Wednesday, May 31, 2006


Indeed, I am the opposite of somnolent. My hamster brain is spinning indefatigably in its pointless little wheel of anxiety, and there's nothing constructive I can do to put it to rest since it is the middle of the night. You know, that time we as a society have set aside for separation from consciousness and productivity, and which nature abets by turning out the big light so as not to illuminate any distractions. So I cannot, for instance, go to my office and actually do any of the things that I am lying awake worrying I am not going to have enough time to do before I get on a plane Friday morning. I know worry is supposed to have a productive function in that dwelling on a problem can lead to strategizing a solution, but the longer I lie awake fretting, the more my worry expands to encompass dread of how tired and nonfunctional I will be tomorrow due to not being able to sleep tonight. Excellent work, brain, take the rest of the night off! At this point there is no hope but to get up out of bed and try to distract or deflect or defer or dsomething this restless energy.

Here's a little inspiration:

Iris at five months. Warm milk did the trick for her back then. Now, she likes me to pat her back and cover her feet. All I require is a horizontal position and a quiet mind. Back to bed now to see how it goes.

Monday, May 29, 2006

A journey of a thousand miles...

begins with a single scrape. Chinese refinisher's proverb.

I wanted to say something about Memorial Day, how it used to be a tra-la-la day off from work for me and now, how sickenly relevant it feels to my generation. But I guess I have found my limitations as a writer because I can't think of a way to say it without ranting on and on. There are plenty of places to go online for that, and this doesn't need to be one of them.

So: instead of political diatribe, welcome to the first installment of This Old Dresser. Destined eventually for Iris' big-girl room, it's another stray I picked up from the alley on trash day and have been storing ever since in the basement, a sort of purgatory for dirty, damaged objects with potential. There's a couch (Eamesian Modern wood frame, battered but sound; unthinkable orange vinyl upholstery), a chair (similar form and condition, upholstered in torn wool and dog fur), a breakfront (solid oak under red and yellow paint), and more. All waiting for me to get up the gumption to refinish them.

Because the fact is that I am really more about the handicrafts, I guess you would call them: painting, printing, stenciling, sewing, embroidery. Aesthetic treatments. Now, refinishing – that's a more fundamental transformation. I've put off starting because I haven't known where or how.

Today J brought the dresser out into the light of day and I picked up a scaper and ended up scouring the alligatored old finish off the top, both sides, and drawers. (There is a bottom drawer, by the way; it just needs to be put back together. You reading, J?) The result of all this elbow grease is probably not good enough for refinishing, actually, but I've been expecting it to need paint all along anyway, so that's OK.

The important thing is that that makes two intimidating projects I've gotten off the ground this weekend: the dresser and this journal. Just in time to go away for a week and a half... but hopefully I'll still have the momentum when I return.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

further into the front hall

This mirror hangs where the mantel would have been and serves as our (always overloaded) coat rack. After years of living in rental apartments painted white, white and white, J and I could not wait to slap color on the walls of our own house. This was the color of the living room of an apartment I lived in in my mid-20s. According to Benjamin Moore, it's "melon popscicle." I loved it so much that when I moved out, I nicked a chip off the wall and carried it around with me through successive moves (and what is more impressive, never lost track of it) till I arrived in a place where I could have a free hand with a paintbrush. The front hall got the melon popsicle treatment because its one window is shaded by our deep front porch, putting it in need of a color resembling sunlight (or melon popsicles).

And here's the wall reflected in the mirror. After my grandmother passed away, I ransacked her attic for her cache of old family photos. I finally found them in a box marked "white thread." These are my favorites, color-copied and hung in thrift-shop frames I'd been collecting with this project in mind for years. My grandmother with her mother, circa 1912... my own mother's first steps on the sidewalk in front of her house in Philadelphia... my father and his sister as babies in Austria, their bare feet in the Bodensee. They grew up apart after their parents divorced when he was five, his sister four. As teenagers, they began to write letters to one another. One of these photos is of her, age sixteenish, and you can tell it was tattered and dogeared from being carried for years in my father's wallet. On the back of the original was written "Denk an mir"... think of me.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

corners of my home: front hall

view from vestibule 1, originally uploaded by aoneko.

I have a few motivations in doing this. One is motivation itself: to write, to photograph, to document, to create. All impulses I've always had and which I want to resuscitate before they get completely buried under the loads of laundry, piles of work, and other responsibilities I always put first. Maybe there is a way not only to make time and space for the creative life, but to integrate it all so that it IS the creative life. Or maybe that's a lot to ask, but it's worth a try.

Another motivation is to make our little life here more immediate to our many friends and family who don't live close by. I got my feet wet on Flickr, where I started out posting photos for my family to share and before long found myself posting pictures of the stuff of my life to groups of like-minded strangers. One of my favorites is the Corners of My Home group that Amanda set up. Whenever I'd post a picture to it, I'd want to say more than a caption's worth about it. So, today I'll dive in by writing about a corner of my home.

This is what you see when you walk from the front porch through the vestibule into our front hall. This is what we saw the first time we walked in with our realtor, and it was love at first sight even though....

We bought our house from the estate of an old woman who had not had the wherewithal to maintain it for about forty years. The downside of this was that the place needed not only paint and polish but a new furnace, new appliances, new sinks and toilets, everything. The upside was that the house had quietly survived the gut-rehab brutality of the 1960s and 70s. Its original woodwork, inlaid hardwood floors, and stained glass were intact. The only things missing were most of the mantels, presumably sold for cash at some point.

Aside from painting the walls and sanding the floors, there’s another significant home improvement in this picture that you can’t see. When we bought the house, the old furnace was kaput, and forced air is no good anyway as a method for heating an old house. So instead of replacing the heating system we had, J installed hot water heat, including a radiant floor on the first floor. Tubes of hot water threaded between the floor joists keep the floor warm, and since heat rises, the warmth radiates upwards and heats the room. It is lovely to walk on warm floors all winter.

More corners here.

Friday, May 26, 2006

what is the meaning of all this?

"Ao neko" means "blue cat" in Japanese. I lived in Japan for two years what seems like a lifetime ago... but more about that later.

For now, thanks to Andy Warhol for unknowingly lending me this blue cat, part of a drawing of his from the 1950s, with the “purr purr purr” in the background inked by his mother, Julia Warhola. I love her elegant old-world script. Warhol grew up in Pittsburgh, where I met my husband and where we still live. In the early days of being together, we saw an inspirational show of drawings at the Andy Warhol Museum which included this blue cat. It became an emblem for our relationship and, soon after, our wedding, copied onto magnets we sent out to announce the event. Six years later, our life now includes a house, a child, a digital camera, and the urge to broadcast some of our purrs – and maybe the occasional mew, hiss, and yowl – to friends and family over the internet. Excuse me if I can’t bring myself to use the word “blogosphere.” Excuse the frankly forced feline metaphor. Hello!