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've been in caught in a maelstrom of activity: First spending time with my Woolies, then driving out of state to attend an amazing workshop, then home to officially close on the condo.
I am now a home owner. Gulp.
I've been packing like a crazy woman, loading up the car, and driving across the state and back several times. I'm completely immersed in the early stages of the mess of moving. But I'm getting ahead of myself...
First there was the Wooly Bully meeting the Friday before Martin Luther King weekend. Here are some shots of the rugs we've been working on:
Then on Saturday of Martin Luther King day weekend, I drove to Vermont to take a paste-paper journal workshop with Nancy Shepherd. It was not an good time for me to be doing this, given the messy transition I'm in, but I had signed up for it several months in advance--before I knew what the future held. More importantly, I had been wanting to take this workshop for about 20 years (seriously), after my friend Georg made many such journals and gave me several. Here is a photo of all the journals produced by the students over this three-day workshop:
Below are all the paste papers I made on the first day of the workshop. They are laid out on newspaper to dry.
I wish I'd had a chance to photograph everyone's papers, but I was only able to snap my own.
Here are the front covers of the journals I made, and their bindings:
I have to say I was thrilled beyond belief to learn how to do this. My only wish is that had the time now to practice with all the other papers I created. But that will have to wait until after I move and unpack--so the earliest that I'll be getting back to this will be summer. Phooey. Not only that, but I don't have room to store the new papers because I'm packing everything up; I had to store all of them in my hosts' house in Vermont.
This would be a good time to say a hearty thank-you to my two kind and talented hosts, Sadelle and Ann. Not only did they put me up (or more accurately, "put up with me" !!) but they went way above and beyond with great conversation and excellent home cooking. "Num num num," as Cookie Monster would say. And then there were the Sweetie-Pie Doggie, the Cat Who Must Be Obeyed, and the Shy Timid Kitty, who were really lovely. Thank you Sadelle and Ann for making this possible.
But wait, there's more...
Coming back from Vermont, I drove to the condo for a pre-purchase walk-through, then drove back to Boston. The following day I signed all the final papers to officially buy it. 24 hours later, I left Boston and drove back to the condo and stayed for two nights. Then back here for a couple of days, then out there again for two more nights. Taking stuff with me each trip...lots of packing, hauling, moving. I'm exhausted and feel like a ping-pong ball. I'm sure it will all be worth it, but this is not easy. Here are some views:
Oh, and in between all this, two wonderful signs somehow sneaked into this post. The first is my favorite sign from the women's march:
Next I saw this sign (below) in front of my friend Elizabeth's store, and promptly went online HERE and ordered my own copy to download.
That's my (current) story, and I'm sticking to it.
All I can say is, thank goodness for meditation.
I need a vacation.
2016 was a very tough year. No matter which "side" you were on in the brutal election season, it was tough on all of us. The results of the election devastated and terrified me, and many others, on behalf of the future of our people and our planet.
But I cannot move forward or act effectively if I continue to live in this place of devastation and terror.
So, my word for 2017 is: ACCEPTANCE.
Now before those of you who share my political views take umbrage, please bear in mind that "ACCEPTANCE" DOES NOT IMPLY "APPROVAL" or "AGREEMENT." But if we are to take right action on any situation, we must first see the situation clearly as it is. In other words, a gray sky is gray, even if we would prefer it to be blue. The traffic jam we are caught in is indeed a traffic jam, no matter how much we'd prefer to be speeding down the highway. Do we have to like it? No. Agree with it? NO. But in order to deal with it, we have to accept that it is what is happening in this moment. That's where we are.
So, now what?
I've been pondering this and looking for good resources on acceptance. Tara Brach's books, like True Refuge, are on my reading list. I am observing how consistently people confuse Acceptance with Agreement. They are NOT the same. Acting from a place of denial or blind rage produces terrible results, and is one consequence of not being willing to face things "as they are" in order to choose the best possible action.
I know whereof I speak. I've just spent the entire last month refusing to accept the way things are in my life. With predictably ineffective and poor results. It's time to face reality.
I hasten to add that I have a l-o-n-g way to go to achieve any sort of acceptance, but I plan to be focusing on it. 2017 is going to be a challenging year for me, not just because of the election results but because I am relocating after many years in one place. I need to remember what one good friend was saying to herself yesterday: "Stay in the now. Stay in the now. Stay in the fucking NOW." (She was talking about her acceptance of her own temporary medical issue, but it applies 100% to me as well.) Anyone who knows me and has been around me lately knows how far away I am from achieving the wisdom and peace that acceptance can bring.
The Buddhists have the best perspective on this, and here are some short online pieces that I have found useful. You do not have to be Buddhist to appreciate these thoughts:
1. Support yourself through the learning process
2. See things for what they really are
3. Take things less personally
4. Don’t confuse acceptance with a statement of preference
5. Get used to the way things actually are
6. See acceptance as the ability to relax around things
7. See acceptance as something you do for yourself
8. Recognise that something good comes out of acceptance
9. See challenges as part of a story that is cool in some ways
10. Recognise that flaws belong to the nature of things
11. See flaws as the price for an overall package you can accept
12. Imagine how much worse some things could have been
13. Start to laugh at things more often
14. Practise detachment from thoughts
15. Practise simple contentment with the present moment
16. Remember that nothing lasts forever
I'll be focusing on Acceptance this year, which means I hope to be clearer and more effective at seeing when things need to change (and when they don't), and how best to act to change them. My meditation practice will help, and I hope my friends will feel free to remind me of this focus when I lose it.
“Sometimes you just have to regret things and move on.”
― Charlaine Harris
What a lovely day today was.
The Red Buddha on the left is a photo I took of a large installation on the wall of an unlit back hall of a local restaurant--apparently supervising things while in the dark and unseen. I discovered it on my way to the restroom. The dramatic red color is due to the fact that the only light is a red exit sign just over the Buddha's head.
This Buddha is about four feet tall, apparently made from cement. I couldn't help wondering what it was doing mysteriously installed in the darkness, nearly invisible.
Perhaps some things we'll just never understand.
I was at the restaurant with two very dear friends who, as it happened, hadn't seen each other in over a quarter century. I've seen both of them but they hadn't seen each other. In the interim they've both had and raised children up to adulthood.
We three had a lovely lunch.
After lunch we took an Uber to the Fogg Art Museum and entered the Dreamtime. We went to the truly wonderful exhibit by Aboriginal Artists which is currently on display. All the work shown was inspired and gorgeous, three large rooms of dreamy paintings, carvings, and other objects. Below are three of my favorites with their credits and commentary. I urge you to go and see this exhibit before it closes in early September. Check the URL above for more information and more pictures.
Originally I had planned this trip with one friend; my other friend suddenly contacted me last night to say that she was coming into town and did I have time today...? So we swept her into our plans, which meant that two people who hadn't seen each other in decades had the pleasure and fun of reconnecting. And I had the pleasure and fun of being with both of them, and watching them catch up.
Friends. I am so lucky to have them. Thank you both for a wonderful day.
“Friendship marks a life even more deeply than love. Love risks degenerating into obsession, friendship is never anything but sharing.”
― Elie Wiesel
Look who paid me a visit in the studio today, completely out of season:
I mean, it's April, for heaven's sake. What is he doing around? At least he brought his cat. That was fun.
Ok, ok. What is this about...?
On Monday, I noticed a craigslist ad for three hooked rugs for $12 each. With photos. They were all wonderful. I wondered if they could actually be hand-hooked. If they were, I found the price both exciting and depressing.
Anyway, I am NOT, repeat...NOT...a Christmas or a Santa fan. But I know lots of people who are, and I had one in mind. Plus even I--the original Grinch--thought this Santa-with-an-adorable-obviously-loved-kitty was darling.
I emailed the photos to my rug hooking group and sure enough, Cheryl the Rug Rescuer was interested. And I was interested in one of the other two rugs. So on Monday I drove to a local Costco parking lot which was halfway between the seller's town and my town, and bought two of the rugs. Of which Santa is one. On the way there it occurred to me that I had sadly neglected to ask the most important question: "Are these rugs hand-hooked?" I can't believe I didn't ask that!
By the time I pulled into the parking lot I realized my error and pretty much assumed they were machine-made in China. And that's how it seemed at first. But then...
Here's a closeup of the cutie-pie cat. Who cares if he's not hand-hooked?
Ok, so I meet the seller in the parking lot and my first question is the one I should already have asked. I can see that the three rugs all have a weird backing attached to them. A bad sign. Definitely machine made. Then the lovely and nice seller tells me she bought them from Orvis (she thinks) years ago. Ok, not just machine made but machine made IN CHINA probably. Worse and worse.
But who can resist these rugs? (I'll show the one I kept tomorrow.)
So for $12 each, I buy 2 of the 3 rugs. They are in great shape and totally clean. Well-loved. In the car, I see that the one I'm keeping for myself is "!00% wool, made in China." Definitely not hand-hooked.
I researched hooked rugs at Orvis tonight and found the following statement on an old webpage they had (they no longer sell hooked rugs): "All of our wool hooked rugs are still completely handhooked for an authentic texture, character, feel and coloration. Each depicts a domestic scene that continues the 200 year old tradition of hooked rugs."
No kidding! So while I'm sorry that some unfortunate Chinese laborer, who doesn't believe in Christmas (I get it, neither do I) was likely forced to make this a few decades ago and probably wasn't paid more than 25 cents, the rug IS here, after all, and we may as well care for it and love it for as long as it exists.
Sad. But also, a really wonderful design. And hand-hooked, after all!
So Santa really did come to visit my studio today, and he's sleeping there with his kitty tonight, at least until Cheryl comes tomorrow to take him home.
You may well ask, what the hell are those things?
They are my new laundry detergent.
At least, I think they are. I am still in the testing stage. I've only used them in one laundry cycle so far and they appeared to work great, but I want to try them in several washes before I'm convinced.
Have I lost my mind? And...how did I find out about these things?
Facebook, of course. Someone mentioned this company in their "reply" to a post on the environment. They raved about this product.
Two things made me go immediately to their website:
So, I did.
Result: Apparently perfectly clean clothes with NO scent. And it was a stinky wash, with old blue jeans and some tee shirts I'd worn on a couple of recent hot days. As far as I can tell, the berries did exactly what I wanted.
Aside from the apparently effective washing (I'm still reserving a final opinion until I do several more loads and see what I think then, so stay tuned), I love the fact that the company is family-owned and based on Massachusetts on Cape Cod. The box they came in was recycled and didn't contain any nasty styrofoam peanuts--all that was in there was the bag with the berries. And this sweet note was included in the box:
Adorable. What's not to love? Unless the product doesn't work, and so far I think it does. Time will tell.
No really--I am not getting any money from them for writing about this. And as I've said, I am initially impressed and hopeful but am reserving judgement until after a few more uses.
(After I ordered this product I discovered that my local excellent natural products store also carries soapberries, but apparently a different brand. If I like these, perhaps I'll give those a try also. Who knew there were different brands?)
UPDATE: It's now three washes later. I took the soapberries out of their bag to see what's happening to them. As you can see, the bottom one has split open. In fact, though it's not immediately obvious, they are all splitting open. The one at the very top is clearly in the process of splitting. From what I read on the SoBerry website, these are still quite usable, likely for at least 2 more washes. I will check after each wash I do.
And the results? Thus far my clothes, sheets, and towels are still getting very clean, and there's no artificial scent to deal with. One thing I forgot to mention is that if I need to pre-treat a stain before washing, soapberries can't be used for that and I'll need to use my standard laundry pre-treater. But I don't have to do that very often so that's not an issue for me.
I am really liking these a lot. Unless something happens to change my mind, I think I have found my new laundry detergent--and it's guaranteed not to pollute! The used berries are completely compostable, so I'll just toss them in the garden when they are done.
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:
No immediate group classes scheduled (I'm open to hearing about a good venue in Western Massachusetts. 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