August Breaks My Heart
(featuring Huckelberry, my trusty studio companion)
I always feel melancholy in August. For a northerner like me August signals the impending end of summer's carefree joy and indicates a panic that not enough pleasure has been harvested from the brief therapy of the season. But this year feels worse for me with all the shit happening in the world, the climate disaster, and my little cat Opal is so sick. My wandering lifestyle does not afford me the comforts a place to nurse her and for the first time in two years I miss having a home. (The tenants who rent my house are very kindly looking after both Opal and Huckleberry but I have not lived with my cats for two years)
I am looking back to some paintings I made almost ten years ago that dealt with the melancholy I feel this time of year. It was a time when I painted images of vulnerability and grief.
(Painted after a romantic heart break, it depicts the apparent emptiness of the gravel alley outside my studio and includes the flowers gathered by Ophelia. Perhaps my most vulnerable painting Boy was I feeling sorry for myself! ).
(featuring Opal in her youth)
I had planned to stage my own private artist retreat in Maritime Canada this autumn to paint my introspection, but Opal being sick with cancer, I may need to nurse her. And I may well stay in my Seattle studio, near the house where she lives. She didn't have surgery last week as planned since the surgeon found the cancer to have grown too fast and become inoperable. Obviously I was grief stricken. But now a specialist is suggesting that it may, in fact, be operable with no loss of quality of life to my lively and mischievous kitty. So we will probably go ahead.
I am surprised how sad I feel. After all I haven’t lived with the little cat much during these past two years of freedom and travel. But it occurs to me that she is a significant part of my family and the life I created over the past 15 years in Seattle. I made a home, raised two children, cared for two cats, nurtured friendships and built a garden. I feel all of that ending as I contemplate a move away from Seattle and Opal’s illness is perhaps symbolic of that in my heart. I understand all the happiness some of these changes will bring. But for now I feel the sadness of the end of these things. And perhaps the impending end of much of the natural world. And the impending end of summer. I will allow August, as always, to beak my heart.