Autumn, Come She Will

Soupy. Steamy. Sweaty. Summer.

It’s all those things right now in upstate New York. Summer blazes on, with little rain and high humidity.

And yet, when I least expect it, when I’m wearing my sun visor and wiping the “dew” off my face, autumn sneaks up on me.

She is quiet, faint, just a hint of a ghost of a wraith but I know she’s there.

She gets close and whispers her cool breath in my ear. I whip my head around, to get a better look, and blush when I find only summer there. I was hoping it was autumn . . .

I’m not the only one autumn makes blush.

Autumn seduces me, energizes me, makes me feel alive. My blood sings and fizzes like champagne when autumn comes to me.

Again, I’m not the only one who is susceptible to her charms; she is profligate with her attentions. She beguiles the geese to start their noisy journey. She provides the nudge that makes the squirrels so intent on hunting and gathering that they forget to look both ways when they cross the road. All living things respond to autumn.

Her invigorating imperative affects people like me, and maybe you, people who live in cooler climates and who love to make things. We feel the impulse to prepare for winter making and to hunker down in our homes.

Because my main locus for taking photos of vintage linens for Etsy is my glassed-in porch and because my glassed-in porch is not winterized and gets REALLY cold in the winter, I will spend autumn busily taking photos, getting things ready while I can.

I also baste quilts at the big table on the glassed-in porch so I will soon be doing this job I loathe so I can do the part I love, hand quilting, all winter.

I want my home to be as clean and fresh as autumn feels. I want the garden to sleep well and come to spring renewed and refreshed. I want to bring the color of the maple trees and late fall sun to handwovens.

Autumn is a demanding mistress, but she’s worth it.

I know she’s coming, autumn is.

I love you, autumn. I’ll be ready for you. Don’t make me wait too long . . .


*This photo makes me think of a wonderful book, C D B!, by William Steig. According to Steig, the full caption for the photo should be “C D B? D B S A BZ B.” Can you crack the code?

“It’s All About Me” Monday: The Unfinished Object

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Is there a crafter alive who has finished every project she has started?

If so, I’d like to meet her; I’d like to shake her hand, and celebrate her fortitude and single-mindedness and self-discipline.

In the words of the legendary Bob Dylan, “It ain’t me, babe. It ain’t me you’re looking for . . .”

I’ve left so many things undone. Some have been too hard for me, some too easy, some just didn’t take. Some have been around so long that the colors and style are sadly out of date and some have been attacked by insects or mice or something else unthinkable. Some have simply fallen by the wayside when another shiny-new, exciting project has come along.

I’m not proud of this so most of my unfinished projects have been disposed of, gone and forgotten, so they can no longer haunt me and make me feel undisciplined.

But one piece endures—I love it in spite of its unfinishedness. I think it’s lovely just as it is.

This kit depicting scenes from Aesop’s Fables came out in 1979, the same year I finished a cross stitch sampler. I imagine I felt flush with that success and wanted to keep the feeling going.

This was back when crewel embroidery was cool and you could buy beautiful kits, complete with good instructions and quality yarns.

This project was big and ambitious and gorgeous—I thought so then and I still think so 37 years later.

And yet I didn’t get far with the project. I can’t remember why but it was right when I started grad school and had bought a spinning wheel and . . . who knows?

But I got far enough that I have thought this unfinished object was still worth seeing. It doesn’t make me feel bad in its incompleteness. In fact, I kind of like the effect of one bright, embroidered panel against the subtle line drawings of the other panels.

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It’s been with me all these years and has hung on a wall most of that time.

I’ve never intended to finish it and wouldn’t have known where to begin, even if I was inclined.

And, yet, weirdly, recently, even as I had the idea for this post in mind, I came across a plastic bag, in a plastic bin, in an overcrowded garage, along with other unfinished projects.

And look what was in it . . .

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Yes, the directions and the yarn. Is this a sign of things to come?

But, enough about me! Let’s talk about you. How do you like my unfinished object?

Do you finish everything? Do your unfinished projects ever make you happy, just as they are?

A Curse On His Head

I find myself wanting to curse lately. When I read the news or get on Facebook and see posts about American politics, I swear, I want to swear!

In spite of my blog persona of cozy and fuzzy “hands at home,” I swear with vigor and enthusiasm. Mostly, I do this at home and try to monitor my language when out in the world. Sometimes, I slip . . .

I’m not a creative curser—I use the four-letter words we all know.

In recent days, though, I’ve been thinking of one long, inventive curse that I’d like to dedicate to one annoying American guy, who uses his position to spout hateful words about women, immigrants, people of color, and even babies.

The curse comes from an Irish song, called “Nell Flaherty’s Drake.” In the song Nell Flaherty laments the death of her duck at the hands of another and curses the “murderer” to high heaven.*

May his spade never dig, may his sow never pig,
May each hair in his wig be well thrashed with the flail;
May his door never latch, may his roof have no thatch
May his turkeys not hatch, may the rats eat his meal.

May every old fairy from Cork to Dun Laoghaire
Dip him snug and airy in river or lake,
That the eel and the trout, they may dine on the snout
Of the monster that murdered Nell Flaherty’s drake.

May his pig never grunt, may his cat never hunt,
May a ghost ever haunt him at dead of the night;
May his hens never lay, may his horse never neigh,
May his goat fly away like an old paper kite.

That the flies and the fleas may the wretch ever tease,
May the piercing March breeze make him shiver and shake;
May the lumps of a stick raise the bumps fast and thick
On the monster that murdered Nell Flaherty’s drake.

You might be able to guess on whose head I would place this curse. You might like this person and not want to curse him out so I’ll just say, “My blog, my opinion.” I hope you use your blog to express your opinion!

Even if you don’t share my point of view on this one, I bet there’s someone in your world who rankles and raises your ire. Feel free to use Nell Flaherty’s curse—I know I feel better already!


* Ostensibly, the song was really about the death of Irish rebel, Robert Emmet, with the song coded to allow it to be sung within earshot of the British. The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem did a rousing version.

A Day to Remember . . .

Let’s take a poll:

What’s nicer?

Young love? Or mature love?

Certainly love is always lovely, at any age.

But my vote in the poll goes to mature love, the love that two people find when they least expect it, maybe when they stopped hoping for it at all.

Young love is sweet but anticipated. We all expect our young friends and relatives to find love. We expect to go to an exquisite, big wedding and we hope that the love, and the marriage, lasts.

There’s something richer, deeper, more poignant and thrilling, to me, about mature love, though. Love between two people who know themselves well and have known love before, and who are lucky enough to find someone else who carries the same knowledge and is ready and enthusiastic for another ride on the merry-go-round.

Exhibit A:

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Today, August 2nd, is the fifth wedding anniversary of my mother, Evelyn, and her husband, John.

My mother had been a widow for 30-plus years and John a widower for long enough to begin to be able to consider another relationship.

They had known each other, as passing acquaintances, for some time.

One day, their paths crossed on a walk and he got his courage up and asked, “Do you play bridge?”

How lucky for us all that my mom could say, “Yes”! It’s enough to make a person take up bridge, just in case . . .

They married on our lawn at camp, with just immediate family, and the cats, present.

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Photos were taken, champagne was sipped, a tear or two flowed.

Our very small family expanded by one and there could be no more natural and wonderful fit than welcoming John into the fold. We now cannot imagine our lives without him.

Evelyn and John, realizing that they would never achieve big, impressive anniversary numbers, decided to count anniversary months instead. We recently celebrated their 50th!

And tonight we will celebrate their fifth. We have another perfect day to enjoy.

We will go to the same restaurant we visited the night of the wedding.

We will celebrate 5 years together but also what an anniversary always stands for—the confidence to believe that life with that other person is better than life alone, that a good marriage exceeds the sum of its parts, and that, at any age, love can come again.

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An Early Summer Morning

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I’m not much of one for exercise. I know I should move more but tend not to.

When I come home from an early morning summer walk, though, I wonder why I don’t do this every day. A walk like this gives new meaning to that old song, “morning has broken, like the first morning.”

Shadows make me and my cat-who-believes-he-is- a-dog appear taller than we really are.

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We deliver maple syrup to my mother and her husband, who are already making pancakes—it is Sunday, after all. The cat opts to stay with them.

I can walk down the middle of the road if I want to, and I do, just because I can.

I see only three other people in the 3-plus miles I walk.

Our 80-something neighbor, the Energizer Bunny, out weeding her gardens and laughing at me for getting exercise in as artificial a way as taking a walk, when I, too, could be weeding.

The neighbors who make the rustic furniture, heading off to sell at the farmer’s market, where the rich folk from downstate buy expensive pieces for their summer camps.

The big guy walking his tiny dog and begging it to finish up so he can go back home for another cup of coffee.

I see a lot more animals than people.

The doe and her fawn way off at the edge of the field—I took a photo but it didn’t translate.

The bunnies who tear away from me, with their cottontails high.

The squirrels who are busy, following some imperative to mate or gather nuts or whatever squirrels do in their spare time.

I see the cardinals and the hummingbird.

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And these guys.

I hear all the other birds—the kingfisher and songbirds I can’t name. I follow the sound of tiny tapping to see the littlest woodpecker ever, getting its breakfast.

The only bird I don’t hear is the neighborhood rooster who cockle doodles his doo all day long but never, it seems, in the early morning.

The flowers, too, seem most striking early.

I know I will spend the day listening to children squeal, as they dunk themselves from a small sailboat or paddleboard. But they are, as yet, silent, still sleeping off the sugar-high hangover from one s’more too many.

Right now, the sailboats are at the moorings, the big beach towels are still dry and waiting on the line. No jet skis or deep-throated bass boats mar the quiet.

There are smells, too. The lake is low this year and, frankly, sort of whiffy. Someone mowed grass last night and the campfires still waft faint wood smoke.

The breeze is chilly this early but the sun is rising hot on my back.

Is there anything better than a quiet summer morning?

Nope, except, maybe, a summer sunset . . .

 

Let Us Now Praise Newbies

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“Hi! I was just gifted a loom—I’m so excited to be a weaver! So . . . can someone explain how to weave?”

I am a member of several Facebook groups for weavers, where we go to ask questions and share our work. I have to admit when I see questions like the one above, from rank beginners, my first reaction is to roll my eyes and think, “Oh for heaven’s sake—go read a book! Take a class!”

Then I take a deep breath and remind myself how much newbies, newcomers to any craft or skill, bring to the rest of us.

I have been a complete novice myself recently, in the craft of weaving, and I am still struggling to learn a tiny fraction of what there is to know. My weekly sewing group includes a number of newbies—new to sewing, new to quilting.

Newbies have always been with us but, in days gone by, maybe they weren’t so obvious. A lot of us learned some basic skills in relative private, from others in our circle, by watching and emulating or by taking an organized class or reading. Those were the only options we had.

But now the Internet gives newbies easy access to knowledgeable and helpful people so their questions are public and their lack of knowledge and understanding are on view to us all.

And, though I will always think some newbies are being presumptuous in asking others to explain a difficult process in the space of a Facebook post, I really believe that these newbies are enhancing the craft world.

Are you a newbie at something, thinking about picking up knitting needles or sitting down to a sewing machine for the first time? Trying to learn a new set of skills, like hooking a rug or soldering silver? Surrounded, it seems, by people who already know the ins and outs, know the vocabulary, seem comfortable and calm in the realm where you feel edgy and inadequate?

I want to tell you how valuable you are!

  1. You are a source of amusement

Yes, it probably sounds harsh but let’s get it out of the way first—I am amused every day by a dilemma posed by a newbie. I laugh at the stories they tell about themselves and their confusion. They use the vocabulary wrong and make mistakes of the most basic kind. I am laughing with them, not at them—I see myself in their blunders.

  1. You remind us of the enthusiasm and joy of starting

The excitement newbies feel is energizing. This one just got her first loom, that one bought fabric for her first quilt. They have not yet felt the slings and arrows of outrageous craft fails. They are intoxicated with possibilities—and help me remember that feeling.

  1. You give us a chance to teach and feel smart

With novices, it always seems that, no matter how little I know, there’s someone who knows less. That gives me the heady feeling of having something I can share and teach.

  1. You allow us to feel competent and remind us how far we’ve come

There’s nothing like a newbie to remind you how much progress you’ve made, that you’re learning and growing. When I read the questions asked by newbies, I am pleasantly surprised when I know the answers to questions that would’ve been mysteries a few months ago. I feel competent and motivated to keep learning.

  1. You ask the questions we may not be comfortable asking.

I am one of those people who loathes looking foolish or incompetent. I hate to ask questions, to expose my ignorance. Newbies ask questions with abandon and I sit and listen carefully to the answer . . . and learn.

So, newbies, I say to you—keep starting new things.

Keep dreaming of being good at something that you have never tried.

Keep asking every question that pops into your mind!

Recognize the limitations of learning complex skills from Facebook posts or from one helpful friend and take advantage of all the resources available to you.

But don’t hesitate to start because the people around you seem so sure of themselves and the skills so daunting.

You are enriching the conversation by starting a new craft; you are bringing so much to the discussion.