The Brink of Something

I have wakened, as I do every morning, to the blissful sounds of a quiet house. Of a coffee pot gurgling. A fridge humming. A clock ticking. In this pre-dawn deliciousness, I feel poised on the brink of something…

…a day

…a holiday

…days off from the norm

…a barrage of emotions which accompany being with lots of family

…creative hopes & dreams.

This “brink of something” is a familiar place for me. Don’t I experience this at least once, no five, even ten times in any given week? Don’t I find myself, as it were, perched at the edge of a glorious view, on tippy toes, arms outstretched, ready to leap and fly?

I think this is the truest index of my real situation. This “brink of something” is what gives me the delight, joy, excitement and wonder in my life. Yet it is also the culprit for much confusion, inner turmoil, even sadness and downheartedness. I often waken with the dindle and twitter of that ready-to-fly feeling…and then the day gets rolling and I’m left scratching my head wondering –

Is this it?  Was this the grand landscape into which I jumped?

The view from where I land each day isn’t so exciting or glamorous. And I haven’t landed in that “something” I thought I was in line for. By day’s end it all feels like the same mish-mosh of emotions, sad news from a world of woe, unrequited creative plans and dreams, weariness from slogging it out in the highways and byways of living.

Yet I awaken the next morning and there it is again… the desire to put on my jumpsuit and wings.

I could even go so far as to say that this has been my experience for all of my 53 years. Give or take a few mornings where grief and difficulty, or just plain ole monotony, have taken the wind out of my wings completely, I can see that this is the near daily ebb and flow of my life. To begin each day with such an exquisite hope, such a childlike desire to don my cape and wage the war of life with my paint brush, needles and wool…this is a brink I hope I always waken to.

The difficulty however is this — how does one live “on the brink” day in and day out? How do we, despite what life holds for us moment by moment, maintain an attitude of hope and expectation through it all? I write this not to offer a step-by-step  how-to. Although in just writing those words, I can see the hint of a path through.

Here, poised on the brink of this holiday season of Thanksgiving and then Christmas , my wings are more glittery than my average everyday wings. Woven with tinsel, rimmed in twinkly lights, they are fluttering with the anticipation of a kid on Christmas Eve. Yet 53 years has thankfully taught me a thing or two.

The real joy and delight of this season is not found in tinsel or lights (although I love festooning my home with them!) It is found in turning around from the edge of an imagined stunning vista, to view my life. The work I have daily, is to bring that dindle and twitter of anticipation to bear in my every day world. To stand on tip-toes with arms outstretched and to lean into whatever the day brings. My work each day is to walk step by step into it , wings unfurled, with the full knowledge of what this season is all about —

Gratitude that  I am not alone for the Christ child is coming and has come into our world.  Though I will one day stand on the brink of that heavenly realm, today’s work is thanksgiving for the view I have right here in my life.

May each of us embrace the now-and-not-yet-ness of this season. May we not lose heart in daring to stand tippy-toed on the brink of our days, anticipating our wings taking flight in all our joys AND in our difficulties and sorrows. May we brandish whatever swords of love we have been given, be they pens, paintbrushes, voices, instruments, yarn, clay or fabric.

And remember… you are not alone! I am on the brink here too and the Christ Child has paved the path before us, while also walking hand in hand , step by step, Emmanuel, with us.

“I Will Never…”

I should have known better. It’s happened a couple of times before. I said it years ago…”I will never knit socks.” And then, somehow (I honestly don’t remember what made me pick up teeny tiny needles and start knitting my first sock) I found myself knitting pairs of socks one right after the other.

So I should have known a couple of years ago, NOT to say, “I will never spin.” I was so firmly confident that with the panoply of yarns available, already spun, I would just do myself a favor and stay away from the whole spinning thing. And certainly not bring in another piece of furniture to collect dust in my house. Nope. I will never spin. So I said.

Never say never.

Here’s how it went. One of my students/knitting friends was first and foremost a spinner. Out of a desire to talk to her about her passion, listening to her describe what she was learning, a tiny speck of curiosity took up residence somewhere in my creative world. Of course I told her “I will never spin” and all the whys. Oh a drop spindle? What’s that? Small thing? Doesn’t take up a lot of space? Fun to use, portable…oh really? Hm. Perhaps I could try it. My oldest daughter had recently taken to spinning and was doing great with her drop spindle. So I thought, “Why not?” and bought a spindle and some wool.

Why not indeed?

It’s like a staircase. One step up.  You don’t realize the stair steps are leading you somewhere. You just take that step out of curiosity and voila, another step appears. A fall fiber festival with wool and spindles hanging everywhere, with big neon signs (not really) on them saying Spin Me! More conversations with the spinning friend. A visit to a spinning guild with her on a Sunday afternoon where someone was giving away some of her spindles, demonstrating ways to use them, and ladies sitting at their wheels. Uh oh. Wheels. Those look fascinating. And that lovely sound they make. And look at the gorgeous yarns they spin. Perhaps I could find one that looks compact, not so big and bulky. Oh and maybe I could paint one…I saw that at the Fiber Festival!

Several stair steps later, last summer, I bought a vintage Louet spinning wheel from a local spinner for a super price. Promptly painted it. I kept thinking what if I can’t do it? What if I’m just not able to make this thing work? I sat down to it and began to spin. And wonder of wonders, I took to it right away. A duck to water. That kind of thing. All of a sudden I found the stair step I had climbed was now a broad open field of wool and fiber with little gates leading off to dying wool, eco dying, blending wool, batts, rolags, and braids. A delightful place to spin around in.

This stair step thing is how it goes most of the time. I suppose for some folks, they fall into a new creative outlet hook, line, and sinker, all in one fell swoop. For me, it is often dipping a little toe in and just seeing what the waters are like. Telling myself all the while…”OK, this is alright, but I will never go any further with it.” Ha!

I’m learning…to never say never. Ya just never know! 🙂

Filaments of Light

What is it about spinning? The wonder…the allure? Can someone even explain why? I will attempt to do so here, but at the end of it all…this fascination baffles me. From a certain viewpoint, taking fluff of various kinds and turning it into string seems incredibly strange, silly and perhaps even nonsensical. You know how people say to us knitters…”why are you knitting socks when you can just go buy them, wear them immediately, and spend far less for them?” Well…think about this in reference to spinning yarn. I  mean really. Yarn in all variations, combinations, colors, textures, price points, etc is available to any who might wish to have it. So why spin one’s own yarn?

Well…

(Cue up the grand music, the poetry, the meditation of body and soul…)

And there, right there, I’m lost for words. How do I speak of the fluff of roving, wool batts, braids, sparkly fiber, wooly locks, alpaca, silk, and more? How can I describe the colors, intense and saturated, light and airy, pastel and muted, and the ever-beautiful basic cream of undyed wool? How do I tell you what it’s like to sit at a spinning wheel, fibers flowing through one’s hands and watch it turn into a strand of color and texture, sometimes barber-poling, sometimes thick, sometimes thin, sometimes slubbed and rough, other times smooth and creamy? And oh boy…how do I explain the wonder, the beauty of plying two strands of handspun yarn together? Oh the delight, the giddiness, the sheer bliss of this pastime? Even drop spindles hold a fascination for me that may be beyond description. Twirling dervishes of wooly delight.

The only way I know to speak of this amazing activity is to say that when I spin, with a wheel or spindles, it feels as if I am spinning filaments of light. To be sure many of the combined batts (both purchased and those I am now creating with a blending board…oh the crazy delight of that…but I shall not bore you with a poetic description, at least not today anyway) contain sparkly man-made fibers that glow and glisten as you spin. But even just the plain wool itself, especially when caught in the light just so, looks like tiny strands of light lining up into a cord as I spin, however thick or thin. This fascination with filaments of light is what gets me. I’m not sure I have any other explanation than this. Filaments of Light.

I cannot even say that I spin in order to knit with it or weave with it, though I certainly do both. But I actually spin just to be spinning. Just to enter that little dance (or is it a trance?) of foot tapping, wheel spinning, fiber flowing space. Even if it is only for a few minutes. I love that about it too…being able to just sit down to it and go. So little set up. No faffing about with where I am in a pattern, or decisions about what color to weave with next. Just spin. And spin. And spin.

And once I have the delicious yarn wound into a cake or hank, I love to just look at it, stack them up, sit them around here and there for decoration. Little cakes or twists of colorful Light!

The next time you have a hank of yarn in your hands, look for those filaments of light. Many of the yarns mass-produced today lose that spark of light. It is in the handspun variety that you can see it. Words for it may elude you, as it does me. But it will be there, spun up into the fluff and color of yarn.

<sigh>

Limiting Input

I have whisperings…little thoughts that return, quietly, gently. I am making an effort to listen to a few of them. Here’s one: What would I make, or want to make, if I limited how much I am seeing in the way of what other’s make?

I love Instagram. Well, perhaps I should say that I love seeing all the amazing incredible wonderful inspiring things that humans make in this world. I I am constantly inspired by the designs others are knitting and crocheting, the weavings they create, the paintings, the stitching…on and on and my poor little head is so full of things I want to try, that I don’t know which to begin next. And so I wonder…

What if I limited that input, or did away with it altogether? What would I, Jennifer, make? What would I paint? What would I stitch, knit, weave, etc? To be certain, I create what is original to myself and what bubbles up in my own maker mind. But it is definitely influenced by the wonders I have access to online. And it begs the question.

I am trying to listen more. Right there I seem to have contradicted the title of today’s thoughts. How can I listen more if I am limiting input? It is a rich and wonderful truth that we listen more deeply when we get quiet, set ourselves apart from the fray, find still places to sit and listen where external input is minimal. I am making time for this deep listening each day and even for extended periods. It is delicious. I’m finding help and solace in so many areas of my life. As a creative person, here’s something I’m discovering as I listen:

I myself, have within the creative coffers of my heart, a wealth of ideas, skills, abilities, and inspiration. Right here. Inside of me. (And may I say here…so do YOU, dear reader!) So this little gentle question is asking, “From that wealth, what do you want to make? Setting aside all the fantastic ideas and skills and beautiful things you see online, what do you, Jennifer, want to make today?”

So I am sitting with that question these days. Listening more fully to that sweet gentle whispering and wanting to take some action, little by little. It will be a process. I want to share that process here. And I am committed to these posts being short.  I have already surpassed the length I want to allot myself each day. And since I love sitting with questions, I’ll leave it at that. And let the rest unfold, gently, little by little each day.

Thank you for being here.

Jennifer

Not Much & Everything

I’m popping in to say…well…not much. I just want to post. To touch base here on my blog, to any and all who might be visiting. To say life is grand when making things is heading in directions you love. To say that even when life isn’t so grand, making things makes it more tolerable, adds joy, soothes the rough edges. I’d like to blog more often… just to make it a habit, to touch base, to be present here as I am ever so full in my heart with many things I am making, many things I want to make, and many things I may never have the time or resources to make.

On the other hand, I feel I have so much to say. Not today perhaps. But so much is bubbling and brewing, percolating and stewing. It may not come to any sort of viable, sellable product. This bothers me. I wish it didn’t. I hold at bay a nagging thought that plagues me nearly daily – “What is all of this for Jen?” To what end are you spinning fiber with drop spindles? Isn’t this a kind of fool’s errand? To what end are you weaving segments of cloth, one after the other? Will you sell them? Will selling them make it all feel “worth it”? Is there some other creativity, some other medium, some other thing that will give you that sense that Ahhhh THIS! THIS is the thing! With everything I set my hands to, I have a sense that it is indeed the THING! And with everything I make, I have a nagging sense that it isn’t. How can that be?

In every creative act there exists simultaneously a sense of fulfillment and futility. I’m learning to let this be. To just go with it, make space for them both to exist in the atmosphere of my making world. I’m learning to ride the waves of creativity wherever they take me, whether it is to shores of selling or islands of learning new things or into deeper waters of what I already love to make.

‘Til tomorrow then…

Jennifer

The Summer of Weaving


There once was a girl named Jenny

Whose interests were varied and many…

Crochet and knitting

Stitching and spinning

Drawing and painting aplenty.

***

To choose only one of them filled her with gloom.

There must be a way to give all of them room.

So lines and colors

Fibers and textures

She wove all together on a loom!

***

Her sketchbook remained like a song’s refrain-

The common thread keeping her sane

Through all explorations

Ideas, iterations…

Her sketches were the heart, that was plain.

***

But her loom was a canvas, creativity rife-

Weaving fibers she’d spun without tears or strife.

Over and under

Back and forth.

Learning to see through the warp of life.

-jpe

In April, as I anticipated summer’s arrival, I began to think of it as My Summer of Weaving. It seemed crazy and began quite suddenly when a friend shared with me a book she had of amazingly colorful weavings created on a rigid heddle loom. Thus began what has been a delightful foray into weaving cloth!

I have also enjoyed making some tapestry weavings, tried a few bracelet/cuff thingys, and am now dreaming of a larger rigid heddle loom (wider…24″ or 32″…ooooohhhhh:).

I have also gathered the supplies I need to try backstrap weaving. My next step is to warp the sticks and have a go at this amazing style of weaving that truly has me in awe. I was mesmerized by this video of Guatemalan women working magic on such a simple loom. And I found an amazing blogger who shares how to make your own backstop loom. I’m not as interested in weaving a tiny strap, so my sticks are wide and will hopefully allow for a wider cloth. Ideas, ideas, ideas….my head is quite full and happy.

 I have even been offered a Leclerc Floor Loom to bring home and give it a try. I’m not settled about that one, as I simply do not have the space for it. But boy does it seem fun to try out. Well, not the warping part…that completely overwhelms me… the thought of warping a big floor loom. My 16″ Ashford Sample It rigid heddle loom is so accessible and easy to understand. I’m not in any rush with this weaving path I’m on. Slow and steady wins the race and will allow me to relish and savor the learning and enjoyment of weaving.

Spinning goes hand in hand with weaving, as I so love to create yarns to either weave or knit with. For now, I seem to want to add into the weavings all kinds of yarns with lots of texture and color! So I haven’t woven with purely handspun wool yet. Perhaps I will try that in future. But my recent excitement was in discovering how to ply two handspun yarns together! My family can attest to my crazy delirium over being able to do that!

Of course, there are project bags in the works filled with knitting and crochet projects! And though I am no longer doing my morning #100DayProject pages, I continue to drawcument life, often doing so in the mornings and evenings as a way to greet and end the day.

Heart full. Hands open to receive. This artful life continually calls to me. I am consciously working to slow the pace of making so that I can just relish living artfully. I don’t know if this makes sense. But I’m finding goodness in just sitting for periods of time WITHOUT MAKING ANYTHING. Just to be in the presence of the One who made me. Just to be present in my life with wherever it is I am at the moment. It feels restful and slower than my usual. It is summer. And I am so grateful for this Summer of Weaving!

Where the Light Gets In

I sit here on our back deck marveling at the sunrise. Light creeps into the neighborhood like fingers finding their way through the maze of cars, bushes, mailboxes, trees and houses. Patches of light cover yards and streets like picnic blankets. Golden shafts blaze down and through shrubbery like kids playing tag or hide and seek. Only they would certainly be found by friends if they glowed as the morning sun does here in my back yard.

Already, our yard is showing the signs of high summer – the variety of spring greens have settled into their darker more homogenous hues. A few brown patches where summer heat is sapping the life, are beginning to show here and there.

Yet I am dazzled by this trio of bushes – two red tips and a butterly bush. Right down at the base of these bushes lies the most gorgeous colors. Golden fingers illumine a near-black green dancing beside the pink and burgundy of pine straw. Turquoise, sap green, yellow green is interrupted by these shafts of pure gold. I feel dizzy gazing at this gift of a moment, as if I’ve drunk too much wine. Yet my head and heart are clear as a bell. God is here, reaching out to me in this quiet space of morning light.

I am needing this desperately. Time to drink in the wine of God’s beauty and love for me. I feel that I’ve been living and making art for a long time somewhat disconnected from this quiet center where I can just be. I’ve been making, and stitching, and painting without getting still and quiet enough to connect to where it all comes from. No wonder I’ve been feeling stretched thin like the frantic making is a bit dry and perhaps singed around the edges, even if it all appears lovely to others. I’m weary of just cranking it out. I want this – shafts of light to burst in and through the shrubbery of my heart, igniting and illuminating all within.

Yes. This is what I need today and everyday. Rise, O Son, in the yard of my heart. Spread blankets of love for child-like play. Embolden the dry colors that have sat too long without Your golden fingers touching and illuminating. May I sit in stillness long in this summer yard where the Light gets in.

To Walk Among the Shells

We just returned from a week at ocean’s side. It was much needed and I marvel at the gifts that came through the days with my husband’s family, through walks by the water, naps in a hammock, time to read and write in my journal.

The first day out on the beach I could barely walk. So many sea shells, broken and blistering in the sun, hurting my feet, distracting me from just simple sauntering along the ocean’s edge. This is how I arrive at the beach every year. The weeks leading up to the end of June never fail to wind me up into a complete frenzy. If I didn’t have this week built into my year, I shudder to think where I’d land. A whirling dervish, a spinning top, I get to land on soft sand and buoyant waves, letting my weary soul spin slowly down to where I can listen and be soul-quiet.

It was painfully evident that first day, as I walked among the shells…THIS is where life had gotten to—a bazillion gajillion details of daily living, caring, loving, making, erranding, upkeeping, idea-ing, and not-enough-time-ing. My eyes darted from shell to shell like a nervous hamster (not sure where that image comes from 😳), impeding my ability to walk forward. Back bent over as I walked, hunched to attend to every detail, shoulders perched to pick and choose, I suddenly realized how uncomfortable and tiring this was…this extreme attention to the details of life. How did I get to a place where I felt compelled to attend to every one and every thing? In shells and in life, I have a soft spot for the broken ones, a love for seeing beauty in chaos, a hunger for seeking and finding lovely colors and shapes. But it all gets to be too much for me, and I realize I’ve been bent over for way too long, and I’m in dire need of gazing at the horizon, at the vast ocean of Gods’s love and grace for me, for my family, for the world.

Do you get to these places too? I often chastise myself for how weary I am, for how strung-by-a-thread I feel, for all the shells I’m NOT able to tend to, or to find, or to turn over and really look at. I get stuck in the thinking that the bent-over life is the one we are called to. It takes coming to the beach to hear a gentle roar that speaks a different word or song. It often requires stepping away from the busy shell bank of daily life, so that my Father can left my chin to His dear face and I can once again start to relax and see in His eyes where all the brokenness will be made whole, all the undone will be complete, and where all the beauty resides. Shoulders lower, legs stop spinning, back straightens, and I begin to walk again, slowly, deliberately, less distracted by the crunching at my feet.

To walk among the shells with my eyes fixed on the horizon requires effort and daily tending. I’ll be bent over again I’m sure, nose in the broken and beautiful bits. But for now, home from the beach, my heart is still and my gaze transfixed on the One who holds all the details.

*****

It is my hope and desire to write more here. Yet I’m not wanting to use Facebook or Instagram as an announcement page. To you who are already following my blog, thank you for reading. My joy is to share some of the broken and beautiful bits of life and creativity with you.💗

The Gift of Weaving

Over the years of drawing & painting, knitting & crocheting, I have found insight and wisdom for daily living in and through the process of these endeavors. Much like trail markers, they offer direction and assurance for whatever I’m needing at the time, and they guide me in my personal life. Weaving is no exception.

When I draw, I start with a blank page. Nothing is there and it is up to me to begin to make marks on that page, wherever, how-so-ever I like, to create an image. With knitting or crochet it is much the same…only a hook or needles and some yarn to begin making a fabric. Yet when I weave, there is already a structure there. The warp is set in place. There’s really no changing the warp threads for the duration of that weave.

I am finding in my 50’s that weaving speaks so strongly to what I live everyday – the warp has been set. Indeed they were (and are still) matters of choice at one time. Husband, three children + son-in-law, home, faith, teaching, community. These are the vertical threads that set the structure of my life, over and under which I create. Yarns and fibers, threads and textiles of great or little beauty in and of themselves, are woven daily into the warp of my life. I do have choices to make each day, as to the daily weft. Yet some days I’m given a thread to weave that I may not particularly like. Somehow, and this is the glorious bit, somehow it is beautiful in the mix of a lifetime of woven colors.

I can weave with confidence, knowing that somehow all will be well in the end. I can receive the ugly, unwanted-in-the-moment threads or interruptions knowing that they will add their own depth to the overall piece. I can weave tapestries or cloth that display this truth – that the vertical, earth to heaven warp, is just as much a part of the tapestry, as the daily horizontal yarns and textiles. This has been a gift to me recently. I relish each creative outlet I’m granted for the wisdom it offers, and I look forward each day to the colors that will be woven.

Wishing you an Artful Day!

Jennifer

Connections

I am realizing a connection between my current mark-making sketches and the weavings I’m enjoying lately. The scarf that recently came off the loom holds threads of all kinds – thick ones, thin ones, novelty yarns, handspun wool, cotton, and so many colors. They are woven across a variegated warp in undulating waves, circles, stripes and varying bands which sometimes end on the edges and are tied together for a random fringe.

The abstractions for the #100dayproject are not dissimilar…there are typically lots of colors, multiple mediums threaded and woven, over and under each other in a seemingly haphazard way, but which, in most cases, hold together cohesively.

It has also occurred to me that these works speak of my life currently. It is multi-faceted, verging on chaos, numerous threads, lines, and colors winging in various directions, Some days I do not have a sense that it is holding together as a complete entity. I have to trust that it is. I have to lay my head down on the pillow each evening and let the day’s events be as they are. I have to stop weaving, stop painting, cease trying to wrangle all the disparate elements into a cohesive unit. I have to allow rest of mind and body to gather it all up, winding the loom for another day’s weft, turning the page so that I can start fresh again the next day.

The understanding I gain from what I create eases the confusion and restlessness inside. As each day on the calendar seems to flip by with increasing speed, the moments I’m able to add yarns to a warp, or make marks on a page, help me to see all the comings and goings of a day as a beautiful whole that may or may not be complete, but is moving toward that end one yarn at a time, one line and splash of color in a moment.

I cannot imagine moving through life, with all its ups and downs, all the over and unders, any other way than to create!

And you? Do you find connections between the different things you make with your hands? Or can you see a connection between your making and your life? For instance, do you find that you tend to choose really soft yarn to perhaps buffer the hardness of life? Do you draw detailed scenes to try and go deep into the tangle of your life to make some sense of it? Do you choose bright happy colors because, in general, that is how life feels to you? Or maybe because you need the bright happy colors to lift your day? Whatever it may be, there is almost always a connection? Looking for it and discerning what that is, can be very helpful in your everyday life.

Have a beautiful artful weekend!

Jennifer