Building - Memoir by Pat West

March 1987


My notebook was lost somewhere under the white dust from hell. Didn’t care- didn’t want to write- wanted walls done, dust gone. Walls are done- white dust will never be gone. While I worked the walls, two snowstorms came and went. Much firewood was cut and burned- beasts and kids were fed and driven here and there. Blackie Cat disappeared. I remember little of any of it except the dust. The mask must have worked because I didn’t get sick again.

Spring has come- river is at flood- found a dandelion- found a lot of dusty red wasps. I guess we all lived through it. Started digging down to bedrock under the house for more headroom. I want to be able to walk under the house without ducking my head in some places.


Started fixing up the life-size black mustang sculpture. It kept falling down, so tied the reins to the ceiling. Now it looks like god is holding him in check.


This afternoon the kids and I cleaned the big house while Herb slept off his Saturday. Some days I don’t see him at all. Herb probably likes it now that the maid doesn’t live in. I have stalled right in the middle of chopping away at the ties that bind. As long as I keep vacuuming I get to keep painting. It’s almost comfortable, and I’m a coward.


Been avoiding writing. Been avoiding most everything. Been sitting around waiting for money to jump into my wallet. I painted yesterday and think I finally fixed the one house painting that was so bad.

70 degrees this weekend. Valen and I took a wonderful chicken looking walk. She is my chicken loving child- she is always finding sick or lost babies. She takes them to bed with her to keep them warm. But she’s a restless sleeper and much to her horror, finds most of them dead in the morning.

The grass turned green yesterday so, of course, it was in the teens last night. Finally got the wild birds to eat at my big window walls- trained them to the gourd feeder in a quiet place, then moved it to where I wanted them. I am now lying in bed with a bird a foot from my nose.

Tomorrow I’m taking Valen, Tyree, and Robin up to DC. for the zoo and the Matisse show.


D.C. was great- driving up; the bridges were all iced over with piles of wrecked cars next to them. We sailed over them on wings of luck and my ambulance driver training. Zoo was good- always loved the large animal house. Kids had their first Ethiopian food for dinner. I saw a neat sculpture show by Nancy Graves- dragged the kids all over to see all my old favorite paintings. After seeing the Matisse show, I would like to know if he thought himself finished with all the works now hanging in the show. Did someone frame up every canvas found, even abandoned starts? Or did Matisse just know when to quit, whether it was a few brush strokes in a corner or a whole canvas carpeted in pattern and color? I would really like to know how he though. I need to know how to be done.


O god- I have hurt myself. Took a misstep on the stairs tonight- fell- couldn’t get up off the floor for five minutes because of the pain. Did something to my ankle- now it looks like a baseball has been tied to my foot. Every pump of my heart causes a sharp pain in my foot- funny- all the things I did this last year- carrying tons of rocks, walking joists, using power tools carelessly, endless work on top of bad ladders and I cream myself walking down my stairs. Am glad I didn’t hear anything snap.


Took my foot over to Steve for his opinion. He took one look at it and said I was in trouble. Said he would take me over to the ER. in one of the ambulances. Good god. I drove myself over to the squad hall and if I wanted to go to the hospital, I would drive myself. Anyway, it would have embarrassed me to use an ambulance as a taxi. My foot sure does hurt; also feels like the blood has a hard time passing through it. I hopped about cleaning house. Later I put my foot at heart level and could feel all the poisons that were trapped down there pouring through my body and pounding in my head. Have become very aware of my good foot.


I had talked myself into believing my foot was broken. Was being very brave about it. Was so happy when the doctor said it wasn’t broken- then he said I would have been better off if it had been. Said that if it had broken there, all the other parts wouldn’t have torn. Said it would take a long time to heal and to stay off it. This man doesn’t know it’s spring.

Waiting to see the Doc, I sat next to a woman whose son had just killed himself. Would it be too much to ask that I get through my life without coming near such a thing? Please, I want to pass through riding a blessing.


Grass is getting greener every day- soon the horses will stop begging for hay (I’m out of the morning race now- I wait till mid day when they’ve given up, then drag my foot around the back way to feed them).

My foot looks like a black potato now.


My hurt foot is starting to piss me off. It hurts if I hop- hurts if I drag it- can’t put any weight on it- want to be doing things- want, want, want- I sound like an I don’t know what- How can I make this into something good?

Can’t get the freezer pop sculpture to stay stuck to the window. Wonder if I’m the first person to try making sculpture out of freezer pops. Probably not, there’s not much that hasn’t been tried- not much space left for me. If I can’t be unique then I will have to be very good.


Some ladies came out today. They bought $800 worth of art! Just when I had given up hope of ever seeing money again.

Worked up in the big garden behind the old house with Robin. It sure is a mess. Hard to believe it once was my pride, joy and haven- tried to make Robin believe I still cared for it. If he thought I could leave my beloved garden, he will think I can leave anything or anyone or him.

Half a moon was enough to wake me last night. I found myself looking out the window into Gordon Cat’s eyes- shit shit shit! -the one cat I haven’t welcomed down here. He has only half a brain, is prone to nosebleeds and everything gets peppered in blood every time he sneezes, and he pees on stove burners. I can’t look at him without remembering the smell of burning cat pee. Should shoot him. Took him to the Vet School once for help. “Pretty cat,” they said. I told them about the burning cat pee. “Shoot him” they said.

What if he finds the cat door? I rolled over and went back to sleep with the unhappy knowledge that my love wasn’t big enough and my hate wasn’t strong enough either.


I’ve got the mother of all colds. My head is going to fall off- it can take my foot with it and roll off down the hill for all I care.


Must be more than a cold. My head is talking to my foot. Last night I went back and forth between sweats and cold shakes- I don’t like this.


Even my teeth hurt.


Still sick- my head and foot tried to outdo each other all night. Cunninghame is getting sick- I’m dancing with more than my fair share of devils.


Headache gone at last- everything else the same- foot gets cold every time I put it down. Toads are calling for love in the pond. Got bit by first mosquito. My world is passing into spring without me.


No more lying about feeling sorry for myself. Self-pity just keeps me petting away at my pains. Enough.

I started painting tonight.


Packed up for my show at the college- paintings in my car- sculptures in Arthur’s truck. Painted some tonight. Foot hurts.

The girls made Junior Varsity Cheerleaders. Ugh.


Woke feeling good- went to help hang my show at Virginia Tech. I loved looking at all that empty space just for me. Half way through I got sick as a dog again- had to let other people hang the show. Went home to bed. I hate this.

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