Autumn Senses–The Sounds of Canada Geese

geese2I stand on my front deck. I hear a faint sound that confuses me, even as it’s getting louder. It’s the sound of a train coming through.

But the closest train tracks are several miles away . . .

The sound grows louder, gets closer.

It becomes clearer what it is.

That’s no train!

That’s a huge flock of Canada geese, heading our way.

The temps are in the 80s, the leaves are still green, the grass still needs to be mowed.

But it’s autumn. The geese tell me so. They insist.

Dozens, nay, hundreds, of Canada geese visit our bay at this time of year. In November, they’ll give way to snow geese.

The Canada geese are the early harbingers of fall. And they sound really, really excited about it.

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They sit out there in the bay and yak among themselves. They squawk and they chuckle and they chortle. They yip and they yap. They sounds like they’re laughing, and arguing, and announcing important news.

They get quiet and then for no discernible reason, they start in again, all at once, raising a ruckus.

They chat early, early in the morning, well before first light, and they are the last sound I hear before drifting off to sleep.

It not just their voices I hear. When a flock comes in, I can hear the beating of all those wings and the splish as they hit the water.

And when they leave, it’s never a quiet “exit, stage left.” They leave with noise and splashing and flapping and a big huzzah.

It seems they must be communicating; it can’t all be sound and fury, signifying nothing.

I’d love to know what they’re saying. Is the meeting in Monty’s Bay the equivalent of a block party, a meet and greet with neighbors? Or is it more a high school reunion, seeing friends they haven’t seen for years?

Are they talking about how they spent their summer vacation? The sights they saw up north? Or are they planning the upcoming trip, deciding where to stay and where to eat. That’s what we talk about when planning a trip . . .

They sound pretty happy and excited, but sometimes they sound cranky and argumentative. I imagine them arguing over who gets to fly first, out in that big point in the V in the sky.

“It’s my turn! You did it last time!”

“Well, I’m better at it than you! You led us to Kansas. Who wants to got to Kansas?!”

“How come I never get to be in front? I’m tired of looking at your back end!”

“You can’t be in front, you’re a girl!”

“You sexist gander, you!”

They all talk at once, nobody seems to be listening. It’s enough to make a person think of American politics . . . well, never mind.

Autumn in upstate New York smells like campfire. It tastes like a Northern Spy apple and cider doughnuts. It looks like maple trees with leaves aflame.

And it sounds like Canada geese.

What does autumn sound like in your neck of the woods?

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Manly Hands at Home: A Shining Light

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I loved it the first time I saw it.

I mean, anyone can have a house but a house with its own lighthouse? Awesome.

For years, it sat there looking pretty. It was on a timer so it came on at 4:30, year around, and went off at 11. It was reliable.

And it was attractive. It was the centerpiece of many a photo, in many a weather condition.

But it was made of untreated wood and it took a beating from all that weather.

Then this happened. That didn’t help.

Eventually the electrical quit working. Pieces of rotten wood needed to be replaced.

Then this happened.

We were lighthouse-less for a while and I missed it more than I would’ve imagined.

My husband kept saying he would build us a new one.

Really?

For all his many skills, Don has never done that much building. I wondered . . .

I can’t tell you how pleased I am to have my doubts allayed, to have been wrong to doubt him in the first place.

A new lighthouse, made of pressure-treated wood has risen from the lawn in recent weeks.

There were fits and starts—I wanted it to look like the old lighthouse and the old lighthouse was an octagon shape. Octagons are hard!

But it grew and developed and came together. I helped a little and gave feedback– invaluable, I’m sure.

We went to buy the red paint and, without consulting one another, both picked the same color.

It was completely and totally wrong.

But now it’s right.

The paint is right, the shape is right, the height is right, the light is right.

The lighthouse is perfect.

I love the symbolism of a lighthouse, that it warns and protects but also signals that civilization, and people, and warmth, and safe harbor, and hope are near.

I love that we have our lighthouse back and that it was made here, at home, by loving hands.

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Our Weaving Ways (Summer 2016)

The weaving continues, con brio.

We’ve made an addition to our pride of looms. It’s big, it’s beautiful, it came from a good friend who’s an excellent weaver—great karma! It’s not the loom’s fault that I feel a little intimidated . . .

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Since I’ve indulged my ego in my most recent show-and-tell, I’ve woven quite a lot.

A bunch of cotton towels like this, with varying bands of varying colors. Many of them have already been given away.

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A set of these towels, heavy on linen, to practice some of the skills I learned at weaving school. You can see one of the handwoven hanging tabs that make me go “squeeee!”

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A blanket and coordinating pillow for a baby girl who was so excited to see the gifts that she came 5 weeks early!

And this set of Monk’s belt towels and a runner—you got a glimpse of these when I cut them off them loom.

My husband, Don, has been weaving, too. He made this pretty runner and has two more huge and gorgeous runners waiting to be hemmed and wet finished.

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He wove part of the baby blanket, too, since it was a gift from us both. He has been spending a lot of time on a big, non-weaving project that I’ll show you soon!

So many projects, so many plans . . .

Did you have a productive summer, doing your favorite things? Have you done your show-and-tell? If so, leave a link in your comment!

For All It Represents

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I love this dresser scarf. Or is it a table runner? Or a doily?

It doesn’t matter what we call it, I love it all the same.

Do I love it because it’s pretty? Not really. I can see why some people would find it lovely but it is not my aesthetic at all. It’s a little too fussy, a little too pretty and flowery and girly, for my taste.

Do I love it because it’s rare and seldom seen? Not at all. This sort of hand embroidered fabric, meant to decorate a dresser top or sideboard, is pretty much, literally, a dime a dozen. In the world of vintage linens, the only items more plentiful are crocheted doilies.

Do I love it because it’s practical? No. It comes from an era where women seem to have felt compelled to cover blank surfaces with “décor.” Antimacassars, doilies, runners, piano scarves—the philosophy seemed to be “let no piece of furniture go naked.” Some of these items had an ostensible purpose—antimacassers on the backs of upholstered furniture, for instance, were designed to keep a popular male hair product—macasser—off the fabric. But, really, most of these items were just meant to look pretty.

I have lots of reasons not to love this runner and yet I do love it.

I love it for what it represents.

  • A woman seeking to beautify her space. Whether this was made by a Yankee, to hold dark winter at bay, or an Okie, facing dust storms or a lonely road west, this woman wrought her own scene of beauty.
  • A woman with enough leisure to time to be able to think about beauty. Whoever did this piece had done enough of the daily chores, the must-dos, to feel justified in taking her leisure on a want-to-do. I’m happy she found that time.
  • A woman who found a way to “be productive” while sitting quietly and beautifying her world. I can relate to this and I know some of you can, too. If you are a person of action and you like to point at what you’ve accomplished, you relish a job of work that can be done while sitting in the shade and allowing your mind to wander.
  • A woman who took pride in something made by her own hands that would So much of women’s daily work was work that was undone—beds made that were unmade each night, clothes washed and dirtied again, meals made and eaten and made again. To embroider something or stitch a quilt was to create a lasting object, something that might, even, outlive the maker.
  • A woman, perhaps denied other ways of asserting her individuality, finding a voice in her handwork. She chose the pattern, the colors, the embellishment. It was unique and it was hers.

This little dresser scarf packs a lot of meaning for me.

I also love it because I saved it.

Those of us who have pets will probably admit that the ones you saved from a grim fate always seem extra special. The stray one, skittish and fearful, the abandoned one, in pain and alone, those pets have our hearts in particular ways.

This runner came in a box of linens found, as usual, under a table and ignored, at a garage sale. The box actually held many pretty and quite exceptional items but, there, at the bottom, was this country cousin of a runner. And it was stained and filthy. It was a stray, unlikely to be noticed or to find a forever home.

I soaked it for hours in three different washes. I progressed from regular washing through my big guns, the Biz and Cascade combo. It was still stained. I did the Biz and Cascade again and added boiling water to my already very hot washing machine. Finally, the stains faded and disappeared. I ironed it carefully and spiffed it up for its glamour shots.

And now the runner is beautiful.

Was it worth the time and energy? It was not, at least not because it was exceptionally lovely or rare or useful.

But, yes, of course, it was worth it! It was worth it because of all it represents, because of the woman who crafted it and all the women like her, and like us, who make our marks by making a mark with thread or yarn or fabric or paint, or any of a multitude of other media.

I won’t keep this little runner—a person can’t adopt every stray and be fair to them all. I’ll show it to friends and see if there is a worthy home among them. At some point if need be, I’ll list it on Etsy in order to match it up with a good home.

One way or another, I’ll find it a place where it’s appreciated for what it is and for all it represents.

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?