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MOUNTAIN MUSIC

Once upon a time, in the far away mountains, there lived a little girl who wanted more than anything to feel truly loved. She lived with her grandfather who thought the sun rose and set on his little grand-daughter. The two were inseparable and through the seasons they spent many hours wandering in the meadows and woods that surrounded their big house. Each time they returned home from an adventure the grandfather went into his big cozy kitchen and created wonderful things for the two of them to eat. The little girl paid littlesusanspecial attention to everything he did... how he selected just the right ingredients and then chopped, stirred, tasted, smelled and seasoned each dish. Finally he presented their meal by the kitchen window on a small table set with a white linen cloth, freshly ironed napkins , beautiful crystal glasses and polished silver. After they finished their meal they arranged water glasses in front of each place filling them with different levels of water and to the enjoyment of both they played “Mountain Music”, tapping with a knife on the side of each glass to make the notes of their newly composed songs. It was a magical time.

The days slowly warmed and with the coming of spring the scent of lilacs and lilies of the valley filled the town. Jars and beautiful paper packets of seeds covered the table in the kitchen of the grandfather’s house. Pictures on the packets were so brilliant that they looked like a giant quilt when the little girl spread them over the table top. She watched intently as her grandfather drew his plan for that years garden considering what to plant for the summer guests’ meals and what would be ingardengrown for the two of them to eat in the winter. Soon the garden would be filled with vegetables and flowers just waiting to be harvested.

Spring was also a time for trout fishing! The little girl and her grandfather met in the kitchen while it was still dark to pull on their tall black rubber boots, pick up their wicker creels, the small green tin filled with worms and susanongatelong bamboo fishing poles which stood by the back door. As the sky slowly turned pink with the rising sun they headed down the smooth dirt road toward their favorite fishing hole. While they walked, the little girl watched tiny, green, baby frogs bouncing in mud puddles left by warm spring rains and long plump night crawlers slowly inching their way into the grass to hide from early robins looking for breakfast. They could smell the earth warmed by the sun and soon heard the brook making its own kind of music as it rushed over moss covered rocks, through the ferns in the woods on its way to the meadow. Their secret spot never failed to reward them with a good mornings’ catch, sometimes even their “limit” which made for a wonderful breakfast when they returned home. The grandfather cleaned the trout, dipped them in flour and lay them in rows on the big iron pan bubbling with sweet butter to cook until the withfishskins were golden and crispy. Finally they sat down for a well earned meal of tender brook trout, soft chunks of creamy new potatoes, eggs with bright yellow yolks that looked like the tops of golden balls and finally thick slices of homemade bread toasted with butter and lots of homemade strawberry jam.

Summer was an even more special time. The grandfather turned his big home into a country inn. The wide lawns, tall stately elm and oak trees and marble patios made wonderful places for relaxing in green, wicker seated rocking chairs. There were beautiful English flower gardens with paths for wandering and comfortable white lawn chairs tucked away here and there in private corners. Every year gallons of white paint were brought out along with all the gardening tools, seeds and newly sprouted flower and vegetable plants. Everyone joined in the sprucing up of the inn and gardens before the guests began to arrive.

The people who stayed at the inn; mostly artists, actors and writers, came from far, far away in the big city and beyond. Most returned year after year bringing the excitement of their lives to share with the grandfather and the little girl. She loved the hustle and bustle at this time of year and spent much of each day quietly watching all the comings and goings from her perch on a high stool in the big kitchen or wandering through the big dining rooms dressed smilesin her special pale pink dress, mary jane shoes and white socks with a tiny ruffle on each ankle. She thought that her grandfather was the only person who could tie such a beautiful bow on the sash at the back of her dress… spreading it out to look like a beautiful butterfly.

The inn was famous for its wonderful food. All summer two big dining rooms filled with guests and the kitchen would be humming with activity. White linen cloths and freshly ironed napkins, sparkling crystal glasses and polished silver ware like those at their special place in the kitchen were also on each table. Waitresses came and went first passing each guest choices of homemade buttery rolls and breads from beautiful handmade baskets. Then, in huge hand turned wooden salad bowls, they served the days’ special salads; sometimes shimmering bright red tomato aspic with a special creamy sauce, or crisp cole slaw or greens from the garden with a wonderful secret dressing. The relish tray came next with rows of crystal dishes containing pickled watermelon rind and mustard pickle, dill and sweet pickles from last summers garden, all kinds of olives, exotic chutneys and finally cottage cheese from a local farm. Then came the main courses; big steaming plates of delicious meats including burrows1905roasts of beef, chicken and lamb, choices of casseroles like breaded oysters or corn pudding and mounds of buttery fresh steamed garden vegetables. Finally, waiting in the kitchen were long tables displaying choices of homemade desserts; pies and cakes as well as “floating island”, beautiful puffs of meringue floating in a pool of custard, and a special lemon pudding cake , the little girl’s two favorites.

Each fall as the days began to turn cold, the inn closed for winter. The heat was turned off in the two huge front living rooms. In the two big dining rooms chairs were piledon top of the tables and moth balls sprinkled on all the big oriental carpets before rolling them up to keep them safe from mice. The shelves of books in the living rooms were covered with large white sheets that still smelled like summer sunshine and kept out the dust and dampness during the winter. Outside, the lawn furniture was stored away, the flower and vegetable gardens were trimmed for their winter naps and the grandfather and grand daughter once again had the whole place to themselves.

The leaves on the big maple trees turned brilliant red and gold falling to the ground carpeting the wide lawns. They raked them into big piles and sometimes, just for fun, they buried themselves up to their necks under hangingstockingthe leaves’ colorful blanket. They used them to paper the wall over their table in the kitchen and pressed them for safe keeping between the pages of big books from their library. They collected the caps from the acorns of the oak trees to make tiny dishes for the elves that the grandfather said lived in the steeple clock on the mantle over the fireplace in the big living room. He often lifted his grand daughter up so she could pluck the big spring inside the clock making a boinging noise to let the elves know they were there. Her Grandfather taught her to make many wonderful objects from the things they found on their adventures and he made up stories about each little creation.

The first snowflakes announced the coming of winter and soon snow covered the mountains surrounding their little town. Each morning the two watched birds flock to a very special restaurant, the feeder they had hung in the pine tree next to the kitchen window. Every day the grandfather would toast half of a very long loaf of bread, smear each slice with peanut butter, cut the whole stack into small cubes just big enough for a tiny birds’ breakfast. Finally he sprinkled the cubes with bird seed and he and his granddaughter carried the pan of toast to the feeder then ran back inside to watch the eager birds eat. Snug and warm, they sipped steaming cups of coffee diluted with lots of sweet cream poured off the top of the milk bottle and ate the thick nutty oatmeal with brown sugar and raisins that the grandfather had made before the little girl awoke.

Sometimes, the grandfather and granddaughter put on their wooden snowshoes and made paths through the new snow in the meadow, climbing to the big hill behind their house. They stopped often to fall on their backs, waving their arms and legs to make snow angels then they scrambled to the big marble bench that was perched in the side of the steep slope and sat to eat their sandwiches in the sunshine while they watched the comings and goings in the town below.

On cold winter evenings before bedtime the little girl snuggled next to the fireplace under her warm old quilt and her Grandfather would read her stories from books in their library. He also shared his entries from tiny diaries that he had kept since he was a young man. Every day he wrote down the weather and the events of his life which now included her as well. From the time she was very small the little girl knew that walking and talking with her Grandfather, roaming in the woods and through the sunny, warm meadows, watching grasshoppers and butterflies, fishing in cold mountain brooks, and picnicking in their special spots were the things that made her feel the most happy and content.

As the little girl grew she tried to find a way to belong in her changing world which now included school and new friends. She spent less time with her grandfather but always returned to his company when she was feeling left out, different and lonely. He always knew just the right thing to say to make her feel strong and confident and encouraged her to create objects, to paint and to play “Mountain Music”. She would then venture back into her life, an interesting but vulnerable young woman. The seasons went by year after year as she went to college and eventually met a serious young man who became her husband. The two of them moved so far away from the mountains that, sadly, she was only able to visit her aging grandfather a few times each year.

One day the young woman came home and found a letter telling her that her beloved Grandfather had died. Numbly, she rode for hours on the bus to get home for his funeral, to say a final good-by. She made the long trip alone feeling the deepening confusion of loss and isolation. She arrived in time to spend some precious minutes by herself in her grandfathers’ home. Memories flooded back and the young woman began to feel her sense of loss deepening as she opened the drawer of his nightstand looking for his diaries. When she opened the first worn, black book tiny pieces of paper fluttered to the floor like small white birds and she scooped them up placing them on the nightstand in a pile. Her name on one of the folded pieces caught her eye and she began to open the precious notes as she saw they were all addressed to her in her grandfathers handwriting. Each one lifted her loneliness a little bit and replaced it with the joy that came from having been understood and valued.

“You have been my most precious gift”
“Through our times together I have learned to treasure the world around me”
“From the time you were born I never felt lonely again”
“Keep your eyes wide open to the tiny things”
“Your miraculous talents bring me so much joy!”
“Trust your instincts, they are true to who you are and want to be”
“I always look forward to what you have to say”
“You are valuable and deserve all the joy and appreciation this world has to offer”
“Use your life to inspire your creations”
“Know that you have been loved”
“Eat Oatmeal, play Mountain Music, think of me and remember the birds!”

The End

Contact me by email if you have any questions: Susan B. Wood


"A Secret Well Kept?"

Photography on Organza and Watercolor Paper • 5 feet tall x 38 inches wide


orgewithtext

The Amazing Aging Single Woman Artist Excerpts from Life

Winter in the nest

I have turned into an amazing, aging, single, woman, artist who eats Doritos heavy with scoops of tuna salad and dips chips in the big container of yogurt getting her hand covered with the cold white stuff... then licks her fingers off and wipes her mouth on the sleeve of her tattered old, very old, green sweat shirt that was one of the last articles of clothing that her, now dead, husband wore days before his death and then tosses a few of the remaining peanuts from the big jar on the table to the loyal black dog lying next to her on the couch which is leather so the dog hair doesn’t show and then takes off her bra to be more comfortable while she reads her last borrowed book from the library and tosses the bra onto the pile of only half dirty clothes on the chair next to the dining room table but then thinks better of leaving the dingy thing on top of the pile and gets up to cover it with her pajama bottoms which wait for 4:30 to come so she can put them back on again. Surely no one will come to her house at that hour.

Bringing home the bacon

Being an amazing, aging, single, woman, artist has its advantages like being able to turn on the light any time she wants to without annoying anyone else, being able to eat the last piece of bacon in spite of the fact that her mother once told her that the best and last should always go the “MAN” and realizing that the “MAN” probably didn’t give a shit anyway but felt that something was off if he wasn’t at least offered the tasty morsel but now she has sisters who are the watch dogs over her life instead of her dead mother and they reprimand her for drinking gin in her tea when she is ALONE which means, she thinks, that she must be turning into an alcoholic at this late date and they reprimand her for using her chainsaw when she’s ALONE because she might chop off her leg and who will rescue her if they aren’t there, and for continuing to climb the ladder to sleep in her cozy loft because they have nightmares about finding her dead in a pool of blood having fallen while climbing up or down ALONE ....but she knows she is still strong and besides... that tea with gin is just the thing when one is checking that dating site for Mr Right...the “MAN” who gets the bacon.

Faking it

This amazing, aging, single, woman artist has been faking it for the last three years...oh GOD... and it’s not even sex... but rather a stubborn computer which has a mind of its own and won’t cough up emails when she wants them but she does notice that the stove works just fine when she changes settings so why not the computer. She has been brave when trying new positions... oh... here it is again... to hold the computer on her lap..forget the sex talk... she’s ALONE..... oh sorry.....and has been trying to figure this out by herself and now the dog is standing in front of her staring.. p.s.... she thinks he secretly knows how to work this computer.......... maybe she should get him a treat and while her back is turned he can straighten out her email...

DUST

If there’s one thing the amazing, aging, single, woman, artist is sure of it’s that she was never taught how to clean a house and wonders if that is something that mothers other than her own made sure their daughters knew how to do because after all she comes from a time at the end of an era when not only was it still the woman’s job to keep the home looking sparkly but everyone knew that it would never be possible to attract a man who would support her for the rest of her life so she wouldn’t have to work if she didn’t have the right skills to entertain her husbands’ “boss” and his perfect wife who came to dinner only because they had recently invited all of the office to their amazingly clean house for a Christmas party and now expected to have each couple reciprocate. BUT… because this amazing, aging, single, woman, artist had a mother who neglected to teach her many things a young woman should know she has lived in an ignorant state of bliss …she collects and displays her art and her treasures layering, hanging, piling, stepping over, leaning, arranging and rearranging in a new home made more for comfort than to impress and when her niece who is a neat freak and must have been born in the wrong era drops by just before this years holiday party to see the place for the first time and says, “How on earth do you ever dust all this stuff?”… the amazing, aging, single, woman, artist says,
“WHAT DUST?”

Tools

How did I get to be this amazing, aging, single, woman , artist who spends way too much time checking her email in the hope that an amazing man might contact her through a dating site and is willing to overlook her sagging belly, mostly unshaved legs,except during the summer when it might be necessary to wear shorts or a skirt into town or bring her legs out from under the rungs of the chair and cross them to appear casual....of course this then leads to the horror and realization that it has been several years since she had a pedicure and while blundering through writing the self description on the dating sight might have mentioned that she likes to have her feet rubbed..... well the least she can do is trim her toenails, just in case.... maybe she should make an appointment to have that pedicure.... wait.... there is some sand paper on the work table..it might be just the thing for her calluses and then she won’t have to be embarrassed at the beauty parlor.... better wait till she’s sure it will be appreciated and anyway she might need the sandpaper for the new piece she’s working on.

 

Cleaning out the closet
Somehow I have become an amazing aging, single, woman, artist with a strange conglomeration of clothes in her closet that tell the story of her life..there’s the long velvet dress and a jacket which closes with big, black knotted buttons and is made from an antique japanese temple cloth given to her by an artist friend... it became the outfit worn for a beautiful warm winter solstice wedding to an amazing man... oh my.... she nostalgically reaches for the clothes hanging limply on their padded hangers, sheds her frayed, stained overalls which her sisters hate(they tell her all the time) and they fall in a forgotten heap on the floor ...she slips the dress then the jacket over her head,... the dog is barking..how sweet.... he is excited that she looks so amazing.... just as she did on that wedding day so long ago...The dog is still barking and jumping around... Oh how wonderful to be so appreciated even if it is just the dog..... She didn’t know dogs had such an appreciation for clothing.... She twirls for her four legged audience and remembers the wedding day...now the dog is jumping at the window, running back and forth, back and forth to the door...... GOD.... is it really possible that the UPS man has really chosen this time to deliver a missing package… oh!… the pallet buster she ordered has been found!! Exciting!! A new tool! A japanese temple cloth jacket with the big, black knotted buttons might be just the thing to wear with overalls for busting pallets!!

My Way
Being an amazing, aging, single, woman, artist means that she has time to remember, imagine, rearrange events to her liking....

Daydream: She pushes her first husband, the cheater, in a deep hole or…. although quite unlikely .. he proclaimed his shame and remorse over having an affair..her choice now..

For real: she became a respected artist which she never would have done if she had stayed with him because he said quite loudly that she would NEVER make any money with her art.

Daydream: Publishers Clearing House has had trouble finding her house on the one lane dirt road, her birthday is being planned by everyone in the village, the band has been practicing and the balloons are already strung.. Oh MY GOD!!...the tuba player fell in the snowbank and there is a clarinet leaning against the tree which means….something.

For real: Her youngest daughter threw a terrific party for her seventieth birthday complete with a band and good friends.

Daydream: The audience begins to settle in their seats, the conductor lifts his baton and nods to the amazing, aging ,single ,woman artist who lifts her violin and begins to play the Hungarian Rhapsody. It is not lost on the audience that her beloved husband was Hungarian.

For real: She has started learning to play “Over the Rainbow” on the ukulele.... so it does not have to lean against the wall in the corner like all the other instruments she has dreamed of playing..

For real: she and her eldest daughter went to a ukulele festival on Martha’s Vineyard and that weekend was perfect and does not need rearranging.