Sunday, August 16, 2015

on weaving

When I have finished weaving a small collection  of 4 or 5 scarves, that seem to belong together, because of the warp and the color  and design combinations, I list them for sale in my etsy shop.  This most recent batch  has materialized around old school, plaid dresses, that came to mind as I wove.  I remember the school dresses my mother sewed for me at this time of year, no doubt, with white collars and cuffs,  and me impatiently standing on a chair, turning slowly, while she pinned the hems.  The afternoon light has shifted to a warmer tint,  a light golden wash, end of summer.

This is how I weave, always. Colors come from memories of light at different seasons, different times of day.  There are combinations  in my brain from my mother's kitchen curtains, or the wallpaper in my best friend' s bedroom.  But the memory of color can come from anywhere, or anytime. I weave to hold it down, to see it better, to get closer to an emotion connected to the color. Often I can't identify where the color comes from that feels so familiar.  Cloth carries feeling with  its color, texture and design. We hold it, and it conforms to our human shapes.

I never thought weaving would be so important to me.  I'm a little self conscious to be so
obsessed with it, and  always wish I were a truly gifted weaver.  I've been weaving many years, but I often feel clumsy at my looms. What I may lack in technical virtuosity, I make up for in feeling. I hope that feeling carries to whoever owns it.  I want there to be something in the cloth that expresses the ideas that went into its making,  even if the keeper has no idea who made it.  I keep cloth like that, made by someone unknown to me,  that radiates another human's imagination, and excites me.

So, I make a series of scarves and put them up for sale, happy to think of them worn by real human beings,  in places I may never get to visit.  The workshop feels so empty then, and I wonder if there is anything left to look forward to.  Then, slowly, something takes shape in my mind's eye, as I pick up colors again, and throw my shuttles. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

summer things

Amish built oat ricks on Salem Ridge this week look like shaggy beasts that might roam around
when the moon is bright!  I wish we would hear whippoorwill calls again in late summer evenings, especially since I'm not trying to get a small child to sleep.  I hope they are only temporarily away.
Some people who live in Crawford County, to the south, have told me they often hear them, and that they are incessant and obnoxious. 

 I ride past this abandoned farm house and the old shed on my bike some days.  At noon on a bright day, it's so dark inside the shed.  Just this summer, the roof  has caved in. The work in here stopped a long time ago. In the dim light, I see old tractor tires, winches, chains and dusty calendars pinned to the wall, coffee tins of tractor parts, and old cans rusting on plank shelves and window sills.  It feels like a sunken boat.

 The curtain in the farmhouse window moved ever so slightly to the left as I was taking the picture, as if an unseen hand were moving it slightly to see who was outside looking in.  I felt a cold shiver down my neck!  I went around to the back side of the building then,  and found a broken window letting a breeze into the old room,  stirring the curtains!

New weaving in my workshop, which is filled with a whole lot of  summer light in the mornings.  Also, there is my small savu-sauna wash cloth, included in the Deep Roots Exhibit, at the Craft Museum of Finland, until August 23, 2015.  I am so pleased to show these weaves in Finland as part of this Scandinavian-American artists exhibit. My cloths are my tribute to my Finnish grandmother, Impi's life, in Finland, where she lived as a girl and young woman,  before coming to Minnesota in 1917.  I never knew her, because sadly,  she died young, leaving her 4 children, and her husband.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


A loud crash on the porch after midnight,  woke us up,  but we didn't investigate.  In the morning we saw the bench  overturned, and the porch broom knocked down.  My good cat, Mikey, did not show up for breakfast.  Mikey is an orange striped tabby with polydactic paws. He has many toes, in fact, he has almost 2 sets of toes on each front foot.  His paws are oversized, and fan shaped.  On the points of his ears are several long sable tips, like fine haired paint brushes, that remind me of a cougar.

He did not appear that day, or the next.  I  began to wonder where he'd gone, and walked all around to the sheds where he normally sleeps during the day, calling "Mikey, Mikey?"  There was no sign of him, not hide nor hair.  I rode up and down the road on my bike, looking into the ditches.  No sign.  He'd vanished, who rarely, if ever,  in 2 years had missed a cat food dispensation on the porch.  Mina and Mama Kitty were still there, but I realized now, I loved him best.  There was none other like him. And now he was gone.  Another day, and another, and I stopped calling for him, or looking for him, or expecting to see him. Deer wandered through the yard, the stray black, tailless cat came to sneak food, but no Mike.

No Mikey looked in the kitchen window past the toast counter in the early morning.  No Mikey annoyed us when he hooked his claws into the porch screen door, banging it open and shut to get our attention.  No Mikey threw himself down in front of our feet as we tried to walk into the kitchen. My husband came home from the grocery with a smaller bag of Meow Mix.  Mikey's disappearance was so mysterious, and sudden, timed with the fracas on the porch.  What did it mean? We've lived here so long, and there has never been anything  frightening on our back porch.

Day 5. I decided it might have been a cougar attack in the night. I looked in the newspaper for possible cougar sightings in our neighborhood, but for once, even though this is the season for unverifiable cougar sightings (and UFOs), there was no mention of aliens or wild cats.

 I called my mother on Sunday.  She is old now, and  losing her memory.  I talk to her about things she doesn't have to remember.  I told her my cat disappeared. It felt so good to tell her, because she has always reassured me.  That wart on my  foot will go away.  No,  the Russians will not start a nuclear war, during the Cuban missile crisis. How to shut down a 5th grade boy who was bullying me.  She was sorry.  She said, "Don't give up hope."

"But Mom," I said, "Country cats disappear.  Your cats in Northern Minnesota didn't last too long."  "No, they didn't"  she said,  "Pa wouldn't let them stay in at night, but Marion and I fixed up a place for them under the porch, and sometimes they stayed there."  She used to tell us how her cat's ears would freeze in the frigid N. Minnesota winters,  and get rounded-off, like mouse ears.

That night,  just before I turned out the lights,  one week after the incident on the porch,  I heard a small meow at the screen door, and I knew it was that gone away boy-cat, Mikey, come back from oblivion.  Oh, joy!  I let him in, and he seemed fine. No slashed ear,  missing fur, or mark on him.  He must have been on a sabbatical, or kitty rumspringa, trying out new worldly ways.  I was so glad,  I  rubbed him, scratched his chin, picked him up, carried him around, squeezed his fat paws.   I love the moment when the story turns,  after all hope is lost.  I love when the cat comes back!

Of course, you know my story is about how my mom is disappearing, and that story doesn't have the twist, when her memory suddenly comes back.  She will keep fading into the fog that gets denser all the time. Another time, and  this good cat will disappear, and I will disappear, all good things, and bad, will.

But, it was a pretty good week, my best cat came back, and my mom and I had a nice talk on
Sunday. I'm starting to understand.

Monday, June 8, 2015

I think it might rain

In case it rains in the afternoon, I ride my bike up the road this morning.  It's perfect weather now, with a soft summery breeze still damp from the rain last night, and fresh smelling, blooming phlox, wild wood geraniums, columbine, and ferns.

A half mile up the road, a bald eagle swoops down and circles back across the river, scouting the fresh killed racoon, that already appears to have been dined on. I swerve around the carnage, and look into the clear, flow of the water of the stream beside the road now. Because I ride this way everyday, I know every curve and twist of it.  I have it memorized.

Next, I come to the circle curve, by Mary Lee's place, and now I'm high above the river that
has gone straight.  I call this the Zuider Zee. I've never seen the Zuider Zee, but I pretend I'm
in Holland now, and there are some black and white cows on the polder.  The river bank is straight along here, and grassed.  It reminds me of a dike. I decide I don't have time this morning to ride all the way up to the abandonned blue school bus, with its faded, hand painted banner  "Amnesty" and "Let Freedom Ring".  I usually like to ride up as far as the Let Freedom Ring bus, but not this morning.

Instead, I turn around at my favorite bend in the river, where there are rapids and open sky and clouds reflect in a smooth elbow of the flowing West Fork.  I also see remains of a dead gray cat have nearly disappeared now,  two weeks since I first saw it dead, beside the road.  Dead animals are a sad fact of country roads. Once, when Ursula was still riding with me, in her seat on the back of my yellow Schwinn, we came upon a cow that had fallen out of the woods, down the shale slide, and rolled upside down into the ditch.

She was struggling.  We rode to the next farm up the road,  and told the farmer.  That was so sad, and happened over 30 years ago.  Still, I remember that cow every time I pedal by that place. And I miss my little, heavy bike passenger!

Maybe this afternoon I'll head up the road again, and see what's new.

(also, some colors of cotton and linen I'm looking at, and of course, my peony in full bloom!)

Monday, May 4, 2015

lost and found

Spring is chaotic. The season when our kids went a little crazy,  running everywhere, barefoot, and wild, up on the bluffs, or down the river road.  Often, we worried a little at supper time when we couldn't find them.  The campground fills up with fish camps and fly fishers, testing their rods and waders.   I pump my tires and ride my bike up the road again. The Let Freedom Ring blue bus is my new turnaround destination.

We conquer our pessimism and plant a dozen red raspberry canes, unearthing, in the process, one of Grandma's long forgotten and missing sterling souvenir spoons, deep in the compost heap. I wonder how long it was lost there with another spoon,  and how it got there, not pointing fingers.

The cats are content to sit on the back porch, and not rush in each time the screen door opens. The Dell ducks have survived, with No-Neck, still in charge of Peck Eye (the one-eyed duck from an incident with a sparrow hawk last year) and the 2 others. The fresh, unwashed eggs are so rich and delicious, though my vegan sister continues to warn me against them, because they are 3 times as rich as hen eggs.  Ramps, or Wild Leeks are rampant in the woods now, and the kitchen is fragrant, or odorous, depending on your opinion of ramps.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

no fooling

Finished!  Now I'm on my bike, singing, all the way up to Bloomingdale!  Soon enough I'll come back to my bare workshop, empty looms, and start in again. 

There was an old man named Michael Finnegan
He grew whiskers on his chin again
They fell out and then grew in again
Poor Old Michael Finnegan
Begin Again!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

march wind

Today winds are blowing out of the South.  Soon maple sap will be dripping in the woods,  syrup boiling in sugar houses, and trout season. It will still snow, a spring blizzard or two.  The cold has been extraordinary this year, but it's a dry cold. I know I'll miss it.

Last week, it was still terribly cold, but somehow I talked myself into walking up the road to the quarry, wearing an outfit that made use of a wool blanket and a large safety pin, on top of my usual winter regalia.  Even so, my eyes were teary from the cold, and on the way back my eyelashes actually froze together.

Coming into my driveway, I had a sudden, distinct memory of my kids when they were 12, and 8, and 5, sitting on our back porch on a spring morning,  playing with a box of kittens. It may have been that the light was similar, that brought the image back to mind.  I thought of myself back then,  40 yrs old,  frustrated and desperate for the family to "grow up"  so I could have some time to myself, some time to weave.  I also remembered that even as I thought it, I knew I'd miss days like that, when they were young, playing on the back porch in the sun. It was such an intense remembrance that I couldn't shake it all day.

They are grown up children now, each living her/his own adult life.  I might be able to persuade them to come back and play with a box of kittens on the back porch, but sooner or later, they'd want to go back to their jobs and homes. Having children, for me, has been the experience of putting myself out of the center of my  own life, loving human beings so hard that it often hurt, and still always, always encouraging them to leave me, little by little.  That's a pretty tricky thing to manage, emotionally.  We want to keep who we love close,  usually.

Well, I got through that day without a tear. I wasn't sad. I have my workshop, full of projects and good looms, with good warps on them, and more to come.  I am so fortunate.  I have what I only dreamed of on the back porch with those kids that morning.  I have what I hoped for then, and better.  After all, I still have those kids, who are adults you'd like to know, if you knew them,  and I am free to work.  I am 24 years older, a lucky woman.


Item: In case you haven't seen it, Vibeke, the vivacious Norwegian knitter, tea and poetry lover who writes  A Butterfly in My Hair, is having a Month of Giving on her blog right now.  She has interviewed artists on the subject of gifts and giving, and asked each artist to contribute a gift each day in the Month of Giving.  Leave a comment on her blog for any of the gifts you'd like a chance at winning.  In a few days, one of my rag pot mats will be offered, with a small interview. I chose to give away the pot mat because Vibeke is such a great tea lover, and I imagined a hot tea pot sitting on it. If you'd care to read, comment, and enter to win, please do. There's lots of pretty things, and interesting people to meet over there.