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BATIK ART BY JONATHAN S. EVANS
Confessions of an Itinerant Batik Artist

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TAKE ME HOME COUNTRY ROADS

(but you can't ever go home again--reprise--)

 

The faithful Barnes', Catherine's parents, came to Washington to pick us up. They spirited us back down to their house in Bath County where we were to spend the next two weeks reacclimatising ourselves to America. It was actually really good to be back. We got in touch with our West Virginia support system immediately and made trips over to Hillsboro and Lewisburg to see everybody. We had kept the Schoolhouse while we had been away during the past year and apart from my arthritic back, which suddenly acted up again and forced me to stay horizontal for a few days, everything went very well. Catherine applied for a Counseling job at Seneca Mental Health in Lewisburg which, needless to say, she got.

By the start of May, we had moved into the schoolhouse and were settling back into life in the mountains of West Virginia again. At the time, this seemed the obvious thing to do. It had been our plan to go back there all along but in retrospect and that's easy to see after the fact, it was a mistake to try and go back to our rural existence again. After all, we had just seen that there was a whole wide world out there. We would never be able to close the door to that again.

It was pleasant to be back in the schoolhouse, although winter wasn't over yet and it was pretty cool there. I cut some firewood and we got the stove revved up. We even got a pretty white cat for company. We soon slipped back into a country schedule on George Hill Road, unpacked our meager possessions and set up the stereo again. The cat and I drove out the marauding mice who had moved in as soon as we had left. Someone had apparently tried to force their way into the house too, for there were marks of some tool around the lock. But we surmised that the wasps from a huge nest hanging above the doorway had driven the would-be invaders away because nobody had been inside the schoolhouse while we were away. I seem to have to spend a lot of time with domestic matters at first, getting our cars back into good running order and collecting and cutting firewood. I had to put plastic across the windows at the house and deal with a late fall of snow.

My gallery in Ohio was the next issue to be dealt with. I had tried to keep in touch with Tom, the owner, during our travels but had found him elusive. In fact I had heard nothing at all from him. So I finally drove up to Ohio to look for him. I found him working in the produce department of a large supermarket. When we were finally able to talk, he told me a long tale of woe, of trials and tribulations, of heavy debts and of a final power struggle with his mysterious backers. In the end, he had owed too much money and had had to close the gallery. His associates had seized all his assets including my batiks. Tom had no idea where the work was now and advised me to write it all off as a dead loss. At first I felt very angry about this but in time was able to let it go. After all, my pleasure had always come from the creation of the paintings. In truth, I had never much minded what had happened to my work after I had completed it. But it was pretty disastrous for my career as an artist to completely lose touch with two years worth of good work. Apart from that strange show at Alberini's Restaurant, the batiks had never really been shown to the public. Fortunately I had taken photos of them all but to this day, I have no idea what happened to the batiks and where they ended up. Is the work gloated over daily by some secret batik collector, lovingly hung in a private gallery with discrete but expensive lighting, appreciated and admired by only a fortunate few? Or is it all stacked in someone's basement somewhere gathering dust and mildew? Probably I'll never know. Perhaps long after my death, the "Missing Batiks from the Forgotten West Virginia Years" will mysteriously surface again and be auctioned off at Sotheby's, making a lot of money for somebody else. I left an unhappy Tom at his little apartment preparing to go back to start his evening shift amongst the cabbages, the artichokes and the iceberg lettuce at the supermarket. On the wall of his flat, he had hung a pretty little batik landscape, a view of the trees from the schoolhouse which he begged me to let him keep. He had always been my greatest fan and had honestly loved my work. He had absolutely nothing left to show for our little enterprise together and I was happy to leave the piece with him.

So I settled back into a slightly uneasy routine at the Schoolhouse. We got up before seven every morning and Catherine jumped into her Subaru to drive the thirty miles down the mountain to Lewisburg. Her job there turned out to be pretty interesting work for her. She spent a lot of her time visiting local schools to counsel teenagers with problems of various kinds. I knew that she'd be very good at that, for not so very long ago she'd been a teenager herself and I knew her to be intelligent, compassionate and understanding. Our relationship had really solidified after our travels for we had spent the past year glued together at the hip. We had not only survived the experience under all kinds of different conditions but had thrived mightily upon it. We were madly in love, were each other's greatest fan and counted our blessings daily.

As Catherine found herself increasingly busy with an involving and challenging project, I turned back to my batik. I started a large, very complex "Temple Elephants" piece that turned out to have a whole history of its own. I also drew two spring blossom pieces inspired by our stay in Bath County at Mary and Dick's. I felt immediately more centered to be batiking again and I had lots of new ideas. My head was bursting with images from our adventures in India and I was anxious to make some new batiks before the intense clarity became blurred.

Our social life was always pretty good on Lobelia Road. We had plenty of friends like Phil and Bernadette living nearby. Carol, my ex., was still living just down the road at Stuckey's hideous hunting lodge and Kristin and the Gesundheit gang came by often. Evie came regularly to talk about her life there and we talked playfully of publishing a Gesundheit Smut newsletter together. I made a new friend, Joe the Long Islander, who had recently dropped out to live in Hillsboro with his family. He made the most beautiful electric guitars that I had ever seen. He was a true artist and a master craftsman, a perfectionist who had sold his work to Keith Richard and to Jim Hall. Joe laboured even longer over the tiny handcrafted details of his guitars than I laboured over the waxy details of my batiks.

It grew slowly warmer which was nice and life grew easier and more comfortable in the drafty, uninsulated schoolhouse. Our friends, Elliot and Carol and their family still had a house in Lewisburg and we could hang out in town too if we wanted. We had access to satellite television at Phil's although it was mostly a case of 200 channels and nothing to watch. Washington DC and the Gesundheit house in Arlington were always accessible to us. We would make quick trips up there to go to the latest shows at the Museums and became very close to Patch and Lynda, Pammy and Gareth. We both felt very contented.

At the beginning of June, one night at four in the morning, Philip called from London to tell me that Maurice had just died, two months to the day that we had last seen him at Lion's Green. He had apparently died peacefully, Patty by his side, at home at the Toll.

I wrote to Patty and told her how sorry I was. I was pleased that I had been able to give her some rather nice photos that I had taken of them both on one of my visits. She replied and sent me a copy of the Eulogy given at his funeral by a fellow academic friend. I realized that Maurice had been very well liked in his world, which was one that I hardly knew at all. He had seized the opportunities that had come his way and had had a mostly happy and satisfying life doing pretty much what he had wanted to do. I'm trying to do the same thing and hope that I have as much luck as he had.

Patty and I stayed in touch over the next year or so but she clearly wasn't very well and continued to be terribly sad and depressed over Maurice's death. During the next trip that we made to Asia, Kate wrote to say that Patty had died, having survived her husband by only eighteen months. I've always thought that she died of a broken heart.

Meanwhile I was struggling with health myself, my lower back pain virtually incapacitated me at times. It was the result of some degenerative arthritis and too many hard beds and too many bags to haul around the year before. So I finally went for tests and to see a variety of doctors without much relief. I realized that with age came little inconveniences and that my health was very precious to me. Eventually I started to visit Bob the Chiropractor who lived way down South of Union and who ran a Health Clinic down there. Bob was a little older than I and was perfectly content to trade services for batik. He made slow adjustments to my back, which continue to help me. Over time, he and his wife became good friends of mine. In return for services rendered, I made him a nice study of his old barn and a rather special batik called "Looking for Crayfish in the River". It portrayed Bob's two youngest children knee-deep in the nearby creek against a lush midsummer countryside. The piece managed to avoid the sentimentality of the great Norman Rockwell tradition and was full of colour and light. Slowly my back felt better and at the same time I started to come out of the slump that I had fallen into after we got back.

I produced a "Small World" Paradise Club at the Studio in Lewisburg. We showed our Indian slides and talked about our trip and then danced to World Beat music provided by DJ Jonathan. The Chanterelle mushrooms appeared above ground in late July and we ate them until we were finally sick of them. My new series of batiks was going well and I had three or four new pieces completed. But I wasn't happy with the first version of "Temple Elephants", the dye colours were too pale and I set to work on another version. It was a labour of Hercules and took me weeks to complete a second time. I was also working on a portrait of my brother and myself, standing together on the beach in Rye. It somehow defeated me every time that I worked on it. Whatever I did, Phil and I both looked like corpses painted by Francis Bacon. We celebrated Catherine's birthday, her twenty forth, in Arlington where we threw a joint dance party for her and Lynda.

The only real excitement in my life came when I had to drive an agonized Phil down the mountains from Lobelia Road at breakneck speed one morning. I took him to the hospital in Lewisburg to be treated for a kidney stone and we both survived the trip. Catherine's boss at work was dismissed after about six months and she was promoted to his job.

After renting the schoolhouse for three years, with Fall upon us and the memory of the freezing air rushing through the cracks in the walls, we decided to move to a new house. I suppose that we wanted running water and a little more space. We had a look at Betsy and Andy's old house along Lobelia Road and decided to rent it. At the start of November, we moved into a new home.

It was another funky West Virginian farmhouse, set back from Lobelia Road against a little hill. Behind it there were trees and a pond. There was a fantastic variety of wildlife in the pond at different times of the year and frogs galore whose nightly chorus became very familiar to us. I saw beavers there too and Canadian geese touched down there regularly. The house was much larger than the schoolhouse and had a real bathroom. There was a big living room and a nice bedroom upstairs. We painted the house throughout, I turned the back room downstairs into my studio and chased the spiders out of the bathtub. We moved into our new home on Guy Fawkes Day, November 5th, just as we started to feel the first chill of Winter. Our life moved on, as did our rent, which jumped from $50 to $100 a month. One of the reasons that we had returned to West Virginia was because it was still about the cheapest place in all America to live.

At the same time as we moved house, Catherine took over her supervisor's job and found herself in charge of six people and of a whole children's program. She had to work even longer hours. Although her work was often very stressful and she loathed the excessive paperwork, she loved what she was doing. Unfortunately her Agency had serious financial problems and was often late in paying her salary. This didn't inspire great confidence or loyalty from its employees.

I went into a flurry of activity too and started to jump around in all directions. I founded an Arts Group for local artists, not that there were very many of us, with the idea of building an artists' support group. I was tired of feeling isolated and alone out there in the Wilderness. I wanted to be able to discuss my work with somebody else who understood that feeling. But it didn't seem to work out like that and all we generally seemed to talk about was money, how to make it or how to keep it. That hadn't been my idea at all when I started the meetings. But we got together a few times, showed slides or work in progress, drank some beers and then started to bitch about money again.

Catherine was a member of a local Women's group, which met once a month to discuss set books, and to talk about how what they read impacted on their lives. It seemed pretty interesting and useful to me. So I put the word out that we local men might start to meet regularly to discuss manly issues. I went to half a dozen of the resultant meetings before dropping out of those also. This was the age of the gentle, sensitive and confused male and as far as I was concerned all we seemed to do was talk about how sensitive, gentle and feminine we were. Of course, I'm as gentle and sensitive as the next man but when I found myself listening to a heated discussion about who cried the most, I knew that this wasn't for me. Some of these guys seemed to be able to cry at what they read in the newspaper every morning. Like some latter-day New Age Spinal Tap rock band, the group went on to labour over and finally erect a circle of large leaning rocks for their meetings. I was happy to have dropped out.

All of which left me pretty much back where I started, a lone batik artist working away in a vacuum, miles from anywhere. Fortunately I had a lot of ideas and threw myself back into my batik. After weeks of work, I completed a second "Temple Elephants" batik, which came out beautifully. So beautifully in fact, that Eva from Gesundheit decided that her wealthy mother would want to buy the piece and that we should send it to her in Florida. Her mother had admired my work when I had shown it to her in Florida a couple of years before and Eva was sure that this would be the piece for her. So I wrapped it up and mailed the unframed batik to her in Orlando. I heard nothing more about the matter for a month. Then word came back through Eva that her mother had indeed loved the piece but that her new husband, who controlled the money, had nixed the deal. The batik was being returned. I was disappointed but these things happened. All I wanted was to get my batik back. A week later, I went round to the Gesundheit Institute to visit and found the whole house in a state of complete chaos and upheaval. That was nothing unusual, for Eva lead a notoriously untidy life. But it transpired that the house was in a state of emergency while a hunt went on for my batik. It had arrived in a large envelope from Eva's mother one day and had somehow vanished into the litter of Gesundheit life. The batik painting had almost certainly been thrown out with old newspapers and inadvertently burnt by J.J.

I must say that I took it very well considering the months that I had worked over my "Temple Elephants". I refused all offers of compensation, taking my revenge subtly by pleasantly and sincerely suggesting that perhaps Eva should keep her life a bit more in order in future. Probably I should have taken the money she offered me but it was really a shame that I was being continually frustrated in my attempts to get my newer work onto the market. Meanwhile I've got a slide of my batik, which I can reproduce here, but I would rather have had the real thing. Oh well, wax to cloth, dust to dust, ashes to ashes.... In the end, what did it really matter?

I let off some creative steam on our continued trips to Washington DC where I helped Gareth with his personal computer-produced 'zine, "Going Ga Ga". He was putting out an issue entitled "Manifestos". I came up with the silly little idea of making a small book consisting of slogans or statements from many different manifestos and then cutting the book into horizontal sections just like those children's books which allow you to fit an elephant's head to a giraffe's body and then give it a fish's tail. In this case, one could match a chunk of Marxism to some Situationist statement together with some gem of Post-Modernist wisdom. We called the whole book "A Child's Guide to DeMechanifestoism". It was a fun collaboration and Gareth and I planned further joint efforts. We took Joe the guitar maker up with us on one visit in search of a culture fix and saw a wonderfully harrowing exhibition of Francis Bacon's painting shortly following the artist's death.

I decided to go back into therapy and after a couple of false starts, began to see a woman called Sherry in Ronceverte every week. She was reputed to be an expert on the dynamics of Dysfunctional Families. With her encouragement, I tried to get into closer touch with my feelings about my childhood and about my father and mother. Getting in touch with the child within was the constant theme of my sessions but I think that Sherry got more out of the batiks I traded with her for services than I did in our rather laboured weekly dialogues. It always seemed so much easier to understand why my father was so unkind to me as a child and to forgive him his shortcomings than to feel angry with him for his continual abuse when I was a child. Within six months, I had made Sherry a nice little lily flower study and a large rather complex painting depicting children, (the children within?) playing under a large oak tree (the Tree of Life?). The latter was as near to the painting of fairies and elves that she had requested that I could bring myself to do. In the end, I concluded that actually I was pretty happy with myself and my life, a lot happier than I had been five, ten or twenty years before. I was in a wonderful relationship, living from my art, doing what I wanted to do and continuing to find life an extraordinary adventure. But why was I never totally content and did it really matter? Perhaps I'd start to atrophy if I ever felt that pleased with myself.

On December 6th, we received news that put all thoughts of whether I was well adjusted or as happy as I ought to be right out of my head. Catherine's father Dick called to say that they had just learned that Mary had breast cancer. It was shocking news and we took off for Bath County immediately to be with Catherine's mother. That first night that the family came together to share in Mary's tragedy was actually both a tremendously uplifting and strengthening experience. I believe that we all felt a lot better for it. Showing great courage in what must have been a terrifying situation, Mary was able to face the situation squarely and to talk about it freely. The emergency definitely served to bring Dick and she closer together. From that point on, they were noticeably tighter and more loving to one another. Mary went onto undergo chemotherapy and radiation therapy following surgery. It aged her very suddenly, I saw, but over three years later, the cancer has not returned. Mary continues to work incredibly hard as a dedicated teacher and continues to be healthy and happy.

Christmas was spent with the family in Millboro. I cooked a traditional Christmas pudding, made a series of linocuts for gifts and finished a portrait of Catherine just in time to give it to Mary and Dick on Christmas Day morning. As usual, I personally had a hard time over Christmas but managed to keep it to myself that year. My Indian diary told me to "Hold fast my soul, hold fast and all is well".

We spent the last day of the Eighties at home on Lobelia Road, had a visit from Patch and Lynda and then watched "Star Trek 5" at Joe's house in Hillsboro. We managed to stay up until three in the morning before crashing on the floor in his children's room. Everybody was feeling optimistic about the approaching new decade but then everybody probably always feels that way.

The New Year started with a lot of snow that lasted for weeks. Although I found it beautiful to look at, it made life a lot more complicated. Extra wood had to be collected and cut, for the new house could get pretty cool. Our cars spun off the icy roads, went into ditches and had to be towed out. Communications were just that little bit harder. I pushed on with a couple of big new Japanese-inspired pieces and contacted a new gallery in Frederick, Maryland, which wanted my work for a show. I found myself dividing my time between Lobelia Road, Elliot's house in Lewisburg which was always a safe haven and where we watched a lot of bad video movies that year and Joe's house in Hillsboro. Joe was going through a hard time that year, his work had slowed to a crawl and he had health problems. He and I could commune as the only two professional artists on the block.

Catherine and I started to spend a little more time at the Rosewood Cafe, the most interesting place to hang out in Hillsboro. Two local women, probably the only two lesbians in the county and good friends of ours, took over the old local store. They turned it into a large restaurant with a great atmosphere. The shelves of the shop were full of antiques and old memorabilia of different kinds and the Rosewood had the widest menu I had ever seen. It featured traditional meat and potato dishes, Chinese food, Mexican food, vegetarian cuisine and hamburgers as well as a huge choice of exotic desserts. Everything was incredibly cheap and all they seemed to lack was a Sushi bar though only because that might not have gone down so well in Hillsboro. Of course service wasn't always very quick there. On the first day the restaurant opened, a group of us actually waited two and half-hours for a meal, which must be some kind of, record. But they'd speeded up a bit since then, featured live folk and country music and one was always sure to run into someone that one knew there. It was one of the few places in the county where locals and hippies could occupy the same space comfortably.

When we were invited to put on a night of Indian food and music and to show our travel slides there, we jumped at the chance. Our India Night was a lot of fun, Catherine and I cooked and served a big Thali meal for about sixty diners and then showed our slides on a screen at one end of the restaurant. I was surprised how many locals showed up and showed interest in the world that existed beyond Lewisburg.

About this time, I was sad to see Kristin, my old girlfriend and great confidant, leave the area to move to the island of Maui where she had decided to start a new life. Kristin had been involved in the Gesundheit project from the beginning and had abandoned her own family community project to go to live on the land where the proposed hospital was to be built. She had always been one of the central movers and shakers in the Gesundheit community. But recently, she had started to have problems there. Perhaps her own personal issues, swept under the mat for years, were beginning to surface and to come between her and other Gesundheit members and visitors. The issue of her behaviour had come to a head while we were in India. She had been asked to leave the Community for awhile, to get her head straight and her life in order. It had been a tremendous shock and trauma for her for she was now in her mid-fifties and had put a lot of time and energy into the project. But it was probably a good thing for everyone concerned that she move on. Friends of hers had bought land in the Hawaiian Islands, were starting a small community around a farming project and she decided to join them. Going to live in Maui sounded pretty good to me. I would miss her a lot. But we stayed in close contact with her and would see her again before too long.

By early Spring that year, my own mental malaise had returned in spite of my hard work and efforts to stir up some local action and sense of community purpose. I had painted quite a collection of new batiks but wasn't sure why I was doing it anymore. I felt that I had lost or forgotten my purpose and direction. Catherine was deeply involved in her work with children and although she had some deep reservations about her work, she was obviously learning a tremendous amount. I felt that I had run out of challenges and had reached another dead end. I couldn't see beyond the cul de sac that life in rural West Virginia had become for me.

April 8th was a date I'll never forget. Our world turned upside down suddenly and my life would never be the same again. Catherine and I had spent a quiet weekend with her parents in Bath County and were driving back home on a Sunday morning. Catherine had some vacation days due and we had decided to drive down to Miami. We planned to stay with Kay for a week and were going to leave in two days. Catherine was driving the Subaru across the bridge on the outskirts of the village of Huntersville when a large Chevrolet hit us head-on at high speed. Entering the main road from a Y junction to our right, the driver had run through the Stop sign. Catherine was prevented from seeing him coming by the sides of the bridge that also gave her no space to turn out of the way of the oncoming car. Two cars hitting each other at fifty miles an hour come together with tremendous force and I was knocked out for a minute or two. I have a vague image of the crash in my memory banks, an image of the car suddenly being right there in front of us and of a painless impact. Catherine and I were both wearing seat belts or we would probably have been killed. As it was, Catherine broke her nose on the steering wheel and suffered severe whiplash in her back. Where the seat belt crossed my body diagonally, I broke my right shoulder bone, cracked my sternum and broke a rib. Worst of all, I had apparently put my left hand up on the dashboard in front to brace myself and my left wrist was badly shattered. White bone jutted out vertically through the torn skin. We learned later that the passenger in the front seat of the other car, the father of the driver, had died in the accident. He had not been wearing a seat belt. Totally disorientated and in deep shock, sitting squashed in our car which had somehow been pushed in like a concertina against my knees, I remember mumbling to Catherine that probably we wouldn't be able to go to Florida. A crowd swiftly gathered around us, the police and an ambulance were called and soon arrived on the scene. Catherine, who was in better shape than I, managed to ask an onlooker to call her parents and our neighbour Phil. I had to let go of the situation completely and to trust that all was being done that could be done. They had to take the car door off on my side to get me out of the car. I was eventually loaded into an ambulance and whisked off to Marlinton Hospital for examination. My beloved leather jacket was cut off me, to my chagrin, as was my favourite shirt. Phil showed up promptly and the local doctor determined that I needed more help than they would be able to give me in Marlinton. My memories are bit vague at this point but I remember getting a shot of something to kill the pain that I still hadn't begun to feel. I remember fading in and out of a long bumpy ride in the ambulance up to Charlottesville where I was quickly admitted to UVA Hospital. As I was wheeled around for tests and examination, I caught a glimpse of a bloody Catherine in an adjoining room, which was very comforting. I also saw Mary and Dick who had come to the rescue immediately. As I was examined by a young doctor who attempted to put my broken wrist bones back together, Mary came and held my hand and I realized from her reaction that I was in pretty bad shape. I was on painkillers in hospital for five or six days but the time passed in a complete daze. My wrist was operated on and set in a cast. I remember that I had a lot of visitors but still hadn't really begun to assimilate what had happened or what it would mean to us. Later I saw that the accident would shake us out of our West Virginia rut and affect our lives for a long time to come.

We spent a mostly horizontal week at the Barnes' house recovering from the accident, sleeping, reading and watching a lot of video movies. Then we returned to Lobelia Road. I had to wear a truss for my broken collarbone and it seems to me that I stayed on my back most of the time. I felt terribly weak and my whole body ached interminably. I had another medical examination in Charlottesville at the end of April when the doctors decided that my wrist was not setting correctly. So I went back into hospital for another operation which for some reason was much more painful than the last. I had my wrist rebroken and reset and emerged with a new cast on my arm. Fortunately, our car insurance had been pretty comprehensive and our company was picking up all these bills. If I had suffered the same injuries at home, from falling off a ladder whilst cleaning windows, we would have been in debt for the next thirty years, such was the size of our bills for medical treatment.

But within a month, Catherine was back at work, I was off Demerol and the pain had ceased. I remember that I was terribly thin and weak but I had had time to assimilate the experience. I knew that my top priority had to be to get my strength and the use of my left hand back as soon as possible. We had to get a new car too. We had my old Subaru of course but that had to be treated with a lot of care these days. Janice, a good friend of ours, came to the rescue and offered us a car in exchange for a batik. She had been my T'ai Chi teacher during my last period of self-help and improvement and had always been a great fan of my work. She had a '65 American Rambler with less than 50,000 miles on the odometer which was in really good condition. She offered to give it to us in exchange for a batik painting of the view from one of the windows of her house near Alderson. It was a pretty good deal and soon we found ourselves with a small but well-made classic US car. As an added attraction, the Rambler had a small metal sculpture of a nodding bird perched on the front which gave it a really unique, not to mention, comical, appearance. Actually, although we loved the car, we had to make small repairs to it continually. As soon as one little thing was fixed, another problem would materialize. Catherine fitted it out with a good stereo and used it for her work when she had to cover a lot of miles.

On her birthday, May 24th, my mother called to say that my father's will had finally be read and that each of us had inherited about $30,000. I could hardly believe the news at first and had to be convinced that a mistake hadn't been made. Within two months, our life had changed completely and was rising rapidly from the depths to the heights. That same day, I drove the Subaru for the first time since the accident. My heavy arm cast came off in mid-June and the pin holding my wrist bones in place was taken out. I was left with a large metal plate, permanently in my wrist, to hold the bones in place. My doctors at UVA Hospital told me that I would never have more than limited use of my left hand. Certainly the hand seemed atrophied and had actually shrunk in size. All my fingers were stiff so that I couldn't close that hand or use it for very much. I also had a stiff and sore right shoulder and a permanent sharp pain in the center of my chest.

 

Determined to prove the doctors wrong and to take advantage of the treatment that our insurance company would pay for during the next two years, I started to drive to LowMoor Hospital in Clifton Forge, Virginia for physical therapy two or three times a week. It was slow going and often painful and seemed to take up much of my life. But I was determined to get the use of my hand back. I worked with a therapist, Bob the misanthropist I called him, for he really didn't seem to like people very much. But he massaged my hand for hours, helped me to start to bend the fingers again and put me on a computerized machine which helped me move and strengthen my wrist. I continued with these visits until the start of November and made a lot of progress. I logged on a lot of driving mileage that Summer and Fall. Bob the Chiropractor was a great help too and I went to him for work on my broken chest and shoulder bones.

By mid-July, three months after the accident, I was functioning pretty well again though my energy wasn't as good as before. I had to be careful and cautious with my body. I put a big new Japanese-style batik in a show in Pittsburgh and was back to work on a new series of batiks. One of them, which I liked a lot, was a portrait of Catherine and her mother sitting by the river in Goshen Pass. The composition was reminiscent of a Monet painting and it was difficult to tell the two women apart. Gareth came down to visit us from Washington and we put together the next issue of Going Gaga, an audiotape edition this time called "The Poison is in the Dosage". This time it dealt primarily with peoples' drug experiences. I recorded a silly story about life as a student in Edinburgh called "God is a Scotsman" and a long, quite beautiful reading from T.S.Elliot's "The Wasteland" which my friend Elliot contributed music to. We mastered the tape on Elliot's equipment in Lewisburg and were moderately satisfied with the results.

The principal excitement that July was caused by the big black snake that somehow got into the house and made a nest in the insulation under our bathtub. Country life was pretty slow.

In August, things got a little busier. Simma and I managed to realize a dream that we had had for years. I drove up to Dulles Airport to pick up Zeb, my godchild, who was to spend two weeks with us. We had a great time together, he was a very mellow and together nine-year-old and I really enjoyed every minute of his company. We ended up having to do a tremendous amount of driving together that summer. We drove to Morgantown where Catherine was attending a conference and then back to Washington DC, when brother Phil and his new wife, Diana suddenly showed up to visit us at the start of a tour of America. Phil and I didn't have a very good visit together, I'm really sorry to say. I was busy with Zeb and hospital visits and Phil and Diana were in a strange new environment, far away from their world of Hackney. Our respective lifestyles were very different. After a week they took off to see New Orleans and we didn't see them again on that trip.

That summer, we took up canoeing which was great exercise for my wrist and made trips down the Greenbrier River, which I loved. I saw neurologists for my hand, which was responding very slowly and hung in with all my different therapies. I pushed on with my new batiks too and finished a big and complex piece of a boatman rowing on the Ganges in Varanasi.

That fall, I taught two eight week Batik courses locally, one at Carnegie Hall (the Other Carnegie Hall) in Lewisburg and, concurrently, another for the Pocahontas Arts and Humanities Committee in Hillsboro. Both courses went extremely well, were a lot of fun for everybody and were a good experience for me.

My faithful friend Nic from Oxford and Boston came to visit us and I felt sad when he left, as if a part of myself and my past went with him. Perhaps I felt that I hadn't yet been able to create a strong enough present life to be able to really move on from my past. At the same time, I recognized that I wasn't really content to dwell on the past or accept my present life. I knew that I had to make a move.

October found us planning another long trip abroad. Catherine tied up a lot of loose ends at work and found her own successor at Seneca Mental Health. I hurried to finish my last four Indian series batiks, a view across the Ganges, a Kovalum fishing boat scene, a Katmandu rooftops piece and another Tiger Lily study.

And then Catherine, who had been feeling nauseous for a few days, suddenly realized that she was pregnant. It was a terribly difficult time for us, neither of us felt happy about the prospect of aborting a baby and yet we were at the point of taking off on a long trip. A child didn't fit into any of our plans at the time. As if to compound the problem, I got a call from Jennifer, a woman I knew slightly from California with whom I'd been corresponding for years. She said that she'd like to come to visit us before we left. I figured that we could just about fit her in. We ended up taking her with us when I drove Catherine over to Charlottesville late in October to go to the Clinic, there to have the pregnancy terminated. Everything went well and Catherine came out of it feeling fine. But we were both terribly sad for a time. Jennifer caused me more problems when, at the last minute, she asked me if we were sure that we wanted an abortion. Had we really thought about it and maybe we should reconsider our decision? I realized that I didn't know her very well. I felt a lot of sympathy for her when she told me that she had had an abortion years before and would never be able to have children as a result of it. But I only needed to have help and support around me at that moment. I told her to keep quiet or to take off. Just then, I resented her attitude totally. It was a very painful time for both of us and I was angry that Jennifer would think that this was something that we hadn't thought and talked about a great deal. So I never told Catherine what Jennifer had said. I was happy when she left a few days later after hanging around Lobelia for a few days in an obviously lost and confused state. We were packing up the house in a hurry and gearing up to leave the country. We couldn't take anything or anybody else on right then.

I spent a very long day going from Hillsboro to Pittsburgh to pick up a batik and then dropped it off in Maryland at another gallery before getting back home late on the same day. I drove nine hundred miles, got a speeding ticket that I swear I didnít deserve and ate too much junk food en route. Catherine and I celebrated three wonderful years together the following day and even Carol, my ex-, showed up in that last week on Lobelia. Phil helped us move all our possessions down to Catherine's Uncle Jon's barn near Union. We were suddenly homeless and in transit once more, a state I'm fond of and quite comfortable with. We still had to make a trip over to Charleston where Catherine was speaking at a Social Work Conference and where we checked into the Marriott Hotel for three last days in West Virginia. Patch was also at the Conference as a keynote speaker so we got to hang out with him awhile. Catherine gave her presentation and was great (though I fell asleep during that session, I'm ashamed to say). I got to take a lot of saunas and eat pretty well too.

On November 2nd, I went to a final session of Physical Therapy at LowMoor Hospital when my wrist was tested and judged to have only 30% of the strength that my right wrist had. With our backpacks packed and ready, we went up to Arlington with Dick and Mary and spent a couple of days there, going round the Museums and galleries with them.

At 6.45am on November 5th, on good old Guy Fawkes Day, we were in the air once more and our plane touched down at Heathrow Airport, London that evening. Our next adventure was about to begin.

 

 

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