Grackle & Sun

Resolute

I love this time of year, when everything is turned to browns and greys; when the earth shows its bones, its humbling architecture. 20151220_103014The weather is changeable where we are. Christmas day was a balmy 60 degrees this year. Strange, but lovely. Then it was all thunderstorms and tornadoes. And flooding, lots and lots of flooding. Not what one would expect at the end of December, even in the Midwest.  Now it’s cold. Finally. And still flooding.

We took advantage of the winter reprieve to tend to the garden–something which got lost in the shuffle this fall. Husband did a rough turning over with the tractor, but before he did, I made sure to clear out any big stuff that was left–a missed tomato cage, dried okra stalks, pavers, and… Look what I found!

20151220_104242Yeah. That’s a radish bigger than my head! And you know what they say–never eat anything that’s bigger than your head and certainly not three that are bigger than your boots… Should I be a radish farmer or what?20151220_104333

Time to sweep out the old year and welcome in the new. I am so excited for this new year, I can hardly stand it. I’ve got a list of all the things I want to do:

  1. Become best friends with my body–maybe do some juicing, a little cleansey+detoxy sort of thing, and (ahem) start working out again. Easy, right?
  2. Take trumpet lessons.
  3. Grow a bunch of awesome seedlings for the garden.
  4. Establish proper dye, herb, and medicinal gardens.
  5. Do this fun Plant Ally Project Challenge.
  6. Two words: Dye. Yarn.
  7. Have the soil at the farm tested.
  8. De-fence the pastures. Re-fence the pastures.
  9. Begin management intensive grazing.  Of the sheep, not me.
  10. Start drawing again. Play with the inks (that I’ve had for 5 years).
  11. Fix my sewing machine. Sew.
  12. Learn how to make tinctures and more medicinal tea blends.
  13. Learn how to can, freeze, and dehydrate.
  14. Take more walks.
  15. Paddle the MR340.
  16. Prolly ought to practice paddling.
  17. Sprout broccoli. Eat the sprouted broccoli.
  18. Make water kefir. Drink the water kefir.
  19. Figure out what I want to do when I grow up.
  20. Send postcards to friends and family.
  21. Go on a silent retreat.
  22. Write down the stories in my head.
  23. Clean the basement. LOLOLOLOL.
  24. Welcome the magic in my life.
  25. PLAY MORE. And relax, everything is ok.

It all looks so simple in a list. Who knows how much of it will happen. Doesn’t matter. I used to care about checking things off the list, but then I realized that it’s much nicer to just let the list show me what categories of things I’m finding important and/or need to work on. Maybe I’ll chuck through it, maybe I’ll struggle. But I will remain resolute that however it goes, it goes in good cheer and thankfulness.

So, friends, what hopes do you have for the New Year? What fantastical feats do you wish to accomplish? What mad new skillz do you dream of acquiring? What do you secretly dream will happen in the upcoming months? Tell me, tell me!

Have a very happy New Year!  May it be filled with many blessings–good health, good company, and loads of good luck.

–d

 

 

 

 

 

To Feel Linen: A Field Trip

I’ve been in the mood for art. Seeing art. Experiencing art. Thinking about art. Maybe even making art. This past Saturday, I had the good fortune to spend a beautiful day at three art exhibits at three different art museums.

The first was the St. Louis Art Museum’s Modern exhibit featuring designs from local architects, artists, and designers from the 30’s through 60’s. Very cool. Very Scandinavian. Some great textiles.

The third was a beautiful and ethically complex exhibit of African Kota at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation. Kota are wooden and metal sculptures which were carved to protect the bones of the deceased. To see these sculptures in a museum is to seen them taken away from their purpose. Despite the fascinating glimpse into another culture and history, I couldn’t help thinking, who is watching over the ancestors now?

The second was an exhibit by Sheila Hicks at the Contemporary Art Museum.  You can take the tour with me via the sad, sad photos taken with my phone’s camera, OR you can click on the link above and take a quick video tour of the whole exhibit. It gives a much better sense of scale, and you can pretend that you went with me!

Here are some pics:

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Sweden, 2004. Linen, wool, and silk.

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Feeling Blue, Seeing White, 2013. Cotton on bast.

 

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Full Regalia, 2007.

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Natural linen and triple-dyed embroidery cotton.

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Evolving Tapestry: Blue, 1967-68. Linen and silk.

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Don’t you just want to run your hands across it?

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Escape to the North, 2013. Linen, silk, bamboo, and porcupine quills.

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Masonry Panel, 1981. Linen and cotton.

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Forêt de Lin Wall Hanging (c. 1968, reconstructed 1983) Wet-spun linen.

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I can just imagine a soft breeze rustling these softly.

 

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Hieroglyph Wuppertal, 1966. Natural linen.

I truly loved this exhibit. Loved all the weaving. Loved all the linen. So much texture and colour. It was beautiful and simple and glorious. I also must admit that I had to keep my hands locked firmly under my arms so that I wouldn’t forget and touch the pieces. The soft, blue fuzziness of the Evolving Tapestry. The glorious bas-relief effect of the Forêt de Lin Wall Hanging. Which I desperately wanted to touch. To make it rustle. Like sheaves of wheat. It was almost too much. It was almost unkind to not let us touch. Almost. Textiles beg to be touched. Or I beg to touch textiles. Take your pick. ;)

Morning Meditation: {Don’t Think of Elephants}

I was chasing the sun. A common thing. Early in the morning. An uncommon thing.  But it’s what I needed to do. So Ronin and I drove to the banks of the Mighty Mississippi, which is where the sun was hanging out.

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Ronin is my good buddy.

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I’ve lived by the Mississippi for years and years. I’ve watched full moons and red moons rise over it. I’ve seen it high and rushing, full of branches and limbs as big as boats. I’ve seen it so low it showed its secrets–wing dams and dry banks. I’ve seen it whipped so hard by the wind that whitecaps stood up like ocean waves. I’ve seen it in the dark with only lights from the bridge reflecting on its dark surface. But I’d never seen it at dawn. I didn’t realize that until I was standing there watching the mist rise off the water like some otherworldly veil, softening the sounds of the river as it flowed past.

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The riverfront here is a combination of paved areas and old hand-laid rough cobblestones. You can walk along it for a long way in either direction, and you can walk right into the water if you like. Something caught Ronin’s attention, and he was trying–as only a dog can–to inhale the entire world through his nose. I followed him, curious about what had him so excited. We walked right to the edge of the embankment, several feet above the water, and looked down. There was a dead fish floating–half a silver carp–very big, staring up at us. Mystery solved. I wondered how it had died, why it was there. Then I caught something out of the corner of my eye. Immediate recognition. A few feet to the left, nestled between some sharp rocks, an unmistakable shape under the water.

Ganesha.

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I asked Ronin to wait for me and climbed over the edge of the embankment onto the rocks below. Ganesh was glowing orange with the light of the dawn, the colors soft under the muddy water. And there it was. The whyness of my morning.

Ganesha, the Remover of All Obstacles, the god of new beginnings.

We said thank you to the river, goodbye to the dawn. We stood and waited patiently for a morning train to pass; it’s tracks run right between the river and the street where we parked. It’s the only place I know where you can stand so close to a passing train that you could touch it, jump on for a ride. And nobody thinks anything of it. Small town. Ganesh rode in the passenger seat as I drove us all home. I washed the river off him and anointed him with butter, and now he sits in our kitchen where he is very happy to look over things from the heart of the house. And obstacles are being removed.

The elephant in the room is my atheishness. But I’ve learned not to overthink these things. Gifts from the Universe take many forms, and we are fools to think they will only come in one flavor–no matter how we try to construct our reality. So follow what pulls you, keep your eyes open for shapes in the water, and listen to your dogs. That is how you catch a wave and surf the Universe–nimbly and joyously and always, always with gratitude.

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Hot Granola

It has begun. The transitional winds are a-blowin’, and I am feeling reflective. I am living in that thin place in the Inbetween that makes me itchy and restless, melancholic and introspective, and ultimately buzzing with awareness of all that is unseen around me. I realized the other day that I measure the years of my life in summers, in how many summers have passed and passed. Here it is passing again. My gut reaction is always to hold on to the long light so tightly, afraid that if I let it go without a fight, I too will slip away like summer does–into the silence of the cicadas, the darkness of the fireflies.

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It’s weird to wake up one day and to not recognize yourself–to find that what once was used to protect yourself somehow became a barrier to being yourself.  It’s a bi-product of anxiety and of living too long in the wrong place. And what happens? You disconnect from the Flow, only occasionally aware of how you fit in the Universe. You think your eyes are open, but they are not open. This is what happened. I became this serious thing, impatient. I forgot how to play.

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I remember one day last summer, walking through the woods along the creek that runs not far from our house, and it hit me: I had to make it my priority to unclench. That has been my daily practice this year–to gently, but surely, pry open the fist that holds my insides in a deathgrip. Because clenching or unclenching is a choice. How we see and respond to the world is a choice. Old habits die hard. I have to shake off this pall frequently, reminding myself to lighten up.

To open up.

                                                                                                To look up.

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In all this reflectiveness, I came to understand something which I think is rather important: the deep necessity of all things whimsical.

Whimsy is my antidote to apathy.

I have learned that when life sends you whimsy, you take it and say thank you. You eat it until your soul-belly is full. You breathe it in until you can feel it in every cell of your being. You wrap it around your shoulders like a cashmere pashmina, because what is whimsical can keep you warm in a cold, cold world of assholes, drudgery, and taxes. It is the delightful and profound pairing of beauty and playfulness that reminds us to be curious, to be lighthearted, and most of all open to seeing a reality that is quite different than what we’ve been told it should be. Because the truth of something is not always in its facts. That is magic.

Whimsy is a gift, and those that bring it into your life should be welcomed with open arms. And if we are very lucky, we can create a little of our own, too, and cast it into the world to share. I am blessed to be surrounded by people who bring beauty to the world and who very patiently remind me to play.

Happy Equinox, All.

Chickie-booms

Quick chicken update.

We (and by that I mean mostly my Husband of Awesomeness) fenced in the garden and a bigger, lusher chicken yard this spring.  They have a huge (you know, for a chicken) space to graze. And they do–with an intensity that is both mind-boggling and addictive to watch. It is strangely satisfying (and ridiculously easy) to make chickens happy.

Husband of Awesomeness, aka Fence Builder.

One of the Buff Orpies.

Doing their thing in the freshly tilled earth.

A very gentlemanly rooster.

Curious chicken. Or maybe she was helping to pick out seeds.

And then this one had to have a say.

No, they’re not dead. They take dust baths, then they take dust naps.

Hunkering down.

CHICKS!!!

They grow fast. And they’re a completely different colour and pattern than the hen or the rooser. See them in the back?

A blurry close-up–they are very skittish and won’t let me get close. Mama hen was protective in a way I didn’t care to test, lol.

Chickens eating lemon balm = happy (and very relaxed) chickens. :D

Sad news. One of the Buff Orpies disappeared. We are guessing a hawk. There is a pair of red-shouldered hawks that live in the woods behind the lake. Sad that she is gone, also know that it’s just how it goes on a farm. The pen attached to the chicken house is completely covered, but the only way to let them have the joy of the open pasture is to leave them somewhat vulnerable. Sigh. It’s a trade-off, but one that is worth it for the health of the flock, I think.

That’s all my chicken news for now. Next plan–building a chicken swing. Not even kidding. :D

Morning Meditation: Life As It Should Be

It really can be this simple.

Satisfaction.  Contentment.  Fulfilment.  Happiness.

And the measure of this?

All to be found in watching a flock of sheep graze in a green pasture.

In the light filtering through dogwood blossoms.

In the song of a red-shouldered hawk hiding in the canopy of great oak trees.

In the hum of bees in pear blossoms.

In the soft green of leaves unfurling.

In the warmth of the sun’s good medicine.

In belonging where you are.

Wait for It….

I missed the lunar eclipse. Would not really have been able to see it from here anyway. So I slept.

And then I woke up, and during the course of my day, saw all these other wonderful things instead!

Overnight, all the violets in the world bloomed.

The woods behind my house full of Spring Beauty, Claytonia virginica.

A miniature field of grape hyacinths, which smell absolutely divine–from a close distance.

Always happy to see these sunny little lions.

Chickweed, Stellaria media. Of course, not a weed at all, but a medicinal soother.

May…

Apples…

Un…

Furling.

Maybe this year I’ll get to taste one…

A nibble-on Trillium.

Native American fishing net plummets. Who knew? I did not.

Thank you, local Conservation Center!

And, my friends, for the best part of the day.  I took a lovely afternoon drive–windows down, Bjork blasting her quirky Icelandic heart out on my speakers.  A drive which led to my knitting buddy’s alpaca farm. I feel that should be in all caps.

ALPACA FARM FIELD TRIP!

Aw, yeah. That’s right. All the fun enhappenated.

Oh, the squishy, springy, lustrous wonderfulness. I touched a lot of alpaca today.

 I got kissed by an alpaca. No joke. It’s how they say hi, things are cool. They have very soft noses. This is not the alpaca I bumped noses with. It’s hard to take a picture of an alpaca when her face is in your face, so Sweetums remains unseen.

They will be shorn next week. Ready for the heat of a Missouri summer. Their teeth will be filed (as the photo above shows, it’s time) and their toes trimmed. All in 8 minutes per animal, so I’m told. Professional shearers know their stuff, hunh?

Look at that coat! Practically begging to be spun. I’ve never wanted a wheel as much as I did today. I’ve got to start spinning.

The biggest surprise to me was how stout alpaca are. They are muscley little things under all that gorgeous, sproingy wool.

They are also very curious and personable. Really delightful souls.

Alpaca. Best field trip ever.

Morning Meditation: Atheist Prayer

I am an atheist. And I pray.

I recognized some time ago, long after I’d finally admitted out loud to the world that I neither believe in the existence of nor worship any personal Supreme Beings of any sort, that the one thing I missed about my religious upbringing was prayer. Why? I’ve struggled with this for a long time. It is too bound up in the usage and meanings of others. I’ve had to pick this thing apart piece by piece, knowing that if I could first identify and articulate what I meant by prayer, maybe then I would understand why I, an atheist, need it.

A significant part of this journey was reconciling, in both my inner and outer worlds, that I believe in things that may not fit most people’s definition of atheist. I am an animatheist. Animist and atheist. Some might call this an atheopagan. Same circles. Suffice it to say that while I don’t worship any gods, I am deeply steeped in the spirit, and my life reflects that. We can get into this some other time. Preferably around a fire with a good hard cider. We will talk about strange phenomena, lucid dreaming, plant energy, daoist witchcraft, folk magic, hylozoism, Marcus Aurelius and Epicurus, and the delightful and dark world of the subconscious. I promise, it will be fun.

And so here we are at the point where I tell you what prayer is to me. Prayer is a sort of meditation, one that works for people, like me, whose monkey minds cannot abide staring at walls with their eyes half closed, silent and still. The words of a prayer recited or chanted calm the monkey and unlock the stillness within. Prayer is a key. Prayer is also a gateway. By using an external mechanism, a symbol, such as prayer beads, in conjunction with the often poetic or heartfelt language of the prayer, the conscious is bypassed and the subconscious is tapped. Through prayer, we tuck our rational, linear conscious mind into our back pocket for a while and allow the subconscious to take over and to guide us, to speak freely from the deepest parts of ourselves. Prayer is a lens. It allows us to focus our intention and will. Through prayer we identify problems and ask our deeper selves for solutions. Prayer is a ritual reminder to be mindful, to be thankful, to be good, to be aware, to be better. Prayer is an acceptance of our humble state in this universe. Through prayer we acknowledge that we are not in control of all the things, and at the same time we acknowledge our connection to all the things and our responsibility to do what we can. Through prayer we practice and reinforce learning how to ease up and go with the flow. Finally, prayer is the yin to the yang of Action. Prayer is reflective and restorative. It allows us to still our thoughts, heal our spirits, focus our intentions, and gather our potential energy so that we may then go into the world and act with wisdom and kindness and understanding. Prayer helps us get our heads on straight, to get right with ourselves. So, even though I do not pray to any gods, I pray for these reasons.

I wanted to make prayer beads specifically because I wanted something to hold in my hands—not only to help me focus, but also as a reminder that Prayer and Action go together. That the same hands that pray for something must then go make it so. And so I made what I very tongue-in-cheek call my “witch’s rosary”.  In reality, as witch is not exactly a title I claim, it is simply my chantstrand.The beadwork was set to a prayer of sorts that I’d written a long time ago and is not symmetrical. It is made of handpicked white Job’s Tears and polished copper ore on red thread. There are more in the works, by request and also to be set to other prayers and chants. I think writing one’s own prayers can be very liberating and healing and can bring a great deal of clarity and solidity to one’s practice.

Many blessings to you all as you find your spiritual center. Remember that you can carve that out for yourself.

Knit|tinK: Sweet Little Shawl

All that ranting and moaning about not being able to knit apparently unblocked my mojo. I decided the next day that I needed to cast on a quick little project for a gift I had promised a friend months ago. I found the perfect pattern in Susan Galbraith’s Sumptuous Stripes Shawlette.

The shawl is a gift for a teenage girl, and so I decided that making it easy to wash would be the kind thing to do. I used two skeins of my go-to favourite “I’m making this for a kid” yarn, which is Lion Brand Wool-Ease in worsted weight heathered solids. We all have our guilty knitting pleasures, and Wool-Ease is mine. It wears well, and you can chuck it into the washer and dryer many, many, many times, and it comes out looking like new. The natural-coloured Romney wool snob in me is stamping her foot in the corner. I am ignoring her.

This took all of two days to finish. I had fun learning how to knit on an edging, which somehow I had never done before. Susan was super helpful in answering my questions when I couldn’t quite visualize where I was in space and time. It all came together without a hitch. Well, almost. The Universe had a hand in this project, of course. See, the funny part about the whole thing is that in order to get the drape I was looking for, I had to go up in needles size. To size 11. So, two projects going on size 11s at the same time. Ha! That’s what I get for bitching.

The only other size 11 needles I had in the house were a pair of old aluminum straights. Not even all that straight–one has a bend in it either from use or maybe from being sat on… I was NOT going to buy another pair of circs in a size I abhor, and so I used the straights. I crammed all 199 stitches onto those cold, chubby, metal sticks, and I made it happen.

Turned out pretty cute.  Thanks to awesome teenage daughter who modeled for my “knit cred”.

I have a thing for knitting stripes. In part, it is due to my “stripe amnesia”–that’s what it’s called when you forget how horrible it is to weave in a millionty ends. BUT, this pattern had no end weaving whatsoever due to the very clever, yet simple, way the colours are carried and changed. I also love the way the edging took care of binding off the live stitches and helped the stockinette to lay down nice and flat. Lovely. Especially since the downfall of Wool-Ease is its lack of blockability.

There we go. Knitting success. Mojo unblocked. Needles flying like the wind.

Aaaaaand… I’m back to the afghan. :D

As always, tinks on me.

Knit|tinK: Squirrels

It’s been a minute since I posted a knitting project. This is true for one incredibly simple reason. I’m knitting an afghan.

It was supposed to be a wedding gift. Ha! I thumb my nose at deadlines. But if I’m very, very lucky, it can be an anniversary gift instead. I’m so not even joking. I’ve been knitting this thing since June, and I’m only, like, 8 inches into it. And that’s on size 11s! Knitting with size 11 needles is like coloring with chubby crayons. It’s like building with Duplo blocks instead of Lego.The whole process is all ham-fisted and unwieldy and weird. My one salvation is the sweet, sweet comfort of feather + fan.  Blessed be the four row repeat.

This kind of knitting is mindless. Is boring. Is the kind of knitting that requires discipline, self control, and the ability to stay the course. To not get distracted. Did you see the seed catalog peeking out from the basket? That is not helping. I sat down to knit the other night and instead wrote up my entire seed order. I try to knit on this monster beast and suddenly I’ve got the brain capacity of a rabid squirrel on a merry-go-round. Today, I did the dishes instead of knitting. I vacuumed.

I’M WRITING A BLOG POST ABOUT KNITTING THE AFGHAN INSTEAD OF KNITTING THE AFGHAN.

What is the problem? I don’t know. Usually knitting time is a gift. But for some reason, right now I just can’t sit still that long. I am restless. I am weak. I am undisciplined. I am… Look, shells! These are shells I found on the beaches in Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware. Yes, Delaware actually does exist. I have been there and know it is true. I love the ocean. I am also afraid of it. And shells are pretty fantastic.

I love the devil’s purse. I wonder who first gave it that name? Did you know that these are the egg cases of sharks and skates? Some awesome little baby sea creature hatched out of this crazy collagen pod. Some mama sea creature MADE this crazy collagen pod with her body. How wild is that?

And all this sunlight saying everything is ok. Urging me to look, and then look again. To think of beauty and far off places. Of stories and adventures. Of possibilities.

Aaaaand… still no knitting. But I did get hungry what with all this cleaning and contemplation. So, I made myself a green smoothie. Can I just say that my smoothies, although quite delicious, never ever ever ever ever look like they do in health food magazines or celebrity cookbooks. My smoothies look like this.

Mmmmm, yum. Lol. Let’s be real here. That is one super healthy smoothie–burgeoning with ripe (albeit, frozen) cherries, masses of fresh kale, coconut oil, heaping tablespoons of omega-laden flax meal, super duper grain-free plant-based protein powder, and powerhouse antioxidant camu camu. It’s healthy, but it is not sexy. That is one fugly smoothie. I bring it up simply to point out that the good stuff rarely looks like it does in photos. And I think this derails a lot of people, keeps them from sticking to their good, healthy intentions. We get so hung up on the image that we lose sight of the content. It doesn’t look perfect so we messed up, right? What’s the point? Then we spend all our precious energy on trying to make things look right instead of spending it on making sure we’re doing it right. Or doing it at all.

So, what were we talking about? Oh, yeah. Me not knitting an afghan.

:P

As always, tinks are on me.

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