About Katy Gilmore

Katy Gilmore is an artist (watercolors and artists' books ) and writer living in the Pacific Northwest. She is the author/illustrator of "The Year in Flowers: A Daybook." Katy has had more than 25 solo exhibitions, and her work is included in public and private collections. Her blog "Her spirits rose..." explores art and inspiration in the everyday things of home and garden.

Peanut Butter Cookies And Fear

The other day I made peanut butter cookies – by myself for the first time in ages. Recently I’ve had help from one dear little girl or another – Lady B, Sweet Baby, the little girl from next door. They each stood on a little stool to reach the counter while expertly forming balls and squashing them both ways with a fork to achieve the cookie’s trademark crosshatch.

It’s always fun, the cookies delicious and fairly nutritious, and they travelled well this summer – on day adventures here and to Alaska and California. We used this recipe, doubled, and cooked them a little longer than called for.

Such a normal, happy thing to do with children.

But I kept seeing these three little girls in my mind’s eye when I watched the little girl named Magdalena, sobbing and pleading with authorities that she needs her father. I can’t let my imagination go far enough to put the girls I know in Magdalena’s shoes (probably pink and glittery or sporty with velcro), but am well aware of the sheer terror of this experience.

And that’s what we (our American government) visited on children last week – along with the slaughter of people shopping for school supplies and groceries on a weekend afternoon. From conscious will to act with cruelty to failure to protect us from assault weapons – it was quite a week for the occupant of the White House and the Republicans controlling the Senate.

Far from peanut butter cookies, I can’t tie this up, but can’t make sense of it, and can’t not write about it.

Sweet Baby Visits The Neighborhood

The first four mornings of Sweet Baby and her dad’s visit (while her mom flew to her family in Thailand), she attended Kindergym camp at the high school. Gymnastics team members guided three, four and five-year olds as they walked the balance beam, swung on rings, bounced on a long walkway trampoline, somersaulted, and ran!

And each afternoon, Sweet Baby and the five-year old girl from next door played “let’s pretend,” speculated on some imaginative and giggle-worthy, if inappropriate, name-calling to elders, negotiated back and forth about who set the rules, but overall took pleasure in each other and their easy proximity.

In between times, Papa Jim switched from enacting (with infinite patience and imagination that the rest of us don’t possess) Dale or Bob, the farmers (or sometime adventure guys) with Lady B, to princess tales. In these, Sweet Baby dresses in an inherited ballet skirt worn as a headdress as she goes about her royal business.

On long summer evenings we discovered an almost sandy beach across from the ferry terminal, where Sweet Baby searched for tiny shells, and at our favorite beach, she swam in her pink wet suit with her dad. On Saturday, we picnicked at Point No Point Lighthouse beach, and drove on to Port Townsend – our first visit to the old haunts for nearly a year.

A visit highlight was Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo. Zoos can be hard, but this zoo attempts to provide realistic habitat and supports endangered species around the world. Most of the beautiful animals we saw (charismatic megafauna Mrs. Hughes would call them) live in large outdoor spaces with manufactured cliff faces, moats, trees and shrubs. In a magic moment, as the keepers shut gates across our path, the giraffes, including a baby born in May weighing 122 pounds, walked gracefully right in front of us headed for their barn. (Up close the patterns of their coats are all distinct.)

Reading wins out over most everything for Sweet Baby now. Twice we visited the library for the little chapter books with more text than pictures and read them repeatedly. The zoo day, on the ferry going and coming, we read a Judith Kerr book about a baby seal and a gentleman (now one of Sweet Baby’s favorite words). She’d spot our neighbor John and call out – “here comes that gentleman!”

Other book-learned words suddenly appear. When loading into the car, after fastening her car seat, she’d say: “OK, Daddy, clamber in! In the car we listened to “The Mouse and the Motorcycle,” and every time we “clambered in,” she’d request, “put on the mouse song please!”

My painter friend always comments on Sweet Baby’s open and smiling face – and that’s her personality – quick to engage with new people, always observing other children and moving closer to invite inclusion – and sometimes finding it. She’s expressive and funny and can laugh at herself. She twirls with the gentleman’s wife (who loves to ask her about ballet moves) while wearing the headdress as a skirt. At a stumble she says, “oh my goodness, here I go!”

A late flight on departure day allowed an aquarium visit. Sweet Baby sat right up front by the tank to be close to Diver Kim – and chortled with glee to see the puffins swimming. The tank is transparent, so you realize puffin-swimming looks like flying underwater.

Sweet Baby said she was eager to see her mom, but sad to go. Leaving the airport, after a period of silence, I told Poppa Jim I was sad and asked about him. His reply: “It’s awful.”

Lady B Comes to Stay

Monday morning at Lady B’s sewing camp, 13 girls and one boy, ranging in age from seven to 14, sat right down, each at their own Brother sewing machine, and threaded it! With a foot stretched to reach pedals, they stitched a rectangle spiral, needle down, pressure foot up, pivot. By the end of that first day, they’d made nametags by sewing fabric strips around a white rectangle, a little game board (nine patchwork squares) and playing pieces created by cutting out fabric they’d glued to flattish marbles – oh, and a little carry bag for the game.

Each day they made an object introducing new skills, and with little by way of verbal instruction, they grew accomplished by doing. They made a notebook holder (right sides together, stitching and turning, then top stitching), a pieced owl pillow with tricky pointed ears that needed filling with “fluff,” and a green fleece frog requiring fiddly turns around corners and narrow seams.

The week went so fast – such a pleasure to be with this dear and smart and thoughtful person! Before dinner each evening we ate popcorn and played a complicated dinosaur game (from Rotary and missing a critical volcano piece that we fashioned from cardboard and duct tape) and laughed lots. One evening we took pizza to the beach with our old friends who live on Bainbridge. Lady B waded in the water, then sat with us on the old plastic chairs taking part in the conversation, as the tide rose over our feet.

One memorable day we visited the Seattle Aquarium. Lady B knows much about marine animals, and with her as my tour guide, we saw seals being fed, an otter floating on its back with a shrimp tucked under its webbed foreleg, and Diver Kim in the two-story, salt-water tank feeding Northwest native animals and talking to the human audience through her microphone.

Afterward, we headed to Pike Place Market, and Lady B spotted an elevator making a quick way up (she loves to figure things out now). We visited the comic shop deep in the Market (a popular destination for her dad and brother 30 years ago – it’s changed very little), and Lady B selected two Asterix comics that she and her dad didn’t have. Then on to the Crumpet Shop, where she ate two buttery crumpets (a strong sign of approval because she’s not a huge eater).

Lady B had declared dinosaurs the theme for last year’s visit, and this year – roosters (inspired by the Rotary rooster plate but also finding many roosters around our house). It delighted her to tie things together in a category, a series. We painted while paying more attention to how many layers of glaze an image needs, and how to keep track of them. More visits and we might perfect our results.

Often this visit, Lady B asked about people and events from the past – even inquiring about Nick stories. Does any long time reader remember Nick – Nick who worked on the North Slope and had a breed-changing dog (sometimes a lab, sometimes a collie) named Quesadilla? Nick could wield a chainsaw, drive heavy equipment, ride a motorcycle – even pilot the ferry! In quiet times and on walks, I told the stories I remembered, and said we could find more in the books I have made from my blog each year.

We began by reading Lady B’s first year, all the posts with stories about her birth and Downtown Abbey, and she kept requesting, “another, another.” With only two nights of the visit left, we made it part of the way through her second year – but not to Nick.

Next time.

 

Rummaged Rooster

It’s the “world’s largest” rummage sale and an auction, but here it’s just known as Rotary. People donate, volunteer (more than 1,500), and – shop! Last year Bainbridge Island’s Rotary Auction raised over $625,000 for community grants and projects, scholarships, and international humanitarian work.

Bargain hunters come from around the Northwest and Canada, and the logistics of organizing people, parking, items for sale, and ensuring little waste boggles the mind.

The whole thing could be chaos. But somehow, in the midst of this evidence of wretched American excess – it’s really fun. Last year I helped a friend and volunteered in the linens department, but didn’t attend the sale.

This year we ventured into the fray – but not to do the running start at 8 a.m.! A mob of shoppers crowd together for a mass start (having previewed goods on Friday night), then, at a signal, dash for their targets. By 10:30 when we arrived, the very best “good stuff” was gone – but plenty remained, and we accomplished our objectives – life vests for our Bainbridge friends’ grandchildren (three for four dollars), new games and puzzles (bags stuffed for ten dollars), and two bowls and a plate from the “breakable kitchen ware” section.

As we made our way back to the shuttle bus stop, I realized the abundance on offer – huge things like oversized televisions, barbeques, kayaks, and dingys, even cars and trucks. Small treasures of glass or pottery. Massive stacks of linens, toys of all stripes, children’s clothes, grown up clothes, lawn mowers, garden tools, outdoor furniture, Christmas decorations, vacuum sweepers, luggage, building equipment, ski equipment, windows, doors, bikes, antlers, vinyl, computers, and boom boxes. Knitting supplies have a tent apart. The quantity is hard to convey – a whole middle school, classrooms, gymnasium, and playing field chockablock with discarded possessions awaiting new life.

We watched one family enthusiastically load into the back of a canopied truck, a huge storage container for a dock (apparently filled with other purchases), a child’s handmade wooden kitchen, a small table, a large wooden chair, a big two-burner camp stove, a shower surround (!), then add leftovers to the extended cab – along with their three-year old, the Bob stroller, themselves, and father-in law.

Thankful to avoid the road as lines of pickups queued to pick up (we watched a man trudging amongst them carrying a life-sized deer), we crowded into seats on the shuttle bus with bags on our laps. A woman perched a big suitcase full of clothes and books next to me – and held on tight from behind. (Every year her daughter reads the mountain of books purchased for a few dollars). Other passengers wrestled purchases down the narrow aisle – a bed frame, a huge dog carrier, a thick pottery crock pot, two long-poled weeders, a large framed mirror – everyone jolly about their treasures.

My best find was a little hand-painted “California Provencial” Poppytrail plate, made by Metlox Pottery in the ‘50s. One rooster crows in the middle of the plate – here he’s multiplied into a pattern!