Stitch N’ Bitch

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My first hand-stitched book.

Awhile back I attended a conference on how to make hand-made books.   Focus on Book Arts  (https://focusonbookarts.org/)  offered many classes on hand-made books —  how to fold, structure, stitch, and bind, as well as exotic techniques for the more advanced attendees  (Chinese Thread Books, Pop-Up structures for miniature books, Jacob’s Ladder book structure, etc.).

FOBA was a great environment for learning and sharing skills and experience with like-minded “arteests.”  I am still in touch with a few of them.

Thanks to FOBA  (and my independent urge to try new things) I have a formidable stash of content for the inside pages of a hand-made book. My grandfather the Trainman seems to admonish me for not memorializing him yet in a bound book.  He, along with my poems and other family vintage photos that I transferred onto fabric, remain buried in shoe boxes and plastic bins.

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I feel some angst over all of this material.  Why, out of all the FOBA classes that were available to me, did I avoid learning to structure a book to incorporate these scraps from the past?  I have toyed with the idea of  rendering them in PhotoShop and Lightroom and digitizing them into a book via blurb.com.

At some point, I may try that.  But at present,  I have fancy ideas that conflict with the idea of using an on-line service to build this book.

Me and my fancy brain.

My mind wanders back to 1970 and Mrs. Kane’s Home Economics sewing class.  Ah, if it weren’t for those memories, I might have happily enrolled in FOBA’s book stitching classes and by now would have a more permanent memorial to the ancestors.

No … wait. It wasn’t Mrs. Kane’s class. It was the sewing machine that my Father won at a Knights of Columbus raffle, the machine with the bobbin from hell.  It tangled incessantly and I never finished making a basic shift dress.

Oh what a web I weave … it was Mrs. Kane and my Father.

I now have a workable Pfaff sewing machine and make things like curtain valances and pillows. But I still have a love-hate relationship with sewing.

So recently I reached out to a friend I made at FOBA, Jackie, who in my eyes is the Queen of Book Structure and Stitchery.  Jackie covers books in cloth and paper and knows accordion folds, Coptic and long stitches, and even Japanese book binding.  She is a marvel.

“Sure, come over,” she said.  “We’ll each make a long-stitch book.”

I was successful — if you consider six hours of intense neocortex work (“first you fold the paper in half, then you fold it in quarters…after that you create five signature pages…we put them in the bookbinding cradle…watch out for the thread catching in the wrong hole”) to be worth it compared to a few hours of PhotoShop,

Let me get back to you on that.

Though the feather-papered book is very pretty and I want to write poems in its pages, I envision the ancestors in more of a parchment/sepia design.

I’ll probably stitch n’ bitch till the cows come home.

 

 

Spooked

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Well rattle my bones and shiver my spine,
‘tis Halloween and the witches are flyin’.
They cackle and hasten to mount their brooms,
ride high over rooftops and leaning old tombs.

Ghosts haunt at night and jack o’lanterns wink,
bats fly by radar, watchful owls never blink.
Werewolves and mummies and even giraffes
trick-or-treat on doorsteps; costumed kids have laughs.

But who’s to say, when the full moon beams bright,
that vampires don’t search for a neck to bite.
So please listen up if you hear a wolf howl,
it could be Count Dracula out on the prowl.

If I’ve scared you, I’m sorry, but it’s All Hallow’s Eve,
when souls rise from graves to tug at your sleeve.
For when I was young, my basket filled with treats,
goblins clamored to grab me for a dance on their street.

Bird Whisperer

 

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Fickle, you flit from one bloom to the next,

sucking nectar
oblivious
of tomorrows or yesterdays
and I wonder who is feeding whom.

My heart is grounded in this moment by your

Morse code chirps,
sassy chatter,

and aerial displays.

What is it you whisper to the flowers?

 

 

The Scream

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Humane crows in our lovely Lincoln Park

Two crows mourn on a wire;
they caw from their perch in the sky.

They emit shrill cries —
wings beat rancor, grief
at the sight of the fallen third,
road kill left behind by squealing tires.

One wing of the dead crow points to the lost freedom of the sky.

In death, does the crow’s wing beckon its clan to remember their connection?
Logic diminishes my whimsy as cars speed by and further crush the bird.

The two mourners fly and flap from one wire to another.
Drivers, oblivious of the crow funeral, move headlong to their lives
as I, too, enter my vehicle on the way to an appointment.

The crow screams are lost, muffled as news blares from the radio:
Mass shooting At A Texas Walmart —
and I ponder humanity’s numbness towards death.

Saga of an Urban Gardener

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Our saga continues…

Day 2

Is growing a veggie garden worth it?  We have two excellent grocery stores within walking distance of our home:  Puget Consumers Co-Op (aka PCC) and Metropolitan Market.

And why add the extra step of building a cloche for protecting veggie starts when we could just throw them in the soil and forget about it?

Or pave the entire yard with cement.

Such are my rat-scratching doubts on this overcast Saturday.

I bid Blake Goth adieu and walk over to Marguerite’s house.  Marguerite is a neighbor  and master gardener who offers gardening  consultations.

Marguerite’s prize-winning fowl, Betty, is outside her chicken coop pecking at feed.  Marguerite not only raises egg-hatching chickens, she is also a bee keeper and sells honey locally.

“Do we need to bother with a cloche?” I ask her.

“Not necessarily.  I do it to keep veggies starts from getting battered by rain, keeping them warm.”  She advises me to wait until the weather is warmer to plant things and just to rotate veggies every year.

“I use a sharp, steel hoe”, she says.  “It makes all the difference in garden work.  I sharpen it with a mill bastard file.”

“A ‘lil bastard?”

Betty, her prize chicken, clucks and admonishes me.

Marguerite laughs.  “No.  A mill bastard.  To file.  To sharpen.”

I invite Marguerite over.  She surveys our back yard.  “Someone’s been busy digging up sod.”

“That would be Blake Goth.”

“Blake Goth?”

Ooops.  No one knows my husband’s pseudonym.  “Uhhh…I’m keeping a journal.  I call us Jane and Blake Goth.”

“I see.”  Marguerite squints as if she doesn’t see.   She probably thinks I’m crazy.

Before she leaves, Marguerite again advises me  to wait until it is warmer to plant what I want and to add chicken manure to the soil.

When I go inside, Blake Goth is in the kitchen unpacking groceries from PCC.  I mention my conversation with Marguerite and how we’ll need to buy chicken manure.

BG shakes his head, says Marguerite’s chickens are kinda cute and that you had to hand it to her for raising honey bees.  “But I’m sure as hell never wearing a bee suit.”

Did I ever tell him to?

Does he need to cluck at me?

The saga will continue…

 

 

Saga of An Urban Gardener

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Rat-A-Touille Anyone?

A few years ago I visualized a veggie garden for our back yard.

I imagined early girl tomatoes, garlic, strawberry fields forever.   I fancied myself as Mother Earth.  I would plant shallot bulbs, scatter arugula seeds.  Our Lady of Perpetual Garlic would not only provide bountiful salads, but ward off vampires.

We would call this our “kitchen garden,” just a short step from our culinary center.  Even better — I would keep  a journal of our experience.  I gave us the pseudonyms of Jane and Blake Goth, aging yet steadfast farmers straight out of Grant Wood’s American Gothic.

What follows are some of my journal entries:

Day 1.

Cloudy, looks like rain moving in.   Blake Goth is digging out the grass.  I just read tips on seed packets.  Some, not too promising:

Beans are subject to numerous diseases.
Beets are prone to scab.  Make sure the pH level is neutral.
Flea beetle damage reduces radish growth rate.
Beware of carrot fly maggots.  Control by covering rows with insect barrier fabric at time of planting.

We’ll nix the beans, beets, radishes, carrots.  Wonder what the insect barriers are about?

Discover in Sunset Western Garden book that insect barrier fabrics are used to make cloches.

Hmmm…I think Marguerite down the street has a cloche.

I hear Blake Goth tossing clumps of grass into yard waste bin.  He has filled up the entire  container.

The drizzle outside is turning into a downpour.  Good thing Blake Goth wears his GoreTex.

I have doubts.  Is all this work worth it?  We have excellent produce at the grocery co-op up the street.

The other day I bumped into our neighbor Pam.  She mentioned finding holes near the foundation of her house.  Thinks there are rats in the hood.

I told her it’s a good thing house foundations are cement.  The rats would have to be pretty toothsome to chew through that.

Then I told her how we are planting a veggie garden out back.  Mistake.  She said “Ewww…E-coli.”

I asked her “How So?

She went on about the rats, stray cats, raccoons.  How critters could wander into our veggie plot and poop.

Great.

Her warnings from a few days ago still loop in my head.  “The only thing to fear is fear itself,” I tell myself.   “You don’t think produce growers across the world encounter pests?” the voice or reason chimes in.

Blake Goth comes in out of the rain, done digging for the day.  “I don’t understand what you have against grass,” he says.

I don’t have the heart to tell him about E Coli and to undo his work and put the grass back in place.

The saga will continue …

 

Of Robots and Radishes

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My attempt at growing radishes.  Some day this could be us.

Lately my husband and I have been discussing health care directives and disposal of our remains once we leave this wacky planet.

I ask him who in their right mind would want a robot taking care of them in their decrepitude?   I tell him about some old guy in England who uses a Skype on Wheels with a television monitor for virtual visits from friends, family, and healthcare professionals.  Loved ones phone your robot to check in on you.

His take on it?  Might be easier to get along with a bot than with family.

Did he forget Hal from 2001, A Space Odyssey?    Mutinous robots seem scarier to me than mutinous humans – even my Mother, God rest her soul.

In the 21st century we have robots performing surgery in hospitals and robots used in prototypes for self-driving cars.

And how about this? —  servant and playmate robots for the elderly.  The internet is sprinkled with such scenes:  robots serving breakfast, robots lifting person to couch, robots smooched by an old man, robots carrying magazines while an elderly person lounges, robots playing computer card game with old lady.

The human being is the next frontier for the robot.  In fact, some robots look like humans.

But they’re NOT.

We move on to discuss the disposal of our remains.  Specifically, human composting.

He doesn’t flinch.

Me?  I am mortified to read that Washington State is the first state in the U.S. to legalize human composting.  By 2020 we could have a human composting facility five miles from our house.

Do I want to end up in some feed bag for a stranger’s garden?  Do I come back as a radish or beefsteak tomato?

Does he like this idea better than cremation or burial?

He nixes the burial idea, says it is selfish for the dead to take up land in cemeteries and that the world is crowded enough.

He has a point there.  But when it comes to deciding between burial, burning, or composting, I am like “Bartleby the Scrivener”:  I would prefer not to.

As for the robots?  I am not ready to play canasta with them.  Beam me up, Elon!

How do you folks feel about these topics?

Shift Happens

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Let us spend one day as deliberately as Nature, and not be thrown off the track by every nutshell and mosquito’s wing that falls on the rails. ~ Henry David Thoreau

 

I thrive on walks in Seattle’s Lincoln Park, which faces Puget Sound.

Curious how the driftwood belched up by the Sound looks sculpted into the shape of animals.  First I spot a sea lion in  a log amid pebbles, and now a swan ~

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Lythe young bodies jog past me on my way to my meditation bench.  Some clock themselves with Fit Bits.

The show-offs!

In my forty-somethings, I walked more briskly.  With each decade — surprise — I have slowed down.  In my fifties, I developed plantar fascitis and now, in my sixties,  lower back issues.

Shift happens.

I reach my meditation bench.  At its base, a plaque engraved with the words Carpe Diem — Seize Today.   Nowhere does it say Carpe HisternoSeize Yesterday.  Nor Carpe MananaSeize Tomorrow. 

I am here to calm the internal chatter, to feel the pulse of this sacred, public park.  I am here to spend time as deliberately as nature, to notice the cries of  gulls, the flute-like melody of thrushes, and lately the sight of sea lions.  I am here to engage my senses and practice what the Japanese call Shinrin-yoku — having a forest bath.

Lowering myself onto the bench, I hope to spot my sea lion today.

Seagulls scud across the water.  The tide froths against the rocks.  Opening my ears, I try to memorize the rhythm of the tide. Inhaling the kelp-scented air, I consider the irony of “smelling the Sound.”

What would Henry David Thoreau have made of the sea lion that bobs up during my dusk quietude?   Most likely he would spend an entire day  in this spot.  Thoreau would stand motionless for eight hours beside Walden Pond to watch young frogs, and all day at a river’s edge watching duck eggs hatching.

Thoreau may have been extreme in his nature studies and solitude. During  my forest baths I have at least learned to leave my cell phone behind.

A dog trots past, smiling.  Is he experiencing a forest bath too?  I smile back.

Eyes half-focused on the horizon, on the quicksilver water, no sea lion appears today.  But something shifts and releases in my hips just by being here.

Bird Eats Cat

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In the garden, a chickadee pecks at you,
kisses the ground nourished by your ashes.

Whiskers,
paws, emerald eyes —

now burned to a chickadee prize.

The tangerine poppies have turned blood orange;
they sway

like lit Oriental lanterns
as we look for you

in nature’s patterns.

Is the bird’s song sharper from feeding on you?
Have you fertilized flowers to a deeper hue?

Cattails rise like questions in the morning dew.