Thursday, January 8, 2015

potholding




I'm amazed to read about the present, sweltering heat in the southern hemisphere, Australia, for instance, while staring into the teeth of this "Alberta Clipper" coming down from, well, the finger points at Alberta.  Thanks, Canada.

A wind accompanies this snow, and below zero temperature, a strong wind that whips up snow dust tornados that whirl up and across the  hay field, catching snow, loose leaves and twigs, sucking them high in a twisting vortex, before vanishing through the fence at the plum row at the top of the field.
Dramatic, but largely an illusion.

So. I am weaving potholders, a throwback to simpler times, days when I began weaving,  a
project of cutting rags and chaining them together, to weave into useful, and cheerful kitchen things.
A potholder like this will not look the same after 2 decades of  hard use,  potholding, but then neither does this (speaking of myself now) potholder look the same.  The rags here are cotton, cut at about an
inch wide,  the warp, 12/6 Swedish rug warp, black.  The sett is 10 epi, but  woven in doublebinding, an interconnected double-face weave, with two layers of rag, with only 1/4 of the warps showing on
each surface.  There are warp threads interwoven between the layers, and no fingers should ever feel heat.  This is a favorite weave of mine, and my brain feels like a big snow whirly of fresh
ideas while I'm at work.  Let us not despair, for we are human, and we each have imagination.
We can create what we can imagine.




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.