Friday, October 26, 2007

The Morning Latte ... A Sacred Ritual... The Importance of Ritual In Our Lives...

Rituals not only construct reality and make meaning;
they help us fashion the world as a habitable and hospitable place...

~ Herbert Anderson & Edward Foley ~

Brewing The Espresso...

Anyone who knows me well knows that the morning latte is sacrosanct. I've made jokes about it but it is absolutely true. When I sit down with my latte the day has actually finally begun, for me.

But you see first I must get up and walk the dogs. Then there are all the birds to feed and get fresh water and treats, and oh don't forget the dogs treats too. Then of course the beta fish are all staring at me waiting to get fed.

There are plants to check and water and I have to check the feeders on the patio to make certain that they are all full. Nothing is more disconcerting than sitting here looking out on my lovely patio with many, many feeders and small antique sky blue spatterware buckets filled with water for drinking and bathing for the wildlings not tended to. I like to watch them from right here at my computer desk, with sleeping dogs now lying all around me and birds, inside and out, eating, frolicking, and starting their day. Then, and only then, do I go into the kitchen and fire up the Sacred Latte Machine.

I bow, do the Benevolent Latte Dance, speak well of it's ancestors and pray, on my knees, that it might one more day serve me in its always gracious, lest not forget abundant manner... And it's a lovely things to see, as above, the steam whistling out the top as the little pot fills with that fragrant strong coffee. Every nerve in my body tingles, my nose twitches, I am up on my tippy toes with excitement, a new day has begun...

Ritual is a statement of what we want and a
remembrance of the great cycle of things.

~ Brooke Medicine Eagle ~

Frothing The Milk...

Of course next comes the fun part and while I do blush to admit this I am very nearly an expert frother. You can't really see it in these pictures because I had a heck of a time making the latte and taking pictures with my teeth, but I can put a 2 inch head of foam on that baby. I love to froth. Something about all that whooshing and watching the milk's head rise and rise and rise. It's so exciting...

Hold each moment sacred ... give
each its true and due

~Thomas Mann ~

Espresso in Bowl, Waiting For Frothed Milk...

At some point while I am frothing I reach over and pour the espresso in my big espresso bowl. These are actually large soup bowls. My son told me if my latte bowls got much bigger I should just go ahead and use a waste basket. Well he might be right but it would be aesthetically wrong. (Shudder) I'm all about aesthetics. It would give me nightmares... (Don't pay any attention to the espresso that splashed on the counter. I'm sure I didn't do that. I'm almost certain it was one of the household gnomes and let me tell you we've got more than our share around here...)

There is nothing so secular
that it cannot be sacred...

~ Madeleine L'Engle ~

The Perfect Latte, the size of the great state of Texas...

Finally, the hot, frothed milk is poured into the espresso and it is a moment like no other. It is in keeping with all of my other rather odd ways that I will very likely take the next two hours to drink it while I write. Some people cannot abide cold coffee, but you see, I enjoy all the stages.

At first, of course, it's too hot to drink. Then one gingerly blows a little and takes tiny sips until finally courage takes over and a nice big sip is just right. Ahhhhh.... nothing like it. Then I settle in with my latte, answer (or make a stab at answering) the mountain of e-mail, start uploading pictures from my camera from the day before for this blog, work on sketching fiber projects and perhaps sit here and spin yarn while I think, or work on something in my lap (I've always got a basket of fiber projects right next to me.) while I think. There's a lot of thinking and drinking going on. I love to hold the latte bowl in both hands, so warm, so comforting, and the days I wake up headachy it feels good to hold it against my forehead. Before I know it I'm off and running, pugs snoring all around me and sweet Moe sleeping silently on the couch. Sampson, as always, is directly under my chair here and his warm soft teddy bearish pug self keep my feet warm. Babs is sleeping daintily on her movie star bed and the parrots have settled down and are quietly playing. Except for Henry. Henry is with me where he mostly is when I'm sitting here working. On my shoulder, the back of my chair, or he sits on my forearm bobbing up and down while I type. Of course he likes his bit of latte...

Ritual is a sort of metaphysical house-work
to sustain some continuity in
the world...

~ Mary Catherine Bateson ~

Henry and I would never attempt the
morning meeting before out latte...

(Please note: Coffee may be deadly for birds.
He gets a tiny nip of milk foam. That's all!)

Finally, the day has begun. The espresso machine was cleaned before I ever left the kitchen. Very important because the milk jet can get clogged up and then you're sunk. I may be a lousy housekeeper but I take sublime care of that which I care about. My animals, and the espresso machine. Well, we all have our priorities...

Friends exist side by side, absorbed in some common interest or vision for the world. Others may join such a friendship because they share the same vision. Understood this way, friendship is potentially the most inclusive of all relationships...

~ Herbert Anderson & Freda A Gardner ~

Here, I made one for you. Won't you join me?

It seems only fair at this juncture to offer you a latte so I made another one, just for you. There it is above. It's HOT now, so be careful. And perhaps you can tell me about your days, and what you're thinking, and what ritual means to you? I'd love to hear. I love it when people leave notes in the comment section. Henry and I read them every morning over our latte...

Happy Days, and May the Great Mother
Latte Machine Smile Down On You...


Thursday, October 25, 2007

Hope Is The Thing With Feathers ...Living With Five Parrots!

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune--without the words,

And never stops at all...

~ Emily Dickinson ~

Many of you know Henry. I handraised
him in the fall of 1998 from a tiny featherless
baby, and he is my great love. He is also the
Alpha Person of the House and here we are
having our morning meeting over coffee
before the day begins...

Life is, what might be considered by some, an unusual proposition when you live with as many animals as I do. The thing is, it's all I know. There are the five parrots indoors, countless wild birds and squirrels outside with many, many feeders, the 4 beta fish who continually delight me, swimming in their meditative worlds, and my 3 precious dogs, who are all about cuddling, snuggling and unconditional love. The thing is, at this point, we all form a flock/pack and are very much in sync.

Let me give you an example. In the morning, though the birds may be awake, if I am not up yet you wouldn't know there was a bird in the house. They are quiet as a mouse. As soon as they hear me move at all the chattering, singing and talking begin (and pretty much go on all day, UNTIL..) and don't stop until it's time for me to take my nap.

You see, 2 years ago I fell down my very narrow steep staircase and shattered both feet. This was after other breaks and a very serious surgery. I am not able to do stairs easily so I sleep and mostly live downstairs. So when I say they don't make a sound, you have to understand that I am surrounded by the three dogs and 5 parrots as I sleep (well, Sampson the pug sleeps with me, somewhere on my person!). Sometimes I can hear the birds very quietly eating, but I swear, they don't make a sound. The minute I sit up Henry starts in with, "Good Morning, Good Morning, Good Morning!" AND he goes one by one and tells all five parrots good morning, calling them by name. He also talks to the dogs calling them by name.

I tell everyone good morning as I am creaking up off the sofa, and Babs, 12 and also a bit arthritic, looks like me tottering about before we get our footing and leashes are being attached, but then out we four go for the morning walk.

This has been a real adjustment for me because I am an artist and a writer and my schedule for years was to sometimes work half the night and Moe would go out very late so he never minded if I slept in. WELL, there are 2 pugalugs who have never HEARD of such a thing, so now our routine is to be out in the neighborhood at 7ish, which might sound early BUT after Babs came we were out at 6 and when wee Sampson came he thought 4:30 a.m. was a fine time to go. Ahem. We quickly got past that hurdle!

Half the mornings when we're out I think, "Ok, I'm getting them out, I'll get them their treat, and then I'M GOING BACK TO SLEEP!" But truly, after a long walk in the brisk air, dogs bouncing about excited about treats, birds heralding the day and singing and Henry starting in on his, "I Love You Hen-n-ryyyyyyyyy..." song so I'll sing it for him, well, it's a tad hard to go to sleep. And now that I'm used to it I really do love being up so early. I get so much more done!

Where Henry and Solomon (The Blue Crown Conure) live. Sol's
cage is in back of Henry's in this picture, right up against the
window. Their cages look like Disneyland and they get lots of
natural light...

Henry spends a good deal of the day on me. He likes to sit on my shoulder or the back of my desk chair, but he also likes to play on his cage top and he goes over on Sol's and they play. They were pretty much raised together and are very bonded and darling together. It's so cute. When I start making the rounds with the bird's treats, I start with Henry, and he says, "Sol," (like, "Give Sol one too....") and again he calls them all by name to make sure they ALL get a treat. When I walk in the room with the treats in my hands Henry says, "Ooooooooo, Mommy gots a TREAT!!!" There is NO surprising a grey parrot. He just KNOWS, and shouts it to the world.

The shelves for the three smaller parrots (whom I also handraised
from babies, all nearly 10 or so years ago!) in front of the French
Doors so they get lots of light. From left to right: Sierra, Meyer's Parrot;
Middle, Emmy Lou, Green Cheek Parrot; and sweet little Thomas,
Dusky Conure, on the right. You can see them closeup in my Flickr

Sierra, Emmy Lou, and Thomas sit on some wonderful shelves in front of French doors so there is lots of natural light and room for play. The top looks a tad empty now because I am just about ready to bring in outside plants that will fill the top and we really look rather rainforesty in here, especially since on the other side of the room, behind Henry's cage, there is a huge plants whose vines climb across the ceiling.

The amazing thing is that people sort of tsk tsk as if it's a shame I have to take care of so many animals and one hates to be rude but frankly I prefer the company of my animals to most people I know! It is a very comforting, serene, soothing way to live. And there are birdfeeders attached to doors and windows and hooks on the patio with little buckets hanging for water and bathing, and truly, we have an army of wildlings we watch all day. The garden is just beyond the patio and I will be out there working on fall cutting back and cleaning up today. That will be a big part of the next few weeks.

There is not a thing in my life that doesn't inspire me. I am about to spend the day doing fiber art, finishing 3 pieces for my Dragonfly Cottage Design Studio etsy
store. I have pulled all of my handspun yarns out of the store because there are so many people selling handspun and I am actually using mine faster than I can spin it! Everyday I'm spinning, spinning, spinning at least a spindle or 2 full of art yarns that will become fiber art. It is a long, satisfying, creative process and as I spin I know just what the yarns will become rather than spinning something, hoping it would sell. Now they are on a course to becoming something magical, whimsical and delightful and I couldn't be happier.

This cozy little animal-filled, garden-surrounded cottage is such a blessing in my life. May you all create and find peace joy and happiness wherever you are, and remember it's the simple little things in life that bring the most happines...

Maitri, and all the little ones....

Sunday, October 21, 2007

TRULY Magical Moments at Dragonfly Cottage ~ The Butterfly Who Came Home With Me...

The butterfly counts not months but

moments, and has time enough.

~ Rabindranath Tagore ~

It started with an early evening walk with the dogs, and that I noticed her (I will use the pronoun she based on trying to search for pictures online for the dimorphic features, but it's still hard for me to tell. If any knowledgeable lepidopterist out there can correct me or tell me more about *her*, please leave a comment after this piece!) was rather astonishing. I saw this beautiful Monarch butterfly in the grass, unable to fly but moving. I very gently scooped her up and she climbed onto my chest and kind of snuggled in my neck. Now, mind, I was walking three dogs on leashes so the whole operation was rather awkward and I felt something like the Three Stooges trying to walk one big dog, 2 peanut sized dogs, and very, oh so very gently, carry the butterfly home to safety. I had no clue what I would do with her when we got home but I wasn't going to leave her there to be stepped on, crushed, or damaged any more than she already was, and it was fast getting dark so I really couldn't see just what shape she was in.

Some, perhaps many will say that I should have let nature take it's course and let her die out there, but I just couldn't. I could not let such beauty die alone...

You could turn this way,
I'm also lonely

this autumn evening.

~ Basho ~

She fluttered to the ground a few times and lie there, unable to get about, so I gently picked her up again and cupped my hand around her, trying not to touch her delicate wings, meanwhile carrying on with our nightly walkabout so all three dogs could do their business! It was a good walk back but we made it. All of us.

I sat down in the chair and gently let this gorgeous Monarch sit on my chest to see what she would do. For the next hour she walked all over me, as if I had the most fascinating head and neck that perhaps existed on the planet. I was so shocked I was afraid to move or breathe. I just kept taking lots of pictures while trying to sit as still as possible, but I was giggling when she was walking around on my neck because it tickled. Yes, you can feel the wee little butterfly feet walking around on you!

Meanwhile I called a friend who raises moths to see if she knew what I should do. She didn't. Whole different ballgame apparently. I searched and searched online and found out the kind of things they like and dashed outside picking flowers from the garden and even milkweed which one site said they like. I put a large glass jar on it's side and loosely lay the flowers and stems and leaves in so she could move around on them and hopefully eat. It was one of the most fascinating things I have ever seen and she was doing quite well.

It's funny, you almost take Monarch butterflies for granted because, at least around here, while I am always struck by their beauty, they are more common than others, but to really see one close up, to experience the life inside the butterfly walking about on the outside of you is simply a miracle and I felt touched by grace. Here's the funny thing. This isn't the first time something like this has happened to me.

A couple of years ago I opened my back door onto my patio garden and in flew a dragonfly. My last name, Libellule, is dragonfly in French, the dragonfly is my totem animal, and my business and home are all called Dragonfly Cottage and had been for years before the visitation from the dragonfly. He was brilliant and beautiful, a shimmering gold. And he stayed in here the better part of an hour, just sitting on me and I took quite a number of photos. Then he flew over to the window ledge near the door and I took a few more photos, picked him up gently and let him fly out the door. I was awe struck for some time after that. I had been particulary low in my spirits and a dragonfly of all things to come in at that moment was life-saving in so many ways...

I was delighted to be putting together a little place for her to rest and be safe. Watching her meandering around and about over and under and seem lively gave me hope that perhaps she would do well and maybe, just maybe, lay eggs and I would learn how to keep them safe and what to do so that they might reach chyrsallis stage and become little butterflies I could release and let fly free one day. What a lovely dream that was.

When I got up this morning and she was still ambling about in her jar I just about skipped through the house. This is a picture I took of her in her jar this morning while making coffee...

"What the caterpillar calls the end of the
world, the master calls a butterfly."

~ Richard Bach ~

Sadly, I just checked on her a moment ago. I have stopped and started the writing of this piece a number of times today and as I sat down to finish it she still looked perfect but... but... she was awfully still. I picked up the jar and moved it this way and that, jiggled it gently, and finally touching her gingerly, got my answer. She had passed over to the land where butterflies are always free, and flying forever.

I will never forget this magical day. A blessing, a day of grace. I have been touched by a butterfly. I called her Papi, not only because butterfly, in French, is Papillon, but my biological grandmother's maiden name was Papillon. It seems I come from a long line of wing-ed beings. And for a day I was blessed with her presence. I had to share this with all of you...


You're My Butterfly

Your are the most beautiful thing

I've ever seen

You shine just like sunlight rays

On a winter snow

I just had to tell you so
Your eyes sparkle as the stars

Like the moon they glow
Your smile could light the world on fire

Or did you know?

Your minds full of everything

That I want to know

I just had to let you know

I just had to tell you so
Your're my butterfly
Fly high
Fly fly fly

Lyrics/Song - Lenny Kravitz

Saturday, October 20, 2007

A Day In The Life Of A Handspinner... And ... Don't Hire A Pug As An Assistant...

The day starts out as it always does, by walking the dogs.
From left to right: Wee little Babs, the black pug; Sampson,
the fawn pug; and Moe, lab-doby mix.

Absolutely nothing could possibly be accomplished
without the morning latte. Even the parrots know that...

Then I meander over, and under, around and through
my messy studio to choose fibers to blend with Sari
Silk for today's new yarn...

Sampson, my new fiber assistant mutters under his
breath, "Oh Lord, here we go again... this is a mother
only a pug could love..." (Of course all pugs discount
every other animal in the house, like the 2 other dogs,
the 5 beta fish, 5 parrots, pair of finches, pair of doves,
and their baby. To a pug, only they matter...) Note:
Sampson came with a heart on his forehead. That
did it for me! And gets him off the hook for all kinds
of things...

Then I have to work at untangling the matted Sari
Silk, made of old shredded saris from India that
I will add to the roving...

Babs: "Is she NUTS? Surely there's a better
way to do that. I say chuck it all!"

Finally it's time to spin...

NOTE TO READER: Do NOT hire a pug as an assistant!
They're awfully cute, but mostly they're asleep on the
job. They only awaken for kisses or treats. If, however,
you need a chair warmer, they're your dog, no doubt
about it!

A lot of spinning accomplished. Sampson still asleep.

A Fiber Woman's work is never done...

I decide the pug is good for something. He can hold
the Sari Silk while I take a nap....

Seriously... how much more exciting could life possibly get?

People ask me, since I now live alone, "Do you ever get lonely?" My answer is always the same. "I might, if I had the time..."


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Moonflower Days... A Single Day Holds The Entire Cycle of Life...

The brilliant summer hours of light begin to fade... as the sun shuts its sleepy eye on the day. A covert magic is about to unfold as night casts its shadow over the land! The sultry air carries the scent of sweet nectar through a garden filled with flowers that appear to glow in the moon light. Shimmering silvery foliage that was hardly noticed in the day light is transformed as if by magic in the shadows of the nightfall.

~ Maya-Rose Nash, writing about Moonflowers... ~

A moonflower's tight bud in the morning, by night will unfurl...

I am growing closer and closer in sync with Nature. My bodily rhythms are falling in line with the blooming and fading of the flowers, of the metamorphic cycles of the trees all around us, as the leaves change color and drift to the ground, even the insects around us are changing, many disappearing until Spring, and the birds begin their migratory patterns to other lands. Things appear and disappear. Things are born and they die. My mother is dying and the thing that most comforts me, if something can during times like these, is to live very close to animals and nature and watch their endlessly fascinating cycles of life. They are born, they live out their lives, they die, they go to seed, they are born again. I am born again with each season of new bloom. A garden is the greatest teacher about life and death and rebirth, about the cycles and seasons in our own lives. For me, right now, the moonflowers are the greatest teachers of all.

I have long been a devoted fan of morning glories in every shape, size, pattern and hue. I plant them literally by the hundreds every year, along with moonflowers. I have always loved them, but never, until this year, have I been so captivated and entranced by a single flower and it's life cycle. As I am 53 my children are now adults and have begun having their own children. My mother at 81 approaches death even as, today, I will pick up my 3 year old grandson from pre-school and stay with him for the afternoon. I am watching the life cycles of humans as well, all around me, from birth to death, and I see that it is only we humans that fear death. An animal, an insect, a plant, a flower, does not mourn it's passing, but lives fully while it is here, if only for a day.

The tight bud begins to open as the day grows long ...

This summer I am learning about death. Caring for my dear animal companions as well as the wildlings at the feeders, babysitting my precious grandson, these are wonderful things that take me outside of my own grief, fear, and sadness. They are life, they are joy. But nothing has helped me more than watching the daily cycle of the moonflowers, who only recently have begun to bloom here in my coastal North Carolina garden.

A single day holds the whole of our lives. We are born (we awaken) each morning and we die (go to sleep) each and every night. The next day we awaken and are reborn, even as the moonflowers fade from the night before, and the closed bud will, by night, be in her full glory again. This cycle not only comforts me, but it helps me return to my Buddhist roots, to mindfulness, to being in the moment, to treasuring each and every single moment, for a day, like a life, comes and goes quickly, and yet our lives, our lifetimes, are fluid, and the cycle continues on and on. The moonflower reminds me that beginning or end does not matter, because the cycle will never stop, even as it helps me to cherish each and every precious moment.

As night falls, the glorious flower will begin to open,
even as you can see a spent bloom from the day before
behind it...

And then the magic begins...

The swirling open of a huge, brilliant white, fragrant moonflower is one of the most captivating things on the planet. I have caught it in many stages with my camera but only seen one really open on film. I keep going outside my front door where the vines have grown up under the bush I planted them under at all times of the day and night to try to catch that peak moment. I feel like Don Quixote, tilting after windmills, always believing. Some day I shall come at just the right moment and it will thrill me so that I will never forget it for the rest of my life.

I, too, a woman at middle age, am finding myself opening in just such a way. It comes in stages. It cannot be rushed, and the exact moment of transformation can seldom be captured. One day, one simply is. Somewhere down the road, we have become! Something new, something that we never imagined, something miraculous, something wonderful. All of a sudden my joy is contagious just thinking about what might be around the corner.

Until then, I shall wake in the morning and peek out at moonflowers, and try to capture the moment, the exact moment, when a brilliant white bloom swirls wide open, and changes everything around it with it's magnificent metamorphosis. I am going through a metamorphic cycle now as well, and it is deeply felt if not yet seen. Even through the hard time around my mother's endtimes, there can still be joy, revelation, and wonder on many levels. Tonight has been such a night where I have freed myself of something and an obstacle to my well-being has been removed. I feel, in this moment, jubilant!

In the night, and onto into the next morning, the moonflower
will have opened wide, perfuming the air around her and
shining brilliantly through moontime past dawn, but it is
in the night hours that she is in her glory...

A moonflower in all her glory is something to meditate on. She is purity. She is wholeness. She is radiant. And if you look closely there is a five-pointed star in her center. It reminds me of a starfish, one of the most magical creatures in the world, to me. It reminds me how all of nature is connected. The starfish in the sea, the star in the middle of the moonflower, the stars in the night sky, the starry twinkle in a loved one's eyes. I have always loved the bumper sticker that says "The Goddess is Alive and Magic is Afoot." You feel the magic in the garden. I hear my gnomes whispering and giggling with glee, I see the incredibly beautiful Argiope spider in her web hidden in my wild garden, I see wild morning glories and just this evening, on a long walk with the dogs, my breath was taken clean away by the biggest Versicolor Peach Brugmansia I have every seen. It is a very elderly lady who tends her beautiful little garden in front of her little house, and I am so fond of her. We talk each day once or twice as I walk with the dogs. She must sit down on a rolling walker of sorts often to get around and must be well into her 80's, but her bright pinks cheeks and sparkling blue eyes belie the sheer joy she feels in her garden. I believe that tending a garden is the most life enhancing, life sustaining thing there is. Ah, what bounty Nature gives us.

As morning stretches toward noontime, the flower begins
to fade, falling like the sail of a ship descending from it's
fully opened sails to half-mast, until, having completed
their task, they close completely. So, too, the moonflower
on the sea of life...

Finally, comes the time that the morning has worn on and become a little too warm, the sun a little too bright, and that glorious flower from the night before begins to fade. In it's passing it is poignant and yet this stage, too, is full of lessons. We will not live forever, but even in a long lived life there will be many cycles of dying and being reborn, like the Phoenix crashing and burning and rising again. I don't see this moonflower on it's way to death. I see it on it's way to finishing out it's life in this form so that it may wither, drop it's blossom, and finally produce the seeds for another year of moonflowers to continue to bring abundant joy to all who see it. My neighbor has been enchanted. She, a young mother, with a new baby in her arms. And I, a grandmother, realize more and more with each passing year how very much is truly glorious in this world if only we have eyes to see. I am working on a book about woman's relationship with Nature, the healing power of the earth in all her endless bounty, and as I do, taking nature walks with the dogs, always with my camera, and going around and about with my own camera to snap unexpected delights that appear as if from nowhere, I am finding more and more to be grateful for. To catch a glimpse of a snake in the grass, a new juvenile cardinal with it's parents, taking it's first flight, not fully colored, teetering at the edge of the feeder to eat and dip, tottering a bit, into the water bow. The shy squirrels who come to eat and the morning doves I so adore. Just the other day when I was walking with the dogs I saw several bluebirds and thought I had seen the most beautiful, miraculous thing in my life! Glory be! What brilliant blue. What deep delight!

And so, by nightfall, another moonflower
will have opened, even as the one, in her
full glory the night before, has shriveled
unto death, soon to set seed and be reborn.

And finally the endtime comes for the moonflower. Late afternoon I see the shriveled bloom from the day before, the one that shone so brightly with her star shaped middle just above. I don't think she feels sadness or fear, I think she feels gratitude that her work has been done and done well, and that now she can rest and move toward the rest of what is before her to complete her cycle. This is where my mother is right now. The end is very near. She is not afraid to die, she says, she is a woman of faith and will go through the end and beyond to worlds I cannot see, just as I cannot see the seeds being formed in the moonflower pod. But I know something mysterious and magical is happening there. We take it on faith. Just as we don't know, though we may have many theories, what will happen to us after death.

I am learning to trust death as I now trust life. I want to live fully unto the end, and then quietly curl into my seedpod and be reborn.

Plum colored seed pods begin to
form. Rebirth has begun...

Many deep blessings to one and all...


Sunday, October 14, 2007

Season of Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness ... The Quiet of Autumn...

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;

John Keats

The Garden Outside My Kitchen Windows, Gone Autumn-Wild, Lush and Beautiful...
(Click photo for larger version.)

It came to me today, with a sigh of relief, that we have just entered my favorite season, autumn. Since I was a little girl autumn has been my favorite time of the year, when the weather is cool and crisp, and a shawl, for me, will suffice.

I rise early with the three dogs and we walk usually before 7 a.m. The air is fresh, exhilarating, the grass dewy. The birds outside are beginning to sing and there is a hush over the land.

We walk around our favorite paths, circle the garden, delight in the morning glories abloom and the moonflowers still wide open from the night before. The sky is changing from a peachy-rose to soft, early morning blue, and I am able to take deep breaths, my whole body relaxed, somewhere between sleep and dreams and a new day rising inside my earthly form. I relish this time of day, and the colors in the autumn garden are breath-taking. The purples of the ruellia are stunning, especially set against the bright orange of the lantana, a brilliant orange bloom of tithonia, dotted with yellow Japanese kerria, a splash of white roses, pink hibiscus, and the blues and purples of the abundant salvias and sages. Just out of sight one of my favorite roses is blooming again, the old yellow rose, 'Crepuscule,' and all around me things are passing and others coming into their bloomtime as the weather cools.

I see white and pink cosmos about to bloom, and in another part of the garden my beloved little yellow, sulfur, cosmos is blooming along with purple buddleia and orange tithonia. It is enchanting. And to come upon a moonflower, as I did earlier this evening, just opening, it's fragrance filling the air around it, makes me pause in my tracks and drink it all in. Many roses are coming into bloom again now that our hot, humid coastal summer has passed, and I feel a lightening of the spirit along with the lifting of the heavy humid air.

Just a few moments ago I paused here and took the dogs out for a night-time walk. All of the birds just put to bed, the dogs are ready to go. Oh, the air felt so crisp and wonderful. The moon was hiding from us tonight, the sky a grey-blue, and just a hint of stars twinkling behind the veil filled the night with mystery and things unseen. Last night the tiniest frog I have ever seen was just outside my front door on the wall of the cottage. I thought it was a bug at first because it was not green like a tree frog and a very odd little frogling indeed was he, but I love little frogs. One of my favorite sights at night when it is dark outside and I am standing at the kitchen sink doing dishes are the tiny bright green tree frogs clinging to the little kitchen windows just opposite me. These kitchen windows look out over the garden at the top of this entry, and every morning one of the first things that I do is to peek out of the kitchen windows to see what new thing has sprung into bloom over night.

Somehow I always feel a sense of relief, as though a heavy burden were lifted, when we come into October. I love October. I remember picking apples, and freshly pressed apple cider, and it makes my mouth water now to think of it. Apple pies, redolent with cinnamon and still warm graced the kitchen counters and pumpkins, fat, roly-poly and comforting are sitting on porches, waiting to be carved, or cleaned out and baked into my favorite pie of all, pumpkin. And I clean the seeds out and bake them for my parrots who love pumpkin seeds. Such a bounty, an enviable harvest, autumn brings.

In my own life as my mother's life dwindles, and my spirit glides gently on the air currents of life, I am working to catch my breath, hard to find these days, and I am so grateful for my fiber work. I spend the evenings spinning fiber into yarn, crocheting, knitting, weaving, working on new fiber art projects and my busy hands calm my too busy mind. Nightfall brings a kind of peace and calm I am hard put to describe, but I feel my whole body relax, and the dogs just in from their evening walk are sleeping, the pugs snoring, and the only sound is the sound of the Hepa air filter, it's soft song filling the room, a pleasant backdrop to the peaceful night.

And so I am about to curl up in my fiber chair, a fawn pug beside me, and work on the new fiber piece nearly finished that will be up in my Dragonfly Cottage Design Studio store this week, as other projects lay in various stages around me. There is so much work to be done, and all the time in the world to do it. In autumn one feels no need to rush, simply to be. These days I find myself filled with gratitude for all of the things in my life. My cozy cottage, my beloved children and grandbaby, dear friends, my animal companions without whom my life would be unbearably lonely, and with whom each day is filled with joy. Books in abundance, baskets of fiber in a rainbow of colors to spin, all the accoutrements of a fiberwoman's life all around me, and life, in each tender moment, precious beyond compare.

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness... I don't believe anyone has ever written of autumn more beautifully than the poet John Keats. I shall leave it at that, and give thanksgiving for all of the many blessings around me, each and every day...


Sunday, October 7, 2007

Handspinning Yarn and Dreams and More & Scattering Stars Like Dust...

We come spinning out of nothingness, scattering stars like dust...

Jalal ad-Din Rumi quotes (Persian Poet and Mystic, 1207-1273

Handspinning using 6 different hand-dyed rovings
to create my Wabi Sabi Handspun Yarn...

The handspinning of yarn is an amazing alchemy. Sheep's wool coming dirty, full of lanolin, needing to be cleaned. The dyeing of the fibers, the spinning of it, and finally what was once the thick coat of the sheep might be a shawl, a scarf, a sweater, so many other things. I do FreeForm work which means that when I do a piece of fiber art I use and combine many different techniques from knitting, crochet, weaving, spoolknitting, embroidery, embellishment of many kinds and more. Each of my handspun yarns has very many different fibers and colors in it and it is akin, in my mind, to "... scattering stars like dust..." as you take the different colors, textures, types of fiber (in this yarn there are at least 4 different types of wool plus llama...) It is a sublime experience. Ask Sampson, my pug. He was trying to eat fiber and I had to pull it out of his teeth. Who'd have thought a pug would like fiber?

The real fun for me now is that I used to exclusively make handspun yarn to sell and still will sell a little of it. I even do handspun by special order. But now that I am into making and selling fiber art exclusively through etsy (you can see some at the bottom of this page with a link to the
etsy shop, Dragonfly Cottage Design Studio), 10% of all of my sales going to Mid-Atlantic Pug Rescue, no matter what the item, I am spinning mainly for myself to make items to sell. I love working with my own handspun yarn. It is thick and soft and lush and now, when I handspin yarn I know what I'm spinning for. If I am making a snake, say, I imagine her in my dreams and as I spin I am grabbing rovings from all over the place. A bit of this, a bit of that, OH, wouldn't THAT feel lovely, Oh! just look at that blend of colors, and maybe I will grab that too!

And so today I have been spinning a good bit of the day as I finish two other snakes that will go up this week. I have a few more snakes to make that are calling to me but I have also jumped ahead in my mind to art dolls and other things.

People have asked me if I could teach them spin and I can only laugh, kindly. You see, my dear friend Alissa came for a visit and demonstrated handspinning on a spindle for me. I have had 3 wheels (still have two) but could never get into wheel spinning. Then, in December of 2004 I fell down the stairs and broke both feet, badly. I was in two casts for six months, then a wheel chair and then crutches and it was a whole year before I could walk unaided. I spent most of that time in my big overstuffed chair with a huge ottoman (usually filled with dogs) and my son came over and set me up. I have a long folding table, like a card table but rectangular. It just fit perfectly over the ottoman with a little room to spare so he got my computer set up on it, notebooks and pens, jars of spindles and I had a huge basket of fiber beside me. I spun for a year and developed my own style of spinning and it was wonky (on purpose) and as all of my work has been, for some long time, about the Japanese aesthetic of Wabi Sabi, the imperfect perfect, I have called my yarn "Wabi Sabi Handspun Yarn" ever since.

The thing is, because I had to spin
sideways in the chair with the table pulled up to me, I was, unable to let the drop spindle drop, I developed a very peculiar way of spinning. It not only works to for me because of my penchant for blending many, many fibers into one yarn, it has become very comfortable for me. But I think it would mystify and confuse anyone wanting to learn. I am sitting here now at my computer with my spindle in my lap and the piles of fiber you see above all around me. I have fallen in love with spinning all over again and will be spinning quite a lot, and yes, some of those yarns will end up in the shop.

I love spinning yarns outside...

Handspun natural fiber yarns just fit in with the natural world...

I also make
Wabi Sabi Wooly Wonder Luxury Batts. I am going to return to making them very soon and they too will be in the etsy store. They are very large, much larger than your usual batt, and have up to 12 fibers and more, with magical filaments and all kinds of natural fibers. All ingredients are listed, and I have sold them as fast as I could make them. I am most anxious to get back to them...

This batt was called "Catching Angels Unawares..."

"Harvest Moon..."

"Purple Dreams"

"Leprechaun's Delight"

Batt-making as I do it take many hours. It is hard work, enchanting work, a deep delight. I have missed it and my dear friend Noreen has been encouraging me to make them again for some time. As in all things, things rise again in their own right and proper time, and spinning and batt-making has come back into my life now. The deeper I go into my fiber work the more I feel the stars that have scattered in my life coming together, all of a piece, and oh, what a brilliant sight it is. I am filled with gratitude, I am humbled, I feel overflowing joy. I am a writer and a fiberwoman. It is one of the deepest things I do. I have come back home...

Warm Regards and Deepest Blessings to All,


AND ~ You can purchase the above spindle/fiber image on a whole host of items at my Cafe Press store. Mugs, t-shirts, gift items, more. Here's the tote bag and the image is printed on both sides of the bag. Simply click on this link to go to Dragonfly Cottage's Wabi Sabi World...

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Meandering Through A Day, Becoming a Wise Woman -- studying with Susun Weed -- and Henry, my "Familiar..."

Henry ~ My Familiar...

First of all let's get this straight, this business about what a familiar is, because in the days and weeks to come I will be writing about animals as "familiars," "totems," "power animals," and more. I am a woman who lives alone (meaning no other human companionship) but whose life is enriched by the many animals I live with (10 birds, 5 beta fish, 3 dogs, and whoever knows who will come next!), and the very many wildlings I feed outside. My world is a world of animals, gardens, and the natural world in all her splendor. And more and more my animals are coming into my writing and fiber art. I have a new totem animal, the snake. We shall discuss that in the next entry...

The best example of a "familiar" that is familiar to most of us, through legend and stories, are the witch's black cats. They are in all the fairy tales and considered evil, while this couldn't be further from the truth. They are companions, guardian angels, one whose spirit is so in sync with ours that there is a special communion, an understanding between us, a relationship that is separate and unique from any and all other in my life.

Online, I found a few definitions that seemed as though they might help one understand better...

Of established friendship; intimate: on familiar terms.
* Familial.
* An attendant spirit, often taking animal form.

You may have, as I do, many animals and love them all dearly, and in fact have very close relationships with them, but likely, if you are attuned to this deep connection, you will find one type of animal that will be a teacher, a friend, a guide, a companion with whom no words need be spoken, you simply know one another, you share a bond. It is extremely powerful. This is your familiar.

I handraised Henry and his two clutchmates in autumn 1998. He came a fat, featherless, wee, awkward little bird. He was the only male so he was bigger which made him all the clumsier. I fell in love on sight and bought him for myself. The other two I sold to lovely women, the proceeds from which helped support my non-profit shelter for disabled and unwanted parrots and other domestic birds. From a tiny bird on, Henry and I had a bond that simply has no words. It's taken me a decade to understand who he is to me. Like Merlin's Archimedes the Owl, Henry is my constant companion, spends a good part of each day on my person, and has taught me many lessons I could not have otherwise learned.

Now, I love my other five parrots, the finches and doves, am delighted by the beautiful beta fish and the dogs, well, they are just pure love. I've always said that a dog is the only unconditional love we will ever know. And it is true. And my life would not be complete without them. But Henry is most definitely my familiar, which is why you hear so much about him in my writings. A good bit of the time he's on my shoulder or bobbing up and down on my arm while I write.

So Henry helped me make the latte and sat on my shoulder having a wee nip of foam and we conversed and kissed and then he flew back over to Solomon's cage (Solomon is a Blue Crown Conure, Henry was raised with Sol and they are best friends. Henry spends a lot of time on Sol's cage communing with him.)

It was a quiet day and after all the animals were settled I took my camera outside and just meandered around a bit with no plans, nothing that I was searching for especially, but I came upon a few things that struck me profoundly. Simple things. Pieces of this earthy paradise we inhabit, so I took a few pictures. My garden photos didn't turn out well and I'll have to try again, but I was able to photograph a few things that I adore...

First of all, I am a morning glory addict. I plant them by the hundreds every year. This lovely 'Grandfather Ott's' morning glory was blooming right outside my front door...

I took lots of pictures of it and simply stared and stared. I think morning glories are one of the most magical flowers in the world. Then around the corner at the edge of the garden, was the most beautiful pale blue with a purple star in the center. I call this picture, "Lit From Within," because surely it is...

As I looked deeper into the thick overgrown fall garden, I spotted one of my favorite friends outside. She is an Argiope Spider, making her intricate "zipper web," (I always call them that because they always look like there's a zipper straight down the middle of the web.). These yellow and black spiders are large and simply beautiful. I had a terrible time photographing her, because she was in thick flowing vines and I took lots of pictures from odd angles trying to get close to her without frightening her. I have deep respect and admiration for our spider friends. Here she is...

Isn't she beautiful?

Further back in the garden one of my favorite flowers was in bloom. I am wild about hibiscus of all sorts, and love the tropicals, but they won't winter over here. I will bring my big yellow tree hibiscus in to winter over, but now I only plant Hibiscus Syriacus which are perennial here. This is a pink one and lovelier than even this picture can show, but I had to try...

Further on as I rounded a corner I saw a touching sight indeed. One of my beautiful moonflowers which had bloomed in all her glory, perfuming the air around her with her night-time fragrance, was passing. One night, one glorious night, and then the end. Here she is in her final hours...

A flower spent is a gift too, for she reminds
us of the endless cycles of life and nature,
of which we are all a part...

Coming back around the back door, on to my patio on my way in, my gorgeous mandevilla caught my eye. It is trellised and nearly 7 feet tall. I don't know how in the world I will bring it in or where, but it will come in and winter over. It's too beautiful to let die. I will tell you right now that over the cooler months the inside of my little cottage looks like a jungle. Plants, animals, branches, pinecones and more, animals all around, and a woman with a parrot on her shoulder writing amidst it all. Just look at these lovely flowers of the mandevilla...

As I walked back in the house I laughed out loud because there was little Sampson, in his favorite spot on the arm of my fiber chair, looking at me like, "Isn't it about time you sat down here and got to work???" And I told him, "Just a minute buddy boy, just a minute..."

I went and got Henry and made notes for this piece, and uploaded the photos from the camera, and then I gave Henry a kiss...

... and we whispered some secrets to one another, and finally I settled in to the daily work of a fiber woman, a teddy bear of a dog snuggled in next to me, and Henry went back to talk things over with Sol, and the rest of the animals were quiet and at peace, a peace that reverberated through the cottage and into my heart.

And I had a wonderful talk on the phone with my teacher, Susun Weed, whose work I have admired for decades, and I am studying with her via correspondence and phone, and we had a wonderful talk. I am taking the Wise Woman course and it may take a few years to finish. I am a healer, and to have Susun as a teacher to take me further into my Wise Woman journey is one of the great blessings of my life. She also has a wonderful forum online at: Susun Weed's Wise Woman Forum. It is an amazing resource for all kinds of natural healing and living an earth-based life.

This is my life. I am deeply blessed. There is not a day I don't realize this and give thanks and praise. Good times, bad times, hard times, sad times, I am still blessed with these wonderful companions, and the natural world around me, and my writing and my work. What more do I really need? Certainly, not much...

Warm Regards and Deepest of Blessings to one and all,
and, Touch The Earth, and it will touch you...