Friday, December 19, 2014

ashes, ashes




It's icy here, so I dumped the whole can full of wood ashes on my paths and the driveway, and then put it to the test.  I didn't fall down and break my crown.

 Yes, I still prefer winter in the north. My friends are busily knitting their wool into things. I don't knit, but I love to see it done. I did once knit a sweater, on circular needles, but as I neared the bottom, I lost interest in the project.  Which did not deter me from wearing it for the rest of the winter, with the needles all dangling down - o, down - o, down -o, with the  needles all dangling down. (To be sung to the tune of Fox Went Out on A Chilly Night).






When the sky is clear,  I love to see bright stars in familiar constellation, glittering at night in cold, dry air. I love the crystallized world, the way the creek bubbles under ice, with an edge that forms and reforms overnight.  I look to see the shapes of leaves and grass in flowing water under the clear ice. I love the thick coats of fur on my cats, the stacked-full wood shed, the splitting block, the cold maul, which also serves to split a big squash, which I like to roast and eat, in winter, with butter.

I like my new, highly visible,  lime-yellow down jacket.

Happy winter solstice, and remember the ones who've left us. I light a candle for them in a
mason jar, when the sun goes down, and put it in the frozen fern bed beside the sauna.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

another day








I take a snowy walk, looking for what I'm looking for, but Mikey comes along. As usual, he wants it to be all about him.

The waste of a good warp section, a mistake I can't unmake, but I can't bear to throw away just yet.

Tomorrow, especially, I wish you will enjoy a good meal and the sweet company of your friends and family.


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

down to the river









Reading Annie Proulx' story, "A Run of Bad Luck" I found this sentence, " They pulled off
their muddy pacboots and set them on the newspaper behind the stove, hung up the wool jackets
that held the shapes of their shoulders, the bend of their arms...."

A weaver knows this idea of cloth that "holds the shape of their shoulders, the bend of their arms,"  and that the piece just cut off the loom, washed, dried, hemmed and trimmed is only partly finished.  The rest of the finishing is done by the person who uses it, and time.   How it is worn, walked on, which window it hangs in, which dog chews it, eventually shapes the textile, physically.  But there is something else, which has to do with feeling.  Some cloth holds our attention. If it was made with feeling, the weaver hopes by some small miracle, it expresses that.  We experience the feeling when we hold some cloth close, until we pass it to someone else, who also keeps it.  An antique quilt or rug or coverlet survives through generations. It comforts, protects, warms, carries, softens, beautifies,  absorbs, cleans, sanctifies, our daily human lives.  It shows us who we are, and where we have been.  Look at the knees of Bill Pike's (beekeeper) jeans!

It seems to me that these uses, physical and emotional,  become a part of textiles, and stay with them. Imaginative attachments, stories that can't be read, are tangible in the cloth.  We feel them. We add layers of meaning to them. The weaver's cloth is so raw and new,  and just the beginning of its story.
 

For the curious:  Writers' workshop is now over. I didn't improve significantly, but I did get a chocolate prize for perfect attendance!  Also,  in yesterday's election I voted for only one candidate who did win. I'm saddest that Wisconsin had  a chance to elect Mary Burke, who would have been the only woman Governor in the state's history, but instead over half of us chose the incumbent, which is the politest way I can refer to this result.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

naming


*









Some days are better.  This was one of them.

The Amish have gathered corn into stately shocks along the ridge fields. The Amish school yard was empty today, but yesterday, young boys and girls in dark black capes, hats, pants, suspenders, and bright blue skirts, and emerald shirts, girls and boys together,  stood like pins on the little baseball field, in the glow of the sugar maple grove beside the school.  A girl was pitching, to a boy.  Another girl was on first. But this morning was cold and rainy, as bunches of Amish children walked to the  school along wet roads.  Most of the little boys still walked shoeless, with red, bare wet feet.

The night before last, I showed up for my 6th writers' class, and read what I wrote for the first time aloud to the small group. There were murmurs of encouragement. This may be my last formal engagement with education, in my life. I'm really bad at being a student.  But, I'm sure what I've learned will serve me well. I am sure I'll keep writing at fiction,  because I have nothing to lose. The adept writers in my class actually give me hope that I will make progress, if I persist.

Just off the loom is a  new batch of crying towels, each named after an aspect of tears, crying, sadness, joy, onions, or any occasion for tears.  So, they have a text, as well as a texture. "Water Works,"  "Spilled Milk (half full / half empty),"  "Father sighed, Mother cried,"  "Hang my tears out to dry," "When it rained down sorrow, it rained all over me,"  "Stop all this weeping, swallow your pride. You will not die, it was not poison.  Bob Dylan." The names are fragments of song lyrics, old expressions, the ways we talk about our small and large griefs.

Wash cloths, face cloths, sauna cloths, all belong to our daily, private ritual of putting on  a fresh face  to meet the public.  Crying towels are another acknowledgement of being human, of living with our sorrows.  Tears are universal.  My weaves are made to provide what textiles always have, comfort, warmth, memory,  protection, cleanliness and absorption. 

 My utility blanket, in two panels is one such cloth.  I wove it in my old familiar, Rosepath, with linen, wool, cotton rag, perle cotton, and raw silk and call it "Pot Calls Kettle Black," a name about naming.  Names attach themselves to the weaves while I'm weaving, my thoughts adrift.  The name belongs to the weave. 



 (Thanks to Harry and Barb in Dell for the pumpkin scene!)

Sunday, September 28, 2014

falafel colors








 Duck Egg Nutmeg Waffles



All this talk about writing has me thinking about reading.  If you notice the nuance, I'm not to the point of reading, yet!  But three new books have me very excited to take up the practice again, as soon as the weather is a little nippier.

Will It Waffle?, by Daniel Shumski. The title intrigues me, and the book's premise, which is why have a waffle maker on your kitchen counter dedicated to making just one thing: waffles? This has been my perennial thought, too! Long ago I began a flirtation with extreme waffling with my original recipe, Lentil-Soup-Walnut-Loaf-Waffle, a bold experiment for a beginner.  My recipe began as a simple soup, which lacked color and flavor, so I dumped it into a loaf pan with eggs,  bread crumb topping, walnuts, and a squirt of ketchup down the middle, and though I  baked it for a goodly hour, it still had not congealed. Not a quitter, I looked around my kitchen for options, and beheld the waffle maker.  Inspiration struck, and I scooped the baked lentil walnut loaf into my waffle maker.  The wafffles looked like hay flakes, or all-day dog biscuits, when they were done, and no one would eat them.  (My family could be overcritical of my cooking, I feel).  Daniel Shumski picks up where I left off, making many things into waffles, some successfully.  I'm definitely going to try his falafel waffles soon. First I have to find the book.  This morning I invented Duck Egg-Nutmeg waffles.

In the Kingdom of Ice: the polar voyage of the USS Jeanette, by Hampton Sides,  is a rediscovery of
a 19th c. doomed arctic expedition.  I am thrilled that there is new material to add to the genre, so I don't have to re-read Endurance, Shackleton's Incredible Voyage.

The idea behind the polar voyage of the USS Jeanette,  was a 19th c. scientific belief that there was a shallow, ice-free sea at the polar cap, surrounded by pack ice.  There may be one someday soon, but then it was a flimsy precept for an arctic expedition in a wooden vessel, but what hey?  Of course, the outcome was predictably terrible, and the Jeanette never made it to the warm polar beach, instead capsizing in the icy ocean.

But here is the hook:  not all perished when the ship went down. Some of the exploration party survived, dragging their life boats across shifting ice that moved them north as fast as they traveled south. After many harrowing ordeals, and months of frozen hardship, they finally arrived at open water.  Three life boats were launched, but almost immediately, became separated,  and each boat met a different fate!  Now that's my idea of value! This will be fine reading in mid-January.

The best for last, and the book I have long wished I could read, if I had known it existed, is being published in November! It is Laura Ingalls Wilder's, memoir, Pioneer Girl,  the adult version of life on the prairie that Laura wrote in the 1930's, but which no publisher wanted.  In this book there is domestic abuse, love triangles, and a whisky drunk who sets himself afire.

At last! We can read what it was really like to live under the banks of Plum Creek in a dug out house with dirt falling on the bed, and livestock coming through the ceiling, and just one little parchment window square  of daylight for 7 months of a prairie winter.  And, scarlet fever. And, childbirth. How did Ma not go mad?

I did devour the Little House books in 2 weeks when I was in the 5th grade, but even at the time, I thought Ma should have told Pa, Heck no! We're not leaving town to go out to Indian Territory, so I can live with my girls in a sod hut with a blanket for a doorway, because you're getting itchy. I can't wait to read this memoir! I'd definitely have been the kind of woman who stayed in a nice house back East, thank you.

p.s.  I'm still in my writing class, and still underperforming. On Week 3,  during class,
I found myself doing something I haven't done in many years:  I located a clock in the room and began to watch it. One effect of writing class I have noticed is that I am writing more things down,  and more ideas rush in to fill the space, causing me to write more things down.  Is this a good thing, or a bad thing? Time will tell.  Everything is fiction.



Monday, September 15, 2014

writing class



When opportunity comes knocking, I usually shut off the lights and pretend I'm not home.
But this time I signed up for the writers' workshop.  The first workshop I've taken, except for a felted slippers workshop, in which I successfully crafted a pair of serviceable felt slippers. This success may have been the source of my confidence to write the check. Do I want to write? Yes, I do, and I would like to write better. I'm excited with anticipation.  We are given a list of supplies. I love to buy supplies! I buy a new notebook, with college spaced blue-lined paper.

In my first fiction writing class there are 12 writers writing, including two teenagers, two men,  and mostly people I know already.  I hear the instructor promise that no one must read what she has written aloud. We will be given a topic, and a time limit in which to write about it, using a technique called "free writing" in which nothing matters but to keep the pen on the paper,  pushing on even in the absence of an idea.  We are learning to access our creativity, without judgement. My first idea is that I'll not touch my pen to the paper until I have an idea, technically adhering to the rule of not stopping once I start.  We're given our subject:  an old worn object.

The story of my life! There's so much I could say. I gaze into the distance of the middle of the floor of the room where we are assembled at desks.  When was I last seated at a desk?  Every writer is writing furiously now. (I didn't expect the writing workshop to feel competitive). But, I'm going to wait until something comes to mind, as it surely will, so I may set my pen to paper and begin.

Next to me, a bright young woman, a dazzling and accomplished writer I have known and admired for several years, is already writing to the bottom of her first page.  She has a very fine pen, I notice, with very slippery, fast ink.  I wonder where she bought it.  I know myself, and though the time must be already half over, I am not concerned. But, no. The time is actually over, and we are told to stop.  Desperately I look into the inside of the front of my forehead. Two words swim up from the gravy murk, like a Magic-8 ball. I scribble them.

Now the vibrant writing woman next to me volunteers to read what she's written. "I'm not shy," she says.  Her piece starts with a small, worn fragment of cloth, a fragment of an old worn story, a child's blanket, a color,  rose, a bit of cashmere, a mystery memory, that ends half way down page 2 with a sentence that pulls at my heart. It is a beautiful piece about a bit of textile, which sounds beautiful but, after a while, I honestly can't hear a word of what she's reading.  I look down at my own paper, on which I've written, interestingly, two words:  tuna fish.  I don't share.

My friend Judith says, about taking workshops,  I don't want to be the worst. I don't have to be the  best, but somewhere in the middle. I just don't want to be the worst.

7 more writing classes. If I can last.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

at the lake












 This summer may be the last time I can take a sauna here, in my mother's sauna.  Each summer,  I think this.  It's all so familiar, the rugs she wove, on the floors and benches, the sauna stove, the tin tub on the wall that the kids would play in, and the noodles! She built a fire, in the sauna stove. She likes to build fires.  She grew up on the Iron Range in Northern Minnesota and has been building fires in wood stoves most of her life. When the sauna was pretty warm, we went in together.  Though it was cool and windy, I went into the lake twice to cool down. Lake water, after being in the sauna, feels so soft and silky. I float around as long as I can, lazily swimming, listening to the little splashy noise  my hands make in the water,  with the good taste of lake water at the back of my throat. I like to sink my face down into the water until my eyes are just at lake level, and look across to the far shore. 

My mom kept sticking her head out of the sauna screen door to check on me! Then she came out the door in her bra and underpants to hang her towel on the line.  I'm not coming in, she said. How is it?  Is the water nice?

  It's cold, but there are warm spots, too.  I knew she wanted to come in.  She loves the water.  She was a good diver. I remember when we grew up, that she was the only mother at our neighborhood swimming pool who would swan dive off the high dive.  The  stone steps down into the lake are uneven, though, pushed by the crazy ice melt last spring, and we both know she shouldn't try it.   

Here they are, my mom, Irene, and my little sister,  Jody, too.