Monthly Archives: November 2013

Giving Thanks

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            It always arrives in the heart of November, always comes at a time when we are saying goodbye to the riches of summer and are watching the trees lose the last of their color in preparation for winter.

This year, a year that came with fistfuls of both joy and sorrow, it seems fitting that I ponder the meaning of Thanksgiving.

So, first, I am thankful for family. Family is the bedrock of my life, a source of present joy and future hopes. Not only a comfort and a source of humor and surprise, it is also a keeper of those memories that will last far into the days to come.

Next and very important, are friends. Being an only child, I suspect that I have always yearned for siblings—and in my dearest friends I have found them: friends who are so close to mind and heart that we know each other to the bones; friends who can be called upon in the dead of night in times of need; kindred spirits with whom I can laugh and talk and debate and enjoy the moment to its fullest. Also there are those friends of whom I stand a little in awe—people I admire and appreciate for all the wonderful qualities I wish I had.

Then—wonderful and everywhere is the natural world. Sunrise and sunset, ocean and mountain, moonrise and the great mysteries of space—I give thanks for them all just as I am grateful for each season; spring with its promise of life, exuberant summer, the glories of fall, and the sleepy silence of winter that restores the heart.

Those new buds of spring

Waiting for warmth to open…

The earth is reborn.

But wait—that’s not all.  I am really thankful for the natural world’s unsung heroes. Earthworms for instance, those wriggly, rubbery things that are on top of the  robins’ menu are really superheroes, for they enrich the soil from which all good things grow. I feel (a qualified) gratitude for the caterpillars that devour my parsley because what would we do in a world without butterflies?  I love those cheery crickets that chirp in the autumn and, yes, even the noisy cicadas, because they make the most of their days in the sun and remind me to do the same. And mosquitoes—no, here I draw the line. There are limits to my gratitude.

Most of all I am very thankful for life. As each day of each month of each year passes, the gift of life becomes more precious. So, in this season of giving thanks, I raise my glass high and cry, much as Tevye did in Fiddler On the Roof… To life!

On this festive day

Watching trees bend and dance

And dancing with them.

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Goodbye To An Old Friend

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We are away from home when I get the news.

We have been friends for forty five years, and now in a blur of words on my computer screen, I learn that she has gone. I will never hear her voice again on the phone, never hug her or see her smile. All that, gone.

There are words for the survivors of a death in the family, words that carry the weight of bereavement and loss. For a friend, loved and mourned and missed, there is no formal word to recognize these emotions.

I think about this while I stare at the computer screen. I’m notorious for never having my cell handy or even on, so my friends—all from the same Book Club that has been a strong bond for all those forty years and more—have tracked me down this way. They grieve, too, but they are together up North and have each other, while I am here with my memories.

We were young when we met, strangers, mothers of small children. We were searching for ways to connect to other women through a love of books. Our Book Ckub became a tight knit group, a supportive and caring sisterhood, and friendships grew and flourished.

Forty plus years hold many memories. In the kaleidoscope of hindsight, scenes shift and blur in my mind. I watch babes in arms and see them grew.  I watch again as our group experiences widowhood and marriage and death—laughter and tears that coalesce into a deeper appreciation of each other. Then the memories narrow to us two, my Friend and I with our youngsters at the lake, talking and laughing with the golden sun bright around us.

We watched each other’s children; we met and liked each other’s mothers; we commiserated with problems and laughed at the absurdities of adolescent teens. And we applauded those teens going away to college and beginning their careers.

In forty five years the world has changed and changed again, and we perforce have changed with it. My Friend did not have an easy life, and the hand dealt to her was challenging. In tandem with other problems, ill health dogged her but she faced  that down. In fact, she overcame everything with determination and raw courage. She had a valiant heart and never acknowledged the word ‘defeat.’ And she never lost her smile.

My Friend—how I miss her, writing this.

In due course, our lives shifted. Mike and I moved to North Carolina while she and the rest of my (still ongoing, still much loved) Book Club remained in Massachusetts. Even so, we remained close. We visited. We talked. We laughed. She rejoiced with me  when my boys were married, and she and her husband flew down south for one day to celebrate our golden wedding anniversary with us. And oh, when her son and daughter took their separate marriage vows,  such high jinks! I can still see my sisters of Book Club, holding hands and singing together, all of us happy and full the exuberance of being alive.

Then came grandchildren. My Friend was the quintessential grandmother, basking in those bright new lives as though they were her sun, moon and stars. But, always physically  frail, she grew more fragile still. The last time I saw her was when Mike and I traveled up North this September. She was so thin, but when she smiled, she was radiant. And  as we hugged each other she whispered, “It’s good to have you back again.”

Neither of us were in that moment the young, energetic strangers who had met almost half a century ago, for we had  both been tested and honed and shaped by the passing years. We were both much older, and our youthful dreams had been altered by life and circumstance. But I believe that what was most important was not what we were but what we had become;  two dear friends bound together by memories and realities and an abiding affection.

No blood tie links us together, so there is no formal word for the sorrow I feel. No, no blood line binds us as I say goodbye to you, my Friend—only the lines that lead to the heart.

Homecoming

Homecoming

Grandparents in Mouseland

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“The most exciting thing that ever happened to me,” our guide relates as we sit on a wooden terrace enjoying what’s termed as a ‘light African snack,’ “was having a rhino charge  at our truck at full speed and smash up against the front dash.”

It is a warm, breezy morning in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and Mike and I have signed up (and paid extra) for a 3-hour VIP tour of this newest of Disney attractions. The Wild African Trek has had us up before dawn and in what can only be called battle gear by nine o’clock. Since then we have climbed forested paths, looked over cliffsides to watch a pod of  hippos snacking, and  crossed a swaying, gap-floored rope bridge over a half dozen (very) large crocodiles lying open-jawed in the sun.

“It was raining like mad,” our guide is saying, “and I guess the rhino thought we were poaching on his preserves.” What happened? We asked. “He stopped, we stopped, and he just walked off,” he grins. “If you are ever chased by a rhino, just stop. He figures what to do next by what YOU do. If he thinks you are not a threat, he will lose interest.”

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When we first told our friends that we were going to visit Disney World without our grandchildren, their reaction was to stare at us. “You’re kidding,” our friends exclaimed. “Disney has to be seen through a kid’s eyes.”

For many of the theme parks, this is true. Yesterday we wandered through the MagicKingdom and boarded a fast track pass to the Pirates Of the Caribbean whilst listening to the squeals of happy toddlers. Later, in an unseasonable cold evening, we ate at a restaurant where Pooh Bear and Eyore (my favorite character) came up to hug us and take photos with us. It was fun—but nostalgic fun, harkening back to days when we brought our own sons  to Mouseland some thirty five years ago.  Even when we caught our breath to see Cinderella’s Castle glowing  against the dark sky in winter silver and palest mauve, we were still caught up in yesteryear’s dream.

But the Animal Kingdom, though its rides and thrills are for youngsters, has an aura of its own. Today we have watched animals great and small both in their native habitats and free in those habitats. Giraffes, elegant and poised with their so-long necks and gentle faces, walk across the road without harm or hindrance; cheetahs lie carelessly asleep in the sun by the roadside, and a trio of rhinos feed peacefully in another corner of the vast savannah. And of course there were zebras as well.

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“Do you know,” says our guide, “that zebra mothers, when they are about to give birth, will make sure that all other zebras stay at least half a mile away? Then, when the baby comes, she will look deeply into the eyes of her newborn. That way, she imprints on it. Zebras look very much alike, you see.”

We have heard a wealth of information today, and we have seen species that are being lost as we speak in the wild. We have watched beautiful animals that have been poached or hunted until nearly extinct. We have heard about cheetahs being saved by dogs. Cheetahs, our guide tells us, were considered predators by African farmers because they fed on their herds. To counter this, Andalusian Shepherd dogs were imported to watch and round up flocks. The big dogs scared away the cheetahs and so– “It was a win-win situation and dogs saved cats from being killed off!”

We have finished our gourmet African snacks and spend a few more minutes watching a baby giraffe playing in the sun. Then we are off  again, on a truck this time, to watch elephants grazing. Elephants, we are told, are sometimes destructive because of their size. They are discouraged from marauding by—of all things—bees! “Elephants are really scared of bees. Maybe it’s because of their  ears or trunks. Bee hives help farmers by giving honey, too,” our guide remarks as the big elephant tosses dust over its great gray flank.

By the time we are finished with our morning’s adventure, we are tired and happy and wiser than we were before. For though this enormous expanse is given to fun and pleasure, it is also a place for thought and contemplation of the environment, of the richness of our planet, and of our place in that vast and forever turning circle of life.

“We don’t say goodbye, in Swahili,” we are told as we thank our guides. “We say kwaheri, which means, ‘go well.’”

Indeed.

 

Autumn’s Treasury

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I should have brought my camera today but didn’t. Words—inadequate as they are—will have to do. Not that any words, or any paint or fabric or even the catch-all lens of the camera could do justice to autumn color.

The color is at its peak, now. We are at that fragile moment when the trees are ready to display their incandescent loveliness. A wind, a rain, an hour, even—and the moment will be gone. Already, the sidewalks are littered with fallen leaves.

The sun shines behind the Japanese maple this morning, and I have to stop and look and look again and try to remember each detail. The reds in the south don’t achieve the heart-stopping scarlet that is found in northern states, but this Japanese maple surpasses anything I have seen. The sun picks out every spectrum of red—crimson, scarlet, burgundy, orange and even pink. There is the fire of rubies in these leaves and the deeper garnet shades; there is the hot blaze of firelight and the smolder of embers.

I find it hard to move on, but around the corner there are other autumn wonders. Here is a magnolia blooming cheerfully out of season, a carefree, creamy blossom framed by stiff leaves that run from green to shadowed ebony. There are roses, too, insouciant and heedless of cold nights, and a scatter of chrysanthemums that refuse to give up.

How can anyone hope to capture, never mind hold, all that this day offers? It would be wonderful if, on a cold and drear winter afternoon, I could pull out a memory and see it unfold like a panorama. Red, green, cream—and wait—here are a few trees that have not quite decided what to be. Their leaves are a mixture of oranges, yellows, reds and greens. They are taking their time about it, and I have a special empathy for them. Indecision is something I know all about!

And now I come to my favorite spot—a stop under the big tree with the yellow leaves. When I stand under this tree, I am enveloped in gold—a gold that gladdens both heart and senses. Perhaps this tree is the reason I use so much yellow in my own work—there is something about this color that conveys warmth and happiness.

Tomorrow or even later today all this may be on the wane. Leaves will fall, leaving their branches stark and bare. But even those denuded trees will have beauty, a spare elegance of line and form, and that will sustain me through the winter. Today, though, there is the treasury of autumn.

When the cold wind blows

I will remember this day

And be glad again.

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Merging a blog spot and a website…

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Yes, friends, it has been done. In the interest of consolidation, I, the greatest techno-duffer in history, have watched amazed as my two sites merged into one! People who visit my website will now be directed to my blog post—which will have the appropriate links to art, writing, and to other links. At least, this is the theory.

You are right in assuming that all this was not my doing. My talented daughter in law, Lynn, masterminded the entire operation… set it up… and then left the rest in my quaking hands. “It’s not going to be hard,” she comforted me as I stared at her like a deer in the headlights. “Just play with it and know that whatever mistakes you make can be erased!”

Perhaps ‘play’ isn’t the appropriate word. My path to techno-savvy has had many pitfalls. When I first set up my ‘Art’ link, I somehow published two identical sets of images. When I tried to correct this (i.e. delete one set of images), the computer instead made enormous images of the second set appear on the virtual page. I can swear that the beastly thing was laughing at me!  It took half an hour to finally delete and save the changes—after which I exited so quickly that the keyboard quivered.

That I have (and will) make mistakes is a given. “It will take time,” I have been told—which is an understatement if I ever heard one. So, friends who visit my new blog/website, be warned that all is not perfect but that I am working on it.

I have to admit that in comparison to working with technical matters, creating art is easy. For a piece of fiber art I need only to choose a background fabric and throw it on the floor then add and subtract suitable fabric. When all has been appliquéd to my satisfaction, I can add fine lines that will be machine embroidered! Certainly all this takes lots of time and energy, but it’s fun. Working with fabric has never made me grind my teeth or want to swear in ten different languages.

Let me introduce you to ‘Lovers,’ my latest creation. What, you don’t believe that trees can be star-crossed lovers, separated forever by an unforgiving stream? Trees are strong, ancient and wise beings who have seen humankind come and go underneath their branches. So, yes, “Lovers”—and here you can see that I am adding those fine lines to a soon to be finished work!

"Lovers"
“Lovers”

This part is really the icing on the creative cake. Much as a manuscript’s fourth draft is easy on a writer’s eyes, adding the final touches really makes a piece of art personal. Would that it were so with technical matters! And, speaking of that, it’s time to grit my teeth and  ‘play’ with my blog/web site again!

I have pressed a key

But the image disappeared!

Time to gnash my teeth!

Lovers

Lovers