Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween Paganism thoughts

Paganism was a topic in today's NYTimes, it's growth and greater acceptance in the US -- their tribute to Halloween. Rachel and I and Molly-dog had a beautiful walk on the beach this morning, nice breeze, watery sky and ocean blues, golden beach grass and leaves and beige sand, high tide coming in chasing us up to the highest margin of beach sand. Besides the Shell Tree of which I've written in the past, at which we paused, as always, to admire and to replace one fallen shell, various other bushes are being festooned with shells as well, like the ones in this picture which are further along the inlet side of the spit that is Long Beach. I told her that in my walks I've become one of the "keepers of the trees" and often replace falllen shells or even take some new ones now and then. She added a couple shells so she's also a keeper of the trees.

At a few other places people have put broken conch shells on the branches of shrubs. [see my post of last week in my other blog about the cairn and the prayer flags]. I wouldn't call it paganism, but some impulse is at work on the beach -- by some part of the population. Another part of the population left a scatter of crushed aluminum cans in a spot where there was probably a party last night. The impulse to decorate trees and build cairns [and tear them down] must be very ancient, so much so that for many people it is lost, perhaps with the exception of Christmas trees. At any rate, it was a beautiful morning for a walk, and many others plus their dogs thought so too.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Autumn color

The glory days of autumn are few and rarely consecutive [it's raining as I type] and they are numbered -- as are the days of life for the turkeys in the photo above. They, all unknowing, are making the most of their day, and unaware, fattening themselves for Thanksgiving -- their giving, someone else's thanks. But enough of those somber thoughts.

Because the beautiful days are treasures, I take walks as much as possible. The Cape is not the colorful wonder of "mainland" New England and upstate New York but driving around, everywhere people have those grand red bushes in their yards and the bigger trees are turning. Lawns now display chrysanthemums in many colors. I have in the past disparaged the house-proud, lawn-proud ethos of this affluent area but it's a bit of sour grapes. I enjoy others' hard work and expensive plantings for the beauty and grace that makes this a truly lovely place to live. Walks and drives always are a visual joy.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Birds? Not today.

At the Audobon Sanctuary the other day I heard about birds but mainly I saw trees and animals. No photos of trees this time but here are some familiar animals that are employed by the ecology-minded director. The sheep above, black and white, and their friends the goats, below, are happy to work as lawn mowers. They belong to local farmers who are happy to let them have a lush summer camp in which to graze.

The pigs below are happy and eager clearers of tangled brushy growth of mostly invasive weeds, some of which are attractive and generally loved, like honeysuckle and bittersweet. These extremely clean looking fellows were happily rooting and oinking and trotting back and forth looking very complacent -- a false sense of well being, as explained by Ian, the director. Their days are numbered, the farmer owners will come and collect them in the next few weeks and cart them off to the slaughter house. But before they go they will enjoy several days of treats -- donuts by the dozens which is said to contribute to beautiful, sweet fat larding their soon to be bacon and loins. Poor critters -- they seems to happy where they were.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Just the Facts, Ma'am

I went to a lecture, mini-hike at a relatively new and not very large Audubon Sanctuary about 8 or 10 miles away the other day. The slide show covered a lot of ecology of the area including some things I did not know about the horseshoe crab. [see Chengis beclow] It is not really a crab; it's an ancient animal -- was around 230 million years ago, so it can be called a living fossil. It's more closely related to ticks and scorpions than crabs.

In my picture of Dad and the Boys, Dad may be Mom because the females are larger than the males. They can get to be as much as 24 inches across and can live to 40 or so, and as they get older they get darker. I've seen a few on the beach, maybe 15 inches across, a deep brown almost black; maybe still growing. I had no idea! These beasties shed their shell. Many that I find are just discarded shells, although often I find the animal is decaying inside so it ran afoul something or other. In North America the horseshoe crabs are found from the Gulf of Mexico up through New England with lots of them in the Chesapeake Bay area. There are other slightly different ones in Japan and some along the Indian shores. So I think that makes them fairly unique.

As one might guess that tail is used to steer in the water, but apparently they're strong enough to help the crab flip itself over if a wave or something rolls it over on its back. I find all this fascinating.

Also I was delighted to hear that river otters have made it to Cape Cod and a couple were seen in that particular sanctuary last winter, lying on the ice of a pond in which they'd made a hole, went fishing and were having a gourmet feast. I'd love to see them tho' it's unlikely I will.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Genghis Khan, formerly Horseshoe Crab

This is Genghis Khan [which nowadays, I think, is supposed to be spelled Chenghis]. When Rachel and Patrick moved to Cape Cod a very long time ago, they searched for ways to make a living. They were artistic and tired various things [Patrick has settled into doing excellent glass work, both stained glass and etched; his work is in houses and businesses all over Cape Cod. Click here for a look at the work he does. He also has an Etsy shop. One of the things Rachel did for a short while was turn horseshoe crab shells into Oriental faces which she sold in gift shops. I loved them and had one a long time until it came afoul some disaster I've blocked from memory.

Recently in my strolls on the beach, I found it was the time of year when crab shells were washing up on the beach and I asked her to paint one for me. She Googled something and came up with Genghis. I hope he lasts a long time living on my wall. Familiarity breeds either understanding [or contempt a in somebody's quip]. My too brief trip to Mongolia at least gave me more appreciation for Genghis than I had before. To the Mongols he is "the great khan" who unified the country and won for it a vast empire. He was their Alexander or Caesar [from whence the word khan derives] although to me previously he was one of the most bloodthirsty warriors who ever lived.

I call these ex-horseshoe crabs found on the beach Dad and the Boys. Isn't creativity fantastic?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

To-do list

It's a rainy, rainy day. A good time for quilting and I have a bunch of finishing up to do:
Four more paper pieced blocks for the quilt I most want to get out of the way

Three quilts to quilt, one slightly started, one sandwiched, one to be sandwiched

A "magic one patch", fabric chosen, calling to be to be begun because I so enjoy the surprise of the "stack and whack" method

A string quilt that will be reversible with 5x5 squares on one side, random squares on the other -- fabric stripping and border fabrics chosen. Sitting like a kit ready to be sewn. But when?

A shirting stripe quilt, many squares of random size sewn, more needed, a second take on this design which I very much enjoyed making in February and have given away. The picture above is it, the new one will look different of course because the stripes will be from different fabrics. This one, too, will be liberally embellished with shirting buttons in various colors ... in the fullness of time, of course.

BUT first I have a pair of drapes for the living room window that need to be shortened before they are hung. Will do this very soon. [when I get done playing on the computer]

AND when that is done, before any quilting happens, a couple pair of pants, one to shorten, one to take in the waist a little bit -- quick little jobs.

THEN I can tackle some of this list.

BUT it's Sunday and I have the NYTimes to read and its crossword puzzle to enjoy. Ah, life is full!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog Action Day: Climate Change

Reading a few blogs as I do most evenings before I settle in for my serious reading, I came across a blog saying this is "Blog Action Day, Climate Change." I have not logged into some master website but it seems an easy enough call to action. Unlike the blog that I read, I do not believe that I can personally make much difference with the few small things I can do. I will do them anyway because I think not doing them is self-indulgent and dumb. I will recycle what I can, I will walk when I can instead of using gas to drive, I will not buy bottled water because I think it's a stupid waste of my money and encouragement of a needless exploitation plus use of plastic. Be frugal and aware of the environmental impact, at the same time not believing all the crazies who would have us feeling guilty about nearly everything we do.

Climate change came about because of mass beliefs, because of the way human greed ignores the natural world. This is why the forests are still being cut down, why many industries continue to pollute our water and air, many manufacturers continue to overpackage causing vast waste, why agriculture ignores the health of the land and of the animals that are raised in order to get fast {and vast] profits -- these are not things that aware individuals can change although we do not have to eat factory raised chicken or beef, or purchased endangered food fish. These are small things; they could become large things if enough people were education about them and took action.

We can talk to friends and families and neighbore who do not realize climate change is real. When glaciers all over the world are disappearing, when the tundra is melting, when square miles of ice shelf break off near the poles, something is happening to the climate. It's not a matter of a random drought, a summer of heat waves, a winter of blizzards; it's a matter of change everywhere in the world. The world is a vast interlocked organism -- yes the whole thing! We are but tiny parts of it; don't assume you understand it with your bare minimum education -- and how much attention did you pay? -- and your narrow life experience, no matter how old you are. It's bigger than you are and big things are happening -- always have been happening. We've caused some of them, maybe we can reverse some of them. Yes, recycle that newspaper and don't buy those styrofoam cups, that's your token, forego the SUV and don't run the dishwasher after every meal. Look at the big picture as best you can. Teach your kids to do the same. Be aware and look around and see a magnificent world and treasure it. In short don't be complacent, give a damn.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Natural Patterns

These gold October days I try to get out and walk as much as I can, in the woods, on the beach, or just on town streets on the way to the post office. And I happily click away with my digital camera knowing I can delete all the stuff that doesn't look so good flattened out in a picture. A couple of days ago after a night of rain, a walk around a pond revealed all kinds of mushrooms, in various colors, white, yellow, pink, that had sprouted up fresh and clean in the last few hours. There's one above. By the way if you click to enlarge it and see that icky stuff in the lower left of the mushroom and can tell me what it is, I'd be curious. Nature has many mysteries for me.

On the beach a couple of days earlier this conch shell had washed up tangled in seaweed. Its whit shell had been polka dotted with chlorophyll from the deep green weed. This picture is good to click to enlarge and see that the spots are not entirely random. Another mystery. It reminded me of the times quilters use a print fabric for an animal or object that is not normally patterned. Nature does it's own random patterning, as it did the mushroom as it grew so fast it had to crack along the edges.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

More strip blocks

The swapp quilt blocks arrived today so now I have a goodly number and could make the quilt, if only I knew what I want the back to look like. I don't think I've had enough cogitation time yet. And I feel a bit guilty [quilty-guilty?] even thinking of starting something else when I have so much ongoing. I don't pile up UFOs blithely. I think I'll let it set and simmer for a while.

I've also got a bunch of other things going on in my head -- some writing projects, and the ongoing cataract operations -- the left last week, the right eye next week and drops three times a day, plus I'm not supposed to sleep on the left side and then after next week it'll be the right side. I have enough middle-of-the-night-mindfulness that I believe I adhere to the rule but the sleep is a bit less deep because of it. But that is a small price to pay for a clarity of sight that I haven't enjoyed since I was too young to know it was something to enjoy. At least I've learned a little wisdom.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Strip pieced blocks

I am in a swap for 6" strip pieced blocks, 6 for each of 2 partners. So over the weekend I made 24 blocks. That would be 12 to mail off and 12 for me with another 12 coming to me in the mail, enough for a rather small lap quilt with fairly wide borders. Then I reread the swap description and saw an added on paragraph saying to make the blocks 6-1/2" inches so they'll end up 6" when sewn together. Okay, back to the sewing room to make 12 larger size blocks and a revision of the newly formed UFO -- I'll have 36 blocks [I'll cut down the larger ones] which will make a better sized lap quilt with perhaps narrower borders. I already know it'll be double sided but haven't arrived at what I want the reverse side to look like. There's time for that.

Meanwhile in a different creative vein, I had to write a poem about myself. With strip piecing so much a part of my days here's what I came up with:

To sew string quilt blocks I dived
into my bag of strips and bag of larger scraps --
remnants from quilts made years ago,
some forgotten, most given away
Like a pioneer woman I saved the pieces
of wonderful colors, plethora of designs
tiny flowers, gold geometrics
chintzes, polka dots, stripes.
Pioneer quilters mixed what was on hand
side-by-side I sew patterns and colors
in unexpected combintions --
exciting srprises, sudden revelations,
old prints beside new batiks.
Every strip sewn is a choice
as fingers scatter forgotten and beloved bits,
deliberately random, I reject or discard some.
Beauty comes easily because individually
the pieces were already beautiful to me.

Always I think
of this kind of quilt making
as metaphor for my life.
When one has lived enough to be called "senior"
memory is an enormous scrap bag of experience
people known, loved, disliked, shunned,
books read, art theatre, ballet seen,
music heard, information stored.
So many places on five continents visited --
I have become a melange,
a nice French word that could mean
patchwork quilt made of remnants.
Some parts came to me through genes,
through nature and nurture, through serendipity.
Mostly through choice, all leading to my life
of successes, failures, disappointment,
happiness and sorrow, in short my own life.

I sleep under every bed-size quilt i make.
I treasure every memory I have.
I do not know how many quilts I have made.
I could never name all the people I've known.
I have not counted how many cities I've seen,
(I once thought I might tabulate the World Heritage site,
but haven't done that either, tho' it's doable.)
My quilts are rarely planned, no two alike.
Sometimes I am a careful sewer, sometimes sloppy.
Sometimes my life too is unplanned,
(I do not go to the grocery store with a list.)
My life has been far different
than could have been predicted.
May whatever remains tome be
as spontaneous and glad as these
string quilt blocks and the quilt
I am only now planning to make of them.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Thrifty find

I've been a thrift story treasure hunter for years. I miss the wonderful Houseing Works stores in NYC, especially their book sections. But hope springs eternal so I pop into local thrift stores when I happen to be near and can spare a little time. As someone pointed out to me the native costume of the Cape Codder is markedly different than that of the Manhattanite. There the emphasis is chino and khaki rib knit sweaters, polar fleece and those madras plaid patchwork jackets and skirts still turn up -- really! Also there's an emphasis on plain tee-tops and turtle necks of various weight and fibers.

So I went into a local thrift store to browse and found a stripped sweater, mildly preppy but also fun colors for the gray days ahead -- well, not ahead, here and now for it was raining all morning and threatens to do so again. The back room has oddments, including a basket that had some decorator swatchs, some cross stitch kits, and the pictured piece of quilt fabric, three yards minus a 5x5" square missing from one corner. It's the kind of pattern I like to use for backing, or I might be inspired to doing something needing a lot of lilac. No price on it. At the check out, I asked how much since "there was no price marked." The gentleman manning the cash register said, "No price? You know what that means, don't you?" Thinking I was being witty, I said, "It means I get it free." "That's right," he said. And so it was. Now I call that a thrift store bargain.