Thursday, March 29, 2012

weaving the threads of a life

I was thinking about life threads on the way home from Bangor today, and about weaving, patterns, fabric. Some folks lives seem, at least from the outside, to be woven in a simple pattern, from just a few threads... a check or a plaid perhaps. Simple life, simple pattern, so it would appear. What got me thinking about this was a comment a few days ago by K. He asked me, when I get a loom, would I weave for production (he said "like you hair was on fire") or for enjoyment. My response was that weaving, when I did it in the past, was as much a meditation for me as anything; the repeat motion, the swoosh and thump, the rhythm... He replied, almost out of context, that he wished he had waited and rather than spending the money on the keyboard for me (an almost full length electronic "piano" which was a Yule gift a few years ago) that he had waited and put the money toward a loom. I have not, I will admit, spent much time playing the thing. I had thoughts at the time it was purchased, of a piano. The threads of keyboard instruments (or in this case should I say "strings") have played a visible role in much of my life. There was a piano in my childhood home and I took, and enjoyed, piano lessonPis for many years. When we moved west, the huge, heavy upright did not make the move but shortly was replaced by a smaller electronic organ that I played throughout high school and college. This instrument WAS, admittedly, the scene of a major trauma -- when my folks insisted that I play the theme from Lawrence of Arabia (one of my favorite pieces to play at that time) for guests. I loved that music and always through my soul into playing it, but when I was done one of the guests rudely quipped "Why didn't you play chopsticks? It would have sounded better." That moment ended my public playing for many years, though I refused to let it stop my personal enjoyment. Pianos came and went in my life through the years but as I got older and made many moves, my decision to not acquire anything I could not move by myself eliminated them. Hence the keyboard... which never did get as much play as I would have liked even when it was new. It did not have/come with a stand and I never found any place to set it up permanently that was safe (from being knocked about, or walked and laid upon by the cats) and allowed me to sit comfortably to play. It has come with me to Maine -- as has my guitar -- though both have languished. Music, it seems, though a big part of parts of my life in the past does not seem to run from my fingers now and my ears do not call for it as often as in the past, when the recordings of Mannheim Steamroller seemed to be the soundtrack of life. Thinking about this, I wonder if my allusion to "the tapestry of life" is not, perhaps, more accurate than I had previously thought. In a tapestry, after all, some colors/threads are picked up frequently for a while, then may never show again, or if they do, it is after a long while. There is a design, of course, but not a pattern in the sense of cyclic repetition. I see other threads that have been present for a period, totally absent and now have returned and others which seem to no longer be part of the design as it builds. The garden continues; doing more with less,; use it up wear it out make it do or do without seems to be a constant. Bread baking has gone by for now, though it was a weekly event for many years. The threads of working with fiber seem to morph and change from time to time; I have a long-worked-on counted cross stitch that I swear I SHALL finish before I die but don't have the obsession with that craft that I once did. Knitting and crochet still sometimes lift their heads... spinning is back and weaving wants to come again... But all of these things have had "periods of remission" of differing lengths. I am not writing articles now, nor do I have any desire to hunt down sightings of unidentified aerial phenomena to try to identify them. I haven't sewn my own clothes for years, but I think that may be coming back into the mix... And Grandma Katie's words "Oh, I guess that will do..." will soon be ringing in my mind as our abundance of eggs has prompted me to plan to make several batches of noodles in the next couple of days. There is now room in the freezer to store them and at 3 egg yolks, one whole egg per batch, I think I can account for enough eggs to use up one carton and provide the makings of an angel food cake at the same time.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Heel Bone's Connected to the .... Knee Bone?

For some time I have been having problems with my left heel. It came on abruptly. One day at work it hurt to walk on it. Then over the days off, it stopped but took up again when work started and subsequently refused to abate completely... ranging from a low pain to something much worse that made me limp badly and look for the best way to avoid walking all together.

When it had first started, I brought it up on a visit to the doc, who suggested it was a "heel spur" and would respond to shoe inserts called "heel cups" which she said would set me back at least $20. Not having that in the budget, I put it on "the list" and kept on. I also researched "heel spur" and found that heel pain was as often, if not more often, related to plantar fasciitis.  I also researched exercises but have not yet got around to doing them.

However I did finally have enough funds in the discretionary budget to begin looking for heel cups and found both that type of insert and another which does not cup the heel quite so well, but supports the outer part of the foot as well... both at WalMart and each for well under $20. Both packages said the helped my problem (heel pain) and both were made by the Dr. Scholls company with a good guarantee so I bought both. I was on the way to the doc again and figured I would show them both to her for input and possibly return one.

She advised for the actual heel cup and I installed it in my work shoes. These heel cups are very "gel" like plastic, sticky... and not anything I would want to put in a shoe that I often wear without socks. The longer inserts have a gel part under the heel but the most of the insert has a much more friendly texture... a bit soft and not sticky or plastic feeling. I had got my yearly pair of "cheap tennies" (the $5 special... up from the $3 I used to spend annually) for the garden; those things have NO padding to speak of, and I often wear them without socks as I seldom don socks except for work during the summer; they are now home to the longer inserts.

It was amazing how quickly I noticed a difference! Both of the inserts immediately reduced the pain in my heel down to at most a 2 on the pain scale and there are times now that I do not hurt!

The most surprising thing to me, though, was discovering that my knees -- which have no padding left... the specialist took x-rays and said they are bone to bone and that I need to consider surgery -- are hurting in general far less... even the right one which is even less connected to the heel than the one on the left! 

So, as they say, "everything is connected."

Saturday, March 24, 2012

"Artist Dates"

I definitely need to get back into taking time to nourish my "inner artist." If you have read The Artist's Way then you are familiar with the concept of an Artist Date. If not, become so. Whether you think of yourself as an artist or not, I think it is essential to engage in this sort of exploratory, playful and possibly even selfish behavior... taking time to do something you enjoy, just because you enjoy it, and all by yourself. Now, I don't THINK this is selfish, but I suspect that in some circumstances, others may see it as so... as so many of the messages we get over our lives extol the virtues of selflessness, putting others first, etc.

Bottom line: if you don't take care of and nourish your spirit, there will be nothing to share, no point from which to serve.

Yesterday I spent about an hour and a half at a meeting of a group called Fiber Friends. I had heard about this group of spinners, weavers, knitters and crocheters, quilters, etc when I first arrived in Maine. They meet in a museum on the campus of the U of Me in Orono, not terribly far from me, once a week on Friday and on Saturday of the 4th week as well. It has taken me almost 4 years to get there, but I am glad I did. I am not uncomfortable walking into a group where I know no one, even if I do not have a clue beforehand that we have something in common.And Orono is not that far away. So what took me so long? "Finding" the time!  LOL 

It's amazing, though, how much effect this appears to have had, first off, on my day and -- or so it would appear -- overall. Yesterday I got up uber early to head to the part time job, ran errands, gassed up the Subaru again (OUCH!) and wandered from west Corinth to Bangor to Orono to Dover-Foxcroft, making a day that was just a few minutes shy of 12 hours on the go. But I had more than the energy for it, and in fact felt more revved up as the day progressed! And I still feel that way today.

With the turning of me moon from New to waxing, I call forth the increase that I feel on many threads: energy, health, abundance, growth on many fronts. So Be It!

And now I am off to push pixels on some web edits, begin painting on a couple of commissions and an un-commissioned piece for the Dutch Hex site, pot up the baby onions and hopefully get some work done on those outside projects.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Spring Indoor Planting

Today I made mini soil blocks and planted: 20 each mini cubes of:
cabbage, Danish Ballhead
cabbage, Frigga
cabbage, Golden Acres
cabbage, Red Express
cauliflower, Early Snow
lettuce, Black Seeded Simpson
lettuce, Buttercrunch
lettuce, Cardinale,
lettuce, Cos
lettuce, Green Ice
lettuce, Outredgeous
lettuce, Red Salad Bowl
lettuce, Royal Oak Leaf
lettuce, Slobolt
lettuce, Speckled Amish
lettuce, Summertime
leeks, King Richard
celery, Afino (cutting)
celery, Tango
Herbs:  basil; red, sweet, Thai, lemon; marjoram, cumin, catnip
Chinese Lantern
Straw flowers

And got the final sign-off for the Cape Lookout National Seashore project, so I will be burning their CD copies of the files tonight and will be overnighting them by FedEx tomorrow! Now I can move on the the smaller web projects that have been hanging fire.

After setting out the special new release movie at the store tomorrow, I am planning to check out a group of "local" folks who work with fibers and who meet on the U of Maine campus in Orono every Friday and the 4th Saturday of each month. I have known about these folks for some time and have been wanting to check them out but finally decided to make the time now that I have the energy. I really dislike having to come back into town on days off, though (which Friday and Saturday usually are) so I decided that hanging around in town for the morning and attending the meeting tomorrow was a good use of time, especially as the CALO project is done. I will take some wool and my cards.

The beginning of Spring!

!Happy  spring! With the equinox just passed on Tuesday and the New Moon coming tomorrow, who could think of a better time to stir up life and plant the seeds of change!

To continue the metaphor, remember that new habits take time, just like seedlings. Sometimes there are setbacks, in the garden and in life. But putting some thought into how you would like your lift to progress over the next months, making concrete plans to move in that direction and then beginning to implement them is in harmony with the Universe (and our gardens) so GO FOR IT! Whether or not you fire up the altar, burn candles, tie knots, toast the Gods with beer, wine or apple cider, you will be working in tune with the natural order of life.

Here at Hearthfire Hill, we are working towards a more orderly week, better health and efficiently completed tasks. Mother Nature has given us a preview of late spring/early summer (I'll call it a "Pagan Spring", akin to the "Indian Summer" that we cherish in the autumn.) with record-shattering, unseasonable temperatures that are set to return to more normal levels soon. I hear other places, where the current Maine weather would be more at home, have seen snow and records in the opposite direction. Climate change in action, it seems...

Though the tractor will begin tilling in the garden tomorrow, I will wait to see what the next few days hold, and monitor soil temperatures before beginning seeding the "as early as the ground can be worked" crops.. .though seed them I shall, in small amounts. Succession plantings will follow. I see seed potatoes are in the stores. Who would have thought it possible -- even likely -- to be able to plant them on the traditional "Good Friday" date in Maine! I am reminded of a garden blog post of a farming friend a few years ago when I was a newly arrived Maine resident. My friend Robin  wrote about hardiness zones and the confusion folks have about their relationship (or lack of it) with planting dates. Apparently somewhere it is written that in our zone (4) you are supposed to be able to plant peas on St.Patrick's day. Robin shared a photo of some peas, duly planted in a furrow she had hacked out in the snowbank that covered her garden. It was, of course, a joke... We had a VERY deep snow cover that year and below the 30-some inches of frozen white lay thoroughly frozen earth. This year, I could almost have done it,  especially had I prepared a raised bed that might have drained as it thawed. Spring in Maine is not called "mud season" for nothing!

The last frost/first frost dates that are published are only averages, after all... fictional numbers that may not actually have been in the samples from which the data was taken. When we push the seasons, though, we are taking a risk. Hopefully mine will be a well calculated one, for the lettuces and other hardy crops that I will put a bit of in the ground. Never fear, I will be doing most of my seeding in soil cubes for later planting out, though.

Hoffman variant, Double Creators Star, 14" indoor
Protection and Abundance, 14" indoor
And with the three just completed hex signs on the way to their new owners in MN and VA, and an indoor Hoffman variant of the Double Creator's Star (above) ready for immediate shipment -- order via -- I am ready to start working on two versions of my new Growth hex. One will be a wood version for exterior display and the other, painted on a rock for my daughter.

Double Creator's Star, binds the
blessings of prosperity, 10" indoor
Earth Blessing 12" outdoor

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Once again, become Do-ers, not just viewers

Most folks make resolutions with the turn of the calendar. For me, though, the dark of winter is a time to contemplate, to look both ways and analyze, to plot and to plan and to think on things.

Spring, which quickly approaches, is a time to prune a little here or there (though on the woody plants - as opposed to us humans - that chore should already be done before the sap begins to rise) and to set forth new growth. Resolutions, I suppose, though I don't call them that.

I work most every day surrounded by movies and music cds, and today I was thinking of how much our world has changed. Now, I don't watch a lot of TV, an occasional movie, but I do some. But mostly what I have been becoming aware of -- in listening to conversations around me and in reading conversations online -- is how much we focus on TV and movies. Some folks, it seems, that is all they ever talk about... this show or that, this actor or that actress... and not just about their roles on the stage or screen but details of their lives. It's funny, though I remember watching a LOT more TV when I was young (it was what my parents did in the evening) as I think my school friends did as well, I don't remember this being a constant focus of conversation. Maybe a quick "Did you see..." or a "What do you think will happen next?" if it was a show with a plot that carried from week to week. Oh, of course some of my friends had the "heart throb of the month" plastered on their bedroom walls and notebooks... but we, and our parents, DID stuff!

So as the wheel turns and life rolls on into growth mode, I ask y'all to join me in the "Do-er not Viewer" challenge. Commit, as I have, to spend at least as much of your "free time" (beyond work) DOing something as you do VIEWing. Now, I know we use the computer for many things (after all I am here right now!) and the TV screen as well as Utube are a source of information as well as entertainment. But information, unused, has a way of becoming trivia and entertainment can be active as well as passive.  So, let's get going and doing!

Ride a bike, take a walk, fly a kite, write a letter, a poem or maybe a book! Pick up an old hobby that is laying in the corner feeling neglected or find a new one. Take a class and then put that class to use! Volunteer! Moreover try to DO something that will impart value to your life, others' lives and the future. Start a garden and have pretty flowers or some good fresh food to share. Build something... a birdhouse or feeder, a brick oven, a chicken coop! Darn a sock, knit a sock, sew an apron (remember them?) and then take it into the kitchen and try a new recipe or bake an heirloom.

Whether you are full of vim and vigor or even if your body is less willing these days, there are plenty of things you can DO to get your mind occupied and strengthen your connection to the web of life. I will be sharing my "DO's" here for at least two months. Making a habit...

Celebtate Everything?

I've seen little graphics popping up on Facebook from time to time, spouting the thought that one should celebrate everything, any chance one gets. But I am not so sure that I agree with that thought.

If one means it in the sense of "celebrating" and taking joy in the moment, of embracing life to the fullest, of "grabbing hold tightly, letting go lightly"of the ordinary moments of ordinary days... of setting aside and actually taking the time to smell those proverbial roses, by all means yes!

If, however, one follows the path of least resistance and grabs on to the typical "celebration" of events and holidays to which they have no connection, perhaps things need to be looked at again. Consider Saint Patrick's day.

If you are, or have a family tradition rooted in the Catholic church liturgy and ritual, you have many days throughout the year -- each devoted to a different saint -- to recognize. Now, I am not and do not have any connection to that tradition so I am honestly not sure exactly how these days are marked; I would think prayer would be involved, though, and perhaps the lighting of candles.  I would not, however, expect a saint to be particularly moved by drunken revelry. Which brings us to consider the apparently widespread traditions in the US related to this particular saint's day... which has become allegedly a celebration of  all things Irish both by those of that cultural heritage and especially by those who have no connection at all to the Emerald Isle.

I have always thought his tradition a bit odd. This morning, on NPR, I heard a bit of verse penned by an Irish-American writer (I believe he is) who pretty much put words to my unformed thoughts. I quote him below.

Drowning the Shamrock

"Hail glorious Saint Patrick dear saint of our isle
On us thy poor children look down with a smile —"
But I'm not singing hymns and I'm not saying prayers
No, I'm gritting my teeth as I walk down the stairs
And into the street with these louts fiercely drinking
And screeching and lurching, and here's what I'm thinking —
They're using a stereotype, a narrow example,
A fraction, not even a marketing sample
To imitate Ireland, from which they don't come!
So unless that's just stupid, unless it's plain dumb,
All these kids from New Jersey and the five boroughs
And hundreds of cities, all drowning their sorrows,
With bottles and glasses and heads getting broken
(Believe me, just ask the mayor of Hoboken)
All that mindlessness, shouting and getting plain stocious —
That isn't Irish, that's simply atrocious.
I've another word too for it, this one's more stinging
I call it "racism." See, just 'cause you're singing
Some drunken old ballad on Saint Patrick's Day
Does that make you Irish? Oh, no — no way.
Nor does a tee-shirt that asks you to kiss them —
If they never come back I surely won't miss them
Or their beer cans and badges and wild maudlin bawling
And hammered and out of it, bodies all sprawling.
They're not of Joyce or of Yeats, Wilde, or Shaw.
How many Nobel Laureates does Dublin have? Four!
Think of this as you wince through Saint Patrick's guano —
Not every Italian is Tony Soprano.
If you want to celebrate your ethnic and cultural heritage, do a little research, folks! If you want to celebrate someone else's cultural heritage, do a little research, as well. Wear a leek on your lapel on March 1 for Wales if you have Welsh ancestors, as I do,  or find other saints.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Bringing a blog back to life

Sometimes, I think, following what the Gods say can make one look like a flake.

Reliably, for day and months on end, They had me taking down and transmitting thoughts that I received. "Words of Wisdom" they said... for me and for me to share. It felt very strange, but I did it. Then, seemingly out of the blue, They said "This work is done. Stop." And I did. So these digital pages have languished here in cyberspace for some time.

Much has happened -- and little has happened -- since that day.

As I began to think about my work with and for Frigga this evening (Friday being Her day, you know), I felt a nagging nudge. As the day progressed, the prompting became more noticeable and clear. "Start up that blog again, but differently. Talk about what you do and why and how you do it."

So here I am at the computer, Frigga's candle and those of her Handmaidens burn in on the altar and I am contemplating how to pick up these threads, which I am to ply and weave together on these digital pages. What the tapestry will look like, only They know (and as is often the case, They are not saying.)

I expect I will be writing about a lot of seemingly unrelated and very mundane stuff. But in the tradition of "chop wood, carry water" as I live it, nothing is simply mundane, nothing totally spiritual.That ol' As Above, So Below thing...

So what do I do these days? What threads might I be weaving here?
  • The thread of health; for the first time in many years I had a reason to seek the services of the medical practitioners of our society. None of us are getting any younger, and time does its work. I am following the recommendations of the medical professionals as I seek to find solutions more in keeping with my natural bent.
  • The threads of self-reliance. That yarn has lots of strands plied in. While there will always be reasons to be thankful for commerce, and needs that we cannot fill solely by our own hands, I feel strongly about providing as much of our sustenance as I can. There is the garden, and the fowl. There are hopes/plans for other creatures... goats and small cattle. There are the ways in which I put up the harvest, the challenges in working and tending the land and in helping my partner to discover his ways of comfortably living this life we have chosen. I suppose in many ways, self reliance could be the tapestry we weave, for most everything seems to have tendrils there.There are threads of home repair and maintenance in here too, and projects for the farm.
  • There are the threads of the cash flow -- the works that produce income for money is a needed thing, still.The hex signs fall in this realm (among others) as does my design work through Vision IPD.  At this point, I am also working in town part time as a merchandiser. While I enjoy the work, it takes me away from the farm and into town more often than I would like.
  • There are also threads of thread, and yarn and fiber... "hobbies" or passtimes or more ways to self reliance that also have spiritual roots. Carding wool, spinning, weaving, knitting, crochet, embroidery, making of "rag" rugs (from the fabric left over from the fabric circles for the indoor hex signs), sewing, mending, darning....  Where does growing corn for brooms fit in? 
  • And then, of course, there are the wild yarns, tales, ramblings of a mind that doesn't even necessarily SEE that box we are supposed to think outside of... 
Come, let's see what will happen next!