the daughter has her first acceptance to graduate school. i am very proud of her. mc gill university in montreal is not so very far away, especially after high school in colorado and college in maine. she would be an international student in a french speaking province, and might even get the chance to visit the papeterie st armand. ok, so i would get a chance to visit st. armand when i visit her... not a bad deal!
we finished up the soapstone today in school. i used our school camera, and got pretty poor shots, but here goes. this is a frog, and has wonderful detailing.
a bear that made this student quite happy. (these two boys are the youngest in our program)
apologies for this blurred photo, but you can perhaps see the detailing on this alligator. far below is the bear i worked on with the students. one thing i love about doing this project AND reading crow and weasel is that the students make the connection to the concepts in the book through their hands. and maybe, just maybe they begin to understand that connection. next we will read a sherman alexie book, either the absolutely true diary of a part time indian or flight. i haven't decided yet. probably the diary because it is so funny, and we need some humor as mud season approaches.
luddite i am, but i was raised with saturday morning cartoons. tonight on npr i heard about a wonderful cartoon story about the book of kells. having a budding librarian in my household is interesting. both of my children love and value books, and believe me a stay at home parent reads more books to an eager audience in a household without tv!!! i just recently sent my son a copy of simon's book, one of his favorites from childhood. and tonight my daughter called from work to tell me there's a cartoon about the book of kells!!!
anyway, the secret of kells is something i don't want to miss. the animation is old fashioned, no glitz, but beautiful layers and flat, medieval stylized figures and objects. it is, perhaps because i have been making old-style books with vellum that i now have a connection to this sort of artifact. but what struck me so much tonight was hannah calling to tell me that there's a movie about the book of kells. she has hopes of working someday with archives and special collections, caring for cultural treasures.
ink drawing on dyed vellum, before mounting in book
wooden boards over handmade paper, unfinished
what could be better, a snowy evening, a happy border collie, the magic of books and story? perhaps, if i had the book of kells to myself, for just one evening? or no, i would be too frightened to breathe near it.
do the weather reports drive you crazy? today i cancelled a car repair appointment because of the stories of dire wintry weather. today, after 7/8 of yesterday's snow melted away i realized i'd been had. again. is it news (NEWS!!!) if we have weather? is that it? at the end of work we were talking about scheduling and sure enough, more snow and freezing rain and high winds. i went home, and checked the reports. high winds gusting to 30 mph and temperatures in the 40s? does everyone exaggerate? why?
at school i wonder often about the constant use of hyperbole. from staff and students. last year a student used to shout "i LOVE it", making love a three syllable word, something i would have thought impossible until i heard it. simplicity and clarity are things i strive for, and i wish i didn't feel like i was always swimming upstream. maybe that's why it was so refreshing to hear temple grandin on ted talks today (thanks aimee!).
back to school/work and today was rather quiet. at home i decided to go looking again for more evidence... and i found some. but first, even though the temp was 37, there was a lot of snow, well over a foot. i couldn't face snow clumps on the kick of my skis, so instead i rambled. i have long legs. someone else rambled today.
this is the porcupine path, a rather interesting highway. i remember when i first learned what this kind of trail meant...i found the end of the trail first, a treed porcupine, and followed it's trail all over my farm. this porcupine keeps a low profile so far, but i'll need to guard it from visiting dogs, one of whom will gladly try to protect us from said porcupine. and get badly hurt for her pains. wendy will ignore it, they're not very good to herd.
grapevine finds it's way all over the barn, and as the barn retreats into the earth, i morn for what it once was for me, and for my children.
time to find a new direction, an exit from what was into what will be. to not leave luck behind, but to remember the luck that once was, is no longer in this place. letting go.
new is for me a threat, a challenge, a letting go. i must be mindful that it is inevitable. and correct. below is the northwest corner of my last mare mist's stall. the worst weather hit here.
and yet today, this is the driest, strongest part of the structure. there are still shavings left on the floor. and a few porcupine quills, scattered, a bit that is left from the emaciated carcass that i found here last fall.
i have work to do tonight, but i am tired. another change, from break to work, and sleep-meager nights leave me oddly out of sorts, legs jumpy. i'll see if i can solve the cover problem on the new book. maybe i'll take a hot shower first, and see if i can clear my head.
a short walk in the meadow, the only dog evidence was the scent attached to deer trails. and the musty odor of someone, maybe a fox or coyote or even, heaven forbid, a skunk. i collected a handful of milkweed, a nest with shells: evidence. and someone has been eating bark. procupine, i assume, but other than the scarring, no evidence.
i live in the adirondack foothills, 10 miles north of the blue line. but today. i spent a chunk of the day 25 miles north of here, in the st. lawrence river valley, some of the richest farmland in the north country of new york. even though the climate is the same, it is a very different place, hauntingly open, wind whipped, even sublime. if you have seen the movies black robe, or frozen river you will have a sense of this place. most of the current farms are big dairy farms, family farms are largely corporations, or dying. i was on one of these today. the barn has collapsed, the land is still farmed, rich and open and beautiful.
i love the stark stubble from corn harvest. it reminds me of drawings by nigel peake and ian stevens. ian is my first born. a fine artist, who specializes in lots of little lines, large ink drawings, printmaking, press work, and glass. he is capable of pulling a fine sheet of paper, too. he is a master wordsmith, and he has a particular love for honest, hard work.
i just love the ochre stubble against the wind driven snow. back home, it's deeper, woodsier. if you have the courage to watch the movie black robe, you will get a sense of the landscape along the st. lawrence.
it's time to see if i can settle into some book work tonight, but enjoying a blue moon may mean that i just hang out and look at a wonderful book i received from a friend.
so, i saw louise tonight, and even though the broken pipe is still broken, louise (and her mom!) appeared. the reason this is so cool is that we are in the middle of a rural myth: black panthers. yep, my neighbor thought he saw a black panther on my land probably going after a deer. now this myth has many permutations, the oddest being that the story of a black panther siting (actually photographed) originally occurred in western n.y. and has migrated east. so the hunting community here has embraced it. this story is a repeat from one from about 30 years ago, the photo that time was in the newspaper and i saw it. i will only say that there is no clear documentation. but what a myth!
i am weaving a little shifu today, natural lokta, rust dyed lokta on cotton, for a friend.
oh, and the pipe, it will wait till my daughter's car is fixed. alternators come before paper mill plumbing. priorities.
i woke to the music of my well pump. running and running. i checked all water in the house, nothing. with a sinking heart i went to the paper mill. sure enough, a broken pipe. after getting my bathrobe soaked, i found valves and turned them off. returned to the house and listened to the quiet. then the music began again. out again. more layers this time, turned off every valve possible, located the break and the ice that caused the break, but had frozen up, masking the problem until this prolonged moderate spell.
i have a special book i'm working on... i've been dreaming about it. the process reminds me of the book above, actius luna.
the luna book happened out of a story and some weirdly crisp daylily paper i made. it was built around a beaded moth barrette i purchased in maine. the barrette has definite problems, but the design was lovely. so i trimmed it up, removed the clasp, and had a lovely piece of art. i had taken a stack of the daylily paper, folded it twice. creating several surfaces from each sheet. these i gave a haphazard wash of gouache, and left to dry. somehow, i saw the moth and the pages become a book, and the story of the time i found two lunas just outside my back door one june morning, spent after their breeding, almost dying. i later learned they would soon die, having spent a short night or so together. these two are the only lunas i have found here. actius luna has a paper case cover, with a limp stationer's binding, with tackets and stitching in waxed linen. i wrote the story on the gouached pages. and i made the funny button out of paper, too. i make paper, and books into stories that sometimes, if i am very lucky, almost tell themselves.
oh, and the good news...i've sourced some silk from a friend to work on with eucalyptus!
hannah has named her louise. the photo is shot through my studio window (and screen), but she has the sweetest little mouth, dainty and a little silly. see her teeth? and she has burdock on her right ear. a scar on her neck.
this is what became of some of the eucalyptus and one cotton bandana.
leaves removed from stems and laid on wetted sown cotton, folded over once.
bundled up and tied tightly, steamed in a shallow water bath.
then it rested, and steamed again, after i added more water. also, a bit of washing soda. a flake of red onion skin hanging around.
after sitting on the counter a few days, i could wait no longer.
there are hints of green, gold, rust
this was the somewhat disappointing cloth hanging wet on the window. it is now a bit deeper in color, much yellower, with pink tones. i didn't rinse, not even yet.
this experiment was strange because i used new cotton bandanas that i purchased, pre-washed, but didn't pre-mordant at all. old cottons, especially my favorite old bed sheets, dye so much differently. in any case, i have a bandana with some interest, in the rusty-gold family, with a few pink undertones. all that green? mostly gone. but i'm thinking that, too, may change.
For are not all places at once both the ends of the earth and home? --rupert isaacson The Horse Boy
a morning walk with hannah and wendy. brilliant sunshine, but cold wind, until we turned our backs to it on the way home. wendy relished the wind and snow, checking back to make sure we're on our way.
correspondence with readers of wake robin has me thinking about teaching and education, so i thought i'd write a bit about a very special school. eagle rock school and professional development center is nestled into a high mountain meadow near estes park, co. it is the only campus i know of where a teen student, noticing you as a visitor, will approach you with a greeting and will send you in the direction you need to go. or take you there! but that's just the beginning. if you sit in on a morning "gathering", especially on wednesday, you will feel at home. criteria for entrance include agreeing to follow their code, agreeing to several simple, but clear rules. it's a school for students who are not experiencing success in their current environment. my son clearly fit that requirement as he was a bright, energetic, difficult kid, who needed a huge challenge. his sister, a national honor society/music/sports/good student was nevertheless unhappy in local public school. ers nurtured them both. visit their web site and you will see a bit about the magic of a place where students and teachers live, work, learn in community, with intention. eagle rock is place my kids and i always feel at home.
my house came with a plethora of chimneys, several defunct, this one is possibly functional, but is so crooked as it travels through the attic of the house, it's crazy. hasn't been hit by lightning, either. i looked up into the blueness this morning, dazzled. the very crooked chimney is a metaphor for us. we can be crooked and still function beautifully. and we can look fine (it's not crooked above the roofline or in the backroom) and be crazy crooked.
every snow flake, they say, is unique. maybe a little crooked?
i am realizing that i often start a post with a theme in mind only to find it has become another thing altogether. i started thinking about my intolerance for bullshit, the issue jude hill mentioned today. but as i wrote i realized that this is more a strong desire for authenticity and real relationships in both my life and work. and work, for me is my bread income (teaching in an alternative high school ged special education program) and the art i choose, paper, fiber, and books. life is, for me, about maintaining integrity and authenticity.
i'm not sure that i juggle the two halves of me with any grace, but i do try. as i was thinking about these blessed nine days away from teaching, i walked and thought of papermaking. milkweed and dogbane are two favorite fibers that i can collect just out my back door and make lovely papers, full of character and north country liveliness. both were everywhere on my walk! often people put their noses right down into a box of papers as i show them, they inhale deeply and smile.
being able to spot the skeletons of plants is one of the pleasures of winter. years of practice and a bit of intuition tell me that i must skip the dogbane now, there's just not enough fiber to use even for a tiny bit of paper. (there might be enough if i was spinning or twining a short length of thread) but i once went out on my skis in march with my pack basket, and harvested milkweed, field retted, fiber white and peeling, and made wonderful paper. i make this in a cobbled together eastern/western method, which makes lovely sheets. it is possible that i will put on my boots tomorrow morning and gather up milkweed, bring it home, strip and cook it up for paper. it would feed my soul to do this. make a big mess. keep my hands busy.
and, by the way, does anyone out there have any wisteria fiber i might purchase or trade for? not much, just to sample a bit with.
this is how things looked on day one and two. students had really begun to experiment.
having a good teacher assistant is one of the things that allows me to keep everything flowing smoothly in my room.
the student took this excellent start andpushed it too far, first a leg broke, then the entire piece collapsed. he did not understand what the stone was saying, which was"go easy". he loves filing away, but can't quite understand the reductive process.
today i finished my piece, and one student has two close to being done. others are struggling, and one is completely at sea. but we are moving forward, and they are still listening, reading, understanding crow and weasel. one student says, "can we work on soapstone" at every chance he gets. he is enchanted by this project.