HOPE

HOPE

We went to see Garrett yesterday for the second time since he has been placed in a residential training facility about 90 minutes from here. Before the first visit, we had to wait a whole month to see him while he adapted to the structure of his new life.  He is doing very well, which is a conundrum to a reasonable person.  His life is so changed, so many things cannot be provided (like a computer or a swimming pool), that my sadness is overwhelming when there.  He is not sad.  He lives in the continuous present.  He was thrilled yesterday because we were going to spend the day at the beach.

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The image above is from our first visit.  He was brought out from the dorm area, and there a reddish Abe Lincoln stood!  Perhaps the shaving was not a priority that first month.  We got over it; we know he does not like to shave.  This time, he was all cleaned up.  He said that he thought he should shave before seeing his parents.  His idea!

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We had a great seafood lunch on Pawley’s Island before heading out to the water.  We loved this beach. Having been a South Carolinian much longer than Glenn and Garrett, and not being much of a beach person, on my rare visits I usually chose Isle of Palms.  It was familiar.  Have been also to LItchfield and Edisto and Folly.  Knowing that Isle of Palms is billed as a family beach, our expectations were similar.

It was different even from the parking.  Almost each block of the island, there is a diagonal space for about 10 cars.  This is the first limitation for a small and sweet beach.

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There is nothing commercial on this beach.  It is not a problem; the restaurants are not but five minutes away.  There were so many athletic families on the beach yesterday practicing with kayaks, surfing, stand up paddle boarding, children swimming two to an inner tube.  Singles read in the dusty sand, and  moved their lounges often.  The tide was coming in and not leaving much of a beach at all.  They knew; they were locals. Easily my best beach visit.

There was no teen angst, no parading of bodies, all that stuff we have come to expect.  I focused on a teen girl.  She was so passionate about what she was doing.  About seventeen, unconsciously beautiful, hair pulled back loosely into a pony tail, she kept running into the surf to load wet sand into a cooler.  At first I thought she was using wet sand as a good base for a sand building project.  Smart and experienced.  Then she used a large circular net with uneven edges and drug it in the water over and over and over.  Her work produced nothing.

She was a special needs child, just like Garrett.  Garrett did not notice her as he was in the water most of the time we were there.  He loves the waves coming in on him: the repetition of it.  But Glenn noticed her.  Parents of these children have antennae.

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Garrett loves girls.  He thinks about them a lot.  But he will not speak to peers unless spoken to.  It is just how he is.  We have had a goal of resolving this issue as long as we three have been a family, but it just is not happening. Same thing at his new facility.  He is no problem for them, but he does not initiate conversation.

We did not speak about the girl until we dropped Garrett off.  Yes, Glenn had noticed her.  But what does one do?  Start a conversation with a family leading off with “We noticed your daughter drags a big net in the water….  See our son out there letting the waves crash against him? ”

It was just a day on the beach where two special teens did not notice each other.  But in this general population, there are so few girls.  Autism with all its associated problems is such a boy’s condition.  It was hopeful as a mother to see this girl.

But that is an awful thing to say!

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LIVE TRUE

Glenn has done a lot of work for Brad and Tracy.  Actually we both have been involved in their recent home renovation.  At a counterpoint in their professions, time and effort outside of that work is finely paired, and their home is a unique expression of their movement in the world.  This is the way you are supposed to live.  Feather your nest with stuff that helps define you as a person.  Act on the stage of that theater; you will feel harmony.

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As their boy worked through scouting, they earned “advanced degrees” as well.  Their personal universe is built around the natural world, pulling symbolism from old Indian ways, to which of course the Boy Scouts is more than a little indebted.  Arrows, spirals, rays of sun play in their personal iconography.  The three images above show details of a mosaic “frieze” I did for their sun room utilizing symbols from the Boy Scouts and Indians of the Northwest.  The third detail features an abstracted portrait of the family.  The mosaic is just under the 10 foot ceiling on three walls, and little china bird collectibles found at the flea market are used in several places (I think there is one in the middle of the triangle of arrows in the third image, and top and center in the first image).

The materials used in the house as you might imagine are floor stone, lots of it, fine woods, light and dark, both as structure and as object.  Look at nature and wonder how we think we can improve upon it!  Maybe we can simply organize these wonderful raw materials to do specific jobs.   Glenn has fabricated a limb with branches to help deter rainwater from puddling in the wrong place.

Tracy's tree branch

This steel limb has maple leaves that can be twisted to usher the rainwater into a better spot.

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Above is another steel sculpture Glenn did for Brad and Tracy’s home.  It is a life sized fox and bird, with the fox heated to a reddish color and the bird towards blue.

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Recently they acquired a huge ancient pot.  More than a thousand years old, they needed a display device to secure it in a home environment.  Tracy bought a deer skin to use for cushioning material. The structure incorporates symbols of the sun and arrows used by Indians.  The arrows will contain the pot.

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Arrows keep the pot from moving sideways, and embrace its middle.  The triangular base lends stability.

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The hide covers parts of the armature that nobody wanted to see in addition to its cushioning of the pot.

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All these natural materials present a lovely almost monochrome composition which contains amazing textural variety.  They are happy, Glenn is happy.  But know what?  I am not going anywhere near that pot!

 

ALL THE RINGS

My husband made all four of our wedding rings.  One for him, three for me.  The first two he made the morning we flew off to Italy to get married in 2009.  I watched and waited.  We had been together long enough for me to know that we respond to pressure much differently.  It is amazing that he always gets stuff done on time.  Holding those work hours, I never would.

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It was a while before I realized the rings were made of welding rod.  Bronze (love turquoise).  They are simple lines that wrap around our fingers two and a half times.  The first of the four was pure experiment.  That was my Rome ring.  Where the spiral band ended between the ring finger and the two on either side was too short.  It should have gone a quarter of an inch more towards the palm side of the hand.  Then the three lines on the front would be complete.  He knew he had to change it when we got back from Rome.  He hammered it some more, the metal got too thin, and it broke.  Have no idea where it is now.  That was ring number one.

Ring number two solved the design problem.  Now the ring was, so to speak, in my hands.  That’s where trouble starts.  I am hard on things.  I try to do too much, too quickly.  Stuff gets beaten up or lost.  It really is a terrible characteristic.  Glenn is the total opposite.  When we met, he had an old cycling team uniform from age 14 in his trunk.  All beautifully embroidered.  I started using it for running in the winter and then painting interiors. Poof!  It was gone in a year.  Terrible.

Don’t know when ring number two was lost.  You see, when gardening, gloves just don’t work for me.  Nor when laying bricks, which is what I have been doing all this week.  I had been taking my ring off in the kitchen before going out to work.  Glenn noticed.  But in the early days of ring number two, I did not take care.  It was lost either in a garden or down the drain, we thought.  Oh well, we have lots of welding rod.  Glenn made ring number three.  That is the ring that was taken off and left in the kitchen last week.

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So the other day we were making the bed.  The bottom sheet was so tight that we had to pick up the mattress and bend it to get all four corners in.  Glenn picked up the mattress, and what I saw left me speechless.  Ring number two was sitting in the middle of the box spring, all alone, as if waiting for a princess to lay down and test the mattress.  My mouth opened, but nothing could come out!

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How in the hell did it get there?  Some other sheet changing time?  When we first erected the bed in the new bedroom?  Who knows.

I have chosen to wear ring number two.  Its design is slightly better.  Glenn thinks we should put number three back under the mattress, and he is right.  It feels good to have a wedding ring under where you sleep.

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HOUSTON? WE HAVE A PROBLEM

We are old, but still have a senior in high school.  In my entire life with children, this is the first time the advantage of public transportation to school could be utilized.  At first, it seemed like a miracle.   But even then, the experience was a little weird.

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Our drive is more than two-tenths of a mile, off a dirt road, and off a state highway.  The students are not allowed to stand on a two lane highway to wait for the bus, so our driver comes down the dirt road to pick Garrett up and turns around in our drive, also dirt.  My bad:  our drive is pure sand; one cannot ride a bicycle down it.  Where we live used to be the bottom of the ocean.

The driver once tried to use the circle drive accessing our three buildings and with a tight radius, with the bus.  Nightmare for a gardener.  She almost took down half of an adolescent live oak tree, and a group of bridal veils. We all decided she would pick up Garrett down by the mailbox.

We first met our driver when signing up Garrett before his junior year in high school.  She was eating her lunch at the receptionist desk in the public area of the school.  She IS the receptionist.  And she drives a bus.  And she is the manager of the bus system for the school.  Lucky, she is her own boss.  And therein lies the problem.

We went to early Thanksgiving dinner at school last week.  On the way to the cafeteria, my husband spoke to the receptionist/bus driver.  She looked down, ashamed.  She knew what was going to happen.  We are trying to figure out how she looks at her job in this middle class institution of a public school.  She goes through the motions of running a bus on a route.  But running a bus on a route is NOT the job, the picking up of students on that route and getting them safely to school is the job.  Often she will come around 15 minutes early to our stop (or a little more or a little less). Garrett not being there, she turns  around in our drive, and leaves.  We can hear her back-up warning through the woods.

Glenn has been around the block (so to speak) with her many times.  He called Garrett’s old school in Missouri and requested the bus schedule handout that all the parents get at the beginning of each school year which shows the bus route and the window of time for arrival at each stop.  They were amazed, but they sent it for Glenn to show this bus driver and manager of busses.

Cultural differences run deep.  The idea that if she is running early, that she should sit at a stop for a few minutes (who knows?  Maybe the students on that stop will have time to make the bus) so she arrives at the rest of the stops in the correct window of time is beyond her (and her boss).  We think that part of the problem down here in SC may be that rural students simply do not go to school when it is cold. That would make her early if many stops did not have to be made.  Hard to believe, but this is South Carolina.

What she said to us at the Thanksgiving lunch is that her new aide on the bus is always on time, so they always leave “early”.  Digest that statement!  OK, so no notification of any kind to let us know about the good work habits of the aide?  No, we just smoothly slide by each stop wondering (or maybe not) why there are no students waiting.

It happened again this morning, after our little talk.

 

MADELYN AND LEE IN KINLOCH

Madelyn sent me this link when all in the Ferguson diaspora looked with pain at the violent images every night.

http://www.newrepublic.com/article/119106/ferguson-missouris-complicated-history-poverty-and-racial-tension

Briefly, it says that to understand Ferguson, you have to first understand the story of Kinloch and the story of north St. Louis. As a kid without a car, north St. Louis escaped me. But I knew Kinloch. Madelyn and all her (even then) political activities took me there. It amazes me this vein of authenticity that runs through Madelyn; fifty some years after we first met, she has the same ideas about the same things she always has. She was right then, and is right now.

This was back then when “liberal” was not a bad word, and when Lyndon Johnson was creating his “Great Society”. Madelyn got involved in Head Start, a program of early education for children so that they were not behind already on their first day of kindergarten. Not surprisingly, she has taught children all her life. Madelyn and I went to the same church and we belonged to a very active youth group, much of the time guided by Madelyn’s politics. I can still see her brainstorming ideas for programs for the group. Having recently come to Florissant from some years in Japan, it was interesting to me that she suggested a program called “Youth in Asia”. Of course, she was suggesting “Euthanasia”.

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That was Madelyn. This time she was collecting old clothes for children in Kinloch, the all black suburb of St. Louis closest to where we lived. We were to drop them at the Head Start location there.

No one could believe it when Big John bought his first convertible. Conservative, but a Democrat, he was a government bureaucrat at a high level. Friends and neighbors were intermittently questioned about him by the government because he dealt in sensitive stuff. My dad was quiet. Then something remarkable happened and he bought a 1964 Buick Special convertible, black, and a big straw hat with fringe on it!

Three years later he bought a 1967 silver Buick Le Sabre convertible, like the one pictured above, and that is the car that Madelyn and I borrowed to deliver old clothes to the Head Start in Kinloch. Beautiful summer day with the top down. Dad at work.

I remember the day; the boxes in the back seat sitting on red leather, the freedom of the wind, the freedom of the car, and the freedom of the lazy summer.

When Big John got home from work that evening, he was appalled. You did WHAT? In KINLOCH? In the CONVERTIBLE? WITH THE TOP DOWN?

Madelyn and I lived in Florissant, right next to Ferguson. Florissant means “Valley of the Flowers”. Madelyn and I sure acted like valley girls that day!

Here are Madelyn’s words from just yesterday:

“Yes, Lee, I remember going to Kinloch with you in your car, and am astounded at how little I knew of the effect of my life style on others, the privileges and power we had without knowing.”

FERGUSON, MISSOURI

This small city is my husband’s home town. Who would have known it would become so famous? Figuring what you must be seeing on television, let me tell you about his Ferguson, my Ferguson. Some of that information can be gained by contrast.

The next suburb north in St. Louis County is Florissant. This is where I grew up. Kids from Florissant and Ferguson merged together in 10th grade and attended the same high school, named McCluer High School. The school gained some fame in 1967 when a small airplane hit the old gym, just as modern dance students left it to change. The pilot was killed. The school was just beyond one of the major flight patterns for Lambert Airport. That would change. It was the middle of the boomer experience and kids were everywhere. Our school was the biggest high school in the state.

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Ferguson and Florissant represented two different ways to live, and I noticed it immediately when we were looking for houses, just having come back from a stretch in Japan. Ferguson had little streets and trees everywhere. The houses on each street were mostly unique; periodically a builder would create two or three houses on one street. Glenn’s house was one of those. In that area it was hilly and there were many parks. The neighborhoods were heterogeneous looking but there were better neighborhoods, and lesser neighborhoods. There is a distinct downtown area that most could walk to. I still remember one two story house my family looked at; I was so impressed because it had an intercom system between the front door and the kitchen. There were two like it on this little street in Ferguson.

https://www.google.com/maps/place/616+Superior+Dr,+Ferguson,+MO+63135/@38.753376,-90.296,3a,90y,94h,90t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sTrz7ClcraI0CbKZ3SKAZIg!2e0!4m2!3m1!1s0x87df49e1473dc545:0x9c24a8df5ec32fd7

Glenn’s house

Unbelievably, Florissant was the higher end choice for those days. Acres and acres of farmland were scraped raw for the advent of subdivision houses rising from the mud. With each house you got two trees for the boulevard areas. One developer, Mayer Rasher Mayer (I think) developed most of the city. There was a downtown area which was more a cluster of strip stores. Not leafy like Ferguson. There was a small old part of Florissant that was older than any of the surroundings. That part of Florissant was like Ferguson.

https://www.google.com/maps/@38.797884,-90.294279,3a,75y,354.95h,89.77t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1shfKoHIR4Hn9jlLgIoTAjMg!2e0

My house

Florissant in the summer was as hot as you could imagine with those two toddler trees and cement streets. The sounds of all the air-conditioners made it seem the houses would fairly take off! We rode bikes or walked to friend’s houses in all that heat, counting blocks and streets with names of horses. You would see the same “model” house over and over again. That interested me for some reason; I would never live in a place like that again, although I knew no different.

Florissant had a park and a public pool, tennis courts and an A and W root beer stand, but it was too far for us to walk there. Ferguson, on the other hand, had the magnificent January Wabash Park where there was a pool and a bandshell and the old red brick Ferguson High School, to be turned into the junior high for Ferguson when McCluer was built. It also had a little lake where people fished. In the winter, the little lake froze and we ice skated. Nothing like that in Florissant. At January Wabash lake we spent much time during the Brownie years learning about nature. I remember seeing my first coiled up frog eggs on the edge of the lake. I remember one winter in ninth grade in my cheerleading get-up, crowding around a fire for warmth and then scandalizing myself because I smelled like smoke after.

During the summer of the Watts riots–there were black suburbs near us, everyone stayed calm.

The father of my life-long friend was the superintendent of schools for the Ferguson-Florissant R-2 School District. He came here about three years ago, and we spoke of the integration of the school district. This happened just after we were off to college. Dr. Brown said to the board “Give me a year for this”, and the board did. The integration was accomplished without drama.

Last summer we went back for a fifty year celebration of the opening of McCluer High School. These two suburbs are majority black now, but in riding by the houses, all looked neat and clean. So did the park, the tennis courts where Glenn and I first met; sadly the A and W is not anymore.

My heart is broken with Ferguson being in the news like this. And Florissant has its own problems. Turns out all those space-age houses were built upon a cesspool of a creek called Coldwater. And we have ourselves a huge cancer cluster there.

A PERFECT READ

Were you ever so involved in a couple of books to the point that your own reality seemed dull and uninspiring? That you could not wait to lay back into those pages whenever you had the chance? In a place like that now, I must recommend my current obsession.
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Worried about climate change and the fact that most are not paying any attention to it, I was alerted to a great book by an NPR interview with Jerad Diamond, a professor of geography. He won the Pulitzer Prize for his book “Guns. Germs, and Steel”, but I’m reading now his work “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed”. He tackles and explains huge climate and societal problems in common language. His title says it all. Societies may be new to an area via colonization, and the imported old ways do not work in the new lands. Religions may make a solution impossible for a certain society. Skills in dealing with the land and climate may not be known by colonizing peoples. Probably the most dramatic example in his book is the old society on the Easter Islands, and their sculptural solution to a problem that needed addressing in a way other than making art. But could they choose another path with the techniques and knowledge they had?

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Diamond even looks at our American Montana and problems with water there. It makes one wonder why on earth folks wanted an area without much rainfall to be farms. But it happened, and we (they) have to deal with it. By far my favorite discussion in the book is about Medieval Greenland and the Norse. They lived as colonists for some 450 years, and then were gone. The experiment was unsuccessful. What interests me is what the people thought when realizing that their grandfathers had horses they could feed, that there was plenty of meat for the winter, and vast numbers of seals in the fiords.

Thought of a book, half-read, by Jane Smiley, dated 1988. Read part of it last summer and something from Diamond’s narrative made me get that book out again. She has a huge interest in the Middle Ages and the Norse, and this monumental and difficult book was years in the writing.

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Illustrations (photos) from the Diamond book picture the farms on which the drama occurs in the Smiley book. Going back between the two, the stories are confirmed. They represent two ways to tell the same story: the reporter’s way and the dramatist’s way.

Of course Smiley’s way is the more difficult. The following review attends that issue far better than I am able.

http://www.nytimes.com/books/98/04/05/specials/smiley-greenlanders.html

Know this sounds strange, but I could not find a date of publication on my paperback copy of Diamond’s book. And in reading “The Greenlanders”, I was sure that Smiley’s hat would be tipped to Diamond for his research. But “Collapse” was written in 2005! Amazing interface.