Follow Your Star

Tapestry with red and white stripes, stars on a blue fieldDuring this contentious election season, I have taken some solace in contemplating a small tapestry I wove some years ago. It visually sorts out for me some of the multidimensional aspects of our present situation. When I created it, I called it “Follow Your Star”, which seems as appropriate now as it was then.

Not being particularly gifted with creating original designs, I based it on a depiction of a Chinese lattice from a book I have had for many years called Chinese Lattice Designs (a 1974 edition of a 1937 work call A Grammar of Chinese Lattice). I started from the very beginning when I created this. I bought a fleece at the Monterey Wool Show, washed, carded and spun the fleece into yarn, dyed the yarn into various shades of reds and blues, and wove it into this small tapestry. It, like our lives in the U.S., was a journey.

I did not set out to create something patriotic, but rather something universal. Of course, the wavy red and white stripes and multi-sized stars on a blue background evoke an immediate suggestion of America. But the various shades of the reds and the blues suggest the variety in our country. And the stars—some large, some small—travel in varying directions. To me it is a tapestry that embodies both freedom and diversity .

And it started with an idea from the ancient Chinese.

A drawing of lattice work.

Chinese lattice work design

Weather vane with sheep

Finding My Peace

The door always unlocked, my retreat in the garden is where I find my soul. The threads of my life have converged in this small space.

When I was five, my mother taught me to sew. My dolls were always finely attired.

When I was seven, my second cousin taught me to knit. She was attending college to become a physical therapist. One of her assignments was to teach something to someone that they might find challenging. I was selected.

I continued to thread my way through life.

A year after I married, my husband encouraged me to by a small table loom. This led to a larger 4-harness loom and finally to a very large 8-harness loom. At some time a spinning wheel was added to the mix. Our small house teemed with my projects and I jokingly told people we did not live in a house, we lived in a studio. The door to every room revealed traces of my passion.

When we moved in, there was a small shed in the garden. It had originally been used as living quarters while the house, a small weekend retreat, was built by our predecessors. The shed finally succumbed to the elements in the winter of 1999-2000. We decided to have a new shed built. We found plans, hired a new contractor (this was his first job since getting his contractor’s license) and had a nice shed with small attached greenhouse built.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And then it happened. My husband suggested we turn it into a studio. I put up insulation in the stud walls and ceiling and we had the contractor add wallboard and a ceiling fan. I painted it–inside and out–and had shelving installed.

Over the years since, my threads have followed me out to this haven. The view out the door extends beyond our apricot tree to the ridge beyond and the faraway coast when the air is clear. I sew, I spin, I weave. I can hear birds sing, the neighbors dog bark and their horse whinny. Here I can maintain the orderly chaos that comes naturally to me.Studio interior

As I walk through this door–winter and summer, I know peace is possible.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

The Long Summer

The Long Summer: How Climate Changed CivilizationThe Long Summer: How Climate Changed Civilization by Brian M. Fagan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

We are intrinsically enmeshed with the weather.

This book takes us on a trip through the history of the world through the eyes of everyman. It is an amazing journey. It compels us to live with humans starting with the Cro-Magnons of 18,000 years ago as they emerged from their caves to hunt beasts and gather wild berries. We follow our ancestors through the Ice Age, through climate warming and cooling, through droughts and deluges, as they encountered abundance and starvation, as they moved with the changes, developed houses, villages and cities. This is not an imaginary journey. It is documented with astonishing accuracy from ice core samples taken from Greenland to the Antarctic, pollen samples, artifacts, tree rings, isotopes found in bones and teeth, from every facet on scientific study.

The scope of this book does not lend itself to a quick read. A few pages a night left my mind reeling. But I looked forward to continuing this slow trek through time night after night. It has made me more human. The world has been shaped by the weather. And it will continue to be. How will it affect future generations? I would love to arrange for a visit in 1,000 or 10,000 years to see.

View all my reviews

Kedgeree

Time for something a little different from the usual omelet or quiche we have for Sunday brunch. With a couple of family members to join us, I found a recipe in the Breakfast and Brunches from the Academy cookbook that had an Anglo-Indian combination of curry-seasoned rice and smoked salmon. I happened to have some smoked salmon on hand and decided to give it a try. Delicious! Recipe

It also prompted me to remember with fondness my days at the California Academy in 1978 shortly after it opened. It was during its free-wheeling early days and I learned a lot there before we opened our restaurant in Saratoga in 1980.

American Mojo: Lost and Found

American Mojo: Lost and FoundAmerican Mojo: Lost and Found by Peter D. Kiernan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This journey starts at the opposite pole of the political rhetoric besieging us today. It explores every aspect of today’s middle class without partisanship and with a depth of economic insight and education that has left me giddy. Kiernan looks at the whole scene like a visitor from space might view it, focusing on and exploring interactions that have stretched my vision both nationally and internationally and pulled my focus in many directions. His knowledge sometimes made my brain reel. I could only fully digest a few pages a day. But I could not stop reading and I was compelled to pick up where I had left off on the following day. Occasionally his prose overwhelmed his erudition but, like a challenging college course, I found this book both stimulating and fascinating.

International Women’s Day 2016

Double arc rainbowImpossible to choose just one! But I am remembering and honoring three little-known women from many years ago that profoundly affected my family—the three Foss sisters. These three unmarried women lived together in a house in Des Moines, Iowa. Two of them taught at North High School which my mother attended. The third stayed home and “kept house”.

My mother, one of four children, lost her father when she was four. He fell off the roof of a barn he was helping a neighbor build in Pawnee City, Nebraska. My grandmother moved back to Des Moines and lived with her mother, helping her run a boarding house, while she worked full-time as a clerk in an office. There was little money and no chance of any of her children going to college.

The Foss sisters saw promise in my mother. In the 1920s they gave her the money to go away to college. She had three brothers and was the first and only one in her family who received a college education.

A few years later when I was very young, my mother would take me with her to visit the Foss sisters. I can remember sitting on their horsehair sofa and being admonished beforehand to be very, very good.

As a result of this legacy, my mother later in her life was able to fund a scholarship at the college she attended. And now, although my mother is gone, I continue to use her legacy and inheritance to cover the book costs of young women who are finding it financially difficult to afford to attend college. I share the story of the Foss sisters with them.

The Foss sisters have proved to me that Everywoman can make a difference. May their legacy continue to be passed on through many generations to come.