Friday, September 21, 2018

What Floats Your Boat?

Spruced up Sandpoint Historic Train Depot
Do you have a good idea of what inspires you, makes you choose to work with particular colors or designs? I thought I did: clean lines, interesting angles, symmetry, repeating geometric shapes, everything orderly. I often think it's that traditional quilting background of mine and the study of antique quilts underlying this tendency in so much of my work. The curves and texture and autumn palette I know comes from my long time habit of walks in nature. So imagine my surprise when sorting through some photos of our recently restored historic train depot that I found them less interesting to me than the ones I took of the station in its dilapidated state. Here are some before and after shots to show what I mean.

Most of the restoration has been to the outside of the building, to stop damage from a leaking roof and crumbling mortar. I'd tried to capture the crack running down one wall under the window near a loading bay. The rest is a bit of a mess.

Here's the wall "better" and I must admit I rather like the way they painted that loading by door. Except for that, this area has lost that "worn" character that theoretically I should not be drawn to. All neat and pretty and orderly design elements which I always think of as my core inspiration.

The brick platform along this side of the building and wrapping around to the front was falling apart, some bricks missing. It reminded me of some quilts I'd seen where the geometric pattern started falling apart and off the quilt. Could I do this, I remember wondering?

I was glad to see that the brickwork had been restored and in some areas replaced with new bricks. But now in a photo it struck me as rather boring from an inspiration point of view, although quite lively from the perspective of placement and value

Here is where old meets new. I realized how much more I preferred the old. Maybe the new will weather over time to be more appealing to me.

So what exactly is the charm of these worn buildings with structural cracks and peeling paint? I realize now how many peeling paint, weathered doors show up on the internet and how drawn I am to them, very much not alone in this.

And as much as we admire a building that has been saved from destruction, what about its smoothed out surface and straightening up soon has us moving on?

Well, I can't say that is a hundred percent true for me. I still stare at newer buildings and want to sketch them, still entranced with their lines and angles, especially ones that soar into the sky, and dream of capturing that perspective in cloth, if only abstractly. But now I see better this other thing that can draw my attention, things opposite to what I think I prefer, the gentle decay that says "Look again. There's a lot going on here even as I slowly disappear."

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

On The Trail Again

Yesterday the trifecta of what I've been waiting for finally happened. Smokeless air, cooperative weather and improved shoulder coincided at last and found me heading for a short walk along the Pend d'Oreille Bay trail. Can hardly justify calling this broad smooth and mostly flat trail a hiking one, but it was just what I needed and could handle. Look at that smile! (See more about this trail in this post.)

Granted, it was a coolish sweatshirt sort of day, with the sun straining at times to show through a thin high flat cloud cover, but at least rain was not in the forecast as it was for today. On the drive to the trail head, I'd noticed these puffy clouds against the flat gray sky, how many values of gray were represented, and was reminded of an "Ode to Gray" I'd recently read on The Paris Review. I agree with the author, by the way, on many of her points about what makes gray so great. I could definitely use the Paynes Gray in my little watercolor set to paint these clouds that seemed to lean towards a blue tint.

I've been wanting to get back to this trail because of a tree formation I'd discovered just off of it, one I thought I might like to sketch. I decided to leave the sketchbook home this time and take the camera instead. Just getting out to walk seemed enough of an effort for now. What caught my eye was the way the tree that had bent (but not uprooted) to rest on the nearby incline had sprouted a new trunk that has shot far into the sky. I've seen this one other time when I lived in Wisconsin.

And in this case, not one but two new trunks grow along the angled one.

They both go as high as the surrounding trees, straight and tall, their tops hidden in branches and leaves.

Moss grows on the rough bark, and the base of one of the new trunks undulates and creates a visual texture not unlike as if it were growing straight out of the ground.

After capturing these images, I walked a bit further up the trail before deciding not to press my physical luck and head back to the car. My eyes were mostly on the trail and the lake, but by chance I happened to look the other direction where these bright Mountain Ash berries glowed as if electrified.

For such an otherwise somber and shadowy walk, this splash of color was a great way to end it.

Friday, September 07, 2018

As If I Needed More...

My sorted tie collection pre recent addition
The muse has been good about not pressuring me while I've been focusing on recovering from my shoulder issues. But she must have noticed me pausing on the way to my laptop, being drawn again to some things up on my design wall a couple of weeks ago. Pausing long enough that I was actually THINKING about what I'd tentatively planned to do with that batik and that silk tie and could I get started on that yet. Nope, not yet but maybe soon. So last weekend when the air cleared so I could resume my daily walks that take me past a charity shop, and I stifled as I often have to the urge to side trip in to check on silk ties, she must have made the side trip herself.

Because the next trip past, she was very urgent about the need for me to take a swing through the shop. What's the harm, I thought, as I never carry my wallet on me on these walks. I also check for leather clothing that I might get for cheap, and having issues that might make them unwearable but ok to cut up for book making projects (no, I've never actually found the right thing to buy yet). So I started as far away from the silk ties as I could, check every other corner of the store that might harbor something I "need" and ultimately found myself in front of the tie rack.

Oh muse! No wonder you were so insistent! Front and center was an unworn, still in the wrappings Jerry Garcia tie - something I particularly look for and occasionally find. A quick check showed there were other silk ties of interest, so I moved (hid) the Garcia tie behind the rest and planned to return the next day. If nothing else, I'd buy that one with the 20% off coupon I had from donating some stuff I no longer needed.

So I had 24 hours to think about this. Lord knows I have plenty of silk ties to work with (I'm afraid to see just how many; ok fine, I have to know: 66 plus good size sections left over from 11 ties I had taken apart and worked into my art quilts - not as bad as I feared.) and haven't been making the sorts of things lately that calls for them. How do I justify adding more to the pile, when the last bagful I brought home are still in the bag? Then I remembered that I usually treat myself to a birthday present by finding something at our local August Arts and Crafts Fair. But I didn't go this year because of the smoke and my shoulder. I also remembered that earlier this year I'd looked at those new wool pressing mats (has anyone tried one?) at the biggish quilt shop in the biggish city where I have my car serviced and some doctor appointments. I quipped to the sales clerk that they were pretty expensive, but then again, I had this birthday coming up in August so maybe I'd treat myself to one then - I knew I'd be back in August for one of those appointments. But that appointment got canceled because of my shoulder. Hey! I'm due a birthday present to myself. The ties will be it!

But with one caveat, I silently made myself promise as I diverted from my walk to enter the store. You may buy these but only if you actually use ANY of your ties in a project fairly soon. Or maybe that was the muse laying down the law. She let me walk away with 10 - a modest haul by my usual standards - exciting graphic designs and one light green one that caught the light like none of the others. I'm already getting ideas...

My charity shop haul

Saturday, September 01, 2018

Gotta Share

Me with my old dance partner and close friend
Lookie lookie! Here I am sitting on "my" bench at city beach with one of my best friends from high school who I have not seen in probably 40 years. Charlie and I did the usual losing track of one another as marriages and jobs and moves flung us apart. Facebook brought us back together quite awhile ago now, and he gave me some advance notice that he'd be in the area this week, hoping we could find a time when we could get together. I didn't say anything about my shoulder issues, but have worriedly eyed the calendar and my progress, hoping I'd be better enough to sit through a lunch. I am and I did, and we even spent a few hours enjoying a perfect day for taking in the lake and various activities upon it. Charlie said he could easily fill the whole card in his serious camera taking pictures of the boats and paddle boarders and mountains. Thank you smoke for not spoiling this moment!

Mr. English handing out pop during a break
The details are a bit hazy but I'm thinking Charlie and I got to know each other through the square dance group I joined when I was in junior high school. In fact, the tight group of friends that saw me through my high school days when the various cliques in my class didn't include me was forged out of those weekly dances at Mr. English's Hayloft, a space above his detached garage that he transformed with perfectly sanded and waxed wood floors, rustic beams and barn-like decorations into a place to teach not only square dancing but couples dances like waltzes and tangos and polkas and a basic two-step, and for utter fun, a Mexican Hat Dance. He'd put on a record and call the squares, demo steps for both guys and gals, and on rare occasions his wife would come up and they'd glide across the floor like nothing we'd seen, or could do ourselves. In their younger days they'd travel to events and I suspect, perhaps even competed. All I know is that it was such a treat to dance with him, that perfect frame, firm lead and gliding footwork whisking one around the room.

Of course, the guys didn't sit with us during break
And that was the way Charlie was as well. He carried more weight than most of the boys which might make you think he'd be a plodder. But he was surprisingly light on his feet and nary a stumble (or trod on partner's toe - I can't say the same of me). I was so very much in the habit of having to lead the other boys around the dance floor and count out the steps to them that Charlie often had to stop after a few steps, give me a shake and say, "Stop Leading!" Oh yeah, no leading necessary with him.

John, another of our motley crew, with the resident owl

I have so few photos of us in the Hayloft, and none, I realize, of Charlie except one where he is mostly hidden. He has recently shared some of his photos with me, the black and white ones here, and between his and mine, you can get the flavor of the place and how much fun we had there.

Yeah, that's me having a gay old time!
Besides his twinkle toes, the other thing I remember most of Charlie was the night outside the Hayloft when I was crying on his shoulder about my insecurities and feeling like I wasn't liked (you know, teenage angst). Again, that firm taking hold of me and giving me a shake, then pinning me with his eyes and firmly telling me to stop short changing myself, followed up by a recitation of all the things he thought good, maybe even superior about me when compared to those people I so wanted to be accepted by, ending with a stern don't ever forget this. Sometimes a girl needs a wake-up call from someone she respects, and he gave me mine. Bear in mind, Charlie and I never had any romantic connections, just a very good friendship. The kind that when one summer after we had both graduated and found ourselves back home and between boyfriend/girlfriend, he called me up and said, "I'm not asking you out on a date. I don't want to "go steady" with you. I'd just like someone to do things with this summer, go to the movies with, that sort of thing. What do you say?" I said yes, and we had such fun and such good talks that summer.

David, my other favorite dance partner and close friend, no longer with us.

And so, there we sat at the beach, catching up on the years, pooling what we knew about the current whereabouts and situations of those we square danced with and that inner circle of close friends, some a year ahead of me, some a year behind, who spent many a Friday or Saturday night together besides our square dance nights, me being reminded why I like him so much and that those reasons still hold. Just an easy person to be with still, an easy comfort between us even after all these years. I wished he could waltz me around the floor one more time but time has taken its toll and his body would protest, he sadly admits. Makes me twice as glad he made the effort to come see me. Facebook is better than nothing, but nothing beats reuniting face to face.

Janet and me with the public marina in the background
Oh, by the way, he ended up marrying the younger sister of a gal that also ran with our group. I didn't have a lot of contact with Janet back in those days so it was a true delight to spend time with her too and get to know her better. After all, she knows all the dirt about our motley crew! 

Charlie and me 1969

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

There's Been Progress

Unattributed painting on a birthday card my brother said reminded him of my area
Today is the third day in a row we have found our air smokeless thanks to a cold front finally bringing some rain and a bit of wind to scour out the air. I've been gratefully back to taking my daily walks after about a month of daily air quality in the "unhealthy for sensitive groups" (that would be me) but mostly higher (red where most should stay in and a doom-like day of about as hazardous as it could get for everyone). I was stunned not long ago to pull up the smoke map and see this was affecting not just northern Idaho and part of eastern Washington but every monitoring station between here and the west coast, red dots even over Portland and Seattle which you would think would be clear so close to the ocean breezes. Turns out that at one point winds had shifted from their normal west to east to the exact opposite, pushing all of our smoke into western Washington and over the Cascades. Winds shifted again, this time from a more northerly direction which brought them smoke from the many fires burning in British Columbia. Just nowhere in a 4 state region (northern California has also been burning  up with terrible air quality) to escape. We just all hunkered down and spent as little time as we could out in it. No wonder we have been jumping for joy as the air has cleared, at least for now. Real progress!

Another birthday card that looks like a scene from city beach

There's even progress on my shoulder pain front. The physical therapist hit upon another possible source of my shoulder pain and tried some different things, sending me home with a set of exercises to do daily. They have really helped, and every day I realized there are more things I can do, ways I can sit or lie that I couldn't before. Not totally out of the woods yet - I sense there is much more work to be done - but even he is excited to see real change. Not ready to hop on a boat and sail away yet, but feel I'm closer to getting back to my weekly yoga class, and perhaps an easier hike along the lake shore. Can I sit at the sewing machine yet? Haven't tried but don't think so, I'm just excited that I can spend a little time sitting and typing rather than standing at my laptop. And that the numbness is starting to go away in my first two fingers. Tricky trying to pick small things up off the table, I noticed, and wondered how it would be to hold a needle for handwork.

Not much progress though on the recycle bookbinding challenge. I did get some more text copied onto the teabag spreads, using different types of pens in different colors and finding some don't work like I thought they would. And then I just kind of stalled out, knowing that I needed to add more things to the pages and try to make those additions make sense with the theme, but drawing a blank as I stared at what was before me. I think the aching shoulder became the brain's priority and it could care less about those pages. As the pain has lessened, I catch myself having little lightbulb thoughts, remembering things I thought I might do, but knowing some of them might aggravate things, even in short shifts. It will come when it comes.

Really good German Chocolate cake with Vanilla Ice Cream
I did have a birthday over the weekend, but between the smoke and the shoulder pain, I had no desire to do anything remotely exciting. It was enough to enjoy the German Chocolate cake I whipped up, have a long phone conversation with one of my brothers, watch motorcycle racing and drink in the well-wishes that came my way. 

One of my dear Wisconsin friends sent me a note with the Thoreau quotation which served as a little shot in the arm. Such good advice (I should, I WILL!). And so appropriate were several lines from a longer blessing she included with the card, not knowing how much I needed to hear them as I work through this current physical challenge:

May you discover kernels of wisdom
hidden in unwanted experience.

May you find comfort and consolation
when you are hurting.

May you know the protection
and guidance of your angels.
---Joyce Rupp

With the cooler temps and even a maple tree down the street starting to turn color before August is even over, it's hard not to think we were cheated out of summer. With Thoreau on my mind, I was slightly amused to run across another quotation from him echoing this melancholy mood a lot of us are experiencing as our year gets away from us, this recorded August 21, 1852:

"The sound of crickets gradually prevails more and more. I hear the year falling asleep."

Yeah, I too have noticed a change in nature's sounds, and two rather aggressive squirrels have been chasing after birds who might be trying to steal any seeds or nuts they are finding in my lawn. A year later, Thoreau comes across even more morose, though I find his thoughts not unlike my own at times:

"What means this sense of lateness that so comes over one now,—as if the rest of the year were down-hill, and if we had not performed anything before, we should not now? The season of flowers or of promise may be said to be over, and now is the season of fruits; but where is our fruit? The night of the year is approaching. What have we done with our talent? All nature prompts and reproves us. How early in the year it begins to be late! It matters not by how little we have fallen behind; it seems irretrievably late. The year is full of warnings of its shortness, as is life."

Thank goodness I entered  this last near-half of the year in a freer mindset than I usually do. Otherwise, this being benched by a cranky shoulder would surely depress me in like manner to Thoreau! Yes, I have that 5 page list mostly languishing, but really, that was just an exercise to purge my mind of all the things that generally clutter it and cause a bit of a panic. Something about relegating it to paper helps me let go of it so it doesn't keep spinning in my head like a gerbil in a wheel, and it's a quick reference for those times I'm standing there wondering just what were all those things I wanted to do. Or, in my current situation, what I might be able to handle as I slowly progress in my recovery. Amazing how easy it is for me to draw a blank or jump from one idea to another and another if it's just in my head. I'm such a visual person. It's easy to scan the list and see how much on there can wait, and what small little thing might be doable. Am staying open to those "kernels of wisdom", some "comfort and consolation" from unexpected places. There's still plenty of year left to enjoy and "produce some fruit". 

Well, I've probably overdone it on the keyboard. Time to settle in with some heat on that shoulder!

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Update on Progress

Thought I should check in and let you know how things are progressing. I've had more PT sessions and the last one made a marked difference. However, I still find it difficult to find a painfree position for sleeping, and sitting can still make things hurt worse. I was able to run through my entire home yoga routine for the first time today so perhaps I can venture back to my class this week. No progress on getting the numbness out of my fingers but every little bit of improvement helps. Have ditched the muscle relaxants and pain pills - Advil seems to work just as well. I had an MRI of my neck on Friday and will find out tomorrow if it shows anything helpful when I have another session with the PT. I'm really enjoying the work he's doing to loosen up my neck and that machine that gently stimulates and warms the muscles over that shoulder blade.

As for my recycle bookbinding challenge, it too is showing slow progress. I've filled the lined pages with information, lore and poetry about dragonflies and cut and pasted in the images onto the facing handmade paper pages. All taking a lot longer than I expected it would. I have quotations and some images left over that I will add to the spreads with the teabags and am contemplating what I might be able to add by drawing. So much for a quick project I thought I could whip out in a few days! Actually, I could have put it together that quickly if I hadn't realized it would be difficult to work on the pages once they are sewn into the accordion folds of the spine. All the additions really must be made while the papers are still loose. I know at the time I thought all of that would come later after the book was all together. Yes, I'm learning as I go which is good.

There's not much escaping the smoke from the fires which continue to keep me inside (except for one brief afternoon when it cleared enough for a short walk). And I am certainly not alone, as your comments and the smoke maps plainly show. A good time to be laid up. And a good time for a little distraction from the local wildlife. This little cutie showed up one evening, looking all in the world like it had managed to get away from mom when she wasn't looking to venture out in the world and frolic behind my place.

The next evening, mom was along and this cutie was still full of energy and wanting to play. Not so much poor mom.

So when it couldn't get her to play along, it ran back and forth at top speed until it wore itself out. Entertaining indeed!

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Finding What Is Doable

Reinforcing delicate catalog pages
The human body is a marvel of design that connects and holds together its myriad parts, and those connections are sometimes surprising. During my assessment with the physical therapist yesterday, it would appear that my shoulder pain actually originates in my neck where I have no pain at all except if I tip my head back past a certain point. He wants a look at my spine before he gets too crazy with his therapy plan but in the meantime there are things he can do to help with the spasming at several trigger points that are causing my pain and limiting what I can do. I especially enjoyed the treatment with a machine that caused gentle tingling and heat over that whole shoulder blade area, a step up from the heat pack I've been using at home.

I didn't come away pain free but I could feel a difference, especially later in the day as I stood at my work table. I'd been thinking about what I could work on in my partly incapacitated state and hit upon this recycle bookbinding challenge I started at the end of April (yes, it's on that 5 page master to do list). I may not be able to type long at the keyboard or use the mouse except in my left hand (which I'm getting pretty good at), but as I mentioned before, writing with a pen isn't a problem. Nor is pasting down and cutting out the images of dragonflies I've been collecting out of magazines and catalogues, as long as I stand at my elevated table to do so. So that is what I'm working on this weekend, between sessions with the heat pack and watching motorcycle races on tv. I've tracked down quite a bit of info as well as poems on dragonflies to fill those pages stamped with lines. Still not sure what will go on the spreads with the teabags. But it is a good stress-free project for this awkward healing time. 

I'm pretty much housebound anyway because we are inundated with smoke once again from the many forest fires in our corner of the U.S. I took this picture a few days ago when the air quality rating was at the first level above good. A pretty effect until you realize it is not romantic haze like in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina. No, that haze is real smoke and much thicker today in spite of the cold front that's pushing winds into the area that we thought would clear some of it out. Instead, I noted this afternoon we've actually jumped two levels up to red which is a warning for more than just those of us with breathing issues. Well, I'm not too sad about curtailing my daily walks as it has been record breaking hot too. All this too shall pass, and I always have plenty to keep me entertained inside.