On the First Day of Summer

My sister Mary died on the Summer Solstice, June 21, 2018.  I’m not ready to write about it yet, but I came across a phrase in some Facebook post this morning that lead me directly here, with a need to start sharing the wealth and sorrows leading up to this summer that began in death.

Until I find my own words, I’d like to share some of Mary Oliver’s.  This is one of the poems read at her memorial service:

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
—Mary Oliver

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New obsessions

Aside

Among the many wonderful contributions technology has made, I count Pandora Radio. Take a moment or two to plug in your favorite bands or singers and writers, and voila, a personalized radio station on the computer/. I’m been listening a lot lately while I learning to quilt.

This is all a result of my annual pilgrimage to Mary’s House, where every surface and wall space if heavy with dolls in handmade dresses, and quilts, doll to miniature size. Exquisite quilts and dolls that range from (imho) strange to heart breaking in their beauty and grace. Her girls are obviously loved (right Marlana?)

For years now Mary has been encouraging me to try quilting.

I’ve held out until now. My knitting horizons have expanded to greatly with lace and the socks I’m working on (my car knitting), but I wanted a new passion to switch off with. I’m a mere beginner, but I have access to expert technical and artistic advise and a love for fabric, color, and patterns,
I see a bed quilt or ten in my future…

Distractions and Comforts

I’ve mentioned my recent “addiction” to Farmville and now Frontierville on Facebook.

While I’ve always been able to lose myself in solitaire-type computer games, the accumulating and building games never attracted me. I suppose it was only a matter of time.

I spend a lot of time of on the computer, working, playing, distracting myself from a variety of difficult issues, and providing comfort to myself in times of pain (physical and otherwise). So I was used to using the computer in those ways.

But there is a strange and mesmerizing state I attain playing these two simple games. I finally identified it as an old old friend. It’s like playing dolls, or playing house.

My sister and I played dolls, played house, store, bank, dolls, school, dolls, cowboys and indians, dolls, cops and robbers, dolls, and more dolls. We were creative and clever, and we escaped completely from the mundane world.

Sitting in front of the computer, arranging my fields, harvesting my apples and fields of flowers or colorful produce, fending off rather tame bears and foxes, I can recapture that much desired escape.

For those minutes or hours, I am a little girl again, playing away the blues or the mean reds, safe and sound, building my little farm or village. Still believing the future will be molded as easily and as much to my own tastes.

A powerful lure, indeed. If I can only get it all arranged ‘just so” everything will be all right.

Who knows, maybe I’m right.

See you around the farm, pardner.

Rewards

I started walking when I got home from vacation.

It’s all Mary’s fault, of course.

She can walk like nobody’s business — she does a quick 2 miles most mornings, in about half an hour. It seems like I spent most of my life running  behind her, trying to catch up.  Ah, a younger sister’s lot.

But she walks, even bounces along, all day — an energizer bunny — who has a wonderful time with her life. I envied her ease of movement and her stamina, and much like in my younger years, wanted to be just like Mary.

Thus, I came home and started walking.  The catch is, walking hurts. A lot.  But each evening I’ve done a slow circuit of the local flat park, which happens to have a lovely river view. There are several spots where one can rest and watch the French Broad River flow its slow and secret way north (yup, north — the third oldest river in the world flows northward through the mountains and then down through several convoluted mergings to the Gulf of Mexico).

Tonight (night 3) I got my reward. Two great blue herons and two friends.

About three-quarters of the way around, I glanced at the water to my left and saw the heron lurking on the far bank. It stalked along the bank with its ungainly dignity and measured stride.  Naturally I crossed to the nearest viewing deck and leaned on the railing to watch it. Two friends unexpectedly joined me — just as I was yearning to share this sweet moment.

As we watched and chatted, a second heron flew in to join the first. They squabbled a bit, then took flight for a quick circuit of the river…soaring off from there with flashing wings. One’s flight path low, so it’s wingtips broke the surface on each beat, leaving wingprints on the sliding dark of evening waters.

So, I’m thinking I’ll walk again tomorrow evening, and probably the night after that, too.

P.S. These lovely photos are stock ones from the web — I only wish I could take shots this nice!

Home Again. . .Soon

I’m back — sort of. I never do transitions well.

I had a wonderful vacation and an easy trip home, but I’m still not completely back in my life, not completely in the present. Parts of me are definitely still on vacation.

There’s always so much to catch up on, and so much to share. I get caught up in the unpacking and clothes washing, cat petting and storytelling, but all the while some place inside is still rolling down the highway, still on the way home.

As soon as I’m completely here, I’ll have fun stuff to share about there — forgive me if I wander lost in the middle for a little longer.

I’ll be back soon.

At Mary’s!

I’m posting to check-in from the road… I’m on my annual treck to New York State to visit my sister.

Actually, I’m waiting for us to head out to eat.  I’t always wonderful to get here after the long drive and be enfolded in Mary’s arms, treated to a tour of all the changes, enchanted by her latest artistic passions and enveloped in total love and acceptance.

We talk until we’re hoarse, laugh a ton, compare war stories from the past year, catch up on each other’s kids, and just bask in being together.

Ah, time to leave for dinner.  More to come….

Moi, The Shopkeeper

One side of my personality is a merchant to the core. I grew up in the restaurant business, was self-employed for over seventeen years, and always seem to have a “thing” on the side.

My current gig is a sales booth at a local resale mall called New Visions Marketplace.  I have a 10’x10′ booth that I share with my friend Deb. We’ve just been refurbishing the space, having moved up from a booth in back where appearances didn’t matter as much.

Here are photos of some of the progress we’ve made this past week.  We have one more new shelf unit that is going to replace the small metal stands and provide more space for displaying the vintage glass we’ve collected all summer.

It’s a lot of fun, even though minimally profitable up to now.

Here are some of the vintage linens I’ve just added. Some of these were embroidered by the amazing Mary (that’s you, big sister).

The linens each have their own character, some very polished, some nearly primitive. Each maker was sharing a piece of her story with her stitchery. I love handling them and folding them, smoothing the surface, feeling the stitches.

Just a shopkeeper at heart, I guess.

My Mother

Mary, Mommy, Me (l-r); Easter 1956

My Mother would have celebrated her 97th birthday this weekend. Like many mothers and daughters, our relationship was. . .interesting at times.

 
This photo on the left, from the simplest of times, was taken by my father on the streets of Paterson, New Jersey on Easter Sunday in 1956. I was 3, Mary was 5, and my mother  was 43, pregnant and glowing. We were on our way to an Easter visit with her family.
 
She lost the baby a few weeks later, and much of the glow dimmed for a long time….
 
I write today to remember, to honor, to express my love, and my perpetual confusion about what made this beautiful and vibrant woman — intelligent, witty, experienced in moving through the world — limit her life in so many ways.
 
What fears and demons drove her, literally, to drink? In what ways did we all collaborate for so many years to keep this unmanageable truth secret? Where is she in me?
 
My sister and I were blessed and honored to be an active part of my mother’s death in 1995. She’d been sober for 17 years — since the birth of my son in 1978. But she’d never allowed for open discussion of the past, preferring to think it didn’t matter once she stopped drinking.
 
Mary and I knew better — our lives have been shaped (and distorted) by her alcoholism. Our strength, our laughter, and our love tempered by it; our fears and frailties exacerbated. Our children’s lives have in part been shaped by our experiences, as will be their childrens’ in their turn.
 
My mother’s legacy hovers over the two sweet girls in the photo: looking like all that is proper, dainty, and acceptable, but with an anxious smile, a yearning to please, and many doubts about the future.
 
Her courage ultimately triumphed over demons, drinks, dread and doubt. My Mother, Ruth Elizabeth Holster Fusco, died at peace, bravely and with all the demons vanquished. 

I loved “the divil out of her.”

Collecting Part 2

"Martha Chase" dolls sitting comfortably

"Martha Chase" dolls sitting comfortably

A while back I wrote a post about being a collector. I asked my doll-collecting older sister to comment and she did (Mary’s comment).

Mary is an incredibly talented artist, whose love of dolls is expressed throughout her home. Everythere you look, there is something to catch the eye. Without the photographic  evidence, no one would believe how many dolls are displayed — or how charming it is.  

Some of these shots are from this summer’s vacation, and these rest are from my 2008 visit. 

I hope you enjoy seeing what a true artist can do with an obsession — er, collection.

 P.S. All the quilts, embroidery and many of the dolls’ clothes were designed and executed by Mary.

a bedroom corner display - 2008

a bedroom corner display - 2008

the doll carriage

the doll carriage

a kitchen corner

a kitchen corner

a doll house

a doll house