Thursday, January 27, 2011

Presence... or absence?

I had a powerful reminder of my chosen word of the year the other day when I decided to use up some rare spare time by walking with my camera in the Lexington Cemetery. I was between appointments and didn't want to waste time with eating or shopping/spending money (I've had more than enough of those the past few months!), plus wanted to exercise and enjoy the snowfall.
I couldn't have lucked upon a prettier time or place. I'd actually only been in Lexington Cemetery once years ago when the huge weeping cherries were in bloom and I will definitely make it a stop again this spring, as they are spectacular. There is so much history there, both in the people memorialized and in the trees, some of which are the finest specimens of their type in the region.
Henry Clay's memorial stands tall above the rest, with his figure facing toward his beloved home, Ashland on Richmond Road, and I enjoyed reading the fascinating history of Henry Clay's funeral(s) and the development of the memorial itself (noting that the statue's 350 pound head came off in a storm one time, and was found 6 inches in the ground!). The cemetery website has the history.
As I meandered through the winding paths, my own footsteps the only prints in the snow (except for the native creatures), so many thoughts ran through my mind.... I have fond memories of our family visiting my grandparent's graves in beautiful Woodland Cemetery in Dayton, Ohio. One time we were there late on a Sunday and when we went to leave we discovered that we'd been locked in! There were lots of jokes about having to spend the night, but my brothers climbed the fence and found the caretaker to let us drive out.
I recollected the time in college when a group of us, dressed in costume (one tall guy with a real pumpkin on his head), went through the old cemetery in Oxford Ohio on Halloween night to try to scare the wits out of each other- it worked.

I thought of the attempts we made to clean up the old 1800's graveyard on our farm, pulling up weeds and cleaning up branches and putting a split rail fence around it. I'm sorry to say that nature has once again reclaimed that patch of sacred land; maintaining a cemetery is a lot of work!
As I walked, I felt a lovely peacefulness. This is why people come to cemeteries, to reminisce, pay respects, and find serenity. I felt the kind presence of those long gone, and also that of God. But as I saw some tents standing over newly-dug graves, I also had a sensation of the absence and grief that is experienced there. Absence = the opposite of presence, a harsh reminder that I am here, now, but won't always be.
I also revisited my own decision to be cremated, not wanting to take space on this earth once my life is over. I don't want toxic chemicals added to the soil on my behalf, don't want a fancy coffin or any of the other traditional accoutrements of death. May my ashes be spread wherever loved ones find comfort, but hopefully in a place of nature and peace. I know that I'd like being close to water and whether it's the Kentucky River, the Bahamas, or a lake in a cemetery matters not to me.
There was plenty of nature in this space in the middle of the city, I saw a Cooper's Hawk, Great Blue Heron, ducks and geese, and the tracks of many small birds and mammals.
It seemed quite apt that a friend had this thought-provoking link on her facebook page that evening (don't let anyone tell you that facebook is all trivial, I find many nuggets of inspiration there from wise friends). It fit quite nicely with the ruminations I had as I left the cemetery. They revolved not around death, but LIFE and how best to live the rest of it.... and only God knows how long that may be.
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Monday, January 24, 2011

Friends, Fun, Food, Fiber

I had a great time collaborating with some of my creative NE Ohio friends for a fiber arts retreat at our friend Cheryl's gorgeous place, nestled between nature-filled wetlands in a rural area east of Cleveland. I've had the pleasure of watching the progress on her beautiful home for several years, and Cheryl was anxious to break in the newly-completed studio. Wow, it would be a dream come true for any artist- tons of space with sitting areas, a central table for gathering, a deep sink and tiled space for working with wet stuff, and even a huge and luxurious sleeping area with room for several friends to sleep over (which we did!)
There were five of us, and everyone contributed some bit of knowledge and taught it to the others. It was soooo neat to learn how to card colorful art batts and then spin them into art yarns of several types (here are some of mine- I can't wait to do more!).
Robbie and Donna are alpaca-owning friends who have focused on making incredible and original products in the Alpaca Fiber Studio in Chagrin Falls, and it was easy to see why so many people enjoy taking their classes, as they're very patient and encouraging teachers!
I hadn't met Barb before, but soon discovered that she's a real sweetheart and also a great knitter and crocheter. She finished this beautiful shawl and modeled it for us at the end of our retreat.
Donna and Robbie had just put on a fashion show at a local country club, so they showed us some of their unique nuno felt fashions they had made for it (some of the items were modeled over pajamas, so there was lots of hamming it up and laughter!).
Having lived in Kentucky for more than half of my life now, snow is a big deal for us but not for the tough Northeasters! Here's what my car looked like on the second morning, and at one point it looked like a blizzard outside but my spunky friends never even commented on the weather except for an occasional blase remark, "hmmm, it looks a bit bad out there." The rare flash of sunshine elicited a lot more attention!
As is usually the case with my woman friends, there was a lot of laughing, excellent food, and good wine to be shared. We all compared our sources, techniques and ideas, it was so much fun! The only time it was quiet was when everyone was concentrating on learning something new, such as when I taught the others how to make a felted birdhouse.
They all turned out beautifully! Robbie's heart-shaped "love nest" was especially cute, and I hope to make some of these in time for valentine's day as well.
Thank you so much to Cheryl and my other friends for including this "southern friend" in the retreat and I hope this will be at least an annual event! Alpaca breeding originally introduced us, but the fiber of friendship still holds us together, and for that I am very grateful.
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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Gates of the Bluegrass

I went on a photography binge around the holidays, taking shots of the beautiful entrances to some of the area thoroughbred farms as well as a few other sites such as Woodford Reserve Distillery. I decided to post them with a simple "artistic" effect applied from Photoshop. I hope you enjoy them!

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Friday, January 7, 2011

Fallingwater and Giveaway Results!

I've wanted to learn more about American architect Frank Lloyd Wright's designs for a while, but especially since reading Loving Frank, a novel about his flamboyant personal life and love affair(s) that our book club all enjoyed. My good college friend Jean from Pittsburgh had talked about Fallingwater, one of Wright's most famous houses and I'd read about it as well. We were on our way to meet the family for a long weekend ski vacation when I spotted the sign and suggested that we take a side trip. I was so glad that we did!
We were fortunate to be able to get in on a tour, and waited our turn in the welcome area which was an extension of Wright's visions of organic design with clean lines and openness to nature. The gift shop was tasteful as well, and I acquired two pieces of birch bark there for future craft projects yet unknown. The lush surroundings, well-preserved by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, were beautiful in the snow.
It was a short walk through the woods back to the house which is built literally on top of a waterfall which was magnificent in it's partially-frozen state. The hillside was covered with ice formations as well.
Photography is not allowed inside, but I did buy a great little book to help me remember the wonderful feel of Fallingwater, and the artistic vision that Wright constructed in this beautiful spot. You can take a really nice virtual tour here, and included is the Wright-designed furniture as well as the phenomenal collection of paintings and sculpture in the home, which has been a museum since the 60's when it was donated to the public by the original owners, the Kauffman family.
Several scenes will be forever etched in my mind from 2010, and many are shared here with you on this site. The highlights include horseback expeditions with friends, our family's RV voyage to Utah, and this view of Fallingwater.
To thank you all for sharing it with me, I posted a giveaway in this post and now it's time to announce the winner of a pair of alpaca socks and 2 skeins of alpaca yarn. The winners are Andy and Deb from Ontario, Canada, who said, "I would have to say....SIMPLIFY. It covers so much of life....simplify my schedule to enjoy more time with my family, simplify my lifestyle so there is less stress.....etc. Here's to 2011...may it be all you want it to be! The giveaway sounds amazing!"

Please send me an email at with your address, Andy and Deb, and I'll get the prize right out to you! I hope that all of your wishes, words and resolutions come true for 2011!
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Thursday, January 6, 2011

Getting a complex!!!

Image from
Those little voices in my head were saying things like "your blog really sucks", and "apparently NOBODY reads it" and "nobody even WANTS your smelly socks and yarn!" Fortunately, Dianne let me know that she had tried 3 times to post a comment this week... I had wondered why even SHE hadn't commented, especially after kindly mentioning the giveaway on her site.

Ya see, USUALLY Blogger sends me an email that I've received a comment... but they missed most of them! I had a backlog of comments in a folder that I'd never even seen and therefore hadn't published! SORRY if you're one of those commenters, I do hope you'll re-visit and keep commenting!

I've had a real love-hate relationship with computers lately... I lost the hard-drive on my HP laptop before the holidays, then found that Carbonite hadn't been doing my online backups as planned for the past year (gulp, I still can't even fully think about it). I bit the bullet and bought a MacBook and have mostly LOVED it.... but I'm also dealing with the learning curve of a whole new way of doing things AND the daily realization of something else that is lost from my old hard drive...

So, this little piece of blogosphere that connects us isn't perfect after all! But I do love it, the ability to express my thoughts and share some creations and a bit of my life... and I appreciate you letting me know that somebody out there is reading it from time to time. If you haven't already noticed, I've extended the sock and yarn giveaway until Friday at noon and will include 1 comment from each person in the drawing.
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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A little quickie....

... project, that is! After all of the hustle and bustle of the holidays, I was craving the chance to felt something (other than a birdhouse) that would incorporate all that I find satisfying in felting.
That means lots of experimenting, unpredictability, texture, color, and a little bit of "magic" added to the mix. This scarflet (mini scarf) fit the bill.
I used a bit of silk chiffon that I had hand-dyed and didn't particularly love the result enough to invest in a large shawl, so I cut it into a smaller piece and began grabbing colorful bits of merino, soft, hand-dyed milk fiber, a bit of angelina, and baby alpaca. I decided to leave the edges unfinished, rough and ruffled.

Since this was going to be a short scarf , it needed a pin and I wanted to use a complementary color that would stand out from the scarf itself. I felted a flower pin and added a turquoise bead for the center.
P.S. Welcome to the new visitors and followers to the blog! If you didn't notice in the comments, I've decided to extend the giveaway until Friday at noon!

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Saturday, January 1, 2011

Welcome, 2011!

I've been a bit more proactive this year than last in thinking of my Word of the Year in order to start on January 1. "ADAPT" was the word for 2009, and "EMBRACE" was quite fitting for 2010, with many of the intentions I expressed in this post fulfilled.

After reading this great post on photographer Kim Klassen's site and also this lovely site with thoughts about choosing your word, I had narrowed it down to three. They were Adventure (we have some awesome travels planned for this year), Patience (after all, we have two teenagers, LOL!), and Presence (to remember to breathe and stay in the moment). I was nearly sidetracked after a recent visit to Fallingwater and walking through the surroundings made me think of BEAUTY but then I decided that part of being in the present is observing the beauty all around.

I have a feeling that 2011 is going to bring some special times, and with greater awareness of the passing of time I want to stay present, to be in the moment and to not let my thoughts race ahead with busyness or dwell on past mistakes.

I mentioned the possibility of a giveaway a few weeks ago, and since so much of the country has had extremely cold weather already I am gifting a reader with pair of warm alpaca socks and two skeins of bulky weight alpaca yarn (your choice, either hand-dyed or natural. To win, leave a comment with your chosen Word of the Year or a resolution you've made for 2011. I'll pick a winner from those commenting by random generator on next Wednesday, January 5th at noon EST!

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