Things (That) Happened

Cleome gone wild! (These were all transplanted volunteers).

I’ve been back from Ragdale for ten jam-packed days. That included a final driven push on an extended massive project, a long, long, long day of captioned jury duty, and then a flurry of other work, which isn’t ending anytime soon (I’m swamped). A great deal of it is good, other bits tedious and time-consuming but highly necessary. There was also another odd medical problem that has now been addressed. It kept me away from computer screens for several days.

I had my follow-up with the orthopedic surgeon who confirmed that the physical therapy is working. My kneecaps are still skewed, but they’ve shifted enough to relieve a great deal of the grinding, pressure and pain, so now I simply continue the exercises.  Also, every pound of body weight equals five pounds of pressure on the knees; I’ve relieved mine of fifty pressure-pounds so far without dieting. I wholeheartedly thank Chef Linda for helping me to drop five at Ragdale, while still feasting! That’s miraculous.

The last days of Ragdale were fantastic, including a long porch talk and bottle of wine with an old friend, something we don’t get to do often. Things did get rearranged a lot in terms of the work I did, but in any case, here’s what happened that I can show you; two more projects are still in progress, to be completed in time to be installed during the upcoming harvest.

I agonized over the colors for these. There is no title yet, though there are several possibilities in the lineup. Below is the viewing sequence:

And again, with a little more detail. There is a simple message embedded:

Below is another heated-floor piece. It is a departure that insisted on being made. Dyed abaca, raw flax, kozo:

It is unfinished in this not-great photo; it’s actually a substrate, a five by four foot piece of paper on which to make two drawings:

You can bid on the piece below tomorrow evening at the Morgan Conservatory‘s annual benefit auction.  It’s made from Iowa /Japanese kozo, the parents of the Morgan kozo patch (and mine). It’s a fully functional raised cord binding, a substrate for your drawings or writings if you want it to be.  Go. Enjoy. Buy some work, and help the Morgan continue its stellar programming.

Wrapping up…

It’s been possibly one of my oddest residencies ever, one with a choppy, disjointed flow, but it’s been a good one nonetheless.  Talking with an old friend about needing to spend residency time to address a sustained barrage of painstaking, time-sensitive outside work helped: she said, “Maybe it’s good that you are here in this peaceful place during this,” and I realized that was true.

 The new project I wanted to do will be finished later, when I return for the harvest. It’s just a tad too early for the plant species I will be gathering and the rainy weather will not permit the project (or the harvest, even if the plants were ready) to happen at this time. And, finally, I stopped trying to ignore a piece that had inserted itself into my consciousness weeks ago, insistent on being made:  after a two-day flurry of testing, dyeing and experimenting, I completed it at one lengthy go, working all day yesterday and into the night (except for two small drawings that will be added after it dries).

The finishing , cleanup, readings and viewings begin today; see you on the other side.

Really, I should blog…

The lower prairie looks like a margarine or laundry soap commercial. Some of these are 15 feet tall!

…but, since I am only having this single residency this year, mostly photos will need to suffice for the rest of my time here. The first group has gone home but one, a new group has arrived but for two, who are coming only for the second week, our last.  We had a fun night and afternoon of viewings and readings for the first group, but at that point I had nothing to show. I had a second week of struggle with leg-related and a few other issues. Though I did get work done in spite of it, it went much slower than I wanted to.  I did not go to a doctor. The ankle improved and I removed the brace, but two days later it annoyed me by starting to swell a bit again. So it’s still wrapped but it is healing.

Yesterday, I reached A Great Age. The Birthday was grand: it was heralded two days before by an absolutely marvelous package from Aimee, containing (among other great things) a lovely hanji scarf which surprised me with its warmth; I will be wearing it this fall (which is on its way).  On the 9th itself, I woke early and got the walk and PT out of the way in time for lunch with Paul, who magically dispelled some of the non-leg struggle by reminding me of a few essential facts (and he brought some good things from home as well). I took a totally delicious short afternoon nap, then finished the penultimate piece in the studio, where I was visited by a large class of architecture students and their professor, and later, by two curious deer.

I SO wish I’d had the presence of mind to photograph dinner!  The ever-fantastic Chef Linda made things I love: her famous mango salsa and savory grilled salmon. She had asked earlier if I wanted a cake, and I declined. So, instead she piled delicious crisp sweet black watermelon cubes into a cut-glass, stemmed serving dish, decorated it with flowering sprigs of mint, and topped it all with a pink sparkly star-topped candle on a skewer…just…perfect (and utterly delicious). Ahhh.

These are (finally) all done now.  So are the second shapes for the piece; tomorrow and Monday, while the last two finish drying, dye tests, experiments, fun…

The milkweed harvest will be huge!  This is only one patch: fat & healthy plants…plus I have a waiting bundle of imported-from-New-England milkweed (Thanks, S).

(Earlier) tonight; and now: goodnight.

(Yes,  I will remember, today, in the prairie teeming with life that existed before us and goes on without us, life that kills only to perpetuate life.)

Oh, I know I should blog…

It’s been an odd, choppy Ragdale beginning week, but it’s beginning to get right.

Here’s how it went: last Friday and Saturday were smooth and hugely productive, with mornings of brisk long walks and physical therapy exercises integrated neatly.  Then Sunday, after exercising first and making a not-great decision to do my fast walk on the trails, about a mile away from the studio, I took a rather spectacular flying fall and felt my ankle pop.  It swelled up enormously and I spent most of the day with it wrapped in ice packs and propped up on pillows, then attended a nice outdoor Ragdale dinner party with board members and guests, with one gigantic ankle dressed up in a lovely brace.

Sunday, immediately after four HOURS of ice & elevation…lower leg was a bit swollen for four days, too…

Monday, still a lot of swelling, so no walk and only truncated exercises, but I made a cast piece with Saturday’s fresh paper & kozo fiber, sitting down. Monday evening, possibly in a delayed reaction, my back went into spasm after dinner, and I spent the evening lying flat on it in a truly foul mood, with a heating pad under me, and the iced ankle up on pillows. Tuesday, the ankle finally looked a bit better and the back spasm had begun to loosen, so I did a gentle, normally-paced walk and all of the exercises except four that require me to stand on one foot, and made a second cast piece while standing, to ease the back. It did, but that meant another evening of iced ankle. Wednesday, a faster walk and the same set of exercises, then back to Chicago for my appointment with the great physical therapist, who was quite concerned about the ankle. Apparently, with the draconian process of an HMO, she can’t even give me advice unless it’s ordered by a doctor, and though she tried, making calls for me, there was no way to get assessed then and there (though my primary doc is in the same complex).  Home to a happy man and dog, where I collected a few more materials and ate dinner while avoiding rush hour, then back to Ragdale and more ice (the only advice the PT was allowed to give) and a late night of writing for an outside project. Thursday: up later, walk, exercises, shower, and then out of sheer frustration, I treated myself to an early birthday present: a massage by an excellent practitioner who visits Ragdale weekly on request (and also does acupuncture). She was fantastic with my legs and back, as well as relaxing me; all I wanted to do after was sleep. But, I had an appointment four towns down the North Shore, and that went very well; you’ll be hearing about it soon. Back just in time for dinner and then an evening of writing and ice. Yesterday: walk, exercises, shower, unmolding the castings only to discover some big problems, a labourious afternoon solving said problems (whew) and making repairs, some work on a second project, off to buy wine, and an after dinner sunset porch party at the studio with my fellow residents.

Now, I’m strapping on the brace and am off to walk, exercise and have a lovely long Saturday making more castings and (finally!) doing some experiments. I’m so used to unscheduled Ragdale time that throughout all this, I’ve been struggling mightily with having routines, with devoting so much time to healing my legs…but I can’t do anything without them!  The ankle is still stiff, slightly swollen, discolored and sore, and if it’s still that way after the long holiday weekend, so be it: I’m resigned to another long trip to the doctor.  Enjoy three days of not-laboring, Yanks with jobs!