BY ANY OTHER NAME


There is a new baby in our family which made me think again that it’s important to think about what your grandchildren will call you once they acquire the power of speech.  (At least any speech clear enough to decipher.)

Your children don’t have a lot of choices, it’s usually some variation of “mama, daddy, mom, dad,” — you get it.   Friends of ours solved that problem by having their children address them by their given names.  The father prefers simply to be called “Captain”.   Rather intimidating but it does lend a certain aura of authority.  What kid is going to mess around Grandpa’s workshop without asking if the “Captain” allows it?

But grandparents’ monikers  need some thought.   Assuming you will be a grandparent for a long time, preferably long after those cute babies become grown people with children of their own, cuddly cute nicknames simply won’t do.  A friend asked me sometime ago what my grandchildren called me.  That’s an interesting question because they all seem to choose their own way of getting your attention.  (Though I once had a son-in-law who never called me anything.)  After I shared my various pet names,  I asked her what she desired her grandchild-to-be to call her, and she said “Auntie Jane, I’m too young to be a grandma”.  Of course that all changed once the dear little thing made it’s appearance.

I thought the original grandson’s choice of “Bammi and Bubba” was really cute.  I even envisioned a little band with him and his brother on various instruments and me on the guitar, but that all changed when a neighbor kid a couple of years older laughed at him, for using such babyish names, and the next thing I knew, I was “Grand-ma” enunciated very clearly.  “Bubba”, however remains, and  has carried on into great-grandparenthood, and now my husband  is “Bub” to all of the various grandchildren, and many of our children’s friends  as well.

I, meanwhile, have numerous forms of identification, none of which happens to be “Grandma”!    I thought “GG”for great-grandmother would be  an easy one, and one grandson in his 30’s says it’s hip!  It’s flattering that he thinks I’m “hip”, or maybe it’s just the name!

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A WHALE OF A TIME


It had been a cool and sunny morning when the three of us, Dr. Advice and I and our good Canadian friend Frank, had left to somehow entice any local salmon into our small boat.  We had decided to simply lollygag around Quadra Island, perhaps hooking into a salmon, if not, to collect some oysters on the opposite bank and wash them down with a bottle of wine.  It was the middle of the week, and there were few boats in the water.

Discovery Passage, British Columbia is one of the planet’s greenest and most beautiful of destinations.  Habitat of more than fish, bald eagles nest there, and any number of other water fowl.  The trees and vines dip gracefully into the water from time to time, creating small hideaways for small fish to escape the eager beaks of hungry birds.

It clouded over, as it often does in the Pacific Northwest, and Frank shut down the motor midstream.  There seemed to be a hush in the silence, as if something yet unseen were present.  Frank saw them before we did and quietly said, “Don’t move, it’ll be OK—–I think!”

Looking both to our right and to our left, a pod of Killer whales had opted to come check us out, quietly skimming just under the water and close enough to touch.  There were five or six of the beautiful animals, watching us and swimming around the boat.  They played that way for perhaps ten minutes, and then with a final salute, they dove and disappeared.  What a magical moment in time.

Surprisingly, because we were sure the whales had feasted on any salmon to had that day, we caught one on the way to the island, and after gathering a few oysters and building a fire in the barbeque, we spent the rest of the afternoon marveling at our good fortune.

The whale sightings in the ensuing years, while exciting, could never match that day.        

 

THE INNER BITCH


Mrs. Lauderback  KSR

Of course you realize that we all have an Inner Bitch.  Yes, even you men, though you will have to find your own name for her.  Mine is Mrs. Lauderback, and she was active long before her sculpture came to be.  Her predecessor was taller, snobbier, and more opinionated.  Unfortunately, she took a tumble onto a tile floor during the earthquake of 1989, and ended up in the dustbin.

The Inner Bitch (or IB) can deliver all of the clever little retorts most of us are too slow to think of at the appropriate moment; sort of like Judge Judy.  None of us are calm and even-tempered ALL of the time, so the IB absorbs the real or imagined slight, and serves the purpose of keeping us civilized, keeps our blood pressure from flying out the window, all because WE are the only  ones who can hear her!  And because she takes on all the unpleasant  aspects of a disagreement, we retain our cool-headed demeanor thus ensuring at least a few friends.

So if you weren’t aware of your IB before, take a deeper look and reactivate her at once.

“There is a foolish corner in the brain

of the wisest man.”  Aristotle

NAUGHTY LADY


The Naughtiest Snake in the Woods KSR

Beatrice Wood’s life was extraordinary in every way.  She was a charismatic artist who died at the age of 105, which was extraordinary in itself.  I only met her twice both times in her home in Ojai, Ca., and was hooked on her whimsical, sometimes naughty clay sculptures.  More than that, I was hooked on her!  She was about 100 at the time we discovered her home/studio in the hills of beautiful bucolic Ojai, a charming town above Santa Barbara, which we had always loved.  As a fellow sculptor and lover of clay, I had long been familiar with her work, and her life story.  She had appeared both in newspapers and on TV, so when she suddenly appeared around a corner, she was not a visual surprise.

A tiny, spry and witty little lady, she was like a barefoot hummingbird, draped in colorful sari, and loaded with Indian turquoise and silver jewelry.  I had been a lover and collector of Indian jewelry since my time of living with the Southwest Indians.  Her masses of long grey hair were held in check with more silver, and large Indian earrings bounced from her ears as she pounced about the gallery describing each of her sculptures, and the reason behind the creation of each one.  Her general factotum,  was a small Indian man, who had answered the door at our knock, and introduced himself as her “miserable and humble servant,” though I am sure he was more than that!  I suspected perhaps even a sometime lover!  She had lived for a time in India and adopted the colorful sari as her day-to-day garb forever after.  I believe her connection to India was to be lifelong.

She was rebellious, radical and romantic, and determined to be an artist, so she fled to Paris in the 20’s for several Bohemian seasons as a painter and actress, where she fell into the loving clutches of two Frenchmen: Henri-Pierre Roche, the author of Jules and Jim, and Marcel Duchamp, the iconoclastic Dadaist, who cemented his artistic fame by entering a men’s urinal upside down in an art exhibit to thumb his nose at the current darlings of the art world.   Both men would break her heart, as would a future husband, giving the subject line for many of her subsequent sculptures and paintings.   She took up pottery in her 40’s in So. California and her glazed pots and crudely-made sculptures are intriquing, as is her wonderful transluscent glaze.   I did a series of small pieces using her method, and found they were fun and exciting and immediate        One of our favorite Beatrice sculptures is that of a bordello with all the ladies screaming out the windows as a fire burns brightly around them.  In the rear, men are rapidly scrambling to escape, with the names of the mayor, the police chief, etc. inscribed on the building. Her humor was bawdy, funny, and left no doubt that the broken heart of her youth was being healed with “spit-in-your-eye” jesting. Her white German Shepherd dog was named “Roche” as a salute to one of her earlier romances. James Cameron of “Titanic” fame, fashioned the role of the adventurous 101-year old Rose after Beatrice Woods. When asked to what she attributed her longevity, her stock answer was always “A piece of chocolate every day, and I like young men”!

“Out of the Woods” KSR

THIS AIN’T YOUR AVERAGE CHICKEN


A friend and neighbor is leaving next week on a 3 week trip to Eastern Europe.  She is a recently retired high school physics teacher  and ruled her classroom with an iron hand for over 50 years!  No, that isn’t a missprint,; she is 88 years old. and even took time out to have children,  be somewhat of a community activist, and build a summer home at Lake Tahoe just a few years ago.

She is an adventurous sort, and on a recent trip to Costa Rica, she sampled zip-lining!  I wasn’t really sure just exactly what that was, but she assured me that it was great fun.

During a recent conversation comparing adventures, I mentioned a camel ride I had in Morocco a few years ago.  After All the beasts lay down in the sand, I climbed aboard a smelly, somewhat ragged pile of woven blankets strapped atop his back (I assumed it was a he), and ensconced myself into what surely was the mother of all flea incubators, all of whom were happy to know that we would be traveling companions for the day.  After giving me a malicious snarl, he reluctantly struggled to his feet, and at a given signal from the handler, they all lumbered off.

My friend then recounted her ride upon an elephant complete with houdah and mahout to smoothly guide them through a small forest of trees which were constantly sampled by her conveyance.  Certainly topped my camel ride story by a few feet!

How wonderful to sit so far off terra firma and be brushed by passing trees.  Surely it would give a voyeur a revealing look at the intimate life of treetop birds and animals.  I wondered how it would seem to the king of the early morning alarm clocks to sit and crow about it afterward.  So the rooster crowning the houdah was born!

As I wish my friend a good and safe journey, I am curious as to what her great adventure will be this trip, for she is surely not your average chicken, and if there is an adventure to be found it will  find her!

GRUSHA


While sitting in our tiny garden folly the other day, being scrutinized by the watchcat and other fey creatures I painted on its walls many years ago, my eyes fell on Grusha, and I was reminded again

why I had  painted him and his bicycle.

I read a story about the Russian trained circus bears, who could do all sorts of tricks , and about one in particular whom they named “Grusha”.  I began humanizing hm, and thought of the troubled life he led, caged in the city where hundreds of children came to see him and his companion bears entertain the crowds.

Far from his home in Siberia, he was taught to ride a bicycle.  He rode round and round the circus ring several times a day, and then repeated the feat six days a week.  A pretty boring life compared to roaming in the woods.  Lonely away from family and friends I thought.

One day he escaped on his bicycle.  Simply rode past the guard when no one was looking, out the front gate, and began his long journey back to his home.

I would like to say he made good his escape, but like so many other prisoners, he was recaptured and returned to the Russian circus.  Too bad for Grusha.

But here he is with his sad little yellow eyes, living in my little garden house, and riding through an apple orchard somewhere in Northern California.   He gives me joy whenever I see him.

His clever cycling is intently surveyed by a roomful of other fey animals and birds who wish him well.

 

 

 

WATCHCAT

Guarding Mouse Hole