Saturday, June 30, 2007

Evening, the movie

Evening, is a new movie with an outstanding cast of women: Vanessa Redgrave, Claire Danes,Meryl Streep, Natashia Richardson, Glenn Close, etc. etc. From a Susan Minot novel -- frankly I don't know if the novel is the same name or not. Frankly I don't care. This proved to me once again, although I need no proof, why I don't read best sellers by American writers ... for the most part. What a waste of wonderful talent! The story itself was a kind of cliche, certainly the theme that on our deathbeds we remember, with the pain of loss, our first love ... poppycock. The movie was set in a very sumptous Newport, R.I. summer "cottage". All in the '30s, I guess, or '40s.

Every character was a stereotype -- what a waste of good actresses! -- the setting was a sterotype too. The cutting from present to memory worked okay. The only charming part was the unexplained appearance of the night nurse a couple of times in a wonderful sparkling evening gown. Besides the sheer sentimenatlity of it all the casting of Vanessa Redgrave as the dying woman was ridiculous -- she looks 85 without makeup [or with paled down makeup] And yet she had two daughters who were in their late 30s or early 40s. No! Can't believe it. It was all so much marshmallow and proves to me that not only do I miss almost nothing by not having a TV, I miss almost nothing by selectively going almost exclusively to non-American movies or non-Hollywood type ones. I WILL go see Michael Moore's SICKO in the very near future ... he'll never be establishment and always have a point of view that is not sentimental.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

O'Keefe's hands

I hope I'm not infringing on copywrite but I wanted to share something beautiful. I've come across this photo of Georgia O'Keefe's hands photographed by husband Edward Streichen before. I am awed by both the grace of her hands and the beautiful composition of the photograph. ... And also convinced that she is definitely not sewing. I cannot imagine what sort of stiching she could do in this pose. No, I'm sure the photographer posed her hands very carefully. It's quite possible neither one knew how to thread a needle -- well, they must have figured that out. To me it's an illustration of beauty for it's own sake. It exists like a poem, not at all the way real life is but capturing something awesome and true about life.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

BASE jumping and flying like a bird

I learn extraordinary things in my job -- which is transcribing whatever tape or video comes my way. The range is amazing. Today and for the rest of the week it's raw video footage, interviews and so on, about BASE jumping. I know that "Extreme Sports" are a recent big fad. But I only vague knew that there was a jumping sport different from sky diving. These are people who jump off buildings, bridges, cliffs and other high structures wearing a specially rigged parachute. The guy who's teaching classes [several are] in this video, which is to become a TV program, is a level headed, highly articulate, obviuosly intelligent man who speaks about ethics and responsibility and danger but he's far from a macho yahoo. He now mostly jumps off a bridge over a canyon in Idaho. He was very badly hurt once but was not detered from going back to the sport. He emphasizes the need for serious training and rationality about when and where to jump.

One of his students is a 50ish woman who has done a great deal of sky diving but is a novice at BASE jumping and is eager to learn She says that what she gets out of skydiving and the one jump she's made is a feeling of elation, i.e., "I just can't stop smiling for about two weeks after." She's unusual in that, as one would expect, there are not many, if any, other 50ish women learning to do this. Why now? she was asked. "If you want to do something and don't get a chance when you're younger than do it when you can," she says. Simple enough. But how many have her attitude? This isn't the end of her ambitions although she looks forward to learning to be a good BASE jumper. Her ultimate goal is to jump off a cliff wearing a "flight" suit. She describes it as a suit with fabric that makes a wing web and a web between the legs. Apparently such suits exist andd people have been flying in them, gliding like hawks or eagles, says she. This is her dream. The Icarus dream! A flying dream she's had since she was three. And she is willing to put in a lot of work to learn BASE jumping, which will be a thrill itself, but with the flight of birds, as her dream goal. A gusty and wonderful woman. I'd never "meet" such a person, but I feel, listening to her on the tape -- totally uncut -- that I have come to know something more about the deterination to fulfill your dreams -- which, in this case, is one of humankind's most mythological dreams.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Artisanal weaver, and Chinese amenities

This is a jacket I saw at the Metropolitan Museum last weekend. It's called "Kiss the Prince," made by Jon Eric Riis who wove the tapestry fabric and then beaded it in circles of black beads. Most circles have a red or deep blue bead at the very center. It is stunning, and probably weighs a lot -- the kind of thing the princess wears only when she's riding in a royal coach, pulled by prancing white horses, as she waves to the people of the Prince's country. It's astonishing workmanship.

To change the subject radically -- really radically! I receieved a letter from swap community partner and she had included various neat things based on my profile, which included a packet of disposable toilet seat covers because I wrote that I'm a traveler and she thought they could come in handy. In fact they might and it was thoughtful of her even though I am not one of those sanitizing sorts of people and if I'm carrying a little bottle of Purell when I travel, most of the time I forget to use it until others in the group ask me if I want some of theirs. However, I've been thinking of writing to her about one of the neatest toilets I've experienced -- I think the terrible ones might put her off any travel ideas she might eventually come up with.

The Chinese are seriously developing their tourist sites, partly for foreigners but especially for the now affluent middle class Chinese who can travel and see their national treasures and wonders which has not been possible previously. In many cases they are doing a fine, even elegant job. At the Stone Forest park in Yunnan Province which is full of the strangely shaped karst formations we've all seen in paintings, they have devised a lovely park -- though over crowded. But so are many American sites. There I experienced the most elegant bathroom outside a hotel that I've encountered. The new women's bathroom had marble floors and the hand basins were set in a beautiful teak counter graced with a spray of real, fresh orchids in a vase.

I believe there were both Western and European toilets but it so happened that I went into an Eastern one. This was fine, I rather like to squat over a bowl or trough toilet and avoid all toilet seat questions., [I'm not fond on the ones that are flushed "by hand" when you dip a cup into a bucket of water] .. But this one was immaculate, and when I took my business position I noticed at eye level on the wall in front of me a small screen, about 6x10 which began a slide show of the rock formations in the park. When I finished [they had soft paper!] the toilet flushed automatically and the slide show went off. Who can ask for anything more civilized than that!

Enough frivolity for one day. Oh, by the way, their signage is not always well translated into English. In one park where they had warnings, apparently for no horseplay on a very long escalator, the sign said, "No having fun." Ah well ...

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Addiction to books

I am addicted. 1., to books -- and have been most of my life, 2., to quilt fabric -- such beautiful colors and patterns! 3., probably to bargains - too broad a subject to discuss. The book addiction played out in a fairly typical way today. I've been trying very seriously to purge my messy and overstuffed bookshelves and have had some success. Today I toted a small, wheeled suitcase full of books to the Housing Works Thrift Shop to donate suitcase and contents, about 20 books. Good! shelf space!

As I entered the door I noticed a sign: Today, all paperbacks 50 cents, all hard backs $1.00. Need I even say what happened? This particular thrift shop has good books. A lot of my books to read came from there. Well, I only spent $3.00 but that meant I cam home with five books. I'm still ahead, of course.
So here;s what I could not resist: I read an exellent review of Sven Birkert's THE GUTENBERG ELEGIES. Essays about what will become of books in an age of computeriszation. Naturally that interests me a great deal. I want to wave a flag saying, "Long Live Books". Then I found Kazuo Ishiguro's A PALE VIEW OF THE HILLS, a novel I began reading on the subway home ... lovely. A Japanese writer living in England. Author of THE REMAINS OF THE DAY which I didn't read but, sorry for the cliche, I saw the wonderful movie.

The I found Christopher Tolkein's THE RETURN OF THE SHADOW, which is a scholary presentation of papers found after his father's death that explainsthe creative process that became LORD OF THE RINGS, which I love with a serious passion. And then I found Thomas Lynch's BODIES IN MOTION AND REST and remember very glowing reviews of his meditations about, as the subtitle says, "Metaphor and Mortality.

And the fifth book? This is where irrationality rears it's ugly head. I bought (only 50 cents, remember) LOVE POEMS BY WOMEN ... which I bought from, read, and donated to that same thrift shop. But I've regretted redonating it ever since. I don't know if this is the same copy, I don't think I marked up the one I had. It's worth having for many good poems but could be only for the first one which is by Carol C. Gregory, called "Love Letter."

Dear Samson,
I put your hair
in a jar
by the pear tree
near the well.
I'm thinkin'
over what I done
and I still don't think
God gave you
all that strength
for you to kill
my people.

Love -- Delilah

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Greek, Romans and Germans at the Met

Perfect, perfect day. Cloudless blue sky, mild sun, mild breeze, fresh air. I set off for the Metropolitan Musuem -- met Eleanor who worked with me 15 or so years ago. She has new "bear" -- she likes big fuzzy dogs and had been walking her huge five month old pup. I haven't run into her for maybe three years but I know she lives on the street I was walking on.

As I was entering the museum I noticed a man and his daughter having a snack, sitting onf the flights of stairs, he was wearing shorts. I couldn't help noticing his prosenthic leg an wondering if he's a vet. My main destination was to see the new Greek and Roman display areas and newly arranged displays. I've seen a lot of Greek and Roman stuff in a lot of museums, especially, of cousre in Greece and Turkey, I thought I'd do a quick hike through. But, no, not to be. One of the first things I saw was this statue which seemed like the man I had just noticed, to have a proschenic leg -- lost in action. No disrespect meant to either.

I'm often drawn to unexpected things. In this case it was mainly some very complex glassware, all but one of the fascianting ones were fragments. Also there was this Mynaead dancing with a beautifully draped gown. Almost as magical as Bernini later did. I could feel it swirling around her body and her feet as she danced.

When I'd seen all I was prepared to look at I found the coffee bar and got coffee and a scone which I ate looking out at the park. A man at the next table struck up a conversation, said he was less than delighted with the Greek and Roman display and that I should go to the mezzanine above the modern art and see the German painter Neo Rasch. So I did -- a man who says he is not a realist or a surrealist --- but he paints his dreams. Very weird dreams! Well, worth looking at and wondering about and being glad I don't have the subconscious he does. Picutres that are not grotesque or violent but suggest violence and are full of the strange juxapositions that we associate with dreams. I'm glad the man sent me there. Casual conersations are good things. Of course I had to stop in the book/gift shop and, of cousre, found a couple of wonderful reduced price books, one about Asian/Western embroidery and one about the Tibetan Monasteries ... if I didn't have such diverse tastes it would be harder to find things that fascinate me ... ah, well, that really is not a compliant. I love the Met's section of reduced price books. They always have something beautiful that will enlighten me.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Finished at last!

Whoopy-do! and Hip-hip-hurray! Finally I have finished the blue summer quilt and it is on the bed. The binding and the label were this afternoon's finishing touches. Heaven knows I've got plenty of bed sized quilts but I liked this open kind of star and I adore blue -- so here we are! And I'm satisfied.

So, let's see, now what: Several projects that I would love to get done this summer.

1.. A small quilt with a dog and a starry sky and the Mark Strand poem that I adore -- I think it can be done quickly ... but nothing is ever as quick as one hopes.

2. A wall size quilt with the wondeful rooster fabric I have and a great printed fabric I found in Cape Cod last summer with a story about raising poultry in the 1770s or so. I don't have a picture in mind of how to do it. So that's a challenge. I like challenges.

3. I have a printed touristy fabric with Mt. Kailash and lake Mansowar that I just happened upon. I'd like to back it and quilt it ... sounds easy enough. We'll see. [I have another wonderful piece with flowers that needs the same treatment ... and have had it for years, and it's lovely ...]

4. I have cut out the special pieces that can be two "Stack-n-Whack" quilts, probably throw size. I've stated sewing one. I get a thrill watching these pieces go togerther. A child-like game. And why not?

5: There are two inch squares from the share table at the guild that I've started sewing into four-patch squares that I then want to then put together with 4x4 squares and thus make a couple of homey old fashioned looking baby quilts for the charity project.

6. And I want to make a jacket with a lot of either purple fabrics or dark fabrics wih others that have a lot of gold print. I don't NEED a jacket but I long for one whenever I see others at meetings with ones they've made. And I recently purchased a jacket pattern. So ... why not.

Half a dozen projects [of which two include two quilts, as one might have noticeid]. What are my odds of completing that? I for one wouldn;t put any money on it ... but thoughts and visions in odd moments when I'm thinking about quilting between the other balls I'm juggling in terms of things I want, or plan to do. Too many plans is better than nothing to do ... I cannot actually imagine having nothing to do.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A day for the birds

It's a day for the birds -- I knew that before I got out of bed this morning. When WQXR came on a little before 6:00 as usual, as soon as the music ended, there was bird song. The morning announcer explained that he bikes from Brooklyn to work, leaving about 4 a.m. and each morning he hears a lot of birdsong -- that pre-dawn chorus that I've heard and, in fact, heard the weekend I was in Cape Cod early this month. One bird is very loud so the guy recorded ten minutes of it's song. What it sings is so various -- including a bit of car alarm -- that he's sure it is a mocking bird. In the next half hour he played other bits of bird song.

In today's NY Times is an editorial by Verlan Klingenborg about birds -- many common birds that people take for granted, like the whipporwill [or bobolink] that I used to hear very often when I was a kid on a farm, are declining rapidly. The Audobon Society says some by as much as 60%. They may still number in millions but many fewer millions. Verlan mentions the carrier pigeon that used to be so numerous it's massed flights blackened the skies. It was entirely brought to extinction by human beings. There are no carrier pigeons today.

Everyone knows about the great concern that arises for the last 50 condors or the last 30 someting else ... but we can't seem to care about destroying habitat or killing species because of pesticide use until the numbers are so small we can then cry, alas! This is terrible. Birds seem especially vulnerable - in a general way most people like birds, yet few people pay attention to them. People wander through parks in cities with iPods playing in their ears. Or they ignore birds, flowers, trees and everything else as they chatter away on their cell phones. As if we do not live in the natural world, as if the natural world is just so much weather to dress appropriately for. Not as if we are all living beings together sharing the weather and the trees and the sun and wind and clouds. If I asked everyone sharing a subway car with me as I go to work, "when did you last listen to birdsong?" most would have a hard time answering. They certainly do not share with that morning broadcaster the wonder of that burst of birdsong that happens pre-dawn.

Monday, June 18, 2007

What is so rare ...?

I knew all I needed was a day or two and the photos would load! Sometimes patience is as good as technical know-how .. not often, of course. I suspect usually there was some small thing I did wrong and the next time I do it right. Anyway this is the quilt unquilted, but the pictures shows the blue print backing and how perfect the color is -- it's all so perfect I almost want to add a bright red binding as a kicker. I did quilt the entire center and part of the border, but yesterday was just too beautiful to stay in. So I went out for a nice walk besides the Hudson. I sat for a while and watched until this four masted sloop was close enough for a photo -- I call it a sloop because I suspect, but do not know for sure, that it was the Clearwater which belongs to one of the environmental groups and does many summer sailing parties on the river, all up and down it. The Clearwater is always called a "sloop." It's a gorgeous thing to see out on the water.

After sitting in the sun and walking a total of two miles, I arrived back home sweaty so I had time for a nice refreshing shower and then went to the Thalia to see the European film, INTO GREAT SILENCE, made by a German filmmaker about the Carthusian monastery at Chartreuse in the French Alps -- nearly three hours of plotless, often entirely silent film in the monastery and sometimes scenic shots -- beautiful! very beautiful!, some chanting, bell ringing, very little speaking. Biblical verses and instructional manuals in French, German and English subtitles. Young men, old men, in the Medieval robes with hoods, goiing through a year of monastery life, speaking only for a short period on Sundays. Peaceful, repetitious. It had me comparing life in Tibetan monasteries, what I saw of it, with this Christian austerity. Something very cold about the silence, it did not seem like the quiet of Zen meditation, it seemed harsher. Lots to think about comparing Europe and Asia -- Western and Eastern approaches to holiness.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The summer blue quilt

Ah, computers are contrary contraptions. I have never had any trouble uploading photos from my camera but tonight it's just not happening ... maybe tomorrow. I spent a large part of the day quilting the blue/white quilt. The entire main portion is now quilted and I have the borders left to do tomorrow and then the binding and label and, viola! finis!. I wanted to show a couple pictures. As I dug into my container of possible backing I found a blue/white fabic I'd forgotten I have -- perfect colors and a nice big floral that will be a good contrast to the fussy front. Perfect!. So I laid out back, batting and quilt, sat on the floor and pinned the layers. And got to work. This quilt is just at the limit of the size I can handle with reasonable ease in my cramped sewing space. The thin batting, of course, helps the manipulation problem. So I'm moving right along.

I wonder how many other quilters have actually used a seam ripper to death -- mine actually came apart today. It's been used and used and used. Someplace I have a new one, I remember purchasing it but I don't remember quite where I put it for the time I might need it. It's smaller, a slightly different design. Probably won't last as long ... being an old fogey these days, I can say that nothing lasts like it's predecessors.

In that regard my sewing machine is a super-star. A Riccar purchased 45 years ago, with only one or two plastic parts. It's supposed to be portable but weighs at least 30 pounds, maybe 40. It's had to be fixed a few times and it has tension problems and doesn't do much except zigzag and straight stitch. But what a dependable piece of machinery! And there is a sewing machine mechanic only a few blocks away who can get parts if problems happen -- I know because I needed a new lever to lift the foof a few years ago. I could barely believe it! He had one and I was back in business in 24 hours. And nobody else has ever heard of the brand. I should purchase a sleek new model that does lots of wonderful things. I WOULD Like to do free motion quilting and can't. But every time I think of spending well over $1000, say up to $5000 for a sewing machine I say, Ah, but I could go to ... any of many countries I want yet to see. When it comes to priorities travel is in line ahead of a new sewing machine, especaily since I have my dependable workhorse which must have sewn something like a million milies of seams in these 45 years.

Friday, June 15, 2007


Lovely, lovely weather, 60s, 70s -- beautiful for walking, beautiful for sleeping. Such days inspire me with enthusaism to get on with the thingsI want to do. No inertia, no enui. Just mental to-do lists. This is the weekend to finish the blue/white quilt; This afternoon I finished sewing the last line of border. I have only to decide on which backing fabric and then make the quilt "sandiwich" and get busy quilting it. Which I WILL do and, I hope finish and then post a picture. {The picture here is on a not very long hike in Mongolia near Lake Khovsol which is appropriate for the note below about Lake Baikal, for Khovsol is connected, like a child by an umbilicol cord -- an underground, unseen connection, but the same pure, beautiful water]

Of course there's some house cleaning ... but housecleaning is often a casualty of quilting being a priority. I've finally mumbled so much about my biographic writing project that a long time friend -- I like to think of him as a real pen pal -- finally said, quite gracefully, that I've been digging the well so long, isn't it time to share the water -- or something of the sort. He could have used a much cruder metaphor about sittiing on the pot ... At any rate, I'm taking the advice to heart. I just wrote about 250 words ... which will, in the course of time, probably disappear. But every big undertaking starts somehow ... that famous journey of 1000 miles ...

I have been oiling the gears with various writing exercises though an internet swap site. I've written three or four very short "stories" and last night delighted myself with a bit of a fantasy in the voice of a shaman drowned in Lake Baikal; I used a variety of facts that are really quite exotic. I hope they're "facts". Jim Harrison writes that in Lake Superior drowned people [and animals] are preserved by the coldness of the water, as if they are flash frozen and never thaw. If that is true of Superior, it must be true of Lake Baikal. I love having funds of knowledge in various strange subjects that I can weave into a story. It's a wonderful imaginative exercise and it is a little bit enlightening to the readers, even if they take it as a fantasy. I believe many readers of fantasy, as my daughters are, especially Leslie, are hungry for strange information and broad thoughts about big subjects.

The biography I have started is historically true, but it is so exotic it speaks to that same impulse -- perhaps that's what has made me procrastinate. It feels too big. But then making a full sized quilt is a big, labor intensive [as I sort often say] undertaking too. And we're back to that jjourney of a thousan miles...

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

David Hockney and Picasso

Bookstores are, for me, sirens with temptatons and I go in knowing I'm probably going to find something irrestistable. I'm never sorry about the money I spend on books except in the (not too frequent) times when I purchase a book only to discover when I get home that I already have it.

A couple days ago I stopped at Barnes and Noble as I walked part way home, to get Pema Chodron's When Things Fall Apart to send to somebody in one of those periods of life. It is a wonderful little book, not sentimental schmaltz, no buck up and stiff upper lip, just good practical advice from a woman writing from the deeply felt knowledge that the world is a solid place and one must not look for easy answers but face the pains and difficulty, fears and worries head on. So I got Pema's book and browsed a bit and what did I find?

On the bargain racks, yet. A book I saw the last time I was at the Metropolitan Museum's bookstore, but now redueed from $45 to $15: Hockney's Pictures, the Definitive Retrospective. I've always been drawn to Hockney's deceptively simple, light, bright colors and graphic paintings and his more technical photo montages. He seems to know how to look at things and paint them without attempting to convince us of his genius or skill -- but things that look straightfoward are usually more complex. So I scanned here a drawing, an early work, where Hockney's naked self is facing a clothed and stereotypical Picasso. One can look a long time thinking about the young painter, the already famous master, the vulnerability of self-containment of Hockney and Picasso simply himself, not engaged with anything except art. How is an aspiring artist to meet such a figure except naked on the other side of the table? How are any of us to meet our aspirations? Only by being simply who we are ... if the other is blind to us, okay, we are not blind to him. By making the encounter a work of art, Hockney has asserted himself and incorporated Picasso into his life. This is this the kind of drawing I would like to have as a postcard to tack to the kitchen cabinet or on the refrigerator so the encounter becomes a part of my life.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Poverty, in American and elsewhere

Every now and then I get caught up in a subject that is much too big for me. Poverty is one. Sunday's NYTimes magazine had an article about presidential candidate John Edwards' end-poverty platform. There were some satistics and plans and references to Lyndon Johnsons' War On Poverty. Probably academics have assessed the extent to which that succeeded or failed, but I haven't read them. Of course there is poverty, I see it every day, the men sleeping in the bowels of Penn Station on Sunday morning and on the subway grate every afternoon as I go home. These are destitute people, so are the several I see asking for money on the streets or in the subway. I do not see the people with empty cabinets and refrigerators. People are hungry, people are desperate, and they are miserable. Here in the richest city on earth. Out in the small towns, the farms, the mountains, on the Indian reservations, people are also poor and miserable. I know this, I think about it; I don't turn it off. I know many people don't read the articles, prefer not to think about it.

I have just finished reading Geroge Crane's BEYOND THE HOUSE OF THE FALSE LAMA. By and large I was disappointed but the last third is in Mongolia. He glories in too much vodka, as earlier he enjoyed wasting time being depressed in Paris. But I'm thinking about poverty and what I will remember vividly from this book is Crane's discription of visiting an American Buddhist nun working in Ulan Bataar with "orphans" -- homeless children who may or may not have living parents. The children, some as young as 3 or 4, live like little animals, spending the terribly cold winters mostly below the street in the spaces around the heat [steam] pipes that keep the city warm from a central power plant. [Such as Manhattan once had] The children scounge garbage for food. Often they have only the clothes they are wearing and never change. The nun is able to maintain a food kitchen and care for many children for $5000 a year! How little money it takes to do something marvelous where poverty means something beyond the imagination of most Americans. When I visited Mongolia the tour company said we could donate to an orphanage if we wished. They sent a list of things the children could use -- it was everyting! Everything a child might need. Many of us did take things but we never visited the orphanage, the local guide found time to take us to a cashmere sweater outlet instead.

I grow impatient with myself and with almost all Americans when I think about the great inequallity in the world. The horrible disparity between our concern with obesity which is rampant in America and that when a politician like Edwards seems to truly care about doing something about poverty it is seen as a campaign issue and it's clear that this will not bring him voters, people just don't care that much. It hurts to think about it so we'll think about the lastest block buster movie and whatever new tunes can be put on the IPods -- so many prefer to be constantly entertained, to have constant music in their ears which they interrupt only to chat on their cell phones saying almost nothing. This is definitely not one of my most cheerful posts -- most cheerful day.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Summer quilting

Yesterday was the last meeting of the Empire Quilt Guild until September. Belonging does not give me deadlines. But I keep giving myself deadlines. Today I started the final border for the blue/white summer quilt -- and already it's almost too hot to sleep under a quilt. It seems the border will go pretty quikcly so it should be done by the end of the week and then I have only to back, add batting and quilt. So two weeks, max, I hope.

The quilt in the picture here is again one of my bad photos but it was a lovely quilt by the speaker, Margaret Cohen of Long Island who is a traditional quilter, doing most of the piecing and quilting by hand -- some piecing by machine. But she only does machine quilting when making something for her daughter-in-law! She was a very amusing speaker and had wonderful quilts. I was especially glad to hear that she doesn't believe in basting but uses lots of safety pins which is my preferred method. But, I was astonished that she dosn't think of them as things to sleep under -- in fact she spoke of a chilly night in a motel at a quilt show when her roommate suggested she use a qulit to add warmth and she felt very uncomfortable sleeping under one of her own quilts.

I feel entirely the opposite. I almost ritually need to sleep under a quilt before I give it away. While I have a couple of throws, I own no blankets, I always sleep under my own quilts. That's what they are for - the ones that aren't wall size. So now, I have several unfinished projects to work on and a couple of small quils, well, maybe three ... well maybe more counting the charity ones I want to do from some 2x2 squares... which I want to finish this summer. And I want to make a jacket before it gets cool in the fall .. but since summer is only now getting a toe hold, that feels a long way off.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Another year older

It happens every year and try as I might I can't ignore the day although I tend to treat it like every other ... sort of. I did make a point of going to my favorite local Chinese restaurant for lunch. So far I've resisted going to the self-styled "European" bakery nearby for a slice of cheesecake. But I hear a sort of siren song urging me to go have a piece with some capuccino. In my heart I KNOW I cannot be the age one would calculate from the year I was born. I KNOW it's been a long time since I was this hair-ribboned three year old, but it can't have been THAT long.

When one's last name is Calender, one is stuck with noting the flow of the years. Like Prof. Cox said back in American lit, "our names influence us in ways we don't even realize." [How sorry I feel for the famous Miss Ima Hogg!] And yet I am bad at remembering exact years; it's as if I have been given license by my name to contain all the years in an indiscriminate jumble. What year did X happen? I don't know. I know, like most Americans, exactly where I was and what I was doing when I heard JFK had been shot but I don't know what year it was. I have not yet forgotten the year of 9/11, that is too close, too intimate. But what year did I trek in Nepal to Thenboche to see the Mani Rimdu festival? I remember most of the ups and downs of the trails, the rope bridges, the sight of Everest on the horizon, but the year is simply not important. I forget the years my daughters were born and the same for my grandchildren. That kind of forgetfulness has nothing to do with their importance but with the relative unimportance of this arbitrary thing we call time, and most of all the even more arbitrary way we number years. How ridiculous the millennium madness was! Whose millennium? I kept asking. Why was that year different than all other years? In fact, it wasn't.

And, in fact, I am not older today than I was yesterday. I refuse to be that old and I will not truly celebrate another birthday until I reach a nice round 80 ... and I reserve the right to change that to 90 if I should wish as the year approaches .... sometimes way out there in the oh, so distant future.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Memories and forgetting

I am doing a busman's holiday sort of thing by reading a book of interviews with travel writers, A SENSE OF PLACE from the San Francisco publisher Travelers Tales is a collection of interviews with well known travel writers. I spend many days at work transcribing interviews -- that's all I've transcribed for the last ten days! But I never get tired of listening to people answer questions. Last night I read an interview with Jonathan Raban, who said, "I spend most of my time forgetting rather than remembering until I can write..." [about whatever subject] This came after a discussion of Graham Green having written about a trip in Liberia where he took no notes [or so he said] and comparing that book to one written by his cousin Barbara who accompanied him [and took no notes, so she said] And the two books sound like they were in entirely different places at different times and situations. I've read Barbara's book and enjoyed it.

Raban also speaks of the times when writers can recreate conversations perhaps months or years after the fact, not having recorded them. He says, "writing in a state of almost traancelike memoriousness you are able to recapture things that you ought, by all the sort of normal laws of memory physics, to have forgotten. But somehow the very slowness of the writing brings those words back." Reading about this yesterday was one of those synchronous events for I had just read an article in the NY TImes Science Section about the brain's need to forget the peripheral junk in order to remember what is important -- duh! Someone somewhere had to use an MRI and set up complex words tests and enlist some students to spend an afternoon proving what a writer could have told them, not just now, but probably any time since people have been writing their memories.

I think Raban goes well beyond the scientists. He was particularly speaking of recapturing a conversation he had had with the poet Philip Larkin, someone he greatly admired. No doubt when with Mr. Larkin Raban was alert and concentrated in a way that one is not when, say, walking down a supermarket aisle. He cared very much about their conversation, perhaps he played various parts of over in his mind for some days afterward as we're likely to do after seeing someone we admire and having a rare conversation with that person. When he sat down to write, he probablly didn't have the verbatim transcript I would transcribe from a tape in my job, but he had all the important parts and went, as he says into a trancelike state which is a mental state every writer knows and experiences when in concentration, whether writing about a real event or creating a fictional one where, as very often writers report, the characters speak and say surprising, but appropriate, in character things. I read all the articles I come across about how the mind works. It never ceases to fascinate me.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Art - spontaneous and laborious

Here are pictures of two kinds of art I saw while on Cape Cod. "The Shell Tree" is sponatneous, "folk" art. It may be known to only a handful of people, perhaps it was "made" by one person or a group of persons. It stands on a beach that is public but is not well known -- yes, such beaches exist even on over-populated Cape Cod. It is a dead tree which has been festooned with broken couch shells, the sort that can be found on the beach, probably early in the morning before visitors come so the tree was probably fashioned by a local person. It has weathered [and possibly been restored after] at least three years of storms. We do not know when it was made, maybe quite some time ago. To walk along the inside path of the beach, on the calm side of the dunes, and come upon the tree makes one feel connected to the art making impulse that is perhaps our genetic inheritance from those distant ancestors who left pictographs on cliffs and painted deep inside caves. It is a glorification of the beauty the sea strews on the sand with the tides. The shells remain tinged with a delicate pink inside. The beach is wondeful but this tree has made is a truly special place.
I am not a good photographer and so this picture of a highly reflective piece of glass art made by Patrick Todoroff, my daughter's husband and artisan ofGlass Graphics is a differnt kind of art. Carefully thought out, each piece carefully chosen and cut and fitted together. A grand, complex wall hanging, just one of the many designs he has made. I wish I had been able to find a way to photograph it to show it's fascinating and complexity.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

What is so rare as a day in June?

In the Northeast we cannot expect beautiful weather the 2nd of June. In fact the forecast was for occasional rain storms. A five minute storm with a couple of loud thunder claps rushed across Hyannis about 9;30 Saturday morning doing no damage to our graduation day plans, merely cutting short Molly, the dog's morning walk. A haze hid the sun but the day was warm and beautiful, the graduation ceremony mercifully short, and spiced by a Wapanogg woman wearing her ceremonial dress and feathers for her graduation, applauded by her very, very tall family.
Cori had the kind of smiling radience one associates with a bride. She was glad to graduate, she was happy that her life is moving foreward. She chose a Japanese restaurant for a hibachi prepared dinner so we got the full show from the chef. Cori disappeared with her boy friend and other friends, her brothers were busy, her mother and I and my ex-husband and wife had time for a nice long walk on Long Beach -- it was warm enough for hearty Cape Cod youngsters, including little bro, Noah, to swim. The beach roses were in magnificent abundance. What more could you want? How about a clam rolll, some coffee ice cream and little cakes? Now that is a beautiful day ... with a quick trip to Joanne's Fabrics where I found the last bit I need for the blue/white quilt I'm eager to finish. Nothing more needed. And then an early morning departure for NYC beneath stormy skies and much cooler weather.