Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Darkness Visible

In the weeks before the solstice, full daylight gets increasingly rare.

4 p.m. Monday evening in Gillams.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Fire and Ice

Where do you place yourself? Are you pointed in the direction you want to go?

The current state of Lucy's Central Park Hoodie - the body is finished and I have started the first sleeve.

The shift between New York and Newfoundland is always coloured by whatever happens to be going on at the time. It is a big shift - between city and rural life, between two countries, which may be similar but really have many, many differences, and between communities of friends and neighbors. Usually I feel a giant sigh of relief when we dock in Port aux Basques - home at last. Although Newfoundland is my adopted home, there is something of it in my bones, real or imagined. My mother's family being from here gives me the feeling that I returning to something that makes sense on a DNA level.

And yet.

When blogless Janine learned that I had given away my Kundert spindle, she offered to go get me another one, Kundert being about 1/2 hr. from her house. How could I say no? The new one arrived on Friday last week and is as wonderful as the first one. Lovely, lovely, lovely!

And yet, this year the shift has been a little tough. I have a little knot in my stomach - a little longing for what I left behind. I don't think of leaving Dan behind, btw, because we do see him regularly and we talk nearly everyday at least once. So, what did I leave behind? I am missing my sangha and my routine of being at the Temple for zazen and for caretaking practice. I guess if I look closely it is a fear that I will somehow lose what I have...gained? Uh-oh, that word is a definite no-no in the Zen world. No wisdom and no gain - we say it everyday in the Heart Sutra.

So what part of my practice did I really leave behind?

This is how Janine packed the spindle - in some raw, Icelandic fleece. Isn't it beautiful? And it worked perfectly as packing peanuts. Plus I get to spin it later. Raw fleece: the gift that keeps on giving.

So, instead of a settled sense of relief, I have been unsettled. One moment is grand, the next feeling like I am scrambling for solid ground. I guess that is about right for where I am placed right now and the direction I pointed myself.

Fire and ice.

Thank you for indulging me in this bit of navel gazing.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Homeland Security

Now this is a feeling of security.

Our woodstove is our main source of heat and we have a small but efficient one that works beautifully. We had a fair amount of dry wood stored and ready but not enough to get us through the long, cold months of winter, so we have been loading in some new wood this week.

Wood pile maintenance - it is an art. It is an art I have been mastering these many years as I have shift this pile around the basement more times than my back cares to remember.

They say wood warms you three times: first when you cut it down, second when you stack it, and third when you burn it. I would venture to say that some of these logs, or junks as they are called locally, have warmed me about a dozen times. But look how beautiful they are. Precious, precious wood!

The last two times I moved the pile, it was so that we could have some work done in our basement. The basement was dug under our house after we bought it in 2002. The house was built without a foundation and, many decades later when we found it sitting empty, it was slowly but surely sinking into the ground and starting to rot. Given that state, and the state of the windows and the near total lack of insulation in the walls, I shudder to think what winters were like in this house in years past. Actually, having met and spoken with many people who spent winters in this house, I know what they were like. They were cold!

In any case, a basement was dug and a beauty it is. It sat, holding its potential like a pearl in an oyster for years. Finally, we had the money and the good luck to convince the best carpenter in Newfoundland to come out and frame out what will be a guest room and some clean storage space. He put up the drywall and installed flooring.

Now it's my turn to begin taping and plastering. Then a ceiling and doors will be installed and soon enough we will have a place for visitors to lay their heads.

Was that an invitation? I think it was.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


A million years ago, I mean, two weeks ago, when I was embracing reality up at the Monastery, I came to the conclusion that I have an amazing life. Sure, I may not be able to conjure up ginormous chairs like Vimalakirti, but it is pretty damn amazing nonetheless.

Things may go up and down*, but here we are! Please don't forget this.

* Road sign photographed in Louisbourg, Nova Scotia.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Some quick pictures of the hat I made from my handspun leftovers.

Very Gaia, if you know what I mean.

But it hasn't been all Mother Earth and Woman of the Dawn. I managed to spin out this mega skein of two-ply merino.

Very pretty, no? It is nearly 800 yds, too. I just listed on etsy under the spirit name of Fireside.

There is something about Newfoundland that brings out the 1970s in me.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


After a week of not having internet service, I find I have little to say. Maybe that's a good thing.

We arrived just before winter, apparently. It has snowed, at least a little bit, everyday since we got here. And cold, yes, it has been cold.

The beautiful Blomidon Mountains from our front yard.

We immediately reviewed our wood fire skills and I had to quickly make myself a hat since I decided I wouldn't pack any on the assumption that I would have time before the real weather kicked in. Dan's response to this dilemma - physician heal thyself. Fortunately I had plenty of handspun scraps around and head gear was quickly created.

Here is one of the locals who was pleased to see us arrive.

And we, her.

So nice to be home.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Send Off

I stole this illustration from this interview with R. Crumb in the LA Times. I am not really a huge fan of his - too misogynist for me (and I know he does it intentionally and all that but still...). Yet, I think he pretty much captures what's happening for most people.

It feels about right for me this morning as I slowly recover from the trauma of reading three poems out loud in front of about 40 people last night as part of our fall ango art practice presentation. We are assigned a topic - this time it was about sickness and medicine and how all the world is sickness and medicine, taken largely from the Vimalakirti Sutra we studied. I won't bore you with too many details, but each person presented three items from their practice - some took up visual media, other musical, movement or words.

I force myself to get up and read whatever it is that I wrote because it is so utterly horrifying. I know for a fact that I was about 10 shades of red and my hands were shaking so much I could hardly read my words. On the plus side, perhaps another person in the audience who didn't present because of feeling too shy and fearful, saw my terror and thought, look if she is doing it, maybe I can too.

Yes, that's what I will tell myself as that cringing feeling slowly fades...

This isn't really what I planned write - it just came out. What I planned to write was that the next post will be sent from beautiful, cold, grey Newfoundland. See you then!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Last Chance!

As part of preparations for our trip northward, I will be packing up all the items in my etsy shop and sending them to Devon House, the Craft Council shop in St. John's. So, if there is something you had your eye on....now is your chance. If you buy something, mention this blog in your "Message to Seller" and I will refund you 20% of your total purchase. On Friday morning, I will be putting the shop on vacation mode and any and all orders will be mailed then.

Stayed tuned, however! I will be re-stocking with new items once we get the wood stove lit and get settled in. I seem to remember a substantial stash of fibre left in bins. I think I hear it calling.

Meanwhile, a couple of things have appeared, even at this late date.

The fabulous hat made with islandsweet wool (and a little bit of Malabrigo).

It was a delight to make - each stitch was like saying yum.

And this hefty skein of merino - I carded a hand painted roving that was just meh with some undyed merino (with help from the blogless Janine, who made a rare NYC appearance) and spun it thick and thin.

The result is quite lovely, I think. Much more subtle and less cloying than the original roving. Not to mention super soft.

If you are interested in either of these two items, let me know directly - I'll send you the details. I don't think I will list them on etsy, being all lazy, I mean, busy, like I am.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Some People Like Taking Their Time (Two Videos)

Two videos I recently stumbled across - very different but sharing a common sense of use of time to make something new.

Do you use time or does time use you?

Kim Rugg from Cool Hunting on Vimeo.

Monday, November 08, 2010

What is this thing called, Love?

Decisions were made, to misquote Ronald Reagan.

The workshop at WH was cancelled. I rescheduled our ferry reservations for an earlier date and we will be heading to Newfoundland very, very soon.

No problem, to quote Alf.

Instead I zipped up to Zen Mountain Monastery for an intensive retreat titled Embracing Reality, led by the two teachers there. It was run nearly like sesshin - early morning zazen and oryoki breakfast. With the exception of the workshop session, most of the day was spent in silence. This was a lovely surprise and one I deeply appreciated since I won't be spending time there until late spring, at the earliest.

After the activities of the weekend were over, one of the monastics pulled me aside and showed me a little bag she had been given containing a homemade spindle and some rather rough wool fleece. She saw the Spindle 7 video and remembered having this bag waiting for her attention - she wanted a spinning lesson. Naturally, she had to really convince me to drop everything and teach her because, if its one thing I hate, it is getting people to take up spinning. I know some people might suggest that my attitude towards sharing a love of spinning is closer to how a tobacco industry executive would feel if he were let loose in an elementary school classroom to discuss the merits of nicotine. But it isn't so. I let her finish her sentence and everything before agreeing.

We were a little frustrated by the equipment and the wool, which had become a bit felted during storage. Never one to jump the gun, I waited until this afternoon to send her a better spindle (my dear Kundert!) and some nice BFL fleece from Capistrano Fiber Arts. I mean, if you're gonna play, play.

Meanwhile, this other object was in the bag with the wool and spindle. This, she gave to me. What is it? Is it a spindle too? Do you know?

UPDATE: Finnian came up with answer! Somehow he knew that it was a Mexican chocolate whisk called a molinillo. But can you spin wool with it?

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Mrs. Flux

That's what Dan called me yesterday.

It has been that way this fall. Plans all made to be broken. Going to Newfoundland in September? No. Maker Faire instead. Finnian applying to high school? No. The Dept. of Ed's bureaucratic mistakes that made it impossible (to the relief of all, I suspect). We will have another chance next year if Finnian wants it. Going to Newfoundland in late November? No. It appears that my dyeing/spinning workshop is not happening (enrollment was insufficient...as my wise friend said, people like free workshops). So, perhaps we will head north a little earlier than expected.

It is all ok. Staying on until now allowed me to participate fully in the Vimalakirti Sutra class, not to mention spend just about all my spare time at the Zen centre, soaking up the aliveness. Finn and Lucy got to participate in one of their favourite homeschool activities - a role playing adventure game in Central Park. We all got to attend the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear.

No regrets. Please, just remind me of that when we are being dashed about by the 20 ft. waves in the Gulf of St. Lawrence....

In any case, today is the day Mrs. Flux makes all her decisions.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Two Poems for Fall

Theme in Yellow
by Carl Sandburg

I spot the hills
With yellow balls in autumn.
I light the prairie cornfields
Orange and tawny gold clusters
And I am called pumpkins.
On the last of October
When dusk is fallen
Children join hands
And circle round me
Singing ghost songs
And love to the harvest moon;
I am a jack-o'-lantern
With terrible teeth
And the children know
I am fooling.

This is Finnian's version of fooling the children last night. Actually, it was more like scaring the children - several smaller ones did not really want to come ring our bell. I wonder why?

by Anne Stevenson

You sleep with a dream of summer weather,
wake to the thrum of rain—roped down by rain.
Nothing out there but drop-heavy feathers of grass
and rainy air. The plastic table on the terrace
has shed three legs on its way to the garden fence.
The mountains have had the sense to disappear.
It's the Celtic temperament—wind, then torrents, then remorse.
Glory rising like a curtain over distant water.
Old stonehouse, having steered us through the dark,
docks in a pool of shadow all its own.
That widening crack in the gloom is like good luck.
Luck, which neither you nor tomorrow can depend on.