Today’s Art Journal Pages:West Farms Mall: You are Here…PLUS

Near the Apple Store, sketching all day at West Farms Mall, West Hartford CT.
Near the Apple Store, sketching all day at West Farms Mall, West Hartford CT.


Sketch after Mary Frances Berry Phd. Ballpoint and Colored pencil (from television image)
Sketch after Mary Frances Berry Phd. Ballpoint and Colored pencil (from television image) 
Otheriwse Known as Pammy but trying to be known as Miss Wagner, so the boundaries remain professional, even if they never stay firm and strong.
Otheriwse Known as Pammy but trying to be known as Miss Wagner, so the boundaries remain professional, even if they never stay firm and strong.


Despite the MALFUNCTION picture above, there was nothing at all wrong with my ipad…I simply didnt understand the three finger tap function. But once i did, all was  well. And the geniuses at the Genius bar were blessed again. I left to do the drawing of the West Farms Mall, rather than waste the 25 minute drive it had taken me to get over there.


That said, I need to add that I did one thing this weekend that Martha, my youngest sister picked up on immediately and knew at once was the wrong call, so to speak. She is an emotional genius of the highest order, and I dunno how, but somehow wrote me a text message that gave me permission to solve the problem…


To make the story clear, let me explain that it has LONG been part of my ethic that if I treasure something, especially a THING, I make a practice indeed a habit of giving it away. This is in part so I do not get attached to things, and so that I am not ” allowed to have any particular beloved items” that I need too much or covet too much. A form and practice of self-denial that runs very deep and started when I was remarkably young. I won’t go longer into this practice now except to add that as I wrote in my art journal on one page, one summer a few years ago, I took my very first vacation that was not a “hospital vacation” but was instead a planned stay at a Arts and craft camp called Snow Farm up in Florence, Massachusetts, where I signed up for a metal jewelry course. I already knew how to do the basics, but what this course promised was to teach sawing and riveting and soldering of metals, something I could not do at home.

Martha, who is five years younger than I, lives very close to Snow Farm, and without her support I never would have survived my weeklong stay. Partly because it turned out that I was much too paranoid to eat in the dining room, so she supplied me with enough food to make do with “canned” that is to say mostly fresh and decent food in my single room in the sleeping quarters. Late at night I would creep down to the emptied dining room and make myself a large PB sandwich to supplement these as well, from the supplies that were left out at all hours. But except for the one time the APRN who was then the manager of Snow Farm actually came and got me for supper and the other time that Martha also went with me to eat, I made do alone…

An equal hardship, one I am less able to explain, is that during the entire weeklong course, no one in the class of mostly women, more or less my age, spoke to me. They were a chatty bunch and talked a lot among themselves, but not a person said a thing to me, except I  think one woman, towards the end of the week, offered the use of her tools or something, which became the occasion of a final breakthrough. But for the most part it was a lonely awful time.If it hadn’t been for the teacher herself, Abigail, who spent time with me (she knew my background from my application). I’d have withered from sheer isolation, both self- and other-imposed.

The final hardship was that I was very thin at the time, and using a metal saw required that one hold it against the chest wall while tightening any replacement saw bands and at other times as well. For some reason, I kept breaking my saws, which were delicate enough that if you twisted it while sawing a copper sheet, it could snap in a second. But holding the saw in a vise against my chest wall was simply impossible: It caused me exquisite physical pain, and I could not withstand the pain long enough to replace a single blade. So I had to give up learning to saw, and thus never learned to rivet either. Anything that involved the saw was simply beyond me. Either nobody observed the problem, or all decided that it was not worth coming to my aid. In any event, I was left with no alternative but to do the only thing I was able to finally do: to solder silver rings.


Yes, when it turned out that I could with ease hammer silver half-round sterling into a ring shape and  solder it together into a permanent ring, and no one placed a limit on how many I made (since we paid for silver materials as we went along) I simply made silver rings for the rest of the week. Then the one woman who was semi-friendly with me gave me a few sterling silver pre-made bezel cups that would hold a 3 mm cabochon, were I to obtain them. And the teacher showed me how to solder the bezel cup onto a couple of my rings finally as well, (I could never learn to make my own bezel cups because that involved sawing…)

I left Snow Farm with about ten rings, two of which had soldered-on bezel cups. Some were big enough for men, the others were varying women’s sizes, but all were 100% sterling silver. None were anything mind you but amateurish, but that mattered little to me or anyone I gave one to. No one knew the difference, and if I did, it ceased to matter. I ordered little cabochons of grade A lapis lazuli, the lovely blue stone that is so famous, and managed to secure two of them into the two rings with bezel cups on them in a fairly decent if untutored manner (no adhesive used, that much I was proud of).


But of course, one of these lapis lazuli rings was in due course given away to a friend who was on and off not a friend. and who verbally abused me in such fashion that it was from her that I learned the awful language and names that I called the nurses and aides at Natchaug and Yale. (I hate the fact that I even have the c__nt word in my working vocabulary. I never did before this friend who is no friend of mine used it on me…But once heard as an name-calling term of verbal abuse, it became “valid,” it became part of my language…much as I wish it had never. And now I confess that when enraged at the people at the hospital, but ONLY then, I call them c––nts and variants on the terms rather freely, because I know what a terribly word it is and what effect it will have on them. (Chip my brother roared with laughter when I told him I called the single nurse restrained me for walking away from the quiet room at the IOL a “snarky little c––nt” and praised me for being able to laugh too. but in truth  I wish I did not even have the word in my working vocabulary at all. I would prefer a lack of insults to use on people to being able to hurt anyone with this word…)


Now this “friend” is out of my life and I have the single ring left, single remaining treasure from that troublesome perfect vacation.


But what happened at the end of that vacation? Well, the last night, we were told to make something for the camp auction and so I brought earring making equipment and starting making a slew of those, and that, plus the fact that I’d brought over  a copy of DIVIDED MINDS, finally just to introduce myself (I think the woman who had given me the bezel cups had asked me a question and elicited the fact that I had written two books…wanted to see them). Well, this was what finally broke the ice. And it did it in a major way. People were really interested, and curious. And they now asked me questions and seemed less scared to talk with me, as if the book’s subject matter somehow explained “everything.” I dunno…Maybe it did and maybe it didn’t. But the last day there , with the auction and the final dinner went fine. and I would say that I “love Snow Farm” despite everything.


Which is why I treasure that one remaining lapis  lazuli ring. It means that I actually made something from a situation that could have been unmitigated disaster. I made lemonade from lemons, and I survived a vacation all on my own. SO when I managed to practically beg Martha, my compassionate genius of a younger sister to take this ring from my finger…she was dubious to begin with. For one thing, she has her own two important rings. One is her own gift to herself for surviving Breast Cancer…and it is her most important ring. But I practically made her take my ring from me. I think I have done this to her before…And she didn’t want to take it then either….She KNOWS things, this wonderful sister of mine, and either it is in part that she has these other rings of her own, or that she has inklings about my propensity to give my treasures away to others (I love)  she is not and has not been a willing taker of my ring  on either occasion.


What a good egg, This night I received an email from her saying she wanted to “trade it back to me” or at least have each of us wear it so she wasn’t taking it from me…But she knew, she knew. I dunno how, but something told her that it was not just ANY ring I made. God knows I have made her things,  and she had accepted them. So she isn’t just refusing to take anything I made. no. I made the papier mache hummingbird JUST FOR MARTHA after all. And in point of fact she knew that I didnt want to part with Christobelle or the Using Klimt collages, but felt okay about taking them as long as she paid me the full price that I was asking…. (Actually I feel like shit, not just giving the collages to her! But that is another story.)


But the ring, oh the ring is so different. HOW DID SHE KNOW that the ring was different? It is not that my offer was false. I wanted her to have my treasure. I did. I loved giving it to her. It is just that I also know that I missed the ring, and wanted also to have it too. And in that sense alone I regretted my impulsivity. And the need to impoverish myself and deprive myself just because i had to. WHY? WHy am I not allowed to keep my ring, symbol of so much? Would it kill me to keep it? Would it be such a terrible mortal sin to allow me to keep my ONE treasure? It isn’t that precious, after all. The solder seam is visible on the bottom  not under the bezel and it is a pretty shoddy piece of handmade jewelry. Not worth a nickle to anyone, in reality. Even the lapis cost me all of a dollar or two. So why does it cost me so much emotionally to keep it??????


Martha gets it, though. She really did and does. She KNOWS. She knows the real value of the ring is not the monetary value, but what it means to me. And that is why she is uncomfortable keeping it. The ring aint worth shit, not qua ring. It is only worth something as memory and as symbol and then only to me…and to Martha by extension and because of her depth of understanding.

Martha, if you read this, i hope I understood you correctly.  You certainly got me on the dime. Thank you from the depths of even my impoverished dried up little heart for understanding. You deserve a ring far better than any crappy lapis ring I could ever make…You are a sister beyond dreams. Thank you…I really love you more than I can say.



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