Thursday, May 30, 2013

Things change

June 1 is almost here. It’s happened again. Half a year has slid by and what where did it go? Poof! I look at my tilting “to read” stack, taller than on January 1, but I notice something. I’ve read all the “fun” books—the cozy mysteries, the thick historicals, read and shelved, or in a few case, given away. The more serious book that sound so good in the book review section still wait.
                Get serious! I tell myself. For the summer let’s change direction.  Feeling a bit high-minded I make a half-year resolution: For the summer I’ll read poetry  (and maybe write a bit) and, since I’m spending lots of time volunteering at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, maybe it’s time I learned more art history.  I set June 1 as my beginning date, cleared a couple of shelves and began organizing—not too surprising—I already own enough art and poetry books to fill more than one summer.
                Last Sunday we enjoyed a lovely brunch. It was a beautiful day, why wait until June 1? The minute I got home I’d grab Peter Gay’s Modernism, head for the shady park about a block away and start.  On the way home, the phone rang. Our daughter had dropped by; she’d wait ‘til we got home.  Okay, the park could wait a while. We came in the back door. “In here,” she called from the living room. I rounded the corner. I saw the crutches before I saw the daughter. Things changed.

                Did they ever! She’d badly broken her ankle. An emergency clinic had it stabilized, but she was to stay off of it until we could get to our orthopedist on Tuesday.  Memorial Day Monday, remember. Not much to do but sit by and be company and bring a pain pill every few hours. Serious reading—out of the question. But I could just sit, I needed to read—TV noise made it hurt worse she’d announced. Not a fun book around. But thank goodness for Kindle and e-mail. I remember Amazon had tempted me with an e-mail about a cat book, something about feral cats; I live in a nest of feral cats—feed them every morning. I searched my e-mail. Found it. Grabbed the Kindle and for the first time met cat-loving Jillean Hart a quilting artist in Mercy, South Carolina. Jillean’s deadly adventures (and a little romance) all from the pen of Leann Sweeney helped me through the rest of Sunday and all of the Pando family’s longest ever Memorial Day. 
     Finally Tuesday arrived just as Jillean left. But what’s this? I notice in Sweeney’s credits that she has a series set in Houston. Houston! Where I am. Quick as I can hit the “buy now” button, Pushing Up Bluebonnets is on my home page. Good timing. It’s a day of first one waiting room and then another.  I like Abby Rose; I think I could find her house here in Houston if I gave it a good hard try. 
     Come Wednesday, finally we’re getting some action on the foot. We head to the hospital in the morning; my daughter goes into surgery around noon. Nothing to do but . . . and, hey, this is even less of a time for serious reading than ever.
                Suddenly I recall my blogger friend Nancy’s most recent post. Since many years ago when there was a PBS series based on the E.F. Benson books about her, Nancy has loved the Lucia books about a madcap English woman we ought to dislike but end up loving. Nancy lamented that not many people remember Lucia, but I did. I enjoyed the series and then read every book. But mine are long gone in that huge book sale we threw when we moved to Houston. But what great news! The whole collection is out in one Kindle volume. (Query—can a Kindle have a volume?) So through the surgery, through recovery, and through a long first night, I capered through an English village while I fretted about and over my daughter.

                Now we’re home, all of us. She’s staying with us until she can put weight on that leg.  This may not be the summer for heavy reading after all. I’m wide open for suggestions about where in the world I go for my next escape.

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Tuesday, May 07, 2013

A Wonderful Emptiness

Tall and plainly dressed, a young woman stepped off the train that had brought her from Virginia to Amarillo, Texas one early autumn day in 1912. Georgia O’Keeffe was in love with the flat, colorful land of the Panhandle, a love that would last her long lifetime.       
“Wait a minute!” you say. “She painted in New Mexico.” Right you are, for part of her life. But this young O’Keeffe needed a job and she’d found one in a place that intrigued her. We can claim her as a Texas artist for she left a marvelous legacy of this young love. During the two years she taught art in the public schools of Amarillo she spent hours roaming the prairie and the orange rocks of Palo Duro Canyon with her charcoal and her sketch book at her side. Later she recalled, “It is the only place I ever felt that I really belonged, that I really felt at home. That was my country—terrible winds and a wonderful emptiness.”
             After her time in Amarillo, she headed back east to New York with a portfolio stuffed with those drawings. Some of these may have been in her 1916 exhibit at Alfred Stiglitz’s Gallery.
            Two years later, O’Keeffe came back to the Panhandle as head of the art department (of one) at West Texas Normal College in Canyon near Amarillo. She returned to her wandering life, but now she was painting in the abstract style that defines her work. She was not always fully appreciated.  The owner of her boarding house remarked after viewing one picture that it “did not look like any canyon that I’ve ever seen.”
Intrigued by O’Keeffe paintings of the lonely prairie and the wide night skies?  If you’re driving through the Panhandle, plan your trip to include the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum at West Texas A & M University, the campus where O’Keeffe taught. (You can even spend the night in the Hudspeth house where she took her meals.) And be sure and take the short trek to Palo Duro Canyon itself and watch the sunset. Surely you too will catch the magic.
When young Georgia made those long treks down Panhandle roads and Palo Duro trails, surely she had some sustenance tucked into the pockets of her black sweater. Here’s a long-ago Panhandle recipe she might have taken along.

Palo Duro Picnic Sandwich
1/2 cup softened butter
3 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
6 green onions, finely chopped
6-10 leftover dinner rolls (depends on size and how many are left!)
grated Longhorn cheese (about 2 tablespoons per roll)
1/2 pound thinly shaved or chopped leftover ham
Combine butter, mustard, Worcestershire sauce and onions. Split the rolls and spread the butter mixture on each half. Put cheese on the bottom half of the roll, top with the ham and put the two sides together.   Put sandwiches in a 350 degree oven (if it’s a wood stove—about baking temperature) for five minutes or until the cheese is melty. Wrap in brown paper and slip in your pocket. Of course, these days, we’ll wrap them in foil. They freeze well; then bake them for about 10 or 12 minutes.

Want to learn more about Georgia O’Keefe’s time in Texas? Start with Georgia O’Keefe in Texas: A Guide by Paul H. Carlson and John T. Becker.  For Georgia in the kitchen, try A Painter’s Kitchen: Recipes from the Kitchen of Georgia O’Keefe by Margaret Wood. For a complete biography of this fascination woman, I recommend Roxana Robinson’s Georgia O’Keefe: A Life.
To see lots of images use Google Images or the search engine of your  choice. 

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