple trees are one of the reasons we decided on a smaller and narrow shop building.  Wouldn’t that be ironic if they died anyway.


1.  I’m getting rid of the moon widget.  It’s pissing me off.  It never loads completely and is always attended by a scroll bar.  Who wants to look at the moon phase with a scroll bar?  Not me.  And why does it only happen on my blog?  I see it on others and it always loads completely.

2.  My reading list on the dashboard of my blog disappeared about mid-day yesterday.  Gone.  Sorry, you don’t follow any blogs.  WHAT?!  Who do I complain to about this?  After scouring the whole blogger site for hours, I still don’t know who or what.  So I spent the rest of the afternoon trying to track down all the blogs I follow that I had failed to put on my sidebar in a timely fashion.  Shit.  I’m still missing a few. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

getting in gear

This past spring, I was contacted by The Mint Museum of Craft and Design in Charlotte NC about their annual Gala fundraiser.  They were very interested in acquiring a piece of ours for their silent auction.  We get requests for donations to fundraisers three or four times a year, every year.  We do not, for the most part, donate work to any of these fundraisers.  The reason being that the artist gets nothing, giving away expensive (in the case of glass) materials and loads of (in my case) time; the institution gets money and the collectors get great work for cheap (because who in their right mind would donate a piece of crap they couldn’t sell...a bad reflection on the artist).  Many collectors wait for these fundraisers to add to their collections thereby cutting the gallery and the artist out of the loop.

What made the Mint Museum’s request different is that they offered to pay wholesale for the piece.  This I am happy to participate in so I promised them a small bowl, one of the oleander series.  I called the gallery that had it and, wouldn’t you know, they had just sold it the week before so now I am having to make them one.  I’ve only had all summer to do it.  They need it by mid-September at the latest.  

This is actually a good thing for me as I have not done any new work for nearly a year and it is getting me back to model making.  The longer it was, the harder it was for me to get in the studio and start on something.  Now that the ice is broken, so to speak, hopefully I’ll get started on the new work.

I finished chasing the wax yesterday.  Since the shop is not built yet, we have to do the casting here in the city.  Marc went out to the shop this morning looking for the set up he uses for doing the casting molds and can't find it.  Obviously, it has been taken down to the country house and we did not remember or notice this past weekend so it's back to Wharton today to get the rest of the stuff we need to get this piece done.  I will be so glad when we finally get EVERYTHING together again in one place.  After putting this off all summer, I thought we still had plenty of time.  At this rate, it will slide in with a day or two to spare.  Typical.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

the second

It is the final long weekend of the four.  Jade, the eldest of the twins, the second grandchild, who claimed going last, is spending her four days with us.

Jade is funny and smart and talkative and creative and did I say smart?  She is a Math Genius.   She scored 100% on the math portion of her forth grade TAKS test (for those who don’t know what the TAKS is it’s the test students have to take every two years to advance to the next grade level).  She sees the big picture.  Individual elements will sometimes stymie her but she can look at all the components of a thing and instantly see how they all go together.  She can visualize a scene or scenario and rattle it off so fast you have trouble keeping up but jotting it all down on paper is more difficult.  She’s basically a happy kid when she’s not viewing her life as a glass half empty, which is all too often.  She tends to want to give back what she receives instead of giving what she wants to receive.  We’re working on that.

Whereas, all the kids like to help in the kitchen, Jade wants to learn how to cook.  She came with one of her mother’s cookbooks and we went through it and picked out recipes for each night’s dinner and dessert.  So I am teaching her how to cook.  She is doing it all while I instruct and supervise and lend an occasional helping hand.  I haven’t spent this much time in the kitchen in years.  

Before we start cooking for the day, we have been going around exploring some of the weird little shops out here and garage sales or she’s been busy drawing, coloring and cutting out accessories for her scenarios.  She made her chef’s hat (and one for me that said ‘chef’s helper #1’).  She’s had the camera mostly so I have used some of the pictures she took of herself.