Saturday, February 6, 2016

Ground Hog Day Blizzard, 2016

I have a banjo that I don't know how to play yet.  I practice holding it, and look pretty good.  It is still possible.  When I can actually play the banjo I have 2 songs I want in my repertoire:  Cluck Old Hen, and Ground Hog.

We ate the meat and tanned the hide,
the best shoe laces that ever was tied, 
Ground Hog! is the line that kills me. 

I love this song, despite being vegetarian, if I don't count fish as living creatures.

Our Ground Hog Day blizzard was a doozy, and did not disappoint, after all the extravagant predictions.   The world went white, and in a few short hours, we had our beautiful Wisconsin winter, at long last.  I felt so sorry for my friends, posting pictures on facebook, of themselves sitting in hot tubs, sipping cool drinks, on Sanibel,  or out on Key West walking around on a beach, doing nothing in particular.

We Wisconsinites in our Rightful Place had snow to shovel, and we got right to it.  The beauty of snow laden boughs and branches was legendary.  When the sun came out, on all that beautiful
white heaped and piled on every little thing, our spirits soared!

I took my wool rugs, woven by my mother, out in that pristine, crystalline white.  This is the kind of snow to pile on those woolen weaves and broom off.  They'll look so bright after you sweep them with snow, my mother always said, and she did, and I do (and those rugs do look bright).

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

snow on the hill

It is time to take down the little tree in my store. Take off tinsel, cut paper snowflakes, folded paper stars, and put them away someplace that I can remember to look for them next November.   This morning was finally  cold and crisp, the way I expect January to be.  When the sun finally rose above the trees on the hill it was after 10 a.m.  The hill road and woods are full of soft, white snow now.  Snow white is an intense color.  The hollow owl tree's enigmatic runes caught my attention. Snow shoes worked.

 A deflated Jesus Loves You balloon, that fell from the sky into the crabapple, was still tangled there. The steep hike made my hands too warm, so I dropped my mitts, where they looked like startled snow animals, about to run away.  My, I was hungry!  I came home quick, and made a little pizza, for lunch, glutenous, topped with anchovies, artichokes and wild leek pesto.

Friday, January 1, 2016

here we are

Out with the old year, in with the new!  At first there was no snow, and then a light dusting
on Christmas Eve, so pretty!  Then a blizzard struck. They called the wind Goliath.  But it is still beautiful, just more of it.

The new town plow came out, and funny how glad I feel to see it clearing the roads.  The plow guy I hire to clear my driveway missed the blizzard, because he is vacationing in Florida.  His understudy plow guy is also vacationing, in Florida.

The next alternate plow guy, under-understudy, had enthusiasm, but had not plowed my particular
circle drive before, and so didn't know about my parking spaces, left unplowed.  He arrived a day late, with 3 pages of driveways on his list yet to plow,  and though I saw he started out confidently at the bottom end of my  driveway, he ended by meandering up into the beeyard, where the trail ended! He backed out, apparently, and left quietly. So, I took my shovel to the end of the drive he missed plowing, and worked until I was afraid for my weaving arm. Actually, afraid for both of my weaving arms.  It is trance-inducing work, like scything in the summer, and maybe weaving.

Chop, chop, chop the blade down into the snow bank.  Scoop, throw, scoop, throw.  I tested one of my winter scarfs in the process, and was satisfied with how it functioned, and how good it must make my shoveling style look!  I  hope.

I am ready to put on a new warp, today, and very indecisive.  I'm looking at overshot designs, and then longing again for my old favorites, Goose Eye and Rosepath.  New West Texas organic cotton from Voices of Industry will surely go on one loom, but the other....?  Suddenly, inspiration strikes.  "Linen! It's been so long since I had a beautiful, unbleached Swedish linen warp."  I'm so relieved, and start rounding up spools, counter, tension box, making calculations in my book, already anxious to see the new weave! Just as I begin, I remember.

Never, never put on a linen warp in January in Wisconsin.  I know this, I know this,
from so many sad experiences.  I should have it tattooed on my arm, since I very nearly forgot it, again.

January and February are too dry and cold, and linen will work with me only when it's warm and humid.  So why do I always want to put on linen warps now?  This is the time to let linen lie.  Sigh.  So,  I decided to write this blog post instead, but now I must decide, if not linen, then what? And so it begins again.

Happy New Year, good friends, artists and weavers, careful readers. You are a real presence to me, and I envision each of your lives when I see your comment.  I imagine you in your place, and I'm happy to know you, if only a small part of who you are.  I have appreciated your comments and knowing some of you check here every now and then to see what the news is! Imagine what we can do this year, if we put our minds to it.


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Counting my blessings: one, two.

It must be the light, or staying up too late,  because I never "fall back" from Daylight Savings Time easily.  My intuition is off.  To simply tell the time of day requires focus.  My father in law said about his Parkinson' s disease, "transitions are hard."  He was mainly talking about making it through a doorway without freezing up, but I take it as a truism,  the human condition.  Change is hard.

Possibly, since it's the season of giving thanks, and I'm feeling pretty disheartened politically,
I have been trying to keep track of what I am thankful for.  I get lost in that, because everything
is nuanced, good, but then again,  maybe not so good.  Sometimes it takes decades to know what the true blessings are.  I weave paper and linen, and call it a House Blessing, because I think it's a good idea to make something to attract blessings, if possible.  Like my daughter, who staying home from school one day, bored and sick, wadded a bunch of tin foil around some rabbit ears antenna on my old black and white TV,  and brought in the miracle of a snowy, vaguely distinct picture.
To see TV in our valley we needed a satellite dish,  and we opted out.  Even after Sofia tinfoiled the antenna, we still saw every program through a snowstorm.  It was years before we knew what the cast of "Friends" actually looked like, not braving a blizzard on their couch, in their coffee shop.  Jennifer Aniston! Get your parka on!  By that time we'd upgraded our system to an old 10-foot tall antenna, leaning in a spruce tree in the front yard.  One of the kids, usually Carl, had to go out in any weather, and twist and turn it, until we yelled from inside the house that the picture was pretty good!
Is it any wonder that all my children have decided being urban dwellers suits them very well, thank you.

But I have blessings to count, at least 2 of them, very unambiguous ones.  First,  my magic wet-dry, tangle free, hair brush from Bed, Bath and Beyond (my brothers-in-law call it Bed, Bath, and Boredom). The brush is amazing, even miraculous, and was worth the trip, guided by my daughter, Ursula and her smart phone, to a BB&B store on the crest of the ridge in Duluth.  The Brush looks like nothing special, with flimsy plastic bristles, a little cheap.  But after I'd tried hers in my long, thick, strong hair, and it went through like butter and soft scrambled eggs, I was a Believer.  This brush allows me to wear my long hair in a "messy bun" on top of my head,  a good style  for a weaver, without dreading the brushing.  I'm  also pleased to wear a recognized hair style, as opposed to my usual "hair style"  which, if noticed at all,  surely prompts the thought, "Oh, too bad, she's letting herself go."  Oh, vanity!   Now I love to brush my hair, morning, noon and night,  no tangles, no tears!  Bed, Bath, and Beauty.  Word.

The second blessing was a gift to me from my 3 children, who pooled their money,  years ago, and bought me an iPod Shuffle, in palest aqua blue, engraved with the words, Singing Teacher, which is another story, but which makes me weep a little just seeing it.  The thing is, I don't know how to use stuff like this.  I've kept it like a little shrine, but never hoped to be able to figure out how to get any music on it.  Recently, one of the children asked to have it back,  if I wasn't ever going to use it!

 Just like that I got music, iTunes, my computer syncing, docking, etc. all figured out.  With music on the damn thing at last, I plugged in the earbuds, and took off up the road, riding my bike, empowered.  I can still hear the river, cars coming by, the wind in the trees, distant planes, but now there is a soundtrack.  It's like riding in my own music video.

I peddle along the river,  hearing "Let's Go Down to the River to Pray",  and I feel like I'm the star of something.  In the next few minutes I'm hearing "I'll Fly Away," just as an honest to goodness bald eagle flies off a branch, floats down in front of me, and glides over the river, and off across the corn stubblefield.   A crow or a red-tailed hawk would have sufficed.   Hallelujah! (I have to buy that and put it on my play list!)  You know what? Just getting to live my normal, everyday life is the blessing.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Things to Come

The walk to my studio from my backdoor is just 50 yards, on the old milking path, all that remains of a long gone 6 cow barn, and over a small creek on a wood foot bridge. It's not a strenuous walk.

I have come to believe, that in my own best interest,  I need at least 45 minutes of dedicated Exercise each day. To persuade myself to do this,  I decided to take my bike out, on my way over  to the workshop, and ride 4.5 miles up County Hwy S,  to the next town, Bloomingdale, and back.  I call it my commute.  I do it everyday,  not "every-other-day" or "3 times a week" or some other euphemism for "maybe I'll just skip it today".  What I get from this "exercise" is to see the beauty of the river and the valley, in every light and weather, day by day, and to notice so many amazing details of life along the river, each day that I ride.  My body appreciates the workout, and I am energized.  All positive, and the cherry on top is that I get to weave when I get back!

It's working pretty well, and the season isn't over yet, though I have needed my down jacket and  mittens once already.  Once I'm on my way,  I'm glad to be riding.  I rode my bike so much this summer that I actually broke my pedals off, and had to replace them!   Lately, among the blackbirds and robins gathering to migrate, there have been so many other sights and signs of the season change.  Woolly bear caterpillars have started to make their annual pilgrimage across the highway. I see them frequently, booking it across the road, some traveling east to west,  while other caterpillars  are equally determined to make that road trip west to east.

I don't know what makes the woolly bears cross the road.  In country lore, the woolly bear caterpillar's rust-to-black fuzzy band width is supposed to foretell the duration and quality (bitter or mild) of the coming winter.  I've been interested to measure their bands, and set about to do this on one of my trips to Bloomingdale.  I have an interest in measurements that I can record for use when I weave my Tapes Without (numerical) Measure (which are my attempt to measure nothing less than life as it is).

Measuring woolly bears turned out to be a more difficult task than I expected. As soon as I parked my bike, took out pencil and notebook, chased them down, held the paper in front of them, to crawl across, so I could mark the band width, they would curl up, and refuse to uncurl while I stood, waiting.  Of course, it was likely,  that my uncooperative curled up subject would disappear under the tires of local traffic before I could even make my record.  (I'm happy to report, all of my subjects survived).

After a setback of a broken pencil lead, and a trip back home to replace it, I was able to collect 13 measurements, last Sunday.  Eleven of my subjects  had very similar width bands, black head band, rust mid-sections, and black tail bands shorter than the head end.  Two outliers: one caterpillar was all rust, and one all black, so cancelled each other out.  It was a small sample, but I was satisfied.

I don't know what to make of the woolly bear measures with regard to the severity of the coming winter, but they are consistent.  I know I will make a new set of Tapes Without Measure, with woolly bears included, and also add them to my Key of other Vital Measures, which now includes my cat Mikey's long tail, my own true waist measure, and 5 minutes of Darrel's dog barking across the river at midnight, in mid-July, when I wove one blue weft thread into my tape each time the dog randomly woofed.  Literally, warp and woof.  The warp is time, as usual.

 In the old cautionary tale of the ant and the grasshopper, I am  a true grasshopper when it comes to preparing for winter.  But looking at that little code of blue threads on a future winter day, will recreate that warm and muggy, soft, summer night when I listened to Darrel's dog barking and wove.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

blue rail

So much for summer.  Blue railing,  Amelia Bassano Lanier, most likely the true author of Shakespeare, benignity, continency, Lowell Observatory, Bill Pike harvests his honey, linen on the line, and Mina Perhonen, too hot.