The Zankel Family finally moved up to
live in the Dome on the land at the end of October and I moved into my snug,
almost winterized chicken shack to live.
A month later, with all the building permits in order, I reported early
one morning to the house site on our land to become part of the house building
crew. Jeffrey had bought a
"salt-box" style prefabricated house and had hired a crew of four
which included me to assemble the house.
It was backbreakingly hard work and we were constantly interrupted by
bad weather as December started. We
lost electricity for quite awhile I recall when our line came down. We spent days with candlelight at night
until we hired Ermon Sands, a hugely fat local gentleman with his tractor to
come and help us put up a new pole in the deep mud. With our electricity reconnected, we pushed on with the house
and had the roof on in exactly two weeks.
But the work left me feeling sore and achy and I resolved not to do such
heavy physical work in the future. I
was really getting a bit too old for that.
I started a new batik called "Housebuilding in Winter" which
included portraits of all of us who were involved in the project. I spent my free time mostly alone at the
chicken shack, working on new batiks when I could, writing letters and reading
a lot. The Family often came together
at night though I tended to stay out of Jeffrey's way a lot, for he seemed very
unhappy and pressured and was often unfriendly. It was hard to know what made him happy during this period. He hated the long commute that his work
necessitated and often didn't have much time for his kids whom I spent lots of
time with and loved deeply. The news
from the Susan Front was mostly bad.
She got out of hospital and vanished, then wrote a strange letter saying
that she had a new boyfriend and asked me to send her some money and then wrote
a long loving letter. Jeffrey and
Simma were very against her coming back to live with us in Grass Valley which
troubled me a lot but I was trying to stay single. It was probably just as well that she didn't show up in one of
her manic states. I went on seeing a
lot of Ron and Sarah and they were always very supportive. Sarah and I did come dangerously close to
starting some kind of affair at one point which I'm happy to say we managed to
avoid. I liked them both very much,
valued them greatly as friends and neighbours and definitely didn't want to
rock that boat. I met Sarah's sisters
too and batiked a portrait of the three of them against a view of the Sierra
Nevada snow peaks. Christmas 1983
slipped by almost unnoticed in the bosom of my Jewish family and that year
ended a lot more quietly and peacefully than it began. I was completely broke again but had just
got a new job, baking once a week for the "Kitchen" Restaurant in
Auburn. It felt as if I was slowly
putting my life together in California.