Saturday, December 27, 2014

On Having Two Places To Call Home

This book came into my life some time ago. My "countries" are the California of my birth and the Washington State where I have lived since I was 24 years old.  They are two very distinct places. In 1973, I lived briefly in Massachusetts near Walden Pond but didn't feel any sense of being at home there.  Forty years have gone by very quickly in Washington State.  I haven't been able to travel to California since 2008, but I visit often in dreams and memories and blogs. When I look through this book, I feel close to Allen Say and his grandfather.

"The funny thing is, the moment I am in one country, I am homesick for the other."
(Allen Say, from Grandfather's Journey)

I have loved and been loved by two places.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Listen to the Great Animal Orchestra

While reading "Forest & River News" from Trees Foundation yesterday, I learned about Bernie Krause and The Great Animal Orchestra.

Then I watched this.

Wow! Listen.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Lives of Chairs and Families

When my mother's parents were newly married in the early 1900s in Boston, Massachusetts, they bought six Duncan Phyfe-style chairs with caned seats and a Duncan Phyfe-style dining table. It is possible that my grandfather bought the chairs second-hand and repaired and caned them. It is possible that he made them from a kit. They have odd quirks, including holes that are drilled at odd angles along with added nails and bolts and different kinds of wood for the stretchers. Not long after their marriage, our grandparents moved to Hastings, Minnesota, bringing the chairs and tables with them. My mother and her older brother grew up with those chairs and that table. As I understand, my grandfather re-caned the chairs whenever the caning broke down. After my grandmother died in the 1930s, the table and chairs were moved to Hermosa Beach in Southern California with my grandfather, my mother, my uncle, my aunt, and their daughter. After my grandfather died in 1945, the table and chairs went to my mother, and she brought them to her marriage to my father in 1948. The table and chairs were moved from Southern California to a small apartment in San Francisco, and then to an apartment in San Mateo, and from there to a house in Palo Alto, to a house in Taft, and to a house in Redwood City.

My sisters and I grew up with that table and those chairs, although we were taught to be very careful with the caned chairs, and our family rarely used the table except for holidays and special occasions. Of course, as small children, we stood on seats of the chairs and eventually the caning broke down, and the chairs went into the storage in the garage. In Redwood City, my parents bought a new dining table and new chairs with upholstered seats. I can remember the old dining table being used peripherally, at least until I went away to college in 1967. I remember seeing the chairs with their broken seats in the garage in storage. When my parents moved into an apartment again before moving permanently to their retirement home on the Mendocino Coast, I think that they must have sold the table or given the table away, but my mother kept the six old chairs.

When I was still in my 20s in my first years in Bellingham, my mother gave me two of the chairs. I took a class in furniture refinishing, and learned to do chair caning. I toyed with the idea of becoming a chair caner, but hurt my neck while working on the first chair that I was paid to cane and gave up on that idea.  That chair that I was paid to cane was an antique oak swivel office chair with a curved back and curved sides -- a complex caning job. I did a beautiful job of caning, but I didn't work quickly enough to make any money at that job. When I tried to work quickly, I hurt my neck.

After my mother died in 1994, the other four chairs came to me because my sisters didn't want them. Two were in very poor condition, and I put them in storage, but I had the other two re-caned by a professional caner along with my first two which also needed re-caning again. By that time I was working full-time and didn't have the time or energy for caning. 

Now, another 20 years later, I am having one chair caned at a time by an expert caner (take a look at her website) who just moved to Bellingham in the past few years. There hadn't been a caner north of Seattle for some time. The two chairs which were in such bad condition have been finished and repaired and re-caned now. Just this week, I picked up another finished caned chair and dropped off another for caning. After that, there is one chair left that needs caning. When I picked up the chair and dropped the other off, Stella showed me two chairs nearly identical to my set of chairs. However, those two chairs had had their legs sawed off so that they were about 6 inches shorter. They were clearly of the same design but had more caning holes and slightly different dimensions. They were like cousins to my chairs -- even down to the quirkiness of their construction!

I hope that either my nephew or one of my cousins on my mother's side of the family will take the chairs and use them when I am gone. One of them is for sitting on when I play my autoharp, ukulele and dulcimers. Two are at my dining table with my father's mother's chair with the needlepoint seat. One holds a knit afghan. One is in my bedroom. The last one that still needs caning is in my hall closet and may have to remain there with two stuffed bears and two bins of old books sitting on it. The chairs are dear to me because of their history in our family.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Monday, December 8, 2014

A New Baby Boy On Bodhi Day 2014

Although I am not affiliated with any spiritual or religious tradition, I listen carefully to the teachings of all traditions and find wisdom in each one. Today is Bodhi Day in Buddhist tradition.

"Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find anything that agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it."
-- Siddhartha Gautama Buddha

In what I hope is in the spirit in which the Buddha teaches, these thoughts came to mind after reading the above quote because through a process of observation, analysis, and reason, I don't believe that observation, analysis, and reason are everything. There is much to be said for the wisdom and experiences of the heart:

"The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing."
-- Blaise Pascal

"I asked him why he thought the whites were all mad.
'They say they think with their heads,' he replied.
'Why of course. What do you think with?' I asked him in surprise.
'We think here,' he said, indicating his heart."
(Carl Jung, during a visit to New Mexico, in conversation with Ochwiay Biano, a Pueblo Indian, quoted from Memories, Dreams, Reflections)

"I believe in the impossible, you know that I do."
-- Bob Dylan

"I don't believe in Buddha."
-- John Lennon (who died on December 8, 1980)

"Thanks to impermanence, everything is possible"
-- Thich Nhat Hanh (Zen Buddhist monk) from Going Home: Jesus and Buddha as Brothers

"Because suffering is impermanent, that is why we can transform it.
Because happiness is impermanent, that is why we have to nourish it."
-- Thich Nhat Hanh, 10 June 2014

Today is the 8th birthday of my blog which began in December of 2006 as "Old Girl of the North Country," a vehicle for a 40-year retrospective of my art work. From that beginning, this blog became for me a path of healing from unresolved grief dating back to the last years of the war in Vietnam.

Although I do not post as much as I did that first year or read as many blogs as I once did, blogging has continued to play a huge part in keeping my creative spirit alive. I have immense gratitude to you whose blogs I visit regularly and am grateful to you for visiting my blog.

This past year has brought one dear baby after another into my life, along with a sense of a place of peace within me no matter what happens, and much has happened this year to challenge that peace.

A few weeks ago I began helping a younger friend and her husband who are in their early 40s and have recently adopted fraternal twin infant boys who were born to a meth-addicted single mother who had no prenatal care and simply appeared at a hospital in labor and, through an adoption agency, chose my friends to parent her twin boys. What a joy it is to be able to be part of a group of their friends who are spending mornings and afternoons helping this first-time mother and father by comforting, feeding, and talking to and playing with their baby boys. We are doing our best to take the place of the grandmothers and grandfathers and aunts and uncles who do not live nearby or who are no longer living.

Today on Bodhi Day at 10:38 a.m., a sweet baby boy was born in New York City and one of my oldest friends became a grandmother for the second time and emailed the above photo.

Welcome to L.L.S in his first few hours of his life!

It is only a little planet, but how beautiful it is.
-- Robinson Jeffers