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. 

Friday, February 6, 2015

simply weaving


-17ยบ this morning, and I'm in love with winter, day and night.  It's a wonderful time to weave,  when there is fresh snow and sun, the shop is bright and warm, and there is a faint scent of my geranium, if the sun is shining on the plants. I love to weave paper flowers on spaced linen warps,  on my old barn loom. Why I love to weave on this loom, though it is very rustic, a counterbalance, with just two shafts, is that it is very good for weaving plain weave and linen warps.  Simple weaves.

The loom was built by Norwegian immigrants to Coon Valley, Wisconsin, in the late 19th c. It was taller once, but its legs have been sawed. There are signs of a bench  that used to be bolted to the front, but it has never had a bench since I've owned it. I taught myself to weave on this loom, standing up, weaving rag rugs, and I am strongly, affectionately, attached to its mass and homely beauty. It's called a barn loom, because it looks like it belongs in a barn, like a large, steady draft horse, ready to work.

The solid warp beam, a tree trunk, grown on a Coon Valley hill over 100 years ago, and shaped into an octagon, has a 28" girth.  The distance from the back beam to the front is long, and there is a lot of room to keep the tension on the linen just right.  The overhanging beater, as it swings to beat the fell, makes  a satisfying thump. While I needle in the paper yarn rya knots, the soft crinkling rustle of white paper sounds like gifts being unwrapped.  A cup of cool water sits next to me on the breast beam, with a soft brush in it, to open the paper yarn petals. I feel like a gardener working in a winter flower garden. The lightness, and ephemeral appearance of the linen and paper garden is an unlikely product of the overbuilt loom that created it.

The flower petals in this are made of strong, Finnish paper yarn, I ordered from Tampere, Finland.  The paper yarn is threaded on a  blunt tapestry needle, and tied into the weave as it progresses.  I  also used Japanese paper chenille, mohair yarn, unraveled plastic tarps, and white linen in the knotting.

There is a story here, of course; but one I think I'll tell some other day. Traditional Finnish transparency weaving is what these come from, as well as Japanese suspended panel weaving that I have always noticed, and admired.

 When I weave paper and linen, in a grid like this, I think of windows, of air and light moving back and forth through the weaving,  past and future, memory and forgetting. The blooming is imagination, and possibility.  Sometimes the "blooms" are just 8 petaled flowers, but sometimes they  are more like explosions.  When I first started to make them, a few years ago, I wondered what I was making.  I thought they might be the frost covered windows in the coldest corners of our house.  But I change my mind, and find they hold many more meanings than that for me.  Weaving them carries me away. 

(I plan to enter this piece, Memory and Forgetting, in a Scandinavian art fiber exhibit, which features an exchange exhibit with a handicraft museum in Finland.  If accepted, it could fly to Finland next summer!)

Thursday, January 8, 2015


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.