Loss and Love and Time

img_1184This is my dog Theo, who passed away today. He was 14. He came into my life as a tiny tribble like furball of about 9 weeks, probably too young to leave his mother and definitely too young to be in a cardboard box full of dying puppies outside the West Asheville Earthfare. “Those puppies are sick,” I said to the person holding the box, “Except for that one, and if you leave him in there, he will die too.”
“They’re fine,” she said, “They’re just tired.”
“I have had dogs my entire life,” I said, getting a little loud now, “And they are not just tired, they are sick.”

And so I went home with a puppy. I thought he might die, but at least he would die warm and dry and loved.

Well. 14 years later, he has died and I am so very, very sad. I took this picture yesterday. I have known for  a while now that this was coming, that despite the vet cheerily saying his bloodwork was great and he was totes fine but hey, have this infinitely renewable prescription for very heavy duty painkillers that we just won’t talk about (I am looking for a new vet) he was leaving us. He kept falling and he couldn’t get up and somehow I don’t think a pager would have helped much. This morning when he fell again and I lifted him he lost bowel control and didn’t even know it – Theo, a very dignified dog, would never have wanted that.

I called Four Paws Farewell, based on a business card I saw some years ago and some Googling and they were amazing. All I can hope for is that in 30 years when I plan to die there is some similar service for me, that will come to my house and be calm and lovely and help me out of this world in my own bed. That is what happened for Theo today.

I believe very strongly in quality of life. I do not want to live past my own sell by date – if I can’t care for myself, please OD me off this turn of the wheel. When you choose to share your life with an animal, you take on the burden of making that decision for them. It is a terrible and necessary and loving decision to make. Sure, Theo could maybe have gone on another 6 months or more, given sufficient drugs and me willing to carry him outside, ignore his dignity, clean up his involuntary messes, spoon feed him (he mostly stopped eating a while back.) I won’t do that, because it would not help him, only me. What was wrong with him was age and that cannot be healed. There are many, many loving and beautiful healthy young dogs and cats in shelters right now who need a home. If this story moves you at all and you have the means, please go and help one out.

Knowing that you’re making the right decision does not inure you to the sorrow of loss. I am fucking heartbroken. I miss my dog. So let us also rage against this fucking age thing, this death thing, this wrong ending world! Fuck the dying of the light! I do not approve of death! I do not want anyone to go away! I want us all to be immortal beautiful vampires except without the drinking blood thing! I cannot stand keeping on losing everyone and I am goddamned tired of crying.

I have pretty much been crying – ok, and drinking – ever since. I feel that now, after the last 8 years, I am an expert on grief. I am not the only one – I think that is what we all become, us middle aged people, unwilling experts on grief. I am here to tell you as one of way too many experts, that dying leaves a hole in your world that never quite heals. Time does not heal. Time just fuzzes over the edges a bit so that you can look back without as much raw pain. The pain is still going to be there, mind – it just will be fuzzier and edged with love. Loss is loss and it is hard.

It is a little less hard when you have the amazing friends and family that I do. My friend Jodi came over this morning and was here for the whole thing and so was my daughter Audrey. We all cried and ushered Theo out of this world and then we met our friend Jay at the DeSoto (where we go to grieve, probably not a great tagline for them but it works for us) and we all cried and laughed and shared stories all afternoon. We all have stories of loss and love and hearing them heals, I think, something. I guess. The Theo shaped hole in my life is very raw right now.

So go hug your dog.


Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Photography Live

Updates: the photography page is live! There is a lot of stuff on there and there will soon be even more – gods know I make enough of it – so just click on it up there at the top and be amazed. Amazed, I say.

And the only other update is I gave up the silly Instagram breakfast thing after three days – well, four, if you count the film one I took with the Lomo which will eventually get printed and scanned and stuff but, uh, not really any time soon. I feel somewhat like a quitter but not really because, well, breakfast is boring. And I don’t particularly want to think about composition and light during it. No, I want to read the Guardian and drink my Emergen-C in peace. The Guardian app, by the way, is excellent and free and I recommend it.

I also have a variety of long tales of, not woe really but mild irritation, about my iPod and how it won’t fucking sync, and my vision insurance and how it totally sucks, but I will spare us all the gory details. For now. You never know, I might get motivated later.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Art &etc.

craft fair booth aug 8 2016I got over my crisis and decided I was just as good of an artist as I needed to be. More importantly, I decided that as I used to tell my students back when I was a sort-of art teacher, it’s the process not the product. I forgot that for a bit but I have remembered it now! And, I did a show, well, a craft fair sort of thing. I worked like a demon and ended up, with, well, a body of work. Yes. As you can see! Complete with a tablecloth!  Which on looking at this photo it occurs to me I should have straightened out. And baskets! And frames and mats and bags like a grownup and all in all I felt quite good about it, if nervous and lacking the same sort of professional signage other exhibitors seemed to have.

There were not huge crowds. But there was beer and my friends showed up, including an old friend I hadn’t seen in ages and that was nice, and a few people bought some art, and I made a new friend and didn’t get outrageously drunk so all in all it went very well. I basically made $17! Whoo! $17 is $17 and not to be sneezed at, but most importantly, it made me work hard and put together what is by any metric, a damn body of work. A portfolio. An oeuvre. And soon I hope to have a whole new gallery page featuring the stuff I was selling which you, dear reader, can buy here should you be so inclined. And there is always more stuff coming, because I was in the darkroom again today making stuff and enjoying the hell out of the process. All good.

In other news, my errant son has returned home again and that is . . . a bit rocky as is to be expected. He is working though so that is good and I am hoping that things will shake out okay. The new world is not so great – in the 80s I could move out of my parents’ house and in with 4 or 5 friends and each of us paid about $150 in rent for a weird 5 bedroom apartment which we promptly filled up with beer cans and spiderwebs. Nowadays that apartment would cost each roommate about $500 a person and yet they don’t make any more money than I did 25 years ago. So of course they live at home because what else are they to do? I wish I could figure that out because those couple months of living alone were fucking heavenly despite the occasional bout of rampant paranoia. Oh well! Welcome to the 21st century, much like the 19th!

And in other other news I have started a project of taking a picture of my breakfast every day and putting it on instagram and I already regret it because, really, ick. But I will keep on going for a month. And, I am going to be taking over as the social media volunteer for the Asheville Darkroom, so if you don’t already follow them (me, I guess, now!) on Facebook and Instagram and Twitter for the old gods’ sake get to it! And that, I think, is it for now. Keep an eye on the gallery page. I swear it will get done soon. Ish. Soonish.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Crisis of faith

Last night I summoned up all my nerve and took myself to the monthly critique at the darkroom. I was half an hour late and all the beer was gone.

There’s a guy who is involved in the darkroom who is a bit, actually probably a decade or more, older than me. I bring his age up because he did: he turned to me and said something about, hey, we cannot compete with these 40 somethings, they know tech! and I thought, dude, you don’t even know me, and I was in fact a 40 something in quite recent memory, not to mention, I just got my damn hair done, how fucking old do you think I am? And why does this matter, to me, to you?

He was showing his work. It was really fucking amazing work, like, I would kill to have these pieces in my portfolio, big prints that were metallic and shining, work that started with extremely good photographs and went on to become something more. Things I do not even have the least idea of how to even begin to make. They were things he had made a long time ago and was showing now. He was confident and arrogant in a particularly male way, or so it seemed to me. I do not like male arrogance and men make me uneasy, these days. He talked a bit about hating the digital world and he said some dismissive things about stuff I care about- but this is on me, not on him, he was not being an asshole at all, it was just artist talk.

I felt horribly awkward and nervous and then I was first silent and then talked too much because I am not good in these situations and also it’s ridiculously hot. I really fucking hate summer. There were other people there who I like and respect tremendously, most of whom are much younger than me. Somebody said, eventually, “So, are you a photographer?” And I said, “Um, sort of! Ha ha!” although I have been defining myself as a photographer for fucking years and years now. I didn’t own it and I didn’t show my own work, although I had brought it. This is mostly because I realized, looking at this work and some of the other work people had brought, that my work is student work.

It’s objectively fair that it should be student work! I started this odyssey 4 months ago. Aside from one 7th grade afternoon (the memory of which I have treasured all these years and one of the driving forces in where I am now) I had never been in a darkroom, never printed a photo from a negative, never done any of this. I am trying, now, to make something. I know that, but. But I have been making art, one way or another, for a long time now and taking pictures for almost 20 years and, hell. I didn’t own it.

I am ashamed. I don’t have a body of work to show. I am old and I should have my shit together and know what I’m doing, in art if not in life, or at least somewhere, and I so, so don’t. I remember when I was a painting student in college and the middle aged ladies who were taking classes. I wasn’t a nice kid: they drove me crazy and I was mean to and about them. I was horrible and confident then. Now I am neither. Now I am a (mostly) nice middle aged lady, taking up space.

I went into a bad spiral last night. What is the point of me, middle aged lady, pretending to be an artist? I’m just a fuckup. I’m just a lameass broke bookstore clerk. I have failed in everything I have ever attempted. I have no right to try to make art, to print photos like it’s the first time anybody ever printed photos of a concrete pig. I remember this feeling – I got like this one time before, in my late 20s, when I felt it was disgustingly privileged to try to make art and nobody should doing it using anything other than stuff you can buy at the dollar store for less than $5 because otherwise, you are hurting the world. I spent years pulling myself out of that.

This though is sort of worse, because it is tied up in being a middle aged lady, and feeling like perhaps you should really put yourself on an ice floe for the good of the planet. Okay, granted, I would hop on a nice ice floe so fast right now you could not even see my smoke, but heat wave (heat DOME! It’s DOMING!) aside, it is really difficult for me to think I have a reason or a right to exist. Mostly I sort of think I don’t. I am not pretty anymore. I don’t have a great job.  My children are grown and gone and . . . I am just sort of keeping the dogs and the tomatoes alive. And trying to make, well, art. Art. Like I thought I would spend my life making when I was 23 instead of 53. Now I think, how dare I? How dare I try to reinvent myself and learn a new art form?

This says a lot about me – whoa dog! A lot! An extremely fucked up lot! –  but it occurs to me that it also says a lot about the world I inhabit. Why is women’s work dismissed? Why is it so easy for me to dismiss myself, my aspirations, my interests, my art – as pointless and stupid? Why do I think I should just quietly give up and maybe, I don’t know, do good works and needlepoint? Men my age do not, I think, feel they should be on an ice floe. (No they mostly go on OK Cupid looking for 32 year olds because they have suddenly realized they forgot to have kids but yeah, okay, I might be a little bitter, #notallmen) They have a kind of confidence, though, that I don’t have. I need it. I don’t have the faintest idea how to acquire it. I remember my mother saying dismissively, oh, that’s just women’s fiction. Those are just women’s books. Women’s paintings. Not important.

This toxic stew of misogyny and ageism, it can bubble up badly quite fast.

I don’t have any answers. I talked to my friends a lot tonight, most intensely to my friend Zen,  an artist, a photographer who has gleefully at 60ish taken up being a graffiti artist and is really good at it. He made me feel better. My friend Meg reminded me that this is the depressive brain – it tries to tell you stupid shit lies to make you stop doing things. And it was in general lovely to see them and remember that if these people like me, well, they are smart and awesome people, and they would not like me if I was horrible shit. I came home and took a bad picture of one of the sunflowers in my front yard, which are growing crazy and are like 16 feet tall and yet are standing up, being as orange as orange can ever be.

I worked in marketing for years. I could turn this into a nice redemptive piece with a happy ending right now. But there isn’t one and I don’t (thank you dashboard jesus) work in marketing anymore. I’m still kind of unhappy and I don’t have any answers. My art is probably shit. I don’t have a good reason to make it. I am one of the daffy middle aged artsy fartsy ladies beloved by parodists (and why is that, by the way?) and I am unhappy about it but fuck, I am still going to keep on trying, I guess. I pretty much have to – I suck at needlepoint. So here is a picture of a 6 foot concrete pig. img013


Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments


solarized jodiI am spending a lot of time in the darkroom lately. No, not A dark room, THE darkroom – to be specific, the Asheville Darkroom, which is an amazing nonprofit that allows people like me to spend much needed hours in the dark inhaling dangerous chemicals and creating fucking amazing art. No, seriously. I mean, mine probably isn’t all that fucking amazing – YET – but it’s getting there and I’m loving every single step along the way. This, on the left, is a solarized portrait of my friend Jodi. Is it not amazing? It never met a microchip until I just now scanned it. Nope, that right there is your basic free range hand crafted artisanal photography, direct from my 35 year old East German camera to Kodak Tri-X film to the darkroom to my house (where it briefly got stepped on by dogs but then, what doesn’t?)

I am learning a lot. I have taken a class and a workshop on cyanotype – also totally fucking amazing and I’m going to be doing a lot more of it as soon as I brush up on my math skills so I can mix the chemistry for slightly less than the sixty images the bottles recommend. Next Sunday I’m taking another workshop, this time on, basically, how to fuck with your images right there in the dark (although for some strange reason it’s not called that, go figure) and I will be making even more cool things. For the last 4 months I’ve been spending at least four hours a week in the darkroom, just printing and printing and having the time of my life. So I’m going to put up a gallery of my scanned images, bit by bit, as I remember how to do that. You can buy them, if you like! You can ask me to go places with my East German camera and take brooding, grainy black and white pictures of you and I will probably do that – assuming you are somewhere I can get to in less than half an hour in an 18 year old car with no air conditioning.

ART IS GOOD FOR THE SOUL and since David Bowie was apparently holding the world in balance and his loss has thrown the entire thing down the tubes, we all need a little help with our souls.

In other news, Theo is the world’s healthiest 14 year old dog despite being deaf. I really – no really really REALLY – like living alone even if my room does smell alarmingly like mold and it turns out that I am, in fact, kinda messy even when all alone. I am healthy aside from somewhat high blood pressure and high cholesterol, which seems unfair since I’m vegetarian. Also I’m fat and need to quit smoking, but we knew that. All the animals are doing well, I’m still toiling grumpily away in the book mines and I think that is all the news that’s fit to print. Keep an eye on this space because, I swear, soonish there will be a new gallery – a gallery of artisanal photography. Whee!!

PS you should give all your extra money to the Asheville Darkroom; they really need it. God knows I give them mine because, while I could have taken up a less expensive art form, like solid gold sculpture or something, this is where I’m at, and I couldn’t do it, or not well, without them. And you can do it too! Or just send money.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments


Yesterday, somebody came in my house. 

I know they came in because since miles left for Baltimore (another long story) some 2 weeks ago, my kitchen has been very tidy. This is new for me, and I treasure it. So yesterday, when I came home after first, working all day and second, putting in some quality time at the bar, I knew immediately that someone had been in the kitchen. The nutritional yeast had been moved and opened and left opened on the counter. Nothing else was touched. It was not the cat or the dogs; it’s a small and heavy dish and the precision of its placing was done by human fingers.

Nutritional yeast is a special thing. You only have that shit around if you were raised by hippies or were a hippy yourself. Nobody else on planet earth even knows what the fuck it is, even though it is fantastic on popcorn and will transform your boring vegetarian soup into something fit for kings. 

The Venn diagram overlap of people who know my dogs and know the peculiarities of my back door and know my kitchen and would open a small glass dish of yeast to eat a pinch is quite small. Or at least I think it is. There are five people in my world who fit. I know where four of them were. 

So it must be the fifth. And yet, I cannot ask her if it was her because. . . what if it wasn’t? 

I don’t even want to deal with the ramifications of that. 

Last night I locked this house down like Fort Knox – up to and including wiring a broomstick across the back door, it’s Pinterest worthy, if Pinterest was as obsessed as it should be with surviving the coming trumpocalypse – and I still got up at 2 am and did it all over again. 

I have only told two people about this (my best friend and my daughter, I called them both immediately and was all incoherently freaking the fuck out until they calmed me down) because I feel, somehow, obscurely ashamed. Such a strange thing, yes, somebody was in my house, no, I swear I know this but no, nothing was stolen, nothing was wrecked and no, I’m not imagining it, really, really, I am not. 

Last week somebody left a battered copy of Spiritual Midwifery in my mailbox. OK, it’s a great book, I used to have a copy, whatever, Asheville, I laughed it off. Yesterday, somebody came in my house. I am not laughing so much right now. 

So from the land of odd paranoia, I am writing this. I don’t care, really, I mean, my nutritional yeast is your nutritional yeast, and I wouldn’t have gotten through natural childbirth without Spiritual Midwifery. But leave a note next time. Because I would like to sleep again in this millennium. 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


My foot got better – well, more or less. It took five damn months, but it did it. I mean, it is still a little swollen and prone to occasional twinges, but aren’t we all? In other spring news, I took a black and white film darkroom class and loved it. I joined the Asheville Darkroom and now you can find me there whenever I can squeeze in the time. Everything else is more or less the same but I did go see my friends Elizabeth and John in Birmingham last week and here are the pictures! Many many pictures of rust. And a median fire on I 24 on my way back. And Rock City, a stop on my way home which is full of gnomes and screaming schoolchildren. Vacation! I had one! It was great! I go back to work tomorrow! Bah! But anyway, here are some pictures. Enjoy!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment