Sunday, June 13, 2010

My Friend Had a Heart Attack

My friend Susan Bardwell, the painter of the picture in the previous post, had a heart attack today.
I've never met her in person.  She lives down near Houston, Texas, and is a funny writer/journalist as well as a talented artist. David and Jane Shepherd introduced us, via email, and we've had a daily correspondence for the last two (three?) years. Like me, she's a smart aleck; has two adult sons roughly the same age as our sons who live with her and her husband; and has a grandson who lives with them because his father (her older son) has custody, so she ends up being mommy most of the time. Our grand daughter lived with us for almost three years, age almost 2 to almost 5, so I got to be mommy again for a while, also. We relate.
She and her husband produce what she calls a "paperless," The Angleton Journal,an electronic web newspaper they put out every Monday, and she writes a humor column for it. I haven't written a humor column since Rick got sick, but know what it's like and commiserate with her on the misery of deadlines.
My favorite quote on deadlines, and I can't remember who said it, is: "I love deadlines. I love the wooshing sound they make as they go by."
Susan is NOT like me in that she is a pretty good judge of character. I tend to think that everyone's great, unless I take an immediate dislike to someone, and I've often been wrong in my first takes, mostly about that thinking everyone's great. Susan worked for years as a crime reporter for the Houston Chronicle. She certainly got well acquainted with the less attractive side of human character there, and minces no words when she expresses her opinion of same.
She's a fierce mama lion for her family, and loves her whole overextended family in a prodigal fashion.
We came up with the acronym FASTOB, which stands for, "fat, average, sarcastic, tough old broad." Our sisterhood.
Oh, carp, she's just a real great buddy, and I hate it that she had a heart attack. I know she had one, at least, before, in her early 40s, and had some stents put in, so I guess it's not totally out of the blue, but it stinks. It sounds like the EMTs and the local hospital got the clot buster (or whatever) into her before she was airlifted so the obstruction was removed - washed away - I don't know – soon, and by the time the helicopter has taken her to the big hospital in Houston (Herrmann, I think) she was feeling better.
Her husband said she was scared, but by the time they left her at the hospital in Houston this evening she was joking with them. She'll be in the hospital a couple of days at least.
I'm still praying, for her health, and in thanks for EMTs, techs, doctors, nurses, and hospitals. We've spent so much time in the precincts of these people the last year and a half, and have acquired such respect and appreciation for them.
I am hoping she continues recovering well, and after she's home I'm going to try giving her a call. We've never actually spoken to each other. I think it's time.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

My Friend Paints; and Watch Out for That Tree

Greetings, Dear Hearts and Gentle People ~
Above you see a painting of a scene down at Tramp Harbor here on Vashon Island. You can see the mainland and a few pale peaks of the Cascades in the distance, off to the east. What's extraordinary about this painting to me is that it was painted by Susan Bardwell, my writer friend down in Texas, who has never been to Vashon Island, as far as I know. A couple of weeks ago when my friend Sonya was here to take care of me (us) when I had surgery, we went down to Tramp Harbor one day to commune with the water and the shore, and Sonya said, "Take some pictures to send to Susan to paint." So I did. I didn't know she'd paint something right away, but she did, and sent me the digital file, which you see here.
I really like it. A lot. Susan has started painting in the last few months, kind of to her own surprise. To hear her tell it she woke up one morning and decided it was time to do something different that was for her and for fun, and painting was it. She's been sharing some of her efforts since then.
In the foreground, the bottom left corner as you look at the painting, you can see the gabion cages, which are hefty wire netting that hold large rocks together to protect the beach and the road from erosion. That's one of the details of this painting that blows my mind. And one of the things you might look at and say, "What IS that?"
It's exciting to me. I am not a visual artist, but I love visual arts. When I try to draw, I can do okay, sorta - my best subjects have been sleeping dogs and cats, and chickens - but I've never been able to bring color into the mix. It is foreign territory. I'm a pencil and ink sketcher, and only every third or fourth year or so.
So watching Susan learn to use space and color and perspective the way she does - Rick says, "I wish I could paint like her. She's fearless!" - is an honor and a great pleasure.
And I'm hoping if I praise this painting highly enough she might send it to me for Christmas.

Watch out for that tree: It's a windy afternoon here on the island. I went out into the yard to whack a few weeds, and then sat in one of the old plastic Adirondack chairs that ornament our yard, and watched the tall trees that surround our house tossing in the gusts as they came and went. I like to sit out in the yard; it's peaceful, and because we are surrounded by trees and there is a circle of sky overhead, I can lay my head back and look at the clouds whizzing by and think about not much of anything.
That's what I was doing until I heard a crack. It was the crack of something in a tree breaking, some part of a large limb or trunk. When a tree goes down, or a big part of a tree, it starts with such a crack and then proceeds to make a lot of cracks which gather and multiply and crescendo until it sounds, I am told, like a barrage of small arms fire, and the noise goes on until the piece that is struggling lets go and falls free, plowing through the undergrowth with a sigh and a whoosh, taking a lot of smaller trees and bushes down with it.
In that undergrowth is exactly where you don't want to be when a tree lets go. Now, I am as foolish as the next person. I sometimes plan what I would do if I heard a tree begin to fall in my vicinity. My plan is to get to my feet and head for the house as fast as possible, on the assumption, perhaps mistaken, that the house would shelter me from the force of the blow. Unfortunately I have lived long enough to know that what I'd probably do is sit there frozen and hope that tree didn't fall on me. A tree went down about twenty feet from our bedroom during a night storm some years ago, and as I heard it go I did not move, just froze there in bed and waited for it to be over. It fell the other way, into the ravine. Lucky.
That is why when I heard that crack I decided to come inside. So I did. And that brings us up to date.