First Snow

141114 First Snow

I woke up this morning to the first snow of the season.  I thought once the sun came up it would go but it’s mid afternoon and it’s still on the ground.

The fact that it snowed was somehow a signal to me to finish up a few projects in need of just a couple of hours of my time.  My rug is a row of twisted fringe away from lying on the floor.  Skeins of yarn were wound in anticipation of a new warp.  Drafts were reviewed with the planning for Christmas in full swing.

Twisting fringe gives you a lot of time for meditation and today I was thinking about what allows a person to do seemingly mundane, repetitive tasks that build into the finer crafts that I have been playing with lately.  I used to tell my husband that there was absolutely no way to bore me as long as I had something to do with my hands.  I think it comes from seeing multiple generations of my family always busy with their hands.  From knitting and quilting to mechanics and wood working everyone was always doing something.  I’m fortunate that they also thought it was important to pass on the knowledge and interest in one way or another.

My interest in the things I learned when I was younger has grown as I age.  When I was cleaning out the attic I came across the first piece of crewel embroidery I made with my grandmother. I think I was 8 or 9 years old.  She bought some little kit and showed me the stitches.  I would work them while she did some sort of handwork of her own I’m sure.  If she wasn’t there my mother would show me what I needed to know.  I learned many, many things from those women.  I think the most important is the work of your hands can be a form of meditation.

Doing the same small thing over and over allows your mind to work out the problems of the day (or week or month).  Almost all crafts allow you to do this.  There’s a learning curve to everything but there always comes point where the work becomes known and it’s only in the beginning stages that it requires concentration.

Every new craft that I have learned to do I have always worked to perfection over whatever time it takes to do so.  I will make one thing after another, honing my skill until I’ve worked it to death.  For a number of years I made teddy bears, not ordinary bears but beautiful, jointed stuffed animals.  The reason I did it?  I needed to perfect the embroidery of their noses.  Once I got to the point of knowing they could meet the expectations of even the harshest critic I taught others to make them.  It finally ran its course.  I know that if I decided someone needed a bear of their own I could make one with little effort and it would meet my exacting standards without the frustration of the first 10 or 20 bears that I originally made.  Also, in making that bear now, I would be able to meditate my way through the entire process, think about its recipient and put more of my good thoughts into the gift.

So it would appear to an outsider that I have craft ADD – and I do in some respect but it’s also a sick pursuit of perfection that drives what to others looks like a crazy, boring craft project.  I will work a skill a little at a time until I master it and continue to learn the possibilities within the craft.

That may be the appeal of weaving, I know there are so many aspects to it that it will take the rest of my life just to explore them all but there are little pieces of it that I can work until it’s perfected, then move on.

I think that’s the way life is, you have to break it down into little pieces, perfecting or finishing it one bit at a time.  Not everything allows meditation but with patience and practice it can all feed your soul.  For me it’s all about finding that sweet spot in everything I do.  Now the season has shifted once again and I bring out the things that have been waiting for months for my attention.  In a few more months all I’ll want to do is dig in the dirt but for now I’ll be doing those cold weather projects.

Winding Into Winter

141026 Sunrise

The temperature was at freezing this morning.  I lit the stove using last nights coals and made my coffee.  The morning temperatures have been in the mid forties for the past few weeks but I start the stove every morning to take the chill off.  I love the cheeriness of that fire when I walk into the kitchen.

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity as it always is when winter approaches.  Most of the wood is in, the fall cleaning is finished.  Things are moved around (like sleeping areas) to be the most comfortable for the winter.  We do not have heat on the second floor of the house so the electric blankets went onto the beds.

Everything left was dug out of the garden, a bumper crop of carrots this year both Danvers and Atomic Reds.  The Atomic Reds were one of this years experiments and I would plant them again.  I was disappointed that they don’t stay red when they are cooked much like those purple beans.

The month of October was also a time of connecting with friends, both old and new.  A very dear friend of mine stopped in to visit me while on a trip here from New Mexico.  I haven’t seen her since 1995 yet we picked up as though we’d seen each other a month ago.  It was wonderful reminder of how dear my old friends are.

Our 2nd Annual Harvest Party was a success other than the weather, but all that really did was keep us in the house.  Not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon – eating great food with great friends and family.  This event is always an interesting mix of old and new acquaintances.  It’s always fun to rehash the day with newcomers who are trying to learn who the players in my life are.

Then there are the newest “friends”.  My cyber community has evolved into the most interesting ways in the past few months.  I have become acquainted with a few like-minded people who are working towards some self-sufficiency.  They are craftsmen, farmers, artists, renovators.  They have similar interests and through our frequent posts we get to know a little about each other.  This has offered me an opportunity to learn a lot about some of my interests.  They are generous in conversation, answering questions I might have about weaving, gardening or livestock.  The readers of this blog offer words of wisdom in situations I write about.  It’s a little  support system.

The changes in the past few months have been interesting and not always as expected.  Rowe is an isolated area and you have to work harder at being social.  I’m not always able to leave and the ability to converse over the web has in some respects kept me sane.  It keeps me connected with my kids, spouse and friends – old and new.

As we wind into winter, a time when serious arts and crafting come into full swing I’ll continue to share interesting tidbits of what is happening here and welcome the interaction of those who read it.  I’m looking forward to the down time.  Having the quiet and solitude always turns my mind towards creativity – I’m always thinking, planning.  There just is never the time during the warmer months for sitting at the loom or hooking a rug.  Winter will offer a respite from the yard work and gardening, it will allow me to recharge and dream about spring.  By the time it arrives I’ll be ready.

A Recap of Fiber College and Maine

What a whirlwind this trip has been.  I drove home to Rowe last night, leaving at 6:30 after class (and picking up lobster and clams).  I arrived about 11:30.

This was my first foray into the “fiber” world and all I can really say is it was interesting.  I find it amusing the style of dress “creative” people wear.

My first day (Thursday) I took a book binding class with Anna Low of Purplebean Bindery.  We made Buttonhole bound books.  They are brilliant in their simplicity.

IMAG0890Anna was a great teacher and we each made two beautiful books that lie flat when they are open (always a plus for me).  There were 10 of us in the class and it’s always such a joy to spend time with other creative people.

IMAG0889The class got out early – around 3:30 so I decided to take a drive up Route 1 and see more of Maine.  I rounded a corner coming into the Penobscot River crossing and saw the new bridge.  It defies description really.  Beautiful to look at, creepy to drive across (that could just be my own bridge phobia talking).  I went into Bucksport and all I could think about was that bridge.  I looked it up when I got back to my room and decided to spend my free Friday morning at Fort Knox State Park and ride to the observatory at the top.  That, my friends, will have to be another post.

Friday afternoon I had a class on making scarf pins with Cindy Kilgore.  The class was a couple of hours and was crowded, hot and sooooo much fun!  Did I mention it was loud?  Picture 7 women at a plastic banquet table pounding 12 gauge brass wire with a ball peen hammer on small square metal bench anvils.  Yeah, loud.

130906 Scarf Pins

Cindy was a fun, patient teacher.  She explained things really well and by the time I was done I felt really comfortable with the design possibilities and was pleased with my pins.  Not the best photograph but you get the idea.

Saturday I had two classes, one in the morning, one later in the afternoon.

The first class was with Tom Cote, a wood carver from northern Maine.  What an amazing guy.


Tom was an art teacher for 30 years teaching grades K-12.  You could tell, he was talented and could tell a story and keep you interested all while you were sanding little pieces of wood.  This class was all about making buttons and closures out of found objects.  The closures I made were out of a stick picked up off of the ground in the campground, a wooden bobbin from a weaving mill and a chunk of wood cut from scraps in his wood shop.  It was really all about seeing things around you in a different way.  Almost everything was done with a coping saw, sandpaper and a drill.  A little oil and you have yourself a button.

IMAG0976This photo doesn’t do these buttons justice – but I took it on my fleece jacket on the ground outside of the tent so it is what it is.  They are beautiful.

My last class was with Jennifer Carson.  I’ve been following Jennifer for quite a while now, I love her art and especially her creature creations.  I’ve made stuffed bears and dolls for years but decided to take her class because it had to do with design.  It was great fun with a lot of very funny women.  I have found over the years that doll makers are one of the best groups to hang out with.  We all make up back stories for our dolls as they are created – great fun.

IMAG0984This was an exercise in creating from scratch.  We started with a pencil and piece of paper and everyone ended up with a head.  I love doll making for this reason, you really don’t know what you’re going to end up with – it evolves.  A lot of techniques were used in this and the wool felt it the perfect medium – very forgiving.

This half week getaway was a lot of fun.  I met a lot of great people from all over the U.S. (yes, people travel all over just to go to these things).  Each and every one was creative with a need to learn and share.  The location was amazing, right on the shore.  If you needed a quiet spot it was only a few hundred yards away.  This is the kind of event that sends participants home re-energized and ready to create something new and unexpected.  It takes away the fear of the unknown.  You learn that anything taken in small simple steps can be accomplished.


It’s Complicated

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“That’s the sacred intent of life, of God — to move us continuously toward growth, toward recovering all that was lost and orphaned within us and restoring the divine image imprinted on our soul. And rarely do significant shifts come without a sense of our being lost in dark woods, or in what T.S. Eliot called the “vacant interstellar spaces.” ~ Sue Monk Kidd

The past year has been one of significant change.  I had been going along for a number of years, while the girls were in college, in a tranquil, quiet, albeit boring place.  My creativity had waned, I wasn’t interested in much of anything.  We were spending a large amount of our time on our little restoration project at Fort Pelham Farm, indoors and out.  Nothing so large to overwhelm me, but physical problems are challenges to be figured out and fixed.  The emotional things you can just sit on, keep them in the back of your mind or buried deep.

A little over a year ago my father had a slight stroke.  He was living alone in the house at the time, unable to go up and down the stairs.  The heat was always turned too high and he obsessed over the smallest things.  We had talked about moving him into Assisted Living but there wasn’t ever a time when you could bring it up.  The stroke solved many problems, mostly dealing with his safety.  He worked through what he had lost and is living comfortably in a facility near our shop in Enfield.

I had worked in long term care off and on for many years but it wasn’t until I had to move him into a facility that I struggled with the idea of a sense of place.  I was horrified at the thought that the day may come when someone moves me away from Rowe for my safety.

In working through what can only be seen as a grieving process I began taking classes in crafts that I had never done before.  Sara Burghoff spent a weekend teaching me how to hook rugs.  It was amazing and I was off and running.  Other people see me as being a little obsessive in crafting.  I like things that are quiet, meditative.  Using my hands helps me to think.  I did a lot of thinking, working things out.  I bought a loom from a friend that was moving and discovered weaving to be everything a craft needs to be for me right now.  It requires a mechanical way of thinking to design and set up a project but once you are going it is a quiet meditation.

I began to search for old friends only to find that the ones I most wanted to talk to had died – sad, but you have to know that this was not unexpected in some sense.  The people we don’t see we tend to hold in a sort of stasis, they never change in our minds.  When you are reunited you are shocked at how old they are (not realizing that you’ve aged right along with them).  I continued to weave and started to blog in earnest.

Writing is something I have always done.  It helps me to know myself.  Putting it out in public is different but the main reason I did it was as a record of where I was in time and place.  I did it for my kids, I wanted them to have a little insight into who I am.  At times there are such intensely personal things going on in my life that the thought of writing about it is immobilizing and yet the act of doing it sets me free.

In March of this year I was reunited with a son that I gave up for adoption 41 years ago.  I really haven’t written about it because this has been one of the most difficult things to work out in my head.  I also didn’t want to jinx it in any way – seems funny but it’s true.  S is an amazing, kind man.  It’s good to see genetics at work and at the same time to see what a wonderful person he turned into under the guidance of his adoptive family.

This has put me on quite a different path spiritually than I ever expected.  Things happened for a reason I’m convinced. The timing has been preordained I’m sure. It sounds cliche but I am convinced more than ever that things happen for a reason and these situations have put me in a position to examine my entire life.

 Difficult situations expand my creativity.  I’ve come to understand at least a little bit the tortured, creative mind.  I do my best work, whether it is photography, weaving, writing, anything, when I’m on the edge.  There are positives that can be seen in every difficult situation and these difficult times help a person to grow.

I’ve done genealogy for years and always found people’s personal stories fascinating.  I’ve pieced together lives from notes, receipts, photographs and census records. I always wished someone had written their story down. My girls have asked over the years why I never really talked about my story.  How it was when I was growing up.  I think I always assumed they learned it from other family members.  When S and I were reunited I realized that the biggest story of my life was something I had never talked about.

I am fortunate to have a total sense of place.  Most anything of consequence has happened in Rowe for me.  If it had happened somewhere else, Rowe was always the retreat.  A door has been opened now that will allow a true introspective look at the last 57 years and my hope is that I can commit it to paper.

It’s the Process

Twill Towels (2)

I spent the better part of 4 hours weaving last night.  I am half way through towel #2 of 4 that have been warped. They are a twill design which shows up fairly well in the photograph with a colored stripe design that is simple to do yet quite pretty.  This is substantial cloth, I can’t wait to use them.

This type of project is very meditative for me.  The draft is simple so after an initial start up the weaving action becomes automatic.  It allows me to think.

Christmas Eve is our family celebration, it has been this way for many, many years.  It is 6 days away.  I am not even remotely ready.  I’m mostly not ready in my head.

This week has been one of the most depressing weeks I can remember.  I’ve tried to stay away from most media because they just can’t seem to stay away from the shooting in Newtown.  If it’s not that it’s someone screaming the gun control debate in your ear or how we’re falling off the fiscal cliff. It saddens me that there is no one in our government that can see beyond their next election.  Our rights are being taken away from us at an alarming rate.  Civil rights or copyrights, I know in the back of my head this can only get worse.  The internet is such an ugly place.  There are moments of brilliance but I have to say that not being connected is sounding better all the time.

So I weave.  I knit.  I hook rugs.  I get out of my head with the use of my hands.  My projects are becoming increasingly complex, I have to think about the process instead of what is going on around me.  When my little projects are done I usually give them away and people are amazed.  They don’t understand that it’s the process not the product.