A Room of Ann’s Own
I work from home. I also don’t drive, which I used to do before my 2007 accident, and now, I spend most of my time at home. Not driving has changed my life, but not necessarily is all bad ways. I never liked driving. Sometimes I think I never felt safe while driving, although I question whether my memory of driving is clouded. In any case, I always preferred to be driven if the option arose. I also don’t go out as much as I used to before the accident. By “out,” I don’t mean exclusively to parties, clubs, and other late-night events, but rather, I used to run errands all the time and be more social. In comparison to how I coordinate activities now, according to how far I have to scoot (ride my scooter), when I drove my van, I used to try to get as many things done as possible in one drive. I have always preferred to scoot places, even when I lived in Ohio, weather-permitting. I remember parking my van on the Ohio State University campus, especially near the Wexner Center for the Arts, and scooting as fast as possible, specifically in “rabbit” (high speed) mode, and I would lose feeling in my nose before I got to class. My eyes would water, and my tears could freeze; nonetheless, I preferred the scooting voyages. I think my preference for scooting over driving especially blossomed when I moved to Chapel Hill in 1997. The weather was temperate enough, and the town surrounding the campus was mostly safe, not to mention, accessible.
Anyway, I am older now, and I often prefer to stay inside. Many people think that sounds sad, and they may even pity me. However, my home is set up for my comfort, and it is beautiful, because Paul and I have good taste, and because my walls are covered with bright-colored and often sparkling paintings that catch the light. My paintings are happy, and they make me smile.
On January 7, after Durham got a couple of inches of snow that wouldn’t melt, i.e. I could not leave my home, I completed three paintings. They are titled (from left to right): “Heirloom Tomato,” “Jack-Knife Arty,” and “Tropical Flower.” I took this photograph of them by laying on the kitchen floor and balancing the camera, with one arm/hand, while tapping the camera icon on the screen with my other arm/hand. This tomato is ripe, juicy, and incorporates paint colors called tuscan red, ripe tomato, sparkling duckling yellow, and moss green for the background, as well as for the growth at the stem. Some of the vines from the stem curl at the ends, in semi-spirals. The word “heirloom” also calls to mind an object or tradition passed down through generations. I’m not sure how the title or its implications may relate to the colors and brushwork in this tomato, but perhaps that is something I could contemplate elsewhere.
To continue explaining my photograph, I must back up…One year ago, in January 2016, Paul and I lost our huge, picky, lovable orange tabby cat, “Sunny,” whose nicknames included “the orange beast,” “the orange dummy,” and “lovey beast.” I adopted Sunny from the Durham County Animal Shelter, with the help of my friend, Elizabeth. At the time, I lived alone in an apartment, and Paul and I had started spending most of our time together. Paul lived in Raleigh then, but we commuted back and forth, so that Sunny became “our” cat. When Paul and I moved in together, six month later, into a larger apartment in the building, Sunny reveled in the extra space. He would characteristically complete what we called “the gazelle,” by trotting from one bedroom, jumping on one arm of the couch, leaping up, flying through the air, landing on the other arm of the couch, and dismounting into the other bedroom. He also used to strike a pose that Paul called the “jack-knife,” by managing to put his large, what we called “big ass body,” into an orange, yellow, and gold spiral. I painted a portrait of this pose in the painting “Sunny Jack-Knife,” (2014). I created his coat in thick stripes of paint, so that he resembled a pinwheel, and I titled it “The Orange Beast”…......Moving forward, Sunny stopped eating in January 2016, which was a bad sign, and became very skinny. He also cried a lot, in a sorrowful “mow.” Brandee helped me take him to the vet, who decided they should keep him there on IV fluids. The vet and I called and emailed each other for a couple of days, until she told me that Sunny wasn’t going to recover. Then he was just gone. Absent. We were very sad, and there were tears for days. Even Snitty seemed despondent.
Then I wanted to get another cat, not to replace the irreplaceable Sunny, but, because I rationed, Paul, Snitty, and I all needed a fresh face. We needed to rescue another innocent beast from “the big house,” a term Paul and I had invented to reference the collections of cat cages at the animal shelter. Sunny, I felt, would have wanted us to. I made Paul a collage and a list about it. The list included the following:
Ann is lonely during the day
Snitty is lonely and not getting any exercise
We are all down and need a pick me up
Sunny gave us a lot of love and would want us to be happy
Sunny would want us to rescue another lonely cat at the shelter
We should adopt a homeless kitty and make him/her have a good life
The shelters are over-crowded,
And it would be doing a civil and humanitarian good deed
It would be fun!
My list was enthusiastic and convincing, so we went to the shelter and found Arty. We chose him, or rather, he chose us, because he was in a cage alone and, like Sunny, immediately started talking to us and rubbing against his cage door when we gave him our attention. I have written about Arty’s adventures in other blogs and will continue to do so. He is such a friendly, funny, sweet little kitty. He has unique markings in grey, black, silver, and brown that swirl around his petite frame. I painted him in a jack-knife pose here, and his stripes circle and flow in all directions and even form a spiraling circle on his back. He is sleeping in this pose, yet nonetheless, dynamic.
After this painting is one of a non-specific flower (seen above). It is based on the design of a hibiscus, which I have painted often and in different hues. I used the same glittery duckling hue that is in “Heirloom Tomato,” some sparkling oranges and pinks, and I applied a darker blue paint from a little tube that was almost empty for the background.
In the photograph at top, I captured the three paintings, as well as Snitty, mid-walk (to the right), against one of my many book shelves. On opposite sides of the paintings in my shot, a viewer can catch a glimpse of second photograph in which I posed for Joel-Peter Witkin (left) and Paul’s stand-up bass (to the right). This is a room I share with Paul. It is a room of my own, in the sense that I see it every day and can do anything in it. By this, I mean that Paul is the opposite of the patriarchy with which Virginia Wolfe and the generations of women she addressed had to contend, in her lecture “A Room of One’s Own.”
As for my allusion to “A Room of Ann’s Own,” not everyone can work from home. Many people may feel distracted and unmotivated. I sometimes feel those things, too. But I am self-reliant and self-motivated. I have stores and other facilities in scooting distance. I have opportunities to visit galleries and museums and to see plays with Paul or with other friends. I get invitations to speak at various college campus and to visit relatives and distant friends. And, periodically, Paul will drive me in my van to the beach, or even just to a hotel not too far away, where we can swim, eat in a fabulous restaurant, and just get out for a night, without worrying about the kitties. I do get lonely from time to time, when I am home by myself, but it’s not so bad. No one need feel sorry for me – I have a good life.