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.

EVALUATING ART – Marilyn Armstrong

In the course of time, I’ve accumulated a lot of stuff. Much of the stuff is old Asian art — mostly  Chinese and some Japanese porcelain from Han to Qing dynasties.

I have no idea what it’s worth.

I think Tibetan – Hard to know dates on bronze pieces
Buddha, Tibet, probably 18th or 19th century

I didn’t buy it from major art houses and much of it has no provenance, so I have no way to prove where I got it … with a few exceptions that I got through the Chinese government agency and it has a number and a label. But these are small pieces and not worth huge amounts of money, or at least I don’t think they are.

Lots of pieces, many Chinese, some modern artist
Crica 1965 Wedgewood

But it has been years since I got them and prices have changed dramatically. I also have some nice original paintings – watercolors and oils. These, except for one which was a wedding gift, were bought from galleries. Again, all were bought at least 20 (or more) years ago, so I have no idea what they are worth or if they are worth anything. I didn’t buy them for their art value. I just liked them.

Cast iron Scotties (1880ish?)
1800s cast iron elephant

I guess what I need is an art evaluator to come to this house and look at all the pieces and give me an estimate of their worth. I know that places like Sotheby’s do this, but they tend to be low-ball estimators because they are looking for pieces that can resell and the less they pay you, the better for them. On the plus side, if you can reach an agreement, they take the stuff away and you aren’t left with figuring out what to do with some really fragile, delicate artwork.

Japanese pre-WWII tea set — I think

Even my son pointed out that I have some pretty nice art hanging on the walls and I said I didn’t think it was worth much since with a few exceptions, none of the artists was or is famous.

Qing dynasty rice bowl, typically used by field workers. The blue chicken is a cultural thing. The bowl is almost 200 years old — and it isn’t even close to my oldest pieces of pottery.

I could be wrong. I could be very wrong. I could also be absolutely right and what I’ve got are some pretty pieces that aren’t worth much. I have no idea.

I don’t even know enough to take a good guess. A lot of my Chinese stuff I can’t find out about because all the books about it are in Chinese. Asian art only became valuable recently.

Han pot (I had two, but I gave one away)

For years, it was considered junk by the Chinese who were convinced that anything old was worthless. Eventually, over the past 20 years, they have re-evaluated that opinion for which I was grateful because they were using crushed ancient Han pots to build roads.

Sui dynasty musicians. These are very old but have been restored. Restored pieces are much less valuable than originals

So here’s a question: do any of you know any art evaluators who I could enlist to help me figure out what I’ve got? Please, if anyone knows somebody who knows somebody who might be able to help me make some kind of estimate of what this stuff is worth, please be in touch.

Two Acoma seed pots

I’ve always been under the assumption that it isn’t worth much, but so many people have told me I’m wrong, I have to assume maybe they know something I don’t know.

IT’S A MASTERPIECE! – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Masterpiece

They gasped at its originality. The family matron was bowled over by its original design and creative conceptual images. Even the family teenagers were completely awestruck by its astonishing combination of colors and textures.

They took pictures of it and sent them all over the internet.

The artist was unimpressed. She kept sucking on her dummy and gurgling for more fingerpaints. Her genius would not be fully discovered until at least kindergarten.

PORTLAND STREET ART – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I recently spent two days with friends in Portland, Oregon, the Vermont of the West. Pot is legal and the arts are thriving, all over town.

Our friends drove us and walked with us all around town so we got a good overview of the city.

Beautiful design on a billboard in town
This design covered two buildings next to each other

Artwork on the side of a building
The side of another building. I love the whimsy of this one!
Another cool scene on the side of a building
Courtyard entrance to a shop

On our drive through town, I took a picture of an interesting sculpture I saw on the porch of a house. Later that night, our friends drove us to a local tourist attraction – a psychedelic light show that a local resident projects every night. I realized that this was the house with the interesting ‘sculpture’ – much more interesting with the lights!

DESIGN AT DISNEY – BY ELLIN CURLEY

On my recent trip out West, we went to Disneyland in Anaheim, CA for a day. I was struck by the beautiful design elements and artistic touches I saw all over the California Park. There were also many California Craftsman style pieces as well as Art Deco, often in the most mundane places.

Walt Disney with a map of the original Disneyland
The park is dotted with artistic plant arrangements and mini gardens
California Craftsman style fountain. Similar to Art Deco style.
Pseudo Frank Lloyd Wright style building, with his iconic stonework patterns
My favorite – a total art deco pretzel stand! Gorgeous!
Closeup of a colorful mosaic over a bench
A larger section of the mosaic over a bench

SHARE YOUR WORLD – Marilyn Armstrong

Share Your World -10-22-18

QUESTIONS FOR THIS WEEK

Credit for this first question goes to Teresa of The Haunted Wordsmith.   She asked for TEN books, in her challenge, so the SYW folks got off a bit easy..)

Name two books that have influenced you and share how.  
O Jerusalem: Day by Day and Minute by Minute, the Historic Struggle for Jerusalem and the Birth of Israel by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre

I first read the book when I lived in New York. It’s a great book for anyone who likes history. But later I read the same book when I was actually living in Jerusalem. When they wrote “… and then they charged up the hill …” and I looked out my living room window and realized — that WAS the hill. Suddenly, I realized there’s a no comparison between wars fought thousands of miles away and a war fought in your backyard.


Angelique, by Ann Golan.

I was 13 when I first read the book and in my fifties when I read the last one that had been translated into English.

With all the power of Crown and Church arrayed against her, Angélique finds a way through every imaginable personal tragedy and emerges victorious. Bowed, but never beaten, her defeats are temporary setbacks. Her triumphs change the world.

She is deathlessly beautiful, but Angélique doesn’t win the day using sex.

When she leads, she carries a gun and a sword. She will kill in defense of her own and does. She fights for her family, her home, her beliefs, her rights.

She became much more than a fictional character to me. At a time when female role models were few and far between, Angélique was fearless. Unstoppable. No simpering lady of fashion, she was tough. Smart. She suffered the worst life could dish out. She faced down unspeakable challenges. And there were casualties. She became a kind of mystical image of perfection for me. A dream woman whose feet were firmly planted on the earth.

In your opinion, where is the line between art and not art? 

I don’t think there is a line. Each person has their own version of “the line” between what is and isn’t art, but it’s not a real thing. It’s just where each individual puts it.

This doesn’t mean that I like everything. I don’t. There are many things deemed artistic that I find repulsive, even ugly … but I don’t define art.

Two Acoma seed pots

But on the other hand, if someone gives me a museum, I know what I wouldn’t put in it!

Trivia for Halloween:   What item is banned only during Halloween from 12am October 31st to 12pm November 1st in Hollywood California?   

Silly String. And I don’t know why either.

What is something that really annoys you but doesn’t bother most people? 

Stupid people. But that bothers a lot of people. People who use bad grammar — but that hardly makes me unique. Actually, I don’t think I have an answer for this one. I think I get annoyed by the same stuff that annoys most people. The only difference is that I write about it.

Instead of our usual gratitude question, I’m posing this one for this week: What or who in your life brings you the most joy?

Garry. Maybe it has always been Garry. He aggravates me, annoys me, frustrates me. He’s the soul of my soul and heart of my heart.

IN THE DARK OF NIGHT, THE SOUNDS WE HEAR – Marilyn Armstrong

I have to start this out by explaining that just a couple of days ago, I heard a noise in the bedroom. It was the kind of noise the wakes me right up because it was a little squeaky noise. Like the sound a mouse makes. And it was followed by little scrabbly sounds.

We had a  mouse in the bedroom!

Now, we’ve put a fair amount of energy and money into controlling our mouse problems and we know we haven’t had any up here, and just a few in the basement. The last time the mouse guy was out — just a couple of weeks ago — I asked if there was any chance we’d solve the mouse problem and he said, “No. You live in the woods.”

I said: “I know the mice are just looking for a warm cozy place to spend the winter, but not here.”

He looked at me. “You are,” he said “Exactly what they are looking for. You live in the woods. The mice will find you. Do you know they can slip in through a space no wider than a dime?”

We spent considerable time cleaning the bedroom but didn’t find any sign of mice actually setting up a home in our bedroom. But if I hear that sound again, those mice people will have to get back here and do their mouse annihilation thing. I sympathize with chilled mice, but not my bedroom. Sorry small furries. If I won’t sleep with my dogs, I ain’t sleeping with you!

There are other sounds I’ve heard that cannot be managed by the mouse guy.

From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-legged beasties
And things that go bump in the night
Good Lord, deliver us!

– Traditional Scottish Prayer

I’ve never met a ghoul and I have questions about long-legged beasties, but I can speak from personal experience about Things That Go Bump in the Night. Long ago in a house far away, we had our own ghosts. Friendly ghosts or at least, they were friendly to us.

Ghosts have been part of human mythology as long as tales have been told around campfires. Maybe before campfires. I don’t think if any religion excludes the possibility of ghosts. There seems to be a general agreement that ghosts and wraiths are spirits of the dead who linger on Earth after they have slipped that mortal coil. Some are malevolent, others benevolent or merely curious. Ghosts vary by mythology, religion, and era. Even today, there are rumors and stories.

I cannot claim to have seen a ghost, but I lived in a house where everyone could hear our ghosts. It was 1965 when for $20,300, we were able to buy a tidy little brick house built in 1932. On the first floor were two bedrooms and a bathroom. There was a big bedroom on the partially finished second floor. The house was small but solid, walking distance from the college where my husband worked and I was finishing my degree.

The ambiance of the house from the moment we walked into it was overtly friendly. It welcomed everyone and made them feel at home. The little house had been built by a couple who had lived, raised children, and then died in it. They were not murdered or anything sordid. They merely grew old and passed on in the home they loved.

We loved it too. My son wouldn’t come onto the scene for 4 more years, but it was a good house to raise babies. I could feel it.

The house was a bit neglected. Not falling down but in need of paint and some modernization of its infrastructure. It still had its original heating system, converted from a coal burner to an oil furnace. Not very efficient and the radiators were huge, old and iron. Oil was cheap; we didn’t worry about it. We’d get to it eventually.

Initially, we lived on the first floor since the bathroom was there. The upstairs had been an attic, but half of it had become a bedroom. We wanted to move up there. It was bigger and had great light, but we needed to fix it up first.

Before anything else, we wanted to paint. The entire house was painted pale salmon pink. It wasn’t ugly, but it wasn’t any color we’d have chosen. Worse, it was high gloss paint, like one would use in a kitchen or bath.

We painted the downstairs first. Every night, we heard our ghosts walking. You could hear the sound of heavy, loud footsteps upstairs, sharp, like the soles of hard leather shoes or boots. Everyone on the lower floor heard it.

The walking started around eight in the evening, continued for a few minutes. Then the footsteps would pause and restart randomly until around midnight. The footsteps always stopped by midnight and never began before eight.

We called them “The Old Man” and “The Old Woman.” They wore different shoes. Her shoes had a sharp sound, like high heels on a hardwood floor. His were clunkier like maybe work boots. Both of them had died in the house, so they were prime candidates for ghosthood, especially since no one ever lived in the house until we moved in.

At first, we also heard them on the steps, but after we painted the stairway, the footsteps retreated and we only heard them in the attic and bedroom. After we began painting the bedroom, we continued to hear them for a while in the attic and then, one day, they were gone, never to return.

Were they watching to see if we properly cared for and loved their home? I thought so. Were we all hallucinating? It was the 1960s, so anything is possible, but I think it was the couple who had lived there watching to make sure we did right by the house. We did and I guess they felt it was okay to depart.

Life is full of strangeness. If anyone has bumped into a long-legged beastie, please tell me about it. I’m dying to know.