Friday, March 27, 2009

lost Whidbey Island residency post

The sky rarely “opens up,” here, but this morning the cloud layer lifts a bit so I can see the Olympic Range from my bedroom window. Iron gray, white. Again it will not photograph well against the gray and white cloud. I don’t feel photogenic either.

It’s Tuesday of my fourth residency, the Spring Residency on Whidbey Island, and already we are halfway through. Not quite a week ago I made my way through airport security and fought the urge to buy magazines, then I dissolved into a fevery illness on the plane, shivering and sneezing on my poor, poor neighbors.

Since arriving in The Northwest, it’s been a struggle to sleep off the fever, first, then the after effects of a head cold and profound weariness. Somehow my health does not seem to comprehend that I’m surrounded by the most fascinating people on earth, and I need to spend time with them, converse with them. With my tissues and sneezes and froggy throat, I’m most often sitting in the back, sitting more quietly than I’ve ever been at a residency. I even eat meals quickly if I might find half an hour to lie down, back in my room.

Yesterday was our “free day” to travel the area, and it was the first day I didn’t even attempt to walk to the beach I can see from my window. I chose a couch in the big Victorian living room of my house, and my classmates Alissa and Allison chose their couches, and there we stayed all day, catching up on reading and email and napping by the small fireplace. In a final burst of cabin fever we drove to town for dinner, then met others for the evening’s readings.

For more on last night’s reading by Deb Gwartney, go here:

So I arrive at this morning, feeling better-ish, but wheezy and weary. I look through the schedule to see what I can skip: breakfast in a crowd, that I don’t need. I have half a sandwich in the frig, and coffee. Morning worship, sigh. It’s lovely and informal, but it’s another half hour I could be quiet. Skipping that might leave me with only two hours when I need to concentrate and be in a room with forty people…

Last year I was the first to pull out the Frisbee and force people to play, every free moment. This year I am hunkering in my room, hoping to get back to that beach before the week is out, hoping to go for a long walk—at least one—while I’m here in this beautiful place.

But if not, I have a bedroom with a stunning view of the mountains, some fabulous housemates, and a line-up of great classes yet to come, if I can just pull together enough energy to get out the door.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

bluebird puppets

Ah, the bluebird puppets! These are crafted from flat, hand-built felt (wool and mohair curls).

Talk with me if you'd like to buy some for your honey's Easter basket. $25 plus shipping.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

in like a lion

The wooden-bristled hairbrush in my hand finds a snarl in her long blond hair and my child screams mercilessly, stomping her feet and raising voice to a high-pitched shriek. She falls to the floor dramatically and howls that she needs an ice pack for her wounded head. I tell her to put her boots on, as she is already late and the others are waiting for her in the car. She gets herself up to go look at her head, to make sure she is not bleeding, to check to see if her tears are big enough, and then grabs violin, lunch, books, hat, coat, and bangs her head against the door in frustration—she’s not left even a finger free to grab the doorknob, and again she must rely on me. Throughout, she speaks her protest with increasing volume, she cannot carry all these things and her mother hurt her hair, and she cannot believe she is so wrongly treated. I open the door and stand outside like a doorman, until she is down the first three steps then I go back in the house, close the door, and turn the bolt lock.

I Have. Had. It. It’s not even 8 a.m.

A cold morning. I’ve been left with a list of things to do, problems to solve. There is a parent meeting tonight and I must attend. I HAVE A WRITING DEADLINE and this is my last “full” day to work on it. Fury is not a good way to write, for me—I would fight the fury in order to write.

I stomp my own feet to my closet, where my fiber arts projects are waiting in a tote bag. A week ago I fused loose layers of brightly colored wool into a rectangle of fabric—handmade felt. The colors blobbed instead of blending. I’d hoped to copy my daughter’s bluebird finger puppet, created by her long-ago kindergarten teacher. Last night I found a surprise bag of curly mohair locks, hand-dyed in varying shades of blue— I added a layer of blue curls onto the “failed” fabric, making it more perfect than I could’ve envisioned. But it’s not a bird yet. I grab the fabric bag, pencil, paper and scissors, and the original puppet. I turn on NPR, and sit at the table to trace each of the pieces onto paper. It’s an ingeniously elegant design, not “cute” but quite bird-like. I can copy the shapes without disassembling the bird.

After cutting the pieces, I needle-felt the cut edges of thick felt, so the bird will hold together well. Needle-felting requires rhythmic STABBING deeply into a foam pad—it’s an aggressive craft, perfect for the morning. I place the cut-out pieces into a project bag to take to tonight’s parent meeting, and I walk through the supply shelf to find thread, pins, a needle. I tuck the rest of the fabric away—first, the prototype must be made.

From aggressive crafting, then, to meditative crafting, which would be the spindle. It pulls all things together, truly. I blended a dozen “rolags” of wool last night while waiting for the workman to test for a gas leak in our building. I must’ve been Very Worried because the wool is airy, periwinkle blended with silver gray and a bit of blue mohair. This morning I walk through the living room, twirling the spindle and watching. The spindle crafts yarn more slowly than the wheel, so I can examine the yarn at each spin, to make sure I don’t “overspin,” as I usually do. A fuzzy, barely-spun bulky yarn. I stop with one rolag. That’s enough for now. Perfection is waiting for me, in a wooden bowl on the counter, for a word-break when I need it.

And now I’ve had a typing warm up and it’s time to open those essays again, and work on school work.

Things go well. Making crafts for Easter baskets and gifts: nests with robins’ eggs, and eggs with felt chicks. And maybe bluebird finger puppets, if the pattern seems as easy as it looks. I’ll post a photo, soon.