The Vintage Machine …still loved but getting worn in places.

This is a fortunately fuzzy picture of how I looked to my littlest grandchild last week during a visit to my family of grown children and grandchildren in Seattle. My granddaughter loves to take pictures with my camera, and often the pictures are of me.  This is fuzzy enough to be publishable, I think.

Considering my recent battle with some wintertime bug , I think it’s a pretty cheerful rendition.  Maybe I should always have my portrait taken by my granddaughter.  Well.. anyway this one was nice…there were some I deleted post haste– way too OLD looking!

There seems to be a MAJOR THEME already, this year.  The hinges are getting worn and the nuts and bolts are getting loose in this “vintage physical plant.”  Occuppying my body is getting to be like having a nice, well-used piece of equipment in my shop that is gradually losing precision and has some wear in the cutting edges.

The old Sturgis Press that I enjoyed for years in my studio (on loan from the late Hewitt Jackson, an admired artist and craftsman who borrowed my large rug loom in exchange), was a wonderful example of simplicity and elegance.  A large heavy wheel with a handle for turning , and some simple adjustments for pressure of the roller over the blanketed plates,  it allowed for a lot of manipulation and experimentation.  I printed all kinds of things in that press, including embossings using materials like plastic screens for shop lights, for instance.  I remember the exciting effect of offsetting multiple passes of that stuff and making the wildest kind of moire pattern on dampened heavy paper.  When it was dried and matted it made a truly three dimensional piece that was hard to keep one’s fingers off– the jagged peaks were so sharp and clean.

But that old press was wobbly,  and one had to adjust the way the handle was held to get it to occlude perfectly as the roller went across the plate.

I wonder how many times that very well-used press did its work? ..Surely more than the 25.300 plus days I’ve accumulated since I was born.

I went to the doctor today and found out some things about my innards that I didn’t know but which he had recently visited via camera/scope.  I have scar tissue in my plumbing, he told me,  that dates back to as far as 1954, and was added to over the years by various surgeries.  Scar tissue! Who knew? This is making it a jerky journey for my fuel to get from here to there to propel my machine through it daily mechanizations.

Being advised that there is something that is definitely a part of you for the rest of your life, and which is not going to heal up and be gone is always a surprise.  Since it’s on the inside and not out there looking ugly where people can see it, it’s not so bad.  And I am not yet hobbling or having to use a walker or a wheelchair.  But things creep up unseen that will make a difference, and gradually, (I hope it’s gradual) get worse.  Hm.  I don’t like it.

How fortunate that many of us have working bodies for so long.  And we do take them for granted once we learn how to use them (how to walk, and swim, and run, and twist, and dance and such.)  We teach them fine tricks like sewing and making clocks and performing eye surgery, for instance.  I used to make very fine pen and ink drawings.  I am finished being distressed that I don’t do well at that any more.  My hands might still have the skill, but my eyes do not.  They are not good at threading a needle either any more.  But I value my eyes greatly, and they reward me daily with miracles of beauty wherever I take the time to look.  My hands still work very much better than they did when I was three years old and still learning to know how to tie a bow.

This past week: “Mommom, will you come out and do some batting practice with me?” asks my six year old slugger?  Two years ago,  even four years ago, he and I spent many hours tossing balls toward the bat,  and later tossing balls around in the batting zone.  He’s really good at batting now,  and also pitching and catching, and a lot of that started with our little games that got more deliberate and skilled as time wore on.  I was complimented to be invited…what a dear to want me to pitch balls to him.   I had to decline, having been ill– I can hardly climb the hill this winter after some nasty months of being a “shut-in.” I am not used to feeling old.

I’m going to have to brush up on chess, I guess, unless my physical machine suddenly grows strong and energetic and limber again this spring.  Even if it does, it would be good to get my chess game ready for some months ahead that might not involve prancing around on the hilly back yard chasing well-hit balls. My grandson is very good at most things and that includes chess.  At least I don’t have to count on my body to play that…just my mind. Well— hopefully the gremlins in my mind are not creeping in as fast as the gremlins in my gut!

The operative words in the title of this rumination are “still loved“.  That part is the real treasure.  I spend a bit of time each visit imagining these people twenty years from now, gathering either in that back yard or another one, remembering the old batting practice,  or wild games of hide and seek with Mommom.  I love being asked.  I think I can move from real ball to something like virtual ball using paints and papers, or something like that.  I notice they are now allowed to use magic markers.  This opens up a new arena.

Very grateful for new arenas…  Old Swimmer


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