Friday, July 3, 2009

Elizabeth's Twigs

The bathroom at Marvelous Market was out of toilet paper. Good thing I had a discount coupon from Safeway for Bush’s Baked Beans in my bag. What manner of association did Safeway computers go through to arrive at a Bushes coupon for me, I’m assuming these are intelligent suppositions based on my buying habits, which I should note, do not include Bush’s, which I actively dislike. Maybe they’re nudging me from the nice cheap cans of Campbell’s Pork and Beans that I use as a base, adding sauteed onions and bacon, mustard, brown sugar and spices. Tough. Coupon is flushed.


Monica left this morning for Austin, where the daughter is resuming her poolside search for meaningful work. Bikini clad and buttered in SPF15 she continues to check the University of Texas on-line bulletin board and Craig’s list for possibilities, occasionally shooting me a link to a curiosity like the ex-drug titan, fresh out of prison, seeking someone to collaborate on his memoirs.

So I’ve been wandering around the Hill feeling sadly for myself, my little pigeon has again left the roost. I looked at the camera, sitting on the kitchen counter before I left. Looked at it for a good 20 seconds or so, and then said, nah. Don’t feel like schlepping it and it’s gonna rain again and just don’t feel like it.

So of course I get to 11th and South Carolina and am stopped in my tracks by a collection of twigs painted in woozy stripes of purple and blue and Chinese red, massed –there were many--in a garden border behind a wrought iron rail.

It’s a newish border, so the plants haven’t yet filled in the blanks, and though there are flowers, they are widely spaced, and I’m thinking – This is wonderful! And I’m also thinking, someone else in this neighborhood would do this so seriously, buying twigs of some exotic wood and looking at them this way and that and then measuring off the distance between stripes and so forth. Or more probably, engaging an artiste to do it for them.

But here is someone who took a bunch of twigs, painted them and stuck them in the earth and they…look like flowers.

So after I completed my stomp around Eastern Market and elegy on the toilet situation at Marvelous Market over a caffeine free diet coke, I went home, grabbed the camera and, because I’m being lazy and it’s now getting late, hopped in the car and drove back to the house with the sticks.

Illegally parking at the corner, and snapping this way and that before looking up and, hellooooooooo.

There's a young woman about Monica’s age, with a billow of dark hair, perched on the doorstep watching me. And I say, Oops, and explain that I'm writing this blog and I love the sticks and she says, “My mom did them and she'll be so happy you like them. She'd like to meet you but she's in the shower .... “

I take her name, Carolyn Eby, and her mom's name, Elizabeth, and start giving her my info when she says, “Oh, I think she's out now,” and skitters into the house and drags mom out in a flowered muumuu of sorts, with soaking wet dark hair dripping fetchingly on her shoulders and I say…

Why sticks?

“Because it was raining and raining,” she began. “And I was looking at these sticks I'd piled up for kindling and thinking I had some paint and also thinking about the neighbor's daughter who was disappointed that I didn't have pink flowers last year...”

Which she still doesn't. She now has a collection of sticks painted violet, blue and Chinese red amid a border of perennials, yet in the subtle stage.

And I say, What I love is how they read as flowers!

Then she goes on to prove my point: “A woman walking down the street the other day said, ‘Those are the most interesting flowers! What are they?’ And I told her, They’re sticks.

“If it keeps raining, I’ll make more,” she continued, adding this bit of wisdom, “No matter how unsuccessful an art project is, if there's a lot of it, it looks great. “

Which is I think, quite true.


  1. I remember when I would grab my 35 mm camera for an afternoon excursion only to find that the battery was dead...or there was only one frame left. Your post brought up memories of this. Love the idea of painting sticks! Now I just need a plane ticket and my digital camera - and to make sure the battery is fully charged! :)


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