Giving Thanks

 

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I watched American Experience on PBS last night – The Pilgrims.  I must confess that it was pretty dry and I had a tough time staying awake through the whole thing but it was enlightening in a couple of ways.

When the pilgrims came to America on the Mayflower they did so as refugees really.  They had been persecuted by the English because they refused to give up their belief system and be members of the Anglican church.  At the time you risked fines, jail or death if you were not a member of the Church of England.  In order to be able to practice freely they made a number of attempts to leave England as a group.  They finally escaped to Holland and spent 10 years worshiping in their homes.  They didn’t speak Dutch and the only jobs they had were menial in the textile and clothing industry.  They had nothing really.

What they did have was their community.  While in Holland they realized the culture of that country was not in line with their strict beliefs and worried about their children growing up in a land of loose moral character.  They wanted to create a community where they could grow in their beliefs without the influence of outsiders.   Living in a bubble of their own making they were truly naive about the ways of the world around them and taken advantage of by people at every turn trying to make their way across the Atlantic.  They left England very late in the year and arrived in New England on November 11, 1620.  Think about that – it’s now November 23 and it is cold.  They had just spent 66 days on a cramped boat and landed in wilderness.  No shelter, no food, nothing.  They survived but in greatly diminished numbers.

I feel many immigration stories are the same.  There is always some extreme reason to leave your home.  People don’t want to leave where they have lived, worked and played their entire lives unless they feel they have no other choice.  I think they also have the conviction that where they plan to go will be better.  Bill’s family left Lebanon in 1908 to come to America to build a better life and I would assume to escape political and religious turmoil.  How scary is it to use every last penny you have to get to a place where you don’t speak the language, don’t have a job or a place to live and you know no one?  I will tell you that the hardships they endured were incredible and probably not at all what they expected.  They had each other and their children and did what they had to do to survive with the conviction that this would be better at some point.

I wonder how far into their journeys did they wake up and think “what was I thinking?” or begin to lose sight of the reason for leaving home and country to begin with.  I don’t think we can really know the hardships they were living but I wonder if they thought the hardships they came into it were worth it.  There was no going back for them.

What they all had when they came here was community.  They had their friends, families or at the very least like-minded people with a similar plan in mind.  Today I can look at all of their situations and wonder how bad would it have to get for me to leave?  I realize even in the chaos and idiocy that has embroiled the country I have been in for the past 60 years I live a good life.  I have a home, heat and food on the table.  I have wonderful family and friends.  I am able to talk about anything I want – race, religion, politics – without fear of imprisonment.  I can make my own choices, go where I want, do what I want to do.  This past year has been a rough one on many levels.  The news is always sensational and instills fear in the hearts of anyone who listens but if you step back you have to realize that how your life is today is no different from what it was a month ago.  Fear is something that can take over your life and prevent you from living at all.

We all need to count our blessings.  Seems trite but without reflection and gratitude we can end up living a miserable existence surrounded by the things that have come to us through the true misery of others.  Look at what you’ve got, think of the life that you have and work on making that little piece of your world better.  Being able to do so is something to truly be thankful for.

 

 

 

From My Perspective

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Okay, there are some things I need to say.

Everyone needs to calm down.

I have a confession and possibly some internal insight to share.  The first election I voted in was in 1976 – Carter/Ford.  I voted Republican and we all know how that turned out.  I voted Republican in every election until Barack Obama ran.  He ran on hope and change.  I thought we needed change in a pretty big way, besides John McCain had pretty much lost his mind and Sarah Palin was his running mate.  Yeah.   I didn’t vote for either candidate this past Tuesday.  I was informed when I went to the polls, I voted for every other representative and the state referendums but I broke into a sweat, felt a little dizzy and stayed in that booth for way longer than I should have. (I was the only one there and all of the poll takers know me, they must have wondered).  I looked at the candidates (all of them) and thought I simply can’t do it.  Do I regret it?  No.

The other confession is I once believed social media to be a good thing.  On the night of 9/11 the internet was really in its infancy.  We had dial-up and chat rooms.  Somehow I ended up in a chat room for the employees of Cantor Fitzgerald and there was a man pleading to hear from anyone he knew and worked with there.  There was silence.  It was the most powerful thing I’ve ever experienced – it made it real for me in a way that nothing else did.

Fast forward to the year 2016 and I can tell you that my circle of friends on social media has gotten much smaller.  One of the reasons is politics, yes but the other is the things that are patently untrue that continue to circulate as truth.  I confess that I can be a bit of a pain in the ass when it comes to this sort of thing calling stuff out and spending time on Snopes but is this really how I want to spend my time?  I’ve also realized in the past few days that all it is doing is inciting anxiety and fear in everyone who faithfully (or obsessively) checks their status hour by hour.  Yes, guilty as charged.

The day after the election was awful, two days after still bad.  Today the armchair quarterbacking continues as we all try to come to grips with the election results and what it means.

Here’s the thing, we need to stop looking at the election of Donald Trump as the end, it’s not.  We need to take a rest from this frenzy of posting at all (or reading). The friends and family that I have on social media are still people I care about but I need to  be part of their lives in a different way.  We need to gather our friends and neighbors together and build a community of help and service.  Break bread together, have a game night, stop living in your home in isolation.  Volunteer for anything that will help you to know someone new a little better.  Person to person contact, have a real conversation.  Yes, it may be about politics but it takes on new meaning when you talk to someone face to face.  How many times have you sent an email or comment that someone took in a way that was not intended?  You need to see a person’s body language or hear the inflection in their voice.  Better yet look into their eyes.

Today I’ll work a little in my garden, weave a little and then prep to visit my grandson to help celebrate his first birthday.  So many children have come into my life in the past couple of years.  I think we owe it to them to help build a community that will support them without all of the anger.  We are all better than this.

When a Project Comes Together

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I had a cone of 20/2 silk in my stash and decided to modify a draft to make it work.  I love weaving snowflake twills and thought the sheen of the silk would work with a tone on tone project.  I was not disappointed.  The photograph just doesn’t do it justice. This is one of those pieces where I wove the first repeat and had difficulty stopping because the results were just so amazing.  This is one of those rare occasions when the vision and results are in line.

It’s a beautiful day out, I need to go vote and then I should clean out the gardens.  This is one of those days where I have to consider weaving a reward for finishing other projects.

 

Forty Year Journey

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A couple of weeks ago a friend and town historian told me she had the diaries of Charles Brown and I might be interested in reading them.  Charles Brown was the father of Percy Brown who had written the first history of Rowe as well as being a large benefactor to the town.  She had transcribed each passage that referred to the time they spent in town from the years 1887 to 1929.

She dropped them off at the house and this began my breakfast and lunch routine of reading through the diaries.  I was immediately struck by the dedication to doing this.  He wrote every day.  He and his wife usually spent the month of August in town and he wrote about the weather and how they spent their days and evenings.

Well, either their thermometers were different or this is a testament to how much warmer it is now than in that forty-year span of time.  There were many days and nights when it was downright chilly.  He would often write about how many blankets he slept under to give you an idea of the cold.

When they began coming to Rowe they would stay at the “Wright house”, which is my house now.  There is something about reading about what was happening 130 years ago and having it take place right where you live.  He wrote about finding a horse and buggy to rent while they were here and the trips they would take daily around the area and into Vermont.

He wrote of the people around him, names so familiar but some too distant in the past for me have known.  He hired people to do jobs for him, had many visitors, read on the piazza, played hundreds of games of croquet recording the scores daily.  There was mention of murders, lightning strikes and fires.  He and Percy came to help when the barn here was struck by lightning and burned to the ground.

He wrote of his visitors.  He shared Percy’s friendships in Rowe, the places they all “tramped”, picnics on Pulpit Rock.  I learned of Percy’s engagement and marriage to Corinne.  Expected their visits year after year, then suddenly one line about her dying in Cincinnati.  At this point I was pretty invested in these characters and it felt like a gut punch with no explanation.  Thank goodness for public records and other info found with the diaries.

As the years went by the horse-drawn carriages and train rides to Zoar gave way to drives in new automobiles and how painful that could be.  Honestly, with the number of flats they changed it was a wonder they drove anywhere.  Of course there were always reports on how bad the roads were.

Friday morning I finished reading the remaining pages of the diaries.  I had been immersed in this wonderful little world of people, games and vacationing in a bygone time but a very familiar place. Charles was 79 years old.  His routine in Rowe had changed gradually over the years but in being able to read it in a few days time was compressed.  What really happened is I got to the end and went “Nooooooo”.  The story wasn’t over, it just stopped, ugh.  Think of it as Downton Abbey without season 6 – none of the ends were really tied up.

Social history is one of my favorite things and I have rarely, if ever, read anything so simply done give such a vivid picture of life in a bygone time.  I’m sad the story ended but think I will read it over again.  Like every good story you read to see where it goes, this time I’ll read it again to pay more attention to what it says.

 

Weaving Inspiration

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A few weeks ago I met a long time friend on the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls.  As a gardener I am always amazed at this wonderful place.

I posted this photograph after shooting my way along the bridge and a fellow weaver used it as color inspiration.  I thought I would as well. (Of course hers was finished within days of the picture going up).

I also decided to move out of the realm of safety and work with new materials, sort of.  I’m using 20/2 mercerized cotton and a draft from Twill Thrills to make a scarf.

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I did the math.  Ordered the cotton.  Did the math again.  Then started winding the warp.

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Truth be told this is my least favorite part of weaving and it took me three days to do it because there were a few moments when I just had to walk away.

I finally got it to the loom and threaded it.  It’s an advancing twill pattern at  40 E.P.I.  Yes, forty ends per inch.  At this point I’m saying to myself “You must be out of your mind” but it got better . . .

lrm_export_20161008_204035 I had 32 threads leftover at the end.  Not usually a problem unless you decide to do graded colors, ugh.  Not happy at this point.   It was sort of a random twill so I decided to just to a repeat of part of the pattern and see how it turned out.  At this point I was not going to rethread it.

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Yesterday I began sleying the reed 4 threads per dent.  I got halfway through and decided to break until this morning when the light was better.  Finished an hour or so ago.  I’ll tie it on, spend some time on the floor doing tie-ups and finally start weaving later today with any luck.  Then I’ll be able to see what kind of mess I truly made and if I can live with it or start over.

The interesting part to me is the weavers I have that surround me, that inspire me.  I weave with a woman who weaves nothing but twills.  She threads her loom without a draft starting in the center and working her way to either edge designing it as she goes along.  Her work is amazing.  I felt like I was channeling her as I threaded all of those extra ends.  I don’ begin to think I’m capable of doing what she does but it’s having weavers around me giving that inspiration.  They’re all mentors without knowing it.

I think that’s what makes it so important to show and share your work – no matter what kind of work it is or what your skill level.  You never know who you’re going to inspire.

 

 

 

 

A Little Bit of Fun

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While helping Peggy mend a couple of long runs of weaving last week she asked me to weave the end of the warp she had on her barn frame loom because she had run out of rags.  She is out west on her own adventure this week so I figured this would be mine.

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I have never woven on one of these looms before.  What I found was once you understand the mechanics of weaving you can pretty much weave on anything.  So in this one spot I’ve gone from crazy power looms to one of history’s finest.

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It has two shafts and was warped for rag rugs, all I had to do is bring the weft.  I hadn’t woven a rag rug before but have seen plenty in progress so I figured how hard could it be?  I spent a few hours tearing fabric (I’m a long time quilter so fabric is everywhere).  It was torn into strips 3″ wide, folded with the wrong sides together and pressed.  Then I randomly picked pieces and sewed them together in flat seams.  I had a 30″ rag shuttle so I added the strips to that.  I really hadn’t looked at the warp that close before I decided to do this so I had no idea how much weft I was going to need.

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There is nothing like a loom you have to climb into.  It’s quite comfortable, so much so that I think I need to build a bench into my Macomber.

There is no shuttle race when you open the shed but the rag shuttle worked perfectly.  I began and ended the rug with a few picks of rug warp and wove to 60″ in length.  Probably a little long but once I started I couldn’t stop.  Advancing the warp was easily done just required a little muscle.

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There’s a window at your back and a nice breeze was blowing in the entire time I was weaving.  It also gave a rather harsh light to the finished weaving.

Time for a confession.  I’m really a control freak when it comes to a lot of things, especially color.  When I chose my fabric for the weft I used a blue that I had a lot of to add to the continuity of the entire piece.  I didn’t really randomly choose fabrics, they were chosen with intent. I knew what the warp colors were so I made sure to incorporate those colors in the weft.  This didn’t go together the way I had envisioned it but I have to say it finished with something I’m satisfied with.

Now I’m dreaming about that rug loom restoration project in the shed and the things I’m going to be weaving on it.  Sometime we just need a little push.

Goodbye Doc

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Photo – Merritt Brown

I lost a very dear friend yesterday.  2016 has been a rough year.

I met Merritt (Doc) Brown 40 years ago almost to the day at Hallmark Institute of Photography.  We were the third class to go through the school with a class size of a little over 30 people.  At the time Hallmark was a different place than it grew into.  It wasn’t accredited, you couldn’t get financial aid, you had to really want to be there.  It was also the first place in my entire life that I felt like I belonged and one of those reasons was Doc.

I am sharing some things here that will probably not mean as much if you didn’t know him but somehow it feels like everyone knew him.  When we were in school I thought he was probably the worst photographer I had ever met – truly.  He understood the process – his vision, exposure and printing – not so much.   I never saw him in any commercial realm of photography (at least as it was at that time – we’re talking 1977) but he had such a passion for what he was doing.  We’d be given assignments and many critiques were cringe worthy.  He never gave up and graduated with the rest of us (although in a recent conversation we both confessed that neither of us knew how he got through).

Now I can’t speak to how Merritt was before the “Hallmark experience”.  I do know that our time in that place changed us all.  It made us understand the value of friendship and the importance of maintaining the relationships you have.

Merritt had more friends than anyone I ever knew.  He maintained them well.  With the advent of social media he really came into his own.  Through it we could see that his passion for photography had only grown through the years.  He shared his images and his sometimes twisted philosophy with so many of us.  Always quick with a smart remark or advice or simple observation I looked forward to his running commentary on my life.  It was always positive.

This past year we had conversed more than usual and more about life in general than photography specifically. We shared the experience of children lost and found, something rather unique in my circle of friends.  I’m glad it was with him because he always could be counted on for truth in any situation.  He could see things as they were and would tell it like it is.  Last week I visited him at home and the conversation was more poignant.   He wished he had more time with his children and grandchildren.  It killed him to know that he wasn’t going to be around to enjoy some of Manop’s cooking. Fishing, he hadn’t been fishing at all this year.  He had a habit of shooting daily, was limited to home but he still had images to share with his friends. Clouds, he could photograph the clouds and since that’s where he was going he wanted to share them.

He knew he was at the end, he knew some of it had to do with the choices he’d made in life but there were really no regrets.  It had been quite the ride.  So this kind, gentle, larger than life soul left this earth yesterday and we are all sitting here in disbelief.  For me it’s left quite a hole.

My daughter-in-law recently commented on how many friends I have.  I’d never really thought about it before.  I do.  I have circles of friends from different times in my life.  I’ve maintained the ones that are most important to me.  Until now I didn’t realize there’s a downside to all of this, you have to move through losing them.

Our friends make up who we are, some more significantly then others, they teach us how to be.  We try to surround ourselves with the people who make us our better selves.  That’s what Merritt did for me, he made me just a little bit better.

Solitary Goose

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Summer is pretty much gone here.  You can see that the trees and grass in the fields are tired.  Gone is that crisp, vibrant green of spring.

I pass this field in Charlemont often.  It’s along Route 2 coming into town from Rowe.  This morning the air was thick and it was raining . . . and the goose was in the field.  I did two separate u-turns to get to the right spot and stood in the rain in front of my car hoping nothing huge would come rumbling down the road to splash water in my direction.  You do what you have to do to get the shot.

Last spring, as all of the Canadian geese were strolling out the new offspring I saw this goose in this field surrounded by a large flock of Canadian geese.  It was odd, and still is. It has been in this field quite often throughout the summer.  It has conjured up all kinds of scenarios about why it’s there but now there are just questions like where did it come from?  Does it belong to someone?  Why hasn’t some fox eaten it yet?  Is it lonely?

Now I’m starting to worry about where it will be this winter, it doesn’t seem to have any friends to tell it to fly south.  Maybe someone needs to round it up although I will miss seeing it brighten up a field on an otherwise gloomy day.

Why Are These People Laughing?

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Yesterday was the first work bee I have attended at the Rowe Historical Society.  Like most small town museums there is a decided lack of space.  This is something that creeps up with collections growing year after year.

One storage space had flooding a while back and our task was to remove all of the covering from the basement walls in preparation for painting.

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Getting to the walls was a whole different issue.

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The group of eight split along gender lines as it always does with the men doing demo on one end of the room and the women sorting and categorizing everything to move into spaces better suited for each item.  For me it was a pretty awesome experience and not unlike going through the barn or coop here with decades of stuff collected.

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I have to say everyone worked diligently to get to the end of the task but there were many, many light moments surrounding the question “What the heck is this?”.

I daresay this may be an issue with most museums, especially those that are trying to make sense of collections without policy taking place since the sixties.  We are not alone.  There is so much knowledge in this group that there were maybe 3 items in that room that were left unidentified.  That’s pretty cool considering the amount of stuff that was there.

We each have our own strengths.  Mine is photography and textiles but having grown up with a nutty, hoarding collecting  father it extends to sawmills, lumber and vintage farm equipment.  Old Sturbridge Village taught me the use of household items in 1840 so that helped too.

There is only one member that I knew when I started this a short month ago but I see this as building community within a community.  We have a common interest.  These bees will continue as well as individuals working on their areas of interest.  Trying to bring centuries worth of belongings into the present.  Knowing what there is, why it’s there and how best to share it with the community.  It always amazes me just a little bit when strangers come together with a common goal and through that friendships are built or made stronger.

 

 

Fair Worthy

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Fair season begins tonight.  All entries for the Heath Fair have to be there by 8:00 p.m.  I finished the bear 10 minutes ago.

Every year as I’m doing whatever project I’m doing I always look at it asking if it’s fair worthy.  Does it meet my standards to be shown in public?  By people who know more about what I’m doing than I do?

This year there are 3 entries for the Heath Fair and the Big E.  The weaving I knew was worthy as soon as the wet finishing was done.  The bear . . . I decided to sew one when I filled out the entry forms weeks ago but didn’t even begin it until last week.

I have a lot of bears that I’ve made over the years but each entry to the fair has to have been completed since the last fair.  I pulled out materials that haven’t seen the light of day for years and started this little project.  I finished his face (so I thought) and put all of his joints together.  Stuffed his body and sat him on the table where I looked at him every time I walked by.  He was off – the eyes weren’t right, the ears were cockeyed, the nose needed work.  He was not fair worthy.  I didn’t want anyone to look at him and wonder “What hack made this?”.

I thought about not putting him in the fair at all but remembered I had until 8 to get there and knew if he didn’t go in there was a possibility of him spending years in a closet somewhere.  I moved his eyes, stitched down an ear in a better position and spent some more time on the embroidered nose.  I  kind of wished I’d photographed him before I fixed him.  He looked at me with gratitude when I took that last stitch and brushed out his fur.

I’m telling you it’s tough being a perfectionist who anthropomorphizes her stuffed animals.

 

By the way – Fair bear really could use a name, any suggestions?