April 2017 A couple of days in the 40s and then more snow and cold wind. Then a sunny day. Then more snow. Ugh. My choir has been working on Palm Sunday and Easter music. For Easter we are singing Cohen’s Hallelujah with Easter appropriate lyrics. Catchy tune. Look it up on You Tube. Easter is 3 weeks later this year. That was called to my attention by a news report that said the first quarter business income was down because they had no Easter income. Most people spend money on food for Easter. I remember when my mother took the four boys down to Carpenters Men’s Store in Framingham and outfitted them ‘from the skin out’. Me too, later. I would get a dress, socks, a Spring coat, a hat with ribbons or a flower on it and matching gloves. I don’t think anyone does that now. We used to sing ‘Put on your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it, you’ll be the grandest lady in the Easter Parade.(Irving Berlin) Funny…written by a Jewish guy. Just thinking. I read Philbrick’s Mayflower, then Bunker Hill, about the beginning of the American Revolution. So much more in- depth and fascinating that what we read in school. Where I live now, was called Quaboag Plantation and was divided up into the Brookfields-West, East and Brookfield. They were decimated by King Philip and his hoard(1675) and it took a long time to get repopulated (up to fifteen families) because of little skirmishes and other irritations to the daily life. I imagine one would be on guard all the time for rustlings in the bushes, the fear of being shot or scalped, of having your new house burned to the ground, your wife and children kidnapped and taken as far as Canada for ransom or slaves. Presently we are aware of being under attack by Radical Islamists but that’s not the same as the pervasiveness and proximity of the frontier threat. I am referring to the French/Indian War, 1688-1697. The Canadian authorities used the Indians to terrorize the English colonists. It was actually a religious war between James II and protestant William of Orange. Both wanted to be King of England. France joined in James’ Catholic side and the war was brought over here. We did not see it as a religious war but as a war for France to take the colonies from Britain. And I think the Indians thought they could get their land back. Imagine the steadfast courage to clear land for farming, build a house, feed the family with an hoe in one hand and a blunderbuss in the other. The settlers built a safe house called Fort Gilbert with a stockade fence, not far from where I live. But most of the settlers lived more than 3 miles from the center of town, too far to make use of it. Now we have safe houses in colleges to protect the snowflakes from the slings and arrows of politically incorrect speech. Wonder how they would survive on the frontier. No I don’t wonder. They wouldn’t. Whose fault is that? If you are a parent, have you given your children the tools to attempt to survive. Read the Foxfire books, read The Axe. Read a cookbook. This is probably my last painted purse. They don’t sell well so I am doing something wrong. Dragonfly on silver leather I have been working on my new digs. Collecting furniture. I am waiting now for the yard sales to begin. This is mine. Oil on canvas. ignore uncropped sides My art group at Hitchcock Academy in Brimfield decided to copy a painting by a nice but little known artist of a covered bridge. We showed them all together and it was interesting to see how the painting was portrayed in different media, watercolor and oil. POSTED BY SUSAN AT 12:22 AM NO COMMENTS: FRIDAY, DECEMBER 2, 2016 Forward to the Past If I lay awake in the middle of the night, that a friend calls ‘ the witching hour’, I think of so many things to write about. Faced with the white paper of a blank screen I am myself blank. So I’ll just let the thoughts pour out. On occasion other artists may ask for my opinion of their work. I consider their apparent capabilities and temper my judgment based on that assessment. However, in the case of my grand daughter who is definitely good at drawing, as a preteen, she surpasses a lot of mature artists in her ability to see and remember. I feel my obligation is to be frank with her. She might draw a girl that is currently in fashion but which represents to me a trashy example of a girl or woman. I tell her I personally don’t care for that look. I don’t care for the messy up-swept ponytails with hair hanging down in haphazard ways. The long gone movie star Veronica Lake made the one eye -covered- by -hair look, famous. Good for the come hither allure but a hazard for daily activity and just brainless for working. You can take that further…waitresses, nurses and doctors, auto mechanics, any machinist ad infinitum. Women who should know better on TV, pundits, the actresses have this habit of having to sweep the hair out of their eyes and run their fingers through their hair to fluff it up or grab it with both hands and twist it over to one side all the while talking. Nobody seems to teach their children not to perform their toilette in public. Nobody seems to teach their children much about behavior in public. Just observe the trash talk at the protests, the trash attitude and the trash being thrown. They want respect but they haven’t any for themselves. I don’t like ‘yoga pants’ except at yoga or the gym. Even if the woman has a lovely figure I find there is too much information for me outside of the artists studio. They reveal the shape of the crotch front and back. Really? In the old days, Oh, here we go,sigh, ladies wore slips or half slips so the skirt wouldn’t tuck under the buttocks. Now it is desired. Show whacha got. Look at the old movies of the 50’s and older, how smooth the dress or skirt lay over the hips and bum. Sleek as a Siamese cat. Now its a bag of potatoes. Everything has gotten sloppier. People hate to bother to get properly dressed to go shopping, to go to church, to appear in court. Working at home in front of the computer-who cares if you have pj’s on. But wearing them shopping? Takes lazy to a new level. That’s probably what this whole attitude is about, the who cares attitude. Love me warts and all, yesterdays dirt and sweat and all. Todays dirt and sweat is legitimate. If you see a smart, put together woman, why is she elegant? Because she is not bunched up and floppy and shaggy. I bet she has a long mirror and can see her back side too. I predict this fashion statement is going to get tired and it will return to more conservative fashions. All of this diatribe goes for men too. It’s time for the pendulum to….

Blissfully unaware

Perhaps that’s an unfair title. One’s sphere of awareness usually revolves around work, play, family and not necessarily in that order. Unless you have a farm, know personally a farmer you may be unaware of the fine line a farmer walks regarding his very survival.  You go to the store, you buy apples in a bag. You take them home and wash them and see that one has a spot on the skin. OMG. Unfit for human consumption?
Some people are like that. They want perfection and wholesomeness. If that’s about what your expectations are you might consider rethinking the importance of this  in the scheme of things.  This Spring a local farmer had a problem with a particular crop that had a dent in each, lets say, cucumber. He had to throw the whole crop out because he knew it wouldn’t be accepted by the public. That is incredibly sad. It was perfect fit for consumption.  Expectations have been set high by the media and ordinary is nearly unacceptable.  For perfection to happen the farmer would have to toss most of the apples out. The plight of the Massachusetts farmer this June and July is hanging on by the grace of God and wits. We have been in a drought for two months and the pastures and fields are dried up with no hope of a second cutting of hay never mind a third. Dairy and beef farmers are selling off their herds and closing up shop because they have had to spend the money that gets them through the winter, buying hay to feed the cattle this summer.

A parched field 

Farm ponds are low and any irrigation done is on the money crops like corn and tomatoes.  Some farmers who offered CSA have had to reduce the variety in the weekly box or even give up if they haven’t a way to irrigate,  The tree fruit crops were kaput from the late frost which occurred after the buds had formed.  New England farmers don’t have a cushion to get them through a weather calamity and the government or their insurance doesn’t pay anything near what the crop was worth. It is hardly worth the effort to fill out the ridiculous number of pages to put in a claim. These farmers are not like the Midwest’s huge expansive farms measured in square miles. On the farm where I live we got 1/4″ of rain the other day. I was great but not enough. The potatoes and onions are small size. Maybe if we get more rain they will grow.
The best thing you can do to help farmers is to buy locally grown vegetables, meat, and dairy even if it is from a supermarket that buys local produce and they will proudly advertise that. So when you look for produce, don’t be so picky if it is just a surface blemish. Could you pass that test?
One more thought. Scientists are thinking about combining human cells with animal cells for the purpose, they say, to cure diseases. Imagine the odd creatures they could come up with? If you are a person that doesn’t like the idea of GMO vegetables, you can’t very well like the human/animal combos. Same thing. Right.  This playing around with human life experimentation has been done before during the Nazi Regime and also in America on poor people in the 1920s forward until about the 50s. We viewed that with revulsion. What has changed?
Here are some pictures

Petunia planter
Tuberous begonia

to cleanse your thoughts.

 

Thyme blanketed patio

“What is so rare as a day in June? Then, if ever, come perfect days.”  James Russell Lowell’s poem is one of my favorites. He goes on to say…”Now is the high-tide of the year, And whatever of life hath ebbed away

Comes flooding back with a ripply cheer,”
This mid month week in Massachusetts has been perfectly beautiful with temps in the mid 70s, sunny, slight breeze.  Yet, for some this is a time of feeling blue. I am sorry for them. I feel happy and contented, well, as contented as I can be. Artists areseldom complacent’  I have a place to live, freedom to come and go, gas for my car, and plenty to fill my day.
crystal apples
 I listed some of my earrings on Etsy under the shop name swedishblond. These are my crystal apples. I make pearl pears, orange crystal carrots and cherries. I paint watercolor vegetables on cards and sell them at Boston Public Market. My daughter has quite a large section for Stillman’s Farm veggies and other things there. They recently added another section to sell their veg and flower plants. 
On the fourth of July I will don my warm 19th century costume and sing at the Old Sturbridge Village when they have a group of new Americans becoming citizens.We will sing Patriotic songs as sung in 1830. That is the latest time period of The Village. My hat’s off to those who take the trouble, time and money to become citizens of the greatest country that ever existed to my knowledge. Maybe the Eskimos are runners up. They seem to stay out of trouble.

A single iris plant


Lists and plans

My epiphany came the first week of December, Yes, you can do too much, be overextended with projects and responsibilities. I missed two important appointments and began to doubt my mental acuteness age-wise. I did all the necessary things to insure I would remember the appointments and still I overlooked them. My resolution in 2016 is not to do too much.  I was getting ready, making things for two Christmas Fairs, practice piano and guitar, rehearse the choir for Advent and Christmas music, I had a commissioned painting due for framing, made Christmas earrings, painting purses, my old friend Nanny and I made 55 fresh greens arrangement to sell at the local fair and I had functions to attend, Christmas shopping and I told my daughter I would help decorate her house.  Stop.  Something has to give. It did. Lesson learned. Fairs require a lot of lugging and it is tough on the back. That gave,too.

My resolution lists ‘Give up painting purses unless I get a request. They don’t sell very fast, they take up space. I put them on Etsy and Ebay. I never sell anything on Etsy. Etsy is a good showcase for customers to see what I do. If they see something they like they can email me and I will send it to them.  Earrings are fun, don’t sell much but they are lightweight,take up little space and are lighter than paintings and purses.

Oil, Three Boys in a Dory

 I stopped painting for fun because I have run out of room to store the darned stuff.  I like commissions.  In November,I did a copy of a Winslow Homer for a present for my son’s birthday, Three Boys in a Dory. The original was a watercolor but I copied it in oil. I don’t remember ever doing a copy before. It wasn’t slavish copy because it was a different medium.

Also recently did the Varnum Funeral Home commission. An oil, 16 x 20.

Varnum Funeral Home



Resolutions are great because it focuses on your goals, long term and in the year. In my diary I wrote down a quote from Zig Zigler ” If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.”

 I wish when I was in my teens someone had advised me to make a series of long term plans. Where do you want to be in 5, 10, 20 years. How will you get there and then plan out by working backwards to the present day. What do you need to do, to get to where you want to be. 

The other thing I have learned is… don’t do or not do something out of fear. Don’t get married because you are afraid to be alone, don’t not be an actress because you are afraid to get up in front of people and speak, don’t not go to the doctor because you are afraid he (she) will say you have a disease. Take the bull by the horns not the tail. I found the best way for me was to consult the I Ching. The message you get, gets beyond your ego, which lies to you constantly, but get to the truth which you know in your brain and you can make the best decision from knowledge rather than ego. Question your motives. A wise woman once told me that I have all the information in my brain to function in this world. That is a difficult fact to grasp. The I Ching is not a replacement for The Bible. 
I am happy when I think of the number of years I had the same thing on my list-to illustrate a children’s book and I was finally able to check it off. I fulfilled that goal. My 2016 list says work more on the Godfrey stories and get them published.
On the topic of cats, I have a new cat,Pierrot. Pierrot is a Christmas gift from my daughter. He is a Turkish Van, from the pound. White with black earpatches, a black tail and three spots on one side of his body. He has webbed feet, likes water and is smart. He has one coat which means he doesn’t have the usual guard hairs over the soft short fur. He has just the soft short fur. 
 My former cat, Tex, I got from a pound in Kerrville,TX. He disappeared this summer. He was street-wise, coyote and snake and eagle- wise having encountered them in Texas. So I figure a fisher-cat or lion got him here in Massachusetts. Cats cannot escape those predators in a tree. I mourned his loss as Larry had given him to me as a Valentine gift and I loved the cat.
I still mourn Larry’s passing but it isn’t painful anymore. I am not able to listen to his recordings yet, but I will. I know he would want me to.
I took up the guitar this summer because I wanted it to be played. It made so much music with Larry.  Christmas Day I went to his kids’ Christmas party and I brought his Takamine guitar. I told them what I was doing and I told them to keep his music going by learning to play the guitar or some instrument or to sing. He didn’t want to teach them how to play because he felt he didn’t know the right way to do it and he didn’t want them to learn bad habits. He learned by watching others. He strummed and knew chords and copied strumming techniques from listening to pop records like Johnny Cash or Elvis etc. He played confidently and boldly but could also play sweetly.
After Christmas my daughter had a party and I invited some people in who played an instrument and I was able to jam with them a little. I am not very good yet and I can’t shift from one chord to another very fast but I am working on it. I have a teacher, John Kinear, who is so good I would like to just pay to sit and listen. He teaches at the Lashaway Music Center in East Brookfield,MA.

Happy 2016






Summer

My computer tower lived on the floor,upright, under my desk. It occupied the space in front of a neatly contained bunch of wires connecting the printer, speakers, keyboard, internet antenna and screen. As soon as the wires left the velcro constraint it exploded into a snarled mess like a nightmare fishing line.  The thing that happened to change all this was a certain cat who decided to mark his territory and let the the tower have  it…right through the perforated side  G. came in and we opened it up and with paper towels and spray cleaner we quickly mopped it out. It worked for a while but the insult was too great and it quit. had it repaired 2x and gave up. The motherboard was damaged.

I decided to get rid of the wires and bought a sensible PC , I don’t do games.  In just a few years much has been improved.  It’s like having a new car. Lots of stuff to explore.

The fields here on the farm are looking like Eden. I go into the cooler and see what I am having for supper.  I have a bigger selection than a grocery store. I wish summer wasn’t so short.
Corn is never stored so if I don’t pick it myself or get out to the barn early morning, I don’t get any. Pickled pint jars of my favorite beets, the long red Forano. Also, put up many 1/2 pts of raspberry jam. I took out half the seeds and it’s like raspberry pudding. Lovely on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. In my opinion, comfort food such as Wonder bread or equivalent is compulsory for a PB&J. Excellent whole grain bread steals the flavor f the add-ons.  It is a retro sandwich after all. Reeks of the 40s and 50s right along with bobby sox, cuffed dungarees, and my father’s shirt. After that era I wore brown pin-wale corduroys, button-down oxford, Shetland pullover, a corduroy blazer and Capezios.

Spring, forward

 

One of the Stillman Farm orchards 

Seems to be more activity this year to do with the arts in this area. I jokingly, with wishful thinking, said to a friend, ‘maybe the area will become the art center of Massachusetts.’  Right now the claim to that fame is The Cape or The North Shore or Amherst / Northampton region and The Berkshires. 

  Cape Cod, of course is noted for the visual arts although they do have a summer playhouse. Apparently writers go there to contact their muse.
 The Berkshires has Moma, Norman Rockwell Museum, Chester Daniel French Museum (sculpture), Jacob’s Pillow (dance) and the summer res. of The Boston Symphony at Tanglewood, and Edith Wharton’s place The Mount in Lenox. So that’s a popular area for New York artists, writers, musicians in the summer. 
 Naturally, Boston is the cultural center with the Fine Arts, Gardner and Moma Museums plus all the art schools(colleges) and nearby Lincoln has the DeCordova and Concord has claims to the writers of olde-Emerson, Thoreau, Alcott etc. Longfellow used to hang out in Sudbury next door. 
 The North Shore has Cape Ann, Marblehead and Newburyport-attracting, seascape artists with their fishing ports. 
 Northampton/ Amherst, which is between Central Mass and the Berkshires, has The Five Colleges; they attract everything there.
 We are in the middle and have had to struggle for acknowledgement. People in the east think we are next to New York, well, they think anyone west of route 495 is New York. People in the western area think we are next to the ocean. We are just the glue that holds the two together. Nobody gives a fig about glue unless it fails. The glue wants to be recognized.
 So why do I imagine Central Mass could attract the arts? We’ve got lovely scenery and farms. Lots of farms producing milk, ice cream,cheese of all varieties, wine, maple syrup, meat, fruits and vegetables, sheep and alpaca wool,  and derivatives of all these in a craft vein, ie.,finished products like hats and mittens, soap, candles…
 A half to three quarters of an hour away is Worcester-the Art Museum, Mechanics Hall, Tower Hill Botanical Gardens and a couple of live theatres.
Live theatres–Barre has one. It’s in the geographical center of the state, and Sturbridge has one. Ware has Studio 13, an art  teaching facility with live music on weekends. Petersham, Barre and Spencer have art guilds. Brimfield has The Hitchcock Academy where artists can go and paint-they also offer music lessons. All the libraries offer lectures/ workshops.
 It just seems this year there is more activity for artists, illustrators, writers and musicians here. We have many, many talented people already plying their trade while living here. I bet most of the general public has no idea of the quiet fame and accomplishments these folks have. Maybe they want it that way.
 I have been invited to sign my books at Color fest in North Brookfield on June 20th. That is a collection of artists, writers and musicians to benefit a new land trust in that town. Also in June, in West Brookfield I will be signing and selling my books at the library.  In Barre in July I will be giving a talk on agriculture, specifically CSA and reading from my book. 
 In August I am taking Amtrac to Red Wing, Minnesota to a Boomgaarden family reunion in Kenyon which is where I wrote ‘Up In Smoke”.

A New (Ad)venture

After searching for a venue in the Central Mass. area, I found a room at  The New Braintree Historical Society where I can hold morning art classes for adults. I have taught before in various campgrounds when I was on the road so I know I enjoy this sort of thing. I love to see people discover they can put down on paper, something that looks like what it is supposed to. I like having people learn to see what they are looking at. I like working with pastels for this sort of workshop because right away it is colorful and budding artists can get right into it and moosh it around and layer color on top of color with out having to wait for it to dry or bleed into other areas. They can work fast or slowly. It is forgiving, it is very portable but it can be messy on hands and clothes so old duds are important and hands are soap and water wash up. Pastels are portable to take into ‘the field’ on a trip or just to have on hand if you have a little time to kill and you want to record a location.  This is an old medium used by the old Renaissance artists and the modern Impressionists. It is rapidly gaining in popularity.   Good pastels are nearly entirely all pigment with just enough binder to hold the powder together in a stick. Cheap pastels usually have more filler like chalk and are discouraging to use because you don’t get the intensity of color you may be looking for.  By cheap i don’t mean ‘on sale’. Some great brands go on sale from time to time.  Good brands include Rembrandt($$), Sennelier, Schminke, Daniel Smith and the cheaper but good-Faber/Castell. Art supply house brands can be good like Dick Blick and Utrecht and I will try Walmarts house brand and let you know. Pastels come in round crayon type shapes or square which I like for achieving sharp edges. They come in roughly 3″ sticks or half sticks. Half sticks are fine. Two types  are called soft and hard.  We will use soft. There are pastel pencils which I like for fine detail work. They are hard.  Pastels can be in powder form in little tubs with an applicator or a fine sponge. Brand name Pan Pastels.  All this is soap and water wash up for hands but some colors stain clothes. Be advised. Some professionals use disposable gloves. I like to rub it around to work it into the paper. I haven’t used gloves but I’m thinking about it.

Geraniums
Pastel
Pastel still life


This is an excerpt from DanielSmith – making pastels website. You might enjoy the entire article.
Blacks are reliable permanent pigments that are inexpensive and make nice pastels. Having said that, I advise you to rarely use them if you desire clean, bright-colored pastels. I only use Ivory Black if I want to produce a very deep-colored pastel. Without the black, these very dark values are difficult to achieve. If my aim is to produce intentionally grayed neutral tones, I also use a bit of black. My palette reflects my style of using color. Only a fraction of the pastels in my landscape set are grayed neutrals made with black pigment; neutral grays made by mixing complementary colors are far more varied and interesting. Cutting out black immediately perks up your palette and boost the color in your paintings.”

Papers? You want something with a ‘tooth’ to it. Least expensive, Canson Mi Tientes. More $$, sanded papers like Wallis, Ampersand, Art Spectrum Colorfix and others. You can apply upwards of 20+ layers on the sanded papers. Check online at Dick Blick or Jerry’s Artarama, or Cheap Joes. Locally in Worcester at C.C. Lowell’s on Park Ave or in a pinch Michaels and A.C. Moore. Also you will need a piece of masonite or heavy foam core or sturdy cardboard to clip you paper to, and clips or masking tape. Painters tape doesn’t perform well.
Check out WetCanvas.com. Also, borrow a magazine on pastel painting to see if you get anything from it. Artists Magazine has articles.
I always use fresh fruit, vegetables and or flowers for a still life. You can’t make a vibrant exciting still life with plastic or silk stuff– my opinion. I usually include a piece of fabric and a piece of glass or metal. Later, we work on an animal portrait-a pet, perhaps, from a photo you have taken or have permission to use.

Border Collie
Pastel

Never copy someone’s work without permission. It is against the law. 

I will make this course material as inexpensive as I can but keep in mind, art supplies are not cheap.
Here’s a chance to exersize the non logical side of your brain.

My new book about Godfrey the kitten

I am excited about the release of my second children’s picture book called Godfrey Finds a Home. It is the first in a series I plan about Godfrey the cat who is discovered up a tree on a farm in Massachusetts.

He is rescued and has adventures on the farm. He learns about CSA-community supported agriculture which is a subscription sold to the consumer by the farmer who depends on it for his winter livelihood. In the North there is no produce farming done as the fields are locked up tight by Jack Frost. This is a great idea as it enables the farmer to pay his mortgage and all that housekeeping entails. Seeds and other amenities can be purchased for the following Spring. On the other side of the deal, the consumer gets a weekly box of fresh picked vegetables beginning in June and going to or through October. The Stillman’s CSA boxes are varied as Glenn grows a HUGE variety of vegetables and fruits mainly for the Boston market where there are numerous ethnic tastes. CSA boxes do not reflect all those tastes however, as a lot of households don’t know what to do with really ‘different’ vegetables-these are my words, my opinion. If there is a ‘different’ vegetable Genevieve tells what it is and what to do with it in her weekly newsletter. You are welcome to subscribe to her online letter which she has designed and built it and it is very pretty, as well as, informative. www. Stillmansfarm.com.

But, getting back to my book,
The book includes Genevieve, Glenn, Faith, Reid, me and Larry as well as the men who work here on the farm. They are from Jamaica and come in the Spring and leave in the Fall. They work hard and are dedicated and do their jobs well. There are others who live locally who work here too.
The book is 32 pages and half of them are illustrations done by me in watercolor, colored pencil or oil. The men carrying baskets 

and Larry

Larry

is done in oil on canvas. I am learning as I go about how to illustrate for ‘modern’ methods of publishing as the illustrations are either photographed using my Samsung phone camera app which is incredible or they are scanned into my computer. They are then emailed over to the publisher as is, of course, the copy. I have read a half dozen books on illustrating for children’s books and none of them told me how to do this. 
The story was written before Larry passed away so this is a memorial to him as well as clue-ing kids into how vegetables are grown and prepared for market. Corn does not appear from a can, box or bag.  Ears of corn are, in fact, ripped of a tall stalk at the peak of ripeness. Picture a raised bed of strawberries, sweetly fragrant, ripening in the June sun. The romance of the farm is in this book. It’s all true and the only down side is the winter.
From the shameless commerce division (quoting from The Tappit Bros.)…
You can order the book,$11.50 from me, signed if you wish.
 I offer free shipping on orders of 4 or more books or you can get it from Amazon or order it from B&N. ISBN # 978-1-4575-3120-0
Thanks for your support for CSA,also.

Treading Water or Moving on

Since mid-October I have given little thought to painting except it didn’t interest me.
I started up again with my friends at Hitchcock Art Group to be social.  I painted animals on rocks. I fooled around with Zen doodling. I progressed to finishing my illustrations for my book (at the publishers now) called Godfrey Finds a Home and edited and reedited the story.

 That got me moving. Then I bought some apples and pears and did some watercolor still life paintings. The winter was long and cold. I accepted that I wouldn’t be going South for winters, anymore. I wouldn’t be seeing Utah and Colorado. I had the motor home listed for sale on Craigslist and E bay and gave several hundred dollars to two different folks who said they would advertise the motor home on magazines and other places. Rip-off. Not a bite in six months and I didn’t hear from those folks after the first couple of check-in calls.  I cannot drive it and I cannot afford to park it. I am walking away from this millstone. 
My choir had a special Sunday in May and I painted a watercolor of the Church for the program. We did some interesting music from Vaughn Williams, for one.

 



I watched Last Love on Netflix. Actor Michael Caine, a retired philosophy professor, is speaking to a young friend. He was ‘treading water’after his wife died. The girl asked him if he loved life. He says yes, but, life is people, food, music, art, nature. When you lose someone you gave all your love to, everything else dies, too. You are surrounded by countless others that cloud your vision, an unwelcome distraction. You seek oblivion in isolation. Solitude make you wither.

I am studying piano for the second time in 60 years. I figure if I’m going to direct the choir I’d better get some solid music background. It is different for me this time as I am learning the bones and structure and not just tickling the keys with kiddie tunes.
I wish I had done it 10 years ago so I could have played chords with Larry.I have been accepting commissions for pet and house portraits and I am unpacking boxes (after 6 months here) and settling in.  Larry’s children and his sisters and brothers have been wonderful to me, very caring. He would be pleased. The river birch I planted in his memory, is doing well.


Larry and Me

Larry and I met in 1982 at Minute Man Printing.  I was hired to manage the copy division and Larry would come in and take over while I went to lunch. We were part of a small work force and we had a softball team and everyone had parties so we all knew each other. A few years later I left to work elsewhere as a commercial artist and then I got my real estate license. Our paths had crossed several times when he called me in 17 years later looking for an apartment. When my kids left home I sold my house in Lunenburg and moved in with my 96 year old mother in Southborough. Coincidently, I had recently bought an 1830s fixer-upper in Barre and I had planned to go out on slow days and work on it  I told Larry about the house and I said he could live there rent free if he helped fix it up. I knew he had experience in construction as he had worked with his dad who was a contractor.  He agreed with my terms. As time went on he would call with questions on a project and I would go out and work alongside him scraping paint or tearing out walls.
He treated me like I knew what I was doing and I appreciated that. .  I had been through some unpleasant relationships and decided that I wasn’t very good at choosing men so I had my life planned out for the next twenty years as an unclaimed blessing.
 I can tell you the time and location when Cupid shot his arrow into my heart and I made the astonishing discovery that I loved that man. He had made a tape of his favorite tunes and sent it to me. I was playing it on my way to work on that morning. The tune was Welcome To My World with Dean Martin. Now, I knew that song but I heard it again for the first time at that moment. I never before had that incredible certainty that I loved someone. But I wasn’t sure how he felt so I kept my feelings a secret.  I would go out to Barre and work, we’d have supper, talk or watch TV and go to our own rooms-he at one end of the hall and I at the other. One time he filled my room with lilacs from the garden and when I went to bed the room was like a fragrant bower. I got into my antique spool bed and there was a knock on the door. He came in dressed in pajamas carrying his guitar. He sat at the end of the bed and serenaded me a while and then left. I had lovely dreams.
In August he convinced me to go to the threshing bee in MN and meet his family. Wow.  Everyone had work duties. Mine was to make Saturday breakfast.  I pitched right in and made breakfast for 2000, well maybe it was only 200.
His family was so warm and friendly to me.  I was scooped up and hugged by Boomgaarden brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles. It was there I learned about Larry’s Elvis act. He played along with his brothers’ Iron Horse Rock Band.
I watched the famous antique Case steam tractor in action powering the thresher to separate the oats from the chaff..
Anyway, on the way home, we stopped in Worcester at a nice restaurant for supper and he proposed. He said. ‘Well, my family likes you. Do you want to get married?’    I said ‘You Bet’. That’s Minnesotan for Yes.
My mother had a stroke and she lost ability to speak. She wasn’t able to call for help on the phone so I quit one of my jobs and stayed home with her.  It was a rewarding experience for me. She was very sweet and I figured out by her gestures what she wanted. But if she fell I had a hard time getting her up. So Larry moved in with us and he was a Godsend. He entertained her on his guitar and she could sing with him and then she’d clap her hands and laugh. He was so kind to her.
Larry joined my choir at Framingham First Parish.  It was with that choir of 35 that we went to England in the spring of 2000 and sang in churches including Oxford and Cambridge Universities. He recorded the music at several locations and it was made into a CD which some of you have and it was a money maker for the church. My mother passed away in February of 2000.
 When we came back from England I was asked by the choir director and the minister if I would like to get married in church on a Sunday. The church usually had a choir Sunday of special music but since we had recently returned from England they felt the choir was too tired to learn more music. I agreed as long as it was a secret from the parishioners. I didn’t want them to feel they had to get us gifts.  So it was, that I walked down the aisle to meet my sweetheart at the altar. The church was packed as the minister advertised that there would be a surprise.  Larry said later he wished he had sung a special song but agreed that he was too emotional to have done it. When the vows were over the minister said to me ‘you may now kiss the groom” and everyone laughed.
Our next big project was renovating an 1880s house in West Brookfield into a bed and breakfast and tea room. There again his ability to do renovations paid off. Larry would entertain our guests with his guitar. After 4 years, we realized our guests were having more fun than we were and so we sold it and bought a 37 ft. Class A motor home with all the amenities. It was like a nice condo on wheels. We loved it and we were completely satisfied to live year round in it. We zigzagged across the United States for almost seven years. He had all his music stuff and I had my art stuff and two computers of course.
I had mentioned to him that I had a dream of illustrating a children’s book. After reading some of the horrible books for children today I wanted to write a nice one but I had no idea what about. He came to me one day and handed me a sheet of paper. “Here it is, an outline for your story.  All you have to do is flesh it out.”  I did. He was technical supervisor. I gave him first billing because if we were going to sell any they would surely be to his big family.  It is called Up in Smoke. It is a great children’s book showing a loving family working together to get a job done and having fun. It will go down in history as a classic.
 We became workampers traveling every 5 months to a different park around the country.  He entertained with his guitar doing campfire sing-alongs. He would select a girl in the audience and sing a special song to her using her name. He also did  DJing and karaoke. But mostly he worked in maintenance doing repairs, plumbing, electrical and construction and I worked in the office or store.  During that time we saw pretty much all of California, Oregon the coast and  the Willamette Valley, Washington state to visit my nephew’s family in Seattle and over the snow covered Cascades to  Larry’s brother Allen’s family in Chelan for a month then across thru Idaho, Montana  and saw his niece and nephew in Yellowstone National Park. He thought the nice thing about visiting relatives in our RV is not having to disturb the household.  Larry felt connected to those that came before him. He often updated his family tree and had European connections. Our travels were from one relative to another. There would be his cousin in Corpus Christi, his cousin, Don in New Orleans, my nieces in Virginia, my daughter in Los Angeles, , a school chum in Sacramento , a sister in Hawthorne, Nevada, his cousin in Amarillo, my brother’s family in Phoenix,  his family in South Dakota, Illinois, Florida, South Carolina, a sister in Iowa, and a boat load of relatives in Minnesota and friends in Arkansas and Tennessee.  Wherever we went he brought his guitar and played and sang for people and got them or their kids to play too. He found folks to jam with at parks and hunted down the places where there was an open mike. He wasn’t the least bit shy. He was an avid fan of steam engines and we went to every train museum. He loved his family and his friends. He called them on the phone to see how they were doing. If someone wasn’t doing well he made a special effort to keep up with them. He was immensely patriotic and proud of his service in military. He was a constitutionalist, very interested in government and politics. We visited Washington DC several times.
I remember how athletic he was. His high school games were legendary.  He was singled out in the newspaper sports columns for some outstanding play saving the day for the team be it football, baseball or basketball. He helped win some of the trophies in the Ellsworth High School foyer. What may not have been well known was that he tried out for a baseball major league. When he first came to live in Southborough we went next door to my brother’s pool. I asked him if he could swim. He said no. I said well, I’ll keep an eye on you and if you get into trouble I’ll save you.  He went to the edge of the pool and dove in swimming under water the entire length.  I felt like a fool. I yelled at him ‘How come you said you couldn’t swim!’  He said ‘well, I am not good at the crawl but I can swim under water’.  The next time he conned me was when we played golf. I lived adjacent to Stony Brook Golf Course which my father had designed and built after he retired. Larry said he couldn’t play golf very well. He whacked the first ball onto the green.  Again I yelled at him for conning me. He just laughed and thought it a big joke. He was also good at tennis.
  He was great about keeping things in repair and took care of problems right away. He was often thinking of better ways to do something, a better sign, a better display.
If someone was tentative he gave encouragement. He was not awed by a person’s fame or fortune. They were his equal. He said marriage was work. He showed me how to be a better person, to understand what is important in a relationship and to overlook petty details of little worth in the larger picture. I did all the cooking but when I broke my leg last year he did everything-he learned to cook, did the laundry, cleaning, shopping and worked my hours as well as his.
He wished he had studied music when he was young. No one taught him to play. He watched other guitarists play chords and learned from observation. He never felt he should teach anyone how because it might be wrong. He admired anyone who could pick a tune on the guitar.  He admired his father’s ability to play any instrument. His father had an orchestra and after the Second World War ended his father played for wedding dances 364 nights of the year. He also regretted he didn’t spend more time with his father and talked with him more.  He left home soon after he finished high school and joined the Air Force.
In Texas a couple years ago he got a deal from a professional studio for us to cut a disc with them. That was pure fun. We only could afford one take, so any mistakes that are in it, we know about. At each park campfire I handed out rhythm instruments and sing along sheets, we did duets and we entertained at parties in people’s homes. We made a lot of sweet memories. We said ‘I love you’ every day.
We finally landed jobs doing just what we wanted. I was teaching art and some crafts and Larry was doing music-live, DJing and karaoke at this really beautiful park in Fredericksburg, TX called Texas Wine Country RV Park.

Two weeks into that gig, it ended. God called Larry home.  Remember the good times and every day; tell your sweethearts how much you love them.