YOU HAVEN'T GOTTEN SMALLER...THE SNOWSTORM HAS GOTTEN BIGGER.

Are you depressed by today's unseasonal blizzard? Do you need an inspirational story to perk you up?  If your answer is yes, read about how Nancy Robinson cheered up a friend who was caught in the grip of uncontrollable natural events:

KNOCK KNOCK

(Reprinted from October 8, 2015)

I ran into a writer friend of mine at Trader Joe's the other day. My friend is very nice but struggles with melancholia, so I like to try to cheer him up.

"How wonderful to see you!" I said. "Did you have a fun summer?"

"No,"he said. "I spent the summer defending my house from woodpeckers."

"Woodpeckers are so cute!" I said.

"They're destructive," he said. "They poke giant holes in my siding and make so much noise I can barely concentrate on my writing."

"You sound depressed," I said.

"I am," he said.

"There must be some way to make this fun," I said. "Since birds are technically dinosaurs, you should tell people you spent your summer defending your house from dinosaurs."

"You sure are full of bright ideas this morning," he said.

"Seriously," I said. "You should take a picture of yourself dressed like a caveman and then post it on your Facebook page. It will get you lots of attention and help your writing career."

 "I don't do Facebook," he said.

"Why not?" I said. "Facebook is a valuable career-building tool for a writer like you."

"I don't have time for Facebook," he said."I'm too busy defending my house from woodpeckers."

"Dinosaurs," I said.  "You're defending your house from dinosaurs."

"Okay, dinosaurs," he said.

"Now, didn't I just make you feel like your life is a TEENY bit more fun?" I said.

 A smile played across his lips. "Maybe."

"See? I'm like a woodpecker poking holes in the siding of your depression," I said.

"I guess that would be one way of looking at it," he said.

  Nancy Robinson , detail from   The Human Condition  , oil on canvas and mixed media

Nancy Robinson, detail from The Human Condition, oil on canvas and mixed media

Oral Hygiene

I'm a strong believer in good oral hygiene and make regular visits to the dentist. My dentist is very nice, and one of the receptionists at the dental office gets all starry-eyed at the sight of me because she thinks I'm a famous artist... which of course I am!

Although most of my visits to the dentist are quite pleasant, in a practical sort of way, last November I had to have a routine procedure done which filled me with what turned out to be misplaced approbation. Consequently, I was in a rotten mood as I hopped off the train and headed down the street to my appointment. To make matters worse, my parka-covered head got pelted with icy rain at such intense volume, moisture dripped off my faux-wolf-fur hood and into my face, thus spoiling my age-defiant makeup. I bent forward, thrust my hands into my pockets, and kept my eyes on the pavement as I shuffled along.

The street leading to my dentist's office is busy, urban, and lined with edgy entrepreneurs. Usually I love the camaraderie, since I too have been an entrepreneur on that street (selling my paintings, obviously), but my thoughts that day were tinged with dread of mortality: I desired to talk to no one.

 Suddenly a man's voice called out, "Oh Miss! Excuse me, Miss?"

I ignored him, trying my best to look like an ancient crone from a fairy tale, the sort of person who boils dragon toenails in pond slime and feeds the broth to her pet hydra.

He walked beside me."Excuse me? Miss?"

I waved him away without looking at him.

He persisted."Why are you waving me away?"

I raised my eyes heavenward and screamed at the top of my lungs, "I don't feel like talking right now!" Startled by my own behavior, I watched my words echoing around the tops of the buildings.

"Sorry to bother you." The man's apology plopped onto the pavement like a scoop of ice cream which had fallen out of a small child's cone. "It's just that..."

I sternly looked him straight in the face, accidentally noticing he was young and meltingly handsome. "It's just that what?"

"It's just that you dropped your mitten." He held up a bright pink cocoon of knitted wool.

"That's not my mitten," I said, softening my voice.

"Oh, sorry. I thought it was yours because it matches your scarf."

"That's okay." I smiled at him.

He smiled back.

"Have a nice day," I said.

 As I walked away, I noticed the air was suddenly infused with a beautiful, rose-colored light...which happened to be the same exact hue as somebody's lost mitten.

 

Whoops.

I have a lot of friends. I speak to some of them every day. Others are like distant planets; we only collide occasionally.

The one thing I can say about all my friends is: they’re very good listeners. I feel lucky that way.

Late last autumn, one of my gardener friends appeared on my doorstep carrying a potted smidgen of foliage. “I brought you a marigold from my yard.”

I peered at the plant. “It doesn’t look like a marigold.”

“Critters ate all the flowers and most of the leaves, but it should be okay if you put it in a sunny window.”

“Why are you giving it to me? I’m not exactly a plant maven.”

“You once told me that marigolds are your favorite flowers.”

“I did?”

“Yeah.” The gardener peered at the plant. “You said they remind you of you.”

The gardener’s words shone a light through the mists of my memory. I vaguely recalled delivering an extemporaneous speech during a lawn party, something about gaudy and irreverent late-bloomers.

After the gardener departed, I placed the marigold in a sunny window next to my other two plants, a pony tail palm and a miniature evergreen tree. The palm and the evergreen are rescue plants, salvaged from my late mother’s nursing home when they’d ended their tenure as cheer-up gifts.

Although the marigold didn't die, it also didn’t grow or bloom. It just sat there for two months, looking sad and raggedy.

In the middle of January, feeling kind of sad and raggedy myself, I decided to project my feelings onto the plant and give both of us a pep talk. I strolled over to the sunny window and said to the marigold “Hey, wanta have lunch?” (Plants will talk to you if you close your ears and listen.)

"Sure," the marigold said.

I transported  the plant to my kitchen island, where I’d prepared a small repast for the two of us: a solitary piece of chicken for me (I felt it would be disrespectful to eat a salad) and a pitcher of water for the marigold.

“So, what’s going on?” I said to the marigold.

While I munched on my lunch, the tragic little plant recited its tragic little tale. It turned out that the scrubby shrub felt intimidated by the lush green beauty of the other two plants.

“It's not fair to compare yourself to them,” I said. “They're hothouse plants. Hothouse plants are supposed to be beautiful: it's their job. Your job is to celebrate your wild nature."

The marigold leaned forward, listening.

"You've had the kind of life hothouse plants can only dream of. You grew up in a vibrant urban garden, while those poor things have never even been outdoors." I took a sip from the marigold's water pitcher. "You've slumbered under starry night skies and danced with woodchucks and rabbits. You’ve smooched fireflies at sunset and kissed dewdrops at dawn.” I stood up. "You're the hippest shrub in this entire loft, and everybody seems to know that except you." I smiled at the marigold. "Now... I'm going to put you back in the window, and  I want to see you grow into the biggest, best marigold you can be.”

Within days, all hell broke loose. The marigold grew several inches taller and popped out so many flowers, I could almost see it blooming in front of me. I had to transplant it into a larger container, and now it’s towering over the rescue plants. If things keep up like this, I’m going to have to move to a larger apartment.

It just goes to show…everyone can use a little encouragement sometimes.

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Please Don't Hate Me Because I'm Brilliant

I don’t know what you were doing on New Year’s Eve, but as for me: I was painting. Painting, painting, painting. In fact, I painted half the night…because I could.

First thing the next morning, I awoke to the sound of clothes pins ricocheting off the baseboard heating vents. I sat up in bed and said, “That does it! I’m going to hem those curtains today and start the New Year right.”

You see, when I first moved into my loft, I covered my windows with shower curtains held up by tension rods. I got immediate applause from my gentlemen callers, who are as busy and lazy as I am and always looking for clever life hacks. The only problem with the tension rods was that the damned things would suddenly plummet to the floor with a clatter at odd moments, usually in the middle of the night or when I was strolling around nude in my loft.

When I got word last year that somebody planned to build a luxury apartment building 10 feet away from my windows, I decided it was time to install proper curtains with permanent hardware. I zipped to a local thrift store and bought elegant, hygge drapes. Just looking at them made me feel calm and bored, which was exactly the mental state I was going for, since I knew I faced many months of pile driving, safety beepers, and similar organized mayhem.

 It took me three hours to get the curtains installed. I measured everything carefully and managed to not fall off the ladder despite the raw, unbridled energy of my electric drill. When I finished, I climbed down the ladder and stood back to admire my work.

To my dismay, the curtain hems drooped and sagged into the aforementioned heating vents.

Since three hours is my limit for home-improvement projects, I shored up the hems with clothes pins and decided to deal with properly hemming them some other time. Which brings us full circle to New Year’s Day, when the arctic chill seeping through my window glass made the wooden clothes pins contract, lose their grip on the curtains, and succumb to the ravages of gravity.

A fretter by either nature or nurture, I’ve never figured out which, I brewed myself a cup of coffee and considered my options. As you may or may not know, I DO know how to sew, thanks to early childhood conditioning. The problem is: I hate to sew and generally avoid sewing if at all possible. Still, I was committed to hemming these curtains. I asked myself: Would it be via hem stitch? Basting stitch? Running stitch? Or possibly… an irreverent daisy stitch?

As I pondered my choices, my land phone rang. “Hello!” boomed the voice of a friend of mine. “Happy New Year! Can I come over?”

I sipped at my coffee. “No. I’m in the middle of an important project.”

My friend’s voice dropped to a sexy growl. “I’ve got Pringles…”

 I wasn't sure exactly what a Pringle was, but I knew that I wanted one immediately. "How soon can you get here?”

“Twenty minutes.”

There’s nothing like a looming deadline to bring out my genius proportions. As I hung up the phone, an epiphany rocketed across my brain. I ran to my desk, seized my stapler, and stapled the curtain hems into place. It took me less than 3 minutes, and it looks kind of weird, but only if you look at the curtains up close…and who looks up close at curtains?

By the time my friend arrived, I was dressed in stylish clothing and ready to gorge on Pringles, which turned out to be a salty, tasty snack. And because one of my New Year’s resolutions is to be less of a swaggering braggart, I didn’t boast to my friend about my clever invention. I decided to keep my story to myself… and only share it with you and the rest of the internet.

 

 

Sensory Overload

A raspberry caught me by surprise during lunch yesterday, hiding between a couple of leaves of lettuce in my sandwich. I’m not used to finding high-falutin raspberries in plebian turkey sandwiches, but there it was. The second surprise was my surprise about me being surprised, since I made the sandwich myself. The third surprise occurred during my walk after lunch, when I saw a dead bat with three wings lying on the sidewalk. The fourth surprise occurred when, upon closer observation, the dead bat turned out to be a rotting banana peel.

That was enough surprises for one day. Although it was only 3:00 in the afternoon, I went back to bed.

It's a Jungle in Here

I have certain safety rules for myself when I’m working in my studio:
 
1.  Wash hands frequently.
2.  Wear gloves/goggles/dust masks when appropriate.
3.  No eating, drinking or carnal interactions near hazardous art supplies.
4.  Move slowly and mindfully during dangerous activities.
5.  Always know the location of all sharp tools and objects.

I’m pretty good at following rules #1 through #4, but #5 sometimes evades me when I'm in the grip of passionate painting. Like one night last summer, when I was crawling around on the floor, working on my installation about the human condition. I happened to be wielding an X-acto knife as part of the deal, and yes I wore safety goggles, but the lenses grew steamy from my hot, heavy breath. I could only sort of see what I was doing, but I didn't care: I was having a blast. I felt like God, recreating the Universe, except this time getting it all wrong like it’s supposed to be.

Suddenly, I realized I had no idea where my X-acto knife had gotten to.

I froze in place and looked cautiously around. There was no way I wanted that thing to sneak up on me.

Alas, I couldn’t locate it…the X-acto knife was nowhere in sight.

Exhausted and sweaty, I decided to put off my search until the next day, when my studio would be bright with sunshine. Before I retired for the night, though, I took some safety precautions. Since I basically live in one big room, I barricaded my work area with plastic lawn chairs, painting taborets, display easels, used bubblewrap and boxes of packing materials. I wasn’t taking any chances, not with an X-acto knife loose in my place.

The next day, I suspended work on my installation and searched for the X-acto knife. It was kind of like having a snake loose in my home, but a snake would have gotten hungry at some point and come out of hiding. Wearing heavy boots and work gloves, I made sweep after sweep of my studio, cautiously poking in corners and looking underneath heavy furniture. I cleared debris, organized, vacuumed and dusted in places the sun doesn't usually shine. Still, no sign of the lost X-acto knife.

I finally gave up. I accepted the fact that the X-acto knife had escaped. I figured the thing had rolled into a crevice somewhere and was permanently installed as part of the building. Feeling defeated, I went out to buy a new X-Acto knife. As I drove home from the art store, I made an executive decision to construct a special box for the new X-acto knife, something decorated with buttons and bows and a hand-lettered sign reading “X-acto knife lives here.” I resolved to always put the instrument in its beribboned  box when I wasn’t actively using it.

As soon as I returned home, I went to put the new X-acto knife into the storage drawer where I keep studio tools, thinking I’d leave it there for safekeeping until I finished creating its pretty new
container.

Yup, you guessed it: the missing X-acto knife was lying in the storage drawer. Apparently I put it there the night before without noticing what I was doing,

So now I have two X-acto knives, and if I lose both of them, I’ll have two snakes loose in my place.

 Life just keeps getting more perilous all the time.

Squeaky Clean

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m a city rat. The suburbs are lovely to visit, but a pretty cottage with a manicured lawn just doesn’t ring my bell. That said: Friday morning dawned sultry as midsummer, and the brick warehouse where I live grew sizzlingly warm (I live on a downtown block unshaded by foliage). My art project (the epic installation I’m building which addresses the perils of the human condition in a manageable but poignant display of spontaneous mindfulness) wilted in the heat, along with me. So I decided to leave my studio and walk to the bank, where I planned to address the perils of not having enough money in my account next week when rent is due.

As I traversed the streets of my neighborhood, girls in summer frocks and lads in shorts and sneakers ambled past me, carrying paper-wrapped morsels of drippy luncheon snacks bought from multifarious food trucks. The wind crinkled through my hair as a man yelled “Cher” and roared past me on a ramshackle bicycle.

Concrete stretched in all directions, radiating warmth against my flesh. Suddenly I felt overheated, and not in a good way. I yearned for towering trees and sweet, airy bungalows. I craved an emerald summer lawn dotted with yellow dandelions and pink flamingos. Most of all, I wanted a rotating lawn sprinkler for me to run through. I longed for droplets of moisture to spew all over me, drenching my skin and cooling my overwrought physique.

As I rounded a building and prepared to cross 5th street, I saw three people standing on the corner, waiting for the light to change. All of them wore running gear and hopped in place, speaking to each other in loud, athletic voices. I stood a few steps behind them, thinking anyone who’d go running on a day like this must be slightly insane.

Suddenly all three energetically shook their arms and bodies, spewing droplets of perspiration in many directions…including all over me.

As the light changed and the human lawn sprinklers took off running, I observed that their sweat had indeed cooled me down, even though now I felt like a walking biohazard.

Fifteen minutes later, as I stood in the shower in my windowless urban bathroom, I realized that one reason why I like living in the city is because you can find pretty much find anything you want, any time. But you have to be careful what you ask for, or the city (with its quirky imagination and misguided sense of humor) might grant your wishes in fanciful and unforeseen ways. 

Just Another Historical Event in Minnesota

I had no interest in viewing last Monday’s solar eclipse. I’ve already seen a number of eclipses, both full and partial, and they all look the same in the dark. I was, however, VERY interested in how people would react while watching the moon blot out the sun.

 At first I thought I’d attend an eclipse party (there seemed to be a lot of them listed on Facebook), but shortly before the eclipse was scheduled to begin, I found myself in the middle of doing laundry. It’s not the first time my cosmic plans have gone awry in favor of personal hygiene.

As I pulled shut my studio curtains, to avoid accidentally viewing the sun during the ocularly-hazardous event, I noticed a crowd of people standing in front of the building across the street, eyes raised heavenward and protective glasses in place. Although they were silent, I figured all hell would break loose at 1:06 p.m., the moment the maximum phase of the eclipse was due in Minnesota.

At 12:32 p.m., I made a quick visit to the laundry room down the hall, where I loaded a basket of clothes into the washer. Scooting back to my loft, I set my egg timer for 30 minutes, sat at my worktable, and wrote in my journal while I waited.

At 1:06 p.m., I listened for cheers and shouting from the crowd.

All I heard was my egg timer going off.

After two more minutes of silence, I headed out the door and down the hallway.

My laundry was done.

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The Battle of the Sexes Rages On

I hope you had a great 4th of July.

I did.

I began by working on my latest masterpiece, an epic self-portrait installation. Things went so well, I would have blown a trumpet out the window if I'd had one. Then a friend of mine stopped by for lunch. At first the scene in my lair seemed downright pastoral: I fried up some grilled cheese sandwiches while he read to me aloud from a book by Charles Bukowski.

We sat on bar stools and ate at my kitchen counter, equipped with our bare hands and a bottle of ketchup. As we gobbled down our glorious repast, we talked about art, life, and the world situation.

Eventually I got bored and changed the subject. "Enough about art, life, and the world situation. Let's talk about me."

 He took a bite of his sandwich, chewed, and swallowed before he replied. "What about you?"

"If someone asked you to describe me in one sentence, what would you say?"

His face assumed the guarded expression he wears when I ask him things like "Do I look fatter than when I first met you?" and "Do you think I'm a genius?"

He said nothing.

"Come on," I said. "Be honest: I can take it."

He continued his silence for another half minute. Then his big blue eyes brightened, and a grin invaded his visage. He leaned forward and said in a voice filled with self-confidence, "I'd say you're a slice of life."

Score one for his team.

An Unwitting Accomplice

I recently got back from trying to see an admission-only, fabulously amazing art exhibition.

I say "trying" because the place was jammed with people taking selfies in front of the artwork.

I felt very annoyed. It's not that I'm averse to selfies...I mean, most of my creative endeavors are one big selfie. But I paid a hefty admission price to see the show, and instead of being able to lose myself in the real-time, orgasmic experience of viewing the masterpieces in person, I ended up being distracted by flashes from cameras, or accidentally getting in people's way as they snapped their photographs.

Usually when people are taking photos, I stay out of their way until they're done. I don't like being in pictures unless my hair and makeup is perfect and the lighting makes me look young as springtime. Which is basically never. But finally I just went ahead and walked in front of their cameras, since it seemed to be my only choice if I wanted to see the art.

I suspect pictures of the back of my head are now trending on social media.

Which I guess makes me part of the problem.

Flower Girl

It's springtime, and love is in the air.

There was a time, a couple of springtimes ago, when people seemed to be finding their soulmates everywhere. Love bloomed on the Internet, in bars, at bus stops, at church, at the grocery store, at sports events...just about anywhere you can think of.

And then there were the ones who couldn't even find anyone to date, let alone fall in love with.

One of the lonely ones was an acquaintance of mine, a winsome but complicated female. I noticed her moping on a bench in Mears Park as I shuffled my bones to the gym.

"Hi," I said to her. "How are you?"

"I've been better," she said.

"Why? What's up?"

She stared at me gloomily. "Two people I know just got engaged."

"What's wrong with that?"

She rolled her eyes. "They've only been dating a couple of months, but they said they knew immediately knew they were soulmates and they should spend the rest of their lives together."

"Cool."

 Her voice cracked with emotion."Everyone's finding their soulmates except me." She looked at the ground. "I'm so depressed."

"Maybe you're just hungry," I said. "Let's grab a burger somewhere."

"I don't have any money."

"I'll treat. I just sold a painting." I gestured in the direction of a nearby eatery. "Come on."

She pulled herself to her feet.

We both ordered burgers with caramelized onions. As she wolfed down her last bite, she smiled.

I smiled back at her. "Feeling better?"

"I guess so. But still, how come so many people are finding their soulmates so easily, everywhere they go, and I'm still alone?"

"Some people are common as lawn daisies," I said. "They have many soulmates to choose from. But you, you're mysterious and rare."

"Me?"

"Yes. If you were a flower, you'd be a ghost orchid."

She furrowed her brow. "What's a ghost orchid?"

I nodded wisely. "See what I mean?"