New moves, letting go.

1amoony

(I’ve been writing this in wee bits, off and on during breaks, for well over a week, then vacillating about publishing.)

Last week, I turned down three more teaching-related things (one even had a residency attached.) It’s a little odd still. I’ve traversed the better part of the past five years by swinging from lovely offer to lovely offer as if from vine to vine, only rarely interrupted by application processes. It’s been grand, and I’m very grateful.

Even though I’ve been fortunate to be able to detach from the application-oriented push push push and the cult of busyness that is standard in the arts, it’s still become too much. As we head into fall, only the work for two more exhibitions needs to be ironed out (and finished), two public talks, four openings, and then: I let go.

indigo

Indigo sprouting future indigo.

There is some sadness, because I do love much of that life. Will I return? Retire? At the same time, there’s a feeling of elated anticipation each time I say, “thank you, not this year.” I’m not sure where I’m headed. I think of the Smiths’ observation as they left the U.S. to travel at random: “spiders fall to float – they start a strand of web, then jump into the void hoping the air currents will carry them to the other side. If they don’t, they crawl back up the web and fall again and again until they reach the other side.” I’m ready to float, and it’s not necessary to know exactly where the other side is. I’m most interested in what I might discover on my way there.

1alines

Not-knowing has made blogging problematic. What’s ‘worth’ sharing while floating? Then I read this fine interview with Regin Igloria. Particularly the section on walking, but also the whole, resonated with my current questioning and challenges like the remembered hearing of a gong. Following the project on social media extended the vibrations. So, I decided to write:

Since I came home in late August, there’s been another arthritis flare, in a new place. I’ve been prescribed another round of p/t soon (well, in HMO time.) But p/t alone isn’t enough now. This year, I need to learn to move in new ways, until those ways become ingrained, my default mode. When I’m focused on  deadlines, on teaching, when I’m hurrying, I’ve had a lifelong tendency to completely forget my body even as I zip around, totally dependent on its capabilities, particularly its flexibility. As that keeps changing, I no longer know my body. I know I can do the un-learning and re-learning, but it’s a long process. When arthritis first arrived, it took a full year to learn to walk without turning my feet out without thinking about it. Now, I need to do all that I do without twisting my spine: all day, every day, every activity.

1aeardown

Ragdale ear down, the original; it lasted two years, and it will regenerate.

For awhile, I despaired of this year’s milkweed harvest. It takes at least a month to get into p/t. Then I decided to rehearse / train for the harvest on my own. It feels a bit like doing a perpetual robot dance, turning my entire body with my feet before bending forward, instead of swiveling at my waist, all the while working to override a lifetime’s physical instinct. I slowly worked up to moving mindfully while bending and bending to weed the garden: the dress rehearsal. Wednesday, on the equinox, I drove up to Ragdale and went for it.

It was slow, slow: gazing around, planning my path, wading through the towering dense bluestem, pausing and plotting each move. I fell once, early, afterwards remembering to stop, breathe, look, enjoy. Walking round the meadow, gathering up the small piles into one huge one, then carrying that to the shade of the Meadow Studio porch was the roughest patch. On the porch, I accommodated my skeleton with a bucket to sit on (and one to collect the trimmed leaves) and a sequence that let me work by bending only forward or side to side (which is still ok to do.) I paced myself, and got the job done with only a small amount of residual stiffness the next day. I feel absurdly proud and pleased, as if I were a beginning athlete, a casual jogger who’s just run in her first race and completed the distance. (My reward was an absolutely perfect long, paced studio day the next day.)

1ado

Out in the world:

Here is a radio broadcast, with an article and images of the Embarrassment of Riches show. I can’t hear it, but the images make me even sadder to have had to miss the reception and panel. The fabulous Chicago Artists’ Month exhibition Words | Matter is heating up! The website is still-expanding (eventually all the artists will have a dedicated page) but it’s live. This and this are two events I’m participating in. I particularly like the Toni Morrison quote in Eileen’s description of my talk. There’s more coming up, but not online yet. Neither is the exhibition in Utah, but the print catalog arrived, and it’s a nice show.

1aabc

Last but not least, hooray for just one of Aimee Lee’s many fall undertakings! I’m impressed. Happy super moon eclipse to all.

1axperiment

Advertisements

And now…

aaharvest1

A good place to chop up a stem harvest on a hot day, with assistant.

Home a bit over a week now and beginning to feel…fresh, as if this is a new time, a new paradigm. A lot of clearing out has happened indoors, making way for some fine, needed changes. Unpacking happened. A great deal of chopping back and chopping down and a few harvests were completed outdoors. Though the big harvest is past, I did get home in time to eat some tomatoes and more are ripening here and there. The indigo plant has its new home. Chance training goes on daily and mostly well, and of course there’s been inevitable bouts of admin.

aastemharvest

I still pause every year as school season starts, but this year it’s with not a single pang at all, just gratitude. As soon as I began to breathe in this no-teaching year, to feel it peacefully settling around me, there were three tempting requests in my inbox. I’ve been contemplating (and constructing some initial parameters for) just one of them: a new reprisal of an old way of working that seems to be falling into place after falling into my lap. I had just barely begun to think of it as a future possibility when I was asked to try: win / win. That’s all I’ll say now but the potential is excellent.

aaharvest2

Jalapeño, nigella, lupin, lunaria.

Mostly, my mind is on the immediate future in the studio. Early last week, I managed to quickly harvest the daylily stems on a very hot day (a smaller crop this year, taken about a week later than I like.) Working in small increments during the week they were cut, soaked, cooked, rinsed and are soaking again, ready for the beater today. A fiber prep mini-marathon is underway: the stems plus abaca, flax, water hyacinth root and backyard mulberry to begin a few August-to-October projects. The weather has been fabulously mild the past several days and more sweet days are expected all week, so the late summer studio (which includes the outdoor spaces) is in full glory.

aaharvest3

I’ll grow these again; flavorful but definitely mild enough for the other human. This one was 9″ long. It’s a pasilla-type pepper called Holy Mole (which I admit I chose just for the name.)

Out in the world:

Here is an article about Unusually Natural which opened Friday at the Guenzel Gallery of the Peninsula School of Art up in Door County, Wisconsin; I hope there will be photos! And here’s one about An Embarrassment of Riches which opens tomorrow, August 25, at the NIU Museum’s Altgeldt Galleries in DeKalb, IL (I will see this one; two of the other artists and I will be carpooling to the reception and panel discussion on September 10.)

And, if you make books and you’d like to show them, this call for entries opened Friday and runs through September 15th for an October Chicago Artists’ Month exhibition.

Breezing

aasproingy

The hollyhock mound will be cut down before I go and before it can seed; if it strips easily, it will come with me, contained within some work.

Zipping through July, so far in a nicely efficient way with fingers and toes crossed. There are drugs/ doctors/ dentists/ dogs/ documents and digital tedium but they actually aren’t interfering much, just fitting into the flow (more crossing of limbs for luck.) I’ve come to terms with the fact that mobility issues will simply have to be adapted to in the same manner as not hearing, and that I’ll learn that on the go, it will happen as it happens while packing/ driving/ teaching.

aadraw

All the milkweed is growing in its new homes and the outdoor studio areas are cleared, washed by a bit of rain, and ready for cooking/ cutting/ casting. There were some days of drawing for an end-of-year project, peaceful, focused and fun, and after tomorrow two of five shows are finished, a good schedule in place for the other three. I’ve even got the listings updated through August on the sidebar and site, with apologies to Peters Valley for doing that so late for their show. Looking forward to a whirlwindy week’s work (and not wistful, but just acknowledging that I’ve thought more than once about how fine it will be to be home to eat my tomato harvest next year.)

aafirst2

The very first two blew down during today’s rain.

Beginnings

alight

The final and toughest week of our six-month long situation is past; one last wee bit tomorrow, then it all begins to go uphill, till we rise past it. (HUGE sigh of relief).

aweeboy

Chance is one year old today! He is definitely influenced by his retriever genes, though, and probably won’t entirely mature for another year or two. He’s still a (big) goofy pup who loves his toys and, wonderfully, his training. We now have a great foundation laid for getting him past his fears during the coming months.

Bigboy

The processing of all the milkweed harvests is finished; it took exactly one month and one day from the first harvest, though for at least half, maybe more, of those days I was unable to address it at all. I have big single bags of black-spotted, clean green, and Cecile’s second harvest gift (which due to time constraints was just steamed, stripped and dried as it was), two gallon bags of stripped seed fluff, two big bags of intriguing seaweed-ish chiri, and best of all, a big bucket full of cleaned, scraped, pure fiber, more than I’ve ever had at one time before: riches.  (Plus, a generous gift of another bag of clean stripped seed fluff which will come my way later in November).

aharvests

Top: a little cooked hollyhock, left, plus a small gallon bag of chiri, black-spot, regular steamed & stripped, clean green below.

And the best part of all?  Though I will need to arrive a day or two late, the next time I write to you will be from Ragdale. I don’t think I’ve ever needed a residency more (and the milkweed is coming with me).

achiri

Chiri (and the last of the pods).

Under Milk Weed

aplantz

It was a tough but not too tough week; I needed to shift to quickly interruptible upstairs work, with the pleasing result of now being almost all the way through the seasonal shift of the house (which ialso concludes shipping season: only one more smallish crate to arrive in December). And, an article draft was written and delivered only a few days past its deadline, a pleasant anomaly for me. Now, we are essentially locked down for the final week of our six month shared situation. Next Monday, the worst will be over, and though the climb might begin slowly, it’s all uphill from there. Whew! Plus: Ragdale!

aapod

Last week, before I needed to let the milkweed in all its forms languish, I got through one of two big pots full of milkweed pods. Extracting fluff is never, ever going to be my favorite activity, though it is quite a visually rich experience. I hope to get back to it soon, even as I cringe a bit about that second waiting pot o’ pods. Everyone says the seed fluff fiber will be worth it. But I can’t wait to get this over with and get back to the bast: I know that is more than worth it.

aaseedkleen

Sometimes they strip beautifully, other times not.  I’ve been trying to keep the clean and not-so-clean fluff separated, to see if it makes any difference.

Clicker training, I am loving, and so is Chance. We’ve got a long way to go before beginning to directly address the fear aggression, but it’s already having a huge effect on his personality. Sunday, I surreptitiously watched through the kitchen window as our neighbor S came to the fence. Chance jumped up but not in a threatening way, thrusting his nose (and closed mouth) towards her: a goofy and perhaps inappropriate greeting, but a greeting. He bounced off the fence, dropped to the ground and milled around with Lupe for a few seconds as S reached down to pet them, then he simply retreated to the porch, and calmly sat and watched while S petted Lupe. All without one single bark or any sort of defensive (or jealous) action on his part, and no commands; it was a series of decisions he made on his own. This was not AT ALL the case before we switched to clicking. Good boy!

aEardown

Several consecutive days of heavy rains were too much for the split-ear; it slid off its support.  But it’s otherwise intact, and it’s very funny to handle this big, floppy thing when it’s wet.  I’m letting it dry out, draped to change its shape, and then we’ll see.

aEarstretch

Odder Still

aabacawall

The papermaker / clicker trainers’ privacy screen.

A few days ago, we reached a point in our ongoing situation that makes our days even more unpredictable than before, and we will likely stay at that stage for the next couple of weeks. I am neither booking nor promising anything during this time, just staying home and available to quickly address what comes up, while working on my odd assortment of tasks in a jerky forward motion, bits here, bits there, in the office one day, upstairs the next, an hour or two in the studio or the garden, running out to fetch things, and caring for my pack.

aChancepup

Training goes that way, too: short sessions, some at regular times, others random. I am learning as much or more than Chance. We need to limit exposure to his fear triggers for awhile, so I found a new use for abaca half-stuff, above: he can’t see the sidewalk where many of his imaginary monsters patrol, but we tall humans can see friends and FedEx arriving. If Chance jumps up and rips the panels, they’ll still make lovely pulp: win / win. It’s early days, but I can definitely say that Chance is already noticeably calmer. He and I are both enjoying this; Paul joins in today or tomorrow.

aloopweed

Cecile harvested near some railroad tracks in her neighborhood, and this milkweed had some stories to tell, apparently.  Lupe found it immensely interesting, and thoroughly, methodically checked out every. single. stem. Chance stole a dried-out stem and tossed it around the yard.

Sunday, Cecile generously brought me another milkweed haul! She got a wee bag of frozen hollyhock blooms in a rather unequal exchange. I got the stems trimmed and steamed that day, and stripped the fiber yesterday. But there was more: a giant bag of seedpods. I’ve never processed those before; but two large pots full of them were steamed yesterday and are now waiting to be stripped of their fluff.  The fluff by itself makes a gorgeous, smooth, shiny pale gold-ish paper: beautiful, but not the qualities I need for my work, so I’m going to have fun pushing this around and combining it with other fibers to see what I can get that will suit what I do: another first.

apodpot

When the processing is finished, I’ll have *five* types of milkweed fiber.  One that I’m finding most intriguing is milkweed chiri:

achiri

Oddtober

aoddtoba

I made an October shortlist of tasks and am happily going about them. Except for the next stage of the milkweed (which will resume over the weekend) the order in which things get done isn’t important. That lets me take advantage of weather; I’m acutely aware of the impending winter. So, my self-determined work plan is a little goofy, but satisfying and comfortably productive.

aHHfiber

Monday’s main task: the older back garden. Thanks to a gorgeous day and my desire to try to grow milkweed, it’s now cleared more extensively than I usually do, and much earlier. For my new fiber this year, I harvested, chopped, steamed and stripped the French hollyhocks to see what happens (I’ve seen hollyhock paper, but not handled it). If I like it, I can take two small harvests a year from the yard. Tuesday, a lot of admin, including a visit to the genius bar, and though I didn’t plan to, I cleaned all the hollyhock fiber, because it was super-easy. There were some other harvests, too.

ahhot

addogs

Yesterday, I cooked the hollyhock, and then we humans met with our new trainer. She’s a vet and animal behaviorist. We’re radically changing things up,  starting Chance with clicker training. It had become very clear that while traditional correction training worked well for some things, it worked against his fear aggression, and in fact has intensified it. We’re training ourselves one tiny step ahead of Chance, but we have experience with that: any teacher of humans has, whether or not they admit it. I began today and Paul chimes in in a few days’ time, after Chance understands the basic foundation. He’s very interested in this new activity, focused. I am too: I’m already liking the process, and as I read more, I’m also intrigued by the premise (and predict I’ll end up reading the theory). Best of all, it can and should happen in short bursts throughout the day, easy to fit in (and contributes to) the pleasing odd range of October tasks.

MorrisMuseSm

Out in the world, a very nice blog by Ann Martin, also exhibiting in Pulp Culture at the Morris Museum, who was able to attend the opening reception in Morristown, NJ. Ann provides artists’ credits; the museum’s Facebook album has lots more photos and shows more works, but gives no information: still very definitely worth the viewing. This is another show I’d love to see in person.

MorrisMuseView

Installation photos courtesy of the Morris Museum.