Saturday, November 28, 2009

Soup and Socks Already!

Thanksgiving went over just fine, with HS arriving complete with appetizers, desserts and goodwill, and I did the main course, very trad turkey,gravy, cranberry sauce (always try to get NJ cranberries in loyal support of our cranberry farmers) squash, baked potatoes, corn, mushrooms. Red wine, white wine, ginger ale, fake beer for them as can't do alcohol because of medical conditions. I use just a turkey breast now, which is terrific. It looks nice on the dish, easy to carve, and lasts long enough to enjoy but not get us all bored with turkey.

Today we're already down to turkey/barley/bean soup, made with homemade turkey broth, and some chunks of turkey in the broth. Just enough left over for a couple of sandwiches, and the thankfulness can be discontinued after that. HS is expected over for lunch so he'll be hugely amused at the rapid disappearance of the Tgiving turkey, a big chunk of which went home with him to cook into something exotic, I think jamabalaya or something furrin like that...

I remembered everything for the table, most unusual for me, since there's usually a forlorn little dish of mushrooms or onions or something waiting in vain to go to the ball, and discovered the next day....but I forgot to light the fire!!!! log already set up, everything ready, but the mild weather put it out of my head.

This is the first Tgiving we've had where HS was in a wheelchair, so not able to do like last year. But we pressed furniture into service as serving buffets, had all the meal at the table instead of different areas as we used to, and it went just fine. Including my falling dead asleep sitting up later in the afternoon, from the turkey...

And since I had to sit down and rest now and then from all this frantic cooking stuff, I turned out a pair of fingerless gloves for HS, which HP models here for your viewing pleasure,

and got the first of a pair of socks made, spiral design which I love, and fancy toe in same self striping yarn as the gloves.

The blue wool is perfectly beautiful gift merino, enough for a pair of socks and I added the toe touch! with huge thanks to the giver, generous lady in Montreal, she knows who she is!

This spiral design is very pleasing to them as likes math, since it's an even number of stitch pattern executed on an odd number of stitches, thus: knit 6, purl 2. Forever and ever or unless your blue yarn runs out...and because you've cast on 57 stitches (size 3 needles, dpns, and I've used size 2 for snugger socks for someone with smaller feet than mine) what happens is that the purls fall in an ascending spiral, very pleasing, and very easy to work without the pattern once established.

And the spiral means that you don't shape a heel, since it shapes itself to your personal foot after a wearing or two, so you just knit and knit until you fancy stopping. Well, there are decreases to do at the toe part, and the spiral stops short of your toes, so that you have a comfortable smooth finish there. But that's all there is to it. So here are the gloves and the solitary sock, whose mate will be along in a day or so.

Meanwhile, here are a few things I'm thankful for: that we all made it to another Thanksgiving, that we had many lovely greetings from friends over the holiday, including hilarious electronic cards which we played over and over like kids, that we were warm and fed and housed, that I had enough yarn to satisfy my urgent need to knit....and several thousand other things, too.

Life is good!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Blogversary Number One! Happy Birthday, Field and Fen!

It's the first birthday of this blog, hard to believe, but there you are.

I originally started it as a celebration of the blogosphere and my entering into a new decade, and found as HP's health crisis developed, it became a wonderful transmission area for news to friends all over the place of one of the most difficult years in the life of the Adams clan.

It's worked to give me support I hadn't even dreamed of back then, and I am so glad for it.

But it's also been a big part of my art life, both as a visual artist and as a writer, and much more modestly, heh, as a musician (amateur music player, just about adequate).

I was out walking the Preserve yesterday, so I thought I'd give you a few pix. The steps lead down from one trail to another, and they're very steep-looking, no railings, designed by a tall man, I think -- too broad for me to go in one step, not broad enough to fit two steps onto, so they're hazardous.

But once you get down and look back, it doesn't look so hard at all.

Which struck me as an amazing metaphor for the last year, all in all! looked easier than it was to live, but we survived.

And the bench overlooks the lake at the preserve, at the top of the steps. I love to draw benches and chairs, very eloquent statements, particularly in late afternoon light.

And there was a great sunset over the supermarket (sounds like a Randall Jarrell title) so I thought I'd throw that in, too, for your viewing pleasure.

What do you think is an appropriate celebration for the one year annie of a blog? has that been defined yet, I wonder?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Shapes, relationships and edges

My recent thinking about the labyrinth led to a few other thoughts about art and our relationships with shapes, edges, where the real art lies. For me it's not in color, which comes a distant third in importance to shapes,their relationships to each other and to the viewer, and their underlying significance as objects. It's certainly not in making pictures of stuff!

Some of the real joy of art lies in tiny intersections, and as you create the work, there's a stab of out of body insight, in small movements. Like the place where you push down the last thread you just wove in a tapestry, that movement of the fingers and the hugely satisfying covering of the warp in an elegant, unforced kind of way.

Or when you tape around the edges of a paper before drawing or painting on it, so that you deliberately let the work travel over the tape, then after the work is finished, remove the tape to see that wonderful sharp edge where art meets white all around the edges. Just removing the tape is an experience. Seeing how your work now isolates itself from the world and has left your hands.

Or when you make paper, and when it has dried, slide your fingers under the edges to lift it from the support, gently moving under it until it responds to your touch like an animal.

Or when you use water to mold your paper over a form, spraying so that the jet of water becomes your pencil.

Or when you play an instrument and just for a moment, achieve a note that is pure and lovely and has a life of its own, riding on your breath.

Or when you write a sentence that really says what you meant it to, with the rhythm, vocabulary, and cadence that work just right for it.

So often these joyful moments come without apparent effort, and certainly without putting thought into it. It's when you surrender to the materials and let them work, that's where art is, and if you're lucky it comes to you now and then, if only for a moment.

One of the most inspired gifts I ever had is the CD of Sting, thank you, S., In the Labyrinth, which is songs mostly of John Dowland, very different from Sting's usual musical vocabulary. I am much more familiar with Dowland than with Sting, but when he departed from Dowland, to sing an eighteenth century piece, "Have you seen the bright lily grow", he established himself forever in my respect for his musical skills.

On the word "grow" there's an ascending scale which is truly HARD to sing accurately, just very demanding,and I've sung that song many times, with varying degrees of success, mostly unsuccess. He sings it and with the greatest of ease renders that phrase, entirely, beautifully. So I know he knows how to sing. He knows exactly what the instrument of the voice is and how to use it and make it sound easy.

Same with the Mamas and the Paps, those ancient rock legends, whose music is still good, and that's because there are a lot of quotations in it from medieval and renaissance works. John Phillips, I guess, was the writer of a lot of it. Very intelligent musical underpinning, no wonder it's wonderful. If you play medieval and Renaissance music, which I do, you recognize the licks in songs like California Dreamin.

So there's my high flown musings for the day. To be followed by the strictly functional: I'm wearing my latest knitted goods, my new MaryJane slippers, knitted, but with crocheted straps (which I crocheted on while wearing the slippers to make sure they fitted! looked pretty comical). They are almost as hard to make as creating a PBJ sandwich.

I can't get real MaryJanes that fit my bumpy old feet, so I had to make slippers instead.

And you can see the latest joy of tapestry, using mostly my handspun dyed with KoolAid, as I work toward the end of the second panel.

Looking forward to the third, when I will be into the blue, purple, black range. At least that's the plan.

But the piece itself might lead me in some other direction.

However, this being a two-way blogstravaganza, post here the sort of little joys you get, doesn't have to be from art, just from any part of your life. Those tiny things that color the rest of your life and make it a better place to be.

Please share! that would be fun. A lot of people do email me, which I appreciate hugely, and it would be nice to open your comments up a bit to the world, if you'd like to. Just click under here where it says comments, and a posting box will come up. If you can't fathom the ID stuff, just check anonymous (you can put your name in the body of the post, though, so we know who's talking) and go from there. Thanks!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Walking the labyrinth for R. and J Jr.

Yesterday, after many attempts, foiled by weather or lack of respite person to let me get out for long enough, I finally made it to the labyrinth. The combination of weather that was at least not lashing rain, the nor'easter having moved off to sea, and business to transact in that area, and HS being over for the afternoon, enabled me finally to walk the labyrinth for friends R. and J. Jr, who are dealing with difficult health problems.

I walk the labyrinth for other people, feeling that it's not quite right to just do it for my own benefit, but I expect I get a benefit anyway. But it's a matter of putting their issues front and center and finding out what I can do to help, or at least ask the universe to swoop in and help.

What I do is start with the issue or problem, mentally put into words, then a pause looking across the labyrinth, before I look down at my own feet and start the walk, very slowly, never looking further ahead than my own toes moving slowly on the paths.

The thing about walking the labyrinth is that suddenly every thought and movement and sight is suddenly charged with significance.

On the way to the center, it's anxiety and indecision, particularly yesterday, when blowing leaves obscured the white stones that show you the path to take, and I think I probably went a bit wrong once or twice.

At the entrance I found a big leaf, beautiful colors, which I carried around not knowing why, until half way around I realized, oh, this is a stand in for R., she's walking with me in a sense. And the anxiety about getting lost in a labyrinth not more than thirty feet across is more about trying to get everything just right, when really it's not necessary, and not even possible at times. Just seeing as far as each foot goes will get you there.

And on the walk there were late bees and wasps, a ladybug, little shoots of celandine, purslane, chickweed, signs of life all around among the fallen leaves.

At the center where you pause at the four tree stumps that signify the four points of the compass, and where there's a container to put your thoughts and your symbol, I put in the leaf, and took a picture.

Usually I would not do photography, but I wanted to share this walk with the friends I did it for, and I'm pretty sure that's a good motive for introducing high tech into an ancient ritual.

Coming back from the center I always notice my breathing is quieter, my anxieties over with, life more within my grasp. And that's what I hope for the people in my mind as I walk. The prayer flags are Tibetan and fly all the time, sending our thoughts and wishes out to the world and beyond.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Machines ancient and modern

Today is a day of contrasts, since out front they are milling the street.

This means one massive exciting machine is trundling along eating up the blacktop and shooting it out in a stream of digested material onto the back of a truck

which then drives it who knows where and chucks it somewhere. Now and then a third massive vehicle dodges between them in this narrow roadway outside out house and scoops up what the others have dropped, butterfingers.

All this arouses the little kid in me (and in HP, who was thrilled when I ran out in the middle of cooking, took pix to show him and now share with you, the blogiverse), and even though it smells awful and the racket is like hell returned, it's still kind of fun.

Even though the dentist can't attend HP this week as planned because it's too far to carry his gear from the nearest parking spot he might find, and it's too hard for my art friend to visit and make art with me as hoped, same reason. But this too shall pass.

Then tonight, for the ancient part of the equation, is Princeton Recorder Society's monthly meeting, and I show you pic I took of last month's meeting, with a wonderful conductor, not only a fabulously beautiful woman, very medieval in effect, with red hair, black tunic and tights, boots, but a truly great musician, played Carnegie Hall this year, did a European tour, and in the middle of it all gave birth. And she doesn't even look tired.

The instruments we play, mostly recorders, with a few viols, date back centuries in design, though most of us play very modern Yamaha (not motorbikes, recorders) in very well made plastic, which give true tones, very dependably, wonderful to play. I also have a lovely numbered wood soprano which I treasure, bought from the widower of a player, and I play it to honor her as much as to enjoy it.

I'm including a picture of my own family of instruments, ranging from the smallest one, the sopranino, high up in the bat range (you hear this imitating the flute in the Magic Flute, in that bird song, Papagena, maybe), all the way up to the bass, big enough that it needs that neck strap to hold the weight off the player's hands.

Also in the picture is the silver flute, among her friends (!) and a wooden folk flute from Asia sent by a friend, plus a flat reedy sort of instrument that you buzz with your lips, which I can do for about five seconds before my face sort of vibrates by itself. The wood soprano is being guarded by the bass...

The stand that three of them are on is a handy way of having them at hand to pick up when needed, since in ensembles you routinely switch from instrument to instrument for variety and depending on what the piece needs. And no group appreciates waiting whle a player paws through a bagful of instruments in search of the parts then has to assemble the pieces! all these instruments are in three pieces which you assemble for playing, and it's nice that each has a foot joint that can shift to accommodate your own personal fingers, my little finger being very short I need to shift the joint on all my instruments to fit it.

The viol, which I don't play, though when I see the music with the pencilled markings for bowings, makes me look back nostalgically at violin playing before my body threatened to quit on me if I didn't switch instruments, is an old stringed instrument. You see them in medieval and Renaissance paintings, usually played by angels, and it needs an angel to make them sound really good. They are very temperamental instruments, go out of tune if you look at them wrong, but their devotees don't care, they still love them.

The viol joke is that the Renaissance took three centuries, but it could all have been fitted into one century if they hadn't had to keep stopping to tune the viols...

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Cut, sew, knit, weave up a storm

The last couple of days have been knitting, weaving, cutting, stitching central around here.

First, to pass on a neat idea: remember the legwarmer notion that HS suggested for HP? and I thought sweater sleeves would do it? I had a better idea! which I have put into effect and pass on to you: cut off the legs of sweatpants, finish the cut edges, and use the legs as legwarmers and the top part as shorts. Wallah, as they say in those misguided DIY shows, legwarmers AND shorts, AND the catheter is accessible. He's very pleased with the first set which he is now wearing, and there are no draughts behind his legs now.

The thing about wheelchairs is that you can cover the top of the person, but it's very hard to stop draughts from getting behind their legs, the logistics of lowering a person into a chair being incompatible with having nice rugs behind there, largely because there's no traction to keep the person in the chair. HP can not support himself sitting upright, and would slide right down and out of the chair if he were not seated firmly on the official cushions ordered up by the medical people.

Our neighbors and local police force, saints in uniform, who have lifted him up off the floor and back into his chair before he had the approved wheelchair, will attest to this. And even a 140 lb paralyzed man, HP is small, is a dead weight, and it takes at least two people to do it. This was in pre-Hoyer lift days. So all this is part of the equation.

The reason I share info like this is in case any of you dear blogreaders, should need to pass it on for the benefit of other people, you never know, and it could save a lot of grief in someone else's life.

On to other creative endeavors: I'm halfway up panel two of the tapestry, and show you a picture here. Once again, it seems that stuff is appearing that I didn't actually consciously put there! this always happens, and it's a great surprise usually. I notice buildings in there now, in late afternoon reddish light. I show you the first panel to see the echoes in the design, intentional, and the contrast in color choices, also intentional. Interesting mix of conscious and subconscious.

The third panel, already warped, will be in the blue/purple/black range, so that a kind of vertical landscape will appear. At least that's the current thinking. I simply never know if that will in fact happen. This work looks ragged right now, because it's still on the loom, with the stay laces at the sides, and has yet to be removed and blocked and kind of neatened up and finished off, so you're seeing it in its raw state, but I think that's interesting.

And lastly, when I lose my art mojo, this kind of freeform tapestry being very tiring to work on, because of all the decision making every minute or so, exactly like painting, I have a nice bit of knitting on the needles.

It's a feather and fan lace pattern scarf, which will probably go to some person as a Christmas gift, since I certainly have enough scarves, and would like to give this one. Not sure of the destination yet, but it's fun to make. I cast this on a couple of days ago.

It's an old old lace tradition, used in the Shetlands and elsewhere, with a lot of variations. Known also as shell stitch, and as shale, reference I think to the wave shapes left on the sand by the receding tide, which Shetlanders certainly knew all about.

So that's us! Happy Saturday, tout le monde!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

War and Peace

So the HOA, Homeowners' Association, has decided in its wisdom to replace all our sidewalks and parking lot surfaces. Okay, except that you have to kind of vaporize your car for several days, no parking available, no parking on all the surrounding roads, by law. Hm. Anyway, out front it's all Men at Work, making war on the street as they break up the old belgian block and sidewalk.

View from front door, man at work.

So my walk had to start from the patio door, the front door not being accessible to anywhere I could walk without dodging heavy equipment, and my neighbor's peace roses on her patio fence were still blooming away.

They smell fruity in a way, not very scented, but beautiful and a nice treat that we are still getting flowers galore, not having had a killing frost yet, just a couple of cool nights.

As usual, I take pix while I'm out walking, to show HP when I get home, since he likes to see what's up out there. So you can share, too.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Pizza today

The sure sign of a good home made pizza is -- no leftovers.

In case you fancy trying this at home, I used: Tibetan flatbread for the base. I cooked this completely -- it's easy, really easy, like about as complicated as making a sandwich, see it via Google -- because last time I tried this I thought if I partly cooked it then finished it in the oven with the toppings, that would work. It didn't really, because I had failed to realize that no home oven gets as hot as a pizza oven in a restaurant.

Anyway, this time I cooked it completely, this is done on top of the stove, while I made the toppings -- sliced black olives, sliced white mushrooms, sauteed in butter and olive oil until all the liquid was gone and they smelled wonderful, the sauce made of homemade basil/parsley pesto, made from home grown plants, I have to brag here, cut with some tomato paste and a bit of ketchup, warmed together to make a spreadable sauce, handful of shredded Mozzarella cheese.

On top of the bread came the sauce, then the olives then the mushrooms, then the cheese. Into a 450 oven, until it all looked good, then I whipped it out and served it. All gone in no time at all. Very good indeed. I will have to make two of these if HS wants lunch with us, because he would need some, too....

And the prep work, which was a lengthier affair than I expected, was okay, too, since the extra olives and mushrooms, cleaned and sliced, are now in the freezer for the next time I get inspired to make a pizza.

Very satisfying to make and to eat.

All this fuss about lunch, I ask you. It all goes to prove that deep down I'm shallow!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Tea Ceremony!

Thanks to a wonderful internet friend who found that the Lapsang Souchong tea she bought and found she doesn't like much, is in fact HP's total favorite of all teas, and promptly shipped it to him together with some other wonderful thoughts and gifts, you see here the results!

HS took portraits of the Parental Units officially throwing out the first cup. Couldn't get both of us ready at once, so one shows a cheerful one and a puzzled one, and the next is the opposite, so I am posting the set.

For him: Lapsang with a small spoonful of sugar. For her: black and fruit tea, new experience, and very good it was. HP was ecstatic at being reunited with his favorite tea which I have not been able to find in years. And HS was presented with some once we found that he, the good cook, uses Lapsang dry leaves in the special rub he has invented, to give the smoky flavor.

Note the handknit afghan on HP, and the newly renovated jacket on BP (Beautiful Partner, that's me, not conceited, not at all...). The afghan is a big favorite of Burmese kitty Marigold, who insists on sitting on it at all times. This can be a bit complicated with HP is trying to eat lunch, with a cat between him and his plate..

White Rabbits, it's November!