Friday, January 20, 2012

Snow overnight, a couple of inches that crept in silently, finger to lips, without a stir, shhhh don't wake her.... unlike the other night with that cacophonous wind that rattled the bars & cages of this house. And in fact, last night, I did wake up in the wee hours, for a bit, as I usually do, always so grateful that I can turn on a brown-shaded bedside lamp, step into the aerie, log on, and while the computer connects, go into the bathroom, whiz, fill a drinking glass of water, return to my desk, and sit here in darkness, with only the glow of the screen. The thought crosses my mind almost every night that I do this -- that I am so grateful for this extra buffer space at the top of the house, this aerie, my home office, my "room of one's own." I actually like its openness - one arrives in it at the top of the stairs, and needs to traverse it to reach either of the two bedrooms, or the bath. I think too, of my mother - who had strong artistic sensibilities. The house in which I was raised - that contained my parents, my two younger brothers, and my sister, seven years younger than myself -- was smaller than the house that I live in now, with just D and the two devoted 'sisters,' the housecats Gwynnie & Claire.

In that house growing up -- it was like the house I'm in now - but without the generous, airy, lightfilled semi-public buffering open space that is the aerie. No, instead, in my parents' house when one reached the top of the cramped carpeted stairs, one encountered immediately the tiny bath - with a tub but no working shower; a tiny linen closet; doors (nearly always open) to the two bedrooms, one smaller than the other; and a single window that faced west, towards the small church at the top of the hill, which blocked light as the sun fell.

The tiny space at the top of the stairs, was no larger than the cramped space that connects adjoining cars on a rail train - one doesn't even expect to sit down. And yet here we were -- six individuals -- crammed in with one another - with no private spaces -- for years on end.

Honestly - I don't know how my mother did it. I mean, the children -- we found our escapes - school, after-school jobs, always the dangling-carrot prospect that frankly propelled us, to finally one day get out of there.

But my mother. What was it like for her to wake in the middle of the night? The most she could do was to turn on a surreptitious bedside lamp, perhaps in the larger bedroom that for quite a while she shared with my sister & me, or at other times (at this point they're jumbled for me) in an unheated, inadequately fake-wood paneled 'winterized' sunporch that became her room. My father slept on the sofa in the living room. The TV set basically separated her room, with its voile-curtained French doors, and the smallish living room with its creepily textured stuccoed walls -- the surfaces weren't even flat, just run all over with veins & bones, not unlike what I glimpse of my own hands as I strike the keys (except that I like my hands, and the glimpse of action behind the skin).

And there was no internet then, obviously -- at this point I'm so used to it it's very hard for me to imagine my life without it. Certainly I couldn't make such quick & immediate & gratifying associations as I am able to follow up instantly now. (In my mother's day - in the years that she was actively my mother - knowledge was acquired either by consulting a book already possessed, going to the library, or perhaps making a pilgrimage to a museum in the city).

I'm grateful for those quick connections. For example, I'm really intrigued by Elizabeth Bishop's diminutive artworks, that I discovered in passing online, and have followed up on to see a few more, learn a little more...

(ah, I wish that Paris Review piece had been published a bit sooner, or that somehow I were better plugged into the NYC gallery scene - what's my excuse - oh no matter.... anyway, suddenly the gallery in which Bishop's paintings are on exhibit, is totally on my radar -- except that the exhibit ends tomorrow. Ah, it's okay, it's supposed to snow overnight, the drive is impracticable, and such a quick flight would only exhaust me -- and I need to be rested --- yes, I have to go to church on Sunday...)

but I'm sufficiently intrigued to look at more of her paintings on line (done on sheets of paper no larger than Crane stationery, and I learned from Wiki that she went to Vassar with a Crane heiress...)

and I'm just now figuring out about 'gouache'

perhaps I'll stop by an art supply store in town soon and pick up a few supplies -- of course I don't wish to spend a small fortune to indulge this newfound interest

I like the colors she uses -- I think of the little watercolor experiment I did at Olana some weeks ago -- and I so dislike those strident colors -- I like soothing earth tones...

anyway -- darling! just musing here
curried chicken for dinner, with cauliflower & carrots, & basmati

And so my mother didn't have any of that -- if she woke up in the middle of the night in a household of strangers each with their own powerful trajectories and/or agendas -- where was she going to go? If she wanted to follow up on something in her mind -- the best she could do was perhaps to make a penciled note (I can see her beautiful handwriting now, as I think of this - she certainly had a singular hand, and beautiful hands too, I might mention, nails always perfectly manicured - nothing short of a miracle, since there was no dishwasher, or maid)

So when I wake up in the middle of the night and have the incredible freedom of stepping into the aerie & into the bath without fear of disturbing anyone (even if D's asleep in the other bedroom, but he's used to this) - and logging on to connect in some fashion --

well, I'm very very grateful -- and I don't know how my mother managed
I'm the age now that she was -- beyond it even

and so the snow crept in unannounced overnight
even with my comings & goings from my bedroom to the computer
returning to bed, throwing the Perry Ellis black wool coat over me for extra warmth
I didn't hear it at all

it wasn't til early this morning, before dawn
when what I thought were inexplicably jets
turned out to be the most massive snow plow tanks thundering through our country lane
to keep commerce open of course
I guess I should be grateful that our stretch of road - dead ended
is still a county route
as a former planner I imagine having it demapped
if only to get rid of the obnoxious unnnecessary double yellow lines
painted every spring by other "tanks" - perhaps (I hope, as a local taxpayer) refitted snow plow vehicles
but I realize that such demapping --
would only mean that
we wouldn't have had the sweet luxury
of being plowed

okay darling I admit, this post has gone on too long
& hasn't exactly resolved in some deft fashion

never mind all that, sweetheart
my Steve McQueen, wherever you are
blowing kisses up into the air to you
because I know - I know - that you don't just "sound like a jet"
you're really flying around - up there

many kisses

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