Octopus

A small female octopus has remained in my heart ever since I watched My Octopus Teacher. Her short life held many things, including— surprisingly— a connection with a human, despite caution , instinct, and perhaps fear (who knows if an octopus can feel fear?). She opened, accepted, and had a rich and unique life because of this. 

“……an octopus’ main experience of the world is the tension between fear and curiosity.”  ~~from an interview with Pippa Ehrlich, co-director of the film

This documentary broke my heart. I will most likely never watch it again. But her story lives inside of me now— a lesson in living. I had to pay respect to her and so I created her in beads. 

The story of the bead project:

  • I searched the web until I found just the right image of an octopus. It had to have life, grace, and flow. Lucky for me, the one I finally found also happened to be an intricate cross stitch pattern! This made it quite simple to print the pattern and choose similar colors for the beads.
  • I spent considerable time contemplating the background. It couldn’t just be a plain monotone color without thought or life or meaning. Though she undoubtedly would have popped and been very pretty on a sea-blue background, it would have made for a shallow picture, without depth or thought— something that you look at and think, “How pretty” and then turn away from. So the background that I chose represents her life. The white and clear beads are the clarity and purity of the water, the vast and limitless expanse available to her, and they soften her edges, making her seem not-well-defined. The whites/clears of the water and her own ghostly pale grays merge in places, making her one with the water. But of course! She is an octopus after all, a soft being who must spend her life camouflaging herself and avoiding predators. The galvanized marine-colored beads represent the richness and depth of her environment, the ocean itself which teems with life and nourishment. They are the viscosity and silkiness, the suspension and flow that supports the life that lives in it.
  • Embellishment ideas have flowed through my mind constantly right from the beginning….. a starfish— what size? color? —placement? A tall seaweed forest? -colors? -material? Sea floor? -rocks? sizes? —arrangement? Fish? Edging? Header for hanging? Bottom fringe or themed embellishments?  Long bottom? Short bottom? Focus? Is this a small project or is it part of a much larger canvas? 

As I’m just over halfway to placing the 14,706 seed beads for the base of the project I am still mulling the finishing touches. I will not know what it will look like until I place the very last piece on it and call it done. You see, as the work emerges, it brings with it a life of its own. There is constant evolution happening in the visions I can see. I have minimal control over what it asks (and sometimes demands) of me.        

You will see her in many different lights. If viewed close up in bright light there is the ‘work of her’— the individual building blocks and their separate, distinct colors. Each bead and embellishment a working part of the whole. In my opinion, not a pretty view when each is taken separately, and yet a necessary view in order to understand all of the tiny elements which make a whole. But when you back up and see her from a distance her personality emerges. You will be able to see her in many different ways with each change of light and angle. When the water around her shimmers with life and she is matte; a real being in a ‘live’ world. When the water around her is flat and seems like nothing and she is flat too, merging with it as you try to see her edges and can’t. When you enter the room and catch sight of her from an angle, and the light is just so……did she move?                              

12/08/2021

I love the languid gracefulness of her sinuously waving tentacles. I’m there with her and can almost feel the viscosity of the water as we gently, slowly sway with the currents.

There are 39 rows left now. She is almost complete. Like the producers of the show, I don’t want to assign a personality to her, don’t want to humanize her in any way. She is too precious and pure to be contaminated that way.  This is one of those times when you can feel a sort of love for a being and be perfectly okay that it’s not returned—you know it can’t be— because there is nothing selfish about this feeling. 

01/22/2022

She came off the loom last week. I don’t know if I can find the correct words to describe the feel and drape of the finished, beaded ‘fabric’. It’s a bit luxurious, with a satisfying weight, and almost a fluid movement to it. Very fitting for this project, yes? 

There was finishing to be done, some ends to be woven in, most ends knotted in groups of four and still waiting to be contained in the leather of the top and bottom borders. The bottom has decided that it will be the sea floor: some ‘rough’ sand ridges with scattered shells representing an abundance of life. This is what I’m working on now. Small pieces of abalone shell are representative of rocks scattered about the sand. 

03/06/2022

The bottom border is close to completion. I’m now adding the jute twine to the edges. Of note: this jute twine is well over 30+ years old. It’s something my mum had in her ‘junk drawer’ of tools, strings, and odds-&-ends of doodads to fix things with. I remember this roll of twine from decades ago. In all probability, it’s decades older than I think, as she had a lot of items she saved from her own mum’s house that she never threw away, proclaiming it all good and useful stuff that would last forever! It’s things like this that contribute to the meaning of the art, although most people who see it will never know. 

14,706 beads have been married to soft deerskin leather, cotton fabric, a thin base of fine Florida sand overlaid with coarse, gritty Maine beach sand, miscellaneous shells, Swarovski Crystal starfish, a piece of Maine beach glass, a golden sand dollar finding, polished abalone chunks, a black lip shell starfish, the findings that support the hanging, and of course, the old twine. Not including the hanging twine, this piece measures about 9 1/2 inches wide and about 10 inches tall.

This mixed media piece of art has taken months to plan and finish. Sometimes her and I just needed a rest, other times I needed to stop and listen to what she wanted. Occasionally, certain pieces that I envisioned just couldn’t be found, and that told me that they weren’t meant for this piece. I near completion with mixed feelings. Her and I have been working together for  months now. A sort of partnership. I’ll miss that even as I look forward to my next projects. 

Until you create something, you can’t know or recognize the depth of soul that goes into a creation.        ~~DLFarley

Goodbye 2021, but not Good Riddance

As time closes in on the end of January I’ve had plenty of time to reflect on the year past.

There have been a lot of years I’ve said good riddance to. But this year I won’t– despite the pandemic, the awful politics, and all the rest– there are many blessings and happy times I don’t wish to forget.

In the midst of distancing I found a lovely prayer group online. Wonderful people who were caring and supportive of each other. Even though I was never able to meet any of them in person, I learned to pray along with them for their families and friends (and mine), and for all the people of the world who are looking for the light at the end of this dark tunnel. I discovered that, in the restricted world of a pandemic, a prayer group lends a great deal of perspective to the narrowness of this new life we have been forced to live. Now that we’re (hopefully) seeing the end in sight, the online prayer group has been stopped and I find that I miss it terribly. Those folks were part of my life for over a year……a lovely warm glow at the end of many evenings. Now I have prayer time alone and remember them– pray for them– wishing them well as the future pulls us forward, each in our own direction.

I’ve had a lot of time to really dig deep within myself and meditate on my dreams and goals for this life. Time to examine the changes I want to make within myself; changes that will inevitably force me to grow and step outside of my comfort zone. Changes that, if I’m strong enough to make them, will lead me to a life lived with an open heart that allows joy to flow in and back out again to envelop others.

In spite of a world embroiled in difficult times, it’s been a year of learning and growing that’s been long overdue, and gave me hope for many more years to come to learn, grow, and love, in good health and with a happy heart. So as I walk the path of life this year, I choose to embrace the good from the past year, and to take what I’ve learned and use it to make positive changes.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. ~Romans 15:13 (ESV)

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December 2020

2020 is drawing to a close. I think we’re all breathing a sigh of relief and looking forward to the healing that 2021 will bring. Healing for our bodies from Covid & healing for our hearts from all the stresses and traumas of 2020.

We have been distancing, quarantining, masking, washing, losing our jobs, our incomes, and our minds. We have been forced to spend significant amounts of time alone. Naturally we have drawn inward upon ourselves. While some have taken this enforced alone time to work on themselves in various ways, others have struggled mightily from the lack of contact we have taken for granted all of our lives.

Perhaps now is the perfect time to reflect on the year as it passes into history.

As we reflect on what went wrong, what went okay, and what actually may have gone right, this is also a good time to contemplate what we want our new year to be like. I’m thinking about our relationships with each other. This past year, as we hunkered down and tried to stock up on products, we were forced to be apart. Our focus turned to our earthly needs and material things. It was tough not being able to greet and hug everyone, so we poured our energy into these physical things instead of each other.

We can see the light at the end of the tunnel now. With vaccines arriving and many folks doing their best to stop the spread by masking, washing, distancing— we’ll get through. Now that we know the light is coming closer perhaps we should turn our thoughts to how we are going to behave when we can more freely interact again. How will we treat each other? How will we treat strangers?

What have we learned?

Really stop and think about this. What have you learned? About yourself? About others? About how you want your life to be from here on out? About how you want our world to be?

What changes would you like to see people making? And the most important question of all: what changes will you make?

As for me, I will be kinder. I will listen more and try hard to see things from other’s perspective. I will try to be more understanding and generous. Generous with time, with help, with comfort and with love. After all, I believe we are all here on earth to learn to love each other as Jesus loves us– unconditionally.

Burst into 2021 with renewed hope. Don’t tiptoe in fearfully, looking over your shoulder. Only by taking action will we make the changes we wish to see in our world. Join me is spreading love and understanding all throughout 2021. Let’s make it a year of healing. 💕

👩🏻‍💻

Winter

It’s always been cold and unfriendly to me. Well, maybe not always. I remember snow-blown days of youth, several layers of clothes, two or three pairs of Gram’s hand-knit mittens, and a hand-knit hat pulled low to the eyebrows. Walking through the neighborhood with the snow swirling all around. Or sliding down the hill next to the house, stopping just short of the road where the snow was plowed up high. There was a steep incline on the other side of the house that was perfect for jumping off into mid-air and turning a flip, before landing with a poof in a deep snowdrift. A brief moment of weightless adrenaline. Then laying there for another snapshot in time, flat on my back, arms spread wide to the overcast sky, grinning. Floundering out of the soft snow, climbing back up to do it again. Sweet youth.

Ice cakes formed in the harbor and piled up on the shore. Huge, enticing, translucent light-filled aqua. A mystery that needed to be explored, but was forbidden. The heart pounding fear of sliding off of one into the smoking-cold sea kept us at bay. It meant instant death. Looking and imagining was all we needed. Winters were much colder then than they are now. Those big ice cakes no longer pile up on the shore, just small ones that are gone within a few days. Smoke on the water happens only briefly each season now. I remember long winters of a smoky harbor and ice cakes that formed in the water halfway to Greenings Island. My Mum shared memories of when the harbor froze solid and the men used to drive their trucks on it all the way across. It’s scary to think of as we struggle with climate change and all the changes that are coming with it.

Now for many years, winter means unbearable cold and stiffness in my body. Cold that touches my hands brings instant pain. My feet, layered in wool socks and heavy boots, still get cold quickly and have even more intense pain. When I was a young woman I would stick my bare foot out the front door into the first new snowfall, and take a picture of it, pink toenails on the white background. These days I shy away from the outside in winter and at the same time, remember the exuberance of youth and know that I’m missing so much. I push my limits with the technology of “hot hands” and “toasty toes” warmers that fit into gloves and stick to the bottoms of socks. But it isn’t enough. The wind pushes needles of cold through the fabric of my clothes, and down my neck. How does it do that when I’m wrapped so well, with so many layers?

This pain from cold brings its own blessings as it makes me realize all of the relationships around it. I appreciate the wood fire more, the shelter of the ice shack when fishing, the warmth of rum and good friends after a long snowmobile ride. I look at snapshots of us on the trail, smiling in the scenery, and can smell the fresh cold air. I wonder how many hundreds of pairs of wool mittens Gram made; her love for children woven into each stitch.

I still enjoy the quiet and solitude of a walk in the woods amid fresh and falling snow, surrounded by silence and steaming breath. Seeing fresh animal tracks in the snow and wondering how far ahead of me it is. I love the wonder that God gives us with the pure whiteness swirling around, falling from a grey and white sky, or the sun glistening on the new snow in blinding exquisiteness. 

You see, even pain brings a new perception if you look for God around the edges. I’ve found that He has always wrapped my pain with blessings, when I’ve taken the time to look.   👩🏻‍💻

If You Could Turn Back Time…

Take a moment to step back and view your life so far. Do you like what you see?

(This post is a conversation that I have been having with myself recently. I’m letting you in on it because I know that everyone has moments in their life when they reassess where they are, how far they’ve come, and where they want to go looking forward. If my self-talk helps you in any way then I’m happy– for you & for me.)

If you could go back to any point on your life’s timeline, knowing everything you know now, where would you land? What would you change?

Think about this for a few minutes.

  1. You’ve collected a vast amount of knowledge and experience during your time here on earth.
  2. You have a lot of ideas about how you want your life to be.
  3. You have weathered disappointments along the way or have given up some of your dreams.

Now think about where you are in the scheme of it all. Okay? Ready?

You still have a lot of good living to do. Don’t abandon your visions for your future. They are not the same dreams you had earlier in life and that’s to be expected. Your dreams and visions evolve with you as you walk through life. Looking at the rest of your life…..

    What do you want it to be like?
    How have your dreams/visions evolved?
    What steps can you take to guide it in that direction? Small steps are an excellent beginning & very motivational.
    What mistakes have you made, learned from, and don’t want to repeat?

I actually sat down and made a list of things from the past that I wish I could go back and change, or knowledge that I wish I had possessed. It was a wide-ranging list that included relationship-related things, monetary knowledge, career paths, activities that bring me happiness, health considerations, etc.

I spent a brief moment of time mourning those things that I wished had been different. Ultimately all my experiences have made me who I am though, and recognizing that made the slight sadness evaporate.

Begin taking those steps that will make your visions come alive. Live the life you see in your minds’ eye as closely as you can. 👩🏻‍💻

 

 

 

 

Rethinking Birthdays

We mark our passage through time each year on our birthday by celebrating ourselves and the fact that we have been in the world for x amount of years. It seems foolish that we don’t also celebrate our parents (and their ancestors) with thanks and respect each year on the date of our birth. We are not the ones who did all the work of creating our little bodies, which grew inside of our mothers. All we did was appear when it was time. We should include paying our respects to our parents for all that they did to bring us into the world and raise us they best they could. The sacrifices they made, the dreams they set aside, the love they gave, the guidance they provided— and continued to provide long after we grew to adulthood and flew from the nest.

I know, I know, there is Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, but they seem so separate and cold. Forced almost, like some holidays. Wouldn’t it be cozier and more loving if we acknowledged our birthday as not only achieving another year of life, but as a family appreciation event as well?  

 From now on I’ll be spending a good part of my birthdays thinking about my parents and all who came before them. If not for every single one of them I wouldn’t be here.  Even though Mum & Dad are both long gone from this world, I can still appreciate them, think of them, and take the time to look at my life from their loving perspective. I appreciate the work they did to keep the bills paid, a roof over our heads, and good food in our bellies. I appreciate all that they taught me— right from the first breath of life and into the decades beyond. 

 Think about it. Think about the myriad of skills you were taught or learned by watching your parents. 

Some of the basics from my early years: Learning to walk, using a toilet, taking a bath, using silverware, playing nice with others and not cheating at games, learning to turn the other cheek when the kids at school were cruel, writing thank you notes, being considerate of others and sharing toys and food, learning to save money in a piggy bank, being honest and doing my best at whatever task I was faced with, working hard in school, and of course, the freedom to explore any book I wanted to read no matter how ‘old’ it was for my age because Mum recognized the value of knowledge and self-learning.

Some of the valuable lessons of my middle and older years: being on time for appointments, keeping up with healthcare, eating healthy, looking for the good in even the most difficult situations, caring for family not just every day but through the tough times too, and preserving & building on the family history that will be passed down through the generations so that family will know a bit about their ancestors.

 Many lessons are just the basics of everyday functioning. But others have to do with character and being a strong, independent person. One thing Mum always said that has really stayed with me no matter what is “Better days are coming.” It’s the first thought I have when I have a bad moment, a bad day, an issue to work through, or whatever challenges me. Better days are coming. And it’s true. All things pass and circumstances usually improve or at least change to the point where you can get a fresh start. Solutions are found. New scenarios are had. These four valuable words keep me going when things get tough. Just four simple words passed along by a woman who had experienced much during her decades here on earth.

What wisdom has been passed along to you? 

If you were to rename the birthday experience to include the celebration and appreciation of our family members what would it be called?  👩🏻‍💻

There’s Something About Autumn

Labor Day weekend has come and gone. The tourists are beginning to clear out along with the mosquitoes. There’s a nip in the air every morning now that has me putting the big, fuzzy slippers on and tossing a shawl around my shoulders. Hot cocoa tastes like a dream as it warms its path downwards and makes my innards quiver with delight. 

Autumn is here. It’s my favorite time of year. Brisk breezes, walking on beaches and trails that are no longer overcrowded, hearty stews and soups, sweaters and fleece mixed in with Indian summer days and star gazing evenings by the firepit. 

All of these things make me want to pull out the projects I work on in colder weather: wool socks, afghans, scarves and hats. A quiet evening next to the window with a movie playing while knitting….. 

What do you do to let go of the non-stop hectic at the end of the summer? 

Food Insecurity & the Edible Landscape

I saw on the news this morning that Americans waste 40% of their food each year. That’s a lot. Now think of this: as of 2017 (according to Feeding America) 41 million people in the Untied States were dealing with food insecurity. That’s 12.3% of households or 1 in 8 families. Yet we’re throwing food away at an alarming rate. 

It seems like there should be more effective ways to deal with this. I had a thought— which I’m sure many others have thought of before me— why don’t we spend less money & effort growing manicured lawns and spend a bit of effort planting vegetables and fruit in our yards? While many of us have small vegetable gardens, or grow herbs & such, these are only a small fraction of our yard space. We could all be so much more independent and helpful to our neighbors if we used the bulk of our ‘lawn space’ to grow food instead. Think about that for a minute.

You say that not everyone can do this. You’re right. Some folks have physical limitations and can’t do it. So if you’re their neighbor can you help them? Or can you share with them in exchange for something else? Maybe a group of neighbors can get together and all help with planting and weeding, etc, and then all share in the bounty. Now think about that. You can imagine any amount of various scenarios that would work right in your own neighborhood.

For every roadblock or limitation there is a way to work around it or overcome it.

Apartment dwellers. Do you have a porch? Or a communal yard space? You can grow vegetables in pots. Or on rooftops. No land, no space? What if cities and towns set aside parcels of land for folks to have communal gardens? Or along sidewalks? In front of businesses?

In my mind’s eye I can picture all of this in place. I can see people helping each other and interacting, building friendships. Real people dealing with each other in real time. People outside working side by side without having their faces bent into their cellphones. I miss seeing people actually looking at each other and having conversations.

I’m a bit old school. I remember life before cell phones. I remember the phones attached to the wall with a limited amount of cord coming out of them. You had to get up and run to the other room to answer it. When your parents wanted you to come home they yelled for you out the window or called your friend’s mother.  The point being that people interacted more and knew how to have actual relationships. I miss seeing that when I drive through a neighborhood. So what if we began building our human relationships again? Beginning with growing food is an obvious choice. People would compare notes on growing techniques, swap plants and food overabundance with each other. We would be doing something proactive about our food insecurity. My theory is this: if we spend time & effort growing some of our food we will appreciate that food more and waste less. All while growing our relationships and strengthening our society. Instead of reminiscing about the ‘good old days’ we could be living them! 

I watched a Ted talk a few years ago and it has stuck with me ever since. It’s the inspiration which allows me to envision the bounty in each yard and public space that I pass. Given by Pam Warhurst from England (https://www.ted.com/talks/pam_warhurst_how_we_can_eat_our_landscapes#t-765782 ) it  showed me how they made this work in England. A simple group of volunteers made such wonderful things happen. It made incredibly perfect sense. There were places everywhere where people grew vegetable plants in front of businesses, by the sidewalk, and anyone walking by was free to weed around them and take a share in the harvest if they wished. This is the kind of community I’d like to see. How awesome would it be to finally read a news report that showed us our efforts had eliminated hunger in America?

We have the power and we CAN.

We live in a world where we feel powerless every time we watch the news. The latest political outrage, mass shooting, drugs, disasters, etc. We can make a difference in our world in spite of all this. We can teach the next generation that changes can be made by individuals. We can show that when those individuals come together they are a very powerful force for good. We can all learn about this and be on the same page. We can come together and just do it. Talking about things and then letting them fade away is not the answer. The most powerful phrase that Pam used in her Ted talk, “we are all part of the solution” should inspire each and every one of us to do something. Watch the video and see if it inspires you.    👩🏻‍💻