by Phoebe Sparrow Wagner (formerly Pamela Spiro Wagner)
I will never forget The Dress. Worn only once, with three quarter-length sleeves cuffed in white, and a demure white collar, it had two layers of navy blue crepe skirting, with a dropped waist and a sash. This was the first “dressy” dress I ever picked out all on my own.
The first thing about The Dress was that it was not the pale pink tent that I had worn to my first mixer with Sheffield Academy, which I was convinced scared away my freckled red-haired date, not that I minded much, once I saw him dance. The second thing about The Dress was the look in the eyes of the boy at the Gunnery, where my second mixer was held. This boy was matched with me strictly by height. I don’t know why, but something clicked with us, and the first thing he said to me, to my huge relief, was, “I hate dancing, don’t you? Let’s take a walk.” With that, we linked arms and spent the evening strolling arm in arm around his campus.
To say that nothing happened would seem almost hilarious these days, except that nothing did, besides our shared and passionate discussion of Plato and the books we’d read and other schoolish stuff. By the time the bells rang to call everyone back to the buses, I knew, because after all, I was a teenage girl who had read books, what might happen. I also knew, because I was an avid fan of the advice columnist Ann Landers, that no self-respecting young girl allowed a kiss on her first date. We had been walking arms around each other’s waist all evening; I liked him, it was equally clear that he liked me. It was inevitable what would happen next. But I was a good girl. What to do?
I tried to say good-bye, smiling sadly and keeping the distance that would protect me. My adoring young man nevertheless leaned in to kiss me. Turning my cheek, I rebuffed him. I did not mean to hurt his feelings, but I knew that Ann Landers was watching me and would be happy my virginity was safe. As I climbed onto the bus with a heavy heart, I looked back and waved but my date was nowhere to be seen. I took my seat, feelings mixed about whether the rebuff had truly been a success.
Then someone behind me spoke. “Good for you, Pammy, not kissing the black boy!”
What? I looked at her. My classmate was smiling grimly. “You didn’t kiss that -–“ and she used the terrible word I had never heard anyone say to my face.
In that moment, I knew that if I could have, I would have raced off the bus and grabbed that young man and kissed him full on the lips, and to hell with Ann Landers and her crappy advice.
But it was too late to change anything. Too late to let him know why I had not kissed him, too late to kiss him in spite of my classmates and too late to spite Ann Landers and my proper upbringing. Too late, too late, too late. I never wore that dress again.
This short account, all too true, won first place at Vermont’s Counterpoint’s annual writing contest in 2015. You can see it and the other first place winner at
Below is my very first painting done in about 2009 or 2010 when I was first starting to do art. I called it First Love, and now you know why.
Hi everyone, do check out my new arteveryday365.com.it should be actively locatable by a day or two. But you can click on the link to see what Art I did today. The photo is not mine but cribbed from the tv
This is the finished portrait STUDY of my friend Mott’s grandson Dylan (the final portrait will be in oils but this one is a study done in my note book in acrylics, with the background still a bit wet):
I left my fingers holding this uncropped so you could get an idea of just how small the portrait really is. Watercolors and caran d’ache luminance pencils.
The following poem is by sufi muslim poet Hafiz, and it just blows me away:
“Light will someday split you open
Even if your life is now a cage,
For a divine seed, the crown of destiny,
Is hidden and sown on an ancient, fertile plain
You hold the title to…
Love will surely bust you wide open
Into an unfettered, blooming new galaxy
Even if your mind is now
A spoiled mule.
A life-giving radiance will come,
The Friend’s gratuity will come
O look again within yourself,
For I know you were once the elegant host
To all the marvels in creation.
From a sacred crevice in your body
A bow rises each night
And shoots your soul into God.
Behold the Beautiful Drunk Singing One
From the lunar vantage point of love.
He is conducting the affairs
Of the whole universe
While throwing wild parties
In a tree house – on a limb
In your heart.”
This miniature scene from Tuscany was painted on an up-cycled shoe polish tin, with acrylics, and metallic paints. The tin was also lined with velvet cut from a cast off dress I had been saving to use for such things. c 2.5 ” in diameter. (I have really crappy brushes that splay out all the time and with stray hairs, so it is hard to get any details correctly but one of these days I will have the luxury of decent brushes and then watch out!!!)
These are the latest fractured portraits and artpieces i have done at Rutland Regional Medical Center’s PICU. The portraits are not meant to be recognizably anyone, unless of course, they are. The set of small oil pastels were just experiments. The last picture is a gouache painting, about 22″ by 36″. The others are about half that size and in colored pencil.
Gotta credit SNAPFISH for helping me make this movie…Thanks!
I thought I would post a few pictures of where I have been living these past few weeks, both how it was this past summer and what it looks like now. And me, too. Since most of you likely have no idea what I look like unless you have read DIVIDED MINDS and of course those photos, the most recent in them, was the author photo taken some ten years ago in 2004.
The above photo is the cottage kitchen area and dining/arts area as they were this summer, before I brought all my stuff up here. It was much less cluttered then and lighter! Below photo is the dining and “arts” area where Lydia and I did our artwork and where most of Dr Geuss was made…
The next photo is from the summer, me holding the brown paper beginnings of Dr Geuss (actually this was when Lucy Goosey was rather far along…(trust me! ) Nevertheless if you look hard enough you will see that I am just holding the wings on — I have not yet figured out how to secure them.
As it turned out what I decided to do was to drill a hole through each wing, after Lydia and I painted them, a hole right through a painted dot, then a hole into the body (I think we decided to drill maybe three holes per side about a quarter inch in diameter. ) I sawed chopsticks from supper the night before into little dowel pieces maybe 2 inches long, then I pushed the chopstick dowels into these holes, along with glue, thereby attaching the wings permanently to the body. I thought it was a rather ingenious if not elegant solution to the problem, especially as glue and papier mache solution itself was not going to hold them in the position I wanted.
The only other way I had solved this sort of problem before had been in the out-held arm of Dr John Jumoke. Then I just “smooshed” and actually used Plaster of Paris, which I would not do again. Gypsum (P of P) would just have added weight to the held out wings of the goose, which would not have been good, nor for a sculpture that by its very nature needed to be easy to move.
Anyhow when I was done, I was very pleased when I offered it, through Cyndi my therapist to the Human Services Department in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom (St Johnsbury) and they were nice enough to accept it.
This was not a given. Hartford’s Children’s Hospital had refused two sculptures on the pretext that they were a “fire hazard” even though for the two days they were on display there apparently they were wildly popular.
Well to finish out this saga, the photo of me with Dr GEuss above is in the children’s department where it started out, but apparently the kids wanted to “ride” it so instead my therapist there who is artistic herself made a lovely table for it, and they put it out in the front reception area for everyone to see. I was thrilled to see this when I came back and first arrived there for an appointment from The Care Bed.
The building (above) is the carriage house (or cottage) I live in, as it was last summer. The sooty part of the wall is from the pellet stove, which I am using now in the winter with great satisfaction. But even though it was nearly 0°F last night I still prefer to bundle up in clothing than to use a lot of pellets or keep the house too warm and get a headache! So I keep the stove at “1” rarely even a “2” and have not yet even turned on the upstairs electric heat…On the left, behind the bent door, is the “garage” where the farm and snow clearing equipment are kept…
This next photo is one I snapped not at all by accident of the white donkey, who looked to me just like a unicorn peering from behind the trees! I love this picture because it captures the magic of the past summer and why I fell in love with the NEK and Sheffield and this farm and its owners, Marc and Steffi, and VERMONT!!!!
I can’t recall if I posted these next few on Wagblog or only on FB but here is the farm after our first snowfall a week ago (actually it was not at all our first at all, only the first big one I was present for). We had a foot of snow at Thanksgiving again and more last night on top of this apparently unnamed “mountain”!
Finally a few photos of Wag herself in her new Vermont digs, doing her “thang.”
Pam at table drawing a small sketch before she starts painting
Pam dressed to the nines and pretending to paint for the camera…In reality I never change out of my grungy gray tee shirt and jeans, and would never paint in such good clothing!
Pam displaying results of her oil painting adventures, a picture based on a a very short book that means more to her than almost any other, THE FOUR AGREEMENTS by Don Miguel Ruiz and his newest, written with his son, THE FIFTH AGREEMENT…
Painting is “Sometimes a Dreamer has a New Dream”
Above is Pam in recliner in Vermont cottage, reading about one of her favorites artists, Alice Neel…
Drawing in recliner
(Above) Kitchen area in winter time….Pam W cooking, late at night in November, 2014
You can see that since I came back from the summer it has gotten a lot more crowded….I brought as much as I could pack into a 14 foot truck and gave everything else away. Which was a lot. I donated ALL my furniture to FreeCyclers, including my bed and my recliner. ALL my books went to a teacher at the Cheshire Correctional Institute or their library, except a few precious ones, including the Alice Neel volume. And most of my other items except for art supplies and art work, and cold weather clothing and a few expensive items I knew I would not want to have to purchase anew. But most of my things had been bought at thrift store to begin with and many years ago to boot, so it would have cost more to lug them with me to Vermont than to buy them again, used, once I got settled there.
All the furniture that you see was there when I got here and belongs to the owners, Marc and Steffi. Of all that you see, only the artwork on the walls, and the easel, and the white floor three-bulb lamp are mine…
Frankly I would love to “downsize” even more than this, but do not know how (except for clothing, which is all used and while I like what I have I NEVER wear it)…I have used nearly everything I brought with me, and if I have not, it is only because Marc and Steffi have something here. However, when I go somewhere else, which may NOT be fully furnished, I know I will be glad that I did not toss everything in a fit of pique with “stuff”.
Sorry about this mundane post. I needed to make these photos for my mom, who is experiencing dementia and may not even quite know where I am. I did make taped phone calls that go out to her every night at the same time, telling her that I love her and am moving to Vermont, but I have not been able to contact her “in person” otherwise, since I cannot call her and she is no longer able to do email . So I will write her a letter and enclose these photos. I figured why not also show them to my readers…(and I hope not bore them to tears at the same time!!!
Of course you can’t change your life. Your “giants go with you wherever you go,” as Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote many many years ago, and it is still sadly true.
I left Connecticut, thinking I could escape, at least the hospital torture, but I cannot escape the voices that hate me and the demons that I carry with me, the fact that I burden the world, poison it when I exist in it, and that wherever I go I leave a slime of pollution and hatred..I cannot help that. It is a genetic flaw, no matter what good I try to do, the generosity I practice, the kindnesses I have done and preached, it all goes for naught in the end, when the poison leaches from my marrow and through my skin and permeates the world. People feel it then and run away, screaming…
I know this and feel it. and I cannot take it any longer. I have had it. Lord knows I have tried and tried to obviate it, to deny it, to remove the stain or fix it, but it has never worked. I am done. I can’t do it any more. It is over. I cannot deal with the voices and the evil that I am and cause any longer. It is so clear to me that others want this end from me too, because although they talk a good game about help and programs to assist me, they actually refuse to make them available to me, and deliberately– DELIBERATELY — turn a deaf ear when I overtly say, I NEED HELP NOW…How much more obvious and clear spoken can I be?
I will NOT beg for my life or my skin. No. I do not deserve that. And if not one wants me alive or intact, then there is a reason for it…and I know what it is, as I have stated. So if I get the message that “this is it” today, at my appointment again, that We HAVE NOTHING FOR YOU, that YOU ARE ON YOUR OWN, that “we do not really care what happens”. then it is OVER…I cannot care for myself, the devil, and I know what must be done…
I have done all I can, I really have. Do not try to tell me I haven’t tried for 62 years as bravely and carried on ALONE as I could possibly do it and be. But I cannot do it any longer, I am sorry, But this is it. Either PROVE to me that YOU CARE THAT I EXIST AND DO NOT WANT ME TO DO…whatever.
No , in fact YOU cannot do anything, any of you out there. Frankly. This is strictly between me and the folks here tasked with making sure I am safe and it is clear that I have poisoned all of them already, I have used up my quota of caring and assistance and that is that. It’s gone. It’s over. I’m gone. GET LOST. YOU BAD RUBBISH. We have had it with you. You are worthless shit.
Goodbye. I don’t know what will happen to me. But I can’t do this any longer.
This is a larger size painting than I am used to doing. I usually draw and I am scared of painting. When I have painted I have usually restricted myself to tiny sizes or just portraits. This is my first attempt at a real crowd scene or any scene at all. (I am tempted to redo the foreground doctor, to make him less cartoonish and more realistic, but for now, I will keep him as originally done. However, I don’t like the illustration quality of this painting, and want to learn how to be more painterly, so to speak!)
Transformation into the Vermont Butterwolf!