Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Joy of Living

 ON THE JOY of LIVING by Henri Frederic Amiel ( 1821-1881) (Swiss philosopher and Poet)
 A morning of intoxicating beauty, fresh as the feelings of sixteen, and crowned with flowers like a bride. The poetry of youth, of innocence, and of love,overflowed my soul.
 Even to the light mist hovering over the plain, image of that tender modesty which veils the features and shrouds in mystery the inmost thoughts.
 The matin bells ringing in some distant village harmonized marvelously  with the hymn of nature. "Pray" they said, " and love! " 
 They recalled to me the accent of Haydn; there was in them and in the landscape a childlike joyousness, a naive gratitude, a radiant heavenly joy innocent of pain and sin.
 Feeling is the admiration of the angels, the eternal food of cherubim and seraphim.
 I have not yet felt the air so pure, so life-giving, so ethereal.
 To breathe is a beatitude.
 One understands the delights of a bird's existence. That emancipation from all encumbering weight.
 That luminous and empyrean life, floating in blue space.
 Passing from one horizon to another with a stroke of the wing.
 One must have a great deal of air below one .
 Before one can be conscious of such inner freedom as this.
 Such lightness of the whole being.
 Every element has its poetry.
 But the poetry of air is liberty.
 "Kindness is gladdening the hearts of those who are traveling the dark journey with us."              Henri Frederic Amiel
 "The best path through life is the highway."
 "On the Joy of Living" taking, in excerpts from "1000 Beautiful Things" (1948)
Photographs 2017

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Days of Sewing...

 “Christmas is doing a little something extra .”   ― Charles M. Schulz
 A sneak peak at  some of the Christmas stuff I've been stitching the past couple of months. Never too early to start playing with fabric and thread and so forth....My mother would start in May to plan what she would sew. One year it was a Raggedy Ann Doll, another year it was Winnie the Pooh. All made out of fabric she had stuffed in the dresser. That dresser just overflowed. I used to pull it out, when she wasn't home and wrap myself in the silks and satins and parade around the house pretending I was royalty.

 "My mom taught me how to sew when I was 2 or 3, so I've been sewing for as long as I can remember." -Serena Williams

tea cozy....not a hat!
 First thing my mother taught me to sew was a bathing suit for my beat up Barbie doll. I liked to make Barbie go swimming in the tub. She was rather water logged.  And she needed a bathing suit.  So that was first.  Then a hat, and a cape. Later, came a short dress. Really hard getting her sticky legs and arms to slide into that tight dress, which promptly ripped and I decided to tape it with masking tape.                        
"I have a sewing machine that I adore, and I spend a lot of time sitting in front of it... And any excuse to  do something artistic with my hands really gets me going. Definitely aspiring." - India de Beaufort
 I remember in Gr. 8 we all took sewing classes.  For Christmas we had to make a stuffed animal. I ended up making a lion with crooked eyes and lopsided ears that didn't quite fold over. I got a C on it. It was made with leftover satin from my mother's fabric stash and I thought it was pretty great. Some other girl made a bird of some sort. I'd like to say a buzzard. It had a yellow beak. She got an A .
 My mother had a  seamstress style super charged  Singer sewing machine that she would work on, till the wee hours of the morning. I loved hearing the loud whirrrrrr of the machine as it  reamed through fabric. At Christmas she always made a flannel nightgown, or  long dress in bright cotton.  I would hear her turn on the radio in her room as she sewed away into the night, trying to get it all ready . She would talk to the cat who would sit on the dresser beside her. 
 One year, I begged for some leopard print. So she turned me into a Leopard for halloween. How I LOVED that costume. I wore it two years running...maybe even tried for three, but I got too tall for it. It was something she made about a year after my dad died.  Again, she sewed till the early hours of the morning to get it done in time. My fav part was the tail....

 "My mother had a sewing machine. I was never allowed to use it, but I was so fascinated by this little needle going up and down joining fabric together that I'd use it when my mother went out...." - Philip Treacy

More tea cozies using recycled fabrics and beading.

 I got into quilting  back when we lived in Cornwallis, Nova Scotia. My good friend, Judy gave me a beautiful music themed wall quilt that she designed and hand made........It was an incredible gift.
I still have it. . She inspired me to start quilting.  We moved to Fredericton right afterwards, and from then on I just couldn't get enough of learning to quilt, then learning to experiment with fabric, dyeing it in tea to make it old, adding beading, etc. Recycling fabrics.  Quilting was not something I had considered before this time. By the time I had done my first quilt I was hooked.

 “I wish we could put up some of the Christmas spirit in jars and open a jar of it every month.”            ― Harlan Miller

 The year that Princess Diana married Prince Charles my mother made me  a black concert dress in black silk, with the same sleeves that were on Diana's dress. I wore that for every orchestra concert, every recital.  It always amazed me that my mother did it without a pattern. She just looked at the picture of Diana's dress, nodded her head, put her glasses on her nose and got to work. The silk crinkled and crumpled under her hands. It was beautiful.
When I graduated it was the dress we used for grad pics.  My mother hand stitched the gathers to make sure the silk did not tear. Most of it she made without a sewing machine. She told me that good fabric required extra patience extra time.
 When she died I had to sell the old Singer. That huge old ancient machine. I had no room in the new house on the base to keep it in. We were going to be stationed at Petawawa, Ontario. Long ways away. The lady I sold it to was thrilled . I wasn't so thrilled at first. When I was a kid, I used to hang that soggy old Barbie upside down under the machine and pretend I was feeding her to the sharks below. Then I would pop off Barbie's head and toss it down to the waiting imaginary, gnashing teeth.....

 Those were  the good old days of sewing....................
 “There are some wonderful aspects to Christmas. It's magical. And each year, from at least November, well, September, well, if I'm honest, May, I look forward to it hugely.”     ― Miranda HartIs It Just Me?

Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Paper Bag

"Acts of Kindness:A random act of kindness, no matter how small,can make a tremendous impact on someone else's life." 
-Roy T. Bennett. (The Light in the Heart)
 You won't see a photo of a paper bag here. You'll have to imagine it. Every time I see one of those  paper bags in the store....the ones that hold items for the food bank...it reminds me of a time when I was so glad to have a paper grocery bag brought to me.
 I was a Grad student,1984,  at U of Redland. I lived in Melrose Hall, supposed to be the "quiet" dorm. Oh, it definitely was NOT quiet. I had the bottom dorm room, the dungeon...horrible,spider infested . Big spiders. California-born no doubt. Bit eyes. Shudder. My mother couldn't afford it, but she got me  a plane ticket down. I got a TA( teaching assistant) position to help with first year tuition,  but things were tight. More than tight. I was so strapped, it looked like I would have to go back home if things didn't pan out.
 I  didn't have a  meal ticket for the campus cafeteria. I couldn't afford it. Not even a partial ticket.  So  at first I  lived on crackers and  peanut butter. I used to count the crackers out. There were roaches plus  spiders in my room. Window blinds were cracked. Floors were cracked. I had no car,and the bus was intgermittent,  so had to walk in the California heat down to the store, my plastic sandals melting on the pavement.  
 One day I decided I would make spaghetti. I hated spaghetti. But it would make a lot and last a few days. I had extra money from teaching; had never cooked in my life. How hard could it be? So I plopped everything into a big pot that I found in the dorm kitchen , and boiled everything up. Well, it cooked into mush, but it cooked. I divided up the pot contents. Figured that would work for now.
 Next morning Iwent to check the fridge to discover that all my food was gone, and the kitchen trashed. The football team had come in the night, raided the fridge and cupboards. Everything was gone. That night I counted out  crackers I kept in my room with the peanut butter.  I had to teach the next day. I had no idea what I was going to do. Plus I wasn't doing very well in my own classes, and  the undergrads hated  my  theory classes. I didn't blame them. I had no idea what I was doing.
 Some of my friends in the dorm tried to help out. They all had meal cards, and would bring me back apples and fruit and what they could from the university food court. Until they got caught one day
 Then, a friend was going away for a few weeks and she loaned me her food card. I was able to get in  and eat. Until I got caught. And was asked to leave. I was back to crackers and peanut butter.
 Then one day, one of my dorm mates  changed everything. Mark would come down to the tv area  and watch Bonanza, and  Rifleman reruns. He would go home on weekends to his family in Yucaipa. But during the week we would talk. I would work on my long suffering grad paper, while we talked. At that point in time, my visa was in question as well. It was a scary time. Visa not  revoked yet, but teetering.  Life as a Grad student was not turning out exactly the way I thought it would. Mark left that night for the weekend.
 "Help others without any reason and give without the expectation of receiving anything in return." -Roy T. Bennett (The Light in the Heart)
 Monday morning Mark returned. He brought his mother, his siblings ( I believe) and  she carried a large paper grocery bag. She told me that Mark had told her about how I could use some help. She showed me the contents of the paper bag.
 It was full of wonderful things. Fruit. Veggies. Tupperware dishes filled with  pasta. Bread. Canned goods. Treats. And later on, at Christmas time, little presents of hand lotions, soaps, goodies. 
 It was overwhelming.At first I told her no, it was okay, I  would get by. But his mother would not hear of it. She said every Monday when she drove in from Yucaipa she would bring me a paper bag. She said she would help. She said it was okay to let her help me get on my feet.
 So every Monday morning after that, for almost two years, Mark's mother would show up with another  paper bag of  surprises. I only recall one Monday morning when the bag did not arrive. the entire family had the flu. It would be another week till I saw them again. From then on, I learned how to ration things from the bag. Every week I would wash the containers  and place them back inside and return the bag. Eventually, I managed to get a small fridge .  That way I didn't have to deal with the antics of the football team. They still raided the kitchen  by the way.Still threw stuff against the walls  and ate raw cookie dough.Quiet dorm INDEED....
 Mark still watched old westerns late at night, down in the tv room. That was where I would be typing out that silly thesis for a few months more. My Visa was still up in the air. Frustrating.  Jan 28 1986 we watched the Shuttle Disaster unfold on the small screen  in that same room. We watched and didn't say anything.We were all silent.
  One Sunday, a group of us drove out to  Yucaipa to attend the First Church of God with Mark's family. I can still see that white church, the crosses on the side and a  massive hot tub used to baptize. Or the huge viewing window that looked like a movie screen. Or so many raised hands. Or so much joy.
 The pastor wore a blue suit  and fairly danced  on the podium. It was hot. He was sweating bullets. He was passionate. He was real. Faith was real in that place.It danced.It sang.We were all kind of stuffy and like deer caught in the head lights.But they treated us like we belonged.
 For a while, those paper bags kept coming. But then I decided...well I HAD ... to move out of the dorms. The university had messed up my visa, and I needed to leave.Go live somewhere else.  Live under the wire, so to speak. Finish my Grad thing. Ugh. Figure out what I was going to do. But I was standing on my own two feet by then. I had a ways to go, but I no longer felt so scared. I remember writing his mother a note to say thank you.  I  always felt in my heart that I never said thank you enough. When I was most down mark's family lifted me up and gave me hope. Out of a simple paper bag.
 I finished my degree in 1987, Visa problems not withstanding, and yes, they got worse. But I finally returned to Canada.  I've always wanted to thank them once again. To let them know   they taught me so much more.  And to pay it forward, again and again. I buy those filled paper bags in the grocery store, whenever I'm able, and I think of that time that I was hungry and was fed.......
 "Do not let kindness and truth leave you. Bind them around your neck.Write them on the tablet of your  heart."- Proverbs 3:3
“Always have a willing hand to help someone, you might be the only one that does.” ― Roy T. BennettThe Light in the Heart