After the storm


We recently had a whopper of a gale.  A long night,
then an even longer dark day of sideways rain and rattle-the-rafters wind.
The lull that followed meant only one thing - time for beachcombing - so four-paws and I
headed out to see what we could find.  I wasn't entirely sure there'd even be a shore left.
Predictions had been ominous but living as we do on a tiny rock out in the Pacific Ocean
 we know variables can be extreme island to island.  I needed to see firsthand how our
favorite spot had fared.

Thankfully, it was not so bad really.
Bull kelp was in abundance, having woven itself down the beach in dramatic ropes.  A few
boulders that support the edge of the two lane road had been displaced and
one or two megalithic tree stumps (from Canada perhaps?) had been dredged up & tossed ashore
like toothpicks.

The donations from the sea were plentiful.

I left this red one in place.  Figured a heart rock was better doing its good business under
a big sky, near a Big Puddle, than home with me in my pocket or on my windowsill.

This particular beach is in somewhat protected waters, with San Juan Island directly to 
the east & San Juan Channel in between, so it isn't like beaches that 
face the open ocean where lots of human trash prevails
(I'll pay you five dollars if you can even find a piece of sea glass on this stretch),
but it does hold a motherlode of natural detritus ...
some feathers
and lots of seaweed ... especially during storm season.

And there was our "garbage" to collect and treasure.  Hadn't seen this around
for a whole year - a reddish seaweed that makes lovely rose-colored marks when wrapped in 
cloth (especially silk) if one is game to judiciously watch temperatures in the dyepot.

Worth the whole walk, was that.
Have you ever heard of the British artist, Jo Atherton?
She weaves tapestries with the flotsam from her beaches & other coasts of the world
and tells some very interesting stories ...


Introducing 'Dear Flora' ...


To all of you who visit here
and who may also be on Facebook,
I have recently launched an artist page :

I hope you'll visit me there!
Come have a look-see, maybe take part in the conversations
or just say "Hey"...

What's in a name?
Dear Flora  is my open love letter to the world of plants & my relationship with her ...
and it isn't a name only for Facebook
but one I'll be putting with the things I make as well.

Its flight time.  I need to share this evolution that's so astoundingly
taken my heart by storm.

I think I've been kin to that wrapped up, tied tight, bundle above ....

and yet what I really need to do is let loose some.  Sway with those breezes
that do such fine things with silks when they're out in the open air.

Silk -  strong and soft at the same time.


See you soon.


Riversong :: Being (t)here, again ... with India Flint


I've had trouble writing about my recent time in Scotland.  I've been home
well over two months and I'm still struggling to find words
to explain that place, the people, and what happens for me when I am there.

It's proven difficult to describe how completely that country has stolen my heart.
Yes, the breath-taking scenery is a huge part of the equation, but all told
it is the breath it gives me back that keeps the calling acute.

When the thought first came to return this year and re-enroll in the 'Being (t)here' masterclass
tutored by India Flint and offered at Big Cat Textiles, I wondered
if maybe I was being a bit looney ...
yet in the end I felt I wasn't anywhere near done with spending time by the great River Tay.
So much good came from slowing down there, wandering along her banks with an eye
to detail and a heart set on paying attention.
I knew that although I'd be repeating a workshop I'd just recently taken
there was no way it would be the same.

By the completion of day one I knew this to be fact, for India
had taken what I'd thought was already a perfect course and bumped it up by a couple
dozen notches. This time around was going to be altogether different.

This little bell nudged us to attention innumerable times over the
five days together - I grew very fond of its sound.  Although I wasn't expecting to have
the company of so many pleasant classmates again, just like before these gals
were a splendidly supportive group who shared, inspired, cajoled, laughed
and even splashed about in a great deal of river mud,
all with immense amounts of joy ...

and this time there was also a great deal of singing!

A tidal river seems to me to have its own particular song, rising & retreating
as it does, like clockwork.  Add the voices of women who are happy to be (t)here
and the effect is close to sublime.  I'm not blessed with a singing voice
(those who know me well will know to find me singing in the car)
so I was especially moved by these impromptu choirs taking place
(even in the classroom).
Thank you all for that!

Hear for yourself.
Tracy McConnell-Wood made a lovely three minute video of our group mudlarking
and breaking into song:
Tay Tide Cairns

Newburgh is such a beautiful locale for giving oneself the permission to take time
for personal work.  There are ample opportunities for scenic walking ...

and for me, studying the ways of water ... exploring edges as I like to do.

Looking for ways to translate a notion of distance
or interpret a sensation of walking ...

You are a sage,
a river at its deepest
and most nourishing.
Sit by a river bank some time
and watch attentively as the river
tells you of your life.

~ from Lao Tzu ~

We ebbed and flowed in & out of the classroom not unlike the river's currents.
  Days were intense in meaningful and productive ways: Poetry was read and written,
bundles wrapped & dyed, mark-making explored & discovered, stitching techniques shared,
and all the while India responded to a thousand questions with patience & gentle humor.

We took breaks as we needed them. One of the delights was 'local shopping' ...

Alison & Jeannette, owners of Big Cat Textiles and Hat In The Cat (in Perth),
 look after the students in countless ways and I must admit
one of my favorites is all the lovelies they keep on hand for purchase.
That's the entry hall above which is chock full of vintage linens & clothes, 
baskets of hand-dyed yarn, roving, bits of this & that - everything useful for workshop supply needs
or to bring back home.  Some may have jumped into my suitcase.

There's even more in the adjoining studio ... racks of pre-loved clothing, beautiful finished
knitwear including cowls & socks made from local wool, countless notions
including buttons, trims, threads (many repurposed), even feathers; every kind of embellishment for
textile work that one might imagine.  I discovered last year that the displays can change daily
which makes it quite the dangerous place to wander through.

Sorry, is a wee bit blurry, gals ... sure we were giggling
and I shook the camera.

There they are - the special ladies who look after everyone so well.
Alison (on the left); thank you again for the glorious & nutritious meals;
Netti, thank you again for loaning the dog-less aunties your sweet Jazz
and for the comfy night's sleeps and car taxis ... and ... and ......
To you both: I sincerely appreciate the environment you've created that's so nurturing
and encouraging and filled with both of your good vibes - it doesn't get better than you two!

In the span of a week there were many walks taken down to the river
& ofttimes our dog pal led the way.  I'm quite fond of this image of India & Jazz
having a saunter one evening - one reason is that it shows off the quite incredible apron 
India wore to class.  If I remember correctly, I believe there was a collective gasp
when she first put it on ....

Look at the magnificent detail. 

Such a fascination has grown surrounding this garment, including a general clamoring to learn
the construction techniques, that now a workshop has been formed around it:
The Amuletic Apron
October 8-10, 2016
All the details over on the Big Cat Textile Masterclass Schedule

Student tables were looking more like museum collections by week's end. Some of the found
objects developed deeper meanings after being immortalized in poems or
used as utilitarian drawing tools.  Objects buried in the river scooped up at low tide
became special keepsakes to all of us.

~ student work ~

Perhaps because I'm in my 'older' years now, I'm especially appreciative of a tutor
who guides rather than directs; who presents options & inspiration rather than 
written in stone how-to's.  The voyage of discovery then becomes no one else's but my own.
It's more personal because I've found my own way of stepping through a process,
one that suits my own hands, my own particular way of seeing, and my own heart.
Thank you, India, for that freedom.

So it went.
(t)here on one of my favorite seats in the entire world I whispered a farewell
to the Tay ... "See ya later, my friend."  I always say it that way when I don't want to say "goodbye"...
always to people I'll miss and I guess now, even to rivers.
Then I photographed the lichen patch growing on the wall just off my right shoulder
so I could compare the growth rate from now to when next we meet.

I won't be away for long, Scotland.  You have my heart.


Night and day the river flows.  If time is the mind of space, the
River is the soul of the desert.  Brave boatmen come, they go,
they die, the voyage flows on forever.  We are all canyoneers.
We are all passengers on this little mossy ship, this delicate
dory sailing around the sun that humans call the earth.
Joy, shipmates, joy.

~ Edward Abbey,  The Hidden Canyon - A River Journey ~


So much


There is so much to share, so much I want to tell you
about my recent travels in Scotland ...
about another wonder-filled masterclass at Big Cat Textiles,
tutored by India Flint to a roomful of generous hearted, spirit seeking women ...
about wanders into the wild Scottish landscape
botanizing all along the way ...


I'm not one to summarize quickly.
I need time
to let everything percolate,
time to allow the experience to sink into my bones.

~ Sunset light at low tide, River Tay, Newburgh, Fife ~

So for now I will leave you with a splendid poem from Maya Stein today,
one that captures quite beautifully
some of my feelings spending time along this river again.
Please enjoy.
And I'll be back before too long.

: : :

with summer still in their eyes

The sun was setting earlier than yesterday, and the cows
were uneventful.  The road would bring no more traffic
that evening.  Fifteen miles away, a town rested its tired arms.
The travelers were tired, too.  They cobbled dinner together
from the findings in a country store - iceberg lettuce, baked potatoes,
a wedge of local cheese - then slunk outdoors to catch the final light.
They each felt a scratch at their backs, a new season tapping its nails
against their thin shirts.  They knew this moment couldn't last.
And yet, with summer still in their eyes, they waited until the final rays
disappeared behind the mountains, until the stars arrived, like answers.


Studying the ways of water ...


A few experiments from my last diving session with paper
These entailed using several varieties of watercolor & printmaker's paper;
frozen and fresh gleanings from the garden & hedgerow;
a steam bath, an onion bath, a mixed willow bath
and another that bordered on sage green;
alum pre-mordanting;
iron dipping & not iron dipping,
wrapping around pipes & layering between tiles.

The language of plants on cloth is certainly related to paper.  But not distantly,
like a 3rd cousin of your brother-in-law ... much closer, like siblings
who just don't live in the same state.
Water seems to me to be their shared vehicle
and I find it utterly fascinating how the exact same leaves can print
one way on cloth and another way altogether on paper.

: : :

"You don't have to be fully formed to get started on your work.  If that were true no one would ever start anything. But we live in a society were everyone wants to be a superstar and often find it difficult to be a beginner.  Think of all the great people and of their amazing journeys to reach the tops of their profession.  They were beginners who took action."

An inspiring quote by Terry Jarrard-Dimond
from her blog post,  Act On Your Ideas


Seeing thru paper


When the Lopez Island natural dyers gathered for this season's planning meeting
[ however wine-laden or deliciously food-laden the "meeting" may have been ]
there was a unanimous & resounding desire to next delve into experimentation
with paper.

We meet tomorrow for what we are calling
our 'Paper Dyeing Extravaganza'

I've got loads of prepping to do but as I sat at the computer this morning
looking over my past - and very few - experiences with this material,
I came across a bunch of Diana Photo app composites I'd made a while back.
They provided a bit of inspiration.

Admittedly, I feel awkward & hesitant with paper ...
while cloth feels familiar & welcoming, with paper I'm standoff-ish.
I love its qualities but I don't know or  understand  its workings yet.

Well, we all know the only way to get over that.


Then keep swimming 
& let nature work her very particular magic.


Found while walking


It's possible to determine the seasons here
by what is washing up on the beach.  The tides
bring oyster shells in early summer,
multitudes of itty bitty crabs
and the particular seaweed that prints red on cloth.
Driftwood is plentiful
bleaching & cracking like rough skin in the sunshine.

It's heaven for the dogs.  Quinn is exuberant over her stick-chasing swims
while Isla is content to quietly sniff every log
up and down the shoreline for as long and as far as you'll let her.
Simple pleasures
enjoyed while I beach comb.

A lovely poem flew into my mailbox this morning from American Life in Poetry.
Although referencing the other coast, there's a truth here
to be found on all of them ... and within all of us.
I thought you might enjoy it.

It’d been a long winter, rags of snow hanging on; then, at the end
of April, an icy nor’easter, powerful as a hurricane. But now 
I’ve landed on the coast of Maine, visiting a friend who lives
two blocks from the ocean, and I can’t believe my luck, 
out this mild morning, race-walking along the strand. 
Every dog within fifty miles is off-leash, running 
for the sheer dopey joy of it. No one’s in the water,
but walkers and shellers leave their tracks on the hardpack. 
The flat sand shines as if varnished in a painting. Underfoot, 
strewn, are broken bits and pieces, deep indigo mussels, whorls
of whelk, chips of purple and white wampum, hinges of quahog, 
fragments of sand dollars. Nothing whole, everything 
broken, washed up here, stranded. The light pours down, a rinse 
of lemon on a cold plate. All of us, broken, some way 
or other. All of us dazzling in the brilliant slanting light.

 : : :
photo processing notes:
images shot with iPhone
double exposure created with Diana Photo app
edited on an iPad with Snapseed & Stackables apps
copyright added online with PicMonkey

: : :
... and if you've ever dreamed about walking the entire coastline of the UK
have a peek over on Ruth's Coastal Walk blog.
She's just been to Rhossili Beach
and you will not believe the unspoiled beauty ....