when i was 4 years old my mother would sit with me at the kitchen table with a little red diary. the kind with a lock on the side. it was called a five year diary. each dated page was divided into 5 sections....a few lines for each year. she would disregard that aspect and fill the entire page in one sitting. it was my diary, she was just the scribe. she asked me to tell her about things i loved and how i felt. (the majority of the time i would say 'i feel like not sitting here doing this' and she would write that). she transcribed my childish pronunciation and funny words. she recorded what i said, word for word. she persevered. and preserved. and now, over 40 years later, the love of having my own notebook of thoughts and ideas and sketches is still very much alive. my mother's most profound gift to me, i believe.
the dreamy wonder of discovery. childhood and it's incomparable joy and light. but how is it that human nature dictates that our few short years of wonderment feel endless and tedious. i remember that feeling. as children we crave independence and strive to be bigger and have more fun. we want what is available to those who are just a little bit older. our quest is growth and strength. and yet we sit in those moments completely. loving the singularity of what we see. of how we play. of words and colors and movement and song. until we notice what the big kids have. and then we want that. and yet, paradoxically, we can barely fathom the concept of changing into that other wiser, more mature creature. of not being who we are in that moment, in that stage. we move so quickly through a decade now. we collect them. but that first brief decade held the sweetest days that stretched forever. that we clutch to and allow to settle into us if we have that particular fortune. and yet those are the years that disappeared the most completely.
my books. they are a cradle for me. walls of them. towers of them. curving around my life. smiling at me. soothing me and motivating me. like a multi-dimensional ghost mother, holding my hand forever. my bookshelves hold almost everything i love. jewelry and cameras and shells and photos and all the little stories that only i recognize. all tucked in with the books.
i have just watched the sun scale the sky from moonless black, to gray, to streaks of pink and orange, to day. and there is frost on the rooftops. our first in six months or more. maybe that was why i couldn't sleep....feeling winter close in around me in an overnight fury. when edgar heard me tiptoe my way downstairs in the dark and curl in my favorite corner of the library, he unfolded his long legs from the couch in the living room to join me. i covered him with a quilt and he lifted his heavy warm head to my hand. he loves me to hold his head. i wrap my fingers behind his ear and feel his breath on my forearm. despite a few sleepless hours, it was pleasant nevertheless. and now the day has begun. there is no leftover night in the sky. and the kettle is on the boil for tea and oatmeal.
this morning as i took a few seconds to blot on base and a quick brush of mascara, i saw my face in the mirror. and i realized in that moment that last night i dreamt my forehead was etched with deep creviced lines. heavily carved wrinkles. and this morning when i saw my face i was surprised at their absence, for i guess the shadow of the dream was still controlling my semi or sub conscious. my worries about crabby, my list of tasks and this sore throat that is sapping my energy, crept into my sleeping mind and created a physical representation of my worries. and now my fresh day gives a new perspective and smooths the lines.
edgar and stella are curled on the sofa, asleep and lightly snoring. happy and content. but my thoughts are troubled with questions about how to handle crabby's aging difficulties. last year about this time i posted crabby's story. and now we are beginning to seriously wonder and worry about her quality of life. i have never made a decision to put a pet 'out of it's misery' in this fashion. and i don't know that i will get there in this case either. but her struggles are becoming more evident. and harder for us to live with as well. we think she is deaf. and although we feed her premium cat food, we can't contain her foraging and garbage eating ways. her diahrea is becoming a real concern and problem now that the weather is growing colder and she's inside most of the time. the powders from the vet don't seem to be helping. i bathed her today. but her confused shrieks were so loud i couldn't finish. tomorrow i'll try again to get her clean and fresh, and maybe it will bring her contentment. oh crabby.....
i am sipping coffee and eating oatmeal. the day is gray and overcast. i just saw neighbors in bright jackets stroll past the window. i'm making my way to the studio but i'm spending a few quiet moments with edgar and elsworth before i head over. contemplating the pile of work i have to do and the lack of energy to do it with. wondering why i'm writing here about nothing, but appreciating the composure the act of writing gives me. it straightens everything from the inside out. it files and organizes and gives peace to the process.
i went to bed last night with a fever and a sore throat. i am slow this morning and hope that by this afternoon i'm feeling well enough to spend the evening selling books as i'm scheduled to do. i'm drinking tea instead of coffee. and soon i'll have some orange juice. ironing strips of fabric shouldn't be too much effort for me today. the iron is now almost permanently set up in the living room. angled so i can watch tv with tom. the heavy wooden ironing board that tom's mother gave me. it was her grandmother's. tom found it at the cottage this summer and i fell in love with it's heavy wooden top and steady, unswerving legs. so now it sits in the living room with an old faded quilt on top. and i iron fabric in the evenings. and sweet edgar keeps my world cozy and warm. he settled in with me last night while tom was at work. we snuggled by the fire and i pored over jermalism's fascinating photos of abandoned buildings. a cozy warm night, even if i was sick.
we live in the shadow of an abandoned lunatic asylum. it sits looking out over the waves of lake ontario. and i'm obsessed with it. i take endless photos. edgar and i circle around the tall limestone edifice every day. there is a cluster of buildings. the largest is 7 or 8 stories high. huge curving windows and the scent of sadness about it. and i dream of walking through it with my camera, the empty and abandoned hallways, the curving windows and high ceilinged rooms. rockwood asylum. today i spent hours reading all i could find. old photos and lists of the people who were kept there 150 years ago. i'll fall asleep with the names echoing through my mind. the architecture so strong and beautiful while the reality of it's purpose, so helpless and sad.
my coffee this morning is un cafe noisette. like my paris days. just a drop of milk, to soften the first hit of caffeine. just a drop for this pleasant gray day. the weekend has been smooth and full. our little village within the city is getting closer and closer to perfection. we now have the most lovely little market of local produce, eggs, milk, meats, sauces, baked goods. hatter's bay country market. all local and fresh. a pleasure to walk in and take home dinner daily. again like my paris days. buying what i need each day instead of huge grocery shopping trips with much of the food spoiling before i find a chance to prepare it. the walls are limestone with warm wood floors. fresh coffee and cookies while you shop. i found it had opened yesterday (i've been watching for the open sign to emerge) and brought home a basket of potatoes with a pork loin steak for tom that fed him dinner and still has a couple of meals worth of leftovers for him. (i won't eat the meat selections, but i love being able to grab it for tom since he can't seem to enjoy a meal without meat). so today i'll iron fabric for quilts next week. while we watch football. maybe a movie. maybe a pizza. sundays are good.
even though we are late in october, my dear little white studio is covered with morning glory. blue and pink and purple. they braid themselves around the front door awning, smiling in through the windows and welcoming customers and friends. and twine amongst the bushes and fence. they wrap around the trunk of the apple tree and their flowers burst out among the apples. and maybe it is all part of the magic that the studio is generating lately. i have found two wonderful women to share the space with me. we are humming and happy in the little white house. quilts and dolls and felting and collage and encaustic painting and rug making. bags of wool, fresh from the sheep, with the faint smell of the farm lurking in the softness. rolls of fabric. paper and books and canvas. beeswax and pigments. there is a powerful energy. and a lovely idea exchange is cranking along. our own little happiness factory.
the boats are beginning to leave the water. the harbour changes it's face for the seasons. each weather variation creating a mask of activity or lack thereof. we are heading into the still season. the deep bellies exposed as they balance motionless next to the water that eventually turns to ice. the masts removed and flattened like felled trees. i love to weave among these neighborhood giants. i look out and see the expanse of water meet the sky, a great spread of blue. and i wonder if the peace that settles so easily in my being is partially due to the halcyon vista of endless blue that i'm treated to each morning.
the insignificant moments. the simplicity of noticing something regular, something usual and feeling it make a smile spread through my insides. the fleeting and meaningless moments that bring unruly happiness. the ladder against the studio as i'm kicking my way through the leaves and the smoldering smoky air to start sewing this morning. the cold wintry feel to the house tonight as i write at 1 am., knowing that when i go up the stairs, my bed will be warm and crowded with love. the moments that you don't recognize if you're trying, because they are too regular to notice. i'll end my day embracing the ordinary.
it was only slight tweaking that the farmhouse quilts needed. and yesterday i realized what it was....i needed to double the quilting lines. it puckers more. it drapes better. it makes all the uneven little patches even more charming. and it means more hands on time with the quilt....more time to infuse it with happiness and love and warmth. i don't want to stop sewing, but i promised you photos, and here they are.
it's a gloomy morning. heavy gray clouds are low on the lake. we stumbled along, edgar and i. layers of sweaters making me bulky, although it's not at all cold. the sweaters were for comfort, i guess, rather than warmth. but my favorite part of our wander, was coming in our gate. our yard was pungent and incense-y. last night i sort of started a fire. one of the super dry logs my father brought in the summer for the outdoor fireplace, a pizza box and a newspaper. i didn't have time to nurse it so i threw them all together with a few matches and hoped for a little glow of a fire. it didn't ever really catch, but apparently it smoldered away all night, as my fires often do. and this morning our yard is like a perfectly baked pie filling the day with it's warm and smoky fall-like flavors.
today was a turning point. i have been developing my quilts for 7 or 8 years. beginning with flannel baby quilts. and gradually adding larger sizes and eliminating flannel. finding a name and a brand for my little workshop. creating an etsy shop. building a fulltime studio and a little shop. selling wholesale. but this afternoon i felt like the quilt i took from the dryer was the culmination of what i've been working towards all these years. i don't have a photo. but the little scrappy squares with the 1 inch tunnel quilting, puckering to perfection and draping with the perfect weight and softness. my insides were boiling with happiness and excitement and a dash of pride. i'll show you photos tomorrow.
it's sunday night with a cold wet rain falling. it's the night we put our garbage out. i can hear the scrape of the neighbor's plastic bins along the street. tom and i remind each other that it needs to be done. but neither of us wants to do the job. it's been a windy day, with bright sun and periodically the wind blew in rain. i hung white towels and linens on the line and they came in smelling of winter. and, although it's hard for me to admit openly, the scents of winter in my laundry are my favorite. they are fresh and distinct. i wrapped in my still damp towel after my late afternoon bath and kept my face in it, filling up with it's scent.there was football on tv while i ironed strips of fabric for quilts. and a fire in the fireplace. and we just returned from a neighborly gathering across the street. a potluck to which we contributed nothing but a bottle of wine. homemade perogies, baked beans, slow cooked bison, roasted root vegetables, apple/rhubarb crisp and apple cranberry cake. the children played upstairs in the loft under the eaves. some of us collected around the table, while others found softer seats. and we talked about our weekends and the upcoming week. recent happenings in the neighborhood. new phones. work. a lovely day.
my cousin's daughter, laura, has always held a special place in my heart. her bright eyes and quick smile. her love of family. her love of animals. she is easy to be with and easy to love. she always made an effort to be at family gatherings even when i'm sure she had more interesting things to be doing. and today was her wedding day. i made her a quilt. and we drove a couple of hours to a lovely country club outside of toronto. it was a rainy gray day, and the wedding was perfectly lovely, in a glassed in terrace overlooking the greens and the bright autumn colors. i had been looking forward all week to seeing all my uncles and aunts and cousins. and beautiful laura and her new husband. everyone dressed up and happy and celebratory. but during the standing and sitting of the ceremony, i became aware that it felt like i may have stained the back of my skirt.....the kind of stain you can't hide or explain away. the most embarrassing sort of bright red stain. i whispered my fears to tom and stepped in front of him as we were walking out. he nodded, signalling that i had indeed stained my skirt. there was nothing to really do but hug the bride and head home. i didn't have a change of clothes and dancing the night away with a red stain on my bottom didn't sound too inviting. so, with a sweater tied around my waist, i hugged my dear uncles and aunts and my parents and laura and her new husband dan, and we slipped away in the rain leaving my mother to give any explanation she was comfortable giving. what would you have done? and what have you done in those moments when your womanhood was displayed to the world???
i was a painter for as long as i could be. it was about 20 years that i twisted my time and my eye and my mind into paint. it still calls me. i breath a little faster when i smell the paint. and the ideas have never stopped. there are painters who i binge on, a handful who's every line i recognize. francesco clemente is one who has drawn me into his cavity. the beautiful hollow opening to his vision. my first extended stay in europe was the summer of 1987. 3 voluptuous months. and several weeks were devoted to chasing art across western europe. museums everyday. the basel art fair. cathedrals. architecture. ruins. and one group of images stays etched in my memory. it was a retrospective of sorts. drawings by one brilliant hand. there were darkened rooms with tiny sketchbooks. drawings from childhood. drawings from school. and drawings from the professional adult. pages and pages. smudged conte. pencil. watercolor. words scrawled with the lines. and i watched the drawings that were recognizable even in the childish form, grow into the man. i will say again, i have seen alot of art. i've sought out painting eagerly, and this little accidental clemente exhibition has been an influence on me that i am still discovering.
i borrowed these images from francescoclemente.net and my blogger format appears to have cropped them. click on the images to see the proper form and cruise through his site if you're interested in seeing more.
our bedroom is it's own little sustainable universe. there is, of course, the bed. and the piles of books beside the bed. the tv. my bathtub. and the spool sofa under the morning window where the east sun pours in. someday there might be a little gas stove in the corner, but until then, our bedroom is perfect the way it is. our days are dissected. the daylight and a few hours of dark are spent on the main ground floor of the house. while the nighttime hours combined with the earliest gray hours of morning are spent suspended with the trees. a blade dividing our time and our home. tom sleeps earlier than me. his breath gurgles just slightly, restful music across the room. and i am propped on pillows on the spool sofa, under a quilt punching words into my laptop, writing my blog, listing quilts on etsy, facebooking, emailing....quietly having little adventures, but in an odd way, still spending time together. i like this. i like knowing we are sharing a room but doing what we both need to be doing.
temperatures in the mid 20s. a hot and dreamy day.(the crickets are singing like august now as i'm writing) we drove along the lake to the orchard that tom remembers going as a child. there were orchards all along the road, with pickers in the trees. ladders against trees. hot sun with a breeze off the lake. all under the october blue sky and the october golden tilt of the sun. it was idyllic. we wandered along curving field roads. in among the orchards. we found a horse barn with the loveliest gentle faces, licking my hands even though i didn't offer them any apples. pushing their big, edgar-like heads into my hands. we found a little building where they were boiling cider doughnuts. sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. they gave us fresh ones, still steaming hot. and we bought a dozen when we chose our apples. our apples...we bought russet, northern spy and honey crisp. my favorites are the russet, little thick-skinned browny green rock like spheres, with crisp sweet white flesh. my father remembers them as a boy on prince edward island. they look like the apples a farm boy would pick. like they might not even be apples. we made it home with our bags of apples. my aunt and my mother sat in the sun peeling them, while i juiced limes and squished together butter and brown sugar and cinnamon. and we threw together 5 of the most delicious apple crisp. we ordered chinese for dinner and deserted on apple crisp, forgetting the birthday cake. so then we had to have some cake as well. and it was a most wonderful day. the photos of the day are lovely and you can see my favorites here on foblographie.
it was a magnificent day, 24 degrees. sunny. fog lifting off the lake. we gave edgar a bath and i walked him in the sun to dry. tom cut the lawn. and i took the stepladder into the front garden and washed the windows. and while i was working on the windows of my little front porch, i realized how i missed sitting in here in the early morning sun with coffee. or with the evening sun and a glass of wine. and a book or my blog. a few years ago it stopped being a room and just become a place to walk through to get in the house. with messy recycling by the door and cobwebs and garden dirt. so, i swept and washed and threw away the wicker chairs with the seats broken through (i didn't really throw them away, but they went to the basement) and brought in my favorite white metal chairs. i washed the glass. and swept and washed the floor. i found places for what shouldn't be in the front porch/sun room. and set up a little table to hold a drink. jars and buckets of beach glass and shells. faded lavender hanging in the window. garage sale paintings i love stacked against the wall. a few piles of books..... just in time for my birthday tomorrow. i will have my first coffee as a 45 year old, sitting in my lovely little sunny nook.
i have a complicated and unusual relationship with the things i have around me. i like to feel their organic shift and rhythm. if something is stained or torn or chipped, i certainly don't stop loving it. i often love it more. and i am comfortable with a way of life that is odd for many. i'm drawn to the look of abandoned houses. and my personal aesthetic has much of that worn quality in it. i love my garden overgrown and wild. i love the chipped paint on my front door. i love the vines growing along the walls of our house. i love our bare floors. our old original wood framed windows with the 150 year old wavy bubbly glass. we have a rusty mailbox i found at an architecture salvage place. i love the original paint and it's creaky, rusty hinge. i love things as old as they can be. our doorbell is an old boxing ring bell that echoes through the neighborhood whenever anyone yanks the chain. and tom loves and accepts all these odd little quirks of mine. dusty books and chips of paint. photographs of strangers. rusty metal and stone. i'm lucky his suburban soul is drawn to my undefinable soul.
there are so many stories settled deep in all of us. little tales of triumph and joy and sorrow. wistful reminiscences. stories we glean from the entire tome of our life and consider memorable. stories we sift through, sometimes finding the right person to share with. sometimes sharing with anyone. they are layered and foggy, changing imperceptibly with every telling so that the reality of what actually took place, no longer is. stories of childhood, of love, of place, of people. they are born when memory is put to words, they come alive in the telling. i planned to tell a story here tonight. but i began to think of storytelling and ended up with this instead. a version of a story, but not the narrative i'd planned. but slowly i believe the little rambling sketches will begin to slip into this conversation.
i have flashes of memory. while i'm sewing. while i'm driving. while i'm walking edgar. while i'm falling asleep at night. quick flashes of a person. or a house i have loved. a kitchen. or a street, a street in paris. of a wall, a painting. many different cities and the energy and vitality they are engorged with. a sound. a face. a song. a smell. a conversation, or just a piece of it. a car, a journey. and so often there are faces with smiles. or just people going about their business without noticing me. there are restaurants. classrooms. shoes i loved and how i felt with them on my feet. studios i've filled with my work. and when these memories arrive, they overflow in me. and i realized the other day that this wash of memory, when it happens to my parents, brings about an era so very far from our current reality but still a very real part of theirs. or when it happened to my grandparents, they would be taken to a time before cars. before electricity or plumbing. when photographs were precious. and meals were made, not purchased. when there was no radio, no television. my grandfather died 4 1/2 years ago when he was 105. and he lived in his memory most of the time in his last years. it is a powerful gift, our little visions of the past. tiny pieces of our lives.
oceans of patchwork. my hands are always in it. my clothes covered in thread. the fabrics smile at me and we work together. step by step. methodically but with excitement. i recognize patterns and i'm drawn to certain colors. i long to see the squares pucker and fade and soften. but that takes time. years. so i move on, sewing until it's thick and soft and will cover a bed. until it will smooth over a sleeping child. until it will form around a young girl's dreams. or wrap tightly around a couples love. or keep company with a single sleeper. rise and fall and grow warm. smell like warm sleepy breath. the colors blending and fading with the years. making friends and simply tolerating others. there is life in the quilts. there is a pulse. it's what keeps me at it day after day after day.
i love to see through windows. divided and protected by layers of reflection. a narrow perspective that gives only limited access. softening the truth, distilling it to a story. unpeeling and segmented. a story framed. overlapping aperture interrupted with diaphanous smoky images. the mundane with added value. this is my kitchen. the back window that sits over the sink and looks into the yard. the light is melted and golden. the dirty dishes and pile of compost by the door has disappeared. the trees are reflected in the glass and the painting by the fridge is a dark hollow space. windows and baskets and the busy-ness of an evening meal, it's there but it's ready for you to make it your own.
a lazy day of rainy skies. trees pillaged by the wind. fires gurgling in both the living room and the dining room. both of us recovering from last night, a wonderful fun night, and a late night with our friends. we slept in late this morning and then we fell asleep watching football in the early afternoon. and now, after our nap, i've finally tidied up and the dishes are washing, and i'm eating my very favorite little meal. a meal that is just a little collection of my favorite things. it's easy and it's perfect. yogurt. coffee. baguette. perrier. a few pieces of chocolate. there should be olives to make it perfect, but in a moment of insanity, i walked past the olives yesterday as i was rushing through the market. little pieces of everything i love piled on a plate. there could be a little chunk of camembert too. so now i'm curled on the sofa in the dining room with stella sleeping against my leg, enjoying my favorite little collection of food just that much more because i thought to write about it.
i feel like quilts are alive. they reflect all the little joys that make life special. they emanate love and warmth. the quilts i make blend a grandmother's ideals with a fresh youthful flair. there is a nostalgia for seasons past combined with hopefulness for a bright full future. you can find me online at www.chasinglightningbugs.com