Monday, April 30, 2007

In the Dark

I came home about 3:30 this afternoon in the bright spring sunlight -- strong breeze making my hair fly all kinds of weird ways -- as I entered the building, I took off my sunglassses. It didn't help. Apparently the electricity had just gone off throughout the building ... actually the personnel in the lobby were trying to find out what floors were affected. All, apparently. So I decided to wallk up the seven flights. There are emergency lights in the stairwells which were on. Others were walking up and down. Building workers with flashlights were in and out of hallways ascertaining all was dark. I met a neigbhor who works at home who was f-wording about what a sudden outage would do to his computer program.

I walked slowly but it was not difficult. In the dark hallway I could see slivers of natural light beneath doors, including my own. Before leaving the lighted stair, I sorted my keys so the two I would need were in my hand, then I walked with caution but general certainty. I found my door and felt for the upper keyhole. Not difficult. Fitted in the key and turned then did the same for the other keyhole. Marginally lighter in my apartment from natural light although I've been complaining bitterly about the new building that blocks so much of my light. I had a some groceries but chose not to put the few items that needed refrigeration into the fridge because I didn't want to let out the cold in case the elecricity might be off for some time.

What could I do without electricity? I could not check my email or write a couple of letters that I planned to write. My phone depends on electricity so I could not make the calls I was planning to make. I could not work on my quilting project because the sewing machine is electric. I changed clothes and was thinking what I would read, and whether I should go out to a Starbucks and read there ... And then there was light! A small interruption in my routine! I had to reset the clocks and then get on with my day.

The bobble in routine made me notice how much I depend on electricity. I thought of the many people in the US who had lengthy power ourtages because of bliizzards this last winter. Many of them depended on electricity for heat. THEY had hardships -- especially since the blizzard made it difficult to leave their homes. How dependent we are on things beyond our personal control! The global warming warnings are probably going to prove underestimates. More and more we pampered Americans will be inconvenienced by these difficulties as the weather does strange thing. [Today's little problem probably had to do with the recent electrical work done in the building.]

Saturday, April 28, 2007

What is Poetry Month without the Bard?

Poetry month is almost over and what is poetry in English without Shakespeare? The picture here may or may not be William as a young man, just a April 23 may or may not be his birthday. So much we don't know about the Bard? What we most of all do not know -- and will never know -- is what factors combined to create his incredible insight into the human psyche and combine it with the gracefulness of Elizabethan English to give us so much beauty and wonder to enjoy and ponder. It's almost impossible to choose any bit to quote ... chosen, almost at random, here are just a few lines from Sonnet 30's opening and its end:

When to the session of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrances of things past
I sigh the lack of many things sought,
and with old woes new wail my dear times' waste
but if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
all losses are restor'd and sorrows end.

Friday, April 27, 2007

In Touch With the Wide World

Some days the wide world touches me personally. I received a small package that makes me smile for many reasons -- the sheer irony of it's parts, mainly. Why do I have a picture here of a Christmas card, three stamps with Arabs on them and a label for Qatar? I've been participating in a web site called Swap-bot which is mostly, as far as I can tell, a group of women who do crafts and who write [much overlap of the categories] from all around the world. Inexpensive swaps are listed and members sign up and participate. I've found it a way to make myself do more writing than I was doing and a way of getting very interesting "snail maiil" like the package from Qatar. The multi-nationality continues because the writer was actually an Australian woman working in Qatar.

I also received a letter from a young American woman teaching English in Japan with an address so myterious I can't tell what city or town she lives in. She told me about 24-hours in her life. I had written such a letter to women in Prince Edward Island, Canada, Tasmania and I forget where in the US. I should get two more 24-hour letters in the near future. In a sense this is an artificial bringing the world to me; that is, I don't know these people but they are all playing a computer game in a sense, but it's not "virtual" it's real. I get and send actual pieces of mail, sometimes with items in them -- doing fat quater swapping is popular. [Fat quarter cuts of fabric, for non-quilters who might read this] and so are greeting cards and post cards and photographs.

Less "artifical" comes a nice note from Kay who was my roommate on my Mongolia trip. She lives in Canada and recently went to Egypt. She writes about the continuous presence of a police escort with tourists -- not, apparently, to monitor them but to protecct them from extremists. I was aware of much police presence when I was there about 15 years ago but apparently it's very stepped up these days. But she writes to me on a notecard, shown here, purchased on last summer's trip to Western Canada, including Bampf and Lake Louise.

I also bring the world into my house when I go shopping. Recently I found a brand of packaged food I'd never seen before, "ready to heat and eat rice meals" from India, no pereservatives. Why, I'm wondering, is India exporting prepared rice meals when several million people, especially in their northern provinces which have suffered droughts, are severely malnourished? Well, the answer is capitalism, the export-import thing. But it makes no practical sense to me. Still I like Indian food very much so I bought a couplepackages. Tthe one I've just tried was called "lemon rice". I expected a plain rice with a bit of a tangy lemon flavor, perhaps bits of lemon peel. No. What I got was a surprise -- a VERY pleasant surprise, reallly. I presume there was lemon in it, but I didn't taste it. There was a complex of herbs, little leaves of some type, round spice berries of some kind and the kind of mild burning sensation in the mouth that I really enjoy in Indian and some Sezhuwan Chinese food. Not everyone likes this kind of spiciness but I love it. It was truly lovely with the saved half of a meal of chicken and broccoli.

So I've had a trip around the world in just a few hours. Now I'm going to plunge into a novel I purchased on the strenth of the author's name, Dubravka Ugresic, because it's so exotic, and the first pagel which tells of an exhibit in the Berlin zoo [truth or fiction? I don't know] which shows the contents of a recently deceased walrus's stomach -- all kind of man made items, mostly plastic, wood and metal. She says the novel will be an amalgam of seemingly unrelated bits like the display but they will prove to all have a common denominator eventually -- I love novels like that which show how things are all connected, even if tangentially.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Quilts from Europe

Warm sun, trees brusting into leaf ... a switch turns on that says, "spring cleaning time." The impulse is a bit blunted nowadays but my early domestication is strongly imbedded in my psyche. I was even dusting bookshelfs .. a very dangerous practice in terms of cleaning. I had to sit down and go through the quilt books on a shelf I hadn't touched for quite some time. I found many that I've "outgrown" and will give to the guild library to keep or sell, as they deem reasonable. But I got stopped finally by QUILTS FROM EUROPE that I hadn't looked at in quite a while. It was published by C&T in 2000 and is edited by Gul Laporte.

This beautiful book proudly emphasizes in the introduction that quilting existed in Europe at least since the 13th century and probably longer. But what this book shows vividly is that art quilting is far from only an American practice. The book has sections on 14 European quilters -- the author, a fine quilter herself, has modestly not shown her own work. There are bios and a gallery of work and a project design from each that the reader can undertake. I don't usually feel inspired to follow someone else's design but some of these are challenging and exciting. I don't know what rereading this book is going to do to my quilting agenda ... most likely it will feed in to the "so little time, so much I want to do" frustration.

In fact, I have a large collection of art quilt books and others as well. I strongly beleive everything I need to know is to be found between the covers of a book. So when I become interested in something I seek out all the books I can find. And as my interest is either sated or moves into more rarified areas, I begin weeding out the early or elementary books which I'm do more or less constantly with quilt books and magazines.

I'm aware of course that a generation is being educated who feel as strongly, and maybe more accurately, that everything they want to know can be found on the internet. And they don't need books. Well ... I am one who believes books will not die. They have a sensuality that a screen does not replace even if the informatiion is available. I sometimes go to web sites, like the SAQA one that has a wonderful slide show of art quilts. I watch with the greatest delight. But I can sit and savor this book all evening in a different way.

Thinks of books and internet reminds me that I believe I heard a WQXR announcer this morning quote T.S. Eliot and I've forgotten the exact quote but the essence was, is wisdom lost amidst so much knowledge? [I LOVE that radio station!] The question has been hovering at the edge of my mind all day, not apropos quilting so much as the many other subjects I have and continue to explore in books.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Memory Quilt - labor intensive quilting

For a few years my memory quilt made with three photo taken trekking in the Nepalese subkingdom of Mustang, hung in my entry hall. When I decided to replace it with the Mongolia memory quilt, I looked at it seriously and decided it needed much more quilting. As I wrote a while ago, our eyes get used to different things. Heavy quilting is IN and I've begun to like the look even though I can't do free motion quilting on my trusty but ancient sewing machine. I decided I should add much more quilting. And I have been doing that for three days in the limited quilting time I've had. I forget how labor intensive each step of quilting is, how much time it takes. So this took much longer than I wished but such work can't be hurried. The before is above, the after is here -- just a small section.
And below is the whole quilt. It is not one of the most beautiful, I tried to use the colors of Mustang but I could have done a better job of balancing them, I think. Still there are ascending pictures of me on the trail -- all taken on one of the last days when we crossed four pases before lunch! A day I remember with great vividness each time I look at this quilt I'm terrificly proud of myself for doing this in my sixties! I was the slowest, almost always the last on the trail, but I did it and possibly loved doing it more than any of the younger whippersnapers The picture at the top shows me on a pass with a string of prayer fllags about my head. The mountains in the distance are the Annapurnas [3rd highest in the world], we walked with them in view all day -- so beautiful!
Those are real prayer flags across the top. One day as I left my building quite early in the morning, they were literally lying on the sidewalk in front of the door of the building. I thought that was auspicious so I picked them up and kept them. As a note of interest: when I saw prayer flags in Tibet and learned they are called "wind horses" [and many, like these, are stamped with images of horses, a well as with prayers in Tibetan script] I found it difficult to understand how the Tibetans, in their mountainous country had chosen a horse symbol. Horses are pretty useless in thosee mountains, yaks are much more adequate beasts. But eventually I realized that in that huge country [of which I saw only a tiny bit] there are also wide plains. And I learned that Tibet may have been invaded a few times by horse-riding peoples and that horses are prized possessions, once of only the wealthy. So, horses with all their romance that flat-landers have associated with them, strength, nobility, speed, if imagined to be at home in the sky would be fine bearers of prayers to the heavens and throughout the world.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Earth Day

It's Earth Day. This partial map of the world -- it was too big to scan all at once -- neverheless, inadvertently shows a global warming fact: the Artic Circle is shown as blue ocean, not white ice -- as we normally imagine it to be. Already the ice is meltng, for several years now travelers with a lot of money have been going to the Arctic Circle on Soviet ice breakers and even, those who are really hearty, going for a swim. [briefly!] True! I first read about it about five years ago.

Lately I've been reading a lot of articles by semi-optimists [not cock-eyed, cautious] who write about ways to deal with the global warming that, really, no one can deny any longer. One writer in the NY Times Magazine last week bellieves that "Main Street" has become aware, finally. And even better, people who have power to effect changes are waking up too; like the Chinese government encouraging fuel efficent, even alternative fuel, cars -- the Chinese are buying [and building] cars like crazy -- and they're polluting equally crazily ... and they know it's bad. Bad for them as individuals, bad for their image, bad for their standing in the world. American companies like Wal-Mart are learning to improve earnings by encouraging energy preservation, some governments are offering incentives for efficient renewable energy.
These pretty little, dwarf tulips -- I THINK they're tulips -- were at the Conservatory Garden in Central Park yesterday ... what a lovely place that is!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Strawberry jam! A Manhattan story

When I stopped at my favorite fruit and veggie store yesterday I couldn't resist the QUART of fresh California strawberries for $1.79. They looked REAL compared to the perfectly sized and pyamidal shaped berries in pints nearby -- the latter the kind from hybrid plants that grow in greenhouses and come out too brightly colored and all the same size and shape and are as flavorful as cardboard. These looked like they grew in fields and were picked by poor migrant workers [I do hope they got minimum wage]. They were not all the same size or shape or color and smelled like strawberries. I ate a few dipped iin confectioner's sugar for dessert. They were lovely. But I had so many ... what was I thinking?

It proved to be an insomniac night. Couldn't turn the brain off. Solved three or four little problems then THE idea came to me. I'll make strawberry jam. I got up, got my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook [1960s vintage] and found a recipe. Pectin and sugar and strawberries. That's it. Great. Back to bed and to sleep. This morning I set out on a search for pectin. I knew it wouldn't be easy. Understatement. Most clerks and even store managers had no idea what it was. I even went down to Fairway, the fresh produce store with the most of everything {not just produce] on the West Side. Pectin is unknown -- no one makes jam ... nor have I for a very long time.

The brain kept going. I knew I'd read recipes in the distant past that did not call for pectin; it depends on the kind of fruit. When I got home -- after, a two mile walk with stops at seven stores -- I got my America Cooks [same vintage] and found two recipes for strawberry jam without pectin. Viola!!! Boil water and sugar, hull and half or quarter strawberries.
When sugar is dissolved and boiling add strawberries and boil on medium heat for half an hour. Then put into shallow pan to cool. When cool put in sterilized jars and seal with parafin. Parafin? Ha! Parafin is off in never, never land with pectin. And I haven't saved jam jars, but I do have a couple of pint size [literally,not figuratively] ceramic pots. So I boiled them five minutes and "sealed" with Saran and rubber bands. They wil be stored on the back of a refrigerator shelf so I'm pretty sure will preserved properly.

Jam done, I went for a walk in the sunny afternoon. When I came back in ... oh! what a lovely smell!! If I'd made fresh bread to go with it I'd have been on cloud nine in a state of total ecstasy.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Sun at last and public opinion poll

The sun was bright, the sky was a clean, beautiful blue, leaves and flowers burst open on the limbs of long bare, skeletal trees. In our brains wonderful chemicals were fizzing and goiing snap, crackle and pop and people were unzipping their jackets or taking them entirely off, putting on sunglasses and looking happier ... a little sun after a lot of gray, rainy days is as good as a Souza march or a Strauss waltz, maybe better. So that was today! Hurray!! It will be the weekend the weather pundits announce. Hurray!!
{The sun above is a design by Laurel Birch, a wonderful graphic artist who has designed several versions of cat patterns for quilting fabric. This is a greeting card I"ve been uinable to send anyone because I love the design. Now I can share it with whoever reads this.]

On a darker note -- some left over angst. I've been horrified by the Virgina Tech slaughter; but every morning I am horrified by the numbers of dead in Iraq in the wake of a civil war brought on by the unnecessary, illegal and hateful American invasion. I thought i was the only one feeling this way -- it's hardly a topic of casual conversation. But I was reading METRO a free paper I pick up at the subway stop many mornings. In it was a "man in the street" poll: What do you think of the media coverage of the Virgina Tech event? Two out of three said they felt there is a disparity between the coverage of those deaths and the lack of attention paid to the many, many deaths in Iraq. Iraqi dead are civilians too, often women and children, not combatants, but they are only numbers -- very large numbers. Frankly I was surprised to read those remarks. Perhaps many others besides me are pained every day when we hear/see/read of this senseless slaughter of innocents.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Morning music on WQXR, poetry month

I love WQXR, the classical music station of the NY Times. My radio alarm is set for 5 minutes before the hour so I wake up to classical music before the dire news of how many were killed in Iraq today and what havoc has been wrought by psychotic students or patriarchal judges who don't know it's the 21st century and women know how to make their own choices. Yesterday the first few notes I heard popped me awake, not classical music but "Smoke Get In Your Eyes," sung by a woman whose voice I don't think I ever heard but which I immediately recognized. I had heard before going to sleep that Kitty Carlise Hart had died at 96. WQXR does tributes of this sort very important people They also play a great deal of music by their "birthday boys" [Usually men, rarely women], whichever compose or outstanding musician was born on that day. It creates, along with the familiar announcers' voices, a feeling of family -- big, big family. I enjoy it.

It's still poetry month; The week has been so dire out there in the world, I want to quote something beautifully fantastic that most people know, or certainly have heard, just the opening, and then let your imagination create the rest and may no man from Porlock interrupt your reverie.

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round:
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots off greenery.

This paitning, "Mirrored Trees" by April Gornik suggests Xanadu to me.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007 hell in a handbasket

At the end of a big, bad rainstorm, the last day and a half have been full of the the kind of bad news that makes an old fogey say that the world is surely going to hell in a hand basket. The horrible shootings at Virgina Tech ... I've just read a bit from someone who was in a playwrighting class with the shooter. He and others from the class immediately thought of him as the possible shooter because of the plays he had turned in. Two were available on the website I saw but I didn't read them, I read the comments about them and that, with the brilliance of hindsight, people wondered why someone who write such adolescent violence in plays had not at least been referred by the teacher to a counselor. Was there a teacher who didn't want to get involved? Aren't many of us wary of the sullen, silent person who may need help but who we feel so distant from that we prefer to say and do nothing? Some students it seems did try to at least talk to the guy. It's too late to ask if the tragedy could have been avoided. The only thing to ask is whether we'll pay attention to those around us and not do the knee jerk thing of saying we should put metal detectors on every door way.

At work I found myself educated about another depressing situation. In an interview a hedge fund manager whose specialty is agricultural commodity futures talked about the way our government and some others are subsidizing the development of biofuels in a rush to lessen our dependence on oil. This means, in the US, mostly ,ethanol made from corn [in Brazil it's made from sugar cane]. The man spoke of crops being subject to weather, as this farmer's daughter knows. He said that when there is a drought, there could come tough choices between food for people, for animals [the many animals being raised to feed people] and for transportation.

There will be droughts -- we know that from past cycles and even more so from recent global warming reports. The scary thing is that big, resource gobbling countries like the US have the money and power to shift the acreage in needed production not only within the US but anywhere else in the world that can grow the crop. This is truly scary. Already the percentage of people who do not have enough to eat is horrible; but if we're grabbing their fields to grow fuel for our bioenergy ... and then there's the matter, too, of fertilizers and pesticides and their run-off into rivers and ground water and what that will mean ... It's all such a horror ... it feels like we are at the gates of hell and about to be pushed into the pit.

The fund managerf was a brilliant analyzer, he outlined these problems ... very dispassionately. He goes on day after day playing his modeling games to discern what to buy and sell and how to keep his clients earning money ... clients of hedge funds tend to be pension funds, endowments, private corporations and what the financial world calls "high net worth individuals.' Where does that leave the normal American? Outside the loop. But where does it leave most humans on earth? Well most people don't have a clue that these financial/political manipulations are happening and may mean greatly increased food prices for those who have money, and almost no food at all for the rest of the world.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Kiran Over Mongolia

Yesterday was a day of deluge in NYC so I knew there would not be a crowd at the Rubin Musuem of Himalayan Art. I was definitely right. I wasn't in danger of feeling drowned a a fairy tale scene.

"KIRAN" means golden we are told and describes the attributes of a perfect hunting eagle. The movie follows the young man's education from catching his own eagle through training it. He becomes a part of the family although there is really no other story than that of the young man being taught how to train the eagle. This is not a Saturday night in the mall movie. The movie shows great respect for the eagle without any preaching, and respect for traditional life, although the young man assets he will marry a Mongolia girl, not a Kazhak. That's really all the movie is -- beautiful and respectful of a culture about which we know nothing. There are a few short scenes in hip Ulan Bator youth hangouts and a couple of traditional singers just pasted in, and simple life in the teacher's ger with his family. It was a wonderful afternoon break from the gray skys and pouring rain.

It's still April, still poetry month and here is a short piece from a fairly long poem by Tess Gallagher's poem "Behave"

...once we feel deeply we begin to behave.
The notion of right action proceeding
naturally out of right feeling --
poetry the witching stick,not only
to what was felt, but now the abiltiy to feel a thing
is already something some to the good.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Me and Some of My Quilts

I've been modest, even retiring and generally pretty quiet, keeping a low profile -- you know, all those things -- at the Empire Quiltes Guild. I know, having chaired/president-ed volunteer organizations in another life, as I think of it, that every squeaky wheel gets noticed in such organization and will soon be asked to do some job. My feeling is mostly "been there, done that. Paid my dues." But I'm afraid some squeaks are part of my mechanism. At one of my rare show-and-tell appearances I mentioined doing series quilting and before I could get my coat on and escape down the elevator the Quilter of the Month Chairman had me by the lapels. There's a lot I can say about quilting in series, why not share some of those thoughts with others? Yesterday was the day to tell all [Really? Not by a long shot, you can bet] and show off some of what I've been doiing, lo, these very many years of quilting

Turns out I was more in the spotlight than expected -- the only "speaker" in a day of playing a Bingo derivative game after quilt show congrats and other announcements. I began with my travel memory quilts with some photo transfer. Rather than dig through the shelves and boxes of quilts, I took the Mongolian three-partr. Detail above from The Steppes, the damosielle cranes dancing and a horse.

Then I talked about the picture window series and showed my favorite -- the Tang horses. [The photo won't transfer for some reason.] The point is that the pictures turned out well partly because I did not have a whole piece of fabric, just some large scraps that Lynn sent me. If I'd had a big piece I'd have carefully cut out whole horses. But I couldn't so the piece becomes more "creative" and actually interesting because we don't have all whole horses. A lesson I didn't emphasize as forcefully as I probably should have. I admit I was nervous enough to use the actor's trick of taking a tranquilizer some time before -- unfortunately I had planned to take a bottle of water and didn't and the side effect is dry mouth. But I got through fairly well.
Finally I showed this hand quilted piece that was goiing to be part of a series but once finished I never cranked up the ambition to make the two I had planned, I wanted one to be about DNA and another about travels. I still could, of course -- the DNA one won't leave my brain. So then I went on to the year long diary quilts I knew would be the most unusual and interesting. I could have gone on and on about them but managed not to.

To my mild surprise and considerable delight, I managed to make people laugh a few times. I'm definitely not a humorous speaker but there are various things a lot of middle aged women share, like not liking themselves in bathing suits -- I remarked that this was the last such picture I planned to ever make public -- laughter and understanding. And talked about the diary piece with a sign "one mile to outlet mall' and the caption, "why I missed the plane." So, now that I've got my feet wet, I'd like talking about the series in other venues ... but I'm not going to pursue it. I'll be content with once.

Adding a note later: the Empire Guilds' wonderful web master and photographer, Cindy Russell, has already posted some of the most flattering pictures of me and the quilts from yesterday's talk on our web site. Click Empire Quilters in the sidebar and when there click "show and tell" then March or my name. Cindy and her husband are also doing a CD of all the quilts in the show we had; I can't wait to see it. When I get a link I'll post on the blog.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Jim Harrison, Returning To Earth

The end of February [27th to be exact if anyone wants to go back to that post] I wrote about having read Jim Harrisons THE ROAD HOME, which was written about ten years ago. I told friend Gary Hill and he had just read Harrison's newest book RETURNING TO EARTH. He sent it to me and I've just finished it. The parallels between the two novels are startling; I've never known a really fine writer who actually wrote the same story twice. It must be a story of great importance to Harrison, maybe something he's working through. The characters are different, the newer book is cleaner in a way which is to say less cluttered with incident. The outline is exactly the same: a man who is part Native American is dying, he effects a peaceful death after touching base with the important people in his life and satisfying his emotional needs. The death occurs in the middle of the book, then comes four or so sections in the voices of people who were close to him about how they deal with the death, how their lives go on. This seems to me a very unusual outline in today's world. The many Native American references are not at all sentimental or touchy-feely but the traditions are powerful. It is satisfying to know, or hope, some Native culture continues -- the white world sure tried like hell to eradicate it.

Harrison's people are upper mid-weterners, they travel all over the area a lot, they are involved with the outdoor world, one or more characters have a lot of inherited money that they disdain and spend without ostentation, and often with quiet generosity. There's a lot of drinking, a lot of sex and a lot of animals. The combination and the good sense writing and story, even when some characters are "goofy" or "difficult" is so unlike the self-conscious writing of urban/suburban/academic sensibilities it's more than refreshing -- it feels real and substantial. I am a midwesterner and I know about people driving all over the place; but otherwise i don't know these people but I totally believe them. I'd be happy for them to be my neighbors. Many urban readers would lose a little of their narrow, egocentric atitudes if they read Harrison ...

For a moment of levity, I received a refrigerator magnet today with a quote from Studs Terkel: "I like quoting Einstein. Know why? Nobody dares contradict you."

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Might as well be spring

Surfing the Artful Quilters Web Ring, I see that people are showing off their spring flowers in many parts of the Us and even in England and Europe [not, of course, Australia] Feeling a little jealous, because we had a week's hint of spring and a fierce return to chilly weather I went to Macy's annnual Eastertime fllower show. I took pictutres with my non-digital camera and haven't developedthem yet, but here's one from the digital camera. It was spring inside and the crowd was larger than I expected on a weekday afternoon. Walking home yestertday along West End Ave., I fouind a real example of NYC spring trying to unfurl -- this magnolia is a couple of blocks away. So, there's my contribution to the spring flower show!

My contribution to poetry month today is the first stanza of a Tess Gallagher poem called "Orange Sutra" from her 2006 book DEAR GHOST, [Yes, there is a comma in the title] -it's not about spring, but is about nature

I wanted to take you in, peel and all,
with the mind's all-swallowing.
But the mind prefers unoranging
the orange until a segment unhinges
to shine upright
in the night sky, unaware
of the nght or of its own shining.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Kiki Smith and Mary Oliver

Last evening Vanessa mentioned how grim Grimme's tales can be. They're inspiring her to do collage/sculptures. The conversation went on and I didn't have a chance to tell her about the Kiki Smith painting above that is in the Brooklyn Musuem. It is not in the Sackler gallery but in a large space on the way there. I've found that in museums, as in the streets or elsewhere, there is much to see when you are on the way to where you plan to go. I'm not sure which tale, I think the blurb mentions "Alice"- definitely a little girl but she's watching or following a flock of birds ... but look closely, there's are wolves there too. One can look at this painting a long time. Kiki Smith is the younger sister of sculptor David Smith, she does all sorts of art, lately several "environments" were shown and I believe there were several wolves in that exhibit. Sometimes I am astonished at the amount of creativity we are apt to hurry past because we have some objective that seems more important than paying attention. That is how we fail to live large portions of our life.

As I keep saying, it is poetry month -- already a third elapsed. Spring is supposed to be coming, but temperatures are as chilly as they were large parts of the winter, 'tho the sun is very nice. I want to quote a little of a Mary Oliver poem because even the things that scare us -- I think most of us are somewhat afraid of snakes -- are worth paying attention to. I will quote only the first stanza, about a quarter of the poem, the title is SNAKE

And here is the serpent again,
dragging himself out from his nest of darkness,
his cave under the black rocks,
his winter-death.
He slides over the pine needles,
He loops around the bunchs of rising grass,
looking for the sun.

This is from "HOUSE OF LIGHT' published 1990 by Beacon. It is full of wonderful, observant, accepting nature poems.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Brooklyn Museum, Judy Chicago's Dinner Party

Yesterday I went to the Brooklyn Museum to see the new Sackler Gallery of feminist art. But I got distracted when I noticed they had an Asher Durand exhibit. This pictures is actually Knessett and is more "golden glowy" than Durand's wonderful woods with great trees in the foreground, but it's contemporary and I looked at a few Hudson River school paintings too. I try to be unsentimental and "sesrious" about my tastes in art but that whole bunch of painters always make me feel good. The Hudson IS such a magnificent river. New York state has much gorgeous scenery. And I am always pulled into the trees when I'm in parks with trails. The grove of magnificent elms in Central Park gives me a hint of what those forests must have been like. So all that softened me up for the more cerebral experience of Judy Chicago's DINNER PARTY.

This is probably the most ambitious, best known and maybe most important work of art from the feminist movement of the '70s. I had never seen it. It was shown widely and then went into storage for many years. Now it is permanently installed in the new gallery in the Brooklyn Museums. HURRAY!! This is an elegantly conceived work; a banquet table with place settings for three dozen women starting with mythological godesses and moving into the present era. Each place setting has a large ceramic plate and an elegantly designed table cloth. Plus plain goblet and know and fork.
The plates originally caused a stir because their designs are often sexually suggestive. Not a lot was said about the cloths but I found them sometimes more interesting and beautiful than the plates. I once was assigned a roommate at a conference who was one of the embroiderers who worked on the cloths. Altogether about 120 different women constructed this piece. It attempts to be inclusive with many women's names in gold on the white ceramic floor tiles. The installation has a lead-in and an exit exhibit, a time line presentation names many, many more women. My only negative feeling is that, like almost all cannonical modern art, it is Euro-centric. While Astarte and Biblical women are not strictly speaking European, the Hindu godesses Kali is the only Asian "woman". We simply know about few others because of our Euro-centric educations.

The Brooklyn Museum has given New York City an imporant piece of art. Much else is wonderful in that museum, it is always a great satisfaction to visit it. Not as crowded as the Met, and without the huge collections, it mounts very good shows, like the Durand -- in fact, some of the favorite shows I've seen in the past 15 or so years have been there. I had thought I might go into the botanic garden which is half a block away but the day was cold and gray and from the museum windows I could see no blooming trees.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Artful Quilters Web Ring & new project

I've been doing a lot of things, poetry and museums, reading, cleaning, writing, etc. But I parcel my time and I touch on quilting most days. This is a picture of the current project; It looks in this picture like a star quartet but I've fallen in love with the blues and the sparse rather elegant star [which is quick and easy to sew] and decided to make it into a full sized bed quilt with light batting to have on the bed in the summer. I'll need either 15 or, preferably 20 stars, plus border to make it the right size. I beleive I have sufficient fabric for 20 stars. So that's in the works, approxiimately a star a day.

I've been reading this book slowly. It's a fat book with hundreds of pictures of journal quilt pictures with detailed notes on how they were constructed -- it's from shows at Houston, by no means the total that have been shown, let alone made -- these are monthly quilts. The variety is amazing ... and inspiring. But the brain can only process a few at a time. So it's a slow book.

The other day I was surfing the Artful Quilters Web Ring and realized I hadn't read Notes from Cairojacp38 Jenny Bowker's wonderful blog, for a while. She is a talented Australian quilter whose husband is a diplomat stationed in Cairo. She often writes about visiting various places in Middle East and I was not disappointed, there was a fascinating post about attenting an event at a Coptic museum.

Then I surfed some more and don't remember what I was reading but came across a link to a UK sitejacp38 of an art quilters organization with wonderful pictures of their work which I really loved looking through. There was one or two ideas I thought I'd really like to attempt in my own way ... sigh .. I'm beginning to have vivid day dreams of having a studio to work in some time instead of about six square feet.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Quilting history

A fair part of today has been spent writing my quilting history -- this is in preparation for having to talk about it at next week's guild meeting when I am to be "Quilter of the Month" and show some of my work. I knew the story well because I spent a couple of my insomniac nights going over it in detail -- too much detail. Just as what i wrote today was in much too much detail. But I can extrapolate from it a few points onto an index card as I learned long ago in Public Speaking my freshman year in college. During the course of the week I have to decide which quilts I'll take to show. The talk needs to be minimal, ten minutes max as it will be the last event of the meeting and people will want to go home. I don't want to see people getting up and going out as I talk -- hate that! So brevity is the key ... and, in truth, I could write a decent sized book if it had pictures ... which is necessary in any book about visual creations.

I thought I'd just mention today a part of the story that will be very briefly elided next week. I did not grow up in a sewing/ quilting household. My mother was not a good seamstress and didn't enjoy sewing -- I'm thinking of my mother since writing about her yesterday. She had, first a treadle sewing machine [we didn't have electricity until I was four]. This was on a farm. Did I mention that? The telephone came the year after electricity. Indoor plumbing didn't happen for another four or five years when Dad built a new house on a bigger farm -- this was just after WWI when prosperity was even touching poor farmers.

My mother probably should have been a journalist. But she married at the end of the depression and fate was against any ambitions and hopes she had. But she wanted to be a good mother and she wanted to teacher her daughter all the important feminine skills. So she bought an old upright piano when I was six and sent me for piano lessons. I clearly remember overhearing a conversation when she said to Dad that the children were getting old enough for Sunday School so they needed to decide which local [Protestant] church they would begin attending. It turned out to be Baptist, which was the nearest and had an active young adults social group. Then when I was ten she called other mothers in the general area and got together enough girls to start a 4-H club. That meant projects in cooking, baking, canning, sewing, room decorating -- all of which came with brochures and sometimes local days with a country home extension agent teaching skills.

I took to all those projects very happily -- sewing was especially satisfying because Mom also had subscriptions to Ladies Home Journal and got a subscription for me to American Girl and then Seventeen. No one in my school had a lot of money or dressed much better than anyone else -- although there was a banker's daughter who had 4 or 5 sweater sets in pastel colors and I had only a blue set. Still there really wasn't much fashion sense that I was aware of. But I learned to sew my own skirts and blouses, and even, by junior in high school, I made a tailored wool suit. I learned from the 4-H experirence that I could learn to sew anything from written material. Later that came to include quilts.

People had quilts. I only remember one awful quilt from when I was about four. Made of scraps of wool pants or jackets sewn crazy quilt style, probably directly onto an old blanket -- purely for warm in the little square house on the little square 40 acre farm. There was a wood/coal burning store in the living room and a wood cook stove, big and black, in the kitchen, but the bedroom could get very chilly. When under that quilt I was warm but totally immobilized by its weight.
That is enough of my sewing and quilting history for tonight; having spent the day writing about it, I'm written out.

[The quilt in the picture at the top of this post is one of my failures -- too bright!! I almost can't fall asleep if I know it's on the bed. So it was there one day to see if it had calmed down since last I looked at it ... it had not. I've got to find somebody to give it to.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Dental chair reveries

Today I spent two full hours in a dental chair, no novacaine, lots of drilling and other manipulations. No, it wasn't awful, but it was wearing and will be expensive, of course. I sort of freaked inwardly when a tooth began crumbling Sunday. Nothing hurt, not even any sensivity, gradually more crumbled until the whole top part came off. Ohmygod! I'm falling apart! First the tooth crumbles, then it'll be the eyes cloud over, then the ears go silent, then th fingers claw up, the nose falls off ... Rationality set in and I thought, if there's no pain it must be one of the root canal-ed teeth with no nerves. It's been dead for years.

My sensible, matter of fact and staright forward dentist told me indeed it was a "dead" tooth that had been root canaled and he could make a crown for it . He showed me his fancy software program that could model it but, on exploration decided that old fashioned crown making was the best option. So I sat in his chair on the 15th floor of the Lincoln Building, across the streeet from Grand Central Station for some 2 hours while he drilled and dug and put in a post and made a temporary crown -- all without novacaine since I theoretically could feel nothing .. well drill "vibrations" are not total comfy but not pain, actually. I'll go back in a couple of weeks when he will make a permanent crown but for now I have a temp that feels quite normal.

What does one think of while "relaxing" with cotton packed around the hole in the mouth, while staring at clouds over tall buildings? Well, at some point a hygenist said, from somewhere behind my head, "He'll be back soon." "Okay," said I -- and i heard my mother's voice. Not the first time I've found I am my mother. I think many, maybe most, women have this experience. Several months ago Leslie said, "you konw that picture of you where ..." I don't remember what now, but I did then. "Well, in the mirror this morning I looked just like you looked in that picture. It was freaky." 'I know," I said, "I've had that experience." And I have -- glance in th mirror and think,"ohmygad! I'm my mother!"

I've read that most women, as they grow older, picture themselves as 35 -- the true prime of life for a great many women. I know that I do. I haven't read but strongly suspect that most women remember how their mothers looked between age 35 and 40. [This is my theory, if it's others' I haven't come across it.] But most girls become acutely aware of appearance in their early teens, at which time most of their mothers are 35-40. So when one reaches 35 or 40, that shock of recognition is likely to hit! I'm my mother!!! The last thing you want to be. But there you are, HER in the mirror. saying "Okay" with her voice.

Looking down the tunnel from the other end, the mothers discover traits of theirs popping up in the daughters -- good or bad. Scary! The shaping is not only genetic, we inhabit our daughter's psyches ... proably more than we or they want to know. However, I am comforted by Dr. H. who assures me I'll never have that sunken smile, more a grimmace, that my mother has in the picture above. She had ill fitting dentures; I will never need dentures -- tho' one cap is going to cost more than her whole set of crappy choppers.

You see, I couldn't help but have painful and scary thoughts in a dentist's chair even when the tooth being drilled and rebuilt was :"dead", it had been a friendly inhabitant of my mouth, it did it's part in chewing. Now it's gone but going to be resurrected -- [today's Good Friday, I don't mean blasphemy] .. where is this metaphor going? Damned if I know.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Chinese mountains, poetry month

It has taken me months -- five! -- to develop the film in my nondigital camera. These are the kids, decked out in traditional Tibetan finery, no doubt well aware they are a photo-op and will possibly get tips and goodies from tourists as they reach the outskirt of "Shangri-la" [so named in the past year by the Chinese tourist & geographical authorities.] They are darling children! The photo was taken, literally less than one minute before I tried to jump up to them and give them some sticky-stars, slipped, fell and displaced/broke my hip. This is a an important picture to me, the last real moment of that vacation.

This being poetry month, I have another picture taken earlier that day part way up into the mountains -- "Shangri-La" is at 14,000 feet -- when we stopped at Tiger Leaping Gorge, the clouds made wonderful patterns. I have a somewhat unusual Mary Oliver poem for today:
Wherever I am, the world comes after me.
It offers me its busyness. It does not beleive
that I do not want it. Now I understand
why the old poets of China went so far and high
into the mountains, then crept into the pale mist.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Soul Mountain, Gao Xingjian

When I decide a long book is worth reading, be it fiction or nonfiction, I approach it in short takes. I am a slow reader -- I do not skip, I read every word -- none of this speed reading, first sentences of paragraphs. I am dogged and determined ... IF I beieve the author truly is saying something worthwhile. So it's been for about a month as I chipped away at Gao Xingjian's 50+ pagae SOUL MOUNTAIN. This is not an easy book. It is fiction but has no narrative line, really, and the narrator and main character shifts pronouns frequently.

Essentially it is a journey of a Beijing writer who is out of favor and has decided to wander around southern China, in the mountains -- the eastern edge of the Himalayan range ... approximately where I was last fall, Yunan, Schuzwan, Guilain [mostly misspelled], mountains and rivers. He tells myths, he tells history, he seems to pick up a lot of sexually free and willing young women, he wanders by rivers and into towns with desolate hostels, he mets Daoist priests and stays in a panda sanctuar. He rides a lot of buses and walks a lot, sometimes goes by boat down rivers. But all the while he writes from the perspective of those who have liived through the cultural revolution, often been deported to farms or been "re-educated"

Gao who recently won a Nobel Prize for Literature, left China a good many years ago and settled in France, became a French citizen and lives in Paris. The China he writes about is from about twenty years ago -- it is not the capitalist China that I saw with busloads of tourists -- middle class Chinese who suddenly can afford to be tourists. But one can extrapolate that today's Chinese know of the period in the book vividly from either their own experiences, or if younge, from their parents. The book was worth the time it took to read, the images and impressions are strong and seem true. Now I will turn to some short books for a week or two.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Poetry month

April is Poetry Month - I'm not sure who so declared but for the last two years I've been on the list of persons (25,000 +/-) who receive via email from Knopf, the elegant publisher, a poem a day the whole month of April. Today's poem, my second, was by Marge Piercy, a nice but not exciting poem. Often other goodies are included. Today, this being the second Passover seder, it included Marge's recipe for egg salad. Unlike any egg salad I ever heard of but maybe after listening to the first hour of a the Haggadah reading and watching your family's usual antics, it's a welcome break. Let's just say it consist only of sliced cucumbers, sliced fennel and sliced hard boiled eggs with an oil and lemon juice dressing. [UGH - maybe it's just my taste} I would prefer the sliced fennel plain, or with a nice mayonaise.

The point is that, yes, I am quilting, really rather furiously, my 21st star quartet is turning into a summer bed quilt and will need either 15 or 20 blocks instead of four. Lot-sa sewing! Picture in the near future.

My first salute to Poetry Month is from the wonderful Polish Nobelist, Wislawa Symborska from "Allegro Ma Non Troppo".

Life, you're beautiful (I say)
you just couldn't get more fecund,
more befrogged and nightingaily
more anthillful or sproutssprouting.
I'm trying to court life's favor,
to get into its good graces,
to anticipate its whims
I'm always the first to bow,
always there when it can see me ...

April also includes Earth Day so I imagine I'll be back to the subject of global warming too. What I'm noticing today is that the great tectonic plates under the Pacific are in a period of great activity. Another quake, another tsumani, thougth mercifully smaller -- unless you're a Solomon Islander. This has nothing to do with global warming, it's the natural shifting and settling and streteching of the body of the earth and we specks on its surface are simply sometimes in the wrong place.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Ice skating and global warming

Why a picture by Pieter Breugel II? Because it reminds me of that probably forgotten children's classic HANS BRINKER AND THE SILVER SKATES. And why that? Because in favorite discovery from surfing the Artful Quilters Web Ring is a blog not by a quilter at all but by Konchog who is an American Buddhist monk living in UlanBaator, Mongolia. It was a link I found and those who read my blog know I loved visiting Mongolia several months ago. Anyway, Konchog wrote recently that a major ice skating event was held on Lake Khovsol which is on the border with Siberia -- it's where I saw the reindear herders. and hte handsome woman shaman. He observed than many of the skaters in the competition were Dutch ... See? That'sthe connection with the picture.

It seems the European skating events are now very iffy, due to global warming the usual outdooor venues, rivers, lakes, no long freeze solidly enough for the competitions. So the Dutch skaters - and many others from Europe -- went to Mongolia to compete. This may be good for world friendship even if it is telling more people that the world climate is in trouble. Konchog says the older Mongolians say the winters aren't as cold there as they used to be. As an American, he thoughtahat's happening this summer [now!] in Australia and New Zealand, and the variety of climates and events across the US. And for people's opinions about many, many matters.