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June 2020

merging hemispheres/summer studio .1

Canopy252620

Back on a later May morning when the freshly unfurling spring canopy of hardwoods looked like the image above  J and I took a gorgeous drive to pick up our last bread order of the winter share season.  As we drove I noticed something with the eagle eye of one who was raised to see and swiftly respond to certain visual cues.   High on that list would be:

a cardboard box nestled just off the road very conspicuously labelled FREE. 

I made happy noises and talked to myself for a good 15 seconds during which J kept driving.  My internal joy stemmed from having not very successfully resigned myself to a summer season devoid of treasure hunting due to the [potentially permanent] closing of our town's freecycle shack at the dump.  I rapidly understood that, deprived of seasonal yard sale clutter busting options, any box by the road might contain more interesting pickin's than the usual sad college era mugs and commensurate coasters.

Somebody, I swiftly concluded, had gotten hunker-buggy and been unable to stop themselves from getting rid of stuff they never use/really don't like once and for all.  My first peek in the closest corner of box seemed to confirm my hunch:

Thekeys

I don't know what these keys were meant to decorate but as soon as I saw them I imagined them hanging right as they do above - on the southern corner of an enclosed space within the evolving sanctuary garden.  J really enjoys them.   We agree we wouldn't like them anywhere in the house.  But hanging from a post on a wire fence in the yard seems pretty close to perfect.

the wide shallow bowl below is (I think) 18 inches.  

Outsideofbowl But ... 'way before I got as far as seeing the keys or the above bowl I had the previous conglomeration of thoughts while J continued to drive until I suddenly found a collection of relatively cogent words. Hey!   There's stuff back there that I want!  Didn't you see it? I didn't actually know I wanted any of whatever was in the box but by this time strongly intuited it was likely.  My level of what he called 'imperious certainty' led J to conclude (and this was somewhat disconcerting for me to process after the fact) that we'd just passed a plant nursery of some kind.  What else [apparently. per my husband.] could possibly rouse me so?

I explained as briefly as possible.  Then he turned the car around while sharing the assumption I'd seen a nursery and couldn't just let us move on without stopping.   Is that what I'm normally like when we're out driving around in the non-pandemic reality??!?  To the point he'd think I'd also be that way withIN this reality????  The questions distracted me in a way that allowed me to keep the tightest lid possible on the ingrained Pearl-indoctrination that once you saw something FREE you had to be lightning fast before somebody else got to it first.  

Insideofbowl
  The first thing I saw beyond the keys was the bowl pictured inside and out above.  I thought, since I only touched it through gloves, and it was profoundly shiny in the bright morning sun, that it was metal rather than glass.  And my eye's mind saw holes drilled into parts of the edge and then attaching it somehow to the front of the potting shed.  Putting directly beneath it a birdbath and letting the blackberry canes I'd been planning to pull grow unchallenged all around it.  Hoping/intuiting this would keep the jays away from my tomatoes.

Alas it's undrillable.  This fact led to an awareness I intend to write about in more depth.  And from there  - all during the extended decontamination period we agreed mandatory because how do we know What Went On - I've had a series of increasingly impractical ideas of how to give this object a second life/designated purpose.  Followed by how to give it a single finite (but entirely appealing) purpose in another few days.

BrushmugAlso in the box - assorted glassware and the mug above.  Intuited it would be just right for holding my brushes here in the summer studio a/k/a our dining room.

  Didn't forget about attaining this stuff but got put-off and overwhelmed when I realized the big metallic disc was actually a glass bowl so shallow only a set-dresser (or possibly the exact right kind of instagram influencer) could love it. We had so many other things going on, after all!  so I left the box lurking in our garage until J started making noises about everyone doing their part to clear away some of the [admittedly out of control] clutter out there.  Earlier this week I washed everything dishwasher safe on the extended sanitizing function.  And then considered my pandemic-induced free stuff with a greater measure of focus earlier today.  

Newvignettedish
Understood straight along I'd use the not-my-style dish of some sort (at first I thought it was the lid of a particularly obnoxious butter dish) to hold stones and shells and crystals.  Had forgotten the simple enjoyment of arranging such display bowls.   And dallying among things brought to life by the addition of previously unknown things. This tableau will need some editing and additions but for today we're in prototype-land.

SandysglassesBecause I have zero clue what was in style last year-  or five or six or eighteen years ago - I did not understand at first that these shot glasses have bubbles trapped in the glass. Prior to going through the washing machine  I thought the bubbles and blurs were evidence of a DIY event gone bad.  Think their actuality is somewhat appealing and almost magical in nature.  Because. Soon after I set them out to consider how I might transform them into miniature containers filled with even smaller things I began to spontaneously narrate deep in my brain.  Just looking at the glasses there on the windowsill gave me a viable section of new skeleton territory for The Novel. The specific scene I envisioned in a whole cloth way gave me a much deeper way-in to a character who has always existed among this crew but she was never previously given her own narrative voice or even a shimmer of POV status.

CandlestickcomparisonI thought to compare and contrast the flower-shaped candle holder (there was a pair in the box) with a different glass holder that actively reflects my personal taste and style preference.    I thought I could use one of the pair as a marking tool on my gelli plate.  While taking the pic I realized I could fill the other with sand/dirt/very small pebbles and use it as an incense holder. 

Gravyboat

Have always loved gravy boats and if I were a completely different person I would have spent some period of time heretofore tra-la-la-ing my way around flea markets scooping up an entire lifetime in the making collection.  But I'm me and in that capacity have only three - each with strong family significance.    And now i have this one, too.  I like the lines of it a lot and am fully cognizant it may be a vase.  In which case for me it will always be thought of as the gravy boat vase.

Today I studied it just as it appears.  And asked it aloud what it might like to become.  And then actively imagined it replying

think of me as a vessel of cosmic good will.

I mean, sure.  Why not?  And I can't think of anything that personifies 'cosmic goodwill' more eloquently than a cluster of amethyst crystal clusters.   What comes next for this combo remains unclear.

Amesthystclusterwet

Oldnanadish

The blue dish above has a peak old Nana vibe for me.  I mean that in terms of Pearl and her friends and my adoption of Emrie's name for grace as a collective name for them.  Between now and the autumn season of ancestors I'm going to collect small notations concerning details I recall from the women who set the tone as I grew into my teenage years.  Then some type of ceremony I might be right on the brink of visualizing somewhat cogently.

who knows.

guess this is just my as upbeat as possible way of welcoming myself to our collective new third world summertime. think we already know it's gonna be a challenge of noise and happenstance.

Buttonuncertainty


first studio day since last post!

Chrysochollawetfrombowl

Since then I've been spending most of my waking time outside in the sun-struck gardens.   Temps have been high enough to make this space largely uninhabitable even in the productive phases of early and middle evening.   I've brought painting and stitching supplies downstairs to the dining room and more or less found storage space that's functional.  

As I sit here and compartmentalize how I've been using my energy I see that not a lot of active "official" creativity is in evidence.  But there's been a lot of gestation time related to both writing and Pearl's log cabin deconstruction.

FirstglimpseinsideThe day after my last post I followed through on removing the log cabin borders.  Cut solidly through all layers and then carefully looked inside.  Saw just enough to need to see more.  To know Pearl's life in the cloth trail of, well, threadcrumbs.

Stood in front of the studios big front window with a candle burning on the cleared coffee table workspace.  The work of literally cutting ties with what the object of quilt used to be was as energizing as it was meditative.  I was moved through and through with a sense of my grandmother's spirit urging me forward:  Know me.  Understand the larger context of what you recall being told of my life's history.

I cut each tie with mindful care.   A couple of times I heard myself saying aloud "I believe this belongs to neither of us".  There was a lot of sadness being released.  I suppose from me but mainly, as the doer, I was conscious of confirmation concerning my original hunch that Pearl made this quilt in large part to stay constructively occupied while she healed more subtle layers from her despair to suffer two miscarriages after moving to the house where I was raised.

 I told the floating sense of dissipating sadness that I understood.   And me too'd what remained as drifting residue until it too had dissipated.  By then all the physical thread ties were cut and I'd gently pulled them free.  I peeled aside the cotten sateen then flipped the quilt face-up and did the same for the piecework.  What remained as a batting was a layer of brown flannel that Pearl had pieced to size. 

FlannelbattingStaring at that line of double-threaded running stitches I saw how honestly I come by all the things that I do - and yet.  When it came to needlework Pearl hoped to turn me into the second coming of her husband's sister, for whom I'd been named.  Thus she stressed methodology and a layer of excellent execution she didn't ask of herself - at least under the duress of what I presume is an accurate interpretation of where her head and heart were at during the time of construction.

The quilt is entirely handpieced.  She sat with the comfort of cloth wherever she could find it and moved steadily forward one strip of self-made life at a time.   And I came to realize how my ongoing yearning to know more of her as a woman who survived a great deal and never failed to go to bat to me until she was too sick to bat for herself was being fulfilled in an unexpected and entirely tactile way.  I smiled and imagined gently washing the pieced layer of living soul's comfort.  Became focused on rinsing it after washing and then doing a second ceremonial renewal clearing with rosewater added to the rinse bowl. 

As groundcloths for the individually constructed 3.5 inch blocks Pearl used serviceable scraps from old clothes.  This was a whole ongoing category maintained by the two sisters.  When handmade cloths were too threadbare for other purposes they were still given due respect because parts could still be salvaged for their serviceable scraps bundle(s).   In this case the scrap groundcloths (here and there I found some pieced examples) were sometimes oversized and in other instances barely serviceable.  All of the backgrounds appear to have been scavenged from old clothes representing her youngest married life.  It's as far as I'm going to deconstruct her efforts. Am not going to attempt a cleaning of the top's outer layer but I'm going to continue clearing the entire be-ing of it of sadness and other energies for as long into this calendar year as the windows are consistently open to keep residue moving out and away.

BlockbackingsectionSome portions of the inner quilt are quilt clean, as directly above, and then uncomfortably soiled in others.  Am beginning to wonder if at least some of the most corrosive looking damage is actually accidental water spillage (or deliberately spewn florida water) damage from times over the years when I employed this quilt as an Ancestor altar cloth.  

I am still immensely surprised by how poorly her joined seam lines are worked.  It was another tangible clue that she was keeping her hands moving without a lot of mental and emotional hook-ups firing as they did in my years of knowing her. 

***

Concurrently I'm going to consider making low-loft patches I plan to apply to the surface of piecework. Have decided I do want to have this quilt contain elements of my direct matrilineage but I don't want to use the worn gauze of a garment I took-over from my mother after her death.  At which time I inherited unused yardage of the gauze.  Sold most of it to my friends and other friends of theirs in three yard lengths.  Then had to deal with the unanticipated dissonance of going through a few summer seasons of seeing various people I knew using it for summer wear of their own style. 

JoycegauzeI have two pieces of roughly the same size.  Ripped in half at two in the morning a few nights back because I realized I wanted a curtain in our front kitchen window that wasn't thrown together from an ancient sheet until I came up with something better.   And then belatedly realized this cloth was less than useless in filling the need at hand. Sure would have been quicker than what I'm very simply and slowly stitching by hand but this is a lot more satisfying. Every time I start to over-graze the not unrelated territories of civil unrest and bottomless corruption I put it down until my head's in a better place.

obviously enough that's why the time it's taking to complete the straight forward endeavor is way overdue even by super slow standards.  Didn't quite put that together until this moment.


one of Pearl's log cabin quilts

Pearlslogcabin

Hand pieced and tied baby quilt made by my grandmother Pearl during her reversal of fortunes/young mother/diligently frugal wife stage of life during the 30's.  She does not appear to have pre-sorted her scraps or limited the scraps' color/design nature or type of fabric.

Jude's focus on baby quilts and quilts still in their infant stage(s) has slowly pushed my mind into a state of active inspiration related to what's on hand and already of strong interest to me.  To the point where yesterday I planned to start deconstructing the quilt above.  Have been previously inclined to work with the blocks just as they are but separated from the heavy cotton sateen borders and backing.  The sateen used to be a not entirely unpleasant acid green that made the somewhat subdued color range of the quilt sing more prettily.   

Pearl had a knack for clashes that work.  I didn't realize that was something I came by honestly until this past weekend when I sat with this quilt on my lap and carefully studied each individual block.  I chose to spend the better part of an afternoon that way in honor of the many hundreds of afternoons I did not have a chance to spend with Pearl.   Despite all the more pressing and seemingly non-negotiable things that needed doing I did this instead.

zero regrets.  A much stronger and radiant heart center.

Over decades of me hanging this particular quilt on one indirectly lit wall or another the color has faded considerably and is now completely unpalatable to me.  I think because, before it faded, it used to hang on a wall where it should have looked smashing but it didn't.  At the time I thought that was the fault of the wallpaper in that particular apartment hallway.  But now I think it was the fault of non-existent light sources beyond recessed fluorescent light bars.   Since moving to mid-state places I've hung it in spots with enough light to properly showcase the way the bright green enlivened the smatterings of bright strips in the primarily muted tones of her scraps to hand.

I loved and admired my grandmother passionately for (a) making palatable and effective creative resolutions with whatever was right there in front of her.  and (b) the wisdom to understand the profound satisfaction (as well as self-sustainability) of wasting-not.

Quiltcu4

Unless she was making something special and tailored to specific tastes Pearl worked at making patches from the ubiquitous paper grocery bag not quite hidden beside her place at the dining room table.  By the time I came along she wasn't sewing as she once had.  The grocery bags were vintage scraps she hadn't gotten around to using.   She was very un-precious about her piece work.  She'd pick up one thing and then another and sew them together.  

In my youth I thought this was an example of how girls raised "in the old days" were taught domestic skills as a form of robotic conformity.  But now I see what's obvious and far-more likely.  She was selling hand pieced and tied quilts made from wool scraps by the time she was 11.  Undoubtedly she kept an ingrained eye on the clock to insure maximum return on her time and skill investment.

It's obvious to me this top was made from quilt blocks pieced in the moment and without a lot of pre-amble.  in terms of her go to underlying traditional pattern structuring - she focused a great deal the dark/light contrast design staple of successful patchwork quilts that are timeless in nature.  She also took care (AL. WAYS.) to space the red scraps evenly throughout the piecing.  That was one of her Things:  Red scraps were highly prized and a mandatory inclusion whenever possible -  but also she felt the color to be inherently tricky and thus subject to innumerable rules/taboos of her own device. 

The immediate present tense source of construction/design inspiration also comes from jude and her working methods that are equal parts construction and subtraction.  I don't generally have compulsions to stitch through layers that are barely existent but having spent some quality time with the Summer Bitch in my hands as I prepare for the coming season - I can definitely understand the appeal of such working.  So I got it in my head I would liberate the pieced blocks from the borders and backing - then tell some kind of relevant (appliqued and stitched) story upon them.

Thought I would indulge in a super-soft collaboration and stitch-in cuttings from a scrap jude sent a staggeringly long time ago.  a scrap from her grandmother's silk kimono.  I want to tell some kind of story to Pearl in these choices and what I make of them.  I guess it's kind of the inverse of what grace does with her blog - as a chronicle of self for Emrie to keep as providence wills.  I want to bypass time and sequencing all together.  Just showing my grandmother's spirit who I am and how much of her I carry within me.

Blockscu1

All these ideas and frames/spheres of influence & inspiration has been a nice thing to consider slowly as the weeks move closer to the season of life force's rapid growth.  In that time I've grown accustomed to handling this quilt as Pearl herself probably handled it.  Previously I've been careful with its heirloom nature.  In the past twenty years I've often kept it rolled within the top layer of a cedar chest full of family linens and needlework.  But now I've been carrying it around so that I can arrange it in different ways in different places.  Trying to learn what it wishes to become.

For starters I decided it wished to become two distinctly different things.  I envisioned working with the ground of pieced blocks.  Assumed the cut-off sections of the border would be repurposed.  Perhaps as a book cover for an album of family photos I'm amassing.  Thought it seemed like a summer project so I put it aside until last week.

Then, once I had it out and had solidified the practical steps of initial transmogrification something happened that's happened before.  I have never liked the green sateen finished treatment because it wasn't the right green to harmonize in my eye's mind. I think it would sing a lot more convincingly if she'd gone with a rich dark jade.  Think how the BLUE would have popped then - as well as the darker rusty reds and browns. Not to mention the glimmering radiance it would lend the whites and light pastels.

Indeed I have come to this moment of truth four or five times now.  I get exactly this far (my goal used to be to get one of those glass-topped table display cases for displaying and contemplating the deteriorating pieced blocks) and then I see the places with visible stitching lines and marvel at the knots of cording - all chosen and placed with my grandmother's hands.  And I just can't bring myself to undo the work.  So I thought I'd do what I can and in the process approach much bigger work.

Cabinblocks

I'm not going to undo all the ties and thus create sight-based cutting lines.  I'm going to cut away the sateen in strips just shy of the seam lines.  Will pick out those stitches and then see how much I can or cannot de-layer.  And I think questions to myself over and over such as:

Will I repair anything?  Or just let it be with some kind of very delicate binding and then whatever I make on the 'other side' If I decide to go all in on the symbolic family lineage I may use as a ground cloth a very well worn cotton gauze nightgown of my mother's.  It was floor length but after she died I cut it down to a short swingy sort of lounge top or a mini dress.  On the other hand - I'd just as soon keep her out of this.  So I could use some of the same fabric but crisp and new rather than worn thin.  There'd be more strength and body to it.  Hmmmmm.

 The blocks themselves are a trove of fabrics my grandmother used to outfit herself, my mother, and all the windows, tables, etc.  She also made men's dressing gowns and camp shirts for hunting excursions arranged and guided by my godfather.   I spent a bit of time really studying the blocks and touching all the fabrics.  Letting the sensitive edges of my finger tips linger over the confident knots she made without a single one slipping over time.   
Logcabincu2

For the center chimney squares Pearl used a shiny silky gold fabric.  I love the places that are worn-away.  I thought of here and there very lightly needleweaving.   I thought I might ask her questions I've so wished I could ask over the years.  stitch them here and there.  Or maybe I will just think the questions as a rolling mantra while I work on this in whatever capacity.

have wanted to do something of this sort for 46 years.

and in doing so grieve her death as I did not have the ability, on any level, to grieve at the time when she died.

So I am going to cut-away the faded green panels, leave the ties in place and dye the pieces in a mourning color - either deep purple or grey.  Perhaps a bit of both.  Have a strong hankering to do this with ink rather than dye.  Then I will piece them back together and include fabrics I have that I would like to be able to share with her.  To see what she might create from the scraps. 

And also I really need to speak a quiet language of sorrow that's gone unexpressed until now - that she didn't live long enough to see my ways of embracing the things she taught me that have become the most significant cornerstones of my life.

it's finally do-able.  this particular release & goodbye...

Things that fit.  One step at a time. 


the studio is morphing in its basic purpose/need equation

Studiowindow60920

Nearly everything plant related is out of the studio for the summer season.  This always opens up the space creatively as well as spatially.  I anticipate this yearly marker with a lot of building/gathering energy making itself known from mid-winter forward.  Never knowing for sure what form it's going to take but understanding it's always something meaningful creatively.

  What's happening in this particular season's iteration involves word-slinging in a capacity I've not seriously attempted in I don't even know how many years.  Every day for almost two weeks now I've spent the bulk of my studio time writing.  It seems the closest I can come to sorting out my own thoughts, feelings, and opinions about life as it's changed and continues to put everything plutonic and massively uncomfortable right in our faces is to run deep into the wild and wacky hills of fictionland.

it wasn't a decision - or even a reflex- so much as an inevitability.  The experience has been a collaborative effort (or so it seems) because I've been living with this imaginary group of people for a very long time.  Dee Mallon somewhat recently encouraged me to talk about this/them which I did after inwardly scoffing that I didn't 'need' such talking.  Then I scoffed while writing out some - not exactly pointless but ultimately known by me to be irrelevant - plot point noodlings in a couple warm up/character voice reconnection files. 

true story:  right at this point, of which she knew no details, Dee remarked that it seemed my characters might be getting restless.  and in response I had a sense of them  (the non-existent people in my head) collectively experiencing gratitude and relief to be understood.   I actively imagined the patriarch of this clan saying I've always liked that Dee.  She sees what's there.  Nutty af but totally run of the mill fiction writer stuff. 

considered - albeit belatedly -  what's involved with writing a novel.  Realized first and foremost I'd have to get and remain diligent about committing to words ONLY what I actively saw and felt to be truly The Story.  In relation to what I knew inside my head, sure, but also what I understood/saw/felt at the heart and gut level.

this development dovetailed with:

me reaching a specific but now indeterminate mentally & emotionally unacceptable point in the past 10 or 11 days when I abruptly opened my laptop and checked all the way out because by then I was as restless as my characters. 

So there's that and all it entails going on.  Have been also considering ways I might develop a sustainable system of organizing/clarifying my thoughts on a few key non-fictional/spiritual topics of interest to me.  With the ultimate goal being a series of essays or as I'm thinking of them relatable modular units.  At the moment most manifestation of said units is at a mind-map stage with the details on that level growing a lot more focused and coherent. The main point where non-fiction writing is concerned is that I'm thinking like a communicator.  Wasn't sure if I could (or wanted to) do that anymore.  But now I am - both sure and able.  am not at all sure why but it's what is happening.

***

 have also accessed another piece of automatic grief moon writing.  This grouping pertains to both my recently observed and internally experienced forms of white fragility.  It's fairly unusual for me to let myself sit in the parts I embody without reflexively working to shade, shape, and otherwise alter the overwhelming sense I'm being swallowed alive by ideas and certainties, expectations and unresolved needs that are not authentically my own.

and yet they are quite thickly pooled within the matrix of how that authenticity has learned to recognize and define its other-ness.  not just trigger but also cause.  that's a huge perceptual shift.  Not just trigger.  Also cause.  Puts a whole new spin on acts of self-sabotage and why/how they may occur specifically when and as they do.

***

moons of realizing we are nothing like we imagined.

moons of cherished narrative and our very best

myths of origin crashing with elegant finality.

moons of disavowed emotions squirming like snakes.

slithering throughout what we thought

we knew. believed in.

and felt to be of value within ourselves.

moons of clarity we never sought

and may never learn how to embrace.

moons that laugh shrilly

at the moments when we

most need peace shrieking

youfoolyoufoolyoufool


beyond words (plus words)

Graceinclusion

Longcloth6220

Moonmadness6220

*****

wrote these words spontaneously after re-working the Lunar Annal title page background and creating some equally spontaneous collage pieces.  less than a day before shit got real in the most effed-up way yet.  bearing witness to our country literally going up in flames has given the implications of what I wrote a much deeper collective context.

*****

dark black elliptical shattered

broken scary moons.

moons to haunt the dreams of the dying

as well as the merely alive

amidst unending disconsolation.