These are berries I call "bitter sweet". Sometimes they are orange instead of yellow. They are abundant in October; these were on Long Beach where I have been walking all summer. But now it is October. Three days of relentless rain and gray skies, tells me summer has ended and autumn has come. Autumn is a bittersweet season.
Visually it is a burst of color that is magnificent, more so than the many flowers of summer, more so than the brilliant blue skies and long sunny days of summer. Autumn is a season and it is a metaphor. I have just written a rather disjointed little piece about my experiences of autumn -- starting with October visits to my mother when we would go for drives to view the leaves in all their glory. They were wonderful in Southern Indiana but it was even more magnificent in Upstate New York where I lived at the time. the season is different in different parts of the country. Famously beautiful in New England, upstate New York can't be equalled -- say I, in a chavinistic mood because I saw tidal waves of color on the hills in that area that surely cannot be equaled anywhere. I supposed that is arguable.
Of course there is always the parallel, the metaphor, of the autumn of our lives. The ripe period of maturity which I feel I'm in now in my 70s. I think of the excitement I felt at a gathering of a small group of art quilters the other day. My own contribution nothing I want to brag about along side the fine art work of others. It is what it is. The theme was architecture. My rather traditional quilt of buildings among the trees -- the way I experience driving many of the Cape Cod two-lane roads -- was perhaps less creative than others. And less obviously metaphorical than the piece created by a woman whose husband died this past summer. She had pictured two of the iconic dune shacks of the outer Cape, one standing firm on it's dune and the other tipped, sliding away at an angle beside it. I did not remark on the meaning I saw immediately -- a woman still on her two feet even though the mate is sliding away. This is art -- the kind of art that simply happens when the artist is in touch with her feelings. I was very moved by that little quilt. And I believe her perseverence is bitter sweet. She is not the only widow of this summer in whom I view a strength. That is a part of the meaning of autumn.
A trip to Heritage Plantation in Sandwich, MA this morning show me and my two friends a new structure -- a circular-- with an opening , bench around a white oak tree. This is the back, Miriam is standing just at the opening. The blocks are made from the wood of another white oak tree. How could I not think about a quilt?
This was the grand prize winning quilt at the show. I'm terribly sorry I don't have the quilters's name. She was an American. I have been a student of Tibet for many years, have traveled there twice and recognize all the costumes and, of course, the Dalai Lama in the center -- I am SO glad that at least in this quilt he can go home again. What a sadness that he has had to live in exile for almost sixty years! On the left is the Potala Palace, the Dalai Lama's rightful home. It is a magnificent structure and, until the Eifel Tower was built, it was the tallest building in the world. When I studied the quilt I saw she had put in two versions of the Potala and I don't blame her. It's a building I stood and studied for a very long time, from different sides. Inside it is even more awesome, full of treasures (possibly some have been stolen but the maze of the nearly 1000 rooms is stunning.
It was a shame that this large quilt with the faces individually drawn by the quilter, was hung in a spot with insufficient light. I can't blame the many people who were standing in front of it in awe of the workmanship and not quite comprehending the many symbolic features of it. I wish I could have gotten a better photo. The flag in the center of the lower border is the Tibetan national flag. When the Chinese Army invaded in 1959 they were invading a sovereign state although they claimed it was part of China (as it had been at times in the past). Today the country and especially Lhasa, its capital, has been turned into a Chinese city and the actual Tibetans are treated as second class citizens, jailed for the least praise of the Dalai Lama, rarely given good jobs. The independent herders in the countryside have been collectivized and made to live in towns and give up their way of life. During the period of the greatest repression, the Red Guard destroyed literally hundreds of monasteries, (ancient books have been lost forever) and hundreds of thousand of Tibetans were murdered.
Today the Chinese rulers think the Dalai Lama wants to foment a revolution. He has asked for years simply that the people be free to worship (as they are not - they can be jailed for having pictures of him). He does not want to fight the Chinese, he simply wants the people to be treated as the full citizens in their homeland with religious freedom. But that is routinely denied. Last year there were over 100 self-immolations by desperate Tibetans making a statement about the extent of their repression. I am enormously happy to see that someone is making a statement in our art form (quilting) and showing the people in their native costumes. I hope this quilt has raised the undestanding and/or awareness of at least a few more people. I will add a couple of details from the quilt so you can see the work better.
Deb teaches yoga at the gym my daughter belongs to. She let it be known to her classes that she would be doing yoga on a nearby beach during July and August, beginning at 7:00 -- timed so that the sun would be setting at the end of the hour-long class. No charge!
I went with my daughter for the first class although I haven't done yoga for ten years and knew I had lost both strength and stretch but not love of yoga. Only four students showed up the first evening. It happened to be a "blue moon" night when the sun was spreading gold and hot pink across the western sky, in east the moon was beginning it's climb. I decided to make a quilt to give to Deb, I had ideas that I couldn't execute but finally my daughter said my idea was not what she pictured and together we arrived at the idea for this quilt. Strips from my collection of batiks, showing the sand in the middle with the ocean and sky behind, on the left a dune with grass and the moon rising, and on the right a hint of the parking lot. In the middle a practitioner doing the tree pose. I gave it to her last night, which is the next to last session. She was happy with it. In fact, I'm happy with it too. So happy I'm considering making one for myself using narrower strips of fabric, probably again batik. Of course it wil be essentially different as I used up much of this batik. I like the tree pose but last night during the workout I though the warrior pose would be just as good (athough not as vertical).
Doing yoga, despite my inability to do what the much younger women are doing, has been wonderful. I think it's inspiring me to go back to the practice ans regain some of my competence -- when the weather turns a bit cooler. Right now it's hot and humid (but wonderfully fresh and cooler on the beach). Her students have multiplied and all enjoy the experience.
My daughters and I went to the International Quilt show in Manchester, NM Thursday (a Mancusco show). It had the best variety and most interesting collections of quilts I've seen there in the four or five years I've attended that show. I took several photos of quilt that inspire me -- not the most wonderful and not a representative sampling but ones I may want to look back. However, my favorite is probably the one above because I know how difficult it is to make fabric look like stone, and to give it depth at the same time. I think the quilter was brilliant and then had a stroke of genius when she added the cat, in the same colorations. I that took wit and great skill. I love it.
(I'm sorry I cannot give the maker's name and the name of the quilt. I took careful notes on the program listing so I could reference and credit where it was due. then I left the program booklet in the restaurant where I had lunch. These skilled quilters deserve credit and I regret I can't give it.
The other two quilts are typical of the ones that impressed me with a sense of "I could do something like that too. The long thin one (like many, especially among the quilts from Israel) uses colors with certainty and a delightful balance. The circles add an important dimension especially at they are different colors and sizes and the quilter knew just when she had added enough.
The other quilt is a little bit of a fascinating enigma. Is it a village, or is it one house (as the lines that look like roof likes at the top suggest. I love the seeming spontaneous colors in the pieced squares. And I love the uneven hem which adds a depth and interest a straight across hem would not give. All that sandy looking fabric in the bottom section calls to me for me a village in the Atlas Mountains, where there were no such wonderful colors.
I am truly sorry I cannot give name of maker and of quilt. I meant to, really, I did.
This weekend was the annual BAyberry Quilt show, as usual there were nearly 300 quilts, of various sizes. I showed teh selvage quilt, Spiderwebs and Stars which I wrote about a few months ago. I like it but it wasn't spectacular. And I did a challenge quilt that is too awful to write about that will go into a seldom opened bag of small quilts.
Opposite is the group exhibit -- our first group effort to make our own versions of the theme "chair". I wrote about my electric chair a few months ago. Next to it is Meredith's very modern chair quilt that I like a great deal, Elaine's Papa-san Japanese style chair, then Robin's chair seen from a kitten's eye view -- a concept that seems to me to say she is the one with the "real" artist's eye, then Betty's traditional chair of which only the flower painted back and side is visible in a sea of floral wall paper and then Ro's big easy traditional overstuffed chair.
The sign at the bottom says who we are. I think this is a nice start for a very informal group that does not meet often. Others may join the group over the coming months. Betty is planning to move away to Arizona. It's a start at the kind of group that can inspire one another to reach for designs that stretch our abilities and imaginations.
Obviously a work in progress, just the top. What could be simpler than a cherkerboard? Oh, but sewing all those little two inch squares together? Well, yes and no. I did sew them all together but not one by one. There's a quicker and easier method. I won't try to explain but lots of how-to books show you.
Early this month I went to a garage sale of fabric (calling it a "yard" sale is a pun, really, there were many yards of fabric and many quarter yards and many pieces of various sizes). Lots of pieces had been crammed into gallon baggies. One of those contained many strips cut 2-1/2 inches wide and many. many of them were navy with small white print, some were white with navy prints. Maybe Betty, whose sale it was, (she's moving and destashing) was going to make a quilt something like this. I don't know. I had to add some whites of my own and of course the red border.
This has a backing (red, white and blue, of course) but it won't be finished until the weather turns cooler. Summer is a time, for me, for making tops not for dealing with three-layer quilts on my lap as I sew. Given all the very fancy designs I see in the magazines, something about the simplicity of this checkerboard is very soothing to me. Should I call it a "modern" quilt? It seems about as far from modern as possible but maybe it's simplicity would put it in that category.
The mid-70s are a surprise! Part of me remains in the 50s -- age, I mean, not decade of 20th century. It's a joy ride, new experiences land in my lap and I've become a better quilter, poet, writer than I expected. It's a rich life for a person never rich financially. Hey, this is what the mid-70s are like!