Here she is modeling the heart-shaped fruit of a Japanese Climbing Cucumber plant that grows in a pot on her porch. I am lucky that our friendship has continued through the years, and that she enjoys posing for me now and then.
I first met Peggy in an exercise class over 10 years ago. After we’d gotten to know each other well enough, I asked if she would pose for a painting I was working on. It was her profile that I wanted to copy: straight nose, high cheek bones, long neck.
She enjoyed sitting for me, and after that experience went on to do more modeling for our nearby college art department. She is such a wonderful model, because she can stick a pose and hold it until the timer goes off. (Artists tend to lose track of time when engrossed, so a wise model utilizes a clock.)
I believe it is Peggy’s yoga practice and knowing her own body that help her settle into long poses. She is able to meditate or become lost in thought, even as she’s aware of the the bustling of artists at work: the scratch of drawing tools, creaks of easels and stools, sighs of exasperation!
I love when young people visit my studio. They approach my space as if it’s a playground, which it is. Paints, colored pencils, inks, clay – all kinds of art supplies are laid out on a messy array of tables and shelves.
Not too long ago a young boy and his mom came to see me. He promptly set to work on a composition called Day Train, while she and I walked around chatting about my various on-going projects…
When I was his age, I remember doing my version of Day Train. It was “My Back Yard” with swing-set, sand box, circular baby pool and brick house in the background. It’s the details that are telling. I put a girl sunning in the pool, arms out-stretched with hands sprouting fingers with red points on the ends of all ten. I didn’t have fingers like that. My mother did not have fingers like that. My mom had work hands from gardening, cooking, laundry, changing diapers. But I had somewhere seen ladies with delicate manicured fingers painted bright red. For me, making those fingernails was the most important part of that drawing.
Now, I happen to know the parents of my young visitor; very healthy types who work in the medical field. As I tick off all the wonderful details in his drawing (strong tracks to carry the train, blue sky with fluffy clouds, sunshine, a guy climbing a ladder up the back of the train, smokes stacks, and more…) the one thing that makes my eyes open up big and wide is the conductor with a smoking cigarette hanging out of his mouth!
So Roxy & Ringo have a play area next to my studio where I can keep an eye on them. There are two old chairs that I allow them to lounge on; they compete over the green one (their fav). I heard some fighting and growling but was engrossed in my work…later I saw how they settled it themselves
During the first week of December I found it difficult to hike with Roxy & Ringo. I became concerned. We’d been in the habit of walking most days for about an hour, sometimes two. I began to notice deep pain in my chest, sometimes feeling nauseous and needing to find a place to sit down. Our long hikes became short ten minute strolls to the end of the road and back. Then rest.
Such a drastic change scared me into phoning my doctor. Prior cardio stress tests showed nothing, so the more invasive angiogram was performed, revealing a blockage that required bypass surgery. Ultimately it was discovered that the mid-left anterior descending artery of my heart was, over time, being squeezed closed by the muscles around it. It was totally blocked. An oddity.
I have a scar down the middle of my chest, but I am alive. And with therapy, will soon return to hiking with my doggies this spring. Part of my therapy involved battling the depression, which commonly follows surgery. What worked for me was dabbling with watercolors in my studio. This exercise reminded me that I’m not just a victim of heart disease, and moved my focus onto other things in my life.
One of the first pieces I worked on was a small painting called Growing Hearts, which I made into a “thank you” note to my surgeon and his staff for saving my life.