after little adjustments

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I’ve been working away in both studios on a few projects. One of them had been quite troublesome, entirely due to my own over-thinking, something I happily but  exasperatedly discovered when I finally just gave up and dove in. The solution was far simpler than I had anticipated.   All those years and years of advising, of urging so many people into to action / experimentation to overcome that very mind-trap: how is it possible that I sometimes still fall into it myself?

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There was also a bit of an odd battle simply trying to make myself be in the studio this week, something else I should have remembered from the faculty years (particularly with undergrads) during spring semesters. Things are blooming, budding, the air is fresh and soft, and I wanted to be out in it, aspirations and even the seductiveness of what I am making be damned. Today, I’m reminding myself how very fortunate I am to be where I am: I can (and did) make time for both.

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If there are any dangers in ‘the isolation of the studio’ these are two, and decidedly mild. I’m looking forward to the contrast of two weeks working in shared studios at Haystack; it’s something I really wanted to try, and not a situation I’ve experienced much at all beyond two or three people at once (except as a teacher: very different). I’m going to value observing as well as making, exchanging, engaging.  Right now, I’m grateful for today’s lovely diffused light, and what’s happening in the studios: the dance, the color, the plot twist.

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New this year (or never noticed before), this appears on sunny afternoons on our east wall, for the brief time before our house’s shadow reaches our neighbor’s.  So far, I can’t find the reflective source, but I sure do like the image:

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Celebrating Everyday

In the past weeks, I’ve knocked out quite a number of un-blog-worthy tasks, and am feeling good / relieved.  One of the (important) six-months at home projects I haven’t written about was to address my health.  It’s been a long, sometimes discouraging struggle, but I am just now starting to feel good physically, as well.  And, interspersed with flooding rains, we’ve even had a couple of sunny, springlike days.  Those, I’ve dedicated to the gardens, clearing out, making way for growth.

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A  fraction of winter-retted tritoma, reserved for the beater.  It’s tough, abundant fiber, the last to die off, not till midwinter.  If it makes good paper, I have a farm started from a single pack of seeds.

There are deadlines coming up, of course, but pleasant ones; and, quickly, my summer journeys. Right now I’m acutely aware that I’m in the final few weeks of this lovely home hiatus, and am thinking about the simple, quiet rituals I will miss.

One is the daily walk with Lupe dog, something I happily take charge of when I’m here.  She’s a sweet beastie who has never forgotten her training; as a city dog, she must be leashed (which is sad) and on the streets, she trots easily and gently at heel, politely sits whenever I stop.  But she owns the alleys; there, thanks to a  long retractable leash that gives her at least some freedom, she leads the way.

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Chicago has 1900 miles of alleys. Most round here are, well: boring, unremarkable extensions of gridded, rigidly fenced-in midwestern city life.

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We prefer these types.

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And any evidence of individualism, like bamboo to hide the ubiquitous chain link,

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or little inventions (this wheel makes someone’s back gate glide),

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and places where the vegetation wins

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or adapts.

Some days, we walk as the Pack: Paul, Lupe, me. Whenever I’m enjoying some lovely mountain, coast or prairie path, I always wish they were sharing it with me, and Lupe running free.

Fiber and Fanfare

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Cecile’s plant magic: hosta, left, agave, right

I’m working away, but not ready to talk about / show what’s happening. We finally had a gorgeous dry day on Sunday, and I happily cleared the front gardens while doing the first outdoor cook of the season: a bit of my own kozo!

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It’s always a good day when friends come by to work in the studio, especially when the lovely Cecile Webster is here. She brings her plant magic, and I get to see it happen.  This time it was winter-retted hosta and just the thickest, toughest bits culled from a big batch of agave; beautiful. Here’s a detail: strong and textured.

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This quick blog is also being posted to shout out another huge “Congratulations!” to Aimee Lee: her excellent book Hanji Unfurled was shortlisted for the Eric Hoffer First Horizons prize! Kudos!

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Some April hyacinth fanfare, from my garden to Aimee!

April showers

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Ample April rains are here; several consecutive grey days of them. The first dry day will be garden time. Good things are evolving as a result of the last two blogs, but nothing to write about quite yet. I vacillated and then decided to go for an improbable possibility; if it happens, it will fill much of my only free month from May to December.  Paul said he’s really liked having me home for a long stretch, as opposed to constantly zipping in-and-out. I’ve liked it, too, and think it’s a pattern I’ll try to perpetuate: six months moving about, six months home, and I’ll try not to over-schedule at any time (really). Right now, I’m working quietly and privately, vacillating again about taking a second long shot, and realizing that my truncated six months at home has suddenly evolved into a bit less than six weeks.

Congratulations to the Morgan on their new web site: class registration is now open online! SO many excellent classes – and I’ve expanded mine: three days of three D.

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Segue: on the Vineyard

When Sandy and I were discussing the upcoming workshop, she said I must take time to spend on the island. I’m very grateful to her for that, because Martha’s Vineyard is a place I’ve always wanted to visit, not only because I love being on islands, Atlantic islands (on both sides of the pond) in particular. I also love – and even have a need – to physically experience places that are steeped in human history. The Vineyard holds fascinating, uplifting history that resonates at my core.

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I borrowed and read this excellent book about twelve years ago. In anticipation of my upcoming visit, I recently acquired my own copy. Re-reading it now, not so long after experiencing first-hand how ridiculously easy it is for corporations to blatantly, casually flout ADA laws, is proving to be an emotional event.

For about 300 years on Martha’s Vineyard, due to hereditary factors, there was an unusually high percentage of deaf people (one in 155, as opposed to one in nearly 6000 on the mainland). As the title of the book states, hearing and deaf alike learned sign language along with English as a matter of course in early childhood. Hearing people used sign language among themselves, whether or not deaf people were present; it was simply second nature. As a result, deaf people were full participants in every aspect of island life: like their hearing neighbors, they were farmers, fishermen, shop owners, churchgoers, members of local government and fully present at every social occasion. ‘The deaf’ were not though of as a group, but were remembered as individuals, according to their accomplishments, personalities, professions, and relationships first. To be deaf was simply not perceived as being unusual in any way. “It was taken for granted…as if somebody had brown eyes and somebody else had blue…They were just like anybody else.” Perhaps the most telling of many such quotes in the book is this, a reply by an island woman in her 80s when asked about neighbors who were ‘handicapped by deafness’: ‘“Oh,” she said emphatically, “those people weren’t handicapped. They were just deaf.”’

The history of Martha’s Vineyard definitively points out that the notion of ‘disability’ is something a culture creates by tacit agreement (as discrimination often is practiced as well). Perhaps walking the land and breathing the air of an island imbued with such beautiful history will provide my own last bit of healing, finally obliterating the remaining scars left by sanctioned bigotry. I felt a bit guarded about writing of this, until I read the jacket notes by no less a personage than Oliver Sacks: “ I was so moved by Groce’s book that the moment I finished it I jumped in the car, with only a toothbrush, a tape recorder, and a camera – I had to see this enchanted island for myself.”

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Spring is here! And I’m in the studio, making books (but out every day, basking).