"What a wonder life I've had! I only wish I'd realized it sooner." Colette

Aug 20, 2017

Here Be Dragons

Daenerys Stormborn has nothin’ on me. I picked up some gourds at the Wuertz farm in Arizona earlier this year and felt like trying something different. Over the course of months I assembled snips and snails of broken gourds on to a gooseneck gourd, gluing and puttying, over and over, until I came up with this (completed Dragon below).  It was a challenge but I was losing interest, and what would I do with a gourd dragon anyway? Fortunately (it) found renewed interest after becoming a part of a friend's granddaughter's birthday party. I thought I’d never finish.

Life here at Community First continues to tick along. The difference by now is that rather than an observer I am a participant, in a way I hadn’t expected. You know our demons follow us around like the Grim Reaper, but must be faced by all. I’m facing one or two of my own right now.

I’ve been painting furniture, signs and walls. I’ve designed some generic placards and am putting together a community mural project.  Only thing slowing me down is the HEAT and humidity, which is wrecking havoc on my hands. There are quite a few other artists in the community but lucky for me they don’t do what I do. Not that they can’t; we each all have our areas of interest.  My art mentor and gallery partner from Puerto Rico used to call my style of art ‘frillies,’ so Miguel laughed when I called and told him I’m scattering my ‘frillies’ around Community First.

When I work outside I spend much of my time answering questions, thanking people for taking an interest and encouraging those who swear they can’t paint. I talk about the mural and how my design is such that anyone with an interest can be handed some paint and a brush and pointed to an outline. People can participate as much or as little as they’d like. I can always go back and fix things.

I have become more shy (aka leery) of others over the years.  I chalk much of this up to my never having been able to really catch up with society following 12 years aboard Ruff Life. When I returned to terra firma in 2009 I told people I felt like a emerging cave-woman; and as I sought to reconnect with my former groups (at work and play) it was evident most of us had taken quite different paths.  Lured into an easier, electronic age, it seemed everyone I knew had assimilated; yet were much angrier and less tolerant than when I’d left.  I very much felt the ‘odd woman out’ wherever I went.  That’s just thrown in there to help explain where my head is now.  I imagine many veterans can relate to my story.

Here at Community First the volunteers wanted a sign for outside their new library, which is open just a few days for just a few hours each week. As usual I meant to go simple but wound up detailing a tall stack of books, one of which (third from the bottom) looks so good to me I think I’ll have to go ahead and write the damn thing already.

At the moment I’m working on signs for the community gardens; attempting to come up with nice ways to ask people not to pick the flowers and veggies. I'm having fun with it.

The events of my last post resulted in a renewed investigation into a compact freezer which could fit inside my 21-foot Warrior. I found this Edgestar convertible refrigerator/freezer on Amazon, a vast improvement over my tiny, tired propane one. Dorm-sized, this is the only one I’ve seen which is an either/or. I needed freezer space, and this fits the bill.  There’s even a lock.

Its original purpose was for the medical community I believe, but RVers and boaters are discovering its advantages. At least my mint chocolate chip isn’t a milk shake; indeed, as I write it’s on the counter, softening enough to scoop. My life-saving Edgestar is part of the Christmas gift from a friend, so thanks again, Nancy!

So what am I learning? Well, how to forgive, for one. That’s a biggie for me, and confronted when I had an encounter with one resident which went terribly wrong. Despite being in the right, I ultimately decided that the best course of action was just to go apologize to the woman for any distress I may have caused, which I did. After all, many of these residents have psychological problems to which I am not privy; therefore I should act like the (rational?) one, or just like a grown-up.

“Well, if you felt you needed to apologize…” one woman commented.

It was, I explained, the best solution I could come up with to resolve the situation, and it worked like a charm. After all, aren’t we all supposed to provide a harmonious, supportive environment for one another? I am now quite friendly with said woman (notoriously difficult to get along with, I later was told), who gave me a funky pair of sunglasses as a ‘thank you’ for my unexpected but appreciated apology. I wear my orange-and-yellow flowered, heart-shaped shades everywhere, which usually elicits a smile or cute comment like,

“Does Walt Disney know you’ve got those?”

I always wanted a pair of Elton John’s

During my time here, through private encounters and observations, I’ve been surprised at how many people I can relate to, and they, in turn, to me.  I’m honest to a fault, so if I describe how I often have to choke down Amy by calling myself back from the abyss, heads are nodding and they’re finishing my words,

“Come on back,” for me. You may not understand what I mean, but they do.

Last week I had what felt like an epiphany. There are numerous people in the community who simply refuse to interact and rarely look others in the eye. They walk about with their heads bent, offering little more than an ‘ugh’ when greeted.  Here, everyone is accepted despite (our) eccentricities, so the prevailing attitude is, “Oh, that’s just the way they are”

Now I may be talking through my red hat, but I think I can guess as to part of the cause of their isolationism, because I’ve battled that, too. It happens when you go out into society and for whatever reason are beaten back psychologically in some way, or at least that’s how you feel. Your self-confidence takes so many hits until you give up trying. You retreat back into yourself for safety. You talk to yourself more often. I get it. Not that my understanding is going to changing anyone necessarily; but oddly enough, once I changed my comprehension, for lack of a better word, it sure seems I’m receiving better responses. Or maybe I’m acting more receptive without knowing it.

Back to the forgiveness.  So someone knocks on my RV and hands me a roughly assembled cross as a memorial for another resident’s daughter, tragically killed by a drunk driver, with two granddaughters seriously injured in the hospital. Could I perhaps pretty-it-up?

“Of course, happy to.” It wasn’t until a week or so later that word reached my ears that the man had made up the entire story. I was livid; extremely put off; vowing to never again (paint anything) for a hard-luck story without official approval.

The person who told me the truth shared a story of someone close who concocted a similarly outrageous and painful claim to their family; and gently tried to teach me understanding. Mental disorders are difficult to understand and heartbreaking for close ones. OK, he’s an alcoholic (I can't cast stones there either) who has finally gone in for treatment, but still...

But still nothing; I was such a minor piece to that puzzle, somebody slap me. Imagine the man’s good friends who bought the farce, arranged the services, built this cross, etc., etc; not to mention the underlying reason for his claim. I was angry that his daughter and granddaughters are alive and well? Am I that ghoulish? Imagine his mortification to face everyone; that’s likely punishment enough.

“I had a chip on my shoulder about you,” one schizophrenic neighbor confided just this morning as she handed me a box of acrylic paints. Amy and I never batted an eye; it’s not the first time. Sometimes it just takes a bit to get to know someone, even (us).

Arrogance goes hand-in-hand with forgiveness while handling my demons. I’ve acted defensive and secretly insulted when (I assume) people assume I am a Resident and not an Other.  Except I’ve not really bonded with the Others so much as the Residents.  So what does that make me?


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Original gourd art designs Copyright 2020 Andrea Jansen Designs. Please write for permission.



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