Marisol & Me

Oh Marisol, Marisol…

Your given name says it all-

Merry-go-rounds and parisols,

Wide-eyed adventures, stories untold.

***

Yet hearth and home, heather and loam,

They call you back, n’er to roam.

Content to spin yarns of shalom

And scatter joy here in my home.

***

Let us whirl our wool and sparkled light

Sipping tea, knitting at night.

But dream we will of sea and kite,

Of picnic fields, wildflowered delight!

***

What shall we say, Marisol and me?

Our capes are ready, hearts of glee.

If we stay or go, this we see…

Joy is here ‘neath the myrtle tree.

*****

-jpe 

April 19, 2020

Have you ever made something and felt so content, so full of delight, that you thought for a moment you might never need to make anything else ever again? That is precisely how I felt as I finished knitting this little mouse. The pattern is named Marisol the Mouse, and being smitten with that name and also with the shape of this mouse, I set about to bring one to life for my own.

The pattern is perfect, offering options for a bonnet or a beret. The only modification I made in the body of the mouse was to have two thicknesses for the ears so as to have the outer gray behind the inner pink. Making the bonnet into a cape was simple enough by picking up stitches along the neck edge and knitting down to the length I wanted, increasing on a few rounds to allow the cape to flair a bit.

Of course, by this time, Marisol was chattering away with me about her cape colors and I allowed her to choose from my handspun yarn stash. She has good taste as she chose a most delicious green multi with an ever so slight hint of sparkle. Thus will surely be fetching in the sunlight as she gathers nettles for tea and gleans wool along the hedgerows.

I thought I was finished, but she continued on about how a proper field mouse needs a gathering basket for her wool to be carried in and oh she simply must have a pair of knitting needles and wouldn’t those yellow-tipped ones be just the thing?

Her wide eyes fell upon the recently crocheted wee baskets I had made out of spun coffee-filters (a truly absorbing and enchanting way to make paper yarn!) and oh my she had a time choosing which one would be the perfect size and color for her. In the end she chose the brown one for it had flecks of green and pink and she felt the natural color was a more sensible thing for her outdoor walks. I agreed with her, of course, for who would contradict so delightful a mouse?

In my utter delight with having such an adorable and lovable creature to add to my menagerie of knitted wee beings, a poem bubbled up with the frothy giggles and sighs. I was completely taken with her and as I wrote about her, I realized I was also writing about me. I could see in her what I feel so keenly these days…a wide-eyed desire for adventure, to roam around freely, to be going hither and yon gathering pretties in a basket. I too dream of the ocean and flying kites. My infrequent trips to a grocery store with scanty shelves whilst wearing a mask is not quite the adventure I had in mind.

Yet somehow, in writing about Marisol, I found that I too love spinning yarns of peace, whether stories or actual wool. I too am content to scatter joy at home, sip tea and knit at night. I am in many ways loving the freedom to do just that. If I am able to stay in the present moment and not worry about future possibilities, then I am truly content and grateful, along with Marisol, for this home under the myrtle tree. (Which we do, by the way, have growing tall right at our front door.:)

So you see friends, in the making of a wee little thing, seemingly inconsequential in the whole scheme of this tops-turvy world, there can be moments of realization, of gathering joy to scatter around. Truly we wait in eagerness with our capes ready to dash out the door the minute “they” say GO! In the meantime I pray you are finding joy under your myrtle trees, with Marisol and Me. : D

Tomorrow

More than ever before, we need to be making things. This is not merely to while-away the time or to keep our minds off of all the sad news and the what-will-happens. There is an inherent belief in creating something that says, if only in a small way, “Tomorrow will come. A new day will rise.”

We cast on a knitting project and in so doing is the stalwart belief that I desire to and will finish this sweater or hat or pair of socks in the future!

We draw in our sketchbooks to capture a small bit of something that caught our eye today so that we can remember it tomorrow.

We spin wool into yarn which is in itself a ball of possibilities either for you or for someone else to make into a thing of beauty another day.

We begin a tapestry weaving or some cloth knowing that it will require us to keep weaving tomorrow and the next day and perhaps even the next.

(Ok, so this isn’t a loaf of bread. I DID bake bread yesterday but I didn’t take a photo of it. I think this looks like a most delicious loaf, don’t you? :D)

We bake bread with the knowledge that it will be enjoyed for at least a day, maybe two or three.

Just as planting vegetables and flowers casts our net into an unforesee-able future…so too does penning a poem, molding clay, writing a song. As Julia Cameron notes in her book The Artist’s Way, creative people are like equestrians in an obstacle course. The rider must throw his or her heart over the fence in order to land on the other side. This is precisely what we are doing as we daily set our hands to making something.

Whether it is actually planting a garden, or baking bread, or beginning a large oil painting, I hope that you will make time to create something. For this will pull our hearts forward as we endure our current worldwide situation. If anxiety prevents you from that large commissioned piece, then make something small and manageable. Try a new way of creating like origami or simple watercolor doodles. You will discover your heart is a bit lighter as we leap over this huge fence.

Grace and peace to you all this Easter weekend and beyond!❤️

New Year Eyes

”There are eyes in pencils and pens.”

This quote by John Piper, found in a book I’m re-reading for the umpteenth time, echoes down a long hallway of years of drawing and writing. I know this to be true…how I see so much better when I’m wearing my pens. A bic pen for writing daily pages of whatnot, the same pen for sketching random doodles, a fine Sharpie and a bold brush pen for drawing, fat markers and dual-ended colors, and a splash of watercolor here and there all help me see the world more clearly and true-ly.

Today, the last day of 2019, feels like any other day, except for a small flicker of  re-kindled hope. Not a hope that things will improve in the New Year, for so many of the difficulties and burdens of 2019 will go with me into 2020, and may even worsen.  It is rather a hope much like a faint far off sound that tickles my ear to turn towards it.  A sweet note (or is it a voice?) that I’ve heard before so many times…

…count them…draw them…put pen to paper…

…and in doing so, pin them to your heart and mind. So many gifts lay strewn at your feet, all around you, as you walk along the way, no matter how difficult or heavy the course. You need, Jen, to wield your pen in order to see the gifts.

Ok. I will. And what shall I pen and pin down with laser focus? What shall I count and list and name and draw into my heart?

Gifts. “Not gifts I want, but gifts I already have.”

-Ann Voskamp. 1,000 Gifts. Pg. 45.

I know this. Yet I forget what I already know…that gifts abound all around me every single day. This past year has brought gifts that I’d rather not have received, the painful difficult kind that has a way of overshadowing the lovely and joyful gifts.

As 2020 rolls in, I want to light a candle in those shadows, to peer down the end of my pens and see the gifts lovingly placed along  parched paths. There will be too many gifts to name them all, much less draw them all. But I will catch as many as I’m able, whispering thank you for each of them.

Ann Voskamp speaks of having her “hunt pen in hand”. I am holding mine firmly as I close out 2019 and jump into 2020. This pen with eyes may also have wings…I will need both for the year ahead!

Attention

In the middle of November I started to draw what was happening in my head. Well, it wasn’t only in my head. Some of the ideas that flutter around in my head come through my hands, or at least get started to see if they want to be fully birthed. Not all of the ideas mind you. My brain is a veritable factory of creative ideas which one person cannot possibly bring into being. I must be choosy.

I do love to have the time to sit and ponder each of them, like rolling a river pebble over in my fingers gazing at all sides and wondering if I have what that particular idea requires, or whether it should wait a while or perhaps be tossed back into the vast idea pond. Spinning wool is a lovely place to ponder and mull and work through the idea backlog.

The difficulty is that I’m forever attaching a weighty criteria to the ideas. Is this meaningful enough? Does it have an artistic flair? Is it original? Or is it someone else’s idea that I think I can do my version of? Will I have to purchase other tools or items to make this? How much time will be involved? Is it do-able within the framework of my life? Will I have to leave hearth and home for a week in order to see this idea come to fruition?

The heaviest weight I put on creating something is that big word Art with a capital A. I have an ongoing love-hate relationship with this word and for many years have preferred to remove the consideration of whether I’m producing Art, off the table. I really just want to be delighted, and if what I’m making delights me, then it shouldn’t matter whether it is deemed Art by me or by anyone else.

So I sit there at my wheel, or stand twirling a spindle, enrapt in delight as I do so, and I’m thinking of all these other things I “should” be devoting my time to.  I kept drawing the little illustrations off and on over the past few weeks in hopes of getting somewhere. It dawned on me recently, as it has done numerous times before, that what I’m holding in my hands is more often than not, THE THING I’m to be doing. Whew. Such freedom and Joy! Just look at the final drawing in my little story and that happy smile on the idea bulb’s face! “Finally! She’s got it!”

Here in the midst of our busy holiday making, I hope you can find some time to be delighted. It doesn’t matter if you are making world-changing Art, or just spinning some fluff into string. Stay in the de-Light as long as you can, eschewing those pesky thoughts that you should surely be doing something else more weighty and monumental. Pay attention to what you find yourself paying attention to (Jessica Abel’s thoughts here).

Deep dive into what’s right there in your hands to make and bring to life. It is likely the Big Idea 💡 you’ve been after all along.❤️

Notice & Observe

Here we are…again…at the starting gate of a New Year! All the hopes and fears of all the years (or at least those of 2018) seem to gather together in a clump as we look ahead, hoping the New Year brings less difficulty than the one before, and fearing that it might not. The temptation for me is to rally all my best efforts to keep things running smoothly, without wrinkle or wrench. I know by now this is an exercise in futility. Life brings to us each day a panoply of blessings and challenges…both of which I want to be in a position to notice and observe.

The lovely thing about a New Year is this turning of the number, or page, on a new vista of days, weeks and months. It can feel fresh and clean, unfettered by previous months’ busyness, waiting with anticipation for us to walk through it, holding promise and positive outcomes almost as carrots to lure us into the days ahead. I love this fresh feeling and the excitement of good things to come. Yet I also know that 2019 may very well hold some difficult, painful and confusing things for me as well. I neither want to blindly march into the year with a pasted grin on my face, nor do I want to wallow in future castastrophising (dreaming up all manner of trials and tribulations that may or may not happen). It would seem that “Que sera sera” might be a good tack to take…whatever will be, will be. Though helpful in some ways, this forward thinking version of “It is what it is”, doesn’t carry me through a New Year in the way I wish to experience it.

What I need this coming year, and what I intend to uphold as often as I am able to do so (no goal setting or resolution here), is to meet the New Year moment by moment by Noticing and Observing. To Notice is to say “oh look here at this little (or big)  thing”. To Observe is to pick it up and to ask questions like “I wonder how it got here?” or “look at the colors within” or “see how the shape is so lovely” or “does it have a purpose or is it simply a gift to enjoy?” and so on. Though I have had a good many years of Noticing and Observing, I still need this practice of meeting each new day with space to consider the small moments of my life. A sketchbook is a wonderful tool for Noticing and Observing.

On the 20th of December 2018, I began a new sketchbook which was given to me by a dear friend. To be sure I had not finished the 2 or 3 other sketchbooks I have going, but I had been wanting a book of days, one without a spiral in the middle, one in which to drawcument the days as I notice and observe them. It was also to be an anchor for me as I faced the craziness of the holidays. It has indeed been that anchor.

It is perhaps not a proper watercolor sketchbook, as in having the precise paper on which watercolor shines. But I love the almost cloth-like feel of this paper, and the handmade look of it with fabric cover and twine stitching. It is made by Anthropologie and I do hope they are still making these when I finish this one. Another will surely be in order. The very best thing is that my favorite markers, both fat and thin ones, do not bleed through the other side, thus allowing me to draw on all sides of the woven pages.

To Notice & Observe, is like dancing in puddles. When life gives us rainy days, as it has in abundance here in central North Carolina, it is best to notice where the puddles are and dance in them. Drawing and painting are perfect puddle activities, as are any other creative endeavors. Knitting, spinning, weaving and the like are all beautiful ways to notice what’s going on in your life and to observe it from a place of beauty. Writing is also excellent…I write every morning all the noticings and observations of both my interior and exterior worlds.

There is something amazing that happens when we Notice & Observe. Somehow, our hearts are lightened a bit. Perhaps it is in the lines and colors of pen, paint and wool that weaves into our eyes a renewed palette for the day. We also receive insight when we Notice & Observe. There is a direct connection between the lines on the page,  the strands of yarn and wool, to our minds and hearts. We receive hope, clarity, lessened anxiety and so much more in the act of making something with our hands. I look forward to this blessing today and on through the New Year. I wish it for you as well.

Happy New Year to you!

May it be filled with many moments to Notice & Observe!

Artfully yours,

Jennifer

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