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Posts Tagged ‘Texas’

Dispersal … That is the word which fits a certain three-week period in a seasonal retirement community. May I share with you the feeling of temporary loss?

The Little Deaths of the Winter Texans

Blue Lights

Blue Lights

The palm trees bases are serenely wrapped with Christmas tree lights presenting a spiraling row of glowing blue lights which make magic in the evening dark.

“When I came back in the Fall and there were no blue lights I clutched my heart and said to myself, “the Park is going downhill.” A week later they repaired the spirals and turned on the lights and I breathed a sign of relief,” my companion said.

“Yes, I agree, it is like a little death of something we hold on to that gives us a slight lift of our spirits. A bit of beauty.” I reply.

Another season in The RV Resort and Park begins and the activities speed up.  There is the small card room, the large card room, the ballroom for dancing (trail dancing, swing dancing, formal waltzing, clogging) and magic acts, etc.   There is bean bag and wood-shop and quilting.  Most anticipated is Sip n’Dip at the pool with a Karaoke band and bodies strewn up and down the patio baking to the desired envy-producing brown to display back home.  It is a signal to the children, grandchildren, and friends that this person still has a vibrant, active life.

Sandwiched between the gaiety and good feeling there are hushed discussions of who did not come back this season.  Memorial service notices appear of the bulletin board. Ambulance sirens enter and exit the park late at night.  The tendrils of unease sneak along the streets.

Still, here are the men clustered in groups, playing darts, playing billiards, playing water volleyball in the small swimming pool.  Happily hurling insults back and forth with the ball. The weeks fly by as  friendships are renewed, gutters are repaired, weeds are whacked, and the irritating things that could go wrong … do go wrong – including the many things that can go wrong with an old body.

Now there are trips to the Dr. and a rush across the border into Mexico to do the dental work that costs so much in Canada.

And then … Season Over … who will not return? Whose children (40 or 50 years old) are coming to pack them up, load a truck, and take them away, never to return? Who has sold their unit? There is a last dashing around as the seller of a unit tries to give away several years of patio chairs, barbecues, dart boards, and water shoes. Who is staying? Do they want this item or that?  Do you want my grapefruit  picker? Would you like my container plant?

Two weeks of final dinners, drinks raised to celebrate going “Home” … back to Canada, Iowa, Nebraska, or Minnesota where reside the grandchildren we never hear from. The “grands” cannot afford to telephone and we have all painfully forced ourselves to learn to email only to find “the Kids” have moved on to I-phones and can only be reached by texting. Free classes are given by one of the computer nerds and we struggle with the tiny, tiny keys we cannot see on palm sized phones and know this is another little death if we give up.

No tears … last hugs … promises to be here next Fall …“God willing and the creek don’t rise.” Yet we all look searchingly at each other, memorizing faces, holding these persons in our hearts while the undercurrent sweeps us along with the knowledge that our days are truly numbered.

These are the little deaths of the Winter Texans in the Rio Grande Valley.

 

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A visiting performance artist!  From Costa Rica! All the classes in the art dept. are alerted and it is arranged that we, the students, will participate in a performance.  A collaborative performance … there are approx 30 artists (or art students) involved in this project. The artist, Elia Arce, meets with us and we discuss what concepts we wish to convey to our audience.  Loneliness? Time? Death? Displacement?  We decide on Time and Displacement. Then the question of location … where shall we do the performance?  How to document? Our final decision is to go out to a lonely country road, with a group of people (and several babies to indicate generations) and take a photo on an empty field with a wide sky spread above us. We find one and take test shots.Here are photos of our first scouting trip to locate a road.

Lonely Texas Road and Artists

Lonely Texas Road and Artists

Professor Karen Sanders

Professor Karen Sanders

During the week Elia and Prof. Karen Sanders change the location to a Texas ranch where a friend, Betty, will allow us to use her empty field.  After several attempts we locate some babies, set a time, and go to the ranch. It is 5:00 pm so the evening light is excellent, the weather is clear, and the babies are mellow!  Prof. Sanders is a digital photographer and she arranges us all in the field and, with the help of two other photographers, does a triple-person exposure.  This means the three photographers line up, are assigned a section of the group of people to take a picture of, and on the count of “three” all snap the picture. This is going to be one BIG picture … it will be difficult to develop and print … and hard to line up the 3 photos so it appears seamless.  Hats off to Prof. Sanders!

Ranch House and Native Plants

Ranch House and Native Plants

The ranch house has native plants in pots lined up, ready for sale and shipment to various parks and reserves, where they will be used to reconstitute the landscape near the Rio Grande River.

Ranch Bird Houses

Ranch Bird Houses

There are also bird houses and bird feeders scattered around the garden and a chorus of songs, and cackles, and chirps coming from the trees.

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Paul Gauguin: “In every country I have to go through a period of incubation; each time I have to learn to recognize the various species of plants and trees, of all nature, so varied and capricious, never willing to give away its secrets, to yield itself up.”  I feel the same way … for me, the weather, the soil, the river needs to feel like second nature … that my life is in “tune” with my surroundings. Texas is a separate “country” … so different from California. We are going, each morning, to the State parks on the Rio Grande River to see the native plants, birds and butterflies.  The names are great: Cenizo – Mexican olive tree  – Huisache tree.  We shall learn their names, learn their habits, soak in the ambiance of this desert valley located on a river, the Rio Grande River.

As I walk thru the campus a loud buzzing arises from the trees … it gets louder … louder.  I look up … around … No one else notices the background noise so I ask a woman “Do you live here ?”  She nods.  “What is making this buzzing, scraping, sound ?”  She smiles and says ; “It is the cicada – at this time of year – (early Sept) – they hatch, produce this sound, mate, and die.”   I thank her, sit on a bench in the hot, humid air, and wonder – and then at the MFA orientation Josie de la Tejera states that her entire art work is based on the cicada.  She shows us slides of the insect … it grows for 17 years in the ground before emerging.  She compares it to a teenager who emerges from childhood.

The work refers to a poem by Matsuo Basho.
A cicada shell
it sang itself
utterly away

Black Cicada

Black Cicada

Black Cicada, represent it singing itself to death, hence the black color.

Cicada Shell

Cicada Shell

Cicada Shell is an image of the shell left after the cicada molts and flies away to live its remaining few days.

Cicada Transformation

Cicada Transformation

Cicada Transformation is representation of life changes and stages, similar to the cicada molting its shell to transform into a new being.

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T for TEXAS!  We have arrived in 106 degree heat !!  and have wilted ! … like limp lettuce … went to the campus and signed up for Student ID and toured the four floors of the Library (AWESOME !)  and then found out that the Graduate Art Orientation was postponed until Sept.3rd …. no studios yet available … Classes begin on Monday, the 29th … so back to our RV park to float on the pool.  Not another soul in sight and the palm trees rustling and swaying in a stiff breeze. Having been told that there has not been a drop of rain for 10 months, I watered the grapefruit trees which surround The Winter Palace before I went to the pool.  Half an hour later the puffy, white clouds assumed a threatening gray and thunder rolled … and sheets of lovely, cool rain hit the water of the pool … each drop hit with a pop ! ! ! little exclamation points all over the place.  Why read Marcel Duchamp when the sky is putting on the ultimate show ?

UTPA Walkway

UTPA Walkway

The UTPA campus is beautifully adapted to the surrounding environment. The intense summer heat is partly defeated by the covered walkways between buildings.  Landscaping is geared to native, drought resistant plants and trees.

Musicians at the Pool

Musicians at the Pool

The Arts section has a great fountain/pool which functions as an outdoor practice space for musicians …

Piano Table with Flutist

Piano Table with Flutist

The table in the courtyard has been painted with a piano keyboard where this young woman plays the flute. Quite inspiring to walk up and hear tubas, horns, etc. tootling along … lots of smiles !

UTPA Professional

UTPA Professional

My fellow artists are serious about this program ….they are  “UTPA Professionals ” and proud of it! It is wonderful to see the enthusiasm displayed by these future art professionals. I am looking forward to hearing their ideas and goals …. go,  go, go UTPA Broncs !

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