Monday, January 31, 2011

Happy Monday

You Know
by Mary Jo Bang

You know, don't you, what we're doing here?
The evening laid out like a beach ball gone airless.

We're watching the spectators in the bleachers.
The one in the blue shirt says, "I knew,

even as a child, that my mind was adding color
to the moment."

The one in red says, "In the dream, there was a child
batting a ball back and forth. He was chanting

that awful rhyme about time that eventually ends
with the body making a metronome motion."

By way of demonstration, he moves mechanically
side to side while making a clicking noise.

His friends look away. They all know
how a metronome goes. You and I continue to watch

because we have nothing better to do.
We wait for the inevitable next: we know the crowd

will rise to its feet when prompted and count—
one-one-hundred, two-one-hundred,

three-one-hundred—as if history were a sound
that could pry apart an ever-widening abyss

with a sea on the bottom. And it will go on like this.
The crowd will quiet when the sea reaches us.

Sunday, January 30, 2011


Around Christmas time, our good friend Colette mentioned that she had won a snowshoeing and spelunking trip at a benefit auction. Ha ha, the last thing I ever want to do is go down into some dark cave. I think those were the very words out of my mouth.

So, yesterday we put on snowshoes and went off into the woods at the edge of Corner Brook in search of a series of caves formed by thousands of years of the Corner Brook stream running through the limestone rocks.

It also was Colette's birthday yesterday, so it was a festive and snowy affair.

The stream took on a Henry Moore-ish look. Only better, actually.

Our guide, Maria, thought we should go down a steep hill and then back up on our way to the cave, just for fun you understand. Challenge #1, she called it. You have to love those energetic young people and their cute ideas.

Some time later, we made it to the mouth of the cave, removed our snowshoes, and started in.

This was Challenge #2 - climbing down a small rock wall inside the cave. And then, of course, climbing back up. It was not the first time of the day when I was grateful that I do about 50 chaturanga dandasanas five to six times a week. I jokingly told Colette to engage her bandhas (she often comes to my yoga classes where this is something of a mantra). She didn't look so amused for some reason.

Here is what it looked like in the cave. When we reached our destination within the cave, we switched off our headlamps and experienced profound darkness. Finn and I kept our hands on each other's legs but I tried to just experience it, not seek out light, not freak out from the feeling of claustrophobia that was lingering at the edges of my thoughts. Maria told us that complete darkness like that causes a lot of strain on the eyes because we naturally seek out light, so our eyes were working overtime trying to find some light. Then she told a story about blind horses and coal miners. I am not so sure it was the story that I most wanted to hear right then, but it was interesting in its way.

Actually, the whole experience was a lot of fun. It was very kind of Colette to include us in her big adventure. Laying in bed last night, I did feel very grateful to not be in a cave. Being on the surface of the Earth - neither under it nor above it - is a wonderful thing.

Saturday, January 29, 2011


by William Shakespeare

When icicles hang by the wall
And Dick the shepherd blows his nail
And Tom bears logs into the hall,
And milk comes frozen home in pail,
When Blood is nipped and ways be foul,
Then nightly sings the staring owl,
Tu-whit, tu-who: a merry note,
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.

When all aloud the wind doth blow,
And coughing drowns the parson's saw,
And birds sit brooding in the snow,
And Marian's nose looks red and raw
When roasted crabs hiss in the bowl,
Then nightly sings the staring owl,
Tu-whit, tu-who: a merry note,
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.

Friday, January 28, 2011

What, and Likewise, Where?

Functionality is key. Utilitarianism is our watch word. Pen is champ! Look at the simplicity, the clean lines, the beauty in the backlit photograph photoshopped to within an inch of its life. How we will now glide through our days, sewing and washing clothes in a gentle light. Sigh....

And then, this. The main beauty of which is unseen, that is to say, you can't see it. The main beauty is that most of those colourful containers are empty. Empty! Surprising how, when things are organized, one finds they don't actually take up as much room as they used to. Emptiness is form, or so they tell me.

Speaking of marking time, look at this gorgeous silkscreened calendar, made by the multi-talented Sonya Phillip (she really is multi-talented, so click the link. You won't regret it). I won this calendar, if you can believe it. I won it and she actually mailed to me all the way from San Francisco, California. In a tube.

Freaking awesome!

Speaking of freaking awesome, look at the clean lines and simplicity of my knitting area in the living room. Oh yes, the organizing craze has spilled over into other rooms. It is practically minimalist. Calling Richard Meier!

Our starched and fragrant lives...drink it in, my dears, drink it in.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Past and Future

If the past no longer exists and the future has not happened, where are you now?

Here is a photo of the past and the future - it is the present state of the room commonly known around here as the Project Room - Canadian pronunciation, please.

As part of The House Museum incarnation, the Project Room was the site of temporary installations related to thematic explorations on tourism, culture, and how we define ourselves for outside consumption. In the upper lefthand corner, you see remnants of the installation from "Step Outside the Room", a project between artist, Marlene MacCallum and ten residents of Gillams and Meadows. Marlene collaborated with the others, who (mostly) were not artists by training and ranged in age from eight to mid-70s, to create installations throughout the house using photographs each person took of the inside of their own house. The project generated a lot of wonderful conversation about a range of issues including the notion of home, how Newfoundland is transforming, and how people use their homes as an expression of themselves.

Time has moved on, the issues have changed (somewhat) and we began to transform the Project Room into a less public project room. Over time, it felt like the shift was for real and there was no going back. As the basement has become more functional as a living and storage space, this room has been emptying out of clutter - the wool has vacated and today, that pile of art supplies that F&L have mastered the art of messing up, will be organized and placed on a new shelf purchased yesterday. Order will reign supreme, at least for a moment. But more importantly, the projects happening in that room will be of a personal nature: art supplies, sewing supplies, and a permanent home for my sewing machine (did I just say "permanent"? Do I never learn?). Lucy was talking about bringing in a comfy chair so she can read in here. Suddenly the room became part of the house, not The House Museum. And with that, I finally and truly felt the passing of The House Museum as it was.

Has it disappeared forever? No, I would say not. I have plans to re-vamp the website with a new server and hope to host some summer workshops here. The House Museum no longer contained within these walls. The House Museum as a portable idea. Coming soon!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


All these snow days have meant that my yarn inventory has been growing. I made four skeins yesterday - a record for me. I started carding and after I made each set of batts, I asked myself, "keeping going?" and then, "why not!". There were reasons why not, actually, but I ignored them. Oddly enough, these reasons are still with me today, so I have another opportunity to attend to them.

I will add two more skeins to my etsy shop today and two tomorrow. It is nice to have a little backlog.

Snow continues general over the land. The bay is starting to ice up and the skiing conditions are excellent. This is the good stuff.

I also want to share with you this blog being kept by writer, Kathleen Winter (she is my latest internet crush). I am enjoying it enormously. She has set a goal for herself of doing something new every, single day this year. I can hardly imagine doing something new every week, let alone every day. I highly recommend it.

Also, we happened upon this. I can't even express how much I love this - they have managed to capture not just how people talk about art but exactly and specifically how Americans talk about art. It is just perfect.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Finished Product

Yesterday, I had the most wonderful surprise of receiving some photographs of a project completed with a skein of my yarn. It happens so very rarely that it is always a huge delight. And this one is especially so because 1. I loved that skein of yarn and parted with it reluctantly. 2. The yarn was named Blanket Creek in honour of our very favourite place we stayed on our trans-Canadian trip last June so it was full of good thoughts and memories. 3. Just look at those colours!

But I gladly allowed someone to give me money in exchange for all those feelings, thoughts and ideas masquerading as yarn because 1. the person who bought was the fabulous Katie O'Sullivan, 2. Besides being a rocking knitter, Katie also is Lucy's boss - not that Lucy needs me to butter her up or anything, but why cause problems? And 3. She very clearly also loved this skein of yarn. I know parting with that much money for one skein of yarn was not the easiest thing she had ever done.

But look what she made!

Stunning, no? Here have a closer look:

Thank you, Katie, for sharing your pictures with me and allowing me to share them here. Your work is gorgeous!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Warmth in Winter

While the storm raged yesterday, I sat the by the woodstove and spun two new yarns in colours as deep and saturated and warm as it was cold and windy and snowy outside.

Both are made from handpainted targhee fleece from Mountain Colors, in the same colourway, actually. The top is a two-ply, light DK weight, 406 yds, and the bottom image is of a single ply, thick and thin, 300 yds.

Two loaves of bread came out of the oven and a new mattress was delivered. It also delivered a better back for me and allowed the back-killing mattress to move into our new guest room. There have been many jokes about how it is a sure way to keep guests from overstaying. But really, it takes a good month for the effects to kick-in so don't worry. Plus, the guest room has the best heat in the house so it is actually quite cozy and comfortable down there. I promise.

Saturday, January 22, 2011


The landscape has been transformed into to the simplest of colours - white, black, grey. A touch of yellow.

We finally were able to get out and cross country ski yesterday.

Absolute paradise.

Out in the most beautiful, winter landscape, moving in silence except for the swish-swish of the skis.

When I was diagnosed with melanoma a couple of years ago, one of the first thoughts that came to mind when I contemplated death coming sooner rather than later (after thoughts about my family) was how I might never get to cross country ski in Newfoundland again: to breath in that cold air, to be so warm in such a cold landscape, to feel the glory of a strong body gliding across the snow.

I am not very good at it but I really don't care. Yesterday, Finn and I both enjoyed every second of it - it felt so precious. It felt so precious for all sorts of reasons, including the threat of the pristine air quality being destroyed by ignorance and greed.

But it isn't so! Last night, Shawn called me to let me know that Kruger withdrew its proposal to burn tires for fuel for the paper mill. A moment later, I heard it announced on the radio. This beautiful place will remain so for a little longer. Thank you to everyone who wrote to the Environment Minister in protest - our actions did make a difference!

Friday, January 21, 2011

You Never Know Until You Try (or I Believe I Can Fly)

A few days ago, I came across this story. It is one person's story of how she came to love shoulder stand (salamba sarvangasana) after many years of hating it and/or ignoring it as part of her yoga practice.

I am a big fan of shoulder stand myself. I have a theory that it prevents many illnesses because it places pressure on the lymph nodes in your throat and upper chest so they drain differently. I thought this was something I totally made up but then I saw a similar idea put forth in Leslie Kaminoff's book, Yoga Anatomy, so there you go. I do know that any time I start to feel like a cold is coming on, I spend a little extra time in shoulder stand and I (almost) always feel better.

I was happy to read about another convert to this most wonderful asana. If you read to the end, she talks about working her way up to nirlamba sarvangasana, or this (as demonstrated by a young Mr. BKS Iyengar):

I thought to myself, "I wonder if...."

Answer: yes!

Effort without tension, ease without laziness. It does happen on occasion, but you will never know unless you try.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Turnaround

The drinking water here in Gillams has a certain coppery colour to it. I have been told it is "just minerals" and that it is a result of beavers damming up the reservoir where the town gets its water. Whatever the reason, be it natural sediments or frisky wildlife, the l'eau de castor makes me think a little too much about my digestive system after a couple of days of imbibing it.

Thus, every month or so, we load up our jugs and head to the neighboring community of McIvers. Along the roadside, just before you get to Cox's Cove (where they love their children - I know this because a large sign proclaims it just as you enter the town limits), there is a spring where one can collect fresh drinking water.

This is the sign to look for as you drive along. The spring is actually on the opposite side of the road - heading back into McIvers - so one must turn around in order to park along side the spring and collect water. I have discovered that there is a little patch of road shoulder that is ever-so-slightly wider than the rest of the road just beyond the spring and started calling it The Turnaround. When I first started mentioning it to Dan, I think he was imagining a paved area, possibly with a Tim Hortons and maybe a gas station. When we finally went together to The Turnaround, he was a little shocked at Thus began our ongoing joke that most things that we had trouble finding locally could, no doubt, be had at The Turnaround. Looking for a fancy French cheese? Check The Turnaround. Artisanal bread? I think they have it at The Turnaround. WiFi? I heard The Turnaround is a hot spot.

And so on. It is a million yuks around our household, as you can, no doubt, see. Anyway. As often happens, we have periods without internet access here, particularly after we arrive following a long absence - hence the WiFi access joke. One day, as we approached the blessed Turnaround, I said, darn! I forgot to bring the computer! At that moment, it was revealed that Finnian had believed that The Turnaround did indeed have WiFi. Finnian, who never believes a word I say, especially when it involves making his own life better, actually believed my silly joke. Perhaps it is a teensy bit mean spirited, but I was feeling very satisfied for just a moment there.

Here is the spring itself. Life giving water! Sans le castor!

Filled up and ready to head back to Gillams, with its coppery water and lack of fancy Turnarounds.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Beautiful Place

It is pretty safe to say that we live in a beautiful place.

Now, with snow on the ground, it seems to be especially gorgeous. Last night, the moon was full and reflecting its light off the snow on the mountains and hillsides. Pure magic.

There is so much to love about this place - the people in particular - but the winter landscape holds a special place in my heart. I feel like I know it deep in my bones.

Sad to say, some might not appreciate what an amazing gift this place is to those of us lucky enough to spend time here. There is a proposal on the table to burn used tires as a way of fueling the Kruger Pulp and Paper Mill in the city of Corner Brook (about a 1/2 hr. drive from us). If this seems like some insane throw-back to the pre-environmental movement 1970s, then you would be correct. It is insane! Here is a link to an article with some information about the proposal.

There is a new Environment Minister in the province who will be deciding the fate of this program. Please consider emailing him with your thoughts about this proposal - I think it would fine if he heard from people outside the province, particularly because this idea has been proven in other locations to be a toxic and terrible way to "eliminate" used tires.

ETA - A dear friend sent me this in response. I want to share it here for all:

Enlightenment is like the moon reflected on the water. The moon does not get wet, nor is the water broken.
Although its light is wide and great, the moon is reflected even in a puddle an inch wide. The whole moon
and the entire sky are reflected in dewdrops on the grass, or even in one drop of water.

- Dogen (1200-1253)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Grinder Sutra - The T- Shirt

The clamouring was getting deafening. Literally hundreds of you...I mean dozens of you...I mean...well...I thought it would be great to make an official t-shirt for the movie-that-may-never-be-made, Grinder Sutra.

Grinder Sutra is a movie about grinders, those long sandwiches that sometimes are called submarine sandwiches as well as other names. The name grinder is specific to southern Rhode Island and, as we discovered, several other pockets around the U.S. And by "we", I mean myself and my brother-in-law, David, who really is the expert behind the project. As a vegetarian, my expertise is limited to the Meatless Grinder. I have had a long campaign to assert that a delicious Meatless is the triumph of triumphs because the ingredients are so few, therefore everything must be absolutely perfect. I have yet to convince anyone of this, but I keep trying.

David and I have spent many hours discussing our project and even, on rare occasion, filming some grinder makers in Westerly, RI, and Pawcatuck, CT. Will the film ever be made? I can't say. But, in the meantime, you can get the t-shirt. Or mug or water bottle. Simply click here.

Monday, January 17, 2011

At Long Last

Winter arrived yesterday. This morning the edges of the bay are frozen up and it is still snowing, quite hard at the moment.

We are on a bit of a windy hilltop so these photographs don't really convey the amount that fell. For the first time, I can't see the thistles poking up - about a foot I would say. The only downside was that most of it happened on the one day of the week when I actually really have to drive around. Thank goodness for studded tires - I was beginning to believe they would never feel snow under them. Even so, last night as I attempted to get up our road from the main highway, I had to make five tries before the car could get all the way up the hill.

Lucy rigged this up all the while complaining of my ineffectualness, seemingly of everything in general but specifically as a person capable of drying mitts and hats after a snowstorm. Even as she was grumbling (I think the real reason was that she had to go to school - hey, that was her choice!), she was solving the problem so I couldn't get too irritated with her. I grasped my cup of the lifegiving elixir, as Bertie Wooster would say, and kept my mouth shut.

This is generally a good policy around Lucy these days.

And here is Finn's birthday cake:

He has fallen strongly into the pie category in the cake vs. pie argument. After wresting with gluten-free pie crust dough at Christmas, this one was a breeze. So filled with the love of gluten was I that I made this fancy lattice top. Exuberance as manifested in pie crust - there you have it.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

On Being Vulnerable

A follow up to the previous post about being vulnerable. Thank you Patti for pointing it out.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Buddha Seat

Since, as Dogen says, practice and enlightenment are one and the same, I thought it was high time I did something about the fact that my makeshift zafu (a pile of afghans) was causing my legs to fall asleep every time I sat. It was clear that the problem could be traced to what I was sitting on.

Time to make the zafu!

I purchased some kapok. While it was making its way to Newfoundland, I saw some very cute crocheted cushions on etsy that looked suspiciously like zafus.

So that's what I did.

If you stare at this photo long enough, Dogen appears and shakes his fist at you.

No, no, keep looking! Don't look away. Ach, you just missed it. Keep looking.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Yarns Not Guns

After my attempt at serious social commentary yesterday, I am sure it is pretty obvious that I should stick to yakking about yarn. And so I will.

Look, look!

This is one of the kits made by Riihivilla. Her mother designed the mitts and she naturally dyed all the yarn from plants around her home in Finland. She was a delight to correspond with, making me ever grateful for people in places like Finland who speak and write in English so well. This kit is on its way to Massachusetts to my mother - a late Christmas present. I don't think she looks at this blog.

This is yarn from a second kit. One for Mom, one for me. That's how it goes around here. I thought I was being very generous by keeping the less colourful one. Ah, the stories we tell ourselves. But check out that variegated yarn - she dyed that will mushroom dyes. Very cool!

Me and my Majacraft have been busy, as well. I just learned, btw, that it is not pronounced Maja, as in Raja but Maja as in how a person from Revere, Mass, would say "major". Ah, my fantasy about my Susie Pro being a princess from India is kaput. She isn't Chandraleeka but Charlene, or maybe Trish. Trish from Revere. I am picturing her circa 1982, getting on the Blue Line and heading into Boston for an all-ages show at the Rat.

Whoa, back away from the Time Machine....

Anyway, Trish or Chandraleeka, or L'il Susie, my wonderful wheel, has been churning.

Mountain Colors handpainted Targhee, two-ply. 374 yds.

More blue! All indigo dyed fibre (and then some), single ply, 106 yds.

A mix of fibre and colour, single ply, 136 yds.

While I was making up the above yarns, Brian, our carpenter extraordinaire, was finishing up his work in the basement. The room is nearly complete! When he came up after he had finished, he said, "I thought you were spinning. I recognized the sounds from Shawn's house." Different house, different spinner - all in a day's work for Brian.