Monday, December 04, 2017

Seeing Stars




It almost has the sanctity of a tradition. Each year, in January, I promise myself that, this year, I'll make a big dent in the pile of half-made quilting projects. The clock is ticking louder these days and there's more sand in the bottom of the hourglass than in the top...and I shudder to think of the fate of my beloved UFOs in the event of my kicking the bucket too soon. Unceremonious transportation to the nearest charity shop? My bones rattle at the thought.

It lasts a month, two in a good year. Then I get sidetracked by life, books and other such distractions and, God help me, actually add a few to the pile because babies will be born without first enquiring if their timing fits with my quilting schedule. Because when a baby is born in the family I make a quilt. That's just the reality of it. Those babies are often toddling around by the time they get their quilt but, eventually they do. And usually before they leave for university.

2017 was a good year. Finished two on the list in two months and then pfft! The next nine months flew by and suddenly it was Thanksgiving. 

That's a Christmas tree skirt up there made for our firstborn many decades ago. She had mentioned that she wished it was bigger. "No problem," I blithely said. That was a year ago, almost. And here I am, panicking in November when I could have been chipping away at it slowly and calmly throughout the year. But where's the adrenaline rush in that?

 I started making stars. By chain piecing, components for eight stars were done in a blink.















Look at that sweet four patch in the seams on the back. No one will ever see it, but still it made me smile!



I figured 8 should be enough. Ohio Star is such an easy pattern (take note Pam!)
and so pretty, I was elated at my cleverness, even standing in mute admiration of this for at least 30 seconds....




before a snarky voice in my head broke my reverie with "Hey Genius! You'll be waiting light years to see a star like that in the heavens!" 

What? I blinked. I groaned. I muttered furiously under my breath. I ripped. I re-sewed. 
One - star - at - a - time. 
If I was having such difficulties aligning star points, better not to compound the problem by chain piecing, an advantage only if done right.

It soon became apparent that eight stars would not a satisfactory firmament make, wider circumference and all.... I was loathe to tackle more stars after the pitfalls I had encountered. Maybe I could make something different, an easier, quicker block like Churn Dash. A nod is as good as a wink but 
 eight churn dashes later I knew it would have been better to stick with stars. No turning back now though. It was December already.




The original pattern long gone, I was flying by the seat of my britches.

 And my head was starting to hurt.

I can do quilts. But round quilts? Without a pattern? Maybe not. A lesson in humility.  

"You can do it!" the OC encouraged, simultaneously shaking his head at how I constantly get up to my neck in hot water. I soldiered doggedly on.

And then life interrupted. Spur of the moment plans to go north to keep sister-in-law company while she recovers from surgery.

A little bit of hand wringing, then soothing words from Daughter who knows me too well (the shame of it!) and wasn't expecting to see her tree skirt this year anyway, maybe not even in this lifetime.

(Now I have to be better next year.)

Here's a peek before I fold it all up.




 It'll be at the top of the UFO list for 2018.
Feel free to yell at me month by month to make sure it makes it off the list by next December.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Grateful



It rained today. 
All day. 
Mother Nature humoring those who still can't get their heads around Thanksgiving by the pool. Normally I would not be writing today. I'd be juggling the mashed potatoes, the creamed spinach, the stuffing, the gravy, the cole slaw, the sweet potato casserole, the orange-cranberry sauce and the pies, timing everything to be ready at the same time, while the OC performed grill magic on the turkey in the sunshine. 

But today  - no sunshine, no children, no grandchildren, no neighbors or friends, just us two. So we made a daring decision - eat out. First time in 47 years. I hope my mother-in-law was not watching from up there. She'd surely think I was sinking to new depths. 

We did make pies though. You gotta have pies - Sweet Potato and Bourbon Pecan. 
I don't think we'll make a habit of it. I can still hope for a few Thanksgivings, before the jig is up, where we might, by some miracle, have all our children and grandchildren around the table once more. 


***

Overheard at the library recently...

"How are you?" said she.

"Grateful," said he.

I stopped in my tracks.  Most of us are not looking for a full organ recital when we ask that question, but what a better answer than the usual "Fine thanks," or "Great thanks, or "Been better," or "So-so."
I think I'll adopt it.
 I don't always remember to be grateful. So much easier to have a little moan.
And there's a lot of moaning going around in recent months.
This was a one-word reminder that there is as much to be thankful for as there is to moan about.
Accentuate the positive.
Count our blessings

Want to know how I am today?

Grateful.

 Thanks for asking.



Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Next Stop - Everest



  Today's photograph is from Mt. Hood, Oregon where I recently visited Youngest Son and - are you ready?

Got high. 

Really high.

Calm down now.

Not that kind of high.

One Sunday we hiked the trail around Trillium Lake which has a wonderful view of Mt. Hood. It was a beautiful day, blue skies, puffy white clouds, high fifties/low sixties - so delicious we went back on Monday when it was more peaceful, no crowds, no shouting children to shatter the stillness or scatter the fish.


Mt. Hood from Lake Trillium


My plan was to take photos, his to catch fish. He settled on the shore and cast his line. I sat on a nearby rock and watched a while. An eagle swooped down with a loud splash mid-lake, soared up again, then flew towards us. Maybe he'd drop his fish on us? No fish were biting and we agreed that an eagle dropping a trout on his head might be my fisherman's best chance of catching one.




It was cloudier than it had been on Sunday, but still delicious. However, after half an hour of sitting I was in danger of turning to stone so up I got to move around, stamp my feet and warm up. I'd make a terrible fisherman.


I spotted another trail leading off into the woods and decided to explore. YS, ever hopeful, stayed on the shore. The trail was wide and cushioned with pine needles, greenery all around, some already glowing red and gold.




After parallelling the lake for a bit, it turned away from shore, heading steeply upward.




 I think I may be descended from forest-dwelling gnomes as walking in the woods always blisses me out. My earliest memory of anything similar was the haggard behind my granny's house. I remember, as a little girl, collecting kipeens (little sticks) for kindling among those trees with her.

The woods at Cratloe were another favourite childhood haunt. I loved it so much we got married in the tiny chapel there. The Little Blister still goes there to run (in the woods, not the chapel) She claims it feels more like church to her than church.

Our California Girl lives in Redwood country, the silence in those ancient groves so hushed and reverent the loudest sound is that of a pine needle drifting to earth.




And where YS lives are more woods with more plush, piney carpet underfoot and a cathedral-like hush.


So there I was, getting high in Oregon.
It must be in the DNA.

The trail was seriously steep now, up and up, away from the lake, turning back on itself in a series of esses, taking me ever higher. In school, in Irish language class, we had a story once about how a donkey, not considered the brainiest of animals, nevertheless had a clever way of climbing a steep path - not by going straight up but by zigzagging from one side to the other. I have used that information often since those long ago schooldays. The Mag would be gratified that it made such a lasting impression, but also puzzled that I remember nothing else from that story.
Zig zagging my way upwards I became aware of a humming sound. Traffic? Impossible. Then I realized it was the sound of my ears preparing to explode.


At each new bend I told myself  'Just to this bend, then, if there's an amazing view, I'll turn back.' Kind of like reading a good book where you keep turning just one more page. I wasn't yet high enough for the amazing views, just more trees, crowding in on all sides, more steep trail ahead and air that was thinner by the minute. On I went, up and up. No strolling now. When I heard the sound of pounding I stopped again to listen. It was only my heart.

By now I was channelling Cheryl Strayed, having recently loved 'Wild,' her account of hiking 3000 miles, skyhigh, on the Pacific Coast Trail, alone. Parts of that trail are there in the Mt Hood National Forest. And yes, it did occur to me that traipsing off up a strange mountain, alone, might not be the smartest thing I'd ever done but, I rationalized, anyone willing to climb this high surely has loftier motives - the beauty, the peace, the views and the exercise - than assaulting daft old ladies.

 Upwards and onwards, totally focused, huffing and puffing, just being there, on the trail, no worries, no past, no future, just now, the path before me, the trees all around.


An hour into my hike, just when I thought I might actually reach the summit, my cell phone buzzed. It was reality.com. "Where are you?" a peevish voice asked. He's ready to leave, fishless, dispirited, and I'm an hour above him. If only I had wings I could jump off the trail's edge and land beside him in a matter of seconds.
But no wings, not even a parachute, only Shank's mare.

I gaze longingly at the next bend in the trail. Who knows what heights I might reach if left to myself ? But common sense (I do have a little), and the YS persuade me to turn around

 In my next life, I plot, on the downward march, I'll be a serious hiker - stout boots, rucksack, flashlight, water, camping gear, maps, a plan - all the things I don't have now. High above the madding crowds I'll breathe pure, ferny air, eyeball to eyeball with the tops of the tallest trees, looking down on ribbony roads and rivers and shining mirror lakes - taking amazing pictures. I'll have a small cabin there with '"clay and wattles made" a wood burning stove and a neat stack of wood by the door. I think the OC could be talked into joining me. Someone would have to chop the wood (not me!) and someone would have to cook (not him!)
We could leave the aggravations of the world below. Family and friends would be welcome to visit as long as they were willing to climb and leave their 'devices' at home. But, come to think of it, the latter might be a deal breaker for the OC. Hmm. Some compromises might be necessary.

Meanwhile my phone is buzzing again. I walk faster, surprised at the mountain-goat nimbleness of my knees, down down down, snapping quick photos of a flower here or a leaf there, almost falling face first into a soggy ditch in my eagerness.






  The world down below forgotten, this is my reality for now.
High as a kite on  firs and ferns and fantasy.



Thursday, November 09, 2017

A New Approach




November always gets me remembering my early days of blogging. Especially NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month) and how, for a couple of years in a row, I actually did it - a blog post every day throughout November. And now some lazy, uninspired person has crawled into that space I used to occupy. A person who can't seem to manage one blog post per month, never mind every day.

I drove to the doctor's this week and all the way there (an hour) I wrote the most scintillating blog posts - in my head. They frown on people writing while they drive almost as much as they frown on people driving while inebriated so, of course, by the time I got home again, all my brilliance had evaporated.

I started blogging, more than ten years ago, as a way to practice writing. You know what they say - you've got to be disciplined and do it every day, not just when the spirit moves you. Because the spirit is fickle and can't be depended upon to show up. Back when there was still a lot going on in my life I was more disciplined. A busy life and a houseful of children provides plenty of writing marterial even the aggravating parts. Not Pulitzer stuff by any stretch but at least words to paper, at least some action. Now, with that houseful all grown and flown, life is busy in a different way, filled with the things we didn't have time for way back then.

My lightbulb moment came on my drive to the doc. As well as loving to write, I love taking photographs. Why not pick a photo from my overflowing and constantly added to collection and write about it, maybe not a post a day but perhaps one per week? 

Sounds like a plan.

Watch this space.

Note: This photo doesn't have much of a strory. It merely provides a little of what passes, in Florida, for Fall color.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Of Hurricanes and Aeroplanes






You've probably guessed - The sky did fall in a few places but not on us. Whew!

My Saturday morning flight left on schedule. I wondered if I should wait a week but the OC clinched it when he said   "Go.You're no good with a chainsaw!"

Practical man.

Everyone at the airport was calm, helpful, friendly, sharing stories as we waited to board. We were all in this together. Of course we were the ones jumping ship, leaving the rest of Florida to deal with Irma as best they could.



Compared to the dire predictions as I was leaving, we had minimal damage. Back in 2004/5 there were lots of trees down and roofs blown off.  This time, all that fell were some branches and twigs.

 Whew, again. And gratitude. It could have been so much worse, as it was in other places.



 From as far back as I can remember, I’ve always loved flying. Sometimes, on Sunday afternoons, we’d drive to Shannon Airport to sit in the lounge overlooking the runway and watch the planes. My mother would settle down with her cigarettes and coffee and we'd run back and forth watching planes land and take off; watching baggage being disgorged or loaded; watching passengers walk across the tarmac to climb aboard, wishing we were going somewhere exotic. Sometimes my dad would take us out to one of the planes and let us sit in the cockpit, awed by all the instruments. We were easy to entertain!

I've always preferred to be by the window to watch the patchwork of fields, farms and forests far below; the ribbons of highways, lanes and goat tracks; the crumpled fabric of the mountains; the lazy meandering loops of rivers; the widening out to lakes; the wild palette from turquoise to sky blue to purple to grey to fifty nine shades of green; the browns of newly tilled fields; the golds of recent harvest. The best times were when I'd fly home for a visit. My breath would catch and uncontrollable tears would roll when the west coast of Ireland with all its little islands, rocks, beaches, coves and  piercingly green fields, shimmered into view, always early, early in the morning.

It still fills me with wonder to be above the clouds in a magical metal tube, along with the suitcase that felt as though I’d packed it with rocks, moving along at incredible speeds but with no sensation of “hurtling.” Multiply that by the number of fellow passengers, each with their own case of rocks, and I’m still amazed after all these years.

And now the manicured green and brown and gold fields of Oregon, with the wide sweep of the Willamette curving through them, race up to meet us. Approaching the runway, the engines roar and finally we feel how fast we've been moving as we slow dramatically and the wheels make contact - a gentle bump - and we’ve arrived.






To those of you who wondered how we fared during the storm, this is a long winded way of telling you - we're fine, for now. Got off easy this time but, even as I write, another hurricane is wrecking havoc in the Caribbean. A friend sent this advice...

"Stay where you are!" 

Friday, September 08, 2017

The Sky is Falling




Waving madly.... It's been a while. Still here, heart still beating, pulse normal, stitching sporadically, reading voraciously, waiting for Fall. Maybe my brain will feel less withered if the temperature ever again drops below 80 degrees Fahrnheit and umpteen degrees muggy.

 We've been living in a jungle all summer. Jungle defined: an area of land overgrown with dense forest and tangled vegetation, typically in the tropics...We'd fit the definition if it weren't for the OC regularly braving the heat, pests and humidity to beat back the agressive greenery .The spiders are loving it. I think their plan is to trap us in their silken  masterpieces, dry us out and feed on us 'til Christmas.




Hot, muggy, steamy, rainy. But am I complaining? I wouldn't dare. Just stating the facts. I only have to turn on the news or open the newspaper to realise how much worse off we could be.






Right now, Chicken Little is amok on television and on the roads, running madly in circles, announcing  that the sky is falling. Lady Irma. Will she? Won't she? Only her meteorologist knows for sure (maybe). Here? There? Everywhere? The roads north are choked with traffic. Gas is scarce. Chicken Little continues to shout, stirring up a frenzy.

 The OC is the calm at the eye of the frenzy. Years of emergency management, I guess. When the rest of the world is listening to Chicken Little and wringing their hands, he looks dispassionately at the facts. Panicking never an option. He did however voice just a little bit of alarm when they announced a slight westward change in her path. Into the gulf would not be pretty.

As for me, I'm supposed to be scarpering off to the west tomorrow to visit grown children. How do you pack for forest fires? Though not to be too dramatic, I think they've got them under control.....No flight cancellations yet, fingers crossed. From one 'intersting' weather event to another. With any luck, Irma will lose force and spare a lot of people a disaster. Sad for the ones she already hit.
 And if she continues to be a bitch, as one of my blogger friends called her, we'll deal with it.

Meanwhile, this is what the jungle looks like today....







I hope it won't have changed too drastically by Tuesday.

If you live in Florida or anywhere along the coast or the Gulf - good luck, hunker down and stay safe.

Watch this space for an apres Irma update - I hope it'll be from out west and that it will not involve too much drama here or there.













Friday, July 28, 2017

Addiction:Ertugrul




13 th. century Anatolia.

The Kayis are on the move, seeking fertile land to settle and raise their herds, a place their people can call home. Suleyman Shah, the tribe’s leader, and his wife, Haime Hatun, have four sons. The eldest is missing, feared dead. The next is an upstanding guy, a stickler for rules, a bit of a stuffed shirt. The third son is Ertugrul, brave and fearless, a born leader, willing to risk the approval of the tribe and of his family for what he knows to be the way forward for all of them. The forth son is still young, a warrior in training.

Life is precarious on the Steppes. The Kayis are beset with threats – Crusaders to the west, Mongols to the east, enemy infiltrators worming their way into trusted positions within the tribe – no shortage of clashing swords or accurately aimed arrows. Who can you trust?


 They long for a land of their own and a peaceful life.

Of the two middle sons, the stuffed shirt seems destined to be the law enforcer. Ertugrul, though he doesn’t seek power and importance, with his vision, will likely take his father’s place as head of the tribe. Meanwhile, he and his three most faithful ‘alps’ take care of hunting, protection of the tribe from their enemies and training of the younger warriors.


21st. century - 2017, Florida.

It is hot and muggy. No threats from marauding Mongols or bloodthirsty Crusaders. Our biggest worries are a new president who is not presidential, but mercifully far away in Washington, and mosquitoes who are right here and hungry.
  One evening in June the OC happens on a show on Netflix. Not much of a television fan, I am nevertheless drawn to sit and watch awhile. ‘Resurrection: Ertugrul’ is the title. The next evening he turns it on again. Drawn as by a magnet, I sit and watch. Three episodes. Next evening, the same. And so it went, for a month. Serious addiction. How did that happen? Me, who has always viewed soap operas with disdain, addicted to a show with definite soap opera overtones?


13 th. century Anatolia.

 Ertugrul is out riding one day with his three faithful Alps, Turgut, Bamsi and Dogan. They come upon a man and his son and daughter being abducted under suspicious circumstances. Swords are drawn, a battle ensues and, in true hero style, they fend off the villians, rescue the family and bring them back to their tribe’s settlement. The man  turns out to be a Seljuk prince. His young son is Yigit (whom we fondly call Eegit, for our inability to wrap our tongues around the correct Turkish pronunciation) and his beautiful daughter is Halime, simplified by the OC for American consumption to “Holly-Mae.”

This sets the stage for a never-ending saga. We’ve watched the first two seasons and I’m in serious withdrawal as it will be a while before season three is available. The show reminds me of tales, learned long ago in school, of good against evil, of Cuchullain, the Hound of Ulster, Oisin, Niamh and Tir na nOg and other stories from Irish mythology.


21st. Century, 2017, Florida

Hugely intrigued by the total abandon with which I’ve immersed myself  in this story, I

said as much to some friends one day at lunch. We're talking serious addiction here.They looked at me and – both together, with ‘Duh!’ undertones - said “Because you were there!” 


Seriously? Could it be? They were not joking. They were almost matter-of-fact, almost "how-could-you-not -figure-that-out-for-yourself?" Educated women with their feet on the ground and lifetimes of experience.


Temporarily suspending my skepticism, I’ve been entertaining that possibility.  Maybe that is why the show appeals to me on such a gut level.  Maybe the universe is the biggest recycler of all and I have been there in a previous life. It epitomizes so many things that resonate with me. First of all is the feeling of community and continuity, how everyone in the tribe pulls together; how members of the tribe know, and live, with the same group of people from birth to the grave. Secondly, the pace of modern life is too fast for me. A walking pace would suit me just fine. Horseback would work. I wouldn't be as skittish as I am if I'd been born to it! I love how their lives are ruled by honor, integrity, bravery and respect for their traditions, along with generous helpings of skullduggery, backstabbing traitors, evil plotters and scheming women. All of human life. There is romance too, conveyed in an understated way that doesn’t make me squirm in my chair or turn me into a Peeping Tom. I like that in a show.


And, wonder of wonders, I haven’t heard one of the four letter words that are so liberally sprinkled throughout most American TV shows. Directors of our shows seem to believe that foul language is cool and essential for good ratings. Ertugrul is in Turkish so I can't say for sure, but, it doesn’t show up in the sub titles! I’m fine with that too.


The Kayi women weave and spin, appliqué and embroider. Their beautiful textiles and rugs are in high demand for trading at the caravansaries. Their yurts are insulated with animal skins and richly woven tapestries. The costumes are stunning, the colors brilliant, the womens' beaded headdresses works of art, the theme music divine. All of which, for me, was a feast for the eyes, but I’m sure it was the sword fights, of which there were many, that kept the OC tuning in, along with heavy doses of political intrigue. 

 In the modern world, though I’m a believer in trusting people until, and unless, they prove themselves untrustworthy, it is becoming more and more difficult to tell the good guys from the bad. Paris, London, Brussels, Istanbul, Manchester….We were horrified by 9/11 but now we’re accustomed to horror. Where will it end? What kind of world will we leave for our grandchildren?

Maybe it’s a longing for transparency and honesty in our politicians. Maybe we could send them on a journey back in time where, along with sword fighting, Ertugrul and his alps could school them in honor, service, integrity, and the like, not to mention horsemanship!


Maybe it’s escapism, a thirst for good, rollicking, old fashioned stories. Maybe it’s a naïve belief that we may still have heroes among us who will save us from the villains. A quote from my current read says it best……

‘In my perception, the world wasn’t a graph or formula or an equation.
It was a story.’


It is a story.

Roll on season three!