INFURIATION, RAGE, ANGER, AND OTHER BLOOD PRESSURE-RAISING MOODS – Marilyn Armstrong

This has the Chinese government antique (official) insignia. Probably 1700s, but could be 100 years earlier. Possibly from Tibet, but claimed by the Chinese (who are also claiming Tibet)

RDP-Sunday–INFURIATE

Ever since Garry said he was sure I was going to have a stroke if I didn’t calm down, I have calmed down. Mostly by having all of these rage-filled battles online rather than on the phone. I didn’t really think I’d have a stroke, but who knows? Nothing good was going to come out of it, regardless.

Giant ginger jar (missing lid)

It was ALWAYS something to do with customers non-relations. missing items for which I’d paid and expected to actually receive, getting defrauded (again), failure of a company to honor an expensive service plan (and usually one I should have known better than to purchase in the first place).

When I bought my Mac, I didn’t buy the service plan. There’s nearest service area was more than 50 miles away and for the amount they charged for less than a year’s “service,” what was the point? It would work that long I was sure. Computers work perfectly from when you get them (or never start working in the first place) in which case your 90-day warranty does the job just fine.

After I stopped paying for service plans. life got better. The people who supposedly provided the service rarely knew more than I did anyway.

Hand-carved Burmese Buddha – 20th-Century

At least I knew a reboot usually helped.

I stopped working with undependable companies and stayed with places that honored their warrantees: LL Beane, Land’s End, Amazon, Audible. and I never call my electric or internet company unless everything stopped working (which usually meant an area outage so there wasn’t much point in it).  Even then, I knew if I just waited, by morning it would get fixed.

I think Tibetan

I haven’t worked full time for so long I don’t actually remember many boss-slave relationships. I remember good ones, the wonderful ones — and have mostly forgotten the terrible ones. I remember the completely IRRATIONAL ones, though- the people who told you to do things that were physically impossible and I remember the great ones who were more like pals than bosses. I hold in deep fondness the mentors who taught me what I needed to know to make my way in a strange world.

Chinese Astrological figures etc

But right now, I’m not even angry. I’m just confused, scared, baffled. What to do about my house? How to get my insurance company to pay for legitimate weather damage that has — simply by driving around an looking at all the battered houses in the area — taken a terrible toll in the Valley.

I don’t know where to begin and on who to do it. In ALL the years I’ve owned houses, no insurance company has given me anything, no matter what had happened. I’ve gotten used to assuming there’s no point bothering to ask and it was always something I could somehow manage to take care of. Somehow.

This time, I can’t do it alone. I don’t have the skills or money. The adjuster came and went — and I have yet to see a report or a summary or ANYTHING indicating that the company got the pictures and proof of water damage. You’d think after 47 years between Garry and I with this same company that would count for something, right? It would seem I was deluded. Again.

I’m not even mad, just lost.

Simultaneously, I’m trying to sell as many of my antiques and paintings as I can. I don’t think they are worth all that much, pretty as they are, but other people don’t agree — so on the theory that other people’s ideas are often better than mine, why not at least try?

Sui musicians, restored

In the interim, it means carefully, oh SO carefully, dusting them. You can’t wash them — they are too old and the glazes are gone after a few hundred to thousands of years in caves or craters or underneath the ocean. It turns out, the ocean crashes did the LEAST damage … who’d have guessed it?

I’ve (nervously) assigned this task to Garry with the warning if he can’t reach it, don’t even try. The stuff is fragile.

When Owen, the tall one, is here, I will get him to help — and even HE is afraid of them, too. They are SO old.

Rage? More like complete confusion.

I’m probably enraged by what I (humorously) call my insurance company who doesn’t actually insure anything unless it affects the value of the house to the mortgage company (though you’d think a wall about to collapse from water damage would affect its overall value). They take our money, more every year — and it is a LOT of money — and never give anything back.

Miscellaneous and old!

I’m not angry. Just shocked, saddened, and dismayed that the situation could be this bad and MAPFRE will somehow manage to get away with it. Even more shocked at my own lack of understanding of the process. Boy oh boy, could I use a lawyer!

If I manage to figure out how to emerge from this mess, I’ll let you know.

I wonder — if I do nothing — how long it will take for the house to fall down? Do you think the insurance would pay for that? The mortgage company might get downright pissy about a pile of junk where a house used to be. I wouldn’t care for it much, either.

FROM DUST WE COME, TO DUST WE RETURN – Marilyn Armstrong

A few nights ago, we watched one of the “Orville” episodes on Hulu. This episode was about finding a lost cell phone from a “time capsule” on earth and how someone recreated that world on the Holodeck. He fell in love with the girl on the phone, but of course, it couldn’t work. Past is past.

I love time-travel stories. In fact, Garry and I are quite addicted to them. The first movie he ever brought over to show me was “Somewhere in Time” which is a time-travel love story. I liked the movie so much I haven’t wanted to read the book. I want the images from the picture.

I understand, as a generation, we will disappear rather faster than previous generations simply because so much of the material we’ve created is electronic. Our things have no physical structure. We can’t store them except on our devices. When we pass, our computers will pass too if not immediately, then eventually. Time will make our computers useless anyway because technology is everchanging.

Dawn in Vineyard Haven.

Our photographs will largely disappear when we die. As we vanish, our memories will vanish unless we wrote them down somewhere in a book that isn’t immediately forgotten. It is a rare family (usually a wealthy one) where the past is saved through centuries. Even those ultimately disappear because time goes on beyond remembering.

Vineyard art

I’ve visited a few castles of great lords of Egypt (there are a few in Israel, including Lachish), plus of course Canaan, England, Ireland, and Wales. The oldest ones are rocks and ruin. What didn’t disintegrate through time was destroyed by earthquakes or other natural events. Many great monuments remain, but no one knows who built them or when. Personal belongings have long turned to dust so we can but imagine what the lives of those people might have been. I’m sure we are more wrong than right in what we want to believe.

Assuming we find a way out of today’s current mess and build a kinder, better world, bits and pieces of us will hang around, no doubt transferred to some new medium. It will be less than previous generations left.

Giant Rose Famille Ginger jar

I thought about all the photographs. Almost all will be lost because they were never printed. They have no physical reality. I even wondered (briefly) if I should print some — even tiny versions — just so there would be a physical record they existed. Then I realized no one would want the pictures anyway.

Let me rephrase that. They might want them, but they have nowhere to put them. That’s why when Garry was cleaning out his parent’s house, I was afraid he’d bring back stuff. It wasn’t that the material was not important. It was that we have no room for it.

Little things

Our walls and cabinets, closets and shelves — everything is full. The attic hasn’t much in it because it’s not really an attic. It’s full of fiberglass to keep heat in the house.

Funny how insulation was a big issue when we moved here. Now, I wish we had better ways to move air around so it wouldn’t be so hot!

More little things

Times change. Hopefully, enough of our world will be saved somehow and somewhere. For all I know, some planet in the great out-there has all our TV shows, music, books, and photographs. Maybe they are building a new world based on what they see in our old stories and pictures.

A TUESDAY MYSTERY – RICH PASCHALL

The continuing story of  The Case With The Missing Egg

Tuesday started out like every day for the perpetually prepared Harold. The morning shrill of the alarm clock announced the beginning of another well planned day for the Premier of Planning, the Overlord of Organization and the Lord of the Library. After his normal morning duties, Harold looked forward to his next reading selection from the local library.  It was the standard Tuesday plan.

He arose promptly and went straight to the window, as was his normal practice. He grabbed his glasses off the nearby dresser, opened the blinds and surveyed the weather.

“What a beautiful day,” Harold announced to himself and went on to brush his teeth, stare in the mirror a few moments and jump in the shower. Harold included shaving on the days he was to go out of the house. He always felt better if he looked better to himself. He did not really give much thought to what others may think of his appearance.

All through his working career, and right into retirement, the only one Harold ever tried to please with his appearance was himself. He felt perfectly comfortable at work with a pocket protector in his white shirt pocket. He gave little thought to whether his socks clashed with the rest of his clothes as he only purchased white and black socks. There were no colors to worry about. His shirts were solid colors as were his pants. There was little chance that he could wear anything that would clash. As everything was rather basic, he had little concern about clothes going in and out of style. It seemed like the most practical style tactic for the very practical Harold.

After donning the proper underwear, shirt and pants for the day, Harold went back to the dresser for his socks. As he stared in the drawer a moment he decided that something was not quite right. He felt instinctively that the items in the drawer were not as neatly stacked as usual and decided to take out the stacks of black socks so that he may return them to the drawer in neater piles. When they had all been removed Harold was surprised to spy something that certainly did not belong in the back of the drawer. You can not imagine the unpleasant feeling that ran through the body of the sultan of socks’ stacking when he made the curious discovery.

There is was!  It was in the back of the drawer, hiding behind the socks. Was it there since Sunday? Could it possibly have been there from the Sunday before that?

pottery Qianlong-1736

Harold carefully reached into the back of the drawer and removed the Chinese porcelain egg. He placed it softly on the bed and went to get the step-ladder. He used the ladder to get the special box of porcelain collectibles down from the closet shelf and took the box and the egg to the living room.

As if it was Sunday, the day the lord made for Harold to clean house, he set the box down on the coffee table. He then set himself down on the sofa and studied the egg closely, just like it was the time of day on Sunday that was set aside for such things. Clearly Harold introduced a piece of the Sunday schedule into Tuesday morning. The discovery of the egg was both pleasing and perplexing.

Try as he might, and he did, Harold could not imagine how the egg got into the drawer. There would seem to have been no point in time over the previous 10 days that he could have accidentally placed the egg into the drawer. Was it out of the box or even in his hands the last time he was folding and putting away socks?  Could he possibly have dropped it into the drawer when he put away underwear? No! He would never have underwear and his precious porcelain out at the same time. What in the world happened?

Many minutes of mystery manipulated the thoughts of Harold, normally the master of minute manipulation.  He reran the tapes in the back of his mind that held all of the activities of the past ten days.

96-VishnuOnGaruda-HPCR-1

The previous two Sundays seemed like the most probable times to have inadvertently placed the egg in the drawer, but how did he do it?  Nothing in his highly organized memory banks gave him a clue to the mystery.  Nevertheless, the beauty of the item also held the riddle Harold wanted sincerely … even desperately … to solve. How could it be that the vault of knowledge Harold secured in his brain failed to hold the key to this riddle?  Why couldn’t Harold recall how this had happened?

After too much time had passed staring at the egg, Harold knew he could not let Tuesday morning’s plan turn into Sunday afternoon’s activity. So, he placed the egg carefully in its box and returned the box to its shelf.

What should have been a happy Tuesday for Harold ultimately resulted in more than a bit of concern.

The mystery of Harold’s Missing Memory remained unsolved.

Related:
First Harold story:  “Soup and Sandwich
Second Harold Story: “The Case With The Missing Egg
Third Harold Story: “Come Monday, It Will Be Alright

THE CASE WITH THE MISSING EGG – RICH PASCHALL

The story of Harold (Soup and Sandwich) continues with a new week.

Sunday started like any other Sunday.  Harold arose punctually with the sound of the alarm clock.  There was never any pressing the snooze button for Harold.  Time was too valuable to be wasted pressing a snooze button.  The world never snoozes, so why should Harold?  He quickly went through his morning routine, then went on to the kitchen for coffee.

Han Dynasty 206 BC - 220 AD

Han Dynasty 206 BC – 220 AD

As expected, Harold found the coffee already brewing.  He set it up the night before so that there would be no fumbling through the coffee-making process in the morning.  When Harold was ready, so was the coffee.  You would not expect anything less from the time managing genius that he was.  He had a light breakfast, did some light reading and followed that by cleaning the dishes and neatly putting them away.

Now Harold, master of organization, commander of the schedule, and ruler of all the cleaning supplies, was ready to begin.  He would start cleaning in the living room at the front of the house and follow through all the rooms, closets included, until he got to the back of the house.  This would generally take all day with a little time off for a second cup of coffee and then again later for a light lunch.

So Harold dusted and vacuumed and swept.  Every item was cleaned.  As there were very few item on tables or cabinets, the job could be done quickly.  Each drawer had to be opened and inspected.  Everything had to be in place.  A quick visual inventory was taken by Harold’s computer like mind, and nothing was out-of-place when he was finished.  Actually, nothing was out-of-place when Harold started, but he just had to check to make sure.

Tang Servant

When he got to the bedroom closet he spied a box on the top shelf above the space where his clothes were neatly hung.  Harold removed a two-step ladder from behind the bedroom door and put it in from of the closet door.  He used it to reach the case on the shelf and then carefully lifted it as if it held a king’s treasure.  He brought it carefully down the steps and carried it to the living room.  There he set it on the coffee table, which never saw any coffee, and he sat down on the sofa.

Years earlier Harold had the case made to his exact specifications.  While its outward appearance was of an ordinary cardboard box, it was reinforced on the inside to hold the heavy and precious items Harold had so carefully collected in his lifetime.  The sections were of various sizes because the contents were all different in shape.

While no one who saw Harold’s neat, clean and modest apartment would ever suspect, Harold was a collector of rare Japanese and Chinese porcelain.  They were the only collectables in his possession and they were as much an investment as they were a collection.  The pieces were carefully procured over many years.  He had to be careful in his choices, as there were many fakes on the market.

The items also had to be something that Harold enjoyed.  If they were not aesthetically pleasing to his eye, he did not purchase them.  He could not imagine spending a lot of money on something, if they were not good to look at.  Of course, he was the only one who ever saw them.

Once Harold went to China for vacation, partly because he thought he had a lead on a piece of Imperial porcelain of the Yuan dynasty.  It turned out not to be so, but he settled on a piece from a later period.  It was his only trip outside the country.  Everything else was purchased from collectors and auctions.  Now he had a box full, a little bigger than the standard shirt box.

As always, Harold carefully removed the cover.  On this day, as in every Sunday, he would pick up one piece and examine and admire it closely, but wait!  There was a piece missing.  A porcelain egg was not in its place.  Harold’s mind was racing.

Where could it be?  Did someone break in and steal it?  No, that makes no sense.  Why steal the egg and leave the rest?  Did he lose it?  Impossible!  He never took them out of the house.  It must simply be misplaced.  How could the well-organized Harold have misplaced anything?

Harold was frantic.  He wanted to get up and start searching the house but his body went numb.  He started to shiver.  Never was an item of Harold’s life out-of-place and now a precious piece was missing.  His stomach was all twisted in knots.  He struggled just to get to his feet.

Sui Dynasty musicians

Sui Dynasty musicians

When he got his wits about himself, he started a careful and well-organized search of the house.  Since it seem unlikely to be in any of the places he just cleaned, he searched everywhere else, some places multiple times.  When the egg was not found, Harold sunk to his knees and prayed to St. Anthony, patron of lost items.  The egg remained lost.

Harold returned to the sofa, sat down and stared at the case with the empty space.  Through the careful collection of these porcelain items over the years, Harold felt that his very life had gained in value.  Now the missing porcelain egg, soft and beautiful in his mind, caused a tear to come to Harold’s eye.  He could not shake the feeling that he himself, through stupidity or carelessness or whatever, was now worth a little less.

To be continued…

Related:
First Harold story: Soup and Sandwich

TRACING THE PAST

THURSDAY’S SPECIAL: TRACES OF THE PAST


FROM PAULA: “Quite often when I travel I take an unconventional approach. It is not about learning about buildings and places that I visit, or knowing all the dates and names; it is about stepping into the past, and if I am lucky enough to have only the company of my choice with me, it is like a time travel in which I write my own script.” 

Well put. I feel that way not only when I travel, but it is the reason I collect antiquities. Each is a physical piece of the past. I hold it and imagine how many other hands have held this piece of pottery or sculpture. Who were they? What was the world like? How did it happen that this fragile thing could survive a thousand years when, at any time, a slip of the hand would have shattered it.

Yesterday, my son gave me an old, small (as these things go) Victorian secretary with a glass display top, replacing a piece that I’d bought from a carpenter friend that was charming, but not exactly a great piece of furniture. I have spend the last 24 hours cleaning small things, finding things I’d forgotten I have, moving stuff around from this shelf, to that shelf. The former piece was open, no glass. There were just two shelves, one open top, the other 16-inches tall. The secretary’s shelves are about 13-inches high, so the taller things have had to move elsewhere, and some of the plates will fit, but not on their wood stands. Housing and displaying very old, delicate things is not as simple as it looks unless you have a lot more space for display than me. But, I did it. I gave away one picture — big 11X14 of the dawn over Ogunquit beach to my son and his partner. I have many things that need a piece of wall and there’s no wall available. I own the original of that print, so I can make another. Maybe I will. On canvas, this time.


I remembered something I’d put out of my mind and it saddened me. Last March, I (me, no one else, just me) knocked down a display cabinet in the living room. I wrote about it here: WHEN GOOD SHELVES GO BAD.

Qianlong (1736-1795) porcelain vase.

Qianlong (1736-1795) porcelain vase.

I had forgotten that the Qianlong (1736-1795) porcelain vase (the white vase with the Chinese characters) was one of two fatalities in that crash. I’m very glad I took pictures of it. It was probably my favorite piece. The prettiest and in the best condition of any of my antique vases. It was, in fact, almost flawless.

It no longer exists in this world. That’s the thing about the antiques and antiquities we collect. We collect them for ourselves because they are beautiful and rare and come from the mists of time. But we also preserve them so they will continue to exist in this world. Sadly, I failed in this and one other much older small vase.

There is more to collecting that just “having stuff.” Real collectors know this and it is probably more addictive than heroine. And possibly, even more expensive.

A PIECE OF THE PAST

TRACES OF THE PAST

America doesn’t have much of a traceable past. Not only are we a rather recent addition to the list of nations, but long ago remnants exist only if they were built of stone.

old number 2

Who know how many civilizations came and went on Earth without leaving traces because they built their cities from wood or adobe?

72-OldForgeHouse2HP

Old means very different things here and there.

OldJail-300-72

Now we build cities and steel towers. We’ve created piles of rubbish that will never decay.

Saguaro

A thousand years from now, archaeologists may believe we worshiped aluminum cans or plastic bottles. Because that’s what they will find.

FIVE CENTURIES DOWN THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD

IN 500 YEARS? DIGGING UP THE DIGS


pottery Qianlong-1736The diggers will find more remnants of the dogs than us. Dog toys, dishes, food. Mountains of dog hair.

When they come to our stuff, they will suspect we were archaeologists too. What a strange mix of ancient and modern. Very old Chinese and other Asian pottery and artifacts. Toys from a hundred years before.

And the mix of technologies: digital cameras and photographic prints, computers. Oil lamps and a woodstove. Electric lights and linoleum floors.

Fireplaces and logs.

Carved wooden cabinets, modern upholstery, hand-hooked rugs.

Glass and plastic.

Copper kettles and microwave ovens.

Acoustic guitars and an electric piano. Wood flutes and recorded DVDs and CDs. Thousands of paper books, but also odd little computers for reading.

Not a single flying car.

New and old. Perhaps after all a realistic picture of who we were, at least in terms of the stuff we needed and the toys with which we played.

OLD RUSTY MEMORIES

Weekly Photo Challenge 

Relic – What images does “relic” conjure for you?

Photo Marilyn Armstrong - Bernat Mills

We live in a throwaway society … yet here, in the country — maybe because we have a little extra room — many people choose to keep the relics.

OLD NUMBER 2 - 2

Because we find old things, those rusty remembrances of our past, beautiful.

snow shack

Whether it’s the old storage shed behind the barn, the barn itself, or the old truck we drove for 20 years … they hold a lot of memories of when we also were young.

96-OldTruckHPCR

In fact, we find old stuff … relics … fascinating. We collect them. Photograph them. Try to imagine what they might have seen in their many years on this earth.

72-SuiMusicians-HEAD_05

SAVING SOME THINGS OF VALUE

Antique Antics

What’s the oldest thing you own? (Toys, clothing, Twinkies, Grecian urns: anything’s fair game.) Recount its history — from the object’s point of view.


Collecting is a beautiful disease. Insidious with no known cure. You acquire a thing. You love it. You get another thing, similar, but not the same. One day, you look around and you have a collection.

Han Dynasty 206 BC - 220 AD

Han Dynasty 206 BC – 220 AD

Chinese antique porcelain and Asian sacred art grabbed me and wouldn’t let me go. There is something awe-inspiring about holding something in your hand that was created thousands of years ago. It lives on your fireplace mantel.

Bronze, probably Tibetan, 19th century?

Bronze, probably Tibetan, 19th century?

You look at it and imagine all the people who have touched it, whose lives this pot has touched, whose prayers this Buddha has heard. It’s living history.

Qianlong (1736-1795) porcelain.

Qianlong (1736-1795) porcelain.

Thus, when I had to reduce the collection, I didn’t sell anything. I split the collection and gave more than half my favorite pieces to my friends, people who I knew would treasure it as I did. How much was it worth? A lot, maybe. Or not so much. I don’t know. It was beyond price to me. Money is transitory but these precious, fragile, beautiful pieces need to be protected, to be kept safe, not sold as decorations.

Tang horse with servant

Tang horse with servant

A great deal of the world’s great art has been casually destroyed by governments and individuals with no reverence for art or history. War, natural disasters have contributed to reducing the number of these fragile pieces of art. If I can save a Han pot, a Qianlong vase, or a single Tibetan Buddha. I’ve saved something of value. I no longer collect, but I continue to preserve and protect.

A TUESDAY MYSTERY – RICH PASCHALL

The continuing story of  The Case With The Missing Egg

Tuesday started out like every day for the perpetually prepared Harold. The morning shrill of the alarm clock announced the beginning of another well planned day for the Premier of Planning, the Overlord of Organization and the Lord of the Library. After his normal morning duties, Harold looked forward to his next reading selection from the local library.  It was the standard Tuesday plan.

96-KitchenWindow-405

He arose promptly and went straight to the window, as was his normal practice. He grabbed his glasses off the nearby dresser, opened the blinds and surveyed the weather.

“What a beautiful day,” Harold announced to himself and went on to brush his teeth, stare in the mirror a few moments and jump in the shower. Harold included shaving on the days he was to go out of the house. He always felt better if he looked better to himself. He did not really give much thought to what others may think of his appearance.

All through his working career, and right into retirement, the only one Harold ever tried to please with his appearance was himself. He felt perfectly comfortable at work with a pocket protector in his white shirt pocket. He gave little thought to whether his socks clashed with the rest of his clothes as he only purchased white and black socks. There were no colors to worry about. His shirts were solid colors as were his pants. There was little chance that he could wear anything that would clash. As everything was rather basic, he had little concern about clothes going in and out of style. It seemed like the most practical style tactic for the very practical Harold.

After donning the proper underwear, shirt and pants for the day, Harold went back to the dresser for his socks. As he stared in the drawer a moment he decided that something was not quite right. He felt instinctively that the items in the drawer were not as neatly stacked as usual and decided to take out the stacks of black socks so that he may return them to the drawer in neater piles. When they had all been removed Harold was surprised to spy something that certainly did not belong in the back of the drawer. You can not imagine the unpleasant feeling that ran through the body of the sultan of socks’ stacking when he made the curious discovery.

There is was!  It was in the back of the drawer, hiding behind the socks. Was it there since Sunday? Could it possibly have been there from the Sunday before that?

pottery Qianlong-1736

Harold carefully reached into the back of the drawer and removed the Chinese porcelain egg. He placed it softly on the bed and went to get the step-ladder. He used the ladder to get the special box of porcelain collectibles down from the closet shelf and took the box and the egg to the living room.

As if it was Sunday, the day the lord made for Harold to clean house, he set the box down on the coffee table. He then set himself down on the sofa and studied the egg closely, just like it was the time of day on Sunday that was set aside for such things. Clearly Harold introduced a piece of the Sunday schedule into Tuesday morning. The discovery of the egg was both pleasing and perplexing.

Try as he might, and he did, Harold could not imagine how the egg got into the drawer. There would seem to have been no point in time over the previous 10 days that he could have accidentally placed the egg into the drawer. Was it out of the box or even in his hands the last time he was folding and putting away socks?  Could he possibly have dropped it into the drawer when he put away underwear? No! He would never have underwear and his precious porcelain out at the same time. What in the world happened?

Many minutes of mystery manipulated the thoughts of Harold, normally the master of minute manipulation.  He reran the tapes in the back of his mind that held all of the activities of the past ten days.

96-VishnuOnGaruda-HPCR-1

The previous two Sundays seemed like the most probable times to have inadvertently placed the egg in the drawer, but how did he do it?  Nothing in his highly organized memory banks gave him a clue to the mystery.  Nevertheless, the beauty of the item also held the riddle Harold wanted sincerely … even desperately … to solve. How could it be that the vault of knowledge Harold secured in his brain failed to hold the key to this riddle?  Why couldn’t Harold recall how this had happened?

After too much time had passed staring at the egg, Harold knew he could not let Tuesday morning’s plan turn into Sunday afternoon’s activity. So, he placed the egg carefully in its box and returned the box to its shelf.

What should have been a happy Tuesday for Harold ultimately resulted in more than a bit of concern.

The mystery of Harold’s Missing Memory remained unsolved.

THE CASE WITH THE MISSING EGG – RICH PASCHALL

The story of Harold (Soup and Sandwich) continues with a new week.

Sunday started like any other Sunday.  Harold arose punctually with the sound of the alarm clock.  There was never any pressing the snooze button for Harold.  Time was too valuable to be wasted pressing a snooze button.  The world never snoozes, so why should Harold?  He quickly went through his morning routine, then went on to the kitchen for coffee.

Han Dynasty 206 BC - 220 AD

Han Dynasty 206 BC – 220 AD

As expected, Harold found the coffee already brewing.  He set it up the night before so that there would be no fumbling through the coffee-making process in the morning.  When Harold was ready, so was the coffee.  You would not expect anything less from the time managing genius that he was.  He had a light breakfast, did some light reading and followed that by cleaning the dishes and neatly putting them away.

Now Harold, master of organization, commander of the schedule, and ruler of all the cleaning supplies, was ready to begin.  He would start cleaning in the living room at the front of the house and follow through all the rooms, closets included, until he got to the back of the house.  This would generally take all day with a little time off for a second cup of coffee and then again later for a light lunch.

So Harold dusted and vacuumed and swept.  Every item was cleaned.  As there were very few item on tables or cabinets, the job could be done quickly.  Each drawer had to be opened and inspected.  Everything had to be in place.  A quick visual inventory was taken by Harold’s computer like mind, and nothing was out-of-place when he was finished.  Actually, nothing was out-of-place when Harold started, but he just had to check to make sure.

Tang Servant

When he got to the bedroom closet he spied a box on the top shelf above the space where his clothes were neatly hung.  Harold removed a two-step ladder from behind the bedroom door and put it in from of the closet door.  He used it to reach the case on the shelf and then carefully lifted it as if it held a king’s treasure.  He brought it carefully down the steps and carried it to the living room.  There he set it on the coffee table, which never saw any coffee, and he sat down on the sofa.

Years earlier Harold had the case made to his exact specifications.  While its outward appearance was of an ordinary cardboard box, it was reinforced on the inside to hold the heavy and precious items Harold had so carefully collected in his lifetime.  The sections were of various sizes because the contents were all different in shape.

While no one who saw Harold’s neat, clean and modest apartment would ever suspect, Harold was a collector of rare Japanese and Chinese porcelain.  They were the only collectables in his possession and they were as much an investment as they were a collection.  The pieces were carefully procured over many years.  He had to be careful in his choices, as there were many fakes on the market.

The items also had to be something that Harold enjoyed.  If they were not aesthetically pleasing to his eye, he did not purchase them.  He could not imagine spending a lot of money on something, if they were not good to look at.  Of course, he was the only one who ever saw them.

Once Harold went to China for vacation, partly because he thought he had a lead on a piece of Imperial porcelain of the Yuan dynasty.  It turned out not to be so, but he settled on a piece from a later period.  It was his only trip outside the country.  Everything else was purchased from collectors and auctions.  Now he had a box full, a little bigger than the standard shirt box.

As always, Harold carefully removed the cover.  On this day, as in every Sunday, he would pick up one piece and examine and admire it closely, but wait!  There was a piece missing.  A porcelain egg was not in its place.  Harold’s mind was racing.

Where could it be?  Did someone break in and steal it?  No, that makes no sense.  Why steal the egg and leave the rest?  Did he lose it?  Impossible!  He never took them out of the house.  It must simply be misplaced.  How could the well-organized Harold have misplaced anything?

Harold was frantic.  He wanted to get up and start searching the house but his body went numb.  He started to shiver.  Never was an item of Harold’s life out-of-place and now a precious piece was missing.  His stomach was all twisted in knots.  He struggled just to get to his feet.

Sui Dynasty musicians

Sui Dynasty musicians

When he got his wits about himself, he started a careful and well-organized search of the house.  Since it seem unlikely to be in any of the places he just cleaned, he searched everywhere else, some places multiple times.  When the egg was not found, Harold sunk to his knees and prayed to St. Anthony, patron of lost items.  The egg remained lost.

Harold returned to the sofa, sat down and stared at the case with the empty space.  Through the careful collection of these porcelain items over the years, Harold felt that his very life had gained in value.  Now the missing porcelain egg, soft and beautiful in his mind, caused a tear to come to Harold’s eye.  He could not shake the feeling that now he himself, through stupidity or carelessness or whatever, was worth a little less.

A few of my favorite things …

Collecting is a beautiful disease. It’s insidious and there’s no known cure. You get a thing. You love it. You get another thing … similar, but not the same. One day, you look around and you have a collection.

Chinese antique porcelain and Asian sacred art grabbed me and wouldn’t let me go. There is something so awesome — awe-inspiring — about holding something made thousands of years ago and now lives on your fireplace mantel. Imagine all the people who have touched it, whose lives this pot has touched, whose prayers this Buddha has heard. It’s living history.

Thus, when I had to reduce the collection, I didn’t sell anything. I split the collection and gave more than half my favorite pieces to my friends, people who I knew would treasure it as I did. How much was it worth? A lot, maybe. Or not so much. I don’t know. It was beyond price to me. Money is transitory but these precious, fragile, beautiful pieces need to be protected and saved from harm. They needed to be kept safe, not sold as decorations.

So much of the world’s great art has been casually destroyed by governments and individuals with no reverence for art or history. If I can save one Han pot, one Qianlong vase, one Tibetan Buddha … I’ve done something of value.

I no longer collect, but I continue to preserve and protect.

 

Life along the way

I spent the day doing a task all photographers must face. It’s no fun, but there’s no avoiding it. Sooner or later, the time comes to weed through the pictures, to take stock and get organized. It was time to do more than simply store the pictures. I looked through almost every file, years of digital photographs. The artistic stuff, the family photographs, the vacation pictures and holidays. Time to discard the bad ones I should have dumped in the first place. I converted all the RAW and TIFF  files to JPGs because I admitted to myself I am unlikely to need them. I’m not going to be making  lots of prints … and even if I were, the printer wants high quality JPGs, not TIFF or RAW. Time to let them go.

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Photo: Debbie Stone

It was a complicated decision, one of many realities I’ve had to face. Not as hard as most life decisions, but tricky in its own small way.

For the last dozen years, much of life has involved recognizing and accepting limits, then figuring out how to work around them. There are physical limits, financial limits. I can’t afford things I don’t really need, though I sometimes splurge on something I want very much, like a lens for the camera or a bigger external hard drive. There are always choices to make and priorities to set.

Now, it’s facing one more fact of life: no more wall space. No room for anything, not for my  photographs or anything else. The walls are full of things I love. My photos are on display, but there are also paintings, some by friends, others bought at galleries in days when we had spare dollars to spend on non-necessities. Photos of Garry taken during his working years … with politicians and presidents.

Photo: Debbie Stone

Photo: Debbie Stone

He has awards and plaques and I have shadow-boxes filled with antique Chinese porcelain, Navajo pots, fetishes and figurines and Murano glass. Together we have a lifetime of vacation mementos and one small carved black peat cat bought in Ireland on our honeymoon. All the paintings, photos and things we bought on the Vineyard during a decade or more of summers. They need space. There’s no room, so I won’t be making lots of prints. I have dozens of paintings and photographs that were gifts from artist friends that I can’t afford to frame and if I could, I’d have no place to hang them.

I dumped hundreds of gigabytes of  RAW and TIFF files. While I was organizing, I consolidated files of similar things. I have dozens of New England autumns, thousands of pictures of dogs, kids, dogs and kids, friends and their kids and dogs.

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This task sounds a lot more interesting than it actually is. In fact, it makes watching paint dry seem thrilling, but it needed to be done. And while I was sorting, reformatting and organizing, back on Serendipity, I quietly slipped over the 44,000 hit mark. I’ll celebrate at 45,000 I guess, or maybe I’ll wait for 50,000. The numbers have been moving so quickly.

Awards … another Liebster, more followers  — and I realize I have posted every day for more than six months. 868 posts as of tonight. Time has flown by. From thinking I’d put up an occasional post about something or other, maybe show some photographs … to recognizing that this blog has become important to me. It’s no longer a little hobby; it has become a focus.

I stopped bringing home a regular salary more than ten years ago when I became ill. I tried, intermittently, to work, but I couldn’t. Eventually, it became clear my career was over. My pride took a hit, but I don’t really miss work. I miss the paycheck, but work? Nope.

I settled down to not working and it required a bit of adjustment.  I’ve never been bored. For a while I was too sick to be bored, but I’ve always filled time by reading. It’s my fallback position. Somewhere in there I wrote a book. That consumed a couple of years and after that, for a few years I ran an online antique and collectibles business, which is where many of my antiques and other stuff originated. It was surprisingly successful, but the economy fell apart. The type of stuff I sold was based on people having spare money for things that are just beautiful, not necessarily useful. With the handwriting bright on the wall, I closed up shop.

Han pot

Han pot

If you aren’t going to school or working at a job, time tends to lose its shape. Blogging has given it a bit more form. It’s writing, which is as much who I am as what I do. As I move through my world, I look at the things I do and whatever is happening around me as stuff I can write about. When I hold a camera, I see the world in frames and perspective, I see colors and angles, light and shadow. When I think about it as a writer, I hear everything described in my mind, narrated.

Often, by the time I sit down to write, it’s almost written. It’s not always that easy, but sometimes it is. Sometimes words fall out of my fingers and it’s all just there, complete, waiting to put together.

Life has a rhythm, a pulse, a flow. From morning coffee to afternoon chores, to the evening when I write, watch a movie or some television, then write some more. Often, as now, I do both at the same time, something my husband finds baffling. If I think about it I suppose I’d find it baffling too, but I can do two things at a time. Usually. Depending on what the two things are.

The Mumford

If you’re waiting for me to get to the point, you’re out of luck. No point. Just a long ramble … rather like life.

In books, nothing happens without a reason. In literature, there are no coincidences, no accidental meetings. But life is full of things happening for no discernible reason. We can attribute meaning … religious meaning, omens, portents, whatever. But really, things just are what they are. We go from infancy to childhood then on into adulthood. We create goals and we push to achieve them, but the goals are not “real thing.” They are what we put in place to give our lives form, shape and direction, to make us feel purposeful.

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It’s harder when you are older and in what I like to think of as your post-career because the kinds of aims and goals we had before don’t work and we have to find new directions. Most of us do. The classic image that young people have of old people sitting around doing nothing and just fading into the twilight is based on misconception and stereotyping. They are in a hurry to grow up, to get on to whatever it is they perceive as the next stage of life. They can’t understand what life is like when your primary goal is to enjoy your time, not dash through everything as fast as possible.

They’ll find out.

Weekly Writing Challenge: Old Favorite Things

As a child, I collected books. I had no money of my own, but my mother was a sucker for books, and though almost everything else from those log ago days have been lost, I still have some of the books I loved as a child.

Three Margaret O’Brien dolls, from Madame Alexander, all dressed in original clothing.

I was born to collect, but lack of funds and a home of my own limited me until I hit my stride as a married, working adult. Armed with money, I could choose from an entire world of beautiful things. Although many collections have come and gone, three things have remained constant: the dolls of my girlhood, antique porcelain, and books.

I no longer collect. The shelves, walls, bookcases and every other place that might house a collectible is full. The “No Vacancy” sign has gone up on our lives. We are in the “cutting down,” not acquiring stage.

She was my second doll, for my sixth birthday..

My favorite dolls — now a mere couple of hundred from who-knows-how-many — surround me. In every room, in hallways, on high shelves and in glass-fronted cabinets, dolls stand, smile and wave. At night, they whisper secrets about the things they’ve seen, places and people they’ve known. I wish I could hear them, but their voices are too soft. They speak amongst themselves, not for human ears.

Cissy, the original and greatest ever fashion doll.

I restored her, including recreating as closely as I could, her original outfit. No small achievement since I really can’t sew.

I’ve held onto a modest, but satisfying collection of my antique Chinese porcelain too.

The dolls were born of my  never-ending attempt to reconnect with something happy from a difficult childhood, but the porcelain grew from my love of history.

A Han pot, probably used in a kitchen. Han pottery was the first mass-produced pottery, the “Tupperware:” of its day (206 BC – 220 AD)

I wish my porcelain could talk because oh, the stories it could tell. When I hold a perfect 5,000 year-old pot, I imagine the lives that pot has touched. How many kitchens it has lived in, how many different things were stored in it.

This style of Tang pottery was entirely decorative, but not for kings or princes, but to add beauty to the homes of ordinary peasants. (618 – 906 AD)

I feel a little buzz when I hold the very oldest of my porcelain pieces –a painted vase from China’s neolithic period — and imagine the history to which it has been witness. It was made at a time when Europeans were still living in caves and wearing animal skins, yet the Chinese were making painted pots of fired river clay, pre-porcelain from the earliest human civilization. I have Han pot, a Tang horseman, vases and some bronze pieces that span thousands of years.

At night, when I take off my earrings, I drop it into a Qing dynasty Tongzhi/Guangxu late 19th century “Cabaret dish.” I have Eucalyptus branches in a Jun vase with a shiny black glaze that at first I couldn’t believe was real, but turned out to be genuine.

Qianlong (1736-1795) porcelain.

I have a set of Sui musicians, and although I know they have been repaired and are not entirely original (I would never have been able to afford them if they were perfect … they’d be in a museum, not on my mantel), I love them no less for their needing reconstruction. If I were 1,500 years old, I’d probably need a bit of reconstruction too.

These are a few of my favorite things, but my favorite of all favorites is Annabelle.

Annabelle was made for one year by Madame Alexander. The year was 1952 and for my 5th birthday, my mother gave me Annabelle. How I loved her. She slept with me. I talked to her. I dressed her each day and when her wig wore out, my mother sent her to a doll hospital and had her touched up, restrung and re-wigged. When I left for Israel, I still had Annabelle, the one and only surviving physical piece of my childhood. I didn’t want to take her with me, so I gave her to my best friend’s daughter … who has her still.

A few years ago I was lucky to find another Annabelle, one identical to the doll I’d gotten for my birthday. And she is still my favorite doll, my favorite almost-a-person.

This is Annabelle. My perfect doll friend.

She is my friend and I still talk to her.

There are dolls all over the house and everyone talks to them, the same way we talk to our dogs. We don’t expect them to answer, but they are very good listeners.

The pottery is elegantly arrayed in my living room, on the mantel, in display cases in the dining room and a few pieces in the bedroom. Dolls stand atop every bookcase, on shelves throughout the house. Several hundred pairs of eyes, watching me. I like it.