December 12, 2020

Warm up continuous line sketch, Descanso Gardens 12/6/2020 (black ink and Inktense pencil on Mix Media paper–Canson)

For this week’s blog I had planned to share art of my CA bunny rabbits, past and present. But as the week plodded along, I just couldn’t find the energy to go there. It all seemed such a silly notion. So, I had resolved not to present anything this week, hoping I would feel better about sharing my many and varied bunnies and bunny stories next week. BUT as the week progressed I found myself thinking again about the wishing tree at the Descanso Gardens. In fact, if you have been following my blog, you may have noticed that I also shared their wishing tree in my November 21, 2020 post. So, what’s so special about that wishing tree?

Let me set the stage for this week’s main attraction and the thoughts that finally grabbed my attention. Last Sunday I went to the Descanso Gardens as I thought it might be closing again for a time. If you live in California you may have also been wondering when the imminent “stay home” order text would be sent to you. (I got mine on Monday.) However, I was trying not to think about all that as it was so beautiful that day. As is my usual I went first into the rose garden. There I did the continuous line “warm up” sketch you see here. Then I hiked around and under my beautiful oak trees. I found myself at a bench in one of the oak groves and it just so happened to be where the wishing tree still stands. We have only had a scant bit of rain yet, so the cardboard tags still flowed freely. Because of this dry weather I suspect the wishes written on the cards are not smudged or even washed away. I wasn’t really worried about whether or not the messages had been messed up because we don’t read each other’s wishes, do we? Well, I guess I don’t read other people’s wishes or diaries. You just shouldn’t talk about such things. Like, you don’t share a wish you made on a star, talk about what you were thinking when you threw a penny in a fountain, or say out loud the wish you have made just before blowing out the candles on your birthday cake. Right? 

Wishing tree continuous line sketch, Descanso Gardens 12/6/2020 (oxblood ink in Fude nib fountain pen, graphite, pink Prismacolor colored pencil on Mix Media paper–Canson)

Seeing the wishing tree again made me realize what I should have wished for the last time I was there. As I previously said, I wasn’t comfortable going too close to the wishing installation as there were too many people around. So, no wish that day. But if I had, I would have wished that we would all agree to follow the shared safety rules with regards to the coronavirus—wear a mask and stay away from people. Wondering what’s so different today? I found out on Wednesday that one of my brothers tested positive for COVID. Thankfully his symptoms have been mild and he will be quarantining at home for the agreed upon days before going near anyone. 

When I asked him about his symptoms and how he was feeling he said he didn’t really have a fever, but he had aches, a dry cough and had lost his sense of taste. This may sound like an outlier to you as I’m sure you’ve heard that people loose their sense of smell, not taste. However, my brother was born without a sense of smell and he always seemed to have a heightened sense of taste that at least for now was gone. Even as a little boy he was always adding hot, sweet or strong flavors to his food. I mean, what 6 year-old adds a fair amount of Tabasco to his or her grilled cheese? And he was always eating, or attempting to eat, strange things. He once ate the center of a calla lily which promptly made the little girl down the street throw up as she ran out our back gate. There were several other such instances. My dad liked to tell the story that he had warned my brother not to eat the ant poison he was about to put around the foundation of our house in Santa Clara. But a little while later my dad saw my brother getting ready to lightly dip his finger tip in the liquid so he could taste it just a bit. My mom remembered that he often popped rocks into his mouth. She said that sometimes he wouldn’t swallow food he was served for dinner and somehow chewed it round and round until it was some kind of fibrous ball that not even a cud-chewing cow could swallow. On those occasions she would ask him to spit out whatever was rolling around in his mouth before going to bed. There are two other “tasty” stories I can tell here, one that I personally witnessed and one that was seen by my youngest brother. When the smell deprived brother was around 5 years old he came upon a hunk of freshly chewed bright pink bubble gum on the street in front of our house. I saw him get down on his hands and knees and try to lick it up off the asphalt. Yup, you can’t unsee such things, even after all these years later! My mother must have been looking out the kitchen window. She came running out the door and grabbed him, but not before he had actually made contact. Who licks the street? Of course he could have been hit by a car, but instead he got trench mouth. Did he finally learn not to attempt to eat strange things? Of course not! When he was in middle school, he and my youngest brother were walking though a huge drain pipe that was near our house. It seems they did this on a pretty regular basis back then. But one day, they came upon a Twinkie and my number one brother ate it. He ate it all. Number 2 brother shared the story at dinner that night. Number 1 looked around incredulously at all of us and said, “But it was still in the wrapper!”

Thinking about my brother eating a Twinkie he found in huge drain pipe always makes me laugh. And the moral of this story is I am glad he will be OK. I love my weird and “tasteless” number one brother and want him to live a long life because I’m very selfish. This is because if his life were needlessly cut short by our current preventable illness I don’t know if I would ever laugh about that Twinkie again. Of course, I’ve never thought his licking gum on the street even remotely amusing. Oh, I forgot to say that I had also witnessed him taking the bite from the calla lily center in our backyard all those years ago. I can still see the strange and disappointed look he had on his face—that’s hard to unsee as well. Not very amusing at the time. But as I got older, and I would remember to retell the story to members of my family, it became hilarious. And this is because the little girl who got sick from watching him eat the flower had never really been a good friend to me. In fact, she was one of two mean little girls on our Santa Clara block. One of those girls stole the one and only Barbie doll I got. She got what she deserved. My dad used to call them “the two shits.” Now that’s funny!

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