Eleven o’clock the telephone rings, not the cell phone but the land line which means business. It’s Susan at the Sullivan Goss Gallery where my show of oils hangs through the end of this May. The show has moved fast, two eight-foot paintings sold before they hit the wall, purchased on-line I hear, by one of my collecters. The show’s doing great, Susan tells me, but that’s become a problem. Most of the pieces are sold, so frankly, there’s not much left in variety for the interested customer.(Here’s a link if you want to see: http://sullivangoss.com/Exhibits/RobinGowen2012.asp )
What a great problem– the type that will pay the kid’s college expenses for a couple of months! But Susan’s wondering if I have more work for the show. She can come by at four o’clock, so I fly into the house first, to see what I’ve got framed, ready to hang that hasn’t already been shown at the gallery in years past. Maybe five paintings there, I pause in my rush to throw a batch of clothes into the washing machine, and then it’s to the studio.
I’m burrowing like a terrier after a rat, and that’s not as funny as it sounds because yes, I spot a rat incursion in my studio. Not your typical ugly gray-brown rat, but Neotoma, the California woodrat, also known as a Trade Rat or Pack Rat. (Now, my friends, hush up. I am not talking in this case about my habit of keeping every book I take a fancy to in my house.)
I’m hauling out paintings from deep in my stacked shelves, and out falls a pretty little collection of tin foil and beads. Have you heard the stories about Trade Rats? As a child I was told they scuttle about carrying something they like, a nut, a berry or even a bit of tin foil, because bright shiny things attract them, and if they come across your bracelet or ring, they will often drop what they’re carrying and pick up your belonging and carry it off for their collection, leaving their original treasure in exchange. Thus the ‘trade’ part of the Rat’s tail.
Trade Rats in my experience come in several shades of brown, one variant being blonde, which sure fits the California image. Please don’t imagine the coarse head and tiny eyes of the classic Rattus Norvegicus or Rattus rattus. No, think of a magnified mouse, big melting dark eyes, large ears, soft fur, in a word– cute. Then add to that the fact that some have furry tails and they love to run about in trees, thereby earning the alternate names Tree Rat and Roof Rat. Often you will spot them by day, and mistake the nimble fellow for a plump squirrel. Do I sound fond of the creatures? I guess I have a soft spot for them.
You can see why cleaning up and prepping the paintings for Susan wasn’t as short or simple a job as I’d expected. Almost done, I remembered to start the washer.
I set out a show of work for Susan outside, happy with the variety and number of what I could offer. I find work I’d forgotten to submit to the gallery in times past! Perfect time to dust and sponge down the pieces, re-acquaint myself with older work, look for places where a scrape had occurred and fix those, and I even discover a few in need of varnish. I potter about, vaguely aware of the washing machine noise in the passageway to the house, thinking that if I’d been smart I would have put on a bit of music to work by. Susan arrives, and finds it easy to select the works she thinks best suited to hang with what I already have in the show. So it’s all good and I’m heading back into the house. I open my passageway door and there is water. Water not simply leaking from my washer, but spouting. Think whales, think fire hoses, In an instant I can barely blink through the water in my face and blasting my glasses.
I hit the turnoff to the washer… no good. Faucets on the inflow to the washer — good. After wiping down the glasses I can see the problem — a split out hose on the inflow to the machine. But I’m preoccupied with something else, the water merrily flooding through the passageway and pouring down the three steps into husband’s shop.
You don’t need the details of the clean-up, suffice it to say that the shop has a washed floor, and so does my passageway between the outdoors and the house. But it occurs to me to wonder about luck. On a normal day I’d have tossed the laundry in and left the washer to its work, maybe emerging from the depths of editing a manuscript or staggering in from a massive spring weed in the garden, hours later. Can you imagine? I think that water spout only ran about twenty minutes. I, the house, the shop and our water bill were all fortunate this day.
My next job? Find a battery-powered radio and place it in the depths of my painting storage, set to an acid rock station, to render the painting nest obnoxious to my fuzzy friends….