Turtle Trax Diary for March 7, 2000. Page #25
A long winter is about over.
by Lucky Magnolia (Susan Shie)
To start with, I have to tell you that my father, Richard Blackstone Shie, died unexpectedly, Jan 14, and that event has had a huge impact on all of us. There is a lot I'll tell about Dad, in the middle of the diary below. It was all I could do, to not make this entry be all about him. His obituary just couldn't say enough, and no one will ever write a book about his life, I don't think. So I'll be telling you some things that made his presence an important part of my family's life. As a writer, I don't think I could let it go, and just give him a few little lines.
But other events have happened, too, since the last journal entry, and it wouldn't be fair to act like only Dad's death mattered to me in two months. But I think it's normal, the way those watershed events have a way of blocking out a lot of other things. Luckily for me, my niece Aimee is having a baby, and helping her prepare for this birth has helped me to shift my focus from loss to awakening. In my heart, Dad and Aimee's son, whom she's naming Omari, are tied together in our experience of the great rythmns of life. Omari is overdue by a week now, and we are all on Baby Patrol!
This is the quilted panel I told you last time, that I had to finish for the exhibition at The Dairy Barn in Athens, OH, of quilts by the artists at Passion Works, the sheltered workshop where we did a residency in November, last Fall. I call it "Big Red Fish," and it was drawn and painted by Johnny (Dangerously) Marquis and sewn by me. It measures 15.5" high by 25.5" wide. I did a lot of hand embroidered quilting on it, as well as many shisha mirrors and my quilted holes. It's covered with lots of glass bugle beads and glow in the dark beads. It's now in the permanent collection of Passion Works.
January 5 - 11, 2000, we had a Cabin Fever Turtle Art Camp with four students. Had better weather this January for camp, than we did in 98, when we were snowed in for a few days!
The students included Abigail Livingood, up from Raleigh, NC, where the weather was way worse than it was here in Ohio this January! Here Abigail is starting to quilt one of her "merfolk" paintings, which she had made with fabric paint with brush and airbrush. There is a whole set of them, showing one panel for each member of her family, and since going back home, she's been working hard on all of them!
Showing a true flair for puppetry, Lisa Towery, our youngest camper this time, models her new marienette, complete with jointed arms and legs and a big hat. Lisa brought out the playfulness in all of us, which is what we really like around here! She's a college student at Purdue University in Indiana, finishing her senior year in product design and theater set design.
Susie Mallard, Abigail's buddy from Raleigh, exhibits here the advantage of driving to camp, rather than flying. She brought a huge amount of her own beads, fabrics, etc, to select from, in making projects! Here you can see some of her Martha Stewart bead storage things. I'm not kidding you! They are actually inceredibly groovy, these little orderly boxes! And to just look at them was quite a thrill, to admire the rows of colors that she had laid out in her own way! Susie is working here on a 3-D doll of herself. And she also made one of her husband.
This is Margie Towery, who got this particular camp started way last year, before I even tried to make a 2000 schedule. She coordinated its dates to coincide with her daughter Lisa's winter break. She and Lisa drove over from Lafayette, Indiana, and yes, they brought a huge stash of supplies, too! We had fun, oggling everyone's stuff! And we didn't have to shop much!
Margie is concentrating hard, in the photo, on her painted and stitched quilt of healing memories.
You never know who will get attached to whom at camp here! Tulipetra, or Tulip, our most skittish cat, just decided that Susie Mallard's big Mod Samsonite case from the 70's, matched her own outfit so much, she just had to pose with it! Tulip also took to hanging out with Susie, watching her every move, from various vantage points in the middle of our big worktable, preferrably right in front of Susie. Tulip can be very sweet and quiet, when she gets fascinated, and she did!
If you're interested in coming to a camp this year, check out the dates still open and the description of what's involved!
OK, now here is the story of my Dad's sudden death. I wanted to show you this picture first, because I think it really shows you what I feel for him. I musta been three or so when this was taken, tho I'm not sure. I wasn't wearing glasses, and I know I started wearing them at three. We were living in our big brown three storey house in Orrville, where we lived til I was five years old. I figure Dad was around 38 in this photo.
Wasn't he handsome?
And this is the last photo anyone took of Daddy. Jimmy took it on Christmas, when we went over to West View, to take him and Mom their presents. I'm not choking him from behind in this picture, but it has a similar feel to it. It's around 46 years from that first picture to this one. A lot of life happened in between, but here we are, a little less energetic, but still enjoying each other! The walker was Dad's, not mine...
I won't go into what happened in big detail, but basically, after that January Turtle Art Camp was over, Dad started acting a little different (more shaky and weak), and we all thought he may be coming down with the flu, since it was going around the Home. But three days later, he had a mini heart attack, though it wasn't obvious, and he was already unconscious, when they brought him into the emergency room. Jimmy and I were with him, while he was dying, and I couldn't believe it was happening. He'd just seemed weak for a few days, and no one thought it was critical. So I held him and kissed him, and told him all the things I could think of, for my last words to my only father. He never opened his eyes, but we think he heard me, telling him he was a wonderful dad and that we'll always love him and take good care of Mom. And then he was just quietly gone.
They said he didn't have any pain, and I don't even think he had known he was in trouble, or he would have asked people about Mom. He felt he was taking care of her at the nursing home, so I know he wouldn't have left so peacefully, had he realized. But he's gone now.
My sister Debi and I went to the Home the next day, to pack up Dad's things. It was a real reality check, to see all his things there, the few things he still had. The picture here is of the stuff on his nightstand. Debi and I had each bought him an Indians cap, one year for Father's Day. This one is the one Debi had bought. And behind that is an "Indians Fan," given to Dad by his Secret Friend from church. She had also given him the little decorated Christmas tree, among many tokens of friendship over the last year.
I took pictures of the whole room, as it was, before we started to pack. I got to thinking of the scene in Fried Green Tomatoes, where you think the old lady has died, as her room at the Home is empty. Then it turns out she's still alive, just moved or something. Only now, Dad is realy dead, and we're the ones who're going to wipe out this final record of him, by removing the evidence that he ever lived in this room. It was very hard. We carefully folded all his clothes, and packed his things into my suitcases and bags. I am really glad Debi was the person who did this with me, as we both were very attached to Dad.
The next evening, Gretchen and Mike drove in from Cincinnati, and finally, we had a really good laugh, between the tears. We were laying on the bed in exhaustion, and Gretchen took on a Dad voice and told one of his favorite jokes. I followed with another, and soon we were crying with laughter and fond, sweet memories of this offbeat, very unique man! Mike slept through it, but then, he didn't know those jokes! I am glad that Gretchen and Mike had gone to see Dad and tell him about their engagement! It means a lot to me.
This is a picture of the wake we held for Dad, after his funeral. In the photo are my brother Jimmy, his wife Lyn, and on guitars: my nephew Jacob, Gretchen's fiance, Mike, and our friend Paul Schmidt. They played and we sang, into the night, in dedication to my music loving dad. Debi and her husband John came, along with their son Matthew, and my nieces Aimee and Julie, Jacob's sisters.
The funeral itself was really personal and beautiful, thanks to Paul, who's a minister. Paul had owed me a little money a couple of years ago, for an art project I'd done for his church, and we'd struck up a deal, where he would visit Dad at the nursing home, as return barter. So he knew Dad pretty well. He also had us tell him things about Dad, which he related to the people at the funeral. It was a very Dad experience! All four of his kids and their spouses were there, as well as many relatives and friends. I had been afraid that, when my parents would die, they wouldn't have many people come to their services. But it was the opposite. It was an honoring ritual that made me feel very good for my father.
I want to thank everyone who sent us messages of sympathy about Dad's death. You can't imagine the comfort you gave us.
And my mother, now in her almost completely sealed off inability to take in or give out communication.... Alzheimer's Disease has made it impossible to explain anything or for her to even wonder about Dad. At least on this plane of thinking. Maybe her soul knows full well, and maybe he's with her all the time, still guarding his wife, loyal as ever, like when he would drive over to be with her, even when the roads were terrible, when he lived with us. He would go and stay many hours each day with her, to protect her and keep her from being lonely. It was his duty and his joy.
The picture above is in January, 1945, after Mom and Dad got married. They had been introduced by his brother Russell, who was dating Mom's cousin Pauline, before the war. (Uncle Russell and Aunt Pauline later got married, and we have couisns who are first and second cousins both!) After Dad came home from serving in the Field Artillery in the South Pacific, he and Mom got married in Los Angeles, which she had moved to, with her father and sister, and was working as an RN. Dad and Mom got on the train, after the wedding, and went to Camp Hood in Texas, then on to Fort Sill in Oklahoma, before his discharge. Then they moved back to Orrville, Ohio, and started their family, with my brother Larry being born in October, 1945. Brother Jimmy came along in 1947, me in 1950, and Debi in 1959. Mom and Dad were married for 55 years, this January 3. He was 84 and a half, when he died. She's almost 83 now.
After the Army, Dad had been a factory worker all his life, making sure we had everything a family needs to be comfortable and raised right, including going to church every Sunday and to the dentist twice a year. Like a lot of daddies, he worked himself into exhaustion at his job. He yelled at us a lot, because it was his responsibility that we grow up right and have good morals. He would get mad, if you didn't give him a goodnight kiss. He would also get mad for a lot of things that felt like dumb reasons, to us kids! And he sang, hummed, played the piano, and whistled much of the time. He didn't think he was a musician though, because his grandmother had taught him to play piano by ear, and he couldn't read music. But he was definitely the creative and sensitive type, and wasn't given credit for that. I remember he sang "Jambalaya" a lot, when I was little, and I didn't know what the words meant, but I loved to hear him sing, "Son of a gun, we'll have-a big fun on the bayou!" Now I adore Cajun music!
He loved good jokes and good food and beautiful things. And he cried easily and felt sorry for anyone down on their luck. He was a good man, and he loved us all with a fervent passion. I miss his intense determination, and when the phone rings, I am reminded of how he drove me nuts, by calling me several times a day, just to be in touch with me, after he moved out of our house. He was furiously dedicated to his family. And no one will ever worry about us like Daddy did. If I got a cold or headache, he would fret big time, til I got well. If Jimmy went to the dentist, he would ask me about it for months afterwards!
Being a Leo with many other planets also in Leo, and being named Richard, he was truly our King Richard. The King is dead. Long live the King.
So now, back to the living. Here is King James! (I am surrounded by strong men!) Jimmy was starting to sew the main seam on a custom rod case here. This is the second case order for this particular customer, and it holds three fly fishing rods, instead of just one. It was a new design Jimmy made. You can see here, how he uses two needles and an awl, and cuts in each stitch, just before sewing it with waxed linen thread. The stitches are very even, because he first marks them with a stitch wheel. That gives him a visual guide for where to put the awl, to make the holes.
Later this case got lined with leather and on the ends, with sheep wool. Then he attached all the handles, which he also made himself, and painted the fishing flies he'd tooled and carved in, before the sewing.
I am very happy that Jimmy hasn't gotten tired of making fly fishing cases. Maybe if they were from patterns or kits, he would, but these are all his own ideas, turned into functional artwork. As time goes by, he gets more and more caught up in the sport of fly fishing, admiring the natural beauty of not only the fish and the flies, but also of the tools used in fishing. He's now a devoted bamboo rod snob, with his own handmade rod, bartered last year! Now bartering has brought him an antique reel that everyone else wants. He is a very happy fisherman!
My own artmaking suffered a bit, timewise, from Dad's death. But I am happy that I had some commissions that needed to be done, so I had to keep going. This one is "St. Quilta the Comforter Blesses This Studio, #2," heavily quilted and extremely embellished for Dr. Eleanor McCain of Shalimar, Florida. (Eleanor is herself quite an accomplished quilt artist, showing on the cover of American Craft last Fall!!!!)
I have been working a long time, to get to the end of my orders list of St. Q paintings to make into quilts, and the end is near! I am now working, finally, on the St. Q Blesses Pisces" series, which it took me a year to get around to making!!!!!!!! No promises at all, as to whether I can keep my momentum going, to make Aries, Taurus, etc, on time. Doing the web site is part of the problem for time, and I don't plan to give that up! But slowly, I plan to keep one foot in front of the other this year, and make my St Q paintings, to expand my selection again, since so many of the earlier ones are sold. Still have plenty of Blessings paintings left for Sag, Capricorn, and Aquarius tho! Just go take a quick look, if you want to buy one!
At the end of January, we had a big fat snowstorm. It just came down and down and down! It was very beautiful! Dad would have said we need that snowstorm like we need another butt. (He always got right to the point.) But I liked it. I went out and took some pix of the snow sticking to things, like here, on poor Dore, last year's scarecrow, still holding forth in the middle of the Rainbow Garden! I snapped a shot of my neighbor, Dee, getting her mail in the snow, and of Annie, the live Christmas tree, in her new home by the garden. I still can't tell if Annie has made it, if she's going to live and keep growing. She's still green tho! Not bad, for a dig-it-yourself tree for $10!!!!!! And remember, she was really tall, too!
We didn't get the huge amounts of snow some places did this winter, but I think we got enough. And enough cold weather to kill off some nasty flea and mosquito larvae! That's where Ohio weather has it all over the sunny South!!!! We don't have the bug populations of pesky critters so much, as long as we get a deep enough freeze to balance the powers!
Had to take time to make a new one-of-a-kind St. Q painting, "St. Quilta the Comforter Blesses the Year of the Dragon." It's 17"h x 16"w, quilted and embellished. St. Q put on a feisty orange muu-muu for Chinese New Year, and on her shoulder is a weird white metal dragon (that's the particular dragon for this year.) Only said dragon kinda looks like a docile cow! How Ohio of me! Got this piece done in time to have her at Thirteen Moons Gallery in Santa Fe, for Chinese New Year's Eve, Feb 4! (Do they do a lot of partying in Santa Fe for that hoilday? I haven't been yet!) This little quilt will be part of our work in a show at Thirteen Moons, March 31 to April 26, coming right up! If she doesn't sell there, we'll get them to send her to Studio B, in Lancaster, OH, for the "Small Works" exhibit of QSDS instructors' work, for this May-July.
Hey, that reminds me: There's still time to sign up for our class at Quilt/Surface Design Symposium for June 11-16. You can do it at their website, or email Linda Fowler, to get a brochure. Better hustle! Our class is Outsider Art Quilt Shrines, and it's going to be a lot of mixed media fun!
Here is Aimee, opening presents at one of two baby showers we had for her, on Chinese New Year! She lived with us for a month, while waiting for her apartment. She'd rest in this big old recliner, and our cat, Meeper, sitting next to her here, would snuggle up and just love having someone to keep her company! Aimee would like to take Meeper to her place, where she'd be safe from the reckless younger cats' roughness. But Aimee can't have pets, and we would miss Meeper too much. She's been with us for almost 12 years now.
It was really nice to have Aimee living here. We haven't had a pregnant woman living here ever! Imagine: not even any pregnant campers!!! I was pregnant twenty nine and a half years ago! And Jimmy missed that! So this was a good experience for us!
On February 10, Willy Pendejo, our one and only male pet, celebrated his sixth birthday. He was born, speaking of Chinese stuff, on the first day of the Year of the Dog. And he thinks he IS a dog! Here, Jimmy and Dad's favorite toy, Droopy the rubber dog, put on red plastic El Toro tequila sombraros, to help Willy party down! Willy was good and held still, so his little hat wouldn't fall off, during my photo op! I see that you can hardly see Jimmy's sombraro, but it's up there, nestled in his wonderful hair! How he loves that crazy cat of his! Every night, if we're home, Willy stretches out on Jimmy's lap and shoulder, while Jimmy watches a bit of TV before bedtime. Like us, Willy is a second-shifter, staying up very late at night!
Jimmy and I went up to Kent State University on Feb. 16, for the touring opening of "Transcending Traditions: Ohio Artists in Clay and Fiber," at the School of Art Gallery. Here I'm standing with our quilt "Prayer for Oklahoma City." It sure was nice to be back in Kent again. I lived there for three years with Gretchen, when I was in grad school, getting my MFA. Then Gretchen was there for another five years, working the whole time in this same gallery, while she got her undergrad degree in Art History at Kent. She was done in '94, and we hadn't been back much, since then. It's only an hour away, too! When you make art as time-consuming as we do, you tend to stay at home a lot! (Unless you're running around the country, teaching, of course! Either way, you don't get out much to visit or see shows!)
At the end of February, Jimmy had a fly fishing trade show to attend in Cincinnati, so we had a real excuse to go see Gretchen and Mike! I am so happy, when I get to be with my Baby Ruth! We met her at her Cincinnati Art Museum, and she took us through the big decorative furniture show that's up now. Jimmy stayed and grooved on that, while Gretchen and I went down to her office in Registration, so I could meet her boss's baby, who was visiting that same afternoon. Gretchen has such a nice group of co-workers there! And it's a wonderful museum!
We hung out at Gretchen and Mike's place, in Clifton, went to a new restaurant, and next morning, while Jimmy did the fly fishing thing, the rest of us went to Ferguson's, a big antique mall, down by the river. Jimmy and I drove home that day, in case Aimee had her baby! But we were very glad we had a little time away with our kids!
Now today, March 7, is Mardi Gras, and we're still awaiting Aimee's birth of Omari! Jimmy and I will be home this week, and then we begin teaching out again, and will only be home a bit each weekend, til April 9. So we're truly hoping the birth can happen now! I know Aimee is also wishing it'd happen soon! So everyone, please take a minute and send a prayer for the good experience of Omari's birth! Thanks a lot!
See you next time, which is on my mom's birthday, May 8th! -- Lucky Magnolia
Turtle Moon Studios
Susan Shie and James Acord
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