From “Bow Toe” To Healed Foot


Kitty and Anne out my studio window.

Jon and I got back from his foot surgeon this morning and both took a nap.  It was good news his foot is basically healed.  Just another couple of months of putting Vitamin E on the scar and a visit in July.

We looked at each other after waking up and Jon said, “This is a big deal.  We should celebrate.”

He’s right, this thing with his foot has been going on for over three years and now the problem is resolved.  He no longer has a toe on his left foot, but it has turned out that it being gone is better than it being there.

There is still more to do to help his foot like getting a new brace so he can walk comfortably.  But the worry of infection in his toe is gone.  And I don’t have to wonder every morning when I put vitamin E on his foot if it is healing or not.

That’s a big relief.

It’s no wonder we’re both tired.  We can finally let our guard down about this particular thing. It might take a bit of a transition to truly believe it.  But that will come with time.  And maybe some more healing sleep.

Jon’s “Bow Toe” All Healed

Jon at the Kickstarter Cafe for breakfast this morning

Jon’s foot is healing wonderfully.  His surgeon gave him the ok to wear his regular shoe again.  No more worrying about infection and soon Jon will get a new brace and be walking whenever and where ever he wants to again.

Today was the first time I didn’t take my sketch pad out in the waiting room and do a drawing. I’m not sure why, I think I was just enjoying the anticipation of it being over.

It’s been a few years coming. We celebrated this morning when we went out to breakfast, both of us feeling lighter than we have in some time.

Tomorrow Jon will have another surgery.  This time for a kidney stone.  It will be an easier surgery than the last although he has little information on what the recovery will be like.  But with the success of his foot surgery, we’re both feeling optimistic.

I will bring my sketch pad to the surgery center tomorrow.  When I’m waiting for something, my energy is best spent either cleaning, walking, or drawing.  Tomorrow I’ll be drawing.

Bow Toe

Jon taking a picture in the barnyard this morning

We were ready.

The past couple of days the bandage on Jon’s foot has been slipping off.  This morning  I used up the last of the gauze bandages and tape to bandage his foot again.

I have to admit I like doing it.

There’s something very sculptural about wrapping the gauze at just the right angle to make it form to Jon’s foot, then doing the same with that tape that sticks to itself.  I even liked looking at the stitches.  Those little knotted threads make a tidy package.

Jon even put a regular pair of shoes on this morning, instead of his surgical boot,  when he went out into the barnyard to take pictures of the mist.  We told each other the bandages kept coming off because his foot had had enough of bandages.  Today the stitches were coming out and soon Jon would be able to walk around without the surgical boot, take a shower, stop worrying about the foot getting infected and start getting back to normal.

We were both excited at the idea of it all.  We got up early and had breakfast on the way to his doctors at one of those new coffee cafe’s run by young men and decorated with motorcycles and houseplants.

Once we got to the doctor’s office, Dr Daly looked at Jon’s foot and declared it healing well. Then told us we should make an appointment to get the stitches out next week.

We were told the stitches would be in for three weeks and we were certain Jon had had his surgery three weeks ago. “Really? we said looking at each other incredulous  “It’s only been two weeks?”

Yeah, we were disappointed, but not really surprised.  We’ve been doing this thing with his toe for over two years.  And we often got it wrong thinking his toe was getting better when it wasn’t.

On the way home I stocked up on bandages, tape and antibiotic ointment.  I know that bandage won’t stay on Jon’s foot for another week.   But we do know his foot is healing well and next week, the bandages should be coming out.

When Jon had his surgery to amplutate his toe I did a drawing of his foot with a flower where his toe used to be. This time I  got creative with the stitches and gave him a Bow Toe.

Fate’s Foot

Fate and her bandaged foot

I am surprised every morning and afternoon, since Fate cut her foot on Friday, that she willingly goes into her crate instead of out to feed the animals with me.

All it takes is a little treat and me saying “Fate Crate”.  I lower the blanket over the door and like a bird she only makes a peep or two before settling down.

I’m trying to keep her from running so the cut on the pad of her rear foot will heal.  I’ve doused it in peroxide and antibiotic ointment and put a bandage on it.  She’s been taking that bandage off until I got the idea to wrap it above what I think of as her elbow.  That holds it in place and now Fate’s being good about not fussing with it.

Maybe she knows it for the best.

I do miss having her with me in the barnyard and on my walks.  I feel bad leaving her behind, but her foot won’t heal unless I do.  I’m trying not to let my feeling get in the way of her healing.

So for now, it’s me and Zinnia feeding the animals (actually Zinnia does more eating than helping with the feeding) and taking walks in the woods.  But I know soon it will be the three of us again.

Zinnia on one of our walks without Fate

Zip’s Barn

I moved Zip’s food bowl from inside his crate onto the hay bales.  The crate is on the floor and it’s too easy for Zinnia or Fate to gobble up his food before Zip can get to it.

This is where I used to feed Minnie.

Anyway, since we let him out this morning I haven’t seen Zip in his crate except to eat.  He has been sitting guard at the barn door for most of the day.  And I imagine he’s found a new place to do his business beside the kitty litter box.

He got out some too.  Jon saw him chase on of the hens.  But when the hen stopped running he lost interest.  He came out to see the donkeys, but when Lulu stomped her foot he ran back in the barn.

At feeding time he walked right up to Zinnia and rubbed his head on Zinnia’s nose.  Zinnia just stood there. I think she’s getting used to him.

A Paper Mache Day With Emily

Emily with the form for her paper mache grapes.

I pulled the three-foot roll of chickenwire out of the trunk of my car and slung the tote bag with the wire cutters and fabric, cheese and apple sauce over my shoulder.

I was struck by a flash of memory, of going to another friend’s house and making art.

It was one of those conglomerate memories sparked by the sight of the wire hexagons and the phantom smell of wheat paste.

Even thirty years ago I was making trees.  This one, thick and clunky compared to Kathy’s delicate life-sized paper mache party dress. Somehow she made it look as if it were made of lace.

Later, after I’d moved upstate, we’d have weekends of quilt making at her house.  One time we unraveled a yellow knitted baby dress, crocheted it over two teacups and entered it in a juried art show.  It was a friendship born of art and lasted until we both changed so much, there was little left between us. Something we both agreed on as we each went our own way.

I was brought back to the present when Emily called a “hello” from inside the house.  She could see me walking up the path to her front door.

The house was filled with the smell of freshly baked bread.  Two loaves were cooling on a cutting board on the kitchen counter.

Then I got sidetracked looking at the nursery of small succulents on the windowsill.

There were tiny clay pots with thick leaves sprouting roots and smaller leaves.  Cuttings stuck in gravely soil, and “babies”  recently separated from the mother plant, all on the kitchen window.  In Emily’s studio, there were bigger succulents, the Orchids were in the dining room.

After that, we got to work outside on the deck, a view of the Vermont mountains through Quince and Pear trees in the yard.  Emily cutting and shaping cardboard and masking tape into small vegetables and fruit.  Me clipping chicken wire and molding it into the lamp I’ve drawn a hundred times.

We talked, as we worked, about the past week.  All the things we usually tell each other in our Zoom Studio Chats. It felt good to be using my hands to mold the chicken wire pinching and pushing it, pulling it, and twisting the ends to hold things together.

We went back and forth over how to make the lampshade stay on my lamp.  And Emily suggested I fill my lamp with aluminum foil to make it stronger and heavier so it wouldn’t fall over.

My lamp armature filled with foil

We had lunch around noon. Emily’s bread with cheese, vegetables and homemade bean dip.  Brownies and strong black tea for dessert.

Then Emily mixed flour, water, and a little bit of glue in a bowl.  We had already torn the paper into strips.  I dipped the first piece in and without thinking ran it between my ring and middle finger squeezing the excess paste back into the bowl.  It all came back to me as I smoothed the strips of paper around the chicken wire.

When I was done, there was nothing smooth about my lamp.  Also, without the lampshade,  it seemed to have turned into one of my dancing goddesses. But that wasn’t so unusual,  my lamps often took on a female form.

Maybe it came out of Emily’s and my discussion about Bellydancing,  how so many of our dance moves look like images from my Ancient Goddess Book.

Emily’s drying veggies and fruits

Our drying sculptures, placed on parchment paper, only suggested what we had in mind for them.  Emily’s peach, carrot, beet and grapes, looked like glazed crullers, good enough to eat.  And my dancing lamp was so much bigger than I intended it to be.

There’s still much to be done.

First, the paper mache has to completely dry, then Emily will paint her’s with gesso and later add color and some of her college eyes that she’s known for.

I’m planning on using matte medium and fabric on my lamp and shade.  Kind of painting it with fabric, the same way I’ve done in my fabric paintings.

My Lamp so far.  It’s still drying.

Although it hadn’t occurred to me, Emily wasn’t surprised when my lamp turned out bigger than I’d planned.  “It’s hard to make something small with chicken wire,” she said. “There’s all those big spaces.” She suggested I mold aluminum foil and cover it with masking tape if I wanted to make something smaller.

I’m still thinking about that. It hadn’t crossed my mind to use anything other than chickenwire, even when  Emily told me she was using cardboard and tape.  I couldn’t imagine it.

Although now, after crumpling the foil to fit inside my lamp, I can imagine shaping it into a smaller lamp.  And maybe even making a little end table to put it on.

But that will have to wait till I finish my first lamp. Big and bulky as she is, I have more to learn from her.

The Aquarium In The Mall


Me in the middle of a circular fish tank at the Aquarium.

“Do you want to go to the Aquarium in Schenectady?” Jackie texted me.  “We can feed the stingrays.”  Definitely! I wrote back. We made quick plans for the weekend, meeting up in the parking lot of the Saratoga Mall where we both worked together over 20 years ago.

From there we drove 45 minutes to the Rotterdam Mall, home of the VIA Aquarium.  The mall felt dead, but the Aquarium was very much alive. I don’t think it’s big enough for most people to spend two hours in, but Jackie and I did.

First thing we did was make our way to the touch pool to feed and pet the stingrays. We paid extra for this opportunity and each received a small paper cup with raw fish cut into strips.  The woman who gave them to us told us to hold the fish between our fingers and put our flat hand into the pool up to our elbows.

I didn’t know what to expect, but within moments of reaching my hand into the water, a silvery gray stingray swam up to me and pressed its wide mouth to my hand.  It was a soft gentle suction that wrapped around my hand and pulled the piece of fish into its mouth.  Unlike the chickens who peck at my hand or the donkeys who grab a treat with their teeth, neither making much physical contact, the stingray’s soft mouth was like a silky handshake.

I let my hand trail along the stingray’s back and tail as it swam away.

Later, because of my experience with the stingray, when we walked through the plexiglass tunnel and watched the three-foot-long sharks swim over our heads, I had a sense that I knew what their skin felt like. I guess because their skin looks so much like the stingray’s skin. And that changed how I experienced the sharks. Because now I wasn’t just about seeing and reading about them, I had a new sense to add to the equation.

I think of places like the VIA Aquarium as the sideshow.  The Main event being a place like the Boston Aquarium, that Jon and visited a few years ago. And as much as I love a big expensive flashy aquarium, I also loved this small and quirky aquarium.

Maybe because I didn’t expect much from an aquarium that’s located in a dying mall and so was pleasantly surprised.  But it’s also that these sideshows, whether an aquarium, museum, or park are always less crowded and more intimate. There’s no reason to rush through because there’s less to see, so you can take more time with what is there.

I have no doubt that Jackie and I spent more time watching the lobsters (there were three different kinds) and took more time to find the snails in each tank than we would have if there had been more fish tanks or an octopus at the aquarium

We were both hungry after looking at all the fish, so we walked through the mostly deserted mall to the very spare food court and had surprisingly good falafel.

Sometimes less really is more.

Jackie wrote about our trip to the Aquarium and posted some really nice pictures on her blog creativejourneywoman.  Just click here to see it.


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.

Full Moon Fiber Art