October

It’s November? I feel like I’ve somehow missed my favorite month spending most of October in the basement studio. The art studio is busy with students. My portfolio students only have a month left to finish and submit their portfolios and they are working hard. I have them coming for extra Saturday classes and working from home. Pretty impressive commitment for middle school kids.

While they draw, I wrap glass to be soldered together for Special Olympic polar bear windows. Most years these are created in January, but I hope to travel this winter. I also spent a little bit on marketing the studio and ordered Dragonfly Art Studios t-shirts. Message me if you would like one.

My friend Mary Anderson, a ceramicist, has generously hired my studio assistant Natalie for her studio. Natalie’s main interest is ceramics, so this is a perfect fit for her. Mary says that Natalie has her studio so clean and well organized it looks twice as big. I realized after having an assistant that this is something that helps my studio run better so, I’ll be looking for another one in the future.

Natalie and artist Mary Anderson in Mary’s studio.

An artist friend connected me with the Middletown chapter of the AAUW (American Association of University Women). They asked for a talk about myself and my artwork. I worked into the talk how the myth of the starving artist is continuing to hurt the careers of women artists. The talk went really well. It was fun showing them my work and drinking coffee from little teacups with saucers.

The Middletown, Delaware chapter of AAUW.
The Middletown, Delaware chapter of AAUW.

Andreas’ teaching in the classroom has changed our schedule patterns developed during the pandemic. He’s been at the office or teaching until 7pm most days. We only eat meals together on the weekends when he has time to cook and bake. I miss having dinner together every night. Our housemate Julian cooked a French meal for us one night, it was amazing. He seems to be settling into Newark and the U of D well. I try to include him into as many activities as possible, but we are all busy. He and I did carve pumpkins a few weekends ago. Halloween isn’t popular in France so this was his first time carving one.

The garden is still giving tomatoes, radishes and raspberries to cook with. Even now in the beginning of November we are still harvesting. Other fruits and veggies are purchased from the Newark Farmer’s Market and Calvert Farms. It’s great having friends who are farmers.

Early in the month Andreas and I were featured in our former local newspaper in Bremerhaven, Germany. The reporter found me through this blog and wrote to ask what home means to us. Both of us have moved quite a few times and that wasn’t an easy question to answer. After thinking it over Andreas and I realized we’re not very attached to a home. Although, we do really like Newark and love our friends here. Andreas is attached to the well-being of this garden and I’d prefer to be in my studio, but as long as he and I are together, we can live just about anywhere. Pretty cool to be able to stay connected with Bremerhaven like that. I was also featured in our city’s local paper for my artwork.

More social engagements are filling in the calendar. We are becoming more comfortable being around others. Early in the month my friend Sherri and I had lunch with some former work friends. I think it has been 18 years since we last saw each other. My sister-in-law Christina, a few of her friends and I went to a photographer’s art opening on a Friday night and she cooked homemade pizzas afterwards.

So, the best thing about October is Halloween, of course. This year I was invited to an artist friend’s house in Maryland on Mischief Night for a Halloween party. She has the coolest collection of spooky things I have ever seen. Her house was wonderful for fun photographs.

Halloween night Julien, Andreas and I handed out candy to our neighborhood trick-or-treaters. We’ve also eaten way too much candy ourselves. Andreas had candy for dinner last night. It’s bad ha ha.

November is beginning well, I want to say I’ll try to leave the studio more to enjoy the leaves changing, but I don’t think it will happen.

Strawberry begonias in our garden.

Happy Fall Equinox

Hi friends, let me catch you up on the second part of our summer on this first day of Autumn.

Andreas and I began the month of August celebrating the four-year anniversary of our first coffee date with more coffee. We had a fun time remembering how nervous we were to meet each other in person after connecting online.

Early August was a time of preparation. Andreas completed and submitted a grant proposal long in the works. Next, we prepared a party for grad students who are attending his classes. We had a nice bar-b-que outside on the deck serving salmon, sausages, potato salad and local corn on the cob. Andreas had to teach a few of the new foreign students how to eat corn this way. They enjoyed throwing the finished cobs into the garden to compost.

 The most important thing Andreas had to prepare for in August was his trip to western Greenland aboard a Danish Navy vessel. His job was to assist his friend Steffen in Copenhagen with data collecting and processing aboard the ship. He left in the middle of the month for a five-week long voyage from Aasiaat to Thule Greenland.

While Andreas prepared for his trip, I prepared the house and our guest room for our nephews from Oregon to visit at the end of the month. They arrived with a long list of ideas of what they would like to do in Newark. We accomplished some things, as much as we (I) felt like during a hot, humid week. Unfortunately Andreas was at sea because they enjoy many of the same activities he does.

College nephew waking up with his cup of tea at 11:30am.

We visited local relatives who haven’t seen the boys in a long time, went swimming almost every day, and did a survey on the best playgrounds in the city; Downs School won.

Ritter Park.
On the playground at Downs School.

My friend Christina and her finance’ Scott super generously hosted us for dinner three times. The night nephews arrived Christina had a party with some of our high school friends. The boys played cornhole and got to talk with people their dad and I have known for years.

Another night she and Scott made spaghetti and we all watched an Indiana Jones movie. On the boy’s last day in Newark their aunt, uncle and cousin drove up from Baltimore and Christina hosted again. I am forever grateful as a person that doesn’t like to cook to have such amazing friends. My nephews are pretty good at cornhole now too after so much practice and good tips from Scott.

Since I don’t cook too much we also went to some fun restaurants. We visited the Miss Oxford Diner sitting at the counter and listening to the waitresses’ conversations with the locals. We drove past some Amish farms which the boys hadn’t seen before. We went to Jessop’s Tavern in old New Castle and walked around the Delaware river and historic buildings.

Delaware Tourists.

We also ate at Feby’s in Wilmington because nephews were told that seafood on the east coast is really good. They were brave about trying new things.

We were invited by our cousin Erin to hear her play with the University of Delaware marching band. The band gave a friends and family performance after their band camp week. Unfortunately, we were sitting far away from where Erin was on the field, but we got a few photos. After the band performance we had ice cream at the UD Dairy and then walked around the botanical gardens.

On the evening I had to work the boys walked to Main St. by themselves to have dinner during the city’s alfresco night. They gave themselves a campus tour, ate more UD ice cream then landed on the porch at Klondike Kates Restaurant for dinner. They took their time walking home arriving after dark which made Auntie-Fly a little nervous. It was the first time they had ever dined out on their own together, kind of cool. In a very unteenage fashion they left their room and bathroom as clean as they found it. Their bed was made and they sent me a thank you card. Their mother should be proud.

A few days after the boys flew home, I received a message from Andreas saying that his Navy vessel was unexpectedly called into service. He and the other scientists onboard were told to go home and he was dropped off at the Thule US Air Force Base on the north western coast of Greenland. Luckily, he was able to secure a military flight to Baltimore soon after and then, surprise he returned home two weeks early. This is great news for me, but I feel sorry for the scientists and their mission. That is a lot of money and time lost. Here are a few of Andreas’ photos from his trip. The man standing on the ship is Andreas’ colleague Steffen.

Through August and September in the studio I have been working on my yearly commissions for Special Olympics Delaware and a few smaller side commissions and skateboards.

I am also working on a large painting commission, but the level of complexity involved has made for very very slow progress (sorry customer/ friends). A University of Delaware art student contacted me asking about a paid internship and I hired her two weeks ago.

Dragonfly Art Studios new intern Natalie from Milton, DE

Natalie has been preparing painting surfaces and cleaning stained glass for me. We talk about being an artist and the business of art. It’s interesting for me to hear how the art department has changed at my alma mater during the past twenty-nine years. It’s wonderful having her work here. It forces me to spend a little extra time in the studio and she is helping me catch up on some projects I’ve been putting off.

Play with your food.

In garden news the tomatoes keep coming and coming. Everyday we pick at least one. We had a good crop of carrots and recently we have planted a fall crop of radishes, leeks and something else. I can’t remember the third thing so we are referring to that as the winter surprise.

Just some of my friends I caught up with this month. There are more, but I have photos of these guys. That is Christina with the beautiful purple cocktail.

I will end this blog by mentioning as of fifteen minutes ago Andreas and I have rented our guest room to a visiting professor from France. He needed a place and we had one. So now Julien lives in our house this year. He seems very nice.

Summer Recipe: add Gardens, Friends and Art

It is a rare, gorgeous 73-degree July morning. I love having the windows open and the air conditioner off. Yesterday was my birthday. I spent most of the day finishing and uploading a grant proposal that is due in a couple of days and teaching. I also made time to swim and Andreas cooked a wonderful dinner to share with our friends.

We have enjoyed a good summer so far. The gardens have been prolific with fruits and vegetables. In some cases, producing much better than past years. Andreas is still perplexed that we were able to grow cabbage. The new variety of produce is stretching his recipe library and I think he enjoys the challenge. Of course, we are growing more than we can eat, which is no accident. We get a lot of joy sharing any extra.

We are more social now. We have attended art openings, parties, and dinners. On the 4th of July we hosted our first large party for our friend Mary, so she would not need to host her annual party at her house. She provided the guest list, we provided the house, drinks, and sockeye salmon to grill. Mary’s guests and mutual friends brought the rest of the food. It was a fun pot luck on a mild Sunday afternoon.

Our nephew Sam Parsons tried to qualify for the Olympics running for Germany. We were able to watch the race on two screens concurrently. The first was on the TV at my brother-in-law’s house in Diez, Germany that I connected to via Zoom while the second was Andreas’ laptop in Newark, U.S.A. Complicated, right? Technology is amazing. Andreas figured out how to access the German network on his computer so we had a better view.

As an early birthday present to myself, my friend Linda and I took a train to New York City for three days. We stayed in an Art Deco style hotel in Greenwich Village, dined at vegan restaurants she wanted to try, walked all over the hot and humid streets of Manhattan, and went to museums. We had two fun, relaxing evenings. The first evening we drank at the hotel bar and shared some appetizers. We were the only patrons in the bar and restaurant. On the second we went to a bar called Wilfie and Nell recommended by my niece Molly. Wilfie and Nell seemed to be favored by twenty/ thirty year olds as a date destination bar. We were surrounded by well dressed couples on their best behavior sharing sweet stories. Oh, and the fries were really good. We recommend.

 Linda and I saw the Alice Neel show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art before we walked through the Calder show at the MoMa. In between we somehow found time to lunch on vegan sushi. The Alice Neel show was my main incentive for traveling to the city. We entered the gallery by snaking through other galleries in a crowded line. Despite the wait, I was inspired to be in the same space with so many of Neel’s paintings. It’s an improved experience over flipping through reproductions in a book. The Calder works were wonderful in person and I enjoyed seeing his sketches. Linda commented that he must have very strong hands. Most likely he did working in metal.

Below are some works by Neel, Calder and many other artist that inspired me that day.

 I thought the vegan restaurants Linda researched were imaginative and the food was very well made. Some highlights for me were vegan mac and cheese, Thai food (noodles!), sushi and the peanut butter brownie honeycomb vegan ice cream she found. I will be dreaming about that ice cream. Linda is a well known vegan chef; she made some cute videos of our restaurant experiences. You can see them on Facebook at Ester’s Kitchen and on Instagram @esters_kitchen_ek. She also describes the restaurants and menus more eloquently than I will here.

A vegan breakfast shake with banana, basil, ginger and cacao.

Linda and I felt surprised and mildly annoyed that a lot of businesses don’t accept cash, and menus can only be read on QR codes. That feeling may be us showing our age. We were happy to encounter masks wearing and outdoor dining options across the city. The new to me bike lanes are wonderful, but like in Amsterdam, you have to watch out for the electric bikes.

As with every other season, work consumes most of our time. Andreas is editing and re-writing a paper with colleagues, writing a proposal and preparing to teach three courses in the fall. He is also on the hunt for lantern flies in the garden killing as many of the invasive buggers as he can. I am teaching, working on commissions and in my free time painting new works for upcoming Trashy Women shows. Recently I was given musical instruments to upcycle into art. So far, I have transformed a violin from it’s original brown state to a disgruntled portrait ha ha. Yesterday I picked up some lovely pieces of rusted metal from an artist’s home in Maryland to re-imagine into who knows what. Having a great summer. Hope you are too.

Written by Dragonfly Leathrum

photos by Dragonfly Leathrum

Walker Hotel photos by Linda

Del Pizzo

Gibby Annoucement photos by the Gibby Center.

The Merry Month of May

May was about being outside as much as possible. We appreciated every warm, sunny, mosquito-free day in our garden, in others gardens and on our deck.

My main project this month was acting as Chair of the Newark Arts Alliance Garden Tour. I did my best impression of a responsible adult to keep the event and the people on schedule and informed. I think the event went well. It was a very warm day, we had almost two hundred people tour six local gardens and everyone seemed to have a good time. Andreas and I led the garden hosts around to each other’s properties at the end of the day. Even though they were hot and exhausted, they were in good spirits and enjoyed sharing their garden knowledge.

Our own blooming garden has transitioned from tulips and azaleas to peonies and roses. The ferns and hostas are filling in the bare spots and the view is lush and green.

Our second garden across the street is growing well. We’ve harvested some radishes, the tomatoes, cabbages and peas are getting taller and the flowers are starting to bloom. Andreas has all of his strawberry plants in the ground now and I think we’re finished digging and removing sod until next year.

This spring the cicadas emerged after 17 years in the ground. They really like our area of town. We didn’t see any in the gardens on the Garden Tour, but they are everywhere here and singing loudly. I like them a lot, I think they’re fun to photograph and they provide a lot of food for birds and other creatures that eat insects. It is a little gross to go for a walk, though, because it’s impossible not to step on them.

Cicada song.

I was focusing on outdoor art projects this month before the mosquitos come. I’ve made eight stepping stones for clients, a few for us and painted a bird house for a Newark Arts Alliance fundraiser. I continue to take on more private students; some of the older ones have been vaccinated. My studio needed organizing and a good cleaning after having it to myself for a year. Andreas helped me build some extra shelving and it’s much nicer now.

My Bremerhaven portrait series moved from the café to my friend Thom Thompson’s photo studio. He’s already sold a painting.

Andreas had a busy month working on a paper, helping his graduate student prepare her thesis, gardening and working at another election. It’s also rhubarb season, so we’ve been enjoying that in pancakes every Saturday.

Now that we are fully vaccinated, we are slowly coming out of the house and enjoying the things we used to. We ate indoors at a restaurant for the first time. Andreas walked in, opened his arms and announced very loudly and happily, “I’m vaccinated!!” We are also having friends over occasionally and eating at the same table instead of distancing.

We have new neighbors across the street and a new neighbor hiding behind our trees eating Andreas’ favorite plants that he shoos away with his coffee cup. Ha Ha, all is well here.

All photos by Dragonfly Leathrum

Spring Garden

What, April is over?

The first week of May is almost over?

Wow, what a fast month. Our almost post Covid lives are busier and time has been flying by.

Andreas and I received our first Covid vaccine shot at the beginning of the month. Andreas was happy to find a pharmacy close enough to travel by bike.

Vaccine shot 1

The garden has been our focus this April. With the sunny, new property our possibilities for growing healthy fruits and vegetables increased. We spent weekends creating new beds, weeding and watching the plants grow during our work breaks.

Andreas’ apple trees are growing leaves and he is surprised how fast his new rhubarb grows with lots of sunlight. We are also growing herbs and flowers and the 100 or so tulips we planted all over both properties last fall bloomed. He is still trying to find room to plant 50 strawberry plants he ordered. We have them in garden beds and pots. During his election officer training he found a woman willing to trade a rose bush for a few.

Our garden is in full bloom right now with Andreas’ thirty or so azaleas in many different colors. I love photographing them. Instead of participating with our garden on the Newark Garden Tour as we did last year, I am chairing the committee this year. The Newark Arts Alliance has six beautiful gardens lined up for people to tour on May 22nd.

Andreas is working hard to finish a paper with two colleagues. One is visiting from Israel to help wrap it up. This document has been months in the making and I’m sure the three of them are happy after they submitted it to a journal for peer review.

I’ve had a lot of inquiries for art lessons and met with three new students. Many art commissions with deadlines are on the studio table. Stained glass, a drawing of a New York City park for college friends, and a bird house to be painted for an Arts Alliance fundraising event. The shows at the Café and the Cecil County Arts Council are down. I sold some pieces! I will be showing work from both of those shows in a photographer’s studio in Wilmington soon.

May 1st we received our second vaccine shot. Like the first, I had a fever and was very tired. Andreas was tired as well. We have 7 days to go until we are fully vaccinated and we are excited to not worry so much and to be able to visit with vaccinated friends.

Vaccine shot 2

Road Trip Across the US

I just did something I never thought I’d do and never wanted to do. I drove to Oregon and back. To some of you this might sound like a fun trip, but it was never on my bucket list.

My brother called us after New Year’s to say that after the tumor was evaluated from his brain surgery in December his doctor recommended radiation and chemotherapy. My sister-in-law and nephew were scheduled to have a vacation in March. My brother didn’t want them to miss their trip, but he was concerned that navigating the last weeks of radiation therapy might be challenging by himself. He asked if we would come to Oregon. Yes, of course we would, but there is a pandemic and his immune system is compromised. Flying didn’t seem like a good idea so, Andreas and I decided that the safest way across the country Covid wise was to drive.

Andreas thought a drive across the country would be really fun and dove right into planning. He had maps and books open the day we said yes. He chose the route, booked the hotels and planned the food we would take in our cooler. We ate what we brought with us only getting take-out twice.

We bought a new hybrid car before the pandemic and put so few miles on it that we were still getting used to driving it during our trip. It was really nice to have a vehicle we didn’t have to worry about that also got decent gas mileage. Andreas and I have very different driving styles and the first few days were challenging. I scared him, he terrified me, but we didn’t die or wreck the car. The new car also had some new to us safety features which were super helpful.

We chose rt. 80 because it seemed the most snow free in the middle of March. It wasn’t quite; we drove through a few snow storms, but none too serious. Just enough snow and rain to add to driving stress. I admit, the scenery was beautiful in the snow. On the first night we met my cousins in Mishawaka Indiana. A few of them I had only seen on Facebook. Even though we were all masked and keeping our distance we had a nice visit. I hope to have another opportunity to visit them after the pandemic.

Our cousins were so nice to meet us in our hotel lobby in Mishawaka Indiana.
We were so tired after the first night of driving. Ha ha, we had no idea how tired we would be.

On the second day we drove through Des Moines, Iowa. A stained glass artist I admire from Philadelphia had a showing at the Des Moines Art Center. It was a wonderful show and the Art Center turned out to be much more than we expected. Since we were able to visit in the middle of a weekday, we didn’t have to worry about bumping into other people.

Here are some photos from the east to west part of the drive. Click on the photos to see them full size.

My brother was in good spirits when we arrived in Oregon and we were able to spend some time with my sister-in law and nephew before they left on their trip. We worked or went to school on separate computers throughout the house during the weekdays. On the weekend Andreas and nephew hiked and geocached in the Oregon forests. My brother, Andreas, and nephew played cards at night and my sister-in-law and I knitted, fed the pet rats Cheerios and grapes and caught up on things. We also watched movies as brother has a TV. The photo below shows my brother’s latest paint by number masterpiece in front of his little gallery.

My brother and I drove to Seal Rock beach on the Pacific coast during a rainy, windy Wednesday for a change of scenery and some fresh air. The weather was so cold we didn’t stay long.

His west coast town has lower Covid numbers than ours on the east coast and everyone but the college students seem to be pretty careful. We felt that we could venture out and shop a little bit. I met a former art student who I haven’t seen in fifteen years for dinner. She recently moved to Oregon from Alaska. We were able to eat safely outside and had a nice evening catching up. I also visited my parents a few times masked up sitting in their garage or driveway. That was strange, but it was nice to see them after a few years.

The week my nephew and sister-in-law traveled to visit nephew’s older brother at college, Andreas was a guest in our German friend Stefanie’s eighth grade English classroom in Bonn via a Zoom like program. Andreas was featured as a German immigrant to America and the students could ask him any question they liked. Even though the class was voluntary and met in the evening German time, most of the class showed up and they spoke for over an hour. I know Andreas had fun and I think the kids did too.

The photos below show nephews in California during spring break, Andreas speaking with the German students over the computer, the hospital where my brother had his daily radiation treatments, the radiation mask gallery and my brother waiting for train bringing my sister-in-law and nephew home.

Our weeks together went quickly and soon it was time to pack up the car and drive home. We changed route on the first day to avoid snow in the Cascade Mountains and ended up driving through some snow anyway. We weren’t quite as worried about Covid since we didn’t need to protect my brother any longer. We did notice on the way home, however, that fewer people were wearing masks.

Andreas booked a hotel that was established in 1911 in Cheyenne, Wyoming on our second night. A sign near the mirrored elevator stated that in the old days, cowboys would try to sneak their horses into their rooms by using the elevators to save money. We believed it. What we didn’t know until I wrote this and looked up the hotel is that it’s haunted. Which floor is haunted? the one we stayed on, of course. The room was tiny and the heater too loud to use. Andreas made the night better by picking up take-out so we had a warm meal. Cheyenne is an interesting town with not many masks in sight. The hotel, charming in some respects with stained glass and some interesting artwork was too serious about cowboys and Indians memorabilia.

We noticed that a storm front was coming in near the east coast and changed routes for the more southern rt. 70. The change of course gave us new views and we were able to avoid Chicago and travel through some different cities like Indianapolis and Columbus.

Even though we enjoyed watching spring progress through the car windows, after five days driving, home was a welcome sight. We were so happy to be back we couldn’t stop smiling through the first evening.

Now I can say I have driven across the US and back. I don’t need to do it again. It looks pretty from an airplane too.

Snow and Show and Tell

Snowy night in Nottingham Forest. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Snowy night in Nottingham Forest. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

My calendar this month contains Zoom meetings, art show set up, and a car mechanic. Our life this February differs dramatically from that of last year. Our car will have its first oil change in a year. We do not drive anywhere.

Clown car in an ice storm. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Just chillin’ letting the icicles grow. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

I appreciate the gift of time and the blank days on the calendar. I am able to be home, to work from home, and to not feel guilty about it. I take the time to walk around in the snow and take a dozen photos to capture the one good shot. I am grateful to pass time by gazing out of the window to watch the snow fall, the birds nest, and plants grow while I wait for paint to dry in my art studio.

My view from the sofa. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Above: snow photos from our garden and local park.

A month ago, I was asked to show my portraits in a local café. I had to rush to have the paintings framed, and was given an hour to hang 22 works. Andreas was a big help. It feels good to exhibit in an accessible space where people will spend a little bit of time with my paintings. I would love to meet friends there, hang out, enjoy lunch, coffee, and conversations, but that is not yet possible.

Stained glass was the art medium of the month in the studio: In my first project, I recreated a stained glass tree that reflects human’s disconnect to the earth. It’s titled Plant Trees Not Houses. The first version was created in 1998 and it hangs in our living room. The 2021 version was shipped to our sister-in-law in Oregon.  In my second project, I built three-dimensional sculptures of stained glass cacti that sit in containers filled with marble chips. The containers I made out of four tape cassettes super glued together on a base of either music CDs or stained glass. The cacti are being marketed to old school, music loving, houseplant killers. I feel these people exist and need art ha ha. These pieces will be included in a Trashy Women show in April. And lastly, Special Olympics ordered an unexpected additional four Polar Bears. Glass kept me busy.

Work in progress. The grey glass is mirror. Stained glass and photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Plant Trees Not Houses, original on the left created in 1998, new and improved 2021 on right. Stained glass and photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Plant Trees Not Houses, original on the left created in 1998, new and improved 2021 on right. Stained glass and photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Next month will be different: I am watching daily weather patterns across the north American continent in the New York Times and Andreas is creating a new website which is sort of a hint of plans. Stay tuned blog fans……

Proof that spring is coming. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Proof that spring is coming. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Thanks to Andreas for editing the first version. It was as flat as my mood. As much as I LOVE snow, I’m ready for winter to be over. 🙂

Ein Leben in Lubeck 1935-2021

Annemarie, die Schwester meiner Mutter, hatte einen kleinen Garten recht nah am West-Ufer der Wakenitz. Eine kleine Hu¨tte hatte eine Ku¨che, Wohnzimmer, und Esszimmer alles in einem Raum. Das Wasser kam von einer Handpumpe draussen im Garten. Im Sommer lebte sie dort mit meinem Onkel Fritz, meinem Cousin Olaf, und meiner Cusine Petra etwa 2.5 km von ihrer Wohnung in der Paradiesgarten Strasse. Bei Besuchen im Sommer waren wir Kinder meist draussen um auch durch die umliegenden Naturschutzgebiete zu stromern. Dies sind meine ersten Erinnerungen an eine grossartige, selbstlose, und elegante Frau: Annemarie Gu¨smer starb vor 2 Wochen in Lu¨beck 86 Jahre nach ihrer Geburt.

Familien Photo vom 7. Mai 1960. Von links nach rechts: meinem Vater Lothar Mu¨nchow, meiner Mutter Christa Nagewitz, meine Tante Annemarie Gu¨smer, meine Grosseltern Luise und Hans Nagewitz, und mein Onkel Fritz Gu¨smer.

Meine Grossmutter Luise Nagewitz gebar Annemarie als drittes von fu¨nf Kindern am 20. Ma¨rz 1935 in Lu¨beck. Annemarie’s 4-ja¨hrige Schwester Ingrid starb 4 Wochen vor ihrer Geburt. Dies war ein schwerer Anfang sowohl fu¨r die Eltern Luise und Hans als auch fu¨r das neugeborene Kind. Meine Mutter Christa folgte 1936, ein kleiner Bruder 1937, und der Zweite Weltkrieg begann 1939. Annemarie war 4 Jahre jung als Deutsche und Russische Armeen Polen angriffen, 9 Jahre als ihr grosser Bruder der Deutschen Wehrmacht bei-getreten wurde, und 10 Jahre alt als die Britisch Armee Lu¨beck von den Nazis befreite.

Die Feuerstu¨rme und Bomben des Luftangriffes am Palmsonntag 1942 brannten sich fru¨h in die Errinnerungen der zwei kleinen Ma¨dchen Anne (7) und Christa (5) ein. Anders als meine Mutter, welche bis heute jeden Donner, jeden Blitz, und jedes Feuer fu¨rchtet ohne richtig zu wissen warum, hat meine Tante Anne perso¨nliche Gefuehle, erlebte Geschichte, und gewu¨nschte Politik analytisch bedacht, gelesen, und ensprechend gewa¨hlt und gehandelt. Sehr fru¨h hat sie Verantwortung in der Familie u¨bernehmen mu¨ssen, was nicht immer ihrer eigenen Bildung half, obwohl sie bei weitem die Klu¨gste in der Familie war.

Sie graduierte 1949 von der Volksschule gleichzeitig mit der Gru¨ndung der Bundesrepublik Deutschland. Das war ein unglu¨ckliches Jahr, in dem sie keinen Ausbildungsplatz fand, da die Arbeitslosigkeit in Lu¨beck 1949 bei 28.7% lag. Etwa 300 junge Frauen aus Lu¨beck und Schleswig-Holstein wanderten dieses Jahr nach Island aus, weil dort Frauenmangel herrschte. So begann Annemarie, 15 Jahren jung, in einer Fabrik zu arbeiten und teilte sich auch weiterhin ein Zimmer mit ihrer kleinen Schwester bei den Eltern erst in der Stitenstrasse und ab 1951 am Buniamshof, wo ihr Vater der Platzwart war. Zusammen sind wir dort in 2018 und 2019 auch am Kra¨henteich und in der Altstadt spazieren gegangen um spa¨ter im “Kartoffelspeicher” und bei “Schlumacher’s” zusammen zu Feiern und zu Essen.

Ein Jahr spa¨ter lernte sie als junge 17-ja¨hrige Frau den gelernten Schlosser Fritz Gu¨smer kennen: sie verlobten sich 2.5 Jahre spa¨ter und heirateten 1957. Das junge Ehepaar wohnte immer noch bei den Eltern, da Wohnraum und Geld in Lu¨beck auch 12 Jahre nach Kriegsende immer noch knapp war. Meine Mutter zog eine Woche nach der Hochzeit in die Schweiz, so dass Annemarie und ihr Ehemann ein eigenes Zimmer hatten. Nach zwei Jahren gebar sie Olaf 1959. Jetzt fand die junge Familie auch ihre erste Miet-Wohnung, bekam den Schrebergarten an der Wagnitz, und am 6. Januar 1962 gebar Annemarie Tochter Petra. Hier ist Annemarie’s Schrebergarten im Sommer 1962, wo ihr Vater einen seiner Enkel schaukelt:

Kleinkind in Annemarie’s Schrebergarten an der Waknitz etwa 1962 mit Grossvater.

Sowohl Olaf (1959), Petra (1962), als auch ich (1961) und meine zwei Geschwister Burkhard (1963) und Christina (1964) sind alle in Lu¨beck geboren. Meine Mutter bestand darauf, dass ihre Kinder nicht an ihrem Wohnort in Leck, Nordfriesland hinter dem Deich der Nordsee auf die Welt kommen; nein, Christa entschied, dass ihre Kinder in der grossen Stadt mit der Unterstu¨tzung ihrer Schwester Annemarie zur Welt kamen. Annemarie sorgte sich auch um ihre etwa 18 Monate junge Nichte Christina fu¨r 2-3 Wochen, damit ihre Schwester Christa mit Mann und So¨hnen in einen Urlaub fahren konnten. Hier ist Annemarie’s Tochter Petra bei uns in Nordfriesland 1965 zu Besuch. Das war der Kinder-Tisch separat von dem Erwachsenen-Tisch.

Cuties at the kids table From left to right: Burkhard, Andreas, cousin Petra and baby Christina. Photo taken on Wikinger Str. in Leck, Germany early 1965. This photo taken from the slide projected on the wall.
Burkhard, Andreas, Cousine Petra, und Christina in Leck, Nordfriesland, Wikinger Str. 46 Anfang 1965.

Und so ging es auch die na¨chsten 15 Jahre weiter. Wir Mu¨nchow’s aus Nordfriesland oder Hessen waren jedes Jahr bestimmt 3-4 mal auch bei Tante Anne zu Besuch. Zusammen verbrachten wir Kinder viel Zeit miteinander und hatten nicht una¨hnliche Probleme als Teenager mit Eltern, Musik, Sex, Drogen, Schule, und dem allgemeinen Zustand von Gesellschaft und Politik. Das hatte allerdings auch Vorteile, da wir Kinder uns bestens gegen unsere Eltern unterstu¨tzten. Diese erschienen uns sehr alt, konservativ, langweilig, und von Musik hatten die wirklich keine Ahnung. [Die Ironie hier ist, dass wir “Teenager” heute 10 Jahre a¨lter sind, als unser Eltern es in den spa¨ten 70er waren.]

Petra Gu¨smer (Tochter von Annemarie) und Burkhard Mu¨nchow (Sohn von Christa) in Walldorf, Hessen, etwa 1978.

Tante Anne sagte selten etwas – stille Wasser sind tief – aber wenn wir als rebellische Teenager zu weit gingen, dann bescha¨mte sie uns mit ihrer Ruhe und Toleranz, mit ihrer Logik und Wissen, und ganz besonders mit weisem Humor, welcher uns zum Lachen brachte. Da wir ihr oft vertrauten, folgten wir dann gerne ihrem Rat. Keiner in unser Familie besass Annemarie’s Emphatie und Einfu¨hlung fu¨r junge Leute. Sie war nicht nur der “Bu¨cherwurm” in unserer Familie sondern auch die “Weisheit” und der “gesunde Menschenverstand.” Aber sie war immer im Hintergrund, immer leise, immer am Arbeiten, und hat sich immer selbstlos um das Wohl anderer geku¨mmert. Diese Selbstlosigkeit kam dann spa¨ter auch ihren Enkelkinder Christoph (1982), Maya (1984), und Titus (1990) in grossem Masse zu Gute.

Etwa 4 Jahre nach der Geburt von Titus reiste Annemarie ohne Ehemann, Kinder, oder Enkelkinder aber mit meinen Eltern fu¨r 3-4 Wochen in die USA. Der Flug 1994 von Hamburg nach Denver in Colorado war wohl ihr erster. Sie besuchte ihre Nichte Christina, welche dort mit ihrer jungen Familie lebte. In einem Miet-Auto fuhren sie dann ganz “langsam” durch die Rocky Mountains und die Wu¨sten von New Mexico, Utah, and Arizona, um mich am Pazifischen Ozean in San Diego, Kalifornien zu besuchen. Das sind fast 2000 km. Diese Reise wurde sowohl von ihren Tochter Petra von Lu¨beck aus, als auch von meiner Schwester Christina und mir u¨ber einen Zeitraum von etwa 2 Jahren vorbereitet. Hier ist ein Photo, wo sie bei meiner Schwester in Boulder, Colorado ankommt:

Annemarie Gu¨smer (rechts) mit ihrer Nichte Christina Parsons, Schwager Lothar und Schwester Christa (links) in Colorado 1994.

Die Drei fuhren dann auf der Ku¨stenstrasse dem Pazifischen Ozean entlang nach San Francisco, gingen dort 2-3 Tage spazieren, essen, und trinken, und fuhren dann die 2000 km zuru¨ck nach Denver in einer no¨rdlichen Route. In den na¨chsten 20 Jahren habe ich dann den Kontakt nach Deutschland fast verloren: meine Grosseltern starben, es wurde geheiratet, Kinder wurden geboren oder adoptiert, Ehen wurden geschieden, neue Partnerschaften wurden gegru¨ndet, und aus Kindern wurden Erwachsene sowohl in Deutschland als auch in den USA.

Im Sommer 2015 lebte Tante Anne mit ihrem Ehemann bei ihrer Tochter Petra, Schwiegersohn Stefan, und deren Familie. Dort besuchte ich Annemarie und Petra an einem Samstag Nachmittag auf einem Arbeitsweg von den USA nach Schweden. Warum Petra auf der Wiese hinter dem Haus mit 4-5 Mo¨psen in einem Camper lebte, war mir nicht so ganz klar, aber Petra und ich haben gemein, dass wir uns oft etwas exentrische verhalten und uns meist spontan entscheiden was manchmal chaotische Konsquenzen hat. Meine Mutter hat diese Erbmasse auch, Annemarie allerdings nicht. Dafu¨r hat Annemarie aber die no¨tige Gedult, Ruhe, und Empathie um dieses andere Leben zu tolerieren. Hier ist Tante Anne mit Onkel Fritz und auch Petra etwa 2015 in ihrem Garten.

Ganz besonders mein in Deutschland verbliebener Bruder Burkhard hat immer den Kontakt zu Tante Anne und Onkel Fritz, ihren Kindern Olaf und Petra, und auch Enkelkindern Maya und Titus u¨ber all die Jahrzehnte behalten. Burkhard erza¨hlte mir von traurigen Beerdigungen, frohen Hochzeiten, und einsichtigen Geschichten von Annemarie und Fritz. Diese kurzen Einblicke, welche Annemarie Burkhard und spa¨ter auch mir im Privatem erkla¨rte, warfen neues Licht auf alter Ereignisse und Perso¨nlichkeiten in unserer Familie. Stille Wasser sind tief – und Annemarie’s Beobachtungen, Erinnerungen, und Analysen waren scharf und trafen wunde Punkte ohne zu verletzen.

Burkhard gab mir diese Bilder von Annemarie, Petra, und Fritz an der Ostsee, in Hameln, in Neustadt, in Kiel, und auch auf der Burg Runkel an der Lahn wo Tante Anne und Petra ihn und seine Frau Carina 2016 besuchten:

Meine Wissenschaft und Ozeanographie Forschungsreisen brachten mich jetzt jedes Jahr zur “Durchreise” nach Deutschland. Gerne flog ich u¨ber Kopenhagen nach Europa und dann per Zug und Ostsee-Fa¨hre nach Lu¨beck um sowohl meine Eltern als auch Tante Anne zu besuchen. Kurz vor Weihnachten 2017 lud ich mich zu Kaffee und Kuchen in ihre Wohnung ein. Hier ihre schnelle Antwort per e-mail:

Annemarie und Fritz Gu¨smer am 23. Dezember 2017 in ihrem Wohnzimmer mit dem Author. [Photo von Dragonfly Leathrum.]

Annemarie ging mit der Zeit und konnte mit digitalen Medien gut umgehen, was in Deutschland fu¨r Frauen u¨ber 80 ungewo¨hnlich ist. Ganz begeistert zeigte sie uns ein grosses Album von der Hochzeit ihrer Enkeltochter Maya auf ihrem iPad. So funktionierte dann auch die Kommunikation mit Dragonfly, welche noch wenig Deutsch sprach, aber von den Familienfotos – wie auch ich – ganz begeistert war. Auch Annemarie’s ju¨ngsten Enkel Titus traf ich ein erstes Mal als erwachsenen Menschen. Als ehemaliger Seemann spricht er ausgezeichnetes Englisch. Am Abend fuhren wir wohl gena¨hrt und gesta¨rkt die 30 Minuten Busfahrt zu unser AirBnB in der Lu¨bschen Altstadt im Malerwinkel zuru¨eck.

Ein Jahr spa¨ter kam Tante Anne uns in diesem AirBnB besuchen, nachdem wir lange in der Altstadt zu Fuss mit meinen Eltern unterwegs waren. Die zwei Schwestern und mein Vater erinnerten sich an vielen Ecken an Ereignisse und Geschichten welche 30 oder 50 oder 70 Jahre zuru¨ck lagen. Schulen, Friseure, Cafe’s, La¨den, Kneipen, Kinos, und auch Gescha¨ften. Annemarie arbeitete viel in der Altstadt im Schuhverkauf bei Salamander und im Kleiderverkauf bei Herder um ihrer Familie auch finanzielle zu unterstu¨tzen. Sie kommentierte in 2018, dass die 300-400 Jahre alten und malerischen (“picturesque”) Ha¨user der Lu¨becker Altstadt nicht immer so schick waren, wie sie es heute sind. Nach dem Wein vor unserem AirBnB hinter dem Dom an der Obertrave sind wir abends noch scho¨n und vornehm Essen gegangen. Das war der letzte Abend, welchen Tante Anne und ich zusammen verbrachten.

Ihr Leben war nicht ganz so lang, wie ich es mir gewu¨nscht ha¨tte. Covid-19 verhinderte den Plan sie letzten Sommer oder Weihnachten noch einmal zu besuchen. Annemarie’s Leben war sicher nicht immer einfach, aber sie hat anderen viel Freude, Mut, Stabilita¨t, Essen, Trinken, und auch viel Liebe gegeben. Sie war und ist fu¨r mich eine Person, welche all Das representiert, was Gut in Deutschland und in meiner Heimat ist und war.

Annemarie is Home.

“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”-Pablo Picasso

I think my comedian friend Bobbie Oliver summed up January’s mood pretty well when she said, “Now when I wash my hands for 20 seconds, I sing Happy Birthday to the coronavirus.”

Yes, we are still self-quarantining, but enough about that. January began with…..I usually say something about New Years Eve, we didn’t have a New Year’s Eve. We did what we do any other pandemic night. We only stayed up until midnight because we were binge watching an old show.

The insurrection at the Capitol building in Washington DC earlier this month was shocking and disgusting. Andreas was glued to the news and the event found its way into most conversations for a few weeks. We were happy the inauguration on the 20th went smoothly and we have a new president. He seems to be busy trying to reverse some of the horrible things the former president put into place. I wish him luck.

A funny social distancing story, we moved our fire pit to a space in the garden where we could safely distance with two other people. Unfortunately, to do this you can’t huddle around the fire to stay warm. Yeah, didn’t think that through. We had two visits and frozen toes. We’ll wait for a warm day for company.

I completed my annual stained glass, polar bear commission for Special Olympics Delaware. Not being able to leave the house meant production went faster. I finished two weeks early and took a week off to make new pillow covers for our boring pillows. I’ve been wanting to do this for months.

The little men on the pillow in the back are cut from a sweatshirt I used to wear in the mid-eighties. The legs and arms on the monster are sewn from old socks.

Andreas has been teaching a winter session class called An Introduction to Ocean Science. The class meets every day for an hour and forty-five minutes on Zoom. It’s a lot of work and takes up most of his time, but he enjoys teaching and has a good group of students.

Andreas explains the Coriolis Effect for his students using a read cabbge and a beer coaster. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Andreas explains the Coriolis Effect for his students using a red cabbage and a beer coaster. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

We are sad to say that his Tante Annemarie passed away earlier this month. He has been writing a blog about her in his spare time. I thought it might be a short remembrance, but it is turning into a biography of her and his family. He is putting in a lot of time researching German history to better understand the time period she grew up in. Many calls have been made to his mother and brother in Germany to authenticate memories and stories. I’ll post it here when he is finished.

Andreas working on his blog over the weekend.
A slide of Andreas in Tante Anne’s garden 1962

Andreas is still experimenting with new recipes and spices for our usual dishes. We are trying to limit our shopping trips which encourages culinary creativity. If you have any new recipes you’ve recently discovered please share them.

I am keeping busy completing winter projects for my business and the house. I have a show coming up in February at a local café showing my Diner series and a Trashy Women show scheduled for April. Inspiration and new ideas come when I’m problem solving. There is no boredom, just a feeling of sameness in this box of a house. We are excited for spring. The daffodils have already started to push through the leaves. Last year’s seeds are organized and we are planning new vegetable beds. Snow is in the immediate forecast! We are well and hope you are too.

Daffodils
The daffodils think it’s spring.
Ready for warm weather!

Quiet Quarantine Christmas

We’ve had a very quiet December. Thinking back over the month I feel sad about that. I miss Christmas parties and my friends, but it has also been a fairly stress-free holiday minus all of the usual obligations.

We celebrated our 2nd anniversary at home with take-out. We considered traveling to a bed and breakfast, but what’s the point, most things are closed and we don’t feel comfortable in the places that are opened.

Anniversary gift from Andreas, an Angelique Kidjo CD wrapped with the only blooming flower in the garden.
Cheers to two years!

Andreas’ class finished mid-month and my private art classes on the deck outside haven’t been meeting as often because of the weather.

Student finishing a watercolor painting on a sunny morning.
Self portrait. I’ll teach that again when we can stop wearing masks.

Andreas has been chopping up our wood piles and we’ve been enjoying fires on colder nights. We trash picked a nice wood rack from a neighbor so we can store some wood near the house to keep it dry.

Andreas keeping warm on a cold day.

He has also been trying more new recipes. This month he made a Christmas Stollen, granola and ham.

I was very happy that we had some snow and that it stayed on the ground for a few days. I hope we get a lot more this year. Snow makes everything prettier.

Catching snow flakes
The next day everything was covered in ice.
Bird seed eater.

My friend Sherri and I have been walking in the evenings taking turns between our neighborhoods to see the Christmas lights. That’s been really fun. Andreas hung lights on the deck and we have little candles in our windows.

Both Andreas and I took a day off on Christmas day. I caught up on the newspapers and he read a book. Andreas cooked a ham from our friend Trebs’ farm along with a lot of red cabbage.

Newspaper nest
Best seat in the house.

On Boxing Day, we hosted our Scottish friend Pablo and Andreas cooked Bubble and Squeak. I think it turned out really well. We felt uncomfortable distancing ourselves so far from Pablo and wearing masks when we weren’t eating. All worth it to enjoy good company and stay safe.

Pablo with his own dining table.

Thanks to everyone who sent cards and cookies! We are fat and happy and miss you all very much.

Family Zoom party

We wish you all a healthy, happy New Year!