Pearl’s Adventure and My New Rabbit Snails

Pearl eating an algae pellet

Remember last week when I posted a video of my Mystery Snails Pearl and Socrates mating?  Well, Saturday morning I found Pearl, all pulled up in her shell on the floor under the fish tank.

Mystery Snails lay their eggs outside the water.  I’ve read that if you don’t fill the tank to the top they will lay their eggs there.  But even though we did that, Pearl apparently left the tank to lay her eggs.  I knew she was in the tank when I went to bed the night before but wasn’t sure how long she’d been out of the water.

A Mystery Snail can stay out of water for days as long as they stay moist because they breathe air.  But, especially this time of year, with the woodstoves going, our house is very dry.

Still, I picked Pearl up and put her back in the tank hoping for the best.

Then Jon and I met our friend Jackie at Benson’s Fish Room.  It’s a specialty Fish Shop with exotic fish, shrimp and some snails that I’d never seen before.

We just went to look but came home with a few Rainbowfish, a pink plant that grows lilypads and two Rabbit Snails.

I don’t know anything about Rabbit Snails, so far, except what I’ve observed.

They aren’t as elegant as Mystery Snails or Nerite snails and move much slower.  Their bodies are long and their “foot” small which makes it look like they have a hard time pulling that long shell around.  But it’s interesting to watch them, and I’m looking forward to learning more about them (which I’ll be sure to share with you all).

As soon as we got home I looked in the tank and there was Pearl, sliding up the wall eating algae.  I’m sure she laid her eggs outside the tank because she no longer seems interested in leaving it.  I was very glad to see her alive and well and also glad that we won’t have hundreds of baby Mystery Snails hatching in the fish tank.

(Below is a timelapse video of one of my new Rabbit Snails.  You can see how different they are from the other snails I have.)

Framing Sue’s Paintings For The Mansion

Framing Sue Silverstein paintings for the Mansion.

My footsteps echoed down the long brightly lit hallway, toward the double green doors, a back way into the Mall.  I dreaded the that walk and for the first year of so of working in the frame shop that the doors led to, thought of it as The Green Mile, like in the Stephen King book about death row.

Dramatic yes, but it also made me feel better, made me laugh at myself.

I had moved upstate from Long Island where I had been working in a Museum.  It was my dream job.  I did everything from picking up art from artist’s studios in Soho (it was the early 90’s and artists still lived in Soho) to installing it in the museum and creating catalogues for the exhibits.

Working in a frame shop in a  Mall, selling prints of Race Horses, was tough on my sense of self, but it was the only job I could find that suited me.

And as much as I dreaded the thought of it, I did learn useful skills beyond framing pictures.

Tricks like keeping your elbow locked when cutting or drawing a straight line. I learned  to measure accurately down to the 16th of an inch.   And about colors and how they change depending on what color they were next to.  (something I didn’t learn in art school). I also learned how to suggest good designs  to people and guide them away from their bad designs without pissing them off.

After a while I began to enjoy the work.  I was good at it.  Even, surprisingly to me,  the sales part. And the shop was busy enough that there was always something to do and  something new to learn.

So when Jon came home with eight  paintings that Sue Silverstein, from Bishop Maginn Catholic School, was donating to hang in The Mansion, Assisted Living Facility, I knew I could frame them and do it inexpensively.

I measured Sue’s paintings then ordered frames and mats from a company online, foam core from Amazon and glass from the local hardware store.

Today I put them all together, the old skills coming back to me as I began working.  My hands just knew what to do.

It’s lots of good hard work on Jon’s part that makes things like this come together, and  it feels like a  little magic, too.

Something about Jon working with the young and the old and how they’re overlapping.  That Sue had a feeling her paintings would be just right for The Mansion and wanted to donate them. How I got to be a part of it all by knowing how to frame them.  And how once again, the Army of Good was there to pay for the materials.

Jon and I are bringing Sue’s framed paintings to  The Mansion tomorrow. We’ll work with the staff to see where they go best.  It’ll be fun, like curating a show.  Then we’ll just have to get Sue there to see them all.

 

There Will Always Be Another Mary Oliver Poem

I don’t remember when or how I first heard about the poet Mary Oliver.

I do remember sitting in my friend Kathy’s house on Long Island, reading one of her poems out loud and crying.  Kathy had given me the book for my birthday.  That was in the early 1990’s and over the years we would exchange her poetry books on birthdays and holidays.

Back then, Mary Oliver’s poems spoke to the loneliness and longing in me.  They touched the hidden part of myself, that I didn’t even know was there. They reminded me of what and who I wanted to be, but didn’t have to courage or awareness to realize.

Two weeks ago, driving home from my Bellydancing class, I called Jon and he told me that Mary Oliver had died.

I thought how I didn’t know Mary Oliver, the person, but that I knew her poems.  And I’ll have them no matter where she happens to be, in this world or another.   I thought the she lived a good, creative  and long life.  I thought that her death really wouldn’t affect my life.

But still I cried.

Mary Oliver’s poems have been a part of my life for such a long time.  And I’ve grown with them.

I no longer feel the “…loneliness and its consequences: longing and hope”  from  her poem “The Snow Cricket”.

And though  the sense of wanting to belong, wanting to be loved for who I am,is not as desperate as it used to be, it still pulls at me when I read “Wild Geese.

“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves”

But I did eventually “reach for the latch” put on my coat and leave my desk,  As Mary Oliver commands in her poem “Have You Ever Tried to Enter the Long Black Branches.

“To put one’s foot into the door of the grass, which is
the mystery, which is death as well as life, and
not be afraid!”

I was afraid, but I did it anyway.

I  found the courage to “let the immeasurable come.  Let the unknowable touch the buckle of my spine.”  as Mary Oliver pronounces inLittle Summer Poem Touching the Subject of Faith.” 

But her poems didn’t just touch me when I was reading them.  They entered my everyday life.

Every time I pick flowers from the garden,  put them in a vase and “let them take their own choice of position” There is Mary Oliver’s  poem “Freshen the Flowers, She Said.

When I walk in the woods I am reminded that walking and observing was her work and it is a part of my work too.

When I got home from Bellydancing that night,  Jon and I lit a candle and read our favorite Mary Oliver poems to each other.   For me, it was like taking a walk thought my life.  And when I got to “Mornings At Blackwater”,  I cried, as I still always do when I read it.

This was the poem of transition for me.  The one that speaks directly to my awakening.  And the actions that I took and continue to take to evolve into the person I truly am.

“So come to the pond,
or the river of your imagination,
or the harbor of your longing,

and put your lips to the world.
And live
Your life.”

I went to the harbor of my longing and continue to go the river of my imagination and I’m finally living my life.

Mary Oliver’s words are as alive to me as they ever were.  I can go back to her books that I’m sure I’ve read from cover to cover, even more than once, and discover a poem as if I’ve never heard it before.  And there are many I have never read.  Mary Oliver gave us enough words, ideas, observations and feelings to fill infinite lifetimes.

That night, as I was looking  for the poems I wanted to read to Jon, I came upon one that spoke directly to who and where I am now.

If I ever read it before I guess it wasn’t at the right time for me to hear it, because I didn’t remember it.   It’s called When I Am Among The Trees.  And it makes me believe that there will always be another Mary Oliver poem for me.

When I Am Among The Trees   By Mary Oliver

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks, and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.

I would almost say that they save me, and daily.
I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.
Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”

The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It’s simple,”
they say, “and you, too, have come
into the world to do this, to go easy,
to be filled with light, and to shine.

Getting Back to Work

My Studio yesterday with everything from the Open House Moved out.
My Studio yesterday with everything from the Open House Moved out.

It takes me two weeks to prepare and clean up from the Open Houses.  On Wednesday I started to feel strange, like I had been away from my work for too long.  It was a mix of neurotic worrying that I might not be able to work again and a feeling of not being grounded.

I need to do my work.  It’s a source of my identity and internal  stability.  It’s what I do.

Just a few minutes ago I plugged my foot pedal into my sewing machine and before closing the door for the day, I looked around my studio.  It’s all ready for me to come to work on Tuesday morning.  I thanked it, put my hands to my heart and bowed slightly.

It feels like my world is right again.

My studio after I brought all the furniture and boxes and bags back into it from the house.
My Studio after I brought all the furniture and boxes and bags back into it from the house.
What my studio looked like when I left it a little while ago.
What my Studio looked like when I left it a little while ago.

 

 

Dancing with Chloe

Eli, me and Chloe
Eli, me and Chloe

It’s like a dance, Eli told me.

I like to dance.  As long as I can do what ever I want.  I’m not  good at dancing when I have to follow what someone else is doing or telling me to do.  I even have a hard time with the Hokey Pokey.  All that left and right stuff.  I still have to think about which hand or foot is my right or left.

I  do have a trick though. I sucked my thumb until I was about 10 years old.  I know I sucked my right thumb.  When someone says to me “go right” I think of the thumb I used to suck and know which way is right and that the other is left.  But those extra moments it takes to figure that out, slows everything down.  I might actually miss the turn or go the wrong way because of it.  Or, god forbid, put my left foot in, instead of my right.

It made sense to me when Eli said that riding a horse is like a dance.  In my mind, but in my body even more. Yesterday was the first time I rode Chloe, but it didn’t feel like the first time.  Some of the things Eli was asking me to do felt like the first time, awkward  and a little uncomfortable.  I felt like my feet were flailing around.  Press with your right leg into her side,  she said at one point,  but don’t keep the pressure on.  Press then let go, press then let go.  Sounds easy right?  But for some reason it wasn’t .  It’s just not a movement my legs are used to making especially while sitting on a pony.

But I love the idea that our slightest movements are connected.  When I was leaning in my saddle, thinking it would make Chloe go in that direction, she did just the opposite.  She wasn’t being contrary, but thinking I was falling off the saddle, she was compensating.  And it seems like magic to me that just by turning my shoulders in the direction I want to go, Chloe will go there.  (turn from waist, not your whole body, Eli said, like a Barbie doll).  And when Chloe wanted to walk around the other side of the cone, because it was mud and not snow, I was glad she was as small as she is, as I tried to make her go where I wanted her to go instead of where she wanted to go.

Shoulders down, elbows at waist, just the right amount of pressure on the reins, settled in my seat, shoulders leading the way, legs putting the right amount of pressure or not, small toe aligned with the edge of the stirrup and I’m sure some other things I’m forgetting.  It’s a lot to remember and do at the same time. And someday, I’ll actually be able to do all these things.  It seemed almost impossible yesterday, but I know from experience that it will just take practice.  Doing it again and again.

I get all soft inside, thinking of what it will feel like to be aware of the different parts of my body each doing their own thing.   Clear and subtle shifts in my fingers and legs and shoulders that tell Chloe where I want to go and how fast, and her responding.  A place where the words “left’ and “right” have no meaning between us.   My legs moving with the rhythm of her legs.  Walking as one.

Eli said in the beginning I have to be the leader then, after time, we’ll become partners.  This is not just about Chloe learning that I’m the leader, it’s about me learning that I’m the leader.  Something I’ve always been reluctant to be.  But I guess it time to face up to that fear of mine.  I’m going to have to if I want this to work.  And I do want it to work.  I want to revisit that ancient dance between human and horse.  A dance that will bring me closer to nature and to myself.

Gone

Gone
“Gone”

Stuff from my past has been coming up.  I think it’s partly because of the up coming holidays (the holidays always throw me off balance) and partly because of the Yoga Nidra classes I’ve been taking for the past three weeks.  Yoga Nidra is a meditation practice that puts you into that place between waking and sleeping.  It’s purpose (as described in the class I’m taking) is to help find that peaceful and intuitive place inside of us that we can always go to no matter what is happening in the world around us.  It’s our safe place.  I was originally interested in Yoga Nidra as a creative tool.  I know that is  also can put me in a state of mind were  visions and words occur seeming apart from me.  That’s the creative part I was looking for.

But  I think what’s happened in my last three classes is that old issues in my life are coming up.  It’s kind of like dredging. So last week was a difficult one for me.  I was hyper-sensitive and feeling really vulnerable and paranoid.  (It was no fun for Jon either, as you might imagine).   But through talking about it and understanding what is going on, I’ve been coming out of it and to a better place.  So today, when I was going for a massage, Mandy suggested she just do energy work instead of massage. (usually she does a little of each).

What a good decision that was.  During the healing, I had many visions come to me, (including my dead father walking up the stairs to the office then floating off into nothingness).  At times I could feel my body vibrate, other times parts of me were really  heavy and dense feeling.  Towards the end, I saw a piece of dark plaid fabric over my stomach.  I cut it with a shears and it vanished,  replaced by a black bowl filled with nuts and grain.  Finally Mandy laid her hand just below my neck by my clavicle and everything turned gold then that space in me and just below it, where my heart is, filled with a glowing white crystal-like shine.

Feeling so much lighter and grounded, I’ve still been in a bit of a fog all day.  In my studio, I came up with a poem (which describes some of the visions I had)  and this piece I call Gone.  It’s made out of hankies and linens, marker and thread.  It’s as close as I can come to what I’ve been feeling today.

Gone

A trail of dead leaves
footsteps to myself

A black bowl of nuts and grain

Fingers that hold a
glint of the sun

A donkey on the
Path to Glory

I held the scissors
and cut the cloth
Meaning sliding out in
front of me

Why is not the question

I closed the doors behind me
gone with each one.

Detail from "Gone"
Detail from “Gone”
Full Moon Fiber Art