Years ago when my mother-in-law and I were both having some health problems I would tell her,
We’re doing the best we can with what we have left.
It’s still one of my favorite sayings, so I was fascinated when I read a charming children’s book entitled Drawing With Scissors, about how Matisse handled his fraility after a bout with cancer when he was 71.
Matisse had to lie in bed or sit in a wheelchair, so he could no longer paint the way he had before. That’s when he started doing his famous cut-paper collages, which he called “painting with scissors”. Many people think they were his greatest works, and he himself said they were the works that really represented who he was. He felt liberated and was grateful that he had survived the cancer and had 14 more productive years.
Here is a video showing him working:
And here is a longer video — about 56 minutes — describing his development as an artist and how he has influenced the modern world:
Here are a couple of short videos showing some of his works:
I cheerfully admit I’m fairly art-illiterate, so I learned a lot. And I’m impressed by Matisse’s flexibility and ingenuity in continuing to work in spite of his physical problems.
What about you? Have you ever had to work around handicaps?
Stay curious and open to life. No matter what happens keep learning and growing. Find what you love to do and find a way to share it with others.
And so I’ve just been touched by reading about Pierre-Auguste Renoir. He loved to paint, especially pictures showing the joy of living — pictures that lifted people’s spirits when they looked at them. And he kept painting those pictures even when in his later years he suffered excruciating pain — toothaches, earaches and rheumatoid arthritis — and was partially paralyzed. He simply had people carry him to his studio, and he painted from his wheelchair.
His arthritis left his hands so crippled and claw-like that he couldn’t pick up a brush by himself — someone had to put it in his hand. But once he started painting he was happy and would hum or sing. He painted his last picture the evening he died, and his last words on the art of painting were, “I think I’m beginning to learn something about it.”
If that doesn’t exemplify love and lifelong learning, I don’t know what does!
What about you? What do you love learning and doing?
We’ve had a couple of warm spring days with some wind, but tomorrow it’s supposed to be about 20° cooler and a lot windier. That means, of course, that in the weather report much of the state was marked red for fire danger — the downside of our low humidity. They’ve also been warning drivers on some of the freeways of the low visibility because of dust.
We’re not complaining. It’s not too hot, we’re not having a snowstorm like they’re having in Denver (about 350 miles north of us) and we have yet to have a tornado here. After our big burn in 2011 we’re not even worried about forest fires. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for the rest of the state.
What about you? Is your weather to your liking right now?
In A Year in Provence Peter Mayle explained why he never has a garden:
It would be fighting nature, and nature always wins. It has more stamina and it never stops for lunch.
Andy, on the other hand doesn’t mind doing battle with nature, even if he often loses. In Our Garden in the Woods I explained why we had to give up on the idea of a garden — after several years of valiant effort on our part the animals convinced us we couldn’t have one out in the open, so we built a greenhouse. Then the drought came and we didn’t have enough water for both fruit trees and garden produce.
But Andy kept the fruit trees going. We harvested a couple of bowls of cherries each year, and finally in 2011, after about 30 years of effort, we were finally going to have a bumper crop of apples. Yeah, sure. We did have apples, but the fire cooked them on the trees:
Those 30 years weren’t wasted, though. Andy now has a better idea of how to protect the trees from critters. First you dig a hole about two feet deep, both for the roots and for the first layer of hardware cloth. The ground squirrels don’t usually dig down further than that.
Then he puts in the first layer of hardware cloth, two feet under ground, one foot above so it can be attached to the second layer.
Next he adds a foot of dirt to the hole, then the tree.
And some pellets of slow-release fertilizer to feed the trees for a couple of years:
Now he protects the bark with tree-guard to prevent sun scald.
Then the three feet of new hardware cloth to prevent mice and other animals from girdling the bark when there is snow:
This picture shows the chain link fence around the whole area to keep out bears, elk, etc.
And if we do manage to get some cherries, he will have to cover the trees with netting to keep the birds from getting them first.
He’s planting seven trees this year: two cherries (including the one in the pictures), two pears and three apples. We’ll have to see if his 30 years of education will be enough. Our standard family joke is, “We’ll have fruit coming out our ears in no time!” Wish us luck.
What about you? Have you gained any hard-earned knowledge in the past 30 years?
Actually it isn’t quite as bad as the cartoon implies. Tax ID fraud is going up — there were about 1.8 million tax-related ID thefts during 2012, but after a big hassle the victims are reimbursed. Typically they get their refund in about six months, but some are still waiting for refunds from 2011.
The trouble is e-filing makes it easy for criminals. The number of drug dealers in one area went down because it was so much easier and safer just to get money from the IRS. The IRS is taking the matter seriously and says it is taking corrective measures — using better filters, cooperating with financial institutions to prevent the theft of personal information and tracking down and prosecuting offenders. We’ll have to see how well it does.
In the meantime some advisors say the best protection is (1) to do our part to keep our personal data safe and (2) to file early and beat the crooks. Andy and I have decided not to do that second one. We’ll still file by certified mail on tax day and will hope for the best. If we do have problems I’ll write a few blog posts describing the process and we may or may not change our ways.
In a comment at Cheerful Monk tammy said the IRS probably hates her because she does her returns on paper. I figure you’re in good company, tammy. We don’t send sensitive information over the internet, and we don’t intend to start until the whole system seems a lot safer. If someone steals our identities we at least want to make sure it’s not our fault.
What about you? Do you do your own taxes? Do you file either early or late? Do you file electronically?
We got some snow Tuesday! By Wednesday it had already melted down here, but not up in the mountains:
Apparently it also snowed in Albuquerque — very unusual because the last snow there is usually about March 16th. But by the end of the week the temperatures there are predicted to be 5 degrees above normal. Springtime in the Rockies!
I know tammy is having rain and ice in Oklahoma. Anything unusual where you are?
Our life is frittered away by detail. … Simplify, simplify.
—-Henry David Thoreau
Do you agree with that quote? I partially do. I’ve always kept my wants simple so I wouldn’t be trapped in a job I didn’t like. And for all of my adult life I’ve lived in apartments because as a friend once said, “If you have a house, you have a hobby.” Houses just don’t turn me on. There are other things I’d rather do with my time.
On the other hand, there are a lot of details that enrich my life. For instance a few years ago I was curious how the powers that be decided when Easter was. For our Western calendars it’s the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the vernal equinox (the first day of spring). So for fun every year I check my calendar (that shows the phases of the moon) and sure enough, Easter is right where it’s supposed to be. Important? No. Frittering my time away? Nope. I’m sure I have little or no company in this interest, but I care about it, so it’s not a waste of my time.
Last Sunday — Easter — I learned something else that enriches my life. It’s the story behind the Easter bunny. In pre-Christian Germany Eostre was the pagan goddess of spring and fertility. She was associated with rabbits for obvious reasons, and according to legend she took pity on a cold and starving bird one winter. She turned it into a rabbit so it could keep warm and have an easier time finding food. It did survive, and it also kept its ability to lay eggs. So in gratitude it decorated eggs in the spring and left them in honor of her. Who would have guessed?
Could I have lived happily without that tidbit? Sure, but it still enriches my life. What about you? What details enrich your life?
As you can see things aren’t very green yet, but at least Kaitlin’s pussy willow is starting to come out.
March is usually windy in New Mexico, and now that the trees are gone the wind can be especially fierce up on the land:
We’ve had this outdoor fireplace since shortly after we bought the land 36 years ago, and this is the first year it’s blown over. Andy put the big rock on it so it won’t be blown down the hill. He says he’s probably still strong enough to tip it back up, but not strong enough to carry it. When he gets time he’ll put it back up and try fixing it so it won’t blow down again. We haven’t had a fire in it in years, but it has sentimental value and it’s a great way of measuring the depth of the snow in those years when we get any.
Another oopsie was the attic stairs getting jammed again. Andy had thought if he closed them carefully the cable wouldn’t jump off the pulley and wrap around the axle. No such luck. So he climbed through the vent again to unjam the stairs, and he added a hook to keep the cable on the pulley. Presumably that will solve the jamming problem without having to reinstall the pulley so it’s not at an angle.
So that’s what early Spring is like here. What is it (or the first of Autumn for Cathy and Evan) like where you are? Have you needed to make any repairs lately?
Holder’s pronouncement made sense to some people, but it made others nervous. As comedian Andy Borowitz points out, the majority of Americans are opposed to being killed by drones. So no doubt they’re reassured that in response to Representative Rand Paul’s filibuster Holder now says, “Does the president have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on U.S. soil? The answer to that is no.”
Of course, we’ve been using drones to kill suspected non-American terrorists for some time now. Drones are inexpensive and their use will quickly spread. Blasty the drone thinks this is a great thing:
Others of us worry that we’re creating even more enemies by accidentally killing civilians in the process of hunting down the terrorists. What do you think? Are you concerned about the spread of drones? Because they’re so inexpensive do you think it will just be a matter of time before our enemies use them too?