My grandmother with my father. I can hear her laughing in the photograph.
With the temperature this morning hovering above zero and it having been that cold for what seems like forever more and more projects are sadly being started indoors. It’s usually about this time of year when small things start outdoors and move into the bigger spring things.
The past few days have seen a plethora of collections of old photographs being shared with me on social media. All of them are old and people have had to scan them. A cousin commented on how wonderful it was that we had all of these hard copies (pre 1950) to share and wondered about how this would continue. My entire career in photography was based on film. If in color another lab would process and print it, if black and white hours were spent in a darkroom. All along the whole process there was something I could hold in my hand. My negatives were filed meticulously by date and subject and I can still put my hands on them if I need to find something.
With the dawn of the digital age and my activity in it I have had to deal with keeping and finding my files in a whole new way. I still file everything by date (even though each image is time stamped), then each year is filed in its own folder. I then make copies of my files and keep them on portable hard drives – sorry, I can never be too careful. To add another layer at the end of every year I go through all of the files of photographs for that year and pick the best – the ones that would hurt me to lose. I have them printed and bound into a book.
I started doing that with my first digital camera probably in the late 90′s. I can’t say that we look at them a lot but they are there and I like having them. It’s really no different than all of those black and white photos my mother glued onto the black paper of her scrapbooks (or her mother before her).
What I consider the most wonderful part of this digital age of photography is the ability to share all of it – new and old – with your friends and family. Long ago I scanned almost all of the collections of family photographs as a way of preserving them, putting them in chronological order and sharing them. I’ve found I have a profound reaction when seeing photographs of my loved ones from long gone that I have never seen before. This has been made possible through the internet and social media. My great aunt passing spawned something that started out as a way for people to bond, share their loss and find joy in knowing those that are no longer with us. All of that happened but now it is helping us all to have a better understanding of who we are as individuals. Genealogy does that to some extent but this puts faces to the stories and the stories are told as the photographs are shared, by mulitiple people. It’s like sitting in a room with all of your relatives (many I have never even met) talking about people that you loved. You get so many different perspectives and then you learn that so and so’s child looks just like her Memere. It’s pretty great.
Today the take away for me it that my father’s family loved life and family so very much. They laughed – a lot. They were practical jokers and could laugh at themselves. We remember the French, the broken English and how all of it translated into love of family (whether we understood the words or not). We are diminished in a way by their passing but in sharing the photos and stories we see that it continues on in ourselves.
I posted this photograph at the risk of my siblings never speaking to me again. I was looking for something totally unrelated and found a few of these taken at Perry’s Nut House in Belfast Maine in 1966.
Apparently this was the beginning of my photography career. The camera around my and my sister’s neck were acquired with Kellogg’s box tops I seem to recall. I used that camera a few times and still have it with my initials emblazoned on the front of it with a permanent marker. I’m not sure the photographs I had taken with that camera are even around anymore.
We all went through those incredibly awkward stages. Your mother took your picture standing in front of ridiculous things, dressed in ridiculous clothes. We pull them out every so often and think to ourselves “What were they thinking?” or “Who the heck was dressing me?” or “Were those really the only glasses available in the mid sixties?” What I am finding out, more so as I get older, is the importance of some of these images to other family members regardless of how annoying they are to me.
Distant family members set up a memory page for a branch of my father’s side of the family a couple of days ago and many photographs have been shared. I can’t describe the feeling of seeing pictures of my grandfather that I have never seen before. He’s been gone since 1976 and it feels like this tiny little miracle getting just another, new glimpse of him. We all have the same photos we look at over and over – more so after someone dies. It’s a finite number, you memorize them, inventory them in your head. When someone shares a photograph at first it is so unexpected, then it’s an image you take into your heart. It’s a pretty wonderful thing.
With the photos of me and my sister and brother I laugh at them initially, then I see our children and grandchildren in those faces. There’s the miracle, right there. We are blessed with the technology that now allows us to record with abandon but it’s only a recent phenomenon. My generation and all those before us have a limited number of photographs and I think, no matter how embarrassed you might be, it’s important to share them with your family. You never know what they are going to get out of it.
Meanwhile I’m thinking, “Really Brian, nice socks!”
Wow, what seems like months was finally finished last night. Between illness, snowstorms and other cancellations I haven’t been able to work on this at all. Finished the warp last night and am proud to say only one little threading mistake. I fixed that and will be throwing a shuttle next week, finally.
Tonight I’ll be reading up on what exactly I’m doing, try to understand the structure. Hopefully that will free me up to just enjoy the weaving next week.
I always know when spring is here – the Clivia blooms. I would recommend this plant to anyone who truly believes they cannot grow anything – this plant thrives on total neglect. Before writing this post I did a little research and read all about how to get your Clivia to blossom. Cold temperature, no water, timing – yeah, I do none of that except forget to water it for most of the winter. That and never, ever repot the thing. This is the lazy man’s ultimate plant.
It sits on a table on the north side of the house. I still think it blossoms when the days get longer, that’s all it’s waiting for. It’s been in hibernation for the winter, like me, that’s probably why it’s not watered during that period. It’s always the middle of February that I start to notice the days are getting longer and I give it a drink figuring it will notice too. Like clockwork those orange blossoms open up the beginning of March – it knows. That’s the beauty of having houseplants, they tell you spring is coming well before you think it is. You see that new growth where there has been nothing for months. The plants begin to demand your attention, they are telling you the seasons are changing.
There are decided disadvantages to not living in a house full time. There are squirrels moving into the shed, spiders just taking over each and every room and pipes freezing during subzero nights. Yeah, the photo pretty much says it all.
This winter is one that will be burned into memory. It has been harsh. The cold has been unrelenting. The roads are heaved and full of pot holes, the house has heaved enough to cause problems closing outside doors. The oil truck visits weekly, I swear, and there is no end in sight. Sigh . . .
The issue with the frozen pipe reared its ugly head on Friday – I came up early to warm the house. I lit the stove and then looked at the temperature in the room to watch it rise – it was 46 degrees in the room with the thermostat set at 54. Uh oh. I turned on the water in the sink – nothing. Beautiful. I just cranked up the wood stove thinking that I could at least warm the room enough to thaw out the water. We have a propane heater that we put in the shop to thaw it out another time and that was turned on once Bill arrived later in the evening. Then we waited.
Saturday morning in the light of day Bill saw the hole in the radiator and called our heating guy. He lives in town and probably the sound of desperation in our voice sent him over within an hour. We had put enough antifreeze into the heating system to keep it liquid to 20 below so this came as somewhat of a surprise to us. Apparently the pictured radiator had been leaking slowly for that past month or two (maybe longer). The system has an automatic fill on it so when the liquid gets low it automatically refills it. Enough had leaked so the water to antifreeze level was lowered considerably and it was diluted enough so on a night where the temperature was -8 and the wind coming out of the north the system froze in a room with little insulation.
The fix was something we had been talking about but had put off thinking the antifreeze was the answer. We rerouted the circulation to a shorter loop that no longer went to the outer room. In the long run this appears to have been the best solution, now the heat works much better in the kitchen. Unfortunately it took a lot of worry and angst to get us here. Now I can check that off of the list.
Here’s the thing, it’s always something. Each and every week there is some disaster (or impending one) whether it’s winter or any other season of the year. We are caretakers of two very old houses (the newest one being 175 years old). Things happen, and they happen regularly. We signed on to the old house thing a long time ago knowing what we were getting ourselves into. Plans are made for major repairs but it’s this sort of thing that often supercedes those renovation plans. You end up doing a lot of seemingly little things because of the immediacy of the situation.
Spring is coming. Really, it will get here and I have a feeling it will be about two weeks long and we’ll be into summer. Then we can complain about how hot it is and I’ll be thinking about that insulation that needs to go into all those places before next winter gets here.
I have always contended that your birthday holds the most importance to your mother. She was the one closest to the event, she was the one most profoundly affected by it, she is the one who holds those memories the closest. In recent generations birthdays have been celebrated in a variety of ways from a simple cake to a “destination” party. It wasn’t until I gave birth to my own children that I understood the reason for the celebration. It’s your mother’s celebration. It’s a day of reminiscing about your birth, the stories are told.
I was always amazed that my mother would remember the minute I was born – 5:31 AM on a Saturday. She would wake me up often at that time to wish me a happy birthday (although in the back of my mind I’m not sure that wasn’t some evil prank). There was always a cake and a gift or two, the song was sung. Our celebrations were always pretty subdued – but the story was told. It helped shape who I am.
I remember the birth of each one of my children like it was yesterday. Each one unique, each has their own story. But, it’s not so much their story as it is mine. You would think that the older they get the more the memories would fade but it’s in the celebration of each child’s birthday that keeps those memories so alive. It’s in the telling of the stories that gives the events meaning and importance.
My mother has been gone for almost 25 years but she is the one I silently celebrate this day with, I remember the story.
Chester doesn’t care if the snow is too deep to run in, he still wants you to throw that ball.
The photograph looks a little bizarre because he was moving when I released the shutter. I typed that line and wondered “Are we even releasing a shutter anymore?” Are we? This looks like a double exposure to me but I know it’s not. Hmmmmm . . . .
For those of us now anxiously waiting for spring yesterday was not what we needed to see. It snowed, it snowed like crazy. Those torrential downpours you see in the summer? Yeah, that’s what happened here only snow. Six inches in less than three hours. We just cleared away four or five in our yard on Sunday. I’m just tired. And cold.
This morning the sun was shining brightly, it was 18 degrees. I opened the door to take Chester out for his walk and the first thing I noticed was birdsong. Not just any birdsong but spring birdsong. Robins, woodpeckers, chickadees all singing their spring twitterpated songs. A robin was sitting on a branch of the cherry, a flicker was chipping away at an old maple in the backyard, cardinals were fighting over territory (there’s nothing more beautiful than cardinals in the snow). Chickadees were singing their spring phoebe song. Sigh, they know. Even though there’s over two feet of snow in my yard today and most of the tree limbs are covered just hearing them makes me smile and think warm thoughts.
Time to stop listening to all of the bad weather hype and listen to the birds in your backyard, they’re telling you that spring is just about here.
The newest project in class for me is Huck lace. I was threading the warp last night with 10/2 mercerized cotton. The pattern is simple although a little time-consuming with so many ends, there are 552 in the warp. Fortunately it’s easy to stop and pick it up from week to week. I left class last night with about 50 or so ends left to thread, I stopped there because there weren’t enough heddles on shafts 1 and 2. I just wasn’t going there once I figured out there weren’t enough to finish threading.
Adding heddles isn’t difficult to do. I should have counted first and had everything set before I started threading them. Once you’re in a rhythm in threading you just want to keep going until it’s done. This is what I love about weaving, there are defined steps that are taken in sequence for the set up to be right. There are little nuances that make it better or worse and knowing your particular piece of equipment helps. It’s a long process learning this craft – there is so much information, so many ways to screw up.
Each project I do, whether on my own or in class affords me the opportunity to learn something new (sometimes many things). I think this is why I love weaving so much. Other crafts afford challenges but most of the challenges for me have to do with perfection and not actually the mechanics of the craft itself. With weaving the perfection enters a little but it is really the mechanics that I love. There are so many things that can go wrong – or right. When it all comes together I really feel as though I’ve conquered something.
Having an instructor like Pam feeds right into this for me – each project is about a different structure in the weave. I could see myself doing overshot or twill for the rest of my life because they are comfortable and there are a million ways to change the project within one of those structures. The classes push me outside of my comfort zone. It also allows me to do finer work which is a challenge in and of itself.
At the moment I have three looms with wildly different projects on them. Depending on where I am I work on what’s available. That can be a challenge in itself, but a most welcome one.