Saturday, February 26, 2011

symphony



We once lived at the edge of a small ravine. Cedar and pine, vine-maple and thimble berry grew in a tangled green thicket just beyond the fence. Those woods were alive with small birds.
We hung feeders and our dining room window soon framed an ever changing flutter of wings and bright black eyes; sociable chickadees, acrobatic nuthatch, scarlet house finch and exotic grosbeak.
The air resonated with whistle, trill, chirp and buzz. Song bird symphony.

Friday, February 18, 2011

glitter bug

Making the dash from parked car to front door at work, my gaze was suddenly skyward. Bobbing along on the breeze was a small white plastic bag as full of wind as any sail. It puffed along like a wayward balloon until branches tree high snagged it. Deflated, it hung forlornly.
It was then that I noticed another white bag flapping in a nearby tree. Why had I never notices this phenomenon of air-borne trash before?
Moments later, the little bag was plucked from the tree by a gust and sailed over the fence and along the street, the path of the wind suddenly revealed like clothing on an invisible man.
Beautiful garbage.

"Look Grandma," my little grandson gasped. We had been out for a stroll in the neighborhood. "Someone was a glitter bug."
My gaze lifted from the litter strewn street and in my mind's eye I seemed to see sparkling insects with iridescent wings; glow in the dark garbage, twinkling trash.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

warm

Doll quilts can become sacred relics. I suppose it is because they are often made by a grandma or mother or aunt and are infused with love.
They also become entwined in the earliest memories of play where reality and make believe blend. Shivering dolls have been snuggled toasty warm again, lonely teddies cheered and soothed.
This doll sized quilt was made in response to a Guild Challenge; a variation of a log cabin block. I hand quilted it because it is for my little granddaughter after all.
Because my great grandmother Minerva was known for her rainbow quilt design, I incorporated that design in the border. Log cabin is probably my mother's signature block. Some of the fabrics were from my mother's and possibly my grandmother's stash. These connections to all things grandmotherly seemed especially appropriate in my own tiny grandchild's gift.
May it warm and comfort.

fresh forever

This past Christmas, as I munched, snacked and nibbled on homemade cookies, I mused aloud that it seemed a pity to eat my truly favourite cookie only once every twelve months. Couldn't they be enjoyed on all of the special days of the year?
Valentines Day is imminent and so butter is now softening in a big cream bowl on the counter awaiting the guidance of the wooden spoon.
For many years, when my mother lived afar, she would move about her yellow kitchen stirring and rolling cookie dough. Striped and spiral and fruited cookies were then packaged and sent off in the mail to us; samples of Christmas.
One year, December blew in and out without their annual arrival. They had been wrapped and stamped and sent just like every other year. "It will just spread out the festal joy when they come for New Years," I assured my mother. But the New Year awakened cookieless. We went expectantly each day to the mail box, but in vain. As January ebbed away, so did our hope of ever tasting those cookies. Had they bounced off the back of the mail truck? Had a postal worker enjoyed them on a spectacular coffee break? So much for the reliability of a national institution.
In mid-February a package arrived from my mother.
The package.
Posted in mid-December, it had been two months in transit.
She could have walked to my house herself and hand delivered them quicker.
Sadly, we found that time had not been kind to those cookies. They were definitely beyond their best before date. My taste buds recall them as the gold standard of stale.
Love may remain fresh and sweet forever, but not home made cookies.

Friday, February 11, 2011

painted

Painted toenails are a guilty pleasure. I don't paint my fingernails, but as soon as the distant sun of spring weakly glows, I dig out my sandals and whip out the nail polish. Such colors; navy blue, chocolate brown, rhubarb pink, lipstick red, each more lovely and enticing than the last. But there is more to this ritual than self decoration. Painting my nails acts as a sort of feminine version of the Farmers Almanac. When the chill days of autumn force me into shoes and socks at last, I leave my toenail polish in tact. And like crazed football fans that refuse to shave until their team wins, I refuse to remove the last coat of polish. Instead, as autumn gives way to winter and the days shorten and darken, my toenail polish is trimmed away a sliver at a time, like a seasonal measuring stick; only half an inch of winter left, now only a quarter inch til spring. It has never failed me yet. Punxsutawney Phil wishes he were as accurate. By my estimation, two more clippings and sandal weather will be here. Hurray, bring on the nail polish.

out and about

Coming home today I spotted a kestrel high in the branches of a tree, its shoulders hunched against the gray drizzle.
A neighboring tree held a crow, its wings pumping like fireplace bellows.
I actually drove around the block to take a second look at the birds.
It's such a gray gray day. Drizzle seems to be suspended like mist, but the birds are out and about.
Their eyes are bright, their voices clear.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

the gravity of the situation

Riding hour after endless hour in a car can turn me into a desperate housewife. Desperate to breathe fresh air, desperate to stretch, desperate to stop the world from moving.
On a long trip a few years ago, my mind had turned into a straight line and I was beginning to feel ready to hurl myself from the moving vehicle. Suddenly, Three Valley Gap loomed directly ahead.
Into the parking lot we shot, like goats into a barn.
Out of the car we staggered.
Into the gardens we hobbled.
Ahhhhhh, the sun was warm on our back. A breeze lifted our hair and our spirits.
"Hope springs eternal in the human breast."
I soon felt a rising optimism about life in general and road trips specifically.
In the distance a swing beckoned.
A few light steps and we were there.
I found I hadn't forgotten how to pump.
Higher and higher.
I felt young and giddy.
I felt weightless and free.
I felt like sliding off the swing in mid air.
Oh, to land once more like thistle down.
Actually, I landed with a thunk like a sack of potatoes.
I'm sure all my vertebrae compressed and my teeth clenched.
What had happened to the spring in my step?
Where had my bounce gone?
I made a similar discovery last year while demonstrating hop scotch for my grandson. Gravity seems stronger than it used to be.
"You're as young as you think you are," is an amazingly misleading quote. "You're only as old as you feel," isn't much better.
I think I've had my head in the sand, and like the ostrich, a bit more running and a little less denial wouldn't hurt. It might even help.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

like candy

I was overcome by irresistible temptation in a Quilt Shop. Charm packs are like candy. So delicious. Such variety. I spent a very pleasant few weeks arranging and rearranging the squares, debating the merits of square versus rectangular, pondering quilt, bag or table runner.
Table runner won.
I divided the pack of squares in half by value, dark with light, and churned out hst's. (half square triangles) I had intended to make a pinwheel pattern, but quilt blocks have a mind of their own. This pattern appeared, merged briefly and reappeared. I quickly sewed it up before it had any more ideas. The fabric on the back is so richly patterned and so deliciously red. It  reminds me of my grandmother for some reason. Perhaps the pattern, which is very like crewel has something to do with that.
I feel surprised every time I look at it.
It was a very spontaneous start to the New Year.

light feet

Sometimes a fragment of a song gets stuck on the record of my mind and plays over and over. I woke up this morning with a line from a song merrily playing in my memory. "Tell me when will you be mine, tell me quando quando quando." I found myself humming and singing under my breath all day.  I danced a conga line for one at work. Music makes light feet.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

unfamiliar territory

Ebay was once a foreign concept to me; 
Bidding unfamiliar territory.
I approached with caution.
I began by searching for vintage dolls.
Then I browsed through nativity sets.
I trolled through books by author.
I admired antique quilts.
Boldly patterned fabric swatches beckoned.

It seemed that anything the heart could long for was there waiting in the wings.
I set up an account and into this bewildering delight I wandered, paypal in hand.
Kaffe Fassett fabric proved to be an irresistible temptation.
A bundle of four inch squares were being offered at an astonishingly low price.
I bid.
I waited.
I won.
I gasped.
What had I been thinking?
These were not colours I usually bought. The scale of the print, the color combinations, it became a leap in the dark.
A little package soon arrived at my door.
There are a lot of ways to sew 81 squares together.
I settled on a simple nine patch and grouped the assorted prints by color. I was surprised by how much I liked the finished quilt. I discovered a love of color and pattern that I had not previously acknowledged. Unfamiliar territory suddenly felt very comfortable.




Saturday, February 5, 2011

the light


I had an epiphany this morning. Photos, paintings, quilts; all come to life when light is the main ingredient.
A picture is flat no matter how well composed if light doesn't infuse it.
The eye hungers for deep shadow, and is drawn to strong highlight.
It may be all about the subject, but light is the messenger.

Friday, February 4, 2011

right now

"Right now I'm having amnesia and deja vu at the same time.
I think I've forgotten this before."
-Steven Wright

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

who fears the bird?

Once upon a time, I was a little maiden, dressed in a dainty frock of shimmering pink, or was it blue?
No knight in armour was needed; I rode my own steed into the heat of battle.
Instead of rolling green meadows, I galloped over Grandma's braided wool rug. It glowed in every rich hue, like jewels underfoot.
Suddenly, a cuckoo high on the wall, sprang from a clock and sounded the alarm. Terror gripped my toddler heart.
Tearful and trembling, I rode warily onward, ever alert for the lurking bird .
Like a kindly fairy godmother, my grandma banished the little bird to the dark interior of the cuckoo clock, a little latch clasped firmly in place.
Peace reigned at last.
Onward and forward. Ha, who fears the bird? Not I.