Ms. Vielchenblau’s After Life

Ms. Vielchenblau’s After Life

At 837 North River Street, across from the Highland Cemetery in Ypsilanti,
Michigan, Ms. Vielchenblau began to plan her life, after death, while living
her life with death, or rather with the dead.  A close friend from China,
had said to her, “you lived your life strongly, you will live after death, strongly
as well.” The comment created in Ms. Vielchenblau a longing for a beautiful
afterlife.  She thought deeply about how she would die, planned her life,
and her dead life or her life after death. She wondered if she would die in the
foreign service oversea’s or from an illness? She wondered how she was likely
to die?

She aimed to coordinate her life with her death and her porch overlooking
the cemetery kept her dreaming.  Shortly after she purchased her house at
837 N. River Street, across from the Highland Cemetery she bought a plot in the
cemetery and so did her father and sister.  There is a turn off from River
Street, where her complex lays.

The house she designed was full of life. The house was a complex set, at an
inexpensive price, due to its location, across from the Highland
Cemetery.  The stairs going up leading to the three bedrooms, were extra
high, as if to heaven.

The complex, was laid out in several studios that would come to embody
areas, where she would have mastership eventually.  A music rehearsal
studio, was in the front room, with an upright piano, an old bi-level organ, an
upright bass, a violin, a guitar, a trumpet, drums, bandeer and of course she
studied voice.  There were lots and lots of sheet music, for the variety
of instruments, as well as her own compositions and songbooks.

Along the left wall, behind the rehearsal studio, were shelves lined with
books. The first shelf was organized into several library sections, followed by
a collection of cookbooks, in the hundreds, followed by shelves with numerous
fine and eclectic dish collections, including Italian printed plates, French
plates and wooden dishes, fine teacups with saucers, like her Prince Charles
and Lady Diana set from Harrods in London.  Across from the shelves she
built a small room, by adding three walls to the far wall and lined the walls
with a fragrant cedar to make a screening room.

The room she built, compartmentalized the rest of the adjoining space, into
areas and nooks.  The dining area was behind it, with a long ovular table
that had tall candlesticks and a blown glass sculptural object on top and the
walls were full of gold-framed paintings, her own.  She had the vision to
value the house and create what would become a historic house, with a placard
on the front, as did many Victorian homes in Ypsilanti.

On the side of the table, were two buffet tables for serving dinner parties
and drinks.  The paintings along with fine art illustrations represented
some of her finest works and were numerous.  The paintings had a variety
of themes including drawings of her daughter, historical references to her
house and photographs of staged and vintage scenes.  Across from the
dining table is the kitchen, where many culinary fantasies were manifested from
her cookbooks and culinary research.  She keeps one shelf of binders that
are filled with recipes, broken down into areas that include diverse cultures
and holidays, plus the largest binder that is her treasure, “The Vielchenblau
Family Recipes.”

Behind the dining area and kitchen is a small nook that she made into an
exercise and spa area.  The exercise and spa area has a recumbent bicycle
and a variety of hand-held weights, plus mats and a TV for exercising with
Falun Gong videos or Gaia exercise channels, that sometimes include dance
lessons or belly dancing.  There is a long massage table, that she
performed exercises on, as was done, while having physical therapy, after a
knee injury using velcro weights and straps.  There are also some stacked
blocks for stepping and stretching exercises and a half foam roll to stretch
particular regions of the leg and knee.  At nearly 46 years, she had begun
briefly to walk with a cane, after a knee injury while working in a culinary
role.

Directly perpendicular to the kitchen, a little on the side, is a door
leading to the back of the house, where there is her outdoor sanctuary. Nuzzled
between, the 4 bay garages that house cars and dry and wet art studios
including sculpture studios,  with the main house in the complex. 
The sanctuary area has trellises on both sides with shrubs and greenery to
create atmosphere and privacy from the road.  There is seating around an
outdoor fireplace, a stone rectangular table, with stone benches.  There
are two grills, potted plants, sculptures and a shrine.  The area is both
sociable and spiritual.

Behind the four-bay garages with art studios above and below is the carriage
house in the complex.  The carriage house is used as an office and for
writing.  The carriage house is a few feet away from the last bay of the
garage and in front of a beautiful cream and red-tiled fenced-in outdoor area,
where there are a pool and clubhouse.  What looks strange about the
exterior of the house is the common complex color of cream, which unites the
whole property except for the main house, which has an older antique colored
wood siding, a shade browner than watermelon.

The main house blended with the Highland Cemetery and was left nearly “as
is,” to leave it in keeping with both the Highland Neighborhood and The
Highland Cemetery.  Her favorite place in the house was the front porch
that had both walls and ceiling, the front door and a view of the Highland
Cemetery.  On either side of the steps, leading to the front porch, were
small stone gargoyles, the type one might find in an old Spanish city, such as
Valencia.  On the porch, Ms. Vielchenblau read poetry, drank tea’s, such
as Macha Green Tea with lemon, that she learned how to prepare from the last
restaurant she worked at, where she hurt her knee.  She sometimes read
poetry with her daughter and they came out with a stack of print outs and
exchanged each other’s poems or read their own.  She read with writer
friends on the porch and by herself.  The view of the cemetery weighted
the emotion of the porch and dramatized all that she read.  The porch had
4 outdoor chairs, with outdoor cushions, with little rod iron side tables next
to each.  The tables she bought large enough, to fit a tray with drinks
and a stack of writing.  There was barely grass around the house, except
for a small patch in the front that she barely had to mow to keep the house
up.  The lack of grass, was even a selling point, as Ms. Vielchenblau had
planned for frequent travel in the foreign service and as a Diplomat and didn’t
wish to be encumbered by a high maintenance lawn while travelling.

Ms. Vielchenblau staged literary weddings to a poetry character Little
Jinn.  The wedding napkins were embossed in 14 karat gold: “a Chinese
lamb, a blue rose.”  The guests stashed the napkins in purses and pockets
for later valuation.

From every area in the River Street house, Ms. Vielchenblau felt a
manufacturer.  She wished to value both the house with history and design,
plus all of her work within it.  She wished for after her death, the house
to remain intact, in the hands of her daughter and left as her daughter’s
inheritance and a museum.  The quality of the museum would be that of a
local social outcast, eccentric, born with royal ties, died while in Diplomatic
service and as a fine artist, composer, poet and even chef.  She leaves
behind many publications.  All of her artwork was made into catalogues and
left in print.  Her music was also published.  Strangely the entire
house was published and the quality was high.  The house was intended to
be a museum, book store, spiritual refuge and place frequented by those
visiting the dead.  All those who visited Highland Cemetery would make a
stop in the future, to her house in her afterlife.

She couldn’t decide whether to establish the house and move and build it as
a business from the afterlife-an afterlife business plan emerged- for her and
her daughter.  Her dead life took over her living life.  Death
becomes her life.

By Afua Serwah Osei-Bonsu

 

 

 

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