June 2, 2022, Day 99.
They greet me with: "The day was great and it ended with a splendid rain!" Dad recommends to me some places where I can learn more about Ukrainian curse words. My parents never curse (in my presence at least) so I mention that this is a strange conversation - but they reply that I should know Ukrainian curses because they are different from russian. We talk about things that should be included in the education of a human. And about the cat.
I was dreading today's conversation with my parents, thinking that they might be in a very pessimistic mood because it's been 100 days since this senseless madness tore their life apart. There are many reasons to be sad today. And there are so many uncertainties - for them, for Ukraine, for the world in general. But my parents proved me wrong, and we had a great conversation. They listed how the weather kept changing all day long (with sound effects). They remembered some old movies and songs and discussed how much progress medicine made in the last century and how they might use it one day. They told me news about all the family and friends, and the list now includes reports on all the pets. My aunt saved a dog from Bucha right after the horror that happened there. It was scared and sickly - but it finally started eating well - now it weighs 70 lbs and they got her registered officially. They told me about new plants and birds they found (both outside and online). I got the report that there are four cherries on a cherry tree and that herons were flying by. What more can I ask?
June 4, 2022, Day 101.
We talk about different writers and poets and how the Soviet Union made many talented people into its tools, and many more just lost their ability to write. Yet some persisted. And the way how they did it was to work menial jobs and have zero ambition in literature. The conversation turns to what additional professions these people had and we end up talking about how many professional people have in general, without often calling it that. And how one of my grandfathers had to know all the work around the village. Mom says: it is you either learn all that or drink.
May 27, 2022, Day 93.
There is a lot of excitement about an owl who spent an afternoon on the neighbor's roof. Many photos were taken! We talk about how war touches all activities. The cat is a major topic - the eyes are getting special praise today. It is slowly getting used to Dad and is very much into resting next to Mom.
Mom found new plants and tells me many stories about the cat. Dad tells me that in the old traffic laws in the Soviet Union there was a fine for hitting a goose or a turkey but no fine for hitting a chicken. We discuss Ukrainian words and last names and my parents encourage me to speak Ukrainian more often.
May 31, 2022, Day 97.
The cat was seen leaving the Dog's house several times already. Mom found a spider and spent her day finding ways to photograph it. But the main topic is that Dad accidentally shaved his beard off :) He decided to shave early in the morning without turning the lights on and when he saw the result it was too late. So he finished the job and then spent some time hiding from Mom and sending me pictures. But all ended well - Mom was not cross with him :)
I painted yellow peonies earlier this spring but lamented their lack of fragrance. These beauties were full of it - and I had a blast trying my new watercolor plus gouache set-up! (I am still testing it for portability and will report when I settle on something :)
June 5, 2022, Day 101.
Parents report that there is a shortage of salt in the country but volunteers brought sugar and flour. And Dad does not eat salt so they are fine for now. There are plans to play chess with the neighbor. Mom scared Dad because she started screaming - and he did not realize that it is the happy scream of someone who saw a crane flying close by. Mom tells me all about the beak, red legs, and wings.
June 6, 2022, Day 102.
Internet was glitching a bit and we had a shorter call. Mom is concerned that the cat is too skinny. Dad thinks that it is not since it refuses to eat special cat food that they got but is finishing all the other food that they give it. Dad talks about the differences between cats and dogs and how for dogs people are first and for cats - places. I see that Mom is not so sure (she really made friends with this cat but keeps calling it "the dog")
he cat is bringing presents for my parents now. At first, it was a mouse. Now it is a bird. It also started hunting for flies. My Dad saw a mushroom and sent Mom to investigate, turns out there were several and the bounty was made anto a mushroom soup! This and our new ability to play chess simultaneously made this a day full of winnings (p.s. I lost both chess games).
May 25, 2022, Day 91.
Mom says that food and all associated with it became a major daily task - everything revolves around it, including parts of our conversations. Dad refuses to eat strawberries and we cannot get him to tell us why. I think this is his way of making sure that we are not talking about sad things - this way we spent most of the time guessing his reasons and he gives long and complicated (and completely irrelevant) answers.
May 26, 2022, Day 92.
The cat became a part of the family - but they keep changing the name. They went to a store and got it some cat food - this is a new behavior :) And since Mom calls him mostly a dog, the name of the moment is often more dog-appropriate. We talk about family and friends in Kharkiv - there was some very heavy shelling on that day.
May 22, 2022, Day 88.
Dad is reading poems and singing areas from the operas. Mom says: "It's been a long time since we listened to opera." Then she says: "How is this relevant to what is happening now?"
This day's story is not about the war at all, but to appreciate it in full, you need to know that part of the word for "lawyer" sounds like a word for a "cat". So - they start the conversation (with serious faces) by telling me that three lawyers came over. One was especially impudent and even tried to enter their home without an invitation. Then they proceed by telling me that he was completely black and had a very nice, springy tail and loved the sausage that Mom offered. And they start laughing like little kids. In short - we had a good call today :)
May 18, 2022, Day 84.
The weather was menacing, the wind was blowing, and it was raining. Dad was cold and miserable and they were in a somber mood. More shelling in Kharkiv, more people without houses, and more uncertainties in the future. But there was an unusual moth which reminded Mom about one of her University colleagues who was an ornithologist but "for himself" - he was collecting moths! Description followed :) I wonder what happened to it.
May 19, 2022, Day 85.
Mom reports that two delphiniums are about to start blooming and I managed to make only a small drawing on that day - it was a vyshyvanka day and we spent quite some time discussing all kinds of family heirlooms that I have - so instead of drawing them I was showing shirts and pillows and asking questions :)
The day was full of changes: weather, nature, and mood - all kept changing. Parents received a present of the very first strawberries of the season (thank you, dear neighbor!), and we discussed the best way to eat them. They ate some with milk yesterday and just plain (Dad) and with some sugar (Mom) today. Delphiniums are about to start blooming. There is an unidentified tree that bothers Mom (Carl Linnaeus would be stomped too - there are no flowers!). There was a lot of poetry today - connected to the conversations and absolutely out of the blue. They miss their home but don't talk much about it - though every day I get an update on where Kharkiv was hit in the last 24 hours.
May 15, 2022, Day 81.
There were a lot of poems and quotes from books for kids. Dad said that they read very similar books when they were children. To which Mom laughs and corrects him that that is not true - but they read the same books to me when I was a kid :) It always gets their spirits up when they start reading poems out loud together and help each other with lost lines. I am glad that sometimes I can help too - but not too often :) They got some potatoes and bread from the neighbor. The conversation turned to what we call the truthful person and honest one and what is the difference. Mom said that one word is related to what is inside the person and another is to the language one is using.
Mom is making friends with the cat but it is still a very distant relationship. We discuss that Kharkiv restarted some public transportation. Their blood pressure requires adjustment of meds and, we keep going over the options. We talk about how many jokes are outdated these days and how many jokes are no longer funny because of the war.
May 17, 2022, Day 83.
Dad started a conversation with the main news: Mom was a cinderella today. She was cleaning all day long. There was a lot of arguing that day but we got over it. Sometimes I wish I could control their sources of information. Then I try to think about what I would say to someone who would try doing that to me.
Virginia Hein is an amazing sketcher with such a zest for trying new things! She is an expressive and comprehensive colorist, and mark maker, and her ability to sketch in a moving car makes me so jealous! Her work is always an inspiration and despite my dislike of heat, I think I will make it to the desert to sketch the places Virginia had shown me in her works.
In the middle of the pandemic, I got an email from her that there is a book in the making. It had two authors - and the second one is Gail Wong - whose detailed Seattle sketches I know well through the Urban Sketching community! And they wanted to use a couple of my sketches in this new book about... ABOUT NATURE! the subject dear to my heart pandemic or not :)
And this week I got to see the real book (The Urban Sketching Handbook Spotlight on Nature) and it is filled with wonderful ideas to try and so many great examples of different approaches to sketching nature! Many sketchers I knew and many were completely new to me - and it is such an honor to be in this extraordinary company!