Posts Tagged ‘healing’

The first set of hand-sawn and sanded cedar hooks ready for giving.

“It’s not my best work, ” he said with a dispirited note.

“Hmm,” I replied. “And what have you said to me over the years when I stress about writing the best?”

After a long pause he said, “The best is the enemy of the good.”

“Well, my dear, what you have produced is good. AND I can’t wait to see the next set.”

His brow furrowed. “The next set?”

Today we worked on the next set. He directed me.

“Pull the saw toward you.” “Please move your fingers out of the way.” “Hmm. Let’s try the straight saw not the fret saw.”

And so on and so forth.

He worked with his pocket knife to clean up an edge on a piece. And as he worked he said, “For the next project we’ll need a chisel. Between 3/4″ and 1″ and …”

I took notes.

The chisel and other instruments are in the basement. He can’t navigate down those stairs yet so I continue to learn as I apprentice as a woodworker.

“And we’ll need to make a leg vise,” he added.

“But of course,” I said. Then I took a deep breath and asked, “Okay, what does a leg vise do?”

And as he explained all I could think was what an unexpected and unexpectedly lovely journey!

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… then bring the mountain or at least a portion of it to you. “Do what you love.” That is what the outpatient therapists reiterate to Steve as we continue on this journey of stroke recovery. One of the things he loves is woodworking, old school craftsmanship. Think The Woodwright Shop. His woodworking shop is in the basement. Hmmm. We’re not quite there yet because yes, it is another spiral stair, but his therapy team said if you love woodworking then do woodworking, figure out some simple projects and go to it. I asked Steve what would you like to do. He said, “Make cutting boards.” Now I’m not a woodworker but I’ve seen him make cutting boards and I responded after a deep breath, “Uhm, do you think there’s something even simpler to begin with? You know you have some cedar panels from a previous project. I can bring them up here. You were supposed to make me some moth repellant hangers for the closets …” He processed it and said, “Okay, we can do that. I need the Jorgenson clamp.” I blinked a few times and then said, “Well, of course,” as I slid my phone out of my pocket to google what that meant. But what I didn’t remember was “old school” and so in the end he had to sketch what he meant and if you google what he meant it falls under beautiful wooden vintage. And so on this journey I’m learning new language (fret saw?!) and new skills (how to make a straight cut). He’s got a goal. He’s making a bunch of very practical (and oh so wonderfully smelling) cedar hooks to give to family and friends for their closets. Life is so interesting. 🙂

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Outside this window, down below, there is a yard chaotically divided into lots of pocket gardens. There is a trio of pots that still have remnants of basil though I think they will fade to black when the night time temps drop into the 30s this week. There are raised beds bright green with red clover growing and the bright gold flowers of tall stalks of mexican tarragon. I specifically placed pots of orange and burgundy mums in the furthest bed right next to a forest of rosemary. I wanted that burnt beauty to be part of his line of sight once he returned home. And now that Steve is home, practicing his steps deliberately, he can walk from the living room to the distant kitchen window and see the wider world, the gardens that he helped plant and dream of what we will plant in the spring.

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basil from the garden for pesto

Yesterday Steve and I were looking down at a single sheet of paper. His last will and testament dated August 2018. In that year during that month just a few days before that will was completed we had sat in a doctor’s office, the top in his field. He stared intently at a scan of Steve’s brain. He eventually nodded and essentially said I see where it is, it is growing fast so how about we do the surgery early next week.

What followed was this blur of activity as Steve kept us focused on the practical like preparing his office to be without their scientist, contacting financial institutions, filling the fridge, making sure I knew passwords, and of course sharing the news with family and friends. We had been in the process of updating his will and doing my first will anyway. But there was no time to complete that process so the lawyer coached him through what to put on that single sheet and to sign with witnesses present.

As I have told Steve over the years he attracts a strong team and the medical team was strong for the surgery. And they were strong for the unexpected second brain surgery that took place the following year and the subsequent intensive physical therapy. In between the two surgeries my youngest brother died in Virginia. Steve couldn’t travel with me. Following the second surgery my second oldest brother died. Steve determinedly made that trek. He could not do so when my eldest brother died only a few months later of cancer during the midst of the pandemic. Nor could I.

And in the midst of all that we closed on a house just as the pandemic struck. It was one of the most onerous processes I’ve ever been through. We moved ourselves in. The backyard was a demolition area but we managed to use every nook and cranny on the side of the house to grow a garden. Steve had his tomatoes and basil. I had my herbs and flowers. I accidentally hoarded eggs instead of toilet tissue and Steve was able to work in the basement and build us a dining room table. We zoomed zoomed zoomed like everyone else for work and to connect with family and friends. We did make excursions around the neighborhood with me constantly snapping at Steve to pull up his mask. We were cautious but not afraid. In a sense we were resolute … you deal with what comes at you because that’s all you can do.

Before August, nearly three years later, we will have our official wills completed. That’s why we were looking at that older document, to remind ourselves, and to reflect, “Wow. Three years? Is that when this whirlwind journey began?”

The yard that was a demolition project is now a full-fledged garden with different raised beds that Steve built. He has retired, more or less, and now enjoys the ability if not the outright necessity of impromptu midday naps. I was able to remain employed and of late have been given leave to do more writing and historical research. I’m committed to resuming photography and more creative writing, with what extra time I don’t know.

Soon Steve and I will go outside to pick some basil. Pesto will be made along with dinner. He moves a little slower in the kitchen in the evening hours so I will be sous chef and perhaps take some photos for instagram. I’ve had more pesto this year than in all the earlier years of my life. I can’t complain. I don’t think I can complain about much of anything.

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Titian, active about 1506; died 1576 Bacchus and Ariadne 1520-3 Oil on canvas, 176.5 x 191 cm Bought, 1826 NG35 http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/NG35

Bacchus and Ariadne, 1520-3, by Titian

In Titian’s painting of Bacchus and Ariadne, Bacchus, god of wine, emerges with his followers from the landscape. Falling in love with Ariadne, he leaps from his chariot, drawn by two cheetahs. Ariadne had been abandoned on the Greek island of Naxos by Theseus, whose ship is shown in the distance. Initially she is fearful. Eventually Bacchus raises her to heaven and turns her into a constellation, represented by the stars above her head. So the story is told on the website of the UK National Gallery where the painting is now housed. While wonderful to see such a work in a book or on the computer screen, it is a whole other experience to view it in person.

Painter Donald Langosy wrote about such an experience. He was a young poet chasing Ezra Pound around Venice. “But my meeting with Pound was overshadowed, quite unexpectedly, by entering the Frari church one day and finding myself facing Titian’s Assumption. … My encounter with Titian’s painting was an aesthetic epiphany.”

Assumption of the Virgin, by Titian

Assumption of the Virgin, by Titian

From Titian and other Venetian masters, Langosy would begin to understand how artistic technique was the servant of ideas.  He would share their work with his daughter, Zoe. “I learned what it meant when my father pointed to the sky and said, “It’s a Titian blue.”

Diana and Callisto by Titian

Diana and Callisto by Titian

Viewing Titian’s painting in person certainly influenced Langosy’s early work.

Detail from Flora by Langosy

Detail from Flora by Langosy

Pucinello by Langosy

Seeing Titian in later years would become an unexpected opportunity for two artists, father and daughter, to focus on the beauty to be found even during challenging times. In Zoe’s own words:

“Over the years, my father developed multiple sclerosis, and our once-frequent visits to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts or the Gardner Museum became increasingly rare. Shortly before my father lost the ability to walk entirely, he and my mother traveled to London, where I was living at the time. Walking with a cane and with great difficulty, he set out one day with one purpose: to see Titian’s Bacchus and Ariadne at the National Gallery. It was a masterwork that he had never before seen in person and, of all the great works of art in London, it was the one he refused to miss.  While my mother and I wandered through the nearby exhibits, he sat studying that single painting for nearly an hour.”

Detail from Bacchus and Ariadne by Titian

Detail from Bacchus and Ariadne by Titian

“As the years progressed, my father’s MS caused physical discomfort and fatigue that made it increasingly difficult for him to travel even as far as the local art museums we had enjoyed together. Our conversations about art never took place outside the comfort of the studio, living room, or kitchen at my parent’s home in the Boston suburb of Medford. Then, one day, we read in the newspaper about the “Rivals of Renaissance Venice” show at the MFA. That moment created a breakthrough. My father knew this was a show that he could not and would not miss.”

Detail from Venus with a Mirror by Titian, at the MFA 2009 Exhibit

Detail from Venus with a Mirror by Titian, at the MFA 2009 Exhibit

“We chose a time when we knew the museum would be quiet, and, on a hot summer morning, my father, mother, and I traveled into Boston to see the exhibit. Above all, we went to see the Titians. As I pushed my father in his wheelchair, we stopped for a long time at each painting. Sometimes we would quietly look at the art, while other times we would talk about what we saw. For the first time in many years, I was given the gift of being able to walk through a museum with my father again and share with him one of the things that we both love most: art. Visiting the show was highly enriching for all of us.  Since then, my father has found renewed strength to combat the hold that MS had placed on his activities, and he is determined to attempt such outings on a more regular basis.”

Zoe with her father's portrait of Elizabeth

Zoe with her father’s portrait of Elizabeth

Want to learn more?

View Langosy’s The Story of My Art: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.

View four decades of Langosy’s work at http://www.donald.langosy.net/

See what’s current on Langosy’s Facebook page.

His contact: Zoe Langosy at zlangosy@me.com.

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Today there is an interfaith service taking place in Boston at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. All faiths, all peoples, are welcome to come together to continue the healing process.

It is a grand space.  I was lucky enough to visit in the recent past to photograph a bit of the interior.  Like today, it was a sunny day, with light shining through, creating warmth.

Regardless of one’s faith, if you’re in the area in the future, I’d encourage a visit, if only to sit in the calm.

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