The photo above is a picture of Barbara Demorest, who founded Knitted Knockers, my absolute favorite things to knit. She's sitting on a pile of (as-yet-unstuffed) Knockers. I added to the pile this morning when I mailed off over 60 Knockers I made--I sent them to her organization to distribute, free, to cancer survivors who've had mastectomies. This is such a rewarding and compelling reason to knit.
Below you can see what a Knocker looks like once it's been stuffed with polyester. So much better than the silicone/plastic prostheses, which are heavy and can promote sweating and irritation. Knitted Knockers are light, airy, washable, and more closely resemble a genuine breast.
Let me allow Barbara and her organization to explain, as they can do it much better than I can.
If you've had a mastectomy, I hope you will contact the organization and ask for a free Knitted Knocker.
And if you're a knitter, I certainly hope you will volunteer to make a few of these. If you do, be sure to go to the organization's website to find a zillion patterns (knitted or crocheted, and many options for how to make them) and a list of "approved yarns." Using only approved yarns is very important, as only certain fibers can be tolerated next to delicate and/or healing skin. Thank you for considering this!
Here's the bag I sent to the organization this morning. It's absolutely stuffed to the gills with Knockers I've made while watching tv in the evenings. So easy to do, and so helpful to breast cancer survivors.
So...watch the people walking into the Spring Bulb Show at Smith College. Everyone walking up to the door has a preoccupied or blank look; then as the door opens and they enter, the looks shift to shock, ecstasy, utter delight, and might even be accompanied by shrieks of, "Wow!" or, "Ahhhhhhh...!" as the scent of hundreds of hyacinths and a million other types of bulbs hits the nose. OMG, the smell, the fabulous smell. It hits you the moment the door opens and never quits as you view the show. It's the scent of Spring. There is just nothing like it.
Below are some pictures, unfortunately unaccompanied by smell-a-vision. If only.
...and tomorrow we are due to get a foot of snow. But what the heck--today proved that spring is on the way. Just outside the greenhouses I saw crocus and snowdrops blooming. It's on the way, it's on the way!
When I went to my last local rug hooking meeting, I only expected to work on my rug and have fun.
I had NO IDEA what would be waiting for all of us who attended.
We were treated to an incredible show of rugs from Turkey, China, and Iran by one of the members, Elizabeth Vierling. Dr. Vierling is a Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, but she is also a rug maker and clearly has a passion for textiles. I took a million photographs...unfortunately my memory of her very informative commentary on the origins and purposes of each piece is fading fast, but here are some of the photos. Enjoy!
I believe this first piece was from Turkey. It is very large and I think Elizabeth uses it as a rug in her home. It is embroidered, using a couching stitch I think (see detail in last photo). Probably circa mid 20th-century.
The color work is just sensational. After ogling the piece (above) for a good long while, we all decided we are not using enough orange in our own designs.
Apologies in advance to Elizabeth for how much I have already forgotten of what she said about each textile. Her commentary on where she located each one, where and how each was created, and what each may have been used for, was fascinating. But in the week since I saw these works, all of her commentary has started to slide right out of my head. Darn!
If memory serves me--which likely it doesn't--below are two clothing panels embroidered by the Miao people of China (one of China's long-suppressed minority groups, now finally beginning to emerge and be recognized for their rich history and cultural treasures).
And if that weren't enough, there was more, and more still...click on each thumbnail to progress through the items, or just hit "Play."
One of the most dramatic textiles was the one below. I loved these tiny aliens. The work is so beautiful, and the colors vibrant. Each thumbnail has a different view (or you can just hit "Play").
Elizabeth travels for academic conferences, and is occasionally able to extend the travel time in order to take in more of the culture of the countries she is in. This is why she has been able to explore and research textiles on some of her trips.
Aren't we fortunate--those of us who were there to see this show? With thanks to Elizabeth for letting me photograph and post the photos, for her lively talk and especially for lugging all the heavy, bulky textiles to the meeting. All of her hard work resulted in a fabulous experience for the rest of us.
In reading one of the Zentangle® blogs, I just spotted the most amazing photographs on--of all things--manufacturing pencils. They are in an article written for New York Times.
These amazing art photos were taken at the General Pencil Company (We who tangle love their pencils. And according to the Zentangle blog, the owner of the company is now a Certified Zentangle Teacher, which delighted me).
I cannot show the photos because of course they are copyrighted, but you won't believe how beautiful they are. Check them out HERE.
(Thank you to the Zentangle folks for publicizing this.)
Look what arrived on my doorstep today. Oh boy oh boy.
NOTE to those who don't have time to read: I DID NOT MAKE THESE OR DRAW ON THEM. THEY CAME THIS WAY.
Golden Lotus boots. Talk about mad love for an object--wow. Love these.
I sent pictures to friends who know I tangle and they all went crazy for my amazing artwork. They thought I made them. Thank you to everyone who even had that passing thought. I wish!!! But I DIDN'T MAKE THESE. I just bought them, as is. They're commercial boots. I took one look at them and helplessly succumbed.
Did I need them? No. Did I have to have them? Oh yeah. Am I sorry? You're kidding, right? NO.
I fear this makes me the Imelda Marcos of mindfulness practitioners. Uh-oh.
Talk about a dramatic year. And it still has over three months to go.
I know I'm not the only one dealing with drama; Americans in general have their hands full with WAY too much drama at the moment--and given who is in the White House, it's bound to accelerate. And alas, our drama tends to become the world's drama.
However, this isn't a post about politics.
So far this year for me:
I'm feeling concerned and hopeful for my dear friends, all of them--near and far. Feeling impatient to get on with my altered life here. Feeling concerned about the political scene locally and globally. Feeling more concerned than ever about our fragile, beautiful planet.
If I weren't meditating daily...well, I don't want to think about it.
May we be safe.
May we be healthy.
May we find peace, and find compassion for each other.
May we grow kinder.
May we care for our mother, the Earth.
This weekend is the annual Franklin County Fair, a local tradition that's been going strong since 1843. (HERE is a great article from 2013 about the fair. Lots of photos.)
So off I went to the Fair, early this morning.
Easy to park. Tons of kids with parents, and everyone looking really happy.
I took photos:
Some rather wonderful quilts:
And of course, since it's an agricultural fair, there were plenty of fruit and vegetable exhibits:
It was somewhat ironic to see all the amazing winning fruit and vegetable displays, and then to walk outside and look at the food vendors and realize every item of food being offered to fair-goers was a heart-attack-on-a-plate item like fried dough, french fries, caramel apples, cotton candy, etc. But that too is traditional at county fairs. I passed on the food! I would have loved some of the apples from the photo above, but alas, it was a prize-winning display-only, and none were for sale.
I bought two lovely things:
This stuff felt just luscious on my hands, and was faintly scented in the most subtle way. I have a hunch I will want more, once the cold weather sets in. And a little did a lot.
I thought I would try this stuff for my poor sore damaged hand (from the broken wrist). When I bought it I was thinking, "What a sucker I am. Waste of good money. This will never make a difference." But ya know...I think it does. I am kind of amazed. Time will tell. It's formulated for arthritis. Note the name: "Hot & Flexy."
I was warned to be sure to wash my hands before touching my eyes after using it, because of the ingredients.
Next came ogling some of the many critters on display: the cows, bunnies, goats, butterflies, sheep, turtles, fish, donkeys and a few of these guys:
S/he (?) had just woken up and gotten up off the floor from a comfy night's sleep, hence the wood shavings all over the torso.
I could relate, given how disheveled I often look in the mornings. Ok, maybe I don't wake up covered in wood shavings but you get the idea.
I mentally congratulated all the winners and left, after first walking the midway with all its rides; that must be spectacular when it's lit up at night, and great fun.
Coming home, I made sure to finish doing my hand exercises. Recovering from this injury has been a much bigger challenge than I thought. But in the last 4 days I'm noticing some major improvements.
Two things that made me feel like a winner today: 1) I unpacked three boxes, something I haven't been able to do since I broke my wrist in June. I am beyond thrilled to see some of my favorite authors once more: David Grayson, May Sarton, Henry Beston and an assortment of others. Rumi and Kabir are at the far right. I feel surrounded by friends again, when I look at this shelf in my living room.
And 2), the final major accomplishment: three months after the wrist injury, I was able to hook my bra for the first time with both hands. (I'm putting this at the very end because I figure no one will read this far) For three months I've had to hook it using one hand only, placing it flat on the bed, and then wrestling it on over my head. Awful! A few days ago I tried putting it on normally--and couldn't. I just didn't have the hand flexibility still. I tried every day this week. And then today--SUCCESS!
And that's how I know that things really are improving.
Oh my gawd. Who knew that I would be taking a five-month sabbatical from blogging? I knew I would have to stop for awhile, but never thought it would be this long.
Little did I know that UN-packing on the other side of the move would take so much longer than the packing ever did. I moved in late March, and I am still nowhere near ready to call myself settled.
In fact, I can declare myself un-settled. Very unsettled indeed, on a number of levels.
I am confident that it will all come right in the end, but in this transition things have often felt very broken. The absence of time to make art has been a major contributor to that. I still do not have either the space or the time to draw, tangle, or hook/punch rugs.
I've had down days for sure--but I am making progress and once I sort out some of the remaining unpacking challenges, I'll be in good shape.
In all of the boxes I've unpacked, I've only noticed three broken items. All of them were much-loved pottery, and two are broken beyond repair. Last night I set about to try to fix this one:
It's one of my favorite bowls by Nancy Shotola, whose pottery I've been collecting for years now. When I finished my clumsy repair, it looked like this:
Yup. Bloody awful.
But you know, it made me think of Kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing ceramics with gold-infused resin, transforming them into objects even lovelier than they were before. (It's also referred to as "kintsukuroi.") hope you'll take a moment to view the photos on that site.
My own clumsy, non-Kintsugi repair of that bowl meant that when I tested it by filling it with water after the glue had "set" overnight, all the water ran out of the bottom immediately. Alas. Unless I can figure out a way to repair-my-repair, I will no longer be able to use the bowl for storing liquids. But that doesn't mean it can no longer be used, right?
There are life metaphors aplenty here. Such as, learning to let go. Or the famous Leonard Cohen quote, "There is crack in everything. That's how the light gets in." Or the Hemingway quote from A Farewell to Arms about being strong at the broken places.
(Although I think the Hemingway quote is usually taken out of context; I'm not sure that, in its original context, it has the meaning we would like to attribute to it!)
Fortunately I have continued to meditate day after day, and that has undoubtedly kept me on a more even keel. But even with the support of meditation, things have been rocky.
There is simply no hastening the process of transition.
I have truly wonderful friends nearby. And much-loved friends from my previous location have also been coming to visit. I'm thinking of joining a chorus which rehearses only two blocks from here. And I have found a great studio space that's only a twenty-minute walk, if I can ever find the time to begin doing art again.
Here's a relevant quote from Thomas Wolfe's book, You Can't Go Home Again, which encapsulates much of what I've been pondering:
"You can't go back home to your family, back home to your childhood ... back home to a young man's dreams of glory and of fame ... back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time – back home to the escapes of Time and Memory."
I've been thinking about the function of nostalgia in our lives. When is nostalgia useful? When is nostalgia an obstacle?
Here is just one reason I most certainly cannot go back, even if I wished to. It's a photograph of what's underway in my old apartment.
Renovation is well underway in just about every room.
And that is true for me as well--renovation is definitely underway within my psyche. It's turning up a lot of grime as I break through old psychological walls and floors. There are days when I hardly recognize myself. There are days when almost every single thing I do is a "first time adventure." (Exhausting) There are days, hours, minutes, that are dark. There are storms moving through. But, there are these days as well (below):
Whatever the weather, I needed to do this.
To return to my original analogy about the broken bowls: I needed to shatter the container of my life and re-form it.
I'm at the stage now where things are in pieces and I am just beginning to put them back together.
It's disorienting, exciting, upsetting, hard, and comical. This is a stage requiring a lot of patience.
I am not patient.
In fact, I am highly proficient at impatience, heavily laced with whining.
However, I am committed to seeing this through.
As with the art of Kintsugi, If i can mix the gold with the resin here and apply it carefully, then what comes out of this should be even more lovely than what went before. Perhaps that is the one "art" that I am focusing on right now.
Wish me luck.
Here is a poem by Mollie Grant which says it all:
Kintsugi: the Japanese Art of Golden Repair
(I have not been able to reach her to get permission to print it here so I'm just directing you to her page and you can read the poem there.)
And check out this short post for a wonderful poem by Lisa Cohen on Kintsugi.
Yes, I am in the back of a police car here. You can see bars on the window (you can actually see them better in the reflection on the left side of the photo).
I was thrilled.
I think--I hope--this is the only time in my life that I will get to ride in a police car. So why was I happy? Because they were rescuing us. Me and my buddy K. We had set out that morning to drive to CT for a meeting of rug hookers at a good friend's house. While leaving Boston we hit a pothole on the Mass Turnpike and shredded the tire on my friend's car. Argh!!! Nasty.
We limped along on the Pike with hazard lights on and got off at the next exit, which was close, fortunately. I'll spare you the details of a long and somewhat harrowing wait for help (over an hour). The tow truck driver couldn't take 2 people in his truck, so a kindly policeman agreed to ferry us to the garage, and did.
I was in the side of the police car that was apparently for the hardened criminals--no door handle, bars on the windows, hard plastic seat (the better to hose off easily in case of unmentionable disgusting substances produced by anyone sitting there). My friend K was in the opposite seat; her door had a handle and her window had no bars on it. Between us (and also between us and the front seat) was a barrier of clear plexiglass, undoubtedly bullet-proof.
I was so interested to see what all this was like! It was the ONLY good thing about this adventure, trust me. Of course I couldn't keep my mouth shut and told the kind officer that he was giving two hookers a ride. Perhaps that is why I ended up on the "wrong side" of the back seat? I wish you could have seen his face, until I explained I was referring to rug hooking.
I thoroughly enjoyed myself. The short ride was mind-bogglingly uncomfortable as we bounced up and down over every tiny bump. Those hard-plastic seats are really torture.
I totally loved my ride in the Paddy Wagon.
After which we got the repair done and proceeded to CT. We had to--we were bringing lunch. We got to stay for only 3 hours before we had to go home, and had a great time as always, but I was so disappointed because we usually stay all day and the setting is absolutely gorgeous. Oh well, another time.
Yesterday I was able to move out of my studio here, with the help of a very kind friend, and bring it 90 miles west to my new home. We couldn't quite get everything in, but here is all that's left:
It will be a cinch to move these final things and I can just put them in my car.
Here is the most recent picture from my room-packing exploits:
Not too much left besides the kitchen, some clothing, and odds and ends. It's all beginning to become real. I'm curious to see what the next month brings, and how I will react to it. Which reminds me: it's time to meditate.
So here is why I haven't been blogging, and won't be able to blog much for awhile.
O, mama! My aching back. Truthfully, my back is fine--a major miracle--but my knees are killing me. Each day I set a goal of how much to get done, and so far so good. But wow, is there a long way to go.
It's bad. But oddly, it's not quite as bad as I'd feared.
The plus side is that I'm finding lots of buried treasure.
-- A memorial journal to a beloved friend (pictured) who died many years ago. I haven't seen it for years and it has a number of great photos and stories--I'll have to get it back into circulation with her other friends, who are all still special much-loved people in my life.
--Several notebooks with tarot notes I wrote back in the 1970s.
-- Random photos popping up, small glimpses of a former life.
-- Books I no longer need and can let go of (hurrah!), and wonderful "old-friend-books" I haven't seen in a long time.
So far I have resisted taking the time to dive into the buried treasure, but tonight I plan on indulging myself, going thru the memorial journal and looking through those 40 year old notes on tarot.
“It's easier to die than to move ... at least for the Other Side you don't need trunks.”
― Wallace Stegner, Angle of Repose
I'm a textile artist (traditional rug hooking, punch needle rug hooking, and other textile arts), long-time meditator and coach, focused on learning about the interplay of art, creativity, and mindfulness every day.
NEXT INTRO TO ZENTANGLE CLASS:
I'm teaching a Beginning Zentangle® class at the Greenfield Community Center on May 29th from 1-3 pm. They do not have a website so please call them for more information.
I am always happy to teach 1-1 and/or in a small group in your home.)
Come and amaze yourself!
SITES TO WATCH:
Insight Meditation Society
Oxford Rug Hooking School
Zentangle: The Official Site
Green Mountain Rug Hooking
Massachusetts Tarot Society