late winter break

Whenever I have the time to write, I swear I have nothing to write about.  It is when I have a dozen other things, when I have to ignore something very important that inspiration hits.  I am also pretty good at working up to a deadline, missing it by a day or so, and laboring as if all hell will break loose if I don’t do as I promised. This seems to me an undesirable lack of moderation, of discipline, of getting into that Buddha inspired journey of the middle way.

But this was not what I sat down to write about.

Quick summary:  We are in an okay place.

Julia had the week off—never sure if it is late winter break or first spring break.  My plans for the week were to do what needed to be done and meet with those needing meetings especially therapies at the beginning of the week and then go somewhere—we settled on Salem where Julia has her eye on a few punk/goth stores—for Friday and Saturday. And if we were having a good time, staying until Sunday.  

Big however!

By Tuesday, snow was predicted for Friday and Saturday.  It was too late to rearrange Wednesday and Thursday plans to reverse the week, and I was in scramble mode for Friday and Saturday.  I had nothing at home planned.

And the snow came.   

Cold, damp, icy walking anywhere just did not appeal to either of us.  From what I know of Salem after two visits, it is a charming place to walk around but almost impossible to park close to anywhere you want to go. 

So, Salem was out. 

Deb, Julia’s artist mentor, offered to have us to her studio a second time in the week.  We took her up on the offer on Saturday and had a third most fruitful visit with her.  And this was the big deal of the week!

For months, 6 if anyone is counting, we have visited Deb Putnoi (check out her website!  She is rather splendid.) at her studio and Julia has done some art.  Most visits, Julia brought her own sketch book and pencils, spent an hour drawing some anime figure, ignored everything that Deb said to her, sometimes could be quite rude to any suggestion made to her, and refused to use any medium other than her pencils. The studio time progressed to kinda’, sorta’ parallel “play”—that is, both Deb and Julia drawing quietly together at a table.  Eventually Deb tempted Julia with a plastic tub full of mechanical pencils and some very interesting paper. Julia loves to “steal” art supplies always reminding me of one of my favorites authors, Anzia Yezierska, or take whatever is offered to her even if she has ample amounts of the same things at home.  

We didn’t seem to be moving from this parallel play model for a long time.  I think it was frustrating for Deb, and I began to doubt my intention to continue until Julia and Deb built some working relationship.  In January, Deb and I met and talked and made a new plan. 

I took an online art class with Deb last fall and I’ve been playing with some materials since then. Our new plan was that I would join into Julia’s studio time doing some project that Deb set up for me/us.  Deb would teach me something and make many comments on what I was doing, and we would see how Julia would react. 

The very first week of the new regime didn’t change much of Julia behavior, still in parallel art mode, but the next week, Deb had set up painting supplies for both Julia and I, with some broad instructions.  And Julia, who has never taken up Deb’s suggestion to do something other than her standard drawing, did not even open her sketchbook.  She started painting. In all fairness, I will say that Deb set up a still life for us to copy some part of and Julia painted a nonrepresentational piece, but it was painting. Come to think of it, it was also not anime.

So, this might seem like such a small step.  It is a small step, but on the other hand or foot or any other body part, it was a giant leap for Julia!  

I don’t know where to put this seemingly unrelated, but essential to Julia fact, Deb’s husband makes (and sells) candy.  I guess it is since Thanksgiving that we have often been hit with the sweet smell of candy making as we enter the studio. Rick has treated Julia to candy whenever he is working and has also invited her to come into his kitchen work area often. Like the icing on a cake, the lure of candy plus a fabulous art studio has pushed Julia into relationship and work. 

In the last three weeks, she has asked me for felting supplies and has a felting project going at home (something much more difficult than her experience would suggest) and she asked to buy paints to use at home.  This morning she noticed that I bought white eggs yesterday and asked about making pysanky which up to now she has done a bit of every year but clearly as a favor to me.

Last Saturday, Deb set up her most instruction-filled activity for us to do. Julia and I each had a small canvas, paints and brushes at our places.  We were instructed to make a mark, defined very loosely, and then pass it to the other to respond in marks.  Julia picked up a brush, mixed some paints together and made a check mark type mark and then willingly passed her canvas to me and I took hers.  I was rather astonished at her willingness to share her work product, to follow the direction and to keep at it for over an hour.  

And if that was not enough to report today, we were at the Museum of Science last Monday.  They have a Theater of Electricity that hosts a Lightening Show every day.  We’ve visited the museum a number of times before we moved and since then, they had very reliable Covid policies making visits possible, but since the first time we were there, Julia never wanted to watch the Lightning Show with its big sounds and very cool and somewhat terrifying electrical displays. Julia has always been morbidly afraid of the sounds and lights of storms. Last week, she wanted to see the. show.  We sat in an area behind glass where I knew the sound would be a little muffled and Julia asked for ear plugs.  And then she enjoyed the show.  

And although I am dying to extend this line of progress far beyond what I can see right now, I will not. Instead, I will be content with living with my daughter with whom I can paint and watch lightning shows.

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