Healing Handcrafting

exploring process and healing through fiber arts and handcrafting


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A Little Quiet Time Goes A Long Way

I had quiet time today. I wasn’t alone. A totally vacant house is rare in my world. I’ve tricked myself into thinking I couldn’t get a moment’s peace if I wasn’t totally alone. Therefore, my soul has been starving for a long time. But today, I just let the busy busy busy hangover from a full week die. Real quick-like. I just decided not to bow to it like it’s some kind of moral guru. 

On a walk with an old friend going through similar things as me, I saw an inchworm in a sun beam. 


Later, I saw sheep nestled in the tall grasses, easy to miss if I hadn’t been looking around. 


Later still, I enjoyed the company of my beautiful sister, my fabulous daughter and my dog-niece. I even closed my eyes for a while. 


And then I wove, and wove some more on my new rigid heddle loom (slowly getting the hang of it- my warp is wonky) and listened to my family and let my thoughts come and go, flurry and rest. 


I hope you are having a sweet weekend, whether it’s a long one, a working one, a family-filled one or one spent in solitude. 

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The Drone and The Chant

I am dyeing wool right now, after a bit of a break. Flowers that I placed in jars with water about a month ago to collect sunlight have been waiting to be turned into dye paths. As I sit outside next to my pots, I can appreciate the fact that they waited too long. They are generously sharing their riotous scent. Maybe odor is the better word. Wow. My cats seem to love it, but I think I might be smelling this in my memory for years to come. It will be an experiment. I dyed with marigolds earlier in the summer after a 24-hour sun soak. Will this dye bath produce different colors?

This is a heavy time. While sitting and tending to my smelly pots, I tune into the drone, drone, endless drone of the crickets and grasshoppers. I’ve really appreciated them this year, but today for some reason, I’m moved by a different feeling. Sadness and maybe a touch of apprehension. How long will this song go on, or as I think about it, I realize that I’m imagining the wrong song to be the constant.

I love bagpipes. When I hear them, I start to cry almost instantaneously. One of my favorite memories is of a time I was taking a walk with my son on the beach. It was a beautiful dusk, he was a baby, in my arms, warm and cozy. I heard bagpipes and turned and there was a man, facing the ocean, playing this ancient instrument. I made my way closer and sat down, holding my boy, rocking him to the sound of the waves and the magic music. I cried because I felt grateful and like somehow, in this moment, I was holding on to a rope, connecting us to our ancestors.

Most bagpipes have at least one drone and one chanter. The drone is what makes that one, long constant sound around which the chanter is played to make the melody.  It occurred to me today that really, what I’ve been considering the drone of grasshoppers and crickets is really the chant around the drone. That specific, hypnotic sound is part of the melody of summer and early fall. It changes in volume and pattern throughout the season, as does the chant of frogs, birds, water flow, energy and even life and death. These things I get so attached to and imagine as constant are really just the chant around the drone of something so much more constant. I suppose that’s where religion, philosophy or other things come in to play. I remember reading in college about an astronomer, Tycho Brahe I think, who believed that the planets all made their own unique sound as they rotated around their axes. That may very well be the one iota I recall from that class, but I loved it then, and it resonates now.

Anyway, who ever said that dyeing wool and working with flowers and raising children and thinking about life was straightforward?

Here’s some recent pics:

What is this funny bug nest on a willow leaf?

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Tiny willow branches in a warp/weft attempt.

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Then what happened…

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Collection of willow leaves and branches for my next dye pot.

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I’m starting to gather lichen from bits found on walks (not on live trees!) and from wood delivered for this coming winter.

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It takes a while to collect lichen. As it should.

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I had come to call this “our deer”. An orphan, we watched this deer grow up all summer, losing its white spots, enjoying the wild flowers in our field. I think I just saw it dead on the side of the road coming home from dropping my kids off at school, having been hit by a car. We always told each other when we saw it, keeping an eye out for it, wondering where it would go this winter. Just the other day, we talked about rehabbing our wearing out play fort to make a comfy spot for deer to sleep if it got really cold. I wish people would slow down when they drive, put their phones down, remember that there are animals around. I guess it was seeing our deer, dead and alone on the road that made me think of what chants are swirling around the constant drone. I know this is just part of it, but damn…

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Spring Tranformations

We are in between seasons right now, here in Vermont. When I first moved here from Florida, I heard the term “mud season” and didn’t understand what people were talking about. Living in Burlington at that time, and not venturing much out of the city, I had little occasion to experience Mud Season head on. Now, after almost twenty years here, I get it.

The ground thaws (not too hard this year, after such a mild winter), the red wing blackbirds, robins, cardinals and cedar waxwings make an appearance in our yard. Large flocks of geese sail overhead, their calls to one another feeling like a call to my spirit, encouraging and light and commemorative of a winter gone by. The air smells clean and wet. Sugaring begins. The mud, it adds inches to my height, and a wobble to my walk when I muck around in the yard, this year imagining my cleaned up garden beds, a hoped for herb spiral, and a dyer’s patch. The need to vacuum much more frequently to prevent the brought-in-the-house mud, dirt, pebbles and sludge from making its way to the carpets is a fact. Why is taking one’s boots off in the garage so difficult?!

On a walk the other day down by Lake Champlain, the weather was the epitome of the “in like a lion” description of March. It was windy, rainy, snowy, icy… it was epic, really, and since I was dressed appropriately for such riotous weather, it was absolutely exhilarating. I laughed out loud in reaction to some especially strong bursts of wind, feeling not one ounce of embarrassment because I was alone. Down on the water, I could see Winter releasing her grip from the stoney shore.

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I found large pieces of driftwood that I harvested~ a project will happen with them, I am sure. Walking all the way back to my car with these water-logged, slippery gifts, against the wind, at a speedy clip (I was due to volunteer in my son’s class in just a little bit of time) proved to be the workout I needed. Sore and tired, wind-kissed and grateful, I was able to finish a project later that day that had been waiting patiently, in all of its scattered parts, for some attention.

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I love working with my Majacraft cirucular weaving loom. I’ve been making completely random things with little bits of all kinds of materials~  sari silk, banana silk threads, handspun, conventional, thick, thin, chunky, wild yarns, twine and wire. I am fully appreciative of the process of beginning a circular weaving project, releasing into the hard job of finding clarity in the first few messy rounds. I can hardly tell the order of warp threads at first. Now I can predict how much time it takes for me to begin to worry that I’ll never get it straight, and then, voila, the foundation is set for my piece and I can relax with the ups and downs of weaving. Then, adding a new element creates its own new chaos, anticipated but surprising, nonetheless. Sometimes it takes another few rounds to straighten things out again, to hit that rhythm where predictability and order are available if desired.

These projects conjure similar feelings of excitement, tension and hope as Spring does, in all of her wild glory. They promise beauty out of chaos, like spring’s pungent dirt promises baby birds, more light, new growth, froggy smells and strong storms. Order from chaos, gifts from turbulence, beauty reborn. Laughing out loud at all this natural noise is such a relief.


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Random Inspiration

I was out the other day with my kids and another family for a great lunch in an old-timey malt shop. This was on the table right in front of me:

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It says: “We cannot live for ourselves alone. Our lives are connected by a thousand invisible threads, and along these sympathetic fibers, our actions run as causes and return to us as results.” ~ Herman Melville

I find myself thinking about this quote a lot right now, turning it around, wondering what Melville had in mind when he wrote it. I’m inspired by it, and I do find that my relationship with fiber is changing as I think about my connections with known and unknown people, how I interact with the world and what I expect from her, and how I long to participate in life. I’m feeling my focus changing and becoming more intentional. I feel like priorities are becoming more clear, although at times they pull in opposite directions, causing a strain for me, and a need for discernment. I’m becoming less upset about the reality that there just is not enough time to do all the things I want to. That is painful. So, the things I let go of… I have to be okay with them going… grieve them a bit… and allow the regained energy to fuel what is right in front of me.

All this from time well-spent at a malt shop, eating my most favorite ice cream flavor ever: peppermint stick.


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Busy, Busy, Breathe

It’s been busy. But not the same kind of frantic busy I was experiencing leading up to the holidays. That got bonkers. I seriously need to work on chilling the hell out in the months leading up to the holidays; has it always been like that? I don’t remember my parents seeming frantic when I was a kid pre-Christmas. Maybe they were and just hid it, or my siblings and I were comfortably and age-appropriately self-centered enough to not realize all that was going on for our folks. I don’t know. 

I am now fully committed to getting real peaceful with what I can do and what I can’t,  and what I want to do and what I don’t. I’ve definitely been reckoning with the fact that I could have done many different things in my little life, and that I’m a person with a bunch of interests. I’m often grabbed by something- an image, a topic, an idea, that with infinite time and energy I’d maybe be able to do something with. But I don’t have infinite time or energy, and I have certain commitments and have made certain love-filled promises that remain firmly at the top of the what I am doing list. 
Anyway, I’m noticing that busy-ness is not feeling freakish of late. I think maybe after paring down and getting realistic, the responsibilities and endeavors that keep me busy feel much more grounded in the truth of my skills and my limits. Melancholy and peacefulness can live together, surprisingly. Letting go of desired but untenable pursuits is sad, but the process of doing so opens up energy and time to do what’s right in front of me, what is fueled by inspiration and honesty. 

I guess those are my thoughts on this chilly Wednesday.