Like many people, we are once again venturing into the world of Travel this summer. We’re fortunate: we’re all vaccinated, and being that we spent little money on camps and none on travel last summer, and aren’t spending any on camps this summer, we can afford a couple of weeks in beautiful places. We’ll be flying to Boston, and after a couple of days there, driving up to Waitsfield, Vermont, for four days, then to Harpswell, Maine, for a week. Then it’s four days in Connecticut before returning to Boston for the flight home. I can’t wait.

I do all the driving in the family, and it will be quite a lot of driving (punctuated by long stretches of doing nothing in a tiny town), but I love this kind of driving, seeing places that, if not actually known to me, are deeply familiar, and very beautiful. New England is my homeland. I know the shapes of the hills, the architecture of the houses, the inimitable green of the trees, and the sounds of the birds. And we’ll take the federal highways and other smaller roads more than the interstates, to make the most of the time on the road and greatly increase the opportunities to stop at roadside attractions. Leominster, Mass.: grave of the man persecuted for his beard! Brattleboro, VT: eat lunch by the West River while checking out the resident sea serpent! Lincoln, NH: state historical marker noting the spot where Barney and Betty Hill were abducted and probed by aliens! (TMI, Barney and Betty.)

But first, a week-plus of study leave. I have a pile of books to read and time in which to read them.

I’m seeing a lot of debate about racial and ethnic representation in In the Heights. I don’t doubt the merits of the arguments, and I can’t judge them until I’ve seen the movie myself. Something I can judge, though, is whether we usually examine racial representation with such immediacy and thoroughness. Here are a few movies that have received considerable praise in the past few years without much public comment about their racial and ethnic representation:

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Director/writer, star, and leading actors all white non-Latinx.

The Irishman. Director, writers, and leading actors all white non-Latinx. (Also mostly men, but that’s another post.)

Once Upon a Time . . . in Hollywood. Director/writer, leading actors all white non-Latinx.

Downton Abbey. Um, yeah.

And now there’s In the Heights. Director: Asian-American. Writers: Latina and Latino. Stars and leading actors all Latinx and/or African-American. In the trailer I saw, everyone who spoke was a person of color–not a white non-Latinx in the lot. It was exhilarating. I should have known right then that it would come under the microscope.

I’m glad we are asking questions about the colorism and racism in Latinx cultures and how that shows up in the few, oh so few, movies by and about Latinx folks. But I would like to know why movies by and about white people so often get a pass.

Collage, 5 1/2″ x 7″

Collage, 5 1/2″ x 7″

5×7, completed yesterday

Conté, 8×11

I don’t think this drawing is finished. It might have been more finished when I had drawn only the dog and an outline of a door. But if so, I can draw some like it again. I’m going to spend some time with it first.

This is the dog Denise Levertov wrote about that helped me so much a few years ago: grief, wanting to be acknowledged and not shut out in the cold. So I suppose this drawing comes earlier than that one, in which the dog was more at home. But grief doesn’t just move forward in time. Last week my mind’s eye, or maybe my heart’s eye, spotted a forlorn dog nosing and scratching at the door, so here he (?) is.

Vortex (Coming Together or Coming Apart?), 5×7
Vortex, 5″ x 7″
(c) 2021 Amy Zucker Morgenstern

We don’t necessarily have an Advent calendar each year, but my wife spotted a really cute one and ordered it. Unfortunately, it was coming from Japan or someplace, and arrived December 15. Laughing, she showed it to us and suggested it was a bit late for a countdown to Christmas. However, someone on the ever-useful interwebs had pointed out that if one bought an Advent calendar in the post-Christmas sales and opened the first window on 12/27, the last window would open on Inauguration Eve.

So we have been faithfully opening our Totoro-a-day calendar and displaying them as they emerge. I love the dust critters. The pumpkin happened to be around; no deeper significance is intended of an orange resident that is way past its time to GO.

One window left.

Note Catbuses up above.

We have been talking about creating a room like this almost since we bought this house, in 2011. We live in a row house and the garage runs all the way from the front to the back. Joy dreamed it up, imagining turning the back section of that unnecessarily deep garage into a small space for laundry and art. During our sabbatical time in 2016, we said we’d get right on the project when we got back. But these kinds of things take a lot of work, and other priorities intruded. This year, Joy found a contractor, drew the plans, stood in a lot of lines at City Hall to get the permits, and shepherded the whole process, and now we have a dedicated space that we have modestly dubbed “the art room,” as “studio” seems a bit highfalutin.

I don’t have a “before” picture, but here is how things looked very early on:

Out of sight to the left, between the black file cabinet and the ladder leaning against the back wall, is the wall to our office. That is now the doorway into the art room. Let me escort you:

The wall straight ahead is a nice big blank space for us to fill with art as we create it. You can see the treadmill, formerly in the office, to the left of the stairs. And of course there are books, because, well, that’s us. And we displaced quite a few feet of bookshelves by cutting this doorway between the office and the new room.
A project for me for when the weather gets warmer: refinish this table we got at a yard sale, or at least the top so it’s a smooth working surface. My dearest wish in creating this room was to have work space that didn’t have to be cleared off daily–that we can just return to the next day. That empty shelf is also for works-in-progress. (See the manual pencil sharpener attached to the wall just to the right of the door? I installed that. My big contribution to the construction.)

Second-dearest wish: to make all of our art supplies easily available, organized, and labeled. If you recognize the font, solidarity, fellow nerds! If you’re not sure where it’s from, but it gives you a vague sense of disquiet, I recommend these reruns, Number Six.
We are tolerant of each other’s tendency to go a little overboard when ordering things from Ikea, and here’s a great example of the benefits of that tolerance. This item wasn’t in the plan, but when Joy ordered the drawer systems, she tossed it in too, and it’s a great addition.

An art room needs a sink, and this is our laundry room too. We held onto these cabinets for six years after getting new ones for the kitchen, with the ultimate plan of using them here. I’m really glad we did. They would have just gone into the landfill, and now they are storage for lots of the stuff that got booted from the garage, like our three fondue sets (please don’t judge–we didn’t pay for any of them) and grocery overflow. The glass door goes to the back yard, and it and the long transom window above it allow in lots of light. There’s even a built-in ironing board across from the washer and dryer, another original fixture from the kitchen that has been waiting for its moment.

Thank you for coming on my tour! The office, freed of the treadmill, is now home to a trundle bed that opens up to king size, so that for the first time, we have a place for people to stay besides the living room. Now if we could only have guests come visit . . . ! Let’s hope 2021 brings them, and it begins in six hours.

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