Thursday, December 20, 2012

Siren Song

I've finally managed to get some art on the walls.
We are a couple weeks in our new home now, and you might have noticed I haven't been writing or selling anything or making anything lately. To be honest, I have just been completely overwhelmed. We've moved the children into their new schools and therapist meetings, unpacked almost everything, and we finally managed to get the Christmas tree up and decorated. But, I have been very slow to start decorating.

If you read this blog regularly you might have noticed Jerry and I haven't been on very civil terms since the end of September. In reality, it was worse than I've let on. I have been in a dangerous mood. I am so untethered from my familiar life and my friends, just walking away has seemed possible and maybe easier than staying. I have been extremely fortunate in the possession of a close confidant who knows me inside out and who encouraged me to stay and work things out. So I stayed, but now I am completely estranged from that friend, and through no fault but my own. I miss our talks more than I ever imagined I could.

At first the older children seemed to be doing wonderfully well here, but at the end of the second week at school our oldest's principal was on the phone to inform us he hasn't been turning in any homework and is failing math quizzes and tests. So, now we have to figure out what all this is about. He's nearly fourteen, and is as taciturn as a locked door when we try to talk to him.

A boat lit up for Christmas tours Lake Norman.

I have been feeling so low I have spent more time than I should sleeping and lying around reading Dinesen. I haven't felt like decorating for Christmas or shopping or wrapping presents or decorating or writing. I have been feeling like I'm starting to really lose it, and that worries me. If I learned anything from my early childhood, it is that the one thing you can't do when you're a parent is fall apart. So this week I am trying to get myself together.

If there's any upside to all this it is that I work out my problems in my head while I walk and run and I have been running a lot here. I like to run by the lake and see the lights on the water and feel the cold wind, and this area has much steeper hills than I'm used to. Jerry says he thinks I've lost ten pounds since we got here. The other night I saw this boat lit all up on the dark water and I felt as though I was treading water just as black and cold and deep and almost going under. Then it occurred to me that often, when I feel that sad, it means my vitamin D is low again.  It wouldn't be surprising; even though we're supposedly in a drought I think the sun has been out only about three days since we got here. It has just been day after day of gray mist and drizzle, and I have a terrible time keeping my levels up even in midsummer.

I decided I'd better eat more fish. I prefer smoked fish, as you all know, but my mom and grandfather loved canned red salmon best. I love that too, and my favorite part is the bones and skin in the center. The bones are soft, like Smarties candy, and they're good. As a girl I had to fight my sisters for the bones, but since I am now the cook I very selfishly remove the bones and eat them myself! I must be raising real Norwegian Chinese kids, though, because the other day I opened a can of salmon and extracted the vertebrae and was all set to eat them up when my youngest came in and begged roughly half of them away!

So I'm eating my fish, and Jerry and I have talked a lot more than we have for years, and I hope we are turning a corner now to better times. This is a beautiful place and a lovely house. I decided to start decorating. Jerry has two weeks off, so he is here to help me. Yesterday and today we hung three gallery walls of photographs and art. We chose the front hallway for the black and white gallery.

Fifteen years ago Jerry brought the giant Marilyn Monroe poster to the marriage and I've been decorating around it ever since. I hated it at first, but she's grown on me. For one thing, every one of the children has pointed to that poster at one point or another and said, "That's you, Mom." And I always say, "Why yes, you're right. It is!" And I started collecting black and white pieces to blend it in. The small photo on the bottom of the flying machine was exhibited at the NC Museum of Art years ago in the Defying Gravity exhibit; probably around 2003 or so. I loved that piece so much I took it from the catalogue and framed it. Unfortunately, I have lost track of the name of the artist. Any information from my helpful readers would be much appreciated. I would love to give proper credit.

Siren, a mixed media painting.

Then this piece is one of my own, a mixed media piece depicting the Lorelei, called Siren. I created this piece as an illustration for a CD called one by the Loreleis of UNC, the a capella singing group. I love this piece because it was one of those rare paintings that just work out immediately from the minute you begin to work, as if they are ordained. I love the feeling of uncovering, rather than creating, art. It is as if the piece already exists and I am just revealing it. It is a rare occurrence, at least in my artistic life!
Hanging this piece, remembering that feeling, and reading my Dinesen again brought the past up bright before me. Jerry and I have talked a lot about the past this week, and the people we once were. We met so young, at 14, and were engaged at 21 and married at 23. In many ways, we wish we could return to the people we were at certain times. It is the siren song of the past. It always seems better in retrospect than it did at the time.
There are particular parts of myself I do wish I could recover. I used to paint or draw every single day. I almost never do now. Reading Babette's Feast again (this is a Isak Dinesen short story I very highly recommend) I see the lines I highlighted when I first read and re-read it at University and as a young wife. I underlined this: "A great never poor. We have something...of which other people know nothing." I was very, very poor at the time, but I didn't feel it much, because I felt like I would go so far and that my life was so rich in experience.
Lately, I have wondered if what we have gained materially is worth all we lost or traded as we aged. I hope we can go back and pick up the best parts of our younger selves to bring along to our new life. So, I hang the art and photos, and I decorate. Today Jerry accompanied me to Mary Jo's Cloth Store in Gastonia. This fabric store is famous all over for its amazing selection, and now I am privileged enough to be only 28 miles away. I poured over the fabrics for hours trying to decide what to do with our master bedroom. All I can do is hope, and keep putting one foot in front of another, and I am thankful to have company along my way.
This fabric was my favorite at Mary Jo's.


  1. I am new to the doll restoration world and happened across your blog. You do amazing work! I have an old Betsy doll that was my mothers and was planning on restoring it for her. Thanks for all the instructions on how you did your dolls.
    I am a mother of 5 children ages 20, 16, 12, 10, and 7 so having the time to really work on a doll is challenging. It gives me hope that you were able to do your projects with so many things going on in your life.
    I haven't had a chance to read all of your blogs but hopefully I can read the rest of them tonight!


  2. You just made my night! Thank you so much! Best of luck with your Betsy doll and your lovely family. Have a wonderful holiday and new year and thanks so much for reading! Sincerely, Amanda

  3. Mandaline,

    I want to wish you a very Merry Christmas and many blessings in 2013.


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