The ruminations of an artist on art & life...art quilts, beading, knitting, drawing, painting, printmaking, bookmaking are all my passions, I love to explore creating....

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Marvel

You now how some people who have been there in your life for over 30 years---or maybe 40 years---how you begin to think they will always be there in your life? An older woman--an elder---who has been in my life a long time died 2 days ago; I found myself saddened to face the fact that she will no longer be around to visit. It was her time to go, but it was sudden and caught me off guard.

I met Marvel (yes, that was her name) when I was an impressionable 19 year old. We lived for over 20 years in the same small (population 120--and that counted all the kids) remote Alaskan town. Now, by remote--I mean you had to get there on a boat, or by a small float plane--no roads led to this town (and it is still that way). In Alaska, we call this "living in the bush."


When I arrived (via boat) Marvel was well ensconced in the community. Her house looked out on the boardwalk that meanders through town, and every day she sat in the window and watched the town folk come and go. I soon discovered that Marvel had a ready--but dry--wit, and loved a good joke. For 4o years, the front door of her house had a sign on it that announced DRY PAINT!---which caused many folks to do a double take when they saw this---and the sign was used to direct stranger's to their house--"just go down the boardwalk, it's the house with the DRY PAINT! sign on the door."



One day she saw me passing by and stepped outdoors to invite me in for a glass of wine. Now I sat beside her looking out the window---and soon in the course of our conversation I discovered that in Marvel's homey kitchen--every thing had a name. The venerable old wood fired cookstove was named "Grandfather"--Marvel baked delicious bread in Grandfather's oven---this was the first actual working wood cookstove I ever saw, and in her friendly and knowing fashion, Marvel taught me the rudiments of baking with a wood cookstove.


Marvel, and her husband Tom, hosted one of the 2 town telephones. They answered the phone whenever it rang and wrote down the message from the caller. At 10 am and 4 pm, everyone in town listened to their CB radios (run off car batteries) and Marvel would announce: "We are holding messages for Pete or Amy or whoever..." followed by local announcements (the Stitch and Bitch will be Thursday at 1 pm in Bear Hall, the mail plane is delayed due to the cloud cover, and so on). Once they were done--you could walk over to their place and get your message, or call them on the CB radio--keeping in mind everyone in town could also hear the CB message she relayed to you.

Outside their house was a wooden phone booth--anyone could make a call out on the pay phone there--but no one answered this phone on a regular basis--that phone--the one which was answered and where someone could leave a message was in Marvel's kitchen. Needless to sat, Marvel always knew everything that was going on in town, but she rarely gossiped. Rather, she shared information on a "need-to-know" basis. She also kept a book with every resident's birth date--and when a child was born, they were added to her book.

Marvel loved the ruby throated hummingbirds which spent the summers in Alaska, and always kept a full hummingbird feeder by her front window. Every spring we had a town betting pool--each person put in $2.00 and guessed the time and date when Marvel would see the first hummingbird at the bird feeder out her window. The person who guessed the closest time and date, took home all the $$$. We all trusted her to be honest--and some years the winner took home over $100... a nice spring surprise.

Marvel was an accomplished craftswoman---and made some delightful crocheted stuffed toys for my small daughters. I still have the crocheted Christmas snowflake she gave us one year. Later in life, she created beautiful quilts--always as gifts for others. For her birthday one year, most of the women in town created a friendship quilt just for Marvel--since she never made a quilt just for herself. I was pleased when they asked me to make a square for Marvel's quilt--even though I had moved away. I wasn't there, but I heard she cried when they gave it to her.

Today's Quote: "An optimist isn't necessarily a blithe, sappy whistler in the dark. To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. If we remember those times and places where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us energy to act and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction." ---Howard Zinn

11 comments:

RiverCitySTL said...

Sorry for your loss. Your post is a loving tribute to Marvel. Thanks for sharing it!

Oldie said...

The sign on her door actually reads: "Dry Paint!"...which is even better, I think.

She'll be missed...

Karoda said...

Marvel sounds like a woman I'd like to have known.

I can't imagine living so remotely year round, but you make it sound inviting and quaint through your description.

Aurora said...

Living remotely had its ups and downs--the best thing that came out of it for me (besides 20 years of living with the wilderness right out my back door) was the life-long friendships I formed. One friend characterized living in a small bush town as "living in a tribe" and in a sense--it was like that. Many of us who lived there during that time have kept in touch and I still visit there often---since it is still my refuge from city life.

Aurora said...

And Oldie--you are correct--it said dry paint! and I'm going to change my l....thanks

twig said...

Aurora
What a wonderful tribute. and your photos are exquisite. thank you.
ooxx
twig

Mary Timme said...

What a cool lady. In our tiny town in NoWhere, Nebraska, we had a lady named Marvel too! It must be a small town thing! Loved the tribute to Marvel. Thanks,

Kiwi Ellen said...

What a beautiful story that was Auroa & a wonderful tribute to Marvel. I get the feeling her spirit will live on in that little town for a long time to come

beadbabe49 said...

My condolences on your loss...and what wonderful gifts of friendship you have...

knittingiris said...

Thank you for sharing the stories of your friend. She must be terribly missed in that town.
Love the pics of their house, too.

freebird said...

Marvel sounds like she will become the town myth. I bet she will be recalled for generations. What a precious memory.