Winter Storm Advisory

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View from my living room window

I thought I would take a walk today, but nature had other plans: the first blizzard of this season, pouring down snow, blowing fiercely through trees and around houses in this tiny town. The snow has been falling now for several hours, and the wind is fierce, loud, tearing. It sounds as if it will rip the roof, or at least the shingles, off the house and open up my little home to the elements. It is cold, and wet and harsh: a real Maine winter’s day.

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Tire tracks in snow

As I sit here, writing, listening to the icy wind, the sounds of pieces of ice being thrown down my street, through tree branches, decorating the wood of trees and the steps of houses with squishy-squashy piles of snowy mush, the darkness of a winter’s day hangs at the edges. Today is a day where it will never really get light, despite our steady march toward the light again, now that the solstice is passed.

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Trees

Last night was a cold, clear night in which the moon hung like a small, round beacon, tall in the sky. My friend came to my studio last night to tell me to come outside and look at the moon. We stood on the porch and gazed at our satellite – perfect and white-grey in the nighttime, framed by the glimmering glow of two planets. Later, after an amazing Italian-Greek-Maine style pasta dinner, after mouthfuls of anchovies and olives and raw garlic and American Parmesan cheese (the only type we could find in the Pine Tree Market last night), we went outside again, bundled up in jackets and hats against the cold, and held high-powered binoculars in steady hands to look at the man in the moon. He disappears when you look too closely at him: then all you can see are the waterless seas, the craters, the mountains, all of those features thousands of miles away, yet, so close.

We listened to the glug-glug-glug of a wine bottle pouring Bordeaux into old glasses, holding the neck of the bottle up to our ears, closely. I climbed upstairs and looked at all of his garlic held in suspension above the room, in the rafters of the roof. I looked at a red and black and white wool blanket over a bed that has never been used, stared at two red owls, swooping in suspended animation, hanging from the ceiling. I gazed upon piles of old National Geographic magazines, perfectly tied into bundles, stacked in a corner. On the floor are seeds of basil and dirt from the garlic heads: all fallen from ceiling to floor since they were put up in the fall. That room smells of dry pine, garlic, basil and sage. At night it is golden, full of light, and the windows are dark black, staring out into the sky, out at the moon.

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Do you see the shape of my neighbor’s house reflected in the water droplets?

What a place of magic this is, this mysterious home of mine. This place that is full of people yet feels so empty. This place whose stillness is magnified on days like today as snow falls and you see no one move, knowing that everyone, like you, is inside, being cozy, staring out the windows at the day as it passes, wondering what will happen, if the power will stay on, if there are enough candles, if the blankets are warm enough.

There is a beauty and  a strength to stillness: to the perception of self that comes when one is alone as the blizzard rages outside. To the awareness of one’s body sitting on a white couch, under a pink blanket, coffee brewing on the counter to your left. Wind howling, sky white-grey, oak tree branches black; even the birds seem to be hunkered down today as I haven’t seen them. Maybe it’s time to go outside and visit the birch trees down on the Sound, to see how they are faring on a day like today. Or maybe, sit and sew awhile, and see how the time passes.

blizzard 2

Rooftop, Trees, Fireside….

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Si Tengo Alas Para Volar

A few months ago, my good friend Julie told me that I should start naming the more intricate jewelry pieces, to give them more personality. I agree. Today I finished this latest necklace, inspired by necklaces worn by Frida Kahlo in many of her paintings.

This necklace is named  – Si Tengo Alas Para Volar. In English, that means If I Have Wings to Fly.

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Frida necklace

Hey look! It’s me!

Frida Kahlo was a woman who knew pain, and lots of it. She not only knew it, but was able to communicate her pain in a meaningful way to people who connected with her feelings and empathized with her experiences. Her quote: ¿ Pies para que os quiero, si tengo alas para volar?, was written at a time when she couldn’t walk due to injuries and pain to her spine.

I love this quote because it exemplifies what I think is the most important force in human thinking: our capacity to dream beyond what is right in front of us. This necklace is made of sterling silver beads that are silhouettes of stylized bleeding hearts, 14 karat gold, and red coral. It is meant to be striking, beautiful, slightly dangerous, risky to wear. Just like love, and just like all the steps we take along this path of life.

Craft-work

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Phew!

Christmas has been soooo busy, in a wonderful way. I am finishing up my last two custom projects: one a mermaid dress, and the other a Frida Kahlo-inspired necklace, and am just thrilled to be finishing them and be happy with how they have turned out, and to be able to see ahead a few days from now to a day or two of downtime, before preparing for new work and new motivation.

I love being a creative person, and to be making my living (just barely right now, but I have high hopes for lucky ’13) from my creative processes is enlivening and affirming. Today I received a new order and a surprise purchase. Things are moving in the right direction. Photos soon….I promise to be better organized in the documentation department from now on: it is one of my (many) resolutions.

For tonight, off to bed, after Lao Tsu gives us his wisdom for today:

TEN

Carrying body and soul and embracing the one,

Can you avoid separation?

Attending fully and being supple,

Can you be as a newborn babe?

Washing and cleansing the primal vision,

Can you be without stain?

Loving all men and ruling the country,

Can you be without cleverness?

Opening and closing the gates of heaven,

Can you play the role of woman?

Understanding, and being open to all things,

Are you able to do nothing?

Giving birth and nourishing,

Bearing yet not possessing,

Working yet not taking credit,

Leading yet not dominating,

This is the Primal Vision.

Thinking about the future……

But What About My Runny Nose?

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Theirs was a very small town in New Hampshire: typical of the New England countryside, they lived in an old farmhouse with a barn out back. In many homes in New England, the barns and the houses are connected by a long, draughty hallway meant to keep you safe and dry during snowstorms, so you can feed your animals: count your chickens, so to speak.

On the top floor of their barn was a large, open, circular pen. Pigs? No. Sheep? Nope. Trick ponies?

Cock fighting.

Designed as a ring to train roosters, John’s father painstakingly dedicated himself to training the best fighting cocks this side of Vermont. John and his brothers, all of whom did not share their father’s love for cock fighting, watched and helped their dad as he brought up the roosters and watched them in action.

A rooster’s natural temperament is one of fighting, domination and violence: ruling the roost as we all know comes from a rooster’s predilection to hurt other roosters and his hens. But, John told me last week in the parking lot of the local gas station, over coffee, there are ways to get them to be even more vicious.

“You cut off their spurs, you know, and you put a sharpened razor blade up against their leg and tape it down til the flesh just grows right over it.”

After what one assumes is a bit of time to train up your fighting roosters in the circular pen on the top floor of the barn, John’s dad would take the roosters and his sons to fighting matches elsewhere in town.

John’s dad suffered from chronic allergies and was never to be found without 4 or 5 cotton handkerchiefs stuffed into all his pockets. His nose constantly ran, winter or summer, especially so when he was excited about the day’s cockfight. Fighting to the death, the roosters would set upon each other in a ring not so dissimilar to the one on the top floor of the barn. Farmers young and old would bet money and cheer on their favorite fighting creature until one lay dead, and the other, bloody, stood victorious.

Of course, cockfighting is discouraged in American society, even thirty or forty years ago the cops just didn’t like it. At the beginning of each cockfight, John’s dad would come to him and say,

“Ok, son. Now, if we get raided, I want you to hide here, under the floorboards, see? And after I get out of jail, I’ll come and get you. Now don’t you leave now, you just wait right here. I’ll be back for you.”

John’s dad was arrested multiple times for cockfighting, but of course, never stopped. He had a passion for the sport. Once, after a raid and subsequent arrest, when we can assume that little John was hiding under the floorboards of a stranger’s barn until he felt safe enough to run home, John’s dad ended up in jail with the cops who knew him and his family and his strong love for cockfighting. They took away all his handkerchiefs, saying that he might tie them all together and try to hang himself in the jail cell.

He said, “But what about my runny nose?”

They said, “Use your sleeve!”

He said, “But can’t I just take off my shirt and tie it up and try to hang myself?”

Despite their father’s love for cockfighting, neither John nor his brothers took up the pastime, seeing it as savage and cruel and not liking the death of so many beautiful, albeit bloodthirsty, birds. I asked him if he thought there were still cockfights around Maine and New Hampshire, and he said, “oh yeah…bound to be. They’re just hidden is all.”

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Winter Rain

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If You’re Afraid of the Dark, Remember the Night Rainbow

It is a very rainy day today in Northeast Harbor, Maine….we were supposed to get snow but got rain instead. The sky is grey, murky, no sky to be seen, really. The wind is blustery and gets underneath your clothes, no matter how much wool or rain gear you pile onto your self against it. Walking, you feel buffeted around by forces greater than yourself; pushed here, pulled there, by the invisible force that is the wind off the sea.

Apocalyptica is perfect winter rain music….

I just took care of the birds for the morning, talked to the crows and bluejays a while, watched the little chickadees and spied for my woodpeckers, the momma and poppa that I love to see each day, but they seem to be out of town. Maybe they are all cozied up in a nest somewhere? I always feel badly for the birds on days like today: their birdseed must get all mushy by the afternoon. I wonder if they know to come in and grab it while it’s fresh, when it’s raining.

cowboy boots

Welcome Home Cowboy Boots

As I sit here, on this old Afghani rug that I have carted with me for so many years, its colors, red, blue, pink, orange, worn and loved ever so much by me and by others who have sat upon it, I stare out my window at the morning: grey light, slightly tinted with blue. The power lines outside my window divide the view into perfect thirds: horizontal black lines across the window. The wind blows, moving them slightly up, then down. The trees, leafless, move in the distance. The houses appear all shades of grey today with no sunlight upon them to distinguish colors in the clapboards that encase their skeletons. The birds are now quiet, there are few cars, only the tick of the clock that hangs on the kitchen wall, and the sound of the wind as it whips around my home.

If I hold you with my emotions,

you’ll become a wished-for companion.

If I hold you with my eyes,

you’ll grow old and die.

So I hold you where we

both mix with the infinite.

– Rumi

Two Thoughts

 

joshua tree overlook

Patience is not sitting and waiting, it is foreseeing. It is looking at the thorn and seeing the rose, looking at the night and seeing the day. Lovers are patient and know that the moon needs time to become full.

Shams Tabrizi

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TWENTY-NINE

Do you think you can take over the universe and improve it?

I do not believe it can be done.

The universe is sacred.

You cannot improve it.

If you try to change it, you will ruin it.

If you try to hold it, you will lose it.

So sometimes things are ahead and sometimes they are behind;

Sometimes breathing is hard; sometimes it comes easily;

Sometimes there is strength and sometimes weakness;

Sometimes one is up and sometimes down.

Therefore the sage avoids extremes, excesses, and complacency.

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A Process….

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“Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.”

Anais Nin

I have a hard time with words, sometimes; sometimes they get stuck just at the back of my throat, or the tip of my tongue, and the thoughts are so clear in my head, they run over and over in perfect rhythm and phrasing, but won’t come out.

This is probably why I draw so many pictures, take so many photographs, write out so many poems and passages by hand, make so many things to give to people. It’s like if someone can look at something that was crafted by my hands, even if it is the words of someone else, and understand, well, then my own lost words don’t mean as much.

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One of the aspects of living in my new, smaller than small town, the town without a restaurant with regular hours, where the grocery store closes at 6 p.m., where the gas station may or may not be open, where the post-woman takes a two-hour lunch, where most of the houses and shops are now empty until early summer, is that I spend much of my time alone, thinking, writing here on my laptop, darning sweaters or hemming trousers or sewing dresses for people, and making jewelry. I count this time as one of the most productive of my life; this quiet time is so powerfully important to me and I can feel elements of myself change with the days as they pass, so quickly.

I am experimental here, and silent. I notice things that used to pass me by: deer in the road, the rustle of the last leaves on the trees, all pale copper against a grey background of tree trunks, blue jays taunting me from ground to branch, the fact that one of my crows (there is a family of 5 that visits me in the mornings) is missing a wing feather or two. I have since learned that this means that she stole food from a smaller, faster bird who pulled out her feathers to stop her from stealing food again. I notice the crunch of gravel under my feet, and the sounds that the boys’ skateboards make as they coast down the streets. Today, at 4 p.m. I noticed a bright sunset descending over Somes Sound: bright orange and pink in stripes against blue clouds, the background. The sun sinks so fast, so early, at this time of year.

Yesterday, I melted down gold for the first time. I prepared my crucible with heat and Borax, added the gold scavenged from my jewelry box, and poured a tiny 14 karat gold ingot.

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The process of melting down gold is not complicated, especially if you have melted down silver before and know how it changes from bits and pieces into slumpy, bumpy, almost pocked, shapes before it blobs together into a giant circle of mercury-looking molten metal that sloshes around the crucible as you toss in borax to pull the impurities out, continuously heating the porcelain, before you pour it into the ingot mold, or in this case, the tiny mold carved out of charcoal with an Exacto knife.

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The process of living here, of accepting changes, of getting to know people, of understanding a role in such a small place, where outsiders are wondered about, stared at, talked over, is a different one. With jewelry, you can learn a method and follow its steps over and over again. When it comes to people, each of us so individual, you must follow a different path with each new person who crosses the path.

A friend of mine said to me the other day that in a small town, you really learn a lot about what it is to be human, what it is to be a person. This is, I think, because you see each other so often, at multiple times each day, every day, and there are so few of you that you see how people change from morning to afternoon to night. You learn to decipher people’s facial expressions based on what you know about them from days’ past. You learn to forgive people’s indiscretions or flaws because you are dependent on them, because there are so few of you around. You learn to love everyone in their own way for their specialness, for their quirkiness. You learn to play your cards close, to be a smidge mysterious, to be more introverted than perhaps you would be in a larger place. This is, of course, because everyone talks about everyone anyway: it is important to keep most of the information to yourself, to keep them guessing, anyway.

I have learned a lot about people, being here for almost two months. I have learned that I love quirky people, and happen to have landed in the town that is populated with eccentric, kooky, strange, nutty people. A woman I met the other day told me that our town is the “island of misfit toys”, and I think she is almost certainly correct. I have learned that it is all right to be quiet and watch, to seriously commit to listening more and talking less.

I am beginning to learn forgiveness here: forgiveness of myself and forgiveness of others. I am beginning to understand that we all are truly different from one another, and it is a miracle to find even a handful of people who can attempt to understand each other long enough to bond, to care, to spend time together and then be friends. I thought, upon moving here, that I would instantly have a group of friends, and have found that to not exactly not be the case, but that the process is a bit more involved. I am beginning to see relationships as a process of give and take, of letting go and holding on, depending on the moment, of smiling and listening, trusting and reaching out, of risking yourself just…enough.

There were always in me, two women at least,
one woman desperate and bewildered,
who felt she was drowning and another who
would leap into a scene, as upon a stage,
conceal her true emotions because they
were weaknesses, helplessness, despair,
and present to the world only a smile,
an eagerness, curiosity, enthusiasm, interest.”

Anais Nin