Saturday, May 30, 2009

Picture of grace... transformation

Picture of grace...
Originally uploaded by shorthorse

Early on a Saturday morning I came across this photo, Picture of Grace, by my Flickr friend Shorthorse.

I left this comment: "I will try to be graceful in my garden today." (click on the photo to see the response I got)

Then I went out into the garden. two thoughts tried to stay in my wondering brain.

Be mindful of your body and how it moves. I was entering into a backyard full of dead squirrels and weeds and who knows what else. A few days earlier my sister-in-law came over while I was at work and I was hoping she wouldn't see the backyard. I planned to be there all day with as many breaks as I could give myself. I thought of dancers and how they must be so aware of their bodies. I tried to be with mine. Then again on Memorial Day and then this weekend.

It is about transformation... the garden is unfolding over time. At one point, I roamed about the back yard where I counted 37 perennials and six shrubs which I have added since we moved here a few years back. It has been a process of slowly filling in the backyard, which started by taking down an invasive tree (Norway Maple) and spending a spring with a pick axe digging out its roots which were spread out just under the surface.

I planted 12 tomato plants and eight pepper plants. I added a few perennials and many annuals. I cut flowers for a vase in our kitchen. I added azaleas to an area that had been weeds. I harvested 1.5 pounds of leeks which had survived the winter then planted Cosmos where they had been. I created a larger arrangement of flowers with ones that came into being this week. I sat and weeded the bed of Hostas which had I moved out of the front yard to fill in along the shady shady shady side of the house. I weeded and swept and weeded and swept the brick patio. I watched robins and catbirds and bees and worms and beetles. I drove to work on a Saturday to water plants in the greenhouse and I brought home seeds for green beans and zucchini and cilantro. I took ornamental grasses to work and came home with our porch plants, which over winter in my classroom. I added some Coleus and Torrenia to the area with the Azeleas. I hauled compost and mulch into and weeds out of the garden... and I thought about my body. and how it moved.

Three days and it has been transformed into a garden that keeps calling my name. in fact, as I finish this on Sunday morning, I have some time... there are those Anaheim Chiles I brought home yesterday, and the front yard needs some weeding, and that area back by the garage...


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

teaching the Golden Mean

It goes like this...
Testing the situation, I say... "This is a fraud." The student looks baffled, so I back away and continue my rounds about the science fair. It is far from a high powered event, but it does allow students to explore a topic which they love.
I asked staff to pick their favorite exhibit.
Most staff chose a student who explored the Golden ratio.

Is this irrational number real? Yes.

Have irrational humans stretched it into the unreal? Yes.

The student had clearly impressed the masses. He had done it through great effort, however, he had not done thorough research.
I saw him at the end of the school day. I said that I had a meeting and had to run. I handed him an article by a mathematician, who wrote about the improper usage of the Golden Ratio (including examples the student had used). I asked him to read it and consider whether he deserved a prize.
I ended up staying late at work so we could chat before I left. I had provided a time bomb to his brain and I wanted to touch base. So I waited in the garden while he was in a meeting.
When he arrived after his meeting, I spoke of the Golden Mean and how science needs to be centered to be beautiful. I showed him the pile of ballots with his name. Praised him for his hard work. And then told him that in the realm of science he had failed. He had shown examples that have been proved wrong. I asked him to write an essay looking at the Golden Ratio from the center. I told him to learn from this experience. Tomorrow when the essay completes his project, he will win first prize.

Monday, May 25, 2009

second person thoughts: friends coming back... by plane, by bloom

When a good friend, who has moved 1000 plus miles away, smiles and says that he is in heaven...
Then you are glad you somehow thought to make the man strudel. Yes, many a folk have appreciated your strudel, but he and you know what it is like to grow up eating homemade strudel. It does something to your brain chemistry. There is no unhealthy amount you can eat.
Something your wives will never fully understand.
When a flower blooms in your garden you remember a friend and a day you took students to work in the garden his wife had created. She was overwhelmed caring for your friend. You divided and dug up day lilies and irises and planted them at the school. You wonder how long they will live. You hope your memory of the man lasts a long time...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

groups keeping me centered

It is hard to be a spiritual slug when you got...
  • a small but ever wonderful group of blogger friends who write about the journeys in which they have ventured and stumbled.
  • three good friends (CS, SK, and CM), who every time I let my hectic life drag me away from our Monday night gatherings at church, pulled me back. and being the one who picked the topics, they kept turning to me to schedule a Monday gathering.
  • four good friends who showed up once a month and shared silence and our voices at a Quaker Meeting House. I spoke last Friday about the pain of leaving a church where three members of the group have had positive experiences over the last 9 months. I imagined reconciliation. Is that the first step?
  • a church down the street filled with folk who greet me so so friendly.
  • a group of Rochester musicians called Margaret Explosion whose local newspaper says this... "The Margaret Explosion's music is infinite, eternally elegant, and mystical. Their esoteric wonder paints pictures in my head nonstop." - Frank DeBlase - Rochester City Newspaper.

    anyway there I was at the YMCA the other week, my mind racing, and this song floated into my ears. I walked laps hitting repeat, hitting repeat, hitting repeat. I walked and I fell into a good place. Click here if you have 3 minutes and 22 seconds to see what Frank and I are amazed by...


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Input wanted, but I was a slug

Not that long ago a friend (Suzanne Halstead) showed up at a craft show. Now, you know I want that to happen. But this was friend I was hoping to avoid, because when you sign up to be a spiritual guinea pig and turn out to be a slug... you just want to ooze your way into a cool, damp, and shady hiding spot, preferably close to a lettuce leaf to drown your sorrows.
But there she was, so I thought about hiding.
But I knew that was just goofy so I greeted her down by the food and we talked. I told her that I had not gotten far into the book (Art and Prayer: A Lenten Journey) which she had written with her friend (Wanda Schwandt), who I knew from their joint retreats on art and spirituality.
Yesterday as I spoke of what I knew about herbs, Mosaic Woman and other guinea pigs met with Suzanne and Wanda to speak of their experiences. What would I have said... I barely made my way into the journey. For 6 days a week Wanda guided us into prayer and Suzanne added an art exercise. Some worked better than others for me, but on another day their ability to work my spirit may have changed.
Why did I stop? Craft show delirium would be a fine excuse. I also think that the practice of doing the exercises at the same time as Mosaic Woman was a mistake. Making my own time for it might have helped. And how about this... I had been already become a spiritual slug. I had stopped doing the daily examen. No reflecting on the Bible. I was hoping for a jump start to my sluggish behavior and failed. Maybe admitting this here and now will guide me back into a regular time of prayer.
I can say that what I experienced in the book was positive. One night reflecting upon words in their book and a shoulder, which I feared would never heal, I experienced what I reported back in the post...

"You can heal," were the words I heard. Was it the voice of God or just a message of hope from my brain, which I so needed to hear? I don't know and likely will never know. Yesterday I skipped doing any of my shoulder exercises for the first time in nearly three months.
This morning my shoulder made it clear that it needs to be worked. My brain needs to ache as loudly when I leave my spiritual exercises.
As I talked with Suzanne, I promised her a future blog post on my experience. I hope they publish the book. I will gladly announce that event here.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

25 herbs

I am teaching a workshop this weekend on herbs. I want to...

get herbs into folks hands
share my love of cooking with herbs
encourage all that they can grow them
so, I just made a list of all the herbs I have grown over the last ten years, and 25 made the list. Not counting varieties... of say basil... lime, lemon, sweet.
Some on the list I have done little with other than enjoy their presence and share a story of why they are in the garden.

Just outside the school's greenhouse are some tall perennial herbs, one is Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa), a relative of Bee Balm. You see I am a lover of Earl Grey tea and so when I saw bergamot in Johnny's seed catalog, I thought "how cool."

Later I realized how wrong I was... the flavor in the tea comes from a tree, Bergamot (Citrus bergamia) which is a small citrus fruit. Word on the internet is that the fruit of this cross between a Seville Orange and Pear Lemon, is far from edible, but the oil from the peel is what makes the tea what it is. I love that some how someone decided to add this oil to tea.
Wild Bergamot, a native to North America, can also be used in a tea. Maybe this summer I will finally make tea from my bergamot.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

constructive criticism and success

I got juried (just by all that hair on my chinny chin chin) and I got some helpful words from a good friend about how to improve my craft, especially if I ever want to get juried into the state guild. It also showed I have an accurate idea on the strengths and weaknesses of my craft work.

and dig this... I got 16 flowers (not counting weeds) blooming in my yard. including the first Bachelor's Button for the year...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

they asked, my craft resume

On Wednesday I am going to hand over several examples of my stained glass. An hour later I may or may not be a juried member of the Bucks County Guild of Craftsmen. They also want a resume describing background and style...

I have always doodled and if you could find a high school or college notebook, you would see that it goes back, at least to junior high. Doodling became more elaborate in my mid twenties as I started spending more time on my designs and my art supplies became more diverse than pens and notebook paper. In my early forties, I felt an urge to do more with my designs.

So five years ago, I took a quilting class and made a quilt top. I had grown up surrounded by quilts and have always loved them, but something was not quite right. Quilting was not for me. So I took a class on how to work with stained glass.

Design is my favorite step in the process. At the beginning I so wanted to spend time with designing pieces that I wondered if I would ever use a design a second time. Now I do, but I also can't stop doodling, especially at staff meetings. The challenge is to take my favored "doodles" and make them glass friendly.

My stained glass has two main categories. I use my drafting tools (my dad is a draftsman and I worked for him one summer, back in the day) to make designs often inspired by traditional quilt squares. I also do what I call star flowers which are my attempt to take a favored doodle and turn it into glass. Recently I was commissioned to make a hummingbird, which may be yet another direction.

There is also a bit of the unknown while working with glass. It is far from the uncertainty of Raku pottery, however, I am never sure what a piece will look like till the soldering and cleaning are finished. That is when I hold it up to the light. Usually a favored step in the process.

That's it, for now. I need to copy and paste it into a word document so more revision may occur. Off to select the pieces to take. Worse thing that can happen tomorrow night is to come home not a juried member, but that is what I am now, so life will not be so different. There are aspects of my work, which I feel in need of improving. So if rejected, I hope it is for those things and not for my designs.


Monday, May 11, 2009

does it include...

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).

Saturday night while chatting with a friend, I realized that I had not seen a warbler this spring. And I vaguely remembered tossing a dead squirrel into my backyard.

Sunday morning I chose the woods over church. How many times did I stop my legs and move my eyes through the upper branches of the trees? If I had kept a list I would have seen over 30 species of birds; wonderful views of many including one of a Great Blue Heron that amazed me, however, no warblers were seen.

Later in the morning and in the afternoon, I went out to garden a few times. My yard is not huge and I have a sense of where the squirrel was tossed. Now I could have spent all my energy on finding the animal, but what sense would that have made.

So for now, I will have to have faith that there are still warblers in the world. As for the squirrel... I have faith that if it was still there I would have seen it. I will keep my eyes open for these unseen things.


Saturday, May 9, 2009

more thoughts.... cancer and stained glass

Last spring we only did one craft show, we did not make our booth fee... so far the only time that has happened.

Anyway, a friend, a great man, showed up that day. For 8 months I had been dropping food off for him and his family. He would be curious about my life. He said he wanted to come to the craft show. Pancreatic cancer was killing him.

He bought a stained glass mandala that day.

I recently went back to that design.

I hope that I never call it anything but, Dr. Ed's Mandala, and I will give a portion of any sale of said design to fight this cancer.

sales were terrible that day...

but that is only part of the story. For you, my friend, you are missed...

(clicking here will take you to our Mandala Section in out ETSY shop)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Hey! Don't touch that piano...

.... and while your at it, get out of that stained glass studio"
inspired by Joe Jackson's song, cancer listened to while soldering, with mask.
I dig that piano solo, can we say "seeds to loving jazz."


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

why is traffic low at the craft show... word on the street

There is a PhD on this just waiting to happen. What factors lead to how many folk come to a craft fair? Crafters are generally confused, but more than willing to throw out ideas.
here are some frequent ones...
  • nice weather
  • bad weather
  • in fact any kind of weather can lead to slow booth traffic
  • the economy
  • the internet
  • poor advertising
  • increase in admission costs
  • change in show's location

This past weekend, I heard many of the above, but heard some new ones...

  • swine flu hysteria
  • The Kentucky Derby, which was my favored one so I spread the word that everyone was home sucking down mint juleps

On Saturday a few mosaics sold, but no pieces of stained glass. Trying to sit with my funk that evening I was wondering if I was depressed by the no sales of my work or not seeing one person who had told me that would try to come to the show.

The next evening the funk could only be the no shows, for I did manage to sell a couple pieces and Mosaic Woman sold three pieces (all in the final 20 seconds of the show).
Reason number 1035...
hectic lives of good folk who wanted to come, and who will be invited again.

because it comes down to this...


Saturday, May 2, 2009

News stories, short stories, my stories

Maybe it was listening to stories about swine flu all week.

Maybe it was reading a short story from 1975 about the fear caused by cholera on Wednesday night...

... "No, there is more than the body of a man that you have in there," I said. Because now I was sure what it was. I had heard the talk up and down the river, and everyone was afeared that it was coming back, any day now. I don't mind saying that I was afeared too. And had been for a long time at the thought it was coming.

from The Burial by Jack Matthews

Maybe it was the dead squirrel on my side walk Friday morning.

I love making up stories so all day Friday I found myself telling this one...

Have you heard that Squirrel Flu has come to Lansdale? You see, when I left the house for work I saw what I thought was a dead squirrel on the sidewalk at the bottom of my porch steps. I went in to tell Mosaic Woman that she may want to stay inside for a moment. I was going to head back to the garage for a shovel when I realized I had a snow shovel in the mudroom. It was when I was scooping up the squirrel that I realized it wasn't quite dead. It turned and faced me and with a final gasp, it coughed directly at my face. Knowing that deadly flu viruses can spread from other species, I began to be concerned when I my temperature rose over 100 and I began twitching nervously in the middle of a road not sure which way to run away from oncoming traffic. A concerned friend tells me that the final stage of the disease involves raiding bird feeders and making squirrel like sounds.

Anyway. I have always felt blessed to be living in a country and during a period of time when fear of infectious disease has been so low. Cholera, Typhoid, TB, Polio.... I am also glad that my tax money goes to the CDC. I don't expect them to always say the wisest statements, but I believe in their mission.

I imagine the human brain has a special section to fear diseases that spread causing much suffering as they move through populations. Listening to folk this week, I believe our brains are alive and well, and thus full of fear.

For my part I tell stories. And my students, who know me well, say... "You're lying to us again."

and I say, "part of it is true."

may peace be with you.