But of course I did take my camera. It helps me meander. Photography stops me in my tracks to notice. Here are some of the things I noticed.
I do not read much poetry. I remember virtually none. But somewhere in my head there is one poem, heard in my teenage years, that is always with me. Back then, I found it touched my soul, and I still find that "oft, when on my couch I lie, In vacant or in pensive mood" this poem and days like today come to mind.
I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud
BY WILLIAM WORDSWORTH
This week the photo challenge dealt with using an editing trick...to use the mirror image in editing to create a new symmetrical photo. It was an interesting way to look around; to judge how something would look as or with a mirror image of itself.
Of course that sent my mind wandering and wondering about mirrors in general. We really don’t see ourselves in the same way others do. We see ourselves flipped horizontally the majority of time, while others see us the other way around.
Here I am as the way you see me, the way I see me, two of one side merged, and the other side duplicated and merged!
As a kid I often looked into the mirror and really wondered what I saw. I had the distinct feeling that I was an entity inside this body and not the body itself. I would look at others and wonder what it would be like to inhabit that body instead of mine.
And now as I age, that disconnect becomes stronger. It is ever more evident, with each year, that the mind and body do not age at the same rate. Most of my friends readily admit to being a 30-40 year old housed in their 60-70 year old body.
Body dysphoria is a real thing. I have seen it and heard about it first-hand from my daughter. Assigned male at birth, and later realizing that there was an incongruity with the body she inhabited and the gender she felt, she has claimed her real self as a transgender woman. I can’t begin to understand the confusion, anxiety and every other emotion that one would experience in that situation; looking in the mirror and seeing a stranger. Or the relief and joy of being able to align your mind/gender and body/appearance in whatever way you can.
People who lose weight, lose a limb, are scarred, or altered in any other “disfigured” way must feel this disconnection between self and body, too. To realize that our bodies can morph or change, while our minds may stay the same. With some changes we get further from our mental self, with other changes we may come closer to familiar territory. The reverse can also be true; when the mind changes but the body does not, as with dementia or mental illness, but that is a whole different musing.
This reminds me of a surprise birthday party we once attended. It was being held in a farmhouse in a very rural area which meant the host and the ‘birthday girl’, could tell from a distance that there were people in their house if any lights were on. Consequently, all of us attendees, most of whom didn’t know each other, spent about an hour in darkness before the guest of honor arrived. We laughed and joked and conversed freely. But once they arrived and the lights went on and we could see clearly, the demeanor changed. It became instantly more stilted and self-conscious. We were all trying to align the people we met with the people we now saw. It was a very interesting experience.
Anyhow, this is just a recognition of how important it is to recognize the whole person at all times. How visual representation is an easy way to judge and be judged, but it is only half (or less!) of the story.
Okay enough digression. Here are some more of the mirrored images I had fun editing.
Though I thought my on-line photography class was going to be about photography, I’m finding it to be so much more. This week we are challenged with “long focus” photography - a technique that keeps all areas of the photo in focus, regardless of their proximity to the photographer.
Long focus has never been my “thing”!
In life or in photography, I have lived my days very open to the immediately accessible and enjoyable. I have written before about finding inspiration within an eight-foot radius of where I am at any given time.
I’ve rarely planned for events in my life; things have happened and I have embraced, accepted, or wondered at most of them. It has been satisfying and rarely disappointing. The counterpart, and perhaps safety net, to all this has been my husband and partner in life. He does the long-term planning while I (hopefully) make our days interesting. I thank him for our retirement and security.
This week I took pictures of railroad tracks, cemeteries, and cityscapes. Though it was hard for me,I tried to compose each using something other than close focus. I realized so many of my previous shots were done with zooming in on a detail or object, with a depth of field that lets most all else dissolve. The first challenge was on using “selective focus” which was a piece of cake but this one, not so much.
During my hiatus, I’m also hoping to add more “long focus” to my life. Age has a lot to do with this. When I was young, time was very abstract. There was almost too much of it to comprehend. But as I get older, I realize that the future is finite! This is also true for my physical self. My young body responded, rebounded, recovered, but now the warranty is ending for some parts.
The idea that the future may be becoming one with the present is something that is dawning on me. Perhaps a bit of planning may be in order. I guess I could skip that cake/cocktail/chips for the possibility of more future. I guess walking a couple miles today, might up the odds for my being able to still walk a few years from now.
Like they say “aging is not for sissies” and I have never been called a sissy!
Here are some long focus shots for you:
Recently I posted this photo of a pepper on Facebook. It was sitting on the counter after Jon had finished making our salads... just sitting there staring at me. Yes, I am familiar with the phenomena of pareidolia, but I just found this humorous.
When I posted this, one of the comments that appeared was "You see art in everything". That statement took me back for a moment and made me think for a couple of days. Yes. Yes, I do see art in everything. It takes my breath away when I look around. I am amazed that that a brick and weed and the sun light can compose the perfect still life. I think the cigarette butt on the sidewalk is both a statement and a story - as well as an interesting composition. I am easily amused and impressed. The edge of that brick building against that blue sky is the perfection of complementary color. The fog that shrouds that parking structure, while letting the dried weed be in extreme focus, is more than I can comprehend replicating.
On the way home from my studio tonight, I saw this image in a bank drive through. Eat your heart out all you abstract expressionists. Frame it, put it in the east wing of the National Gallery and let the critics opine.
They can write a missive on the tension between the lines vs the splashes, the contrast of the darks and lights. The significance of the shapes, or maybe they would discourse over the need for a pop of color. They would check the title for political or social significance. And contextualize it based on the culture from which the artist came.
Was it art before or does it take validation or reproduction to be so?
As I thought more about this, I thought about the very real discomfort I feel when some says, or asks if, I am an artist. Okay. Whatever. If I need to be qualified or quantified, you can call me that.
But, as I have said before, I prefer "maker". I make stuff. It wasn't there. It didn't exist and I birthed it. I used my intellect, my heart and, occasionally, serendipity to do so. I made it.
As I thought more about this, I decided that, perhaps, the real aim of an "artist" is not the product they make, but the continued attempt to make others see the art that already exists around us. I make for my own sake. Maybe we are - or should be - translators. I do believe people called artists see and appreciate differently; just as scientists, or mathematicians, or musicians, or chefs view their world differently. Then we attempt to use our human talents, venues, media, and connections to try to get others to see what and how we saw (or tasted or figured). It is how we write. It is how we solve equations. It is how we bake.
Some of this we learn through academics. We spend hours and years in drawing classes not drawing the cube we know exists, but instead, the cube as we see it. Then we move to foreshortening in life drawing and still life compositions where we talk about the space between not just the objects. We learn to see with our eyes, not our head. Once we can do that, we start to understand how what we see exists for only a moment: a tilt of the head or the cloud momentarily over the sun can change the reality. How our specific moment and object of focus is a reality that no one else experiences in the same way.
We are constantly saying "CAN'T YOU SEE THIS TOO?" and "OH YOU MUST SEE THIS". The landscape painter tries to capture and explain the moment of clarity they had when looking out on nature. The portrait artist doesn't paint just the resemblance, but the inner person as they saw or felt it. The photographer captures a moment that perhaps only they had the acumen/patience/luck to witness. The abstracters capture essence or movement or the core of something that needs no subject.
I am about to stop my studio work for a period of six months. Part of this is because I have been having one of those "what does it all mean? Why do I do this? Who cares?" periods we all go through. I still have the compulsion to make, but at this time of my life, I am not trying to monetize, I am not trying make statements, I have no great affinity for mastering a specific craft or media, so what to do with this compulsion, and where is it best directed. I am thinking this chunk of driveway might be a clue.
My life and heart are full and amazed just walking down the street; nature or concrete or people or whatever is before me surpasses most of what I could ever make. I often feel that trying to make art is futile and the real goal I am striving for is just to see what is already out there.
So now to figure out how or if I can or should just improve my seeing, or if I also try to translate to others.
And if so, how.
Of course, Degas figured this our long before I had my own "ah ha" moment:
"Art is not what you see, but what you make others see."
That has to be one of the most discussed and least settled on questions ever asked. I know I have made art, been called an artist, enjoyed art, bought art, sold art, and even taught art, but still can not define the slippery beast!
For many years I worked in the corporate world making “commercial” art (aka Graphic Design). It paid my grocery bills and car payments, it allowed me to use all those elements of design I had learned in school. My art satisfied a need. It helped some people get rich(er), it helped make people aware of products and services they needed (or didn’t know they did!). It was problem solving and satisfying for the most part. Was it art? Who knows.
When abandoned by the corporate world due to economy and age, I turned to what many would define as craft, not art. For seven plus years I bought hundreds of thrift store sweaters, then surgically removed the arms, the necks, and strategically cut the rest to make hats, sweater coats, scarves, gloves, etc etc. It was satisfying. People responded to them and bought this “art” to incorporate into their daily lives.
It was so fun to take my wares across the country and see people try on one after another. Some people had saved up their money to buy that one special art-to-wear garment. Others bought two or three, just as they would buy at Macy’s! I am sure the painters and sculptors in the booths around me (often waiting far longer for a sale) often though that my work was not real art. But people were choosing and noticing the colors, the textures, the technique and the overall uniqueness… isn’t that art? And it was so personal compared to the corporate art. It was personal to both me as I would drape a sweater over their back, and to them as they twirled in front of the mirror. Something aesthetically pleasing was giving them joy: Isn’t that art?
Now I am doing fiber art. Some are still slow to consider that an art media, but I will leave that discussion for another day. I have painted and made prints. I can honestly say that working with fiber has every bit of the same demand for aesthetic choice and technical knowledge that they did. But my audience and the “raison d'etre”has changed.
The corporate work was done primarily to meet the demand and needs of the client (within my own design voice and choices) and were by their nature both timely and ephemeral. The garments were made with a general demographic in mind and the cost/profit ratio, as well as the artistic merit, was important with each thing I made. They were meant to be used and used up. My fiber art is self-directed and I am, in many ways, the only audience considered during creation. I do not do commissions, and will do themed shows only when the theme speaks to me. It is the kind of art that is somehow deemed precious because it goes on walls with no apparent use other than aesthetics.
People do respond to my fiber work, and for that I am grateful, but it is always both a bit of a surprise and causes a bit of anxiety. Their response is so unplanned by me; I was working on something personal, and for them to respond is almost unnervingly intimate.
I want people to see my work and, as I have said, the stitching and fabric help to show “how I as an artist see” - but I have no preconception of what they will see, or if they see what I saw. Some respond to the subject matter. Some respond to the color choice. Some respond to the intricacy. Those are all valid, but all dependent on their history, aesthetic taste, knowledge of process - all things I do not control or anticipate. It is a strange thing, this thing we call fine art. The art that is not marketing, not utilitarian, not commissioned. It has been a hard concept for me to embrace.
I have been asked to give workshops, or presented with other opportunities. That is also something I tried a couple times, but haven’t gotten my head around. When I was a Graphic Designer, I also taught. I taught design concepts, color theory, printing processes, etc. the nuts and bolts. When I was making sweaters, I was fine with sharing my technical knowledge about how to serge knitted fabrics, or my process. It was not proprietary and the construction was, in many ways, the idea of it all. It had no internal value to me. That was all knowledge I gladly shared without any problem.
But now? What would I share? I use my design concepts, etc. but that is not what makes my work unique, nor my expertise any greater than many. I use a machine and various cutting and sewing processes, but that is not my interest or focus, they are merely a means to an end. I don’t even know what brand thread I use (or should use!). My process is “whatever it takes”!
How would I convey that intimate sound my heart makes when I know something is right. How do I explain that shiver that goes up my spine when the right stitch makes the right texture. How do I communicate how after looking at twenty five of my photos, that one says “I am the one you need”. That is all good and fine, and I am loving that is what I am able to do now - with little thought to profit or demographic appeal, but in many ways, it is very ego-centric and almost art masturbation. But it can be seen for some reason, as some higher level of art, but I don’t think it is.
Yesterday this girl came into my studio. At the gift giving season, I revert to the selling mode of my garment making days and make some earrings, gloves, and this year, holiday themed masks! The girl looked at my table of goods and picked out a soft cashmere pair of gloves. She didn’t care about the “fine art” hanging in my studio, she wanted those gloves in her life. She got them. I can honestly say that no one who has bought any of my “fine art” ever has expressed the pure joy of having it in their life, that she did for these gloves. Isn’t that art?
Most of us who have had any Art training have spent time in life drawing sessions. I have taken them both as an undergrad and graduate student. I have taught them ( I am not confident in my capabilities there) and have enjoyed various models and instructors. Now I am trying something new. Not a Student. Nothing at stake. No required media. No critique. Just an immeasurable amount of self-directed experimentation and a copious amount of freedom.
Today we reconvened after a two week hiatus. One of the benefits of moving from Wisconsin to Virginia that I had never imagined was to be able to do life drawing outside in mid-November! So take that Covid, you haven't stopped us!
Like any exercise, there is both a natural roller coaster of the feeling of competency and joy. Like any exercise, a couple of weeks off also make you stiff! Today was like that. I had felt pretty good the last few sessions; Fluid, confident, focused. But not today. I struggled with which media to use, what to focus on and to avoid the trap of "making something good" .
We had a great model. People do not realize how much difference that makes. When you are getting so intimately connected with a model visually, you can't also avoid getting vibes. Some models are uncomfortable, and it is impossible to draw. Some are just twitchy or itchy and don't realize that when you are striving to get the foreshortening correct and they stretch their leg and reposition it three inches over, it makes a huge difference. But today we had a model who nailed every pose. My props to Katie.
Still, I was very disappointed with my work. I never felt that "artgasm moment" that makes it all worthwhile. But when I went back and looked at my work I realized that while the final picture may not have been "frame-worthy" I had actually been alive and aware after all.
I have written before and often pontificated about how we need only to look around for ideas. We do not have to go to exotic places, or view wide vistas; I spent a month photographing only thing on my block ( for more about that CLICK HERE , or HERE). my search continues, and is probably even more focused since none of us are wondering far these days.
There is a quote from Mary Oliver that addresses this: "Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it." I love that and if I have a mantra in life, that is it. Today after that debacle of a debate last night, we must continue to be vigilant and proactive, but maybe today, you need a little "pay attention and be astonished" to remember the beauty that is still all around us even in these times of pandemic and politics.
I thought I would just post a lot of my latest "details of life". Some from walks around the 'hood, some from a boring ride in the car, etc...
I have always been a vivid dreamer. I often wish I had a cerebral recorder, because I just know some of them would be great on HBO, or at least on Lifetime! I have often wondered where they come from, and this morning, in the fog between wake and sleep, I think I developed a theory.
It all started with this website. I have been struggling with the SEO and keywords and all for weeks now. So it gave me an idea: What if dreams are made from our brain's keywords from the preceding day(s)?
I was reviewing my last night's dream, as I lay in bed this AM, and it occurred to me that that might be the case. My head had taken a key word from many of the earlier activities of the day, and woven them into a cohesive (well as cohesive as dreams ever are) story! People popped up, places became part of the story, and then objects appeared, most of which could be traced back to events of the day. So maybe the search engines in our head and in our PCs are not that different!
Of course, that doesn't help explain all things. Take flying for example. I fly a lot. Well not really fly, more or less glide about 15 feet in the air in a prone position. Much like superman, but with my arms usually tucked in or flailing around, not out stretched! It is the most glorious feeling. I run to take off. Each step bounces a little higher until I am air-borne. I gently course over the landscape or cityscape viewing the goings on around me from a safe, but not unseen, vantage point. Occasionally landing to check something out, and then bouncing back up again!
Sleeping and dreaming seem to be a talent of mine, I still can remember dreams from many years ago. I have had reunions, adventures, and excursions everywhere! How about you? Do you have any reoccurring ones? Or ones you wish reoccurred? Do you find solace, or discontent with your dreams? Or can you simply never recall them? Please share!
I have been derelict in my posting duties lately! But I have not been derelict on my life activities! Not sure if anyone missed me or my musings... but I missed doing them, so I shall renew my posts.
My absence started with a medical excuse. I had "takotsubo" incident. It is like a heart attack, but without all the nasty long-lasting effects or required surgery. I am fine now, and all has resolved, but a few days on a heart monitor and a month of cardio rehab does funny things to your confidence and introspection! However, it has resulted in more trips to the gym, more veggies, and less coffee. so it is all good!
Then we moved into summer. One would think being retired was a relaxing avocation, but, alas, it is not. Trips here and there, books to be read, walks to be taken, laziness to indulge and grand kids to visit. And an Avocado to plant! All that adds up to a summer quickly passing by.
I have been creating, too. I have been derelict in updating those activities here on the site as well. I have been in a few exhibits. Sent out more for other exhibits, and won an award or two. I will shortly update the relevant pages here with that information as well.
The continued constant has been my photos. Someday I really need to sort and file the thousands that are accumulating! But they have been my journal, my touchstone, my fun, and have kept my eyes open and head working.
Now, I am getting ready for my next adventure! A month long artist residency within the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. I will be housed within the park for the month of October, and am very excited to explore and create. That is one of the reasons I am back here. I will be journaling the experience while I am there. So stay tuned... much more to come. I will be posting links on Facebook; Jill2day page and JillKerttulaphoto pages so watch for the links or... better yet. click the "follow" button on the top of this page, and I think you will be notified of updates!
I will be alone in the Park, so hope you let me know if you drop in to read my posts, so I will know I am not spitting into the wind!!
I have a large collection of sketchbooks and journals. All 98% empty. Artists are supposed to keep sketchbooks. I've been told, that we should be introspective and keep journals with our profound thoughts and creative musings. I am a semi-competent writer, and a better than average artist (so I have been told), but miserable at documentation.
This blog is the only journal-like-thing I have managed to keep going for any length of time!
One of my art professors, Walter Hamady, kept hand-bound, beautifully written and embellished journals. They were on hand made papers, and were works of beauty - meant to last the ages. My friend Lorie posts beautiful images from her sketchbook pages. Other friends have kept sketchbooks that were achingly inspirational; musings, sketches and collections of ephemera! I have scraps of paper, sometimes, kept in a cardboard box, and my collection of journals and sketchbooks that have the first pages desecrated with horrible attempts at self-conscience profundity.
But now I have photos. Hundreds - verging on thousands - not taken for reproduction or sales or even journalistic documentation (with the notable exception of the ones of my family). They are exercise for my eyes. They are calisthenics for my knowledge of design and composition. They slow me down and make me think and work - hard.
At first I just snapped away in 'automatic' mode with my trusty Fuji. but soon I found out that to 'sketch' the right photo, I needed to be able to adjust the depth-of-field, and pick an exposure. Just like sometimes you want to sketch in color, and sometimes in black and white - the same applies to photo sketching. So I upgraded the camera and learned more about my manual settings.
Photography is an art in itself. A laudable and incredibly diverse one. But not one that I (at least for now) find a satisfactory final artifact of my creativity. I use it as the basis of my fiber art; Sometimes quite literally when it is printed as an image in my whole cloth quilt pieces. More often, as the inspiration for the textures or colors in other pieces. It isn't about the specific photographic image for me. It is about taking that to a more universal place of color, texture, and emotion through the addition of other fabric, objects, and embellishments. In the end, I hope the photo is integrated with the fiber art to create something much more layered - both figuratively and literally - than the photo alone. Here is one example of that idea (click on either to see larger):
Here is a piece that uses seven different photos within the final piece:
Some say the computer is not the place to connect with people. They say it is shallow and all you learn is what they had for dinner last night. I choose to disagree. While I love being with people in person, I also value the communication possible with the internet.
Family and food: Our family is stretched from the Middle East, through the continental USA and all the way to Alaska. We also happen to be a tribe of foodies! So seeing where and what each other is eating is fun and, through Facebook, I have gotten to experience some great foods; fish from Norway, platters of goodies and 'care' packages in Qatar, San Francisco's best dining establishments, an anniversary donuts, freshly backed goodies of all ilk, and Alaskan Salmon on the grill - and shared Jon's culinary efforts back at them!
Facebook has let me stay in touch with relatives I would otherwise have lost track of. It lets me learn more about relatives I barely knew, and it lets me find new relatives! Sometimes we even talk about things other than food! The cross generational thing is what I value the most, so nice to learn and experience through the eyes of newer generations.
Flesh and Blood Friends: We have recently moved 700 miles. So Facebook has become my lifeline to the "old neighborhood"! I value seeing what is still going on 'back home', even as Charlottesville becomes our home. It is great to hear of art openings, job changes, new books read, and even politics! (and yes, more foodie posts!) What is really unexpected though, are the expanded and new connections... finding out someone and I have mutual friends; getting back in touch with people I haven't seen since graduation from high school; learning more about people who I barely knew, and now wish I had known better before leaving the area. It is all good and interesting.
Virtual Friends: Every morning for the last 5+ years, I have gone immediately to a facebook group where I chat with three other women. We met through Etsy, and have bonded through the internet. You couldn't have pick 4 more unlikely compatriots if you tried! Completely different ages, lifestyles, interests, and locations, but we have become fast friends. We have moved, some of our kids have grown and left home, some are still growing, our pets have died and we have welcomed new ones. This is a friendship circle, I can't imagine having formed anyway else and value a lot.
Professional Contacts (and friends!): Since the halcyon days of my jill2day shop on Etsy, I have learned the value and fun of virtual connections for business and information. Sure I sold through the internet, but I also learned so much about how to do what I was doing there. While locally there may have been a few folks pursuing the same goals, on the internet there is an international community to answer questions, commiserate, and whine to! I can not begin to acknowledge the Etsy sellers, the Fiber artists, fellow Art Fair Sellers and Photographers that have entered and enhanced my life through the 'interwebs'. Kudos and and thanks to you all.
Some have become friends, both in-person and on-line, but great friends either way. All have helped me to grow - sometimes in patience and diplomacy ;-) - but mostly in information and creativity.
So here is to the Internet - and my favorite, Facebook - may we all continue to connect, confer, converse, and conflict. OMG :-) CU soon!
If you are a relative or someone I have coffee with regularly please come join me at:
If you are an artist, photographer, or just an interesting/interested person come interact here:
If you just want to follow my business page that is here:
But of course, I love to see you here, on my website, too! In fact if you leave a comment, or click on the "follow" thingy, I will know you like it here too!
I purchased a beautiful spring bouquet at the Farmers' Market. Soon the inevitable happened, the stems weakened and the petals became frail. As I went to throw them out, I realized they hadn't stopped being beautiful, it was just a new type of beauty. A more subtle beauty, and a more unique beauty individually forged through their experience. Sounds kind of like a number of us, huh!?
This getting older stuff is, as they say, "not for sissies". But it does have its upsides, and once it happens to you you actually can see some of those.
I was sitting around a table with about a dozen other women last week. There was colorful clothing, funky haircuts, and vibrant talk of adventures, creations, personal history, families and hopes. Most (with the exception of a couple of young whipper-snappers) were women "of a certain age". That age where we have ceased to worry so much about thighs and more about thoughts. We have histories; we have survived traumas - emotional and physical; we have traveled -geographically and educationally; we have cried - with joy and sadness; we have loved and been loved; we have lived.
And now we know life is finite, so we embrace it more fully and a little tighter than when we thought it had no end. We have learned that beauty is not just for the perfect and youthful, that there can be even deeper beauty in the imperfect and aged. We express and create out of internal need, not just external applause. We are almost comfortable... much of the time. We are beautiful, even past our prime.
It has been a interesting year. One that had more changes than most for me.
I am sitting here, New Year's cocktail in hand, thinking about it all. I was going to wish you all the happiest and most prosperous year of all for 2015, but maybe that is not what life is. Perhaps we instead should wish each other strength and humor to deal with all that is set on our plate. Maybe we need to remember to spend a bit more time in reality than in wishes. There is so much beauty we miss while wishing for something different than what we have. There is so much peace we miss while wanting ultimate happiness!
I am getting old. This year has taught me that. I accept it and in a way it is an interesting place. It is not good nor bad, it is merely reality. The word "finite" is a bit more real. I wish I would have started exercising earlier and more frequently, and I would have tried a few more things before they became terribly uncomfortable, unbecoming or just not worth the effort. But I also realize how full I am. Full of memories and friends and family and still a lot of potential!
I see things everyday that I hadn't noticed before. I realize how precious time is now, and I enjoy both spending it and wasting it more.
So people, I will toast you with a wish for strength and humor as we approach 2015. May it bring you life in all its complexities and layers, and may you gain from or at least notice each one.
Happy New Year. Jill
I made a return at Michael’s Craft Store yesterday. In this busy retail season, it was not a task I was looking forward to, but I had come to the realization that I was not going to get to the holiday craft experience I had planned, so I had better cut my losses and return the supplies.
As expected, all the check-out lines were long and people were shifting from leg to leg as their patience ran short. I took my place at the end of one of the lines, willing to wait knowing my trip would shorten my “to do” list not lengthen it. Surprisingly, my line got periodically shorter even though the same person held the front spot. Soon I realized that one by one people were leaving the line, each with their own rendition of a groan, a cluck, or an exaggerated exhale. I was soon in the 'on deck circle'.
The clerk turned and smiled at me. The woman checking out was a white-haired large woman with a flamboyant cape, a walker and several bags – one of which she was diligently digging through. She would stop every few seconds and converse with the clerk and then, go back to her digging. Each time the woman looked back into her bags, the clerk would slowly look my way, smile and covertly wink at me.
The credit card was finally located, and the transaction appeared complete, until the lady suddenly realized she had a small item in her hand that she had not paid for. This started a long and involved story about where she found the item, what she would use it for and that it had to be paid for in cash, not the recently located charge card. The digging resumed. Slowly bills were unfolded and handed to the clerk – again with a pause between each one for a bit of chit chat. The fact that there were only four bills in that particular location lead to a new search for a fifth bill, and then the dig to the bottom of the purse for four pennies.
All the while the clerk remained genial and calm, chuckling and conversing appropriately and sending winks my way, until again the transaction was complete; But not the conversation. The woman was assuring the clerk she would be back next week, but was unsure of the time or date, but hoped the same clerk would be there when she returned. Finally packages and bags placed on the top of her walker, she started her long journey out the door, but not before turning to me with a smile and a “thank you”.
The clerk then turned to me and with a big grin and a small shake of the head said, “She is so lonely”. The clerk thanked me for my patience, and said the woman comes in each week sometimes to buy, sometimes to return what she purchased the previous week, and always for a chat. “I have been a clerk for 14 years, and have learned that for some people this isn’t about shopping”.
It was then that I realized the all the glitter, the boughs, the Mannheim Steamroller on the intercom, was not about Christmas; this clerk was the Christmas spirit incarnate. Who knew that I would encounter the true Christmas spirit of compassion in the middle of Michael’s holiday rush.
Moving to a new state has brought a lot of changes. We have enjoyed them all. This month we are experiencing our first fall in Virginia. It has been glorious. The colors, the temperatures and the skies - all perfection! The best part is how long it has been. Back in Wisconsin the trees turn, the cold sets in and all is bare and gray November in a matter of [seemingly] days. Here it has been weeks of crisp and color and there are still flowers!
Last week the "THE front" moved through the USA, and watching the Facebook post of friends and family have been interesting. Reports coming in from Alaska, where they are out riding through the snow in the ATVs already; From Boulder, CO where it was in the teens and single digits with snow on the ground (but as we all know it could be 70 there the next day!); My friend in Duluth, MN reported skidding and sliding on the roads, and increased use of her wood pile; and back in Wisconsin the cold hit, the antifreeze levels are being checked and the snow blowers are getting tuned up!
Meanwhile, back in Charlottesville, Jon and I broke out laughing with glee during one of the weather reports on the local news! The reporter was warning everyone to "break out the heavy coats" because "January like" weather would be happening this week. January weather evidently means highs in the 40s and lows in the high 2os.We will take it!!! Something tells me my big faux fur coat won't get used much this year! I wonder what the weather reporters here do with all the left over "minus" signs at the end of the winter... export them to Duluth and Madison?
Meanwhile, back on Facebook, a report came in from Cali that sweaters had to be donned because the temp got down to 70! I guess we humans are both adaptable and our comfort and expectations are all relative. I just hope my blood doesn't thin out too much in this warmer climate. I really don't like the idea of ever feeling I need a down coat or ear muffs (yes I have seen them both) in 40 degree weather!
Hope you are all having a good fall - however you experience it!
After that, the documentation of the trip took a rather interesting turn. They charm of the landscape was lost to me, and I turned to the car interior and immediate surroundings. Thankfully we made it home to VA safe and sane, and I thought I would share the results of my boredom with you:
Yesterday's schedule was supposed to be car maintenance and updating my photos files in the computer. BUT it turned out so much better!
We are a one car family now, so when I had to take my car in for work that was supposed to take all day, I had to find something to do. I packed my computer and camera (both of which can entertain me for hours) and headed off. I had a delivery to make to a friend, so he said he would meet me across from the car place for coffee. Well that turned into two hours of reminiscing, gossip and philosophy! I met Mike about 30 years ago through out mutual profession of Graphic Design. Since then we went on to teach together, and just generally weave in and out of each others lives. It was wonderful to spend that time with him. (and to get his semi-pro reviews of all things pop culture and media!) I had planned to then head downtown by bus, but Mike took me down to State street for my photo day.
I decided to go to the new Chazen Art Museum first, but as I headed there, it dawned on my that a high school friend, Jeri, who I have connected with through Facebook works right next store, in the Humanities Building. I decided to interrupt her work day (something we retired folks feel free to do!) and say "hi" in person. Well, a warm welcome and hugs ensued, and we headed off for coffee! Another two hours of wonderful chatter! Turns out we both have enjoyed working with fiber and quilting and sewing in all kinds of aspects. We got up to speed on each others adventures and plans, and it was wonderful to see her.
Then I had planned to meet my high school BFF, Marta, for coffee!! By the time we met at another coffee shop I didn't need more coffee, but was ready for more camaraderie. We saw each other through a lot in high school. I am not sure either of us would have made it through without a couple of wonderful art teachers (Don Hunt and Evelyn Bauman) and, of course, without each other. We got up to speed on each others lives, and then headed down State street for the Chazen Museum. We probably had made this same walk down State Street a million times in the late 60s, so of course there was a lot of "remember when" and "boy has this changed" talk along the way.
We wandered through the Museum, giggled a lot and finally said "good bye" when she deposited me to pick up my car. We lead different lives now, but are still sisters in heart.
And lastly, Jeff. We have been going to the same mechanic for about 35 years now. He is a great guy and has seen us through many cars. I got a big wonderful hug as we said "good-bye". Hope we can find someone even half as good and reputable in VA.
What is that Girl Scout song we learned? "Make new friends, but keep the old...."
This past weekend I attending the Quilt Festival in Chicago. This is a huge quilt exhibition, educational forum and vendor show. On day two of the show, I noticed a covey of young men outside the doors, and doubted very much they were quilters. I am both curious and forward, so I followed them up the escalators to see where they went.
There I came upon a world I had never seen before! It was a Grand Prix event for "Magic the Gathering". There was no admission and they were a welcoming bunch, so I went in. Amazing. Excited participants and camaraderie (just like downstairs at the quilt show); Vendors showing their wares (just like downstairs); Artists displaying their work (just like downstairs); People concentration on their work, making friends, competing, and using technology, all the same on both floors.
It made me think about how much more in common we have than we think we do. Perhaps, we just need to visit each others' sub-societies more often. Thanks guys for making me feel welcome, and introducing me to your world; hope you had fun when you peeked into the quilt show and saw mine!!
In a happy coincidence, my Facebook photo group had the theme "motion" and I had a trip to see my grand kids... what better combination could there be! To see more of the pics I took, please go to this link.
But beyond thinking about photos, I was thinking about kids and adults. Watching the big group of students at my Grandson's pre-school "graduation" made me think about how much we confuse our kids. We are vigorously pushing them ahead at the same time telling them to sit still!
The kids sitting at the ceremony were not bored, or "restless" they were excited and nervous and giddy... all of which caused eyes to constantly scan, feet to constantly swing and heads to bob. Many could not contain themselves to decorous walking, so they skipped or ran or danced up to get their diplomas and hugs! We adults giggled and "awwed" when it was annouced that the child wanted to be a superhero, or police officer, or mommy, or doctor, or earth worm! But that is still their reality - anything is possible. I know, until told otherwise, I truly thought I could be a horse when I grew up.
I am not sure how or when we lose this. Or maybe, more accurately, it is taught out of us. When we lower our standards to reality and make our feet hold still. Some people never do. They are the lucky ones. The world retains its energy and potential for them.
Here is the instruction sheet... The magical dress has several layers to accommodate a soft cushy belly in one layer and a pouch for the baby in the second layer! Wow - why didn't I think of that! This is so much easier than that silly birth process we all know and love. Be sure to check out #3... as a mother of two, I can assure you this is not true.
It has been quite the month. We have made it through most of our 35+ years of accumulation, and much of what my mother-in-law left, and a bit of what my mother left. My kids are both grown and gone, but their stuff lingers on. I thought I might share a few of the things I have learned - mostly about myself - through this process.
What I think I will wear and what I wear are not the same!
To start the great closet purge (we are going from two walk-ins to one shared!), I sorted what I wear regularly from what I wear rarely (or if truth be told, never). The results were startling. On my left (wear) was a collection of solid and subtle prints of black, white and a few khaki items. On my right (rarely wear) was a cacophony of color and prints. hmmm. As I thought about this, I realized that one of the best parts of the garments I made for jill2day was the chance to make colorful and statement garments that I would love to wear, and then see the joy they brought to those who actually wear them. I think I have to work on this "when I get old I shall wear purple" thingy.
It is my birthday today. I am not a big one for celebrating such days, but this year it does seem rather introspective.... who knows what the future will bring in our new home and new adventures. I will be one lucky woman if my life continues with the many friends, family and opportunities that I have had up until now!
I recently saw these two pictures in Facebook posts. (reproduced here with permission) They both touched me deeply, and made me think.
We were free at one time. We didn't care what matched or what is proper. We hadn't learned to be "ladylike" or even male or female for that matter. We were just human beings enjoying this thing called life... something a singer on NPR recently called the "majesty and squalor we call life". I loved that statement. I love the extremes of life - they are what make us alive.
I am starting to think we waste the vast majority of out "adult" life forgetting this primal need for emotion and fun; instead we go to corporate training on creativity or spend money on tickets for someone to coordinate fun for us and validate that we experienced it.
At some point we learn to keep our toys nice. We learn to be quiet in public. We learn to raise our hand. We learn to stand in line, read the directions, file taxes, follow the recipe, plan and review.
We learn to check our feelings for "appropriateness", think before we speak, we learn to express love for those who are deemed deserving and withhold it from others - even if that isn't exactly how we feel!
At sometime we forgot how wonderful it is to just scream - or at least talk really loud. Or scratch or dance or grovel or roll. We forget how to overly indulge our senses and how to, literally, stop and smell the roses.
We forget what fun is and exchange it for "fitness" and "recreation". We forget that that seeing - really seeing - the beauty of ..... whatever is in front of us, may outdo any artwork in the museum we are scheduled to attend and pay $20 to enter.
When did we lose the ability to believe we can put water where others put fire. When did we forget that a bucket can be a hat, and that Wellies feel wonderful - no matter the weather. (Perhaps we only remember that when UGGS are deemed fashionably correct by some Hollywood celeb!)
No, I am not naive and suggesting that we don't need some security, and money, and probably jobs and credit cards, but maybe once in a great while, maybe even when no one is looking, we should put a bucket on our head. Maybe we should remember that being 10 minutes late for something might be okay if we drank in 10 minutes of sunset or rain, or slowly finished our last sip of coffee while actually tasting it.
Maybe we should take a Power Ranger pose or lay flat on our back in the middle of the floor.
If you do, I won't tell. I don't even want to know. Do it for yourself. Do it because it just plain feels good. Then get up and go be responsible and polite - but, don't forget to smile when you remember how good it felt to take that minute!
It snowed last night for the 147,568th time this winter. I had started grumbling, when I thought "why not just go with it?" I had run across my husband's snowshoes a while back (when looking for something interesting to photograph) But now actually thought about putting them on my feet.
Yesterday I went on a long hike in the woods and fields by our house wearing my heavy winter boots. It wasn't so much a hike as a slog; One that could have easily turned into a leg-breaking incident. There was easily 18 inches of snow on the ground, hiding every downed branch, ankle-grabbing twig, and any uneven ground. Each step was a tentative footfall followed by either surprise or relief.
Nonetheless, I found many wonderful photo opportunities and they are now in my daily pic for today. But decided I probably shouldn't push my luck again - I have never been mistaken for sure-footed.
So I decided with an additional five to seven inches of new fluffy pristine snow, the hazards would be even more hidden, so why not try the snow shoes. Boy were they great! One doesn't exactly glide on the top of the snow with them, but they sure made for better footing than yesterday's boots! The poles were a big improvement also - the trees never seemed handy when I needed something to grab! So with my camera tucked safely in my jacket, I set out to explore the new snow.
I have been thinking of all my customers (you?) a lot lately (for obvious reasons!) And I will miss the interaction I have had with each and everyone of them (you?). Without choosing a target demographics, I seemed to have found one, and oddly enough they were a lot like me! Women of a certain age (and that might be chronological, mental, or emotional!) who take on life with a grain of salt and a bit of humor and march to a slightly different drum beat.
I am amazed at the number of teachers who wear my garments to class. Fellow artists and craftsmen liked them. (my jewelry and handbag collection grew at ever show, as I did trades!) Women who knew what comfort brings to our lives wear them, and people who just want to wrap them selves in a bit of warmth, color, or recycled fabrics, bought them.
But what got me most was how nice they (you) all were! In this day and age of snark and vitriol in our entertainment and on-line, and our impersonal lives outside of our homes, it is easy to forget how really wonderful people are. I have been invited to homes, had generous offers for supplies, been graciously forgiven for slip-ups, been entrusted with making memories, and so much more from so many through the last six years.
Yesterday I ran into a different tribe of these women. In my photo group, we have started challenging each other to take "people photos". So far, if I didn't know the subjects, I have done this with subterfuge and secrecy, but yesterday I went for straight forward honesty. I decided to go to the Sow's Ear. It is a fantastic refuge in a near by town. Mostly yarn shop, with the added benefits of coffee, bakery and lunch, it is always filled with people who are not in a hurry (those that are, take their coffee to go).
My husband jokingly (and endearingly) refers to "the Crones" - my own small local tribe of women who laugh and sip, occasionally travel, make things, hug a lot, and love each other, but also understands how much they all mean to me. He loved to watch me interact with my non-local "crones" at the shows. Usually he would be on a bench near by chuckling as he listened to us "ohh" and "ahh" and twirl and talk and become friends over recycled scraps of sweaters! I know I will miss you all... and I think he will too!
If you are really into history, click here for blog posts prior to 2014 !