Thursday, June 28, 2012

springtime in the rockies

I am working on a quilt that I am already thinking of as Springtime in the Rockies. Naming a quilt before it is finished is sort of like an expectant parent settling on a name and hoping the baby fits it.
The quilt centre is in a fused but unstitched state but that will soon be remedied with free motion locomotion.
It will be surrounded by twelve wild animals; an even number of carnivores and herbivores.
Two more borders, one pieced and one appliqued will follow I think. Quilts often have a mind of their own about these things, but this is what I am seeing right now.
I am feeling very overprotective of my emerging quilt. It seems somehow top secret, not unlike NASA blueprints.

swan song

I delivered my swan song as departing President at Quilt Guild last night. I figured if one speech was good, two speeches would be better. What!? Oh well, here is speech number one.

Before a keynote speaker delivers a speech at a gala dinner event, there is often a warm up speaker; someone who serves as court jester, to draw the eyes of the crowd to the podium and quiet the chatter; someone to loosen up the crowd and make them a more receptive audience. In the absence of this crucial individual, I will give a very short prequel; some preliminary thoughts. This will resonate at a deeper level with those who are teachers or students in our group, but the rest of us can dig deep and remember when we sat with our knees together and our feet firmly planted under a school desk. Of course we would all have been wearing dresses.

And so to begin, I ask a question.
How is quilting like school?
Let’s consider an average selection of courses.

Math- There is actually a lot of math in quilting. Calculating half square triangles and flying geese units and of course having a grasp on problem solving. For example,,,, if two quilters are headed in cars from opposite directions towards a quilt shop and one is going sixty K and one is going ninety, who will have money left after paying the speeding ticket to buy three spools of thread and a meter of batik?

Science-Color fades and bleeds and wicks and rubs off.
Osmosis can be studies by observing how quickly tea travels when splashed on an appliqu├ęd block.
A grasp of the properties of light can be achieved by leaving a square of fabric in the back window of the Sedan for a weekend.

English - There has probably been a quilt or two pushed over the edge into the winning category on the strength of a well written artist statement alone, hence the importance of Writing 101.

History-An in depth look at origins of block names and color palettes and trends. There have always been trends. In spite of the fact that your parents had no known decorating scheme in the living room of your youth, trends existed.

P.E. - Flitting to the ironing board, Rising and sitting. Stretching and bending, Quilting is like yoga on fast forward.

Shop- The value of maintaining our machine by borrowing tools from our husbands shop

S.S.- Learning about the various structures of power at work in societies around the world. Democracies, dictatorships and communes can be closely examined and compared and contrasted to those of an average quilt guild.

Home Economics- A bit of a stretch, because quilters are often dashing away from home for workshops and lectures and sit and stitch and shows and shopping: And a stretch because building a stash isn’t always economical. But, making a quilt is mandatory to earn top marks and the title of Home Maker of the Year and credits can be doubled if the skill is passed to a family member and tripled if the family member is male.

Happy Learning Ladies.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

so much to know

"Look....I love it when those white butterflies come out," I enthuse.
A pause.
"Those are moths Gramma," my grandson kindly corrects.

I am walking hand in hand with my tiny granddaughter. She begins to hum The Farmer in the Dell. I joyously sing along.
"The cheese stands still, the cheese stands still, high ho the dairy-o....." I warble.
"Grandma," the little girl gently reproves. "The cheese stands ALONE."
So true, all alone.
Moths and lonely cheese.
It's a wonderful world and there is so much to KNOW.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

seizing control

As my daughter opened the freezer compartment of her fridge, I could see orderly stacks of zip-loc containers filled with soup and packages marching row by row, and frozen lemonade standing at the ready single file.
I was suddenly filled with a resolve.
I would seize control of my own state of affairs.
The freezer compartment of my fridge has taken on a life of its own.
Chaos reigns.

I was soon standing before my opened freezer compartment.
Identities were masked in some cases but an investigation yielded fruit. Good, that could stay.
A few items were swiftly dispatched, and the rest settled down into peaceful co-existence.
It was worth routing out the frost bitten and stale and strange.
The state of my fridge is now as serene as a state of mind.

Saturday, June 16, 2012


Foxglove do not make a nice light snack for any of the usual garden grazers. I suppose the fact that every part of them is poisonous is the reason they are left completely unscathed.
Bees love them though, and its fun to watch them land on the lip of the flower and disappear from view.
Once pollinated, a single foxglove plant can produce a million seeds or more.
I like to collect seed to sprinkle with reckless abandon in any bland spot that beckons. Thus our garden is always changing, color bursting forth in drifts, one year here, another there.
There is a legend that fairies made gloves for the foxes toes so that they could creep up on the chicken roost hence the name Folksglove, or glove of the good folk (fairies). The Nordic name Revbielde or Foxbell hints at a similar story.
I love fairy tales. It's not surprising that flowers and fairies go hand in hand in the telling. Both are imbued with a captivating beauty.

all nature

Wild Columbine makes me think of Birch Island.
They flourished there in the warm haze of dry interior summers.
They are so complex and exotic and vibrant.
Isn't that somehow comforting?
"All nature sings and round me rings, the music of the spheres."

Friday, June 15, 2012

out of his beginnings

One of the things I love about Salt Spring Island is that country roads are dotted with signs welcoming the wanderer in to all manner of artists studios. Outside bleached shingled porches, cats lap from exquisite pottery dishes. Through the screen door, paintings can be seen propped against the wall in darkened hallways, and wind chimes ring and echo on the afternoon breeze, sweetly salt.
On one long ago vacation, we found ourselves at a wood turners shop. He graciously ushered us into his workshop. Chunks of wood awaited the transforming power of chisel, and the counter was strewn with tools and pencils and wood chips. As the men chatted about the merits of motor and wheel, I gazed in wonder at a trio of dusty wooden vases. They were apparently early attempts and the wood turner rewarded my rapt gaze and murmur of admiration by handing them over: a gift out of his beginnings.

sweetest treat of all

Bleeding Heart blossoms fill me with the strongest, sweetest sort of nostalgia. They bloomed outside the back door of our home in Blue River and as a pre-schooler, I have a hazy recollection of my older sister, a barely teen, telling me a charming tale as she disassembled a blossom. There was a rabbit and a slipper and a princess too I think.
By then, my older sisters had gone away to school and I only saw them on school holidays. Her presence was special, her attention the sweetest treat of all.

my blue heaven

This is a shadow of a quilt that is yet to be; an almost Irish Chain. Browsing the thrift shop with my daughter, I came upon pizza boxes filled with pre-cut two inch squares.They had been sorted by color, and I bought the blue box. They have made their way into more than one project and seem to have no end.
My mother went on a quilt naming jag and has christened this one, "My Blue Heaven."
It is in a long queue with other Almost Quilts. I like to have lots of irons in the fire.... wow, what a great pun for a quilter.....It will eventually assert itself and catch my attention.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

so innocently

Collections can begin so innocently.
Wooden spools fill my heart with joy, and fill nearly every available bowl and vase and basket.
I'm going to blame my grandma for this one too. She used to whittle spinning tops out of them. And she had  them strung on a cord and added to the cache we riffled through in the toy box; that wooden orange crate of wonder.
My cousin visited my home for the first time and as she wandered about the dining room she suddenly froze. Her hands flew out and she held them above a bowl brimming with wooden spools.
"Grandma!!" she breathed reverently.

herd mentality

A herd of elephants march towards the light.
My grandmother collected wooden elephants and that is the only reason necessary to do like wise it seems. I received my first elephant from a Kenyan friend, and my second as a memento of a little trip and the third from a friend who, upon seeing two elephants on my shelf, felt they could be improved upon by the addition of a third. The rest added so quietly that I woke up one morning and found the herd was getting out of hand.
They have begun to travel home in my visiting sister's suitcase. I haven't warned her about herd mentality but I can hear a gentle thunder.........


A dappled wood.
Sun and shadow,
soft underfoot.
Sweet summer light,
bird song and sighing wind.

This poem was brought to you by the letter S

rain's reward

The reward of the rained upon is moss and fern.
I live near a rain forest.
Lacy fern and wildly green moss outline the dark giants; towering cedar and cottonwood.
A dark green velvet wood.

and dream

What is it about white?
White things?
I tend to pause at pages in magazines that show a room clothed all in white.
It seems fresh and cool and bright, but I think the real reason I love white is that the eye can rest.
The senses are so bombarded by color and pattern all around.
There is something quiet about white.
You can THINK..... and dream.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

flowers too

"Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them."

-- Eeyore, A.A. Milne.


"Talk is by far the most accessible of pleasures.
It costs nothing in money, it is all profit, it completes our education, founds and fosters our friendships,
and can be enjoyed at any age and in almost any state of health."
Robert Louis Stevenson

what's in a name

This is my great grandpa.
I never met him.
My father never met him either.
His own son didn't see too much of him either as immigration put an ocean between them.
Great grandpa was a Scotsman and never came to Canada.
My grandpa must not have kept close contact with his father because great grandpa was unaware that his only son had married and had two sons of his own.
Those were different times.
Communication was not as simple as it is today.
My father remembers being old enough to write him, and write he did.
Back came a response.
It seemed my father's name, Ernest, was too British to suit his grandpa.
I'm sure the letter contained other thoughts but it is that disapproval that my Dad recalled; That extreme loyalty to all things Scottish.
Too bad great grandpa didn't meet my Dad.....they looked so much alike.
What's in a name?!

Doesn't my great grandpa kind of remind you of Santa Clause?

soft fuzzy

A baby card for my friend's grandson. I'm still pleased with the soft, fuzzy quality of it, but what was I thinking with the pointing finger? It looks like the child has two left hands! Oh well, I suppose that is better than two left feet.

feels strange

This was a card painted to celebrate the arrival of a little hatchling. It must have been a second or third baby, but I don't remember anymore who I made it for. Seeing it reminds me of how much I love watercolor and I wonder why I don't paint more often. It feels strange to look at things created by myself some time ago. It is a sort of out of body experience.

a banquet of goodness

I seldom remember to take pictures of cards I make, or pictures I paint.
This card was made a few years back for a fiftieth anniversary. I'm glad I did snap a picture of it because it reminds me of the occasion, reminds me of the couple themselves.
In a funny way, it also reminds me of passing time, of fifty years as was befitting the occasion.
Don't the feathers look a little worn and wispy around the edges? Not unlike the flowers and the grass.
But the birds look like such good friends I think. They are staying within pecking range and are happily surrounded by a banquet of goodness.

Monday, June 11, 2012

one mans junk

I'm a sucker for wooden bowls at the thrift shop. I usually pay less than fifty cents for them....
What I find so funny about this, about this low price, is the fact that the pricing is done by many little old ladies. They see these turned bowls, these amazing works of art made by their husbands out in their collective garages and they make a statement. "What a waste of time."
In the same thrift shops are old quilt magazines. Some of them are from the seventies and eighties. They predate the rotary cutter. They predate colored photos and yet these are seen as being many times more valuable than burl bowls and turned vases. They are never sold for less than $1.50.

i love that

I love wood.
I love wooden things.
I love carved wooden things,
and turned wooden things.
Above, is a work in progress; a Bufflehead Duck begun by my husband.
It rests on a pine shelf that has graced our wall for almost thirty years. What?? That can't be right. Ok, maybe twenty-five years.......
The wooden vases were made by an artisan on Salt Spring Island; memories of another time it seems.
There is something timeless about wooden things, something living and warm.
I love that.

general guidelines

Vintage enamel ware.
Oh be still my beating heart.
The green, the green!
I did have that rule: Buy only white with black trim.
Oh, and of course my five dollar rule: Never pay more than five dollars for anything in a thrift store.
Know your limit, thrift within it.

I like to think of my rules as general guidelines now.
Buying only white just needs to be adhered to every other time or so.
And the five dollar rule, well, I felt I loved the pitcher twice as much as usual so it would be fine to spend twice as much as usual.
When I saw the eight dollar sticker I pounced on the pitcher and rushed to the till.
Start the car, start the car!

like a duck to water

I didn't know my husband was a carver when I married him.
Neither did he.
He didn't try carving until we had been married for at least a decade.
He took to it like a duck to water, no pun intended.
There is a familiar comfort in all things wooden for me. My grandmother loved wood, carved abit herself and had a carving brother.
She lived in a log home decorated with burl bowls and pictures of wooden inlay.
I'm glad she was still alive to see my husband begin to carve.
He made blanks for her to whittle; small chickadees and ducks.
It seems to me that my husband has been swept into the flowing river that is our family.
His own abilities and interests indistinguishable from ours so that he is truly apart of who I am.


My sister is a thrift shopper. It is a family trait encrypted in our DNA. On occasion, she finds a treasure that makes her think of me.
These little brown birds were lucky finds from different thrift shops and different years for that matter, but they were destined to be reunited on my mantel.

gypsy color

Vintage enamel ware is hard to resist.
I made a rule that I was only allowed to collect plain white with black trim to keep things from getting out of hand.
I am so weak.
I couldn't resist the gypsy color.
Or the cool smooth feel.....

And the shape of the bowls is my very favourite bowl shape.
And when I had one, the next one seemed to form a set.
And then the third made a collection.
They are reposing on my mantel.
"A thing of beauty is a joy forever."

sun, moon and stars




other accomodations

I always wished I had a fireplace. It wasn't so much the crackling fire and warm hearth I longed for. It was the mantel I really wanted. It seemed such a grand place to make a statement; to display treasures and pay homage to the passing seasons.
When we moved to Aldergrove a few years back, a fireplace was included in the deal; a real chimney and wood burning fireplace.
One afternoon as we lounged in the living room, we were startled to hear a scrabbling sound from the chimney. We looked at each other and held our breath. Yes, there it was again.
My husband sprang to the fireplace. He leaned into its dark maw, and turned his head to peer up into the chimney.
As his vision cleared he realized that a pair of eyes were peering back into his own.
A squirrel.
It had always wished for a fireplace too apparently. Not for the crackling fire for sure, but as a haven from
the weather; The perfect spot for a nest.
Our vision of sitting before a crackling fire wavered.
My husband grabbed a broom and after opening the damper, brandished it like a sword up the chimney to "discourage" the squirrel.
It wasn't discouraged at all.
It was outraged and offended.
It growled and bit at the broom.
Undaunted, my husband lit a tiny fire, a smudge.
He and the squirrel then made simultaneous leaps.
The squirrel exited the chimney like a fireman from a burning building and my husband shot up a ladder with a piece of wire screen to nail over the chimney opening.
The squirrels found other accommodations I suppose; One with less square footage, but I'm sure it would have had a better view.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

even longer

A huge heron rose out of the rushes at the lake's edge. Our eyes followed it appreciatively until it lit atop a twisted dry snag.
Seeing a heron in flight always reminds me of our long ago neighbor.
He told us that he had headed out for an evening bike ride. As he sailed along the deserted stretch of country road, a great blue heron suddenly rose to his left.
He was transfixed.
It seemed to be banking directly towards him like some giant pterodactyl.
Our neighbor lost his nerve, and his rhythm and his balance. (and his tough guy persona)
The road rose up to meet him and he skidded and bounced, evenly distributing bruises and scrapes that lasted for days.
The sheer size, the wing span;  they made an impression that lasted even longer.


"Ahh..tchOOOO!" I sneezed, the sound echoing down the lake.
"Who? Whoo-ew-ew?" came a startled loon's querulous reply.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

dogs can't ask

My hand was pushing open the car door when I glanced in the rear view mirror and noticed a big golden dog.
It seemed to have appeared out of no where.
Had he arrived with the woman making her way to the library entrance, her arms weighted down with books?
No, and she was forced to walk around him as he circled her moving feet.
Into the library went the woman.
Did she invite him in?
No, but he followed her anyway.
Was he welcomed?
No, he was soon standing wagging his tail on the sidewalk.
He continued to warmly greet each new visitor to the library.
A van pulled up and a woman got out and opened the back doors.
The dog rushed over.
"Oh good," I thought. The owner is here at last.
The dog leapt into the back of the van and sat regally next to a kennel holding a wildly barking dog.
Was it the owner?
No, and the woman could not persuade the dog to get back out.
Her own dog's barking began to take on a hysterical note.
I'm not sure how the story ended.
The woman had opened the side door of her van as well and was trying to coax the dog out one end or the other as I pulled away.
That dog wanted to go somewhere.
I hope he figured out how to get there because dogs can't ask directions.

Monday, June 4, 2012

sign on the lawn

"What is this?" I exclaimed to my mother. "Grand Central Station?"
Robins have been building a nest, deep in an evergreen swaying over our deck.
A nice secluded, quiet, private spot it must have seemed to them, hidden away amongst the thick green needles.
Today I noticed a ladder against the base of the tree and heading up into its arms.
Our neighbour has decided that this will be the year to prune and trim, something not done in the past eight years.
A large gray squirrel is dashing along the outstretched limbs.
And then........ a flash of color over the deck rail.
A Steller Jay and Robin swoop out of nowhere at each other. They veer apart, talons clenched.
Privacy is worth protecting.
I think of the real estate slogan, "location, location, location."
I hope the increase in traffic doesn't put a sign on the front lawn.