My friend Ruth sent me this photo from her garden. She said it made her think of me(orange) and Stratoz(flowers). The yellow emerging from the front makes the point that orange contains yellow! I met Ruth when I was 12. Our fathers had adjacent offices at University, and Ruth’s father told Ruth to look for me on the first day at my new school. It’s amazing how one suggestion can turn into a life-long friendship. Ruth lived close to the school, whereas I took public transit. She would invite me over to have lunch at her house. Ruth’s mother makes me think of orange, since she would send me to the fruit drawer in the kitchen, and oranges were the only fruit I liked.
Ruth’s father was a fine photographer. I scanned this photo of his, and noticed the soft focus of the doors against our portrait of friendship. Ruth takes after her father with her fine photography as well.
My child-self watched the world with intensity. I remember walking through the Humanities Centre at the University of Alberta, where my father had an office in the English Department. This was a landscape, like outside, there of its own accord. It was a surprise to realize that someone designed this space, built it, inhabited it. There are banners hanging from the ceiling. I remember the colors and how they floated in that middle space, the airy core of the building.
These banners were created by Takao Tanabe, a Canadian artist. Printed on nylon, they glow in the light. I didn’t know an artist created this part of my landscape. Born in 1926, Tanabe started as an abstract expressionist painter, and eventually moved into semi-abstract landscapes. His banners were along the way, from the later 60’s/early 70’s, with drafting tool angles, gradated colors, and of course orange.
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.
I grew up in the Moravian Church, which is Protestant and often modest, plain and simple in church buildings. I suspect my home church, Edmonton Moravian, falls in the category of mid-century modern, which is the descriptor of much of my built world in the 1970’s.
The flat roof puzzles me, since surely it was a resting place for several feet of snow every winter. The font for the Moravian Church sign is san serif, and simple. Those 3 entry doors opened into a foyer lined with coat racks for all the winter garments. As a girl, I loved being surrounded by the friendly people of this church, as I looked for my coat after service.
I remember writing a poem, searching for imagery to describe the sanctuary: a bungalow rec room. Looking at a photo many years later, I see Danish Modern with the blonde wooden pews.
The first Catholic sanctuary I entered surprised me with the sheer quantity of decoration, color and sparkle. Stratoz attends an Episcopal church, more ornate than my childhood church, but not overwhelming. I discovered that the Celtic cross form, with the halo, is also referred to as an Episcopal cross, and Stratoz’s church has several of them.
I ponder my travels from the plain church into a love of liturgical art with color and iridescence, and my most recent Celtic cross in orange and shades of blue. The simple is beautiful in its own way, and I responded to that whole-heartedly. I also was surrounded by beautiful music, as Moravians cherish music, and yes, trombones.
For a musical treat check out Ritchie Trombone Choir’s mp3’s, including the graceful Handel and the swinging Green Dolphin Street.
E is for the Edmonton Public Library, where I spent every Saturday as a girl, and most Saturdays through high school. This was my first bar-coded library card from EPL, and my name have even been printed by a computer. The Edmonton Public Library celebrates its 100 Anniversary in 2013.
This girl isn’t me, but very well could’ve been in the year of 1975, at the Capilano Branch summer reading club, with a rainbow of books. I received my first library card at this branch, on manilla cardstock with rounded corners, with my name imprinted by a manual typewriter. [Edited to add that this link no longer works, and so far I haven’t been able to track down these archival photos of the Edmonton Public Library].
I found an image of another rainbow, like a colorful barcode, at the downtown branch of the Edmonton Public Library.
I woke up in the night with the tune “Stand Down Margaret” by The English Beat in my head. I remember checking out one of their records from the Southgate Mall Branch of the Edmonton Public Library, in 1984. There was a cautionary mobile dangling above my head composed of melted vinyl albums, casualties of being left in the car on a hot day. Being able to check this record out and take it home(via the bus, not a car), was a wonderful thing.
I didn’t know what the title of the song referred to, or who the Margaret was, just that it was unusual to hear my name in a song. I looked it up today, and it’s former Prime Minister of the United Kingdowm, Margaret Thatcher, and The English Beat are asking her to please stand down, because all they see in their country in the early 1980’s is sorrow.
My grade 1 teacher, Mrs. Peggy Juchli, wrote this message at the end of the 1973 school year. I have a memory of Mrs. Juchli encouraging me to make art, but reading her words, when I found this journal in the attic a few weeks ago, was a revelation. Mrs. Juchli introduced me to the Group of Seven, and taught me how to observe the brushstrokes, and all the magic that artists can create with paint.
Everyday we would write in our journals, in Edmonton Public Shools Practice Books. My first grade entries begin with crayon drawings and then I began to add words, and Mrs. Juchli would leave comments and answer my questions. My love of drawing continued into grade 2 and 3, because all my entries had illustrations. When in later grades I didn’t have a journal anymore, art was redefined by teachers who wanted me to trace things, and I was not good at tracing. By Grade 7, when art class was an option, it never occurred to me that I could choose to take it. I believed I wasn’t good at art.
But I still loved art. I took the bus to the Edmonton Art Gallery in 1982 to see an exhibit of Sybil Andrews‘ Linocuts. I was 15, and mesmerized by the prints, by yet another way to observe the world. I am grateful that I had Mrs. Juchli’s exhortation to love art, and enjoy it as I did then. It was over 30 years before I searched for an art medium that I could practice, and with it has come peace and happiness. Thank you Mrs. Juchli.
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.