Looking through my poems from another lifetime ago, I found Cherry Tree Sonnet, which would have slid easily into the 40 Below Anthology. My poems often came to me in an image, and my mosaics spring from the same source. H.D. and her Imagist poetry made wonderful sense to me.
Cherry Tree Sonnet
My mother made jam from Nanking cherries.
The tree was wedged in by the garage,
gasoline smell of this half-shelter which ferried
the car to rest and the warmth of wattage
coursing through the planked walls to run
the block heater, so the engine would start at 40 below.
My mother stood by the window, knowing the sun
through jam jars on our table could show
Jesus’ heart. Mary bore him in the half-shelter of a stable—
I knew making Nanking jam was keeping
a tree that was rare, lone, delectable,
that these preserves woke a tongue that had been sleeping,
and took on its witness of bright true red,
first fruit growing out of my mouth, that birthing shed.
My copy of 40 Below: Edmonton’s Winter Anthology arrived this week. I was excited to see my name in the table of contents and look forward to reading many accounts of Edmonton winters. I took this photo of a snow man(as I referred to him) with my mother’s Brownie camera in 1975 when I was 8 years old. I don’t remember the actual making of this snow man, but I remember the photo. I built with snow sticky enough to mold the form, the kind you can roll a snowball on the ground into a a larger and larger sphere. I wonder what the buttons and eyes are made of. The one arm looks suspiciously like a kitchen utensil, and the perhaps a doll’s toque on top, with a pompom. His expression is stoic(perhaps he predicted his fate). He stands near my favorite weeping birch tree with the white bark that I could peel off in scrolls and imagine writing novels on.
My third grade teacher had us write a journal, and I discovered this entry when going through my old papers in the attic. Someone had knocked down my snow man. I don’t remember that either. I was comforting myself with the photo I had taken of it, and the possibility of rebuilding. My teacher was concerned whether it would be warm enough. On a whim, I looked up the weather for that date on the Government Canada climate website, and March 8th was about 14 degrees Fahrenheit. March 7th was just at freezing and it snowed. My teacher asked if I used water in my craft of snow man making, and I had an unequivocal no. Perhaps my Texan parents didn’t have the technique to pass on to me. I don’t know if I rebuilt, but looking at the data, I would say no.
Check out the 40 Below book trailer, with its own theme song.
Halloween put me in mind of my favorite pumpkin, Jack Pumpkinhead from The Marvelous Land of Oz by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by John R. Neill. My father taught a University class of Children’s Literature, and the volumes from the reading list had a magic allure. Flipping through my father’s annotated copy, the illustration of General Jinjur caught my eye. The shades of blue-green, the yellow boots and General Jinjur’s splendid skirt.
Tip was so anxious to rejoin his man Jack and the Saw-Horse that he walked a full half the distance to the Emerald City without stopping to rest. Then he discovered that he was hungry and the crackers and cheese he had provided for the Journey had all been eaten.
While wondering what he should do in this emergency he came upon a girl sitting by the roadside. She wore a costume that struck the boy as being remarkably brilliant: her silken waist being of emerald green and her skirt of four distinct colors — blue in front, yellow at the left side, red at the back and purple at the right side. Fastening the waist in front were four buttons — the top one blue, the next yellow, a third red and the last purple.
The convergence of colors in the skirt reminds me of gradating color in my mosaics, and the scene of an entire army of girls converging on the Emerald City, with difference variations of the colors in their skirts. They are an Army of Revolt, marching to overthrow the city, and Tip is baffled that they have no weapons, but then he realizes each girl has two long glittering knitting needles stuck in her hair. The Guardian of the Gate tells the girls to go home to their mothers to milk the cows and bake the bread, and queried, “Don’t you know it’s a dangerous thing to conquer a city?” They took the knitting needles out of their buns, and just enough jabbing to get the key away from the Guardian, and overthrow the city.
Dressing as General Jinjur would make a most excellent Halloween costume, and as a knitter, I would be ready to be in her army. My memories of Halloween in Edmonton involve constructing costumes that could incorporate a winter coat.
W is for Wernersville, PA and the Jesuit Center. When I was introduced to the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises at the University of Scranton, little did I know that Stratoz be the one most touched by them. My spiritual director, when I told her I was moving to Lansdale, had said “Wernersville. That is where you need to go.” I did, and was entranced by the art that is an integral part of the Jesuit Center, especially the mosaics by Hildreth Meiere in the chapel.
Stratoz was intrigued by the Jesuit Center’s silent retreats, and although he hadn’t done the Spiritual Exercises in Scranton, he went on a silent retreat and was refreshed, and has kept going over the years. He has designed much artwork there.
He is well acquainted with the trees.
I discovered that my studio is my place of reflection, so I haven’t been to Wernersville in awhile, but I see the effect it has on Stratoz, and I remember how Hildreth Meiere’s mosaic sparked my love of mosaic, and it is close to my heart.
These include a sense of collaboration with God’s action in the world, spiritual discernment in decision making, generosity of response to God’s invitation, fraternity and companionship in service, and a disposition to find God in all things. Spiritual integration is a prominent theme of the Exercises: integration of contemplation and action, prayer and service, and emotions and reason.
I first saw these chemistry illustrations via Maria Popova over at Brain Pickings, How Chemistry Works: Gorgeous Vintage Science Diagrams, 1854, by Edward Youmans. My mosaic eye was immediately drawn to the modular construction of the flame in Chemistry of Combusion and Illumination.
The quilt-like arrangements of Isomerism intrigued me as well. And of course, the decomposition of light resonates with my love of color gradation.
Edward Livingston Youmans(1821-1887), went through many travails with his eyesight, and for many years, his sister Eliza Ann Youmans acted as his proxy in the chemistry lab, through her persistence in finding teachers who would take a woman student. Edward was enchanted by science, though chemistry was a challenge because of difficulty of visualizing the processes, and as his sister relates in Popular Science Monthly(the magazine he founded with his brother):
When he reflected that chemistry was fast becoming a popular branch of education, and that, so far as its processes were concerned, the youths who were studying it might be classed, along with himself, as blind, their situation naturally interested him. Occupied with this subject, there one day arose in his mind a scheme for picturing atoms and their combinations that would bring the eye of the student into more effectual service. . . Atoms of the different elements were shown by diagrams of different colors, the relative sizes of which expressed their combining ratios, and the compounds exhibited the exact numbers of the respective atoms that unite to form them. . . He thought that chemistry could be made enticing as well as intelligible to learners who had not the help of experiments in its pursuit.
Tell us your favorite homes for five things, the places that you can always and reliably find them.
The idea of items having “homes” has taken awhile for me to catch onto. In my house, it seemed only special things had homes. The Christmas decorations were in an odd closet that was positioned over the stairs, and only my younger sister was small enough and brave enough to climb onto the railing and launch herself up into the storage area. My parents shared the spare bedroom as a sewing room for my mother and an office for my father to write poetry, and the sewing machine with all the sewing notions and fabric lived there, as did the typewriter and university letterhead. When I left my home, I carried a sense that everything ordinary went in piles on whatever surfaces were available.
My first clear appreciation of homes for things came when I started making mosaics. I have a whole room for my studio in our house, and I have a regenerative cycle where I fill up the drafting table with all the tools and dishes of glass for a project, and then as I finish a project, I take time to put things back home so I can start again.
1)My nippers and other tools reside in a wooden box by the drafting table.
2)Then I put the containers of glass and tile back into my Tower of Tesserae.
3)When my sister moved to South Africa, I was reunited with my dresser from childhood, and I store substrates from slate to olive wood crosses to picture frames in the drawers.
4)My intention is to put items that I need to grout on top of the dresser, but sometimes they expand to other surfaces if I’ve put off grouting a bit too long.
5)The really little pieces of glass go into tins organized by color. The rogue bits end up in all parts of the house, hence our motto at Nutmeg Designs, “No Bare Feet.”
1. In the past, what resolution has been your most successful? What change have you made that has been the most beneficial, to your mood, health, finances, or other way of being in the world?
In 2012, I wanted to make space for my business. I took an online class in getting organized from the Artbiz Coach, Alyson Stanfield. She asked us to take before pictures, and then create a space where we could work on our business. Stratoz encouraged me to get a standing desk, so I could get away from all the sitting, and so I commissioned Dave and Mindy Spray of Creative Wood Designs by DAMI. Dave measured the corner, and my height from elbow to floor and worked with me to create a desk that fit me. I am amazed and how standing makes it easier for me to organize, to make to-do lists, and feel at ease rather than hunched over the dining room table with piles of stuff. My desk has a big drawer, storage under the drafting top, and a flat area for a pencil cup.
2. What is one thing you hope to do differently this year with regard to health, either physical or spiritual?
Discovering the Alexander Technique as a way to find more ease in my movement and in the studio was wonderful in 2012, and now I want to incorporate the idea of “constructive rest” into my daily life, and rest breaks while I am working in the studio, which is part of having compassion for myself. F.M. Alexander, originator of the technique, believed that we are a unity of mind and body that makes up the self, that English doesn’t have a word to describe this whole unity of the physical-mental-emotional-spiritual self.
3. What is one thing you hope your family will do differently this year, ways to deepen your connections with those you love.
More art and jazz dates with Stratoz. We both tend to lack momentum in getting out of the house, or are busy with craft shows, but when we go on a date it’s awesome.
4. What is one thing you hope your community of faith will consider doing differently this year?
Stratoz attends the church on the corner, and there’s a new rector who just arrived in September, after an 8 year search. I know people from this congregation than any one I ever was a member of, and they have a welcoming spirit, and I hope they find ways of being emboldened in sharing this welcome with the community.
5. In what area would you most like to learn to be gentle with yourself? For what would you most like to forgive yourself? Share your ideas and strategies for extending yourself the kind of grace we know we are assured of.
I want to be gentle with my body, and give myself enough rest, and the opportunity to release tensions that accumulate in my muscles. I want to have compassion for myself, and rest in the idea that there is no “perfect”, and to practice letting go of tasks before I “feel done” with them.
I am playing the Friday Five at RevGalBlogPals on the theme of Corner Shops. Where I grew up in Edmonton, there were many corner stores, and I was intrigued by the array of goods, and the possibility that I could someday buy Key-Tab notebooks(we called them “scribblers” in Canada). When Stratoz and I moved to Southeast PA in 1997, we were deciding where to live, and my sister said Lansdale had a real Main Street, and indeed it did, and that’s where we’ve been ever since.
Edmonton’s equivalent of a Main Street for me was Whyte Avenue, in Strathcona, which used to be an actual town, annexed into Edmonton. I didn’t know that, just that there were shops in interesting buildings and I could easily walk from one to the next. When I moved to Bethlehem, PA in 1985, while my mother was attending Moravian Seminary, I was amazed at how a real Main Street brought in busloads of tourists!
1. If you suddenly received a ton of money and could open up some kind of store or service just for the pleasure of having it (assume it wouldn’t have to be too financially successful!), what would it be?
I have an online shop for my mosaics, Nutmeg Designs, and sometimes I wonder about having a physical store. Setting up for craft shows is exhausting and the idea of having a permanent home for our art is appealing, especially if I had this ton of money to ease the start up costs, but I love having a studio in my home, where making art is intrinsic to my life. There is something magical about making an entire environment for people to step into and become part of, and I can envision having a coffeeshop, where art is on the walls, and there is music and pastry.
Part of me is attracted to the idea that places we enjoy being, in which we have community, and use our senses to make connections with our world incarnate, could actually be financially successful. I heard the expression “showrooming” where people try something on, touch or otherwise experience an item, at a physical store and then go order it online for a lower price. Anyone who owns a yarn store knows about this phenomenon, and while there are times when a lower cost is important, I also do not want to make this my default way of shopping.
2. What service or store that no longer exists do you miss most?
I miss the Spice Smuggler in Lansdale. The owner retired, and it’s now a cell phone store, the original awning still remains. This shop had walls full of bulk spices in glass jars, tea, and gifts, and I always felt at ease asking those who worked there to measure out spices for me, because they loved and respected their customers.
Stratoz took this photo of a shop on Second Street in Lansdale, long since abandoned, and I know he’d love to walk to a stained glass store. Stained glass is a trial to photograph, and with art glass every sheet is different, even of the same kind, because art glass is handmade with swirls and ripples of color. Buying stained glass online is usually for emergencies when we need a particular color, and it’s a solid color. We were sad when Inspirations Stained Glass closed in Lower Providence, but Rainbow Arts and Crafts in E. Norriton stepped up and started a stained glass section in their store, for which we are very grateful. [Sadly they too have closed, but Colors of Glass has taken their place as of Summer 2015.]
3. What local business do you think you could make better if you were to take it over? And if you don’t mind sharing, what changes would you make?
I am going to reframe this in terms of what my favorite local businesses have in common. They know my name, what I like, are interested in what I do, are a positive force, and are reinventing themselves in order to respond to their customers. We are ecstatic that after seeing almost all our local bakeries close over the course of 10 years, but now we have Alice Bakery in North Wales and Ambler and Bakers on Broad in Souderton, we can always find deliciousness.
4. What spot nearby seems to be impossible for businesses to survive in?
There is a small tavern on a side street that went out of business, and there have been several pizza parlors, an ice cream shop and a youth drop in center which have not survived. The tavern drew people from the neighborhood, and it didn’t matter that it was on an isolated street. I am hopeful for the newest business there, Smoke Rack BBQ, because they sell BBQ and people will come a distance for good BBQ. [Now replaced by a pizza parlor yet again in 2014].
5. We’ve all seen stores that combined books and records, beer and laundry, or coffee and whatever. One of my favorite places to get coffee in Honolulu is a cafe and florist, and there is a car garage that’s also a diner in a town nearby. What would be a cool hybrid of two disparate ideas for somewhere you’d like to hang out?
Stratoz and I had a fine gourmet dinner at a French Restaurant in a bowling alley when we lived in Illinois. A typewriter repair shop in on Broad Street in Lansdale also sold honey that the owner collected from hives in the back of the shop. When we first started going out, Stratoz and I thought we’d like to run a Diner/Bookstore. We are regulars at Lansdale’s West Main Diner. If there was a bookstore next door, we’d be in heaven. We are happy though that the Pedaller Bike Shop moved in next to the West Main Diner.
I am a Christmas at Sea Knitter, and sent my 2012 donation of Seafarer’s Scarves off to Port Newark, NJ. I was saddened to hear that the Seamen’s Church Institute(SCI), which sponsors the volunteer knitting program, got flooded by Sandy, but grateful for the dedication of the SCI staff who salvaged many of the knitted gifts that were soaked, as Paige Sato recounts in her update:
Friday 10 SCI staff returned to the port with sleeves rolled up for some hard work. We painstakingly sorted through each and every Santa sack, identifying and sorting the wet and/or damp from the dry. I am THRILLED to say that over 1200 gifts (out of 1600) were FINE! Thank goodness for plastic bags!
The wet and damp gifts were brought home over the weekend and laundered (as were any of the wet cloth ditty bags).
Today (Monday), we sorted through the nearly 7,000 items that were stored in boxes. Every employee with electricity ponied up to the task and piled bag upon bag upon rubbermaid container into their cars and vans for more laundry.
I believe we will save well over 95% of all these knits. All the cloth ditty bags have been saved. The toiletries–well, we’re not so lucky there. But that’s the least of my worries.
SCI has collected handknitted hats, scarves and vests and socks for mariners and seafarers since 1898, during the Spanish American War! Affiliated with the Episcopal Church, SCI is an ecumenical agency that advocates for men and women who work at sea with professional education, pastoral care and legal aid.
If I lived closer, I’d love to knit in the SCI’s volunteer knitters room! What do you volunteer your time for?