Thursday, November 23, 2017

Catch up ...

It's been a bit too long since I wrote here! Truth is, the autumn was extraordinarily busy. I had so many loose ends in the garden to attend to--finally got the beds dug and transplants made. But let's admit it: Fall flew in like mad, then ushered winter weather in overnight. I have yet to get all my garden furniture indoors, and the roses have still to be protected. There is plastic to put in the entry room windows, the cellar to be cleared so the outdoors decor can fit. How in the world did it end up Thanksgiving already!?

Salons and concerts have come and gone since I last pecked these keys here. I played Debussy's "Clair de Lune" for a Salon in VT earlier this month on the night of the full moon. It was not recorded, so I decided to record it at home the following morning. My piano was a bit out of tune (as was I!). I am on a Debussy kick at the moment, working now on his Nocturne and the Ballade. "Clair de Lune":

Our orchestral concert was last Sunday and I think it went well. Beethoven's 7th Symphony is such a great piece of music!

I'm just starting the prelude to Bach's 3 cello suite and I'm very excited about that. Much work ahead of me there. Cello choir class has ended for the semester--already! But we'll be getting together again to rehearse some Christmas music for the Music Center's open house in early December. Rehearsals start next week for Handel's Messiah which I love so much. It's sheer joy to participate in this event.

Working on a knitted scarf, and teaching my neighbors how to weave a rug in Krokbragd style:

We wound enough warp to make her a 6' rug and another 6' rug for myself. It's going to take a lot of yarn, much more than I planned, but the result is absolutely fantastic. Such a thick, comfortable weave.

The birds are well, the outdoors is getting tucked in--slowly, the music is coming along. I've much to be grateful for on this Thanksgiving day. I spent the day at my neighbors and we played "pictionary", a game I'd never played before. What fun!

Hoping you who are reading his had a wonderful, bountiful Thanksgiving.

'Tis now the season.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Las Vegas ...

Profound sadness. Grief. I'd be remiss if I didn't post something.

I came upon this piece today and I think it's worth sharing. For my part--as a start, anyway--I've written my US Senators urging them to propose or support legislation to ban "bump stocks" which are used to convert a semi-automatic gun into an automatic one, making it effectively a machine gun. And also to ban silencers, and to keep the conversation on gun control going. I have been a supporter of the individual right to bear arms for some time, but there are limits. We have limits on free speech, even, for the greater good. I hope everyone will contemplate, meditate, pray, and take some action. This is a very sad and sorry state of affairs for our country.

It's Time for the End to our Prayers

Rev. Dr. James Howell
Myers Park United Methodist Church

"The human mind can’t process all this news. We feel dazed. A knot in the stomach. A kind of dark cloud has settled over the country. Orlando. Alton Sterling. Dallas. Philando Castile. Who’s next? and Where?
I wish I had a nickel for every time somebody has said about these horrors, “Our thoughts and prayers go out…” I’m a pastor; obviously I’m an advocate of praying. But I’ve tried to get inside God’s head and heart, and I wonder what God makes of our “thoughts and prayers.” God is grieving, to be sure. But I wonder if God wonders what we are looking for.
Back in Bible times, the people were praying during national calamities. God’s response? “These people draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” (Isaiah 29:13). The people gathered for special worship services and sang hymns – prompting God to say “I hate your festivals and take no delight in your assemblies. Take away from me the noise of your songs” (Amos 5:20). And why? If God didn’t want songs and prayers what did God want? The very next verse in Amos explains it all: “But let justice roll down like waters, righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
I can’t know how God feels about our “thoughts and prayers.” But I am positive God would be far more pleased if we would open our eyes, lift up our heads, get up off our knees, and go and do something. How pointless is it to continue to shudder over the news, and then ask God for comfort, when we aren’t doing anything to alter the conditions under which these killings continue to happen?
Why do these things happen? It’s no one thing. It’s a lot of things. But we get derailed, because somebody somewhere always has some vested interest in one of the things, so each one gets shot down (literally) and nothing changes. It is the whole toxic mess of woes that bedevils us. No one I know is optimistic things will change. But somewhere inside each of us, and in our collective national psyche, aren’t we “prisoners of hope” (Zechariah 9:12)? And what is hope anyhow? Not a naïve assumption things will just perk up tomorrow, or the more naïve assumption that our prayers will cause God to do a little razzle-dazzle magic and fix things for us. St. Augustine said that “Hope has two beautiful daughters. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see to it that they don’t remain the way they are.”
We prisoners of hope have to end our prayers, or find what the end of our prayers ought to be, which is deciding with great courage to do something. Something is profoundly wrong with regard to race in America. We can toss blame back and forth. But when will we engage in the long labor of listening, building trust, and insisting on equal treatment before the law? Something is terribly wrong about guns. Oh, the rights people leap forward and warn us society would crumble without even more guns! But what we’re doing now most clearly isn’t working.
Something is flat out crazy about the entertainment industry and our addiction to it. We are appalled by violence in the streets – but we clearly have a taste for it, since we flock in to movies and stare dumbly at TV shows where the shooting is constant.
Something is insanely wicked about government. Gridlock is too nice a term for what we’re saddled with. Laws and policies need changing, but one side is hell-bent on destroying any good idea the other side might happen to have. Something is embarrassingly woeful about our political process. We vote for the loudest, most shrill people who feed our fears and prejudices. Isn’t it conceivable that we might say Amen after our prayers and seek out leaders who are wise and good, who appeal to the best in us?
Something is out of kilter economically. Equal opportunity is a vain notion. White privilege is real, although whites can’t see it. Society is arranged for the benefit of white people. If you’re white and want to rise up and stomp on me for saying this, fine – but our denial of white privilege isn’t getting anybody anywhere. What if, for a change, we actually listened to people who aren’t white and gave them at least a little benefit of the doubt? And something is way out of sync with our education system. Educational equity is a pipe dream right now. We have settled for unequal education, and then we are surprised by the long-term results.
Something is killing us from the inside – and that is fear. Terrorists around the world try to induce fear. But we are clustering around fear ourselves quite well without their help. News media and pundits and politicians and just everybody fan the flames of fear. And there is a lot to be afraid of. But is it possible to stand up to our fears, to expose them and find ways to build a world that knows higher pursuits than security? Can we figure out that more and more force never resolves fear but only raises the stakes?
I could go on and on. Something is really wrong in America. Everything I have named is real. Each one is something that mortifies God. Pray if you wish – but God wants us to find the end to our praying and do something. With each one, something really can be done, and in a decade or two we really could have a safer society that would be more pleasing to the God we pray to for help. We can turn off any TV show where a gun is fired. We can resource our schools more equitably. We can elect different people. We could pass some gun law, any gun law, if only to make a statement. We could connect with people who are different instead of judging them. We could enthusiastically support our police and rebuild trust with them – but only if we also are willing to hold the small minority of them who exceed their authority accountable.
We can be different. We can be the people God uses to be the answer to our own prayers. That is, if we come to the end of our prayers, and do courageous things. The other night I heard Carrie Newcomer sing the most timely song I’ve ever heard: “If not now, tell me when?”"

Seven days ...

Seven days, seven black and white pictures that say something about your life. No people, no explanations. That was the challenge I accepted on a certain social media site. It was a fun exercise. It began last Thursday when I was in NYC, and I took my last picture a few minutes ago when I got home from orchestra rehearsal. Here are my "seven days, seven black and white pictures" ...

Sunday, October 1, 2017

"Rainbow in the clouds" ...

A few new posts coming. In the meantime, another timeless, profound video that requires sharing ...

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The latest scarf ...

Over the past few weeks--since the table scarf came off the 8-shaft loom--I've been working on a new scarf to use some yarns I had in my stash. Although I wove it on the 8-shaft, it only required 4 because the patterns are simple twills, with tabby (ground cloth). I reverted to using my old standard front-to-back warping method and it went splendidly. In fact, the entire project was very enjoyable, start to finish.

I had a few warp threads break during the weaving--not unexpected since the warp was a singles yarn, but they were easily repaired.

Some concern as I was weaving because it sunk in that my pattern weft was "superwash" merino, meaning it has been treated so as not to shrink or felt. I worried that the tabby warp and weft--the singles yarn would shrink leaving a loose mess of pattern threads. It did not turn out that way, much to my satisfaction! The final cloth has good integrity.

I bought the superwash last winter as a set of 9 rainbow colors. My desire was to show them off and I think they are given a good treatment in this scarf. It's so pretty I have it hanging up in here! My friend suggested I use it as a table runner in the summer months. :)

10" x 70". 78" including fringe. Wool and superwash wool. A series of twill combinations with a tabby background.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Early autumn update ...

I had an internal debate as to whether I should be using the word "autumn" on this 3rd of September. Alas, we have some maples whose leaves are turning color, and the mercury has dipped down to 36 F -- just the other night! It feels like autumn, early autumn at least. The high days of summer flew away in grande jetés, leaving wisps of autumn to fill the air. The sun no longer burns, it's now oblique rays bathe the skin in gentle warmth. Much of the field flora looks tired, ready for a winter rest. Their seeds dispersed, their leaves taking on bronze and purple hues; gone are the summer days of rampant growth. I will say this much: summer this year was fleeting. It seemed not to take hold till after June, and that was only 3 months ago. But nature knows what it's doing, I trust it.

I have been busy removing turf for some new perennial beds. I started an arc at the far side of the front lawn 3 years ago... not a big patch, but it allowed me to have a bit of color over there. I have just completed extending the arc on both sides so that it now follows the curve of the labyrinth. I had 5 yards of compost delivered a few weeks ago, and at least 2 of them are now in these new beds, along with some plants I've been accumulating over the past month or so. I have many day lilies to transplant, and irises to thin, so the new space will fill up quickly. But my! What hard work! But worth it; oh yes, worth every moment.

I have since started to deepen the terribly neglected garden on the other side of the driveway. Last fall, I rebuilt half the low stone wall along it's edge, and will do the other half this fall. I am digging behind all the lilies and irises and the peony, to make room to thin them all out. The vision is grand, and keeps me motivated. It will feel nice when all the digging of turf is done.

On the subject of flowers, my interest in orchids is moving into a full blossom. I have had a few Phalaenopsis plants for a number of years and they have done well coming back into bloom over this time. A few years ago, I added a few Cattleyas and they too have come back--although last year the buds blasted and I'm pretty sure it was my fault... hopefully this year they will show color again. Last December I bought a Miltonia -- in flower at the time. Much to my pleasure, it is now flowering again, and I must say, the flowers are big ... and beautiful! I'm very happy it flowered again.

I also added a Dendrobium to my meager collection this summer. They are housed in a tiny greenhouse which I have situated in the only south facing window down stairs. At the height of summer, I will draw the sheer curtain to keep the strong sun from burning the plants. I placed a small humidifier on the top shelf and more than anything, I think this accounts for some of my success/luck so far. I also have a few Gesneriads in there; still love the African Violets, Streptocarpus, and Episcia.

But a bug has hit me and I'm pining for more space for more orchids and gesneriads. A greenhouse, that's what I want. Actually, I'm having visions of a sun room added to the back of my house, off the dining room. Oooh, la, la. Now there's a dream. Might as well dream big! We'll see. But I can see it all in my head.

I have started three new projects: A scarf which I'm weaving, a scarf which I'm knitting, and some more spinning. They are great go-tos when I have half an hour here or there, or need some quiet meditative time. Updates on all in time.

Monday, August 21, 2017

A performance ...

Last weekend (the 12th, specifically) I performed in a "performance potluck" at Briggs Opera House in White River Junction, VT. The event was called "Freedom" and the theme was "What would you do if you weren't afraid?" A month--or so--ago I was approached by an acquaintance from orchestra who wanted to know if I'd be interested in taking on the piano part in a new trio (for oboe, violin, and piano) called "No Go Ego", composed by the producer of the show. After looking the part over, I agreed--it didn't seem all that challenging and I was game for a new adventure. I soon found out it was challenging: Very syncopated with a tricky motif that was hard to finger!

I worked very, very hard for a few weeks to "get it in my fingers" and I succeeded--to a degree. The piece continued to keep us all right on the edge of failure. To top it off, we three each had to take turns playing the triangle that was set up between us. I admit to consistently missing the first ding of the triangle after the piano comes in. An interesting and fun aspect of the piece is the flipping of a coin before it starts. If the coin lands heads up, we are to finish with the first ending; if it lands tails, the second ending is played. We tossed heads.

There is an electronic version of the piece on YouTube, if you want to hear what it sounds like:

I'm quite happy that our trio was first on the program--got it over with! Not perfectly... but the composer said he was ok with mistakes if the spirit of the piece was right. It went pretty good, I think. Always hard to tell when you're the performer.

The program was great! There were some really good poems, performance pieces, dance, and other music in the program. There were refreshments after the performance and a dance party. Oh what fun! I haven't really danced since I left NYC 4 years ago and it felt so really good to have that religious experience once again! The theatre is set up with good speakers and the stage makes a great dance floor. The choice of music was perfect.

I'm looking forward to possibly taking part in the next "potluck" scheduled for November, which theme will be "fear of death". My composer friend in Greenpoint, Brooklyn (my old neighborhood) wrote a most fabulous piece called "Koori" (means "ice" in English) for piano, four hands and glockenspiel which score I have, and quite possibly my acquaintance and a percussionist friend of his will play it. I love this composition! (I may have shared it here before)

Woven... a new table scarf

I finally sat down to finish this bit of weaving last week; it had been on the loom for at least a few months! When the weather finally warmed up earlier this summer and the grounds became dry enough for outside work, the scarf took a back seat to the garden and yard.

There was some struggle getting this piece warped... I decided to try back to front warping of the loom for the first time and had some problems. Unfamiliar territory and all that. The result being: Intermittent loose warp threads during the weave. A few weights placed on the loose threads quickly gave them the discipline they needed to become part of the cloth. But too much slack kept creeping in, especially towards the end of weaving, especially on the outside edge of the cloth, near the selvedges. I made it to the end, that's what matters.

It's a wonderful feeling when the weaving mojo hits; a productive, relaxing, and satisfying rhythm develops between the pressing of the treadles, throwing of the pattern shuttle, placement on the fell, passing of the tabby, and beating of the fell line. (The fell line is the leading edge of the cloth, where new threads are beat in place.) That feeling arose last week--the groove paid a visit. And it was nice.

This piece required very forceful beating of the tabby threads (in "overshot" patterns, the pattern threads are held in place by plain weave in a thinner thread; this plain weave is called the tabby). One of the challenges in overshot is getting the pattern to square up. Had I not beat as forcefully to pack the tabby tight, the pattern would have come out elongated. I'm not sure the choice of thread weights in this draft are optimal (I found this draft in "Hand Woven" magazine, Nov/Dec 2016 to be specific). On the other hand, the resulting fabric has a fabulous 'hand' and is quite opulent, so it was worth it.

I did not follow the instructions to a tee: For one thing I only wove 3 repeats of the main pattern to create a cloth 31" long which is just right for my table. Also, the directions called for weaving a section of plain weave to use as a backing. I didn't like the idea of covering up my work, so I did not back it. I simply pressed under the selvedges and ends and hand sewed them in place. The result is elegant, yet honest. My selvedges in this piece were not what I would call "pretty" by any means, but being pressed to the back, they become obscured--even when viewed from the back--because of the colors of the threads and the patterns. A win-win solution in my book!

I really like this scarf, now that it's done and it's inspired me to think about designing my own over shot piece. (Click on pics to make the bigger.)

I love how the interplace of warp and weft, blue and red, has created these beautiful purples:

The backside, as I decided to finish it:

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Other garden news ...

I was much inspired when visiting a garden in Rumney (next town north of here) this summer. Absolutely stunning. It really got my juices flowing, so I've been out removing turf from areas that will become new flower beds next year. Need I mention that 2 days ago I sprained some muscle in my lumbar region while digging a new bed? And it wasn't even from the act of shoveling. Yes, I had been shoveling quite heartily, but then got down on my knees to have a tug at some stubborn bit of turf when it happened. That sudden, sinking feeling that a muscle somewhere wasn't supported quite well enough. Ugh. I know from experience that these achy things take a lot longer than one would think reasonable to heal over! I'm still able to dig, so that's good. The movements that are not so graceful as a result of this physical altercation with reality are dressing and undressing the lower regions and getting into and out of furniture: chairs and beds especially. This one wasn't a bad stretch. It's only been 2 days and already quite a bit better.

Over the summer I have removed turf from the edge of the deck in front of the house and, for now, put some annuals in: Impatiens. It will eventually become a perennial bed. Already, I have planted a Delphinium (purchased on a whim at a hardware store!), a cranesbill, and a couple of foliage plants whose names elude me at the moment, and it's too dark to go out and check. I want to get at least 2 more Delphinium's to keep the one company. (I also put lattice on the bottom part of the deck this summer. Just today, I purchased a paint sprayer and hope to have it painted by end of week. Wish me luck.)

The long-term plans are to have the front lawn surrounded by perennial beds, a woodland area down back, and a large, round garden up behind the house. Sounds daunting at the moment. A bit at a time, one step in the front of the other, and it will get done.

The summer has been good for flowers and berries. Not so good for the vegetable garden. A neighborhood cat decided that one of my raised beds was a giant kitty litter box and scratched up all my carrot seedlings. I harvested 3 carrots last week and that is the end of it! Since the incident, I bought and applied some cat deterrent spray. I had many, many strawberries, and the raspberry bush has been exceedingly bountiful. My tomatoes have fruit, but I'm not sure we're going to be warm enough to ripen them before it's too late. Time will tell.

Some miscellaneous pictures of some flowers about the place this summer:

Daylily babies ...

I wonder if you recall that a few years ago I visited my friend on Cape Ann and took part in some daylily hanky-panky? My friend, the person behind Distinctive Garden Designs, had me pick out a few daylilies in her garden and cross-pollinate them. It was enjoyable, but at the time it was anyone's guess whether my handiwork would bear fruit, so to speak. As it turns out, seeds were produced, and my friend sent them along with instructions for growing them.

I placed them in the refrigerator, as instructed, but then plum forgot about them! In mid-summer, 2 years ago, I suddenly remembered and it was conveyed to me that since they'd be sprouting late, they may not make it through the winter. Bummer. But I tried, and lo-and-behold, they survived. Last year they grew into quite nice plants over a foot high but too young to produce blossoms--if indeed they were going to produce blossoms. It was still anyone's guess.

This is their 3rd year in the ground and they came up well. I was going outside every day towards the end of June to see if they'd put out any scapes (stems on which blossoms are formed). Suspense and more suspense as the days went on. I reassured myself by taking a look at some other, established lilies in the garden and noticing that they hadn't yet put out scapes. So all remained hopeful. One morning I went out to check ... "Y-E-S! S-C-A-P-E-S!" I exclaimed before quickly glancing up to see if my neighbors were home. No. Good, I can still pretend not to be crazy. :) I had SCAPES!! Oh, I was so thrilled. Scapes on plants that I bred. Blossoms-to-be on my babies!

They have, for the past 2.5 to 3 weeks, been blossoming beautifully! And quite the surprise to me: Each plant (there are at least 8 different plants) produces a different colored/shaped blossom! This is an education. For some reason I figured--since the seeds are all from one pollination--that each plant grown from these seeds would be the same. They are not! It's not like twins or octuplets or some such at all. My friend says it's like siblings: All same parentage, different looks.

Well, here they are. Introducing my babies:

My friend says this one is worth watching and may be a candidate to register and produce for the market. How exciting!:

I am documenting each plant so when I transplate them this autumn, I will know which plant produces which blossom.