Sunday, September 30, 2007

Studying Nature With The Dogs... Or... "I loafe and invite my soul..." Whitman

"If a man walks in the woods for love of them half of each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer. But if he spends his days as a speculator, shearing off those woods and making the earth bald before her time, he is deemed an industrious and enterprising citizen."

~ Henry David Thoreau ~

Walking with the 3 dogs...

Little did I know, when Babs and Sampson, the 2 pugs, entered my life, one month apart, in the last month or so, that these 2 little beings would take Moe and I on such great adventures. We walk 6-8 times a day, two of those times for a good hour. And I have a pouch around my neck that I knitted some time ago with 2 pockets and I carry my cell phone (...lest I fall and hurt myself... I'd be found sprawled out hanging onto 3 leashes!) and my camera, for each moment of the walk has become too precious to waste. And the longer we walk and the more territory we traverse, the deeper into Nature we get, and the more things that I discover. And as I said to my dear friend Noreen today, you can't rush when you are walking 3 dogs, two of whom are the size of peanuts and can't go fast, and all three of them have such busy noses they are always stopping here and there for all those marvelous mysterious smells. It reminds me of walking with my children when they were young. You can't go fast with a baby strapped to your body and a 3 and 6 year old in tow, and they keep stopping to discover things you would have walked right over or missed. Tiny wildflowers, a beautiful stone, a perfect butterfly, still captivating in death, a hummingbird, a bumblebee, and ants running hither and yon, carrying things seemingly too big for them. I wouldn't have missed that time with my children for all the world, and now I am once again experiencing these wonders with my dogs.

Today we started out and everywhere along the roadside, on one particular stretch, there were wild morning glories and they took my breath away. As it was noontime most were closing, but I got a beautiful shot of one in a shady patch and shall cherish it's beauty for some time to come...

Wild morning glory in tangles along roadside...

Further on I was captivated by a tiny blue and white house. It looked abandoned, but I can't imagine that it was, however it set me to dreaming. I love little houses. I wrote a whole story about it in my mind. The only thing missing was a wild garden all around it. That would have made it perfect!

A wee little house to dream about...

On we walked and back around and then down the long stretch that leads to the woods. Along the way I was delighted to find wild mushrooms and this is something I definitely want to study. I don't want to eat a toadstool! Who then would feed all of these little animals of mine! But I feel these are mushrooms and tomorrow I shall pick one and check online. If they are okay I will pick a little group of them and cook and eat them. I adore mushrooms, and the idea of foraging for free food from Mother Nature appeals to me greatly. Do any of you know anything about these? Aren't they lovely?

I moved forward from the mushrooms, looking very much like a wild-haired absent minded professor, and reminding myself that next time I needed a little notebook too, for my pocket. (You're wondering how I can possibly hold 3 leashes with 3 dogs attached, take pictures, and make notes? Let's just say they are very good dogs and I imagine I can slip the loops of all three leashes over one wrist and a quick note might be made. Mind, these are very good dogs and when I stop they stop and look up at me. They're used to me stopping every three feet for photos...).

You thought I was kidding about
the wild-haired preposterous looking
business! Well, a woman going on
a nature walk with three dogs doesn't
much care what she looks like... It's
the joy of the outdoors, the dogs, the
great natural finds, funny hair and
all the rest!

After the mushrooms we meandered further back toward the woods and I had to stop at the magnolia that I had plucked my beautiful seed pod from the day before, but I also wanted pictures of the pods with their bright red seeds. They are like Christmas ornaments and just amazing. Here they are on the tree...

And here is one not yet ripe. I thought they were a lovely shade of cream with a bit of pink, and oh how lovely, but these are not fully ripe pods and it's the red seeds showing through that make them look pink...

And now I have a little bowl of magnolia seed pods on my kitchen counter and I look at them in a dreamy sort of way. I would love to draw them in all of their stages. I shall have to take up my sketchbook again. I draw in pen and ink with a touch of watercolor. I think my nature walks will get me painting again...

As I walked with my three further into the little forest area behind where I live I saw an enchanting sight. Under a giant pine tree there were huge pinecones and a tiny little seedling saying "I want to live too," under the shadow of her tall mother, reaching up far into the sky. I had to snap some photos of them...

And the giant, magical pine tree towering above...

I adore these Loblolly pines...

The dogs loved all of the wonderful smells and were snuffling about while I looked, breathless, all around me at all the wonders of nature, and knew that this was going to be very important to me. I feel a strange and mysterious feeling of awakening. For some time now I have felt a growing sense of a kind of awakening inside of me to my true work. Little did I know that 3 dogs would show me the way.

Further on, at the back of our little woodsy paradise, I saw something that I couldn't make out until I got closer and I gasped in glee. It was a very old worn wicker chair with a sign on it that said, "Welcome," that had been shoved back in the woods long ago. Did someone sit in it before the woods grew up around it? Surely, I had entered an enchanted forest...

Who sat here? I can hear her calling to me now...

Finally, at the end of our walk, before turning back toward home, we came upon the most glorious tiny little place. Surely whoever lived there knew magic as I do. Just look at her little garden gate...

And she had a bird at her feeder the likes of which I never see at mine, though I've feeders all the way around my cottage...

I'll have to look this one up in a bird book! I'm not sure Mr. Audubon could have named him. He looks more like he fits in my parrot jungle indoors!

So finally we were home, and the dogs fell fast asleep, and I sat here going through my pictures and feeling so happy and at peace, and wondering how many people might find a peaceful calm they'd never known before, if only they had a dog or three to take them on a nature walk...

Warm Blessings to one and all. Take time to walk. Even in a suburban neighborhood, and even without a dog (though it's so much more fun to have one or more with you!) you will have an awakening to all of the beauty there really is in the world.

Turn off the t.v. ~ Go Outside!

Maitri, Moe, Sampson and Babs,
my fellow nature lovers...

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Nature Walks, Fiber Art, Starry Starry Night...

Wisteria Seed Pods, One Magnolia Seed Pod,
and a fiber art black snake in the making...

One of the most amazing things I am experiencing, walking three dogs, and going farther than I ever have (I'm getting lots of good exercise as we go on our walkabouts everyday) is that I am seeing things that I have passed by a thousand times and never noticed. Walking Moe was different. He is a big dog and would walk much faster and kind of take me for a ride. He was very obedient but we walked at a brisk pace. However, when 2 other dogs, peanut sized dogs, pugs, are walking with us too, well, the pace is much slower and we have gone down streets, into woods, and meandered all kinds of places. Today I picked the above wisteria pods, like soft velvet, a mossy greenish brown, and a simply beautiful magnolia seed pod, not yet ripe, from one of the huge magnolia trees in the back of our property. I'm going back for more with a tote bag over my shoulder when I walk the dogs from here on out. I was really having a time trying to hold onto all those seed pods and three leashes! And there was so much more I would have loved to gather...

I also brought in a long, dried out, light and hollow but very sturdy bamboo stalk. My mind is already reeling and I know what I shall do with it. It will be the basis for a piece of fiber art.

Also at the top you will see a black snake that I am making of black Coopworth wool that I handspun with many colored silk noils. It is turning out beautifully for Matilda, the black snake of course, and she is very thick, soft and squishy. It is a very thick yarn that I handspun as all of mine are and I have my next two handspun yarns beside me for the next 2 snakes. And doesn't she look grand amidst the seedpods? A girl in her element.

I think one of the things about being a fiber artist is that one is not only working with natural fibers, but you are brought into the natural world, especially when you buy raw wool, and your hands are coated with lanolin from the wool as you wash a really dirty fleece and then it comes out gorgeous and white, and then the fun begins, the dyeing. Finally you find yourself spinning the fiber and dreaming about what the fiber/yarn you are spinning will become. I love to combine found art in nature's bounty on these treasure hunts called Nature Walks, and the dogs take me hither and yon into unexplored territory and it is simply glorious.

I was just out again with the dogs. The birds are all in bed, night has fallen, and as we walked on a grassy hillside I looked up as they paused and I actually gasped, I was so taken with the starry sky above. There were so many stars shining so brightly in a midnight blue sky, it was as if diamonds had been cast across velvet. I stared in awe, and wished upon a star, and felt so happy. Another gift from the dogs. Had I not had to go walking in the dark I would not have seen them. And last night the moon was beautiful. I have walked them late at night when a hot day had passed and there was a cool breeze and I felt like there had never been a more peaceful stillness, never a more beautiful moon, nothing had every felt so wonderful as the dewy grass against my feet and legs, and a bird sang a beautiful trilling song in the deep ocean of night, and I felt such immense gratitude to be able to see so much beauty, in a world where we often see too little. You have to look for beauty, you have to expose yourself to it, and you will be fed by it, and it will give you a deep, deep peace.

I come inside breathing easier, slower, more deeply. And now I look around at the mostly dark room and I smile at the sleeping animals all around me. The parrots and the finches, the doves and the three dogs. And I have Matilda here beside me and shall finish making her this weekend and put her up in the etsy shop for Dragonfly Cottage Design Studio, and move ahead to the next few snakes, and then I shall move on to other fiber art pieces.

I hope you are well this gentle night. I hope you take a walk outside, and appreciate all the beauty that is around you. Take time to look, take a bag with you to collect things and maybe a notebook and pen. Collect all the magical wonders nature provides, and after nightfall, swim in the sea of stars in your imagination. Each day is so full of beauty. Drink it in...


Monday, September 24, 2007

"There's No Place Like Home," and Sampson Arrives and Settles In...

Sampson has found a home. A permanent home. And today, just a day and a half after his arrival, he looks like he's been here forever...

What I find most baffling is that this 7 year old boy, after his owner died, was passed all over tarnation, adopted out and returned, and was really in need of a home. I mean really, this is a wee little person to fall in love with on sight and want to keep forever! This little fella is so incredibly sweet, such a love, gets along perfectly with all of the other animals here, is such a snuggler and a cuddler, sleeps with me whether nap or night, in the crook of my knees or somehow or another on my head, tucked in my neck with his head on mine (It's just precious!), and just follows me about with the most earnest little look on his face, not bothering me at all, just kind of making sure I'm still there (I'd gone the vast distance of 15 paces down the hall to the bathroom...), well, I am head over heels in love. I can just imagine him clicking his little paws and thinking, "There's no place like home," as Dorothy did in the Wizard of Oz.

The thing is, you can tell the look of a boy who is relaxed. He was nervous and looked sad for the first little bit after his foster mom left him, but then we walked and we snuggled and we had treats, and tons of cuddles and kisses and then it was time for my afternoon nap and he curled up with me and we snuggled and slept and he woke up as if to say, "Well gosh darnit, I think I get to stay here!"

Last night I looked around this little room. Moe, my big lab-doby mix was asleep, paws up, on the couch. Babs was asleep on her pink movie star bed. And then I turned around and laughed. Sampson had found his spot. He loves my big oversized chair with the huge ottomon, and there are six fluffy orange and pink pillows in the chair and he had mushed the pillows around and was asleep in a nest in the chair. I said to my dear friend Joseph, "Well, Moe has the couch, Sampson has my comfy chair, and the only other place to sit is in this computer chair or the floor. At least the dogs look happy!

At some point during the afternoon he settled on his bed with his toy that came with him. I had asked if they had something they could send with him, a familiar so to speak, and I was delighted when he came with a bed and a toy. I wanted him to be able to make the transition as easily as possible. When he settled on his bed with his bear in the first few hours, I could tell he was starting to relax and he looked adorable. His bear was well loved in the way that The Velveteen Rabbit was.

Finally when I was ready to move to my chair and do my fiber work he agreed that it might not be so bad moving a tad if he could lay on the ottoman, kind of glued to my leg. I said that would be fine, but I held my breath a minute because that has been Moe's spot in the evening and Moe and Bab's lived happily without incident until just last week when Babs was on the ottoman with me and Moe came over and jumped up on the ottoman and growled. He didn't look like he wanted to do anything but he was making it clear that she was on his turf. Babs is so laid back she just kind of shrugged her tiny shoulders and went over on her movie star bed. But Sampson needs to be by me during this settling in period and yet I don't want Moe to feel displaced. Oddly, Sampson slept by me for a good three hours and Moe looked but didn't seem affected at all. He rolled back over on the couch and went back to sleep. I've no idea why he got his knickers in a twist the other day.

The first walk with the three dogs was a hoot. Here is this not dainty lady in a flowing caftan and the big green shoes clopping down the road with a dog the size of a young deer and two peanut sized pugs. We must have looked quite a sight, but they all three walked so well on the leashes, as they have all day today, I swear, it's just miraculous. It's as though these three dogs have been together in many lifetimes. They have settled in so quickly with one another, and now Sampson has found a favorite spot during the day, the big ottoman on the vintage quilt. Today his teddy bear is up there with him...

The biggest problem with Sampson is that he's so squishy and kissy. He's been half kissed to death here, but I think we'll both settle down after a bit. Or at least HE will. I'm known far and wide as a shameless nose kisser, and just look, I mean really, how could you not kiss that nose? And I've ordered him a great big purple heart tag with his name and my phone number. All three dogs have them though they never run loose. I just like to protect my babies every way I can.

I have written elsewhere that I didn't need an alarm clock because tall Moe would come to my side of the bed and gently put his nose on me. Well sir, Sampson sleeps with me, on top of me, half way across me, and trust me, when he is ready to get up he just climbs straight up my sleeping form and starts nuzzling me and making puggy noises. This morning I clearly heard him say, "Ahem, I know it's 4 a.m. but I really have to go!" He was polite, but insistent, and of course when one of them move all three of them think it's a grand time to go. I didn't so much think it was the greatest thing, but our boy is just settling in. When Babs came she got me up every morning at 6, the time she used to get up at her foster parents because they had to get to work. She quickly adjusted to our schedule and now it's usually been between 7 and 8 when Babs and Moe wanted to go out. Wee Sampson is still getting the lay of the land, but he already knows where the food and water bowls are and when they get their special treats, which is after the first good morning walk, and trust me, 4 a.m. doesn't count.

What is truly amazing to me -- and everyone who knows me knows that I am an animal lover and rescuer from way back and have many animals here with me, they are my family, my loves, my companions, all of them -- but there is just something special about the dogs. I look around at these three little beings and it's as if they are angels come into my life at probably the worst time in my life as my mother is in endstage cancer and it's bad. But at the worst time here came Babs and a month later Sampson. Moe has been my great love and always will be, but I'm madly in love with all of them. I am simply in a more joyful state than I have been for some long time.

So now my little family is complete, and some day when I move into a bigger place with a fenced yard I will be a foster mom for Pug Rescue and I will spend the rest of my life with pugs. There is simply no way to look into a pug face and not feel overflowing love and joy. I thank the heavens for all of the wonderful people at Mid-Atlantic Pug Rescue . They have my heart forever....

Now it's time to go snuggle some pugs and one big sweet black dog...


Saturday, September 22, 2007

"Oh When The Pugs, Come Marching In, Oh When The Pugs Come March-ing In..."

Tomorrow, the newest Rescue Pug arrives
at Dragonfly Cottage. His name is Sampson...

How could you resist that sweet
little face. He's 7 years old...

I am so excited. I've just come back from the little pet store down the road that I love and bought 2 bags of finch food, 2 different kinds of water conditioner that I've almost run out of for my 5 beta fish, and new food and water bowls for Babs and Sampson. Babs had a makeshift food and water bowl here but I got new ones I like better for both pugs. And then I -- which only a smitten mother owned by a pug would do -- bought the ridiculously priced magazine special for pugs. It was $10. I couldn't afford it and I wouldn't leave without it. I have already purchased nearly every book on pugs that exist on where fortunately you can get them used for a song.

And speaking of songs I got so excited in the car on the way back I started singing a well known hymn, substituting (As I'm sure it was meant to be, only a simple typo passed down through the generations...) PUG for whatever other word had been mistakenly put in it's place. I shall put the correct word, PUG, in, and put the word commonly and of course mistakenly used in brackets. This hymn has often been used in churches and even for funerals, but truly it was meant to be a Pug Celebration song, used most especially when a beloved Pug has found his or her real and true home.

Not to hold you in suspense any longer, I shall now present the lyrics, and please feel free to sing along. I shall be doing so as well as tapping my toe in my outrageously fabulous lime green Crocs! And by the way, we -- the puglings and doglings and I -- all like the Louis Armstrong version the best.

"Oh When The Pugs Come Marching In..."

(Penned somewhere back in time, corrected
for posterity's sake by Maitri Libellule, in
the year of Babs and Sampson...)

We are traveling in the footsteps
Of those who’ve gone before

But we’ll all be reunited

On a new and sunlit shore

Oh when the Pugs [saints] go marching in

When the Pugs [saints] go marching in

Oh Lord I want to be in that number

When the Pugs [saints] go marching in...

(And so on and so forth. You get the drift...)

To backtrack a bit (still tapping toe and humming...) the reason I bought the pug special magazine was because there is an indepth article on how to clean crevices and unusual places that pugs have that other dogs seem not to. I had Babs a full month when someone, not even a pug person, casually mentioned that she had a friend who cleaned her pug's nose crease routinely because they got, well, pug nose gunk in there. I checked. I tried to clean. Babs seems to have an almost non-existant nose and there was no smell or gunk. Just after this someone else told me that you can pop a pug's eye out!!! if you try too hard to clean out the crease. Their eyes are very large and sensitive and easy to, well, you know. The last thing I need are pug eyes popping out all over tarnation. I mean really. It made me go all funny feeling inside and Henry, my beloved grey parrot and constant companion, had to fly for the smelling salts. I still don't feel quite right.

And then, just when you've begun to pat yourself on the back for the new kid in town (so far, that would have been Babs, until tomorrow when Sampson arrives...) settling in so well, and stopped worrying about she and the resident dog, my beloved Moe, a lab-doby mix about 150 x the size of Babs, getting into a fracas, I came home to something worse. They are in cahoots!

Moe has had a very odd habit ever since we moved into this townhouse 5 1/2 years ago. He has always been, and I kid you not, a saint of a dog. Never causes any trouble, never destroys things, just the best boy in the world. I rarely leave my house but a couple of years ago I started leaving 2 afternoons a week, for say, maybe 4 hours, to babysit my grandbaby, and when I came home, well, I don't begin to know what he did or how he did it, but his food and water bowls would be all over the kitchen with food and water everywhere. He NEVER does this when I am home or if he is only left a short time while I run for groceries or something fairly quick. Today I was gone for only a very short time. However...

I just got home from the abovementioned petshop to find that not only Moe, but innocent little Babs (Uh-huh, yea, right, whatever....) had BOTH toppled their food and water dishes everwhere making the most godawful mess in the kitchen. I stood shellshocked. I caught them in the act. They both looked up at me somewhere between fake innocent and truly guilty. They both kind of looked at each other and at me and were so earnest I had to keep from laughing. I said in my best stern "mommy's not so happy" voice. "Shame on you two!" and shushed them out of the kitchen while I cleaned up a sea of water, and soggy food everywhere. If anyone out there has any clue why they might do this, I'd like to know. Where is Cesar Millan when you need him? (I worship the man. I am renting all the seasons available and immersing myself in Millan-ology and I have his book, Cesar's Way.) All I've got to say is that Moe has led poor little Babs down the trodden path and God Help Us when I leave the three of them alone for a few hours to watch my grandbaby on Monday.

But really, it's a small price to pay for such joy. And they do provide so much joy. It was all I could do not to get Sampson's name tag made at the store but I don't know what color his collar is. Babs came with a pink rhinestone collar, perfect for the movie star pug that she is, so I got her a pink, heart shaped tag that says Babs, and my phone number. I also got her a round pink movie star bed...

Truly, Mae West would have died to be that sexy. I almost bought a bed for Sampson today but I figured out I'd best get to meet him first. You see the above is Babs' second bed. The first one was a very nice bed but one of those that are sort of like a nest with sides. Plenty big for her but she didn't like being balled up in it. She likes to STRETCH OUT. So Sampson will get his bed when he gets here and I can ask him what kind of sleeping accomodations he prefers. Moe is truly not particular, but he mostly prefers the couch...

And I'm not complaining about a single thing now because truly, we just had a moment of grace handed down from the heavens about 30 minutes ago. It has been raining all day and Herself (Babs) and Himself (Moe) do not like to go out in the rain. Babs went "Ooof ooof oof," her tiny pugling bark, and Moe let out with his big lab-doby bark, and I translate, "You better get us out fast while it's not raining or you can clean it up in here." I whipped out the leashes, snapped them on so fast I made their heads spin, and went lurching out the door in my lime green clodhopper Crocs, looking quite a sight, and we went for a walk where they both did their #1 and #2 and barely made it back in the house when it started to rain again and now it is full out storming. If that wasn't a moment of grace, I don't know what was.

In the midst of the above walk-between-rains, my ratty caftan blowing in the breeze over my big green shoes and my hair standing up straight from having gone somewhat grotesquely awry when I was mopping up and cleaning the floor, and dancing about with a jolly black giant of a dog on one side and a little black nibblet of a dog on the other, I prayed that the crew from Candid Camera or America's Funniest Home Videos wouldn't jump out of the bushes somewhere and get a picture. The dogs looked alright. I, however, was quite a different story.

So now it's dark out and storming mightily. Babs is sound asleep, Moe is panting heavily behind me (he is terrfied of storms), and Henry is here on my arm where he always is, supervising my writing and editing along the way...

It is now time to put all the birds to bed -- that would be ten with 2 new dove babies about to hatch -- and curl up to watch a movie and work on the Haute Couture Pugwear I am designing some of which will help Mid-Atlantic Pug Rescue and the rest will help support my ever growing rescues at the cottage. Henry is kind of jealous. He said, "I never saw you making Designer Parrotwear when you got me." And I said,"Show me a person that designs Parrotwear and can actually get it ON the parrot and I'll show you a person with their arms ripped off and their eyes gouged out." He kind of rolled his eyes and said, "Well, there is that." Yes, there is that.

So on to nightly chores we go, and I am wishing all of you the very best wherever you are. And I am eyeing my shoebox sized kitchen which by this time tomorrow will have 3 food and 3 water bowls in it and thinking when I go to babysit on Monday things will be rather grim in there. I'm just hoping Sampson can teach these two hooligans some manners.

Feathers and Fur Forever,

Maitri and the whole Dragonfly Cottage crew...

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Maitri Morphing Into A Whole New State of Being...

It all started with the pugs and the shoes.....

Well, there's no denying it... You don't get funny looking shoes and a preposterously cute pug and end up being the same person you were before. Nosirree, if I was odd before, I'm rather over the top now.

It has been a very hard, sad summer, but not long ago something in me snapped. And it was the lime green "Crocs" (the shoes above) and a little 12 year old, black, deaf pug named Babs who came to me from Mid-Atlantic Pug Rescue, both in the same week. I looked at the shoes and I looked at the pug (pugs are not dogs, make no mistake...) and I starting laughing and feeling joy seep back into my being and a whole new surge of whimsy and delight shot into the cottage. May the Saints be Praised! And this Sunday a little 8 year old fawn pug named Sampson who has been moved around so much since his owner died and then he was put into and out of a number of homes, making him sad and insecure, is coming here to stay. With 2 other jolly dogs (or rather one big black dog and one tiny peanut of a black pug), one goofy animal mom, a dozen or so birds (I've stopped counting), 5 beta fish, and silly pug attire in the making everywhere, little Sampson will be a happy pug person here where he will have a permanent home with my ever-growing animal family.

I am totally in awe of how one can go to bed sad and wake up with green feet and a black pug and their whole life is changed, but so it has been. Let's start with the shoes.

I have very odd feet. I am cattywompus and go lurching about at odd angles scaring the animals and anyone in my vicinity. Due to foot surgery, then breaking the same foot, then spraining it, then falling down my staircase and literally shattering both feet spending 6 months in 2 casts and a year before I could walk well unaided, I have left the days of fashion footwear far behind.

Of course for something like 25 years I have lived in Birkenstocks. I had a few casual but nicer looking pairs of shoes to wear if I got dressier than normal (Read: Wearing something a bird hadn't pooped on at some time or other, and nicer than my everyday caftans or workout or garden clothes). Who knew the day would come when my Birkenstocks would be my "dress up" shoes and I would actually wear in public something that a bird had pooped on at some time or another (Although of course it was washed and clean when I left the house. Most of the time...)

Then came these wonderful Crocs which are by far the most comfortable shoes I have ever worn and I will wear them for life. I'm bidding on some on eBay in different colors since I can get them cheaply there. I will have rainbow feet in all different colored Crocs. And now, to match, I will have different colored pugs to bring me joy and make me laugh.

You've no idea what it is to live with a beloved big black dog who is docile, and the sweetest boy in the world, and then have a little peanut sized pug come in with a personality bigger and bolder than anyone you've ever known who takes Moe's toys, bones, and plows right into him, leaving him somewhere between baffled and confused.

And then I love to pick her up and she's on my lap with her paws on my chest and we are face to face, and I nuzzle her wee little barely there nose with mine and give her lots of pugalug kisses and finally she starts wiggling about and giving me the look that says You'd best put me down NOW. There's no arguing with a pugnacious pug so down she goes. I'm told Sampson is a clingy love bug and will be hermetically sealed to my person because he has abandonment issues. I have them too, so we can cling to one another and do lots of nose kissing. Really, it makes one feel world's better. Now Moe is belly up sound asleep on the couch and Babs, who snorfled off as only a pug can and finally sunk into her round pink movie star bed and is snoring away, are tucked in for the night. We've just come in from an 11 p.m. walk and I am going to go curl up in my big chair and crochet while watching the wonderful movie about Beatrix Potter with Rene Zellwegger, and I can delight in Potter's characters as I do my own, and the gnomes will all come out and watch with me.

Yes, there are gnomes here. All over the place. And if you think they aren't real, well, then you've never really known one. In fact, I put one of my favorite gnomes and best workers (She helps me handspin yarn when she's not helping me in the garden. Her name is Matilda...) on a whole new line of Cafe Press items, from mugs to tote bags to t-shirts and more. You can see her here on a totebag. And you can click on the tote bag to go to Cafe Press to see Matilda on many other items!

So off I go to my crocheting, and Beatrix Potter with sleeping dogs, and birds all around me. At least the fish are up to keep me company. They are my late night companions.

I advise you all to look for joy and wonder wherever you can in your life. It will change your world...

Hugs and Blessings,


Sunday, September 16, 2007

Free Form Fiber Art Gone Awry, Diane Arbus, There's A Snake On My Keyboard, and Wynken, Blynken & Nod...

I work from awkwardness. By that I mean I don't like
to arrange things. If I stand in front of something,

instead of arranging it, I arrange myself.

~ Diane Arbus ~

Well, it's been a peculiar time for sure. As I have written as puglings are entering the fold at Dragonfly Cottage I have started a new small business called Haute Couture Pugwear. I own the url, have the business cards printed, and am in the process of having the business name trademarked. It's been PUGS AWWWWAAAAAAAYYYYYYYY here and I've been having a ball. But then something else has been happened. It
all started with a magic shoe.

On my Women's Artistic Soul list, a wonderful list that is in it's fifth year, we have a number of delightful exchanges. On of them is a freeform exchange. Any mediums, crochet, knitting, weaving, spoolknitting and more. We have been doing it since last January and exchange pieces with a new partner every month, the goal being in the end to join all of the pieces with our own work and come up with a wild something-or-other. We've had lots of fun. Then came August, and I swear to you I've no clue what happened.

The Freeform pieces are flat, albeit with a lot of texture and raised design but my little piece turned into a, a, well, ahem, it turned into a shoe. I've no idea what came over me or how it happened. Poor Deb, my partner, (and who took the photos for me because I forgot to photograph them ahead of time! Thanks Deb! And these I have edited to make clearer and more true to color...) must be at a complete loss as to what to do with it. But you see, when I start to work, my brain cells wander out into magic lands and I've no clue what or how it happens or where I'm being led. With the tiny shoe I started crocheting a hot pink circle and as you can see, it quickly took on a life of it's own...

The little pink crocheted
circle that became a shoe....

Then as I got near the top of the shoe I switched from yarn to crochet thread and a small crochet hook and crocheted a lacy light edging around the top of the shoe. I had no idea why, but the shoe was communicating with my subconscious. You can see it here from the side...

You can see the orange and white crochet
thread at the top of the shoe. It became an
open lacy area perfect for lacing a shoelace
through. I made a cord/shoelace using a
Small Wonders Spoolknitter, from the
Crone-Findlays, and only used 3 prongs to
make the cord, and added an antique
turquoise bead at the bottom of each for
weight and a little pizzazz...

Finally I sewed on two vintage buttons in different shades of pink to be shoe buttons to complete the look but there was something missing. I needed a sock to make it complete. I used a Blue Fairy Mighty Mama spoolknitter from the Crone-Findlays and spoolknitted a hot pink and green sock. You can take it in and out, and it's purpose is to hold tiny notes with your dreams and wishes in it so that while you are sleeping your Magic Shoe might sail off with Wynken, Blynken and Nod, my favorite childhood poem, to a magic land where your dreams and wishes could come true.

And now I must share with you the magical poem from my childhood that set me a-sail on a lifetime of dreams from a very little girl and still unto today...

A Dutch Fairy Tale by Eugene Field

1937 edition illustrated by
Feru Bisel Peat

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod one night
Sailed off in a wooden shoe---
Sailed on a river of crystal light,
Into a sea of dew.
"Where are you going, and what do you wish?"
The old moon asked the three.
"We have come to fish for the herring fish
That live in this beautiful sea;
Nets of silver and gold have we!"
Said Wynken,
And Nod.

The old moon laughed and sang a song,
As they rocked in the wooden shoe,
And the wind that sped them all night long
Ruffled the waves of dew.
The little stars were the herring fish
That lived in that beautiful sea---
"Now cast your nets wherever you wish---
Never afeard are we";
So cried the stars to the fishermen three:
And Nod.

All night long their nets they threw
To the stars in the twinkling foam---
Then down from the skies came the wooden shoe,
Bringing the fishermen home;
'Twas all so pretty a sail it seemed
As if it could not be,
And some folks thought 't was a dream they 'd dreamed
Of sailing that beautiful sea---
But I shall name you the fishermen three:
And Nod.

Wynken and Blynken are two little eyes,
And Nod is a little head,

And the wooden shoe that sailed the skies

Is a wee one's trundle-bed.

So shut your eyes while mother sings

Of wonderful sights that be,

And you shall see the beautiful things
As you rock in the misty sea,

Where the old shoe rocked the fishermen three:

and Nod.

And so you see I didn't mean to make a shoe, but Wynken, Blynken, and Nod took me there, as they have taken me on so many journeys inn my lifetime. Which doesn't in the least account for the snake...

So there I was, engrossed in the most captivating movie called Fur, with Nicole Kidman, Robert Downey, Jr., and others, about the life of famous photographer Diane Arbus. I am just fascinated by her story and want to read a lot more about her, but a funny thing happened to me on the way to making a piece of pugwear. Gee. I really don't know how these things happen. I had been working away on a spoolknitter and making a cord on a cordmaker and truth be told they weren't to have anything to do with one another, and there I was engrossed in the story of this young woman who came to photograph all manner of really odd things for a photographer. Circus freaks, and little people, and dead people, and all manner of other things that people find frightning and turn away from, but Arbus was touched by them and found them beautiful. And I was touched by her and her relationship to her subjects, and then I realized, when I wrote the quote at the top of the page, that perhaps Arbus had influenced me. What is one of the things I am afraid of? Snakes. Not common garden variety snakes, and I'd never kill one unless it was poisonous and about to harm someone, but snakes in general give me the heebeejeebees.

Well, there I was, working away, more lost in the movie than paying attention to the fiber art, and all of a sudden I had finished and was watching the fascinating features after the movie and I looked down and yegods, there was a snake on my keyboard....

She told me her name is Cassandra, and that she was sunning herself on my keyboard and had no intention of moving anytime soon and I'd best just go take my nap until she was done which I suppose I shall. She doesn't look as though she's going to meander off anytime soon. I shall go take a wee little voyage into the magical land of Wynken, Blynken and Nod myself for awhile, and let magic happen there in the land of Nod, where surely it always shall. And Arbus was right. As these odd things appear in my life from shoes to pugs to snakes, it's not business to figure it all out, but to let it come into being and help arrange me. I guess I won't just be making pugwear. There is magic coming through my hands and no one is as surprised as I what will come out next...

As I have said, it is a time of great transformation and change in my life. I hadn't known I would be accompanied by magical shoes, a wild photographer, snakes and more, but then one never really knows, do they?
So I'm off to my nap with 2 black dogs, and when I get up I shall be back to work. Somewhere along the line whimsical pugwear will surface. Until and around all of that no telling what else might find it's way into being, but then that's none of my business. I just let my hands go and let my fiber art arrange my morphing self into one thing after another. There are lessons in them all... Let the world lead you when you're not looking. There's so much magic around us...


You can click the above card to see this
image above on many items at Cafe Press!

Friday, September 14, 2007

A Pug Snoring, Julia Child, and "It's Never Too Late To Be What You Might Have Been..."

Latte time is usually the best time for me to write here. It is a very peaceful morning. Soft grey skies and rain, which for the present has come to a halt, leaving everything dripping with dew, glistening, like all things born anew, which is much how I feel about my life these days. After a very difficult summer, seeing my mother through her final battle with cancer and going downhill fast after a 2 1/2 year struggle, seeing things, many things, leave my life, or having been discarded by me as no longer useful and fruitful, adding to my growth and forward movement in my life, I find myself writing and creating my new fiber artwear for pugs (and other dogs if desired by special order...) and I am minimizing and maximizing and getting everything into balance. And today I will babysit my precious three year old grandson Lucas, and then go to Curves to workout.

Doubtless the most adorable child that
ever lived ~ the absolutely unbiased
opinion of his grandmother, who would
be me....

Lucas is an incredibly intelligent 3 year old (and more people say so than just his grandmother!) and very magical and creative. When I babysit we whisper stories, sing songs, cuddle to take a nap (and he likes me to sing him to sleep) and we make up whole wonderful worlds of imaginary delight. I love being a grandmother. It is the most incredible thing that can happen to a person and I treasure my role as a grandmother with all of my heart. He likes to play with my crochet hooks (the big fat safe ones) with lots of strands of yarn I cut for him, while I do fiber work, and we talk about what we are making. His imagination is one of my deepest delights. Our times together are full of whimsy and joy and love and I come home from babysitting tired but very happy. I feel deeply blessed, and being in the room seeing your daughter give birth to her baby is the most miraculous thing in the world. And Rachel's partner Jeremy is the most amazing man, and wonderful father. They are such a special little family.

So anyway, here I am doing an entry before leaving to babysit, and what tickles me, in this moment, is the way that I write. Many writers write to music, some with the t.v. on, some to absolute silence, some in busy cafes (which I used to do...) and then there's me. No t.v., no music, but I write to the sound of a pug snoring, finches beeping and cheeping, doves cooing, parrots talking and chattering and singing, Henry the grey parrot on my shoulder giving me wise counsel and editing as I go along, and my beloved Moe, lab-doby mix, asleep, paws up, on the couch. There is also the hum of the Hepa air filter which I find comforting, and the still warm latte beside me. This is bliss. This is my happiest, most relaxed time of the day. This is the time of the day I have the time to share a few thoughts with you...

And so as I have written I have been through many changes and am coming up in whole new worlds, working busily, feeling more centered and at peace, but one does wonder, at 53, how much more one might accomplish, starting so late in life? (I have written for 30 years and done fiber art all my life, but I mean this time of a great leap forward, a new beginning with both...) So there I was last night watching a dvd of the life of Julia Child, the famous French Chef. Not only did she not even begin to cook until she was in her thirties (...before which time she said that she couldn't even boil an egg, to which her beloved husband Paul heartily agreed!) her famous t.v. show, The French Chef, she did not even start until she was in her 50's, and she wrote books into her 80's. I was just delighted! It is never too late, as they say, to be what you might have been. So this summer of transformation and change has brought me to a place of not only new beginnings, but, with batteries recharged and a more certain outlook, I am looking forward to the rest of my life, the decades ahead, with great pleasure. There is no rush, there are no pressures, there is just life unfolding. What a joyful thing to realize. What a state of contentment it brings.

As so time and work breeze along. And now you can purchase lots of different types of merchandise with pictures of Babs (My daughter Rachel did the photoshopped background colors, I took the photos...) on them, three different photos so far on multitudes of things from mugs, steins, bookbags, messenger bags, prints, tile boxes, baby clothes, intimate wear (!), tons of t-shirts and more. Simply click here to see the fun new things Babs has inspired!

Dragonfly Cottage's Wabi Sabi World ~ A Cafe Press Store

Here is an example:

I mean truly, can you tell the time more reliably than by a pug? Pug time is always the right time.

Ans so now it's time to jump into my Super Grandma Suit, (and just what that might be is TOP SECRET!) and head out to spend time with my wee little man. I hope you all have a lovely day, and remember, It's Never Too Late To Be What You Might Have Been...

Blessings and Love,


And so it begins...

I live for the morning latte...

And so it begins... For nearly a decade now I have been doing the Dragonfly Cottage website. It has been quite a journey for me, a joy and a blessing, a lot of hard work, and it has become my life's mission. To spread compassion and loving-kindness in whatever way I can, from my little cottage, to the world. To offer an encouraging word, to share my thoughts, stories about my many animal companions, the garden, my fiber art, to spread magic, wonder, and whimsy with a heart the size of the full moon, if lopsided and cattywompus. Dragonfly Cottage is a wabi sabi world as have been my life, work and writing since I was but an egg somewhere in time. I have done many blogs but now I am simply going to do this one journal from the cottage to consolidate because I am at work on a book about the cottage, as well as several small books that will be self-published. It will be easier to simply keep one journal online here, to share my life with you. Some of you have enjoyed other blogs I've done and they are still up and listed on this site, but I won't be updating them anymore, and bits of all will be in my big book I am hard at work on now. The interesting thing that has developed over the years is that my funny little life has been written about so much that people wonder, "What IS Dragonfly Cottage, and is that woman nuts living with all of those animals, and what was she DOING making a huge garden that wrapped around the side of the little old cottagey townhouse where she wasn't supposed to plant ANYTHING?" The answers to the above: #1. The first cottage was a tiny little white one with a white picket fence where I lived just after leaving my decades long marriage in 1999. I gardened and there were dragonflies everywhere, even where they weren't supposed to be. The Dragonfly is my totem animal, my spiritual guide, and so Dragonfly Cottage is the name of my home, my website, all of my work, and more, it is a state of mind. I have moved several times, always into cottagey type dwellings, and wherever I am, it is Dragonfly Cottage . The contents of my little dwelling make it so. My furnishings are simple, old, odd, vintagey, there are books everywhere, overflowing the shelves, piles on the floors around me where I work and write at my computer and by my big easy chair that looks very much like the graphic at the top of this page. When I moved in here a dear friend gave me a couch and chair. They are oversized, and the chair and ottoman are just HUGE. So there I sit with my glasses on and my eyeballs rolling round and round, watching the 10 birds, 5 beta fish and the dogs. One sweet old lab-doby mix named Moe, a 12 year old black pug, deaf as a door and my little sweetheart, Babs, and on next Saturday I am taking in another rescue pug, Sampson.#2. I have been an animal lover, into animal rescue, all my life. With my children grown and gone my animals are my family and I have a number of rescues here. They are my little loves and constant companions. You can see a number of pictures of my animal family in my Flickr album. Just click on the link. #3. I planted "The Garden That Wasn't Supposed To Be," first off because it never occurred to me that I wasn't supposed to plant here. How ludicrous. Also, because I'm a rebel and I'll never be any good. I am a wabi sabi misfit and I like it that way. Around the room the walls are completely full with looms hanging everywhere, art filling the walls and my magical tools made by the Crone-Findlays, Noreen and her husband Jim. They are my dear friends, like family, and their tools have changed my life. Here is a cabinet full of their treasures plus some vintage buttons and beads, and many more tools, dolls and their works are all over the cottage. You can click the link above to go to their magical website (I look at it every day just to cheer myself up a bit) or you can go to Noreen's wonderful blog, Hankering For Yarn. She has amazing tutorials, You-Tube videos, and many enchanting stories of her work and from her life. I will be writing much more about their work here because it is so much a part of my work. I daily use their tools from spoolknitters, to cordmakers, to hand-carved and painted magical crochet hooks. It takes magical tools to make magical art. You will find it at the websites above. I believe in magic. I am faithful to apples. I am also faithful to magic.

Magical Tools by Noreen and Jim Crone Findlay
in antique cabinet with vintage buttons and beads...

So yes, I am a writer and a fiber artist and the two balance each other well. I live so much of my life in my head reading, writing, researching, making notes, and everything involved with a writer's life that I can get lost in my labyrinthine grey matter. Moving from my head to my hands, doing the fiber art, sketching dreams in my head and sketchbook with fibers all around me, yarns of many types as well as quite a bit of yarn I dye and hand-spin myself, that I am transported into a saner more grounded place working with materials of the earth. The sheep's wool, handmade spindles, the Crone-Findlay's amazing tools (you can feel the living energy, the life in the wood...), I so prefer working with natural materials to working with plastic, metal and other man-made materials. I have been collecting tall sunflower stalks and bamboo stalks and other found material to tie together to weave on. I am also a great lover of dumpster diving and found art. The world around us is filled with free art materials. Stones, branches, wildflowers, dried herbs, so much more. I recently found a wonderful pine 3 foot frame in the dumpster, clean and smooth and lovely, that I will weave on, including found art, freeform knitting and crochet, and more. I weave, knit, embroider, felt, make art dolls and almost everything you can think of. I am now involved with designing and making Haute Couture Pugwear both to raise money for Mid-Atlantic Pug Rescue (You can see their page on the cottage site.), where my beloved pugs are from and also will be making some to sell to support my own household of rescues once I get some things made and off to MAPR. I am an animal rescuer at heart, an animal lover, I live with them, they are my family.

So for now I will leave you, but I will be back nearly daily to organize my thoughts and my life and share a little of it with you. You will see animals and art, read quotes and hear about books, meander along with my metaphoric mind down winding paths, and much, much more. Until then, I shall finish my latte, and make you one if you like, and I've got to get back to the spoolknitter. I'm working on a new piece of Pugwear just now, and sending out prayers and love, compassion and grace, to all that come to visit our little cottage in the clouds.

Blessings and love to one and all...