Tuesday, June 29, 2010

a sparkling good time

the weather is completely glorious - low humidity, perfect temperatures in the upper 70s, low 80s (mid to upper 20s for you, my european peeps), sunshine, fluffy white clouds in blue skies. visits with old friends and new friends, baseball games, hours spent in a bookstore, hitting a gap outlet, getting to know our iPad (fabulous, i tell you), good food, loads of fresh fruit that's perfectly in season, loads of laughter and sparklers. what more could one ask of their holiday?

Monday, June 28, 2010

things i forgot (or possibly never noticed) about the US

somewhere near charles city, iowa
~ really wide roads.

~ the tendency of stewardesses on american airlines (delta in this case) to treat everyone like small, dull children. i was waiting my turn at the bathroom onboard, the stewardess turned to explain to me which doors were the restrooms, as if i'd never seen a plane before.

~ the intensity of the plastic packaging on everything.

~ fake sweeteners.

~  the ubiquity of strip malls. even the child care places are in strip malls.

~  it seems that all restaurants are chain restaurants.

~  enormous cars. lots of them.

~  car designs that look like the car is actually a tank in car clothing.

~  the heavenly interior of the gap. (where thankfully they have remembered that their core competency is the hooded, pullover sweatshirt.)

~  miles and miles and miles of cornfields.

~  blaring and constant ads on radio.

~  how incredibly cheap it is to go out to eat.

~  people constantly saying "sorry" and "excuse me." (bear in mind i live in a land where people will actually run over your foot with their grocery cart and not utter a single word which acknowledges your existence, let alone expresses remorse.)

~  gas stations that are veritable snack villages (and where you can buy a jesus t-shirt while you're at it).

~  fireflies in the ditches.

i find i'm actually suffering a little bit from culture shock. i've not been here for nearly four years and either i forgot about all that stuff, or things have really changed. however, i see no signs whatsoever of any shift away from enormous, gas-guzzling vehicles, so apparently in that area the crisis was short-lived. i'll be sneaking back with more impressions when i have a moment of peace.

Friday, June 25, 2010

looking for magic

i find myself thinking about everyday magic. mostly because there have been a couple of times this week when i really needed some and i wasn't very good at finding it. and i'll admit that i find it to be almost completely lacking at the office (tho' the special café in the canteen makes a very nice day-brightening latté that might almost qualify). but if you remember to look for the small moments of magic, they actually are there. a laugh shared with a colleague, a very good discussion that really puts you in flow, little nigglings of intuition that you just can't explain, a frivolous conversation about the superiority of mac (cosmetics, not computers, tho' those are also superior) paint pots and pigments.

it's much easier to find magic around home. especially if the sun should happen to shine as it did quite a lot this week. i find it's really easy to find magic in the sunshine. and i think i'm so much more aware of that now that i constantly think in the photographic potential of everything.

then there are unexpected things that happen that remind you of the path you may have lost sight of...and you come into a loom that you can have for free. and tho' you already have one, two seems even better. more magical, if you will. and you sort of want to fast forward to the time when the new blue room will be finished upstairs and you'll have space for those two looms to be set up. but then you remember that the everyday magic is found in the here and now and in the enjoying of the journey along the way. time goes fast enough as it is without wishing it to go faster.

so you think about paying attention so you don't miss any of the magic of the next couple of weeks - of time to be spent with new friends who feel like old friends (but are also technically new friends since you've never met in person), with old friends who feel like your favorite pair of jeans, to literally old friends who you hope you are like when you yourself are old, and to time spent with family - laughing and teasing and being silly.

i'll be checking in when i can, but mostly, i'll probably just be out there, picking up pieces of magic (and undoubtedly photographing them) to share when i get back.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

light, lake, lilypads

we celebrate midsummer here in denmark on june 23 - sankt hans aften - i'm not sure why we don't celebrate on the actual solstice, but hey, i'm up for any opportunity to celebrate the light. and celebrate we did this evening. our neighbors had saved loads of sticks and old hay and had a most spectacular bonfire, which is a traditional element of sankt hans. traditionally, a witch is burned on the fire, but we skipped that bit (and i kept myself at a safe distance, just to be sure no one gave me a little push).

afterwards, we headed down for a little sail on our lake. this time, we found pink waterlilies. and although i just shared waterlilies yesterday, i had to share them again. making hay while the sun shines, as it were. or lilypads while it's light, perhaps?

thank you all for sharing the places where you get away from the world on my previous water lily post. i love how many of us are drawn to water and nature in general. having grown up on the prairie, i'm also drawn to wide-open spaces where i can see forever. and speaking of that, i'll be headed there on saturday! i'm looking forward to watching a good thunderstorm or two come rolling over the prairie. and of course, to seeing my family. that bit goes without saying. but i'll admit i'm starting to wish they'd just come here and hang out with us and the lilypads.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

waterlilies as coping mechanism

in the midst of all of the ratrace of life - running the child to school, picking her up, going to work, running to meetings, learning resisting how things are done in a new company, a new town, a new house, finding a vet for the horse's vaccinations, keeping the horse in carrots and horse treats (who knew they had to have treats?), trying to convince the cat to venture outside, weeding the garden, hoping the elderflowers hurry up before we leave, using up what's in the refrigerator, packing, last minute sewing, running to the post office - i am very happy to have moments of serenity on our new property. the house may be falling down, but the location itself is absolute heaven. who wouldn't feel calm and peaceful with waterlilies like these?

where do you go to find a bit of shelter from the cruel world?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

in which we subject snails to possible torture in the name of science

we've been combing our yard for the big snails - the vinbjerg ones (no idea what they're called in english) for awhile now. and whenever we see them, we get out the waterproof acrylic paints and we paint on them. because we want to to learn the truth of how much the snails really get around in the yard. oddly, we've been a bit stymied in our mission by a lack of vinbjerg snails, but tonight we found two. sabin named hers rose. here you can see why....

will someone please cut her fingernails?

and guess who did this one? :-)

we'll be looking around for our friends, to see how far they travel. i think i'll call mine erik after that viking that lead the trip to north america years before columbus. they're the best-dressed snails in the neighborhood, i tell you, tho' we haven't really been able to find the first batch of ones we did a few weeks ago. i'm not sure we've really followed scientific method very well. but we will be reporting our progress should we ever come across these guys again.

Monday, June 21, 2010

my thirty-thirteenth summer solstice

summer solstice sunset - 10:13 p.m.
i am decidedly not a religious person, tho' i'm fascinated by various aspects of various religions. if i were to be religious, i'd definitely worship the sun in some form. magpie girl suggested making a list of 8 ways to worship the sun, so i thought i'd go with that (it seems 8 things is a regular thing on her blog and not especially of significance to the solstice) on this, my thirty-thirteenth summer solstice.

1. create something for someone else.
2. ride a horse.
3. eat watermelon for dinner.
4. photograph the sunset.
5. breathe in the scent of fresh-mown hay.
6. bond with the child.
7. take a solitary walk.
8. do cartwheels across the lawn in the cool evening air.

i find that i could go on (and on and on, especially about the walk i took in the still, golden summer light down to our lake), but i will stop with 8. i hope you've fully utilized your summer solstice. if not, get out there and do it now!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

crocheting and blog camp and gratuitous yarn porn

learning to crochet granny squares
elizabeth and her family came to visit today and thankfully, they brought the sunshine with them. it actually hasn't rained here at our house since they were here. and that's a good thing. i'm really, really tired of this rainy, cold summer and could definitely use some consistent sunshine. especially as tomorrow is the solstice  and i would like to be able to see the sun in all its glory. so let's hope it holds!

beautiful crocheted basket liner by elizabeth + pears in the evening light of our terrace.
elizabeth is able to crochet anything she likes without the use of a pattern or most of the sight in her right eye. thanks to her expert tutelage, i am now crocheting granny squares with that yarn stash of which i have been so proud (see below). i hope to achieve elizabeth's facility with crochet one day, but at the moment, i'm having a few challenges figuring out exactly when it is you change colors (please tell me this is normal and if it's not, please keep the sniggering to a minimum) on the granny square, so i'm thinking they'd look quite nice all in one color. and do they really have to be exactly square?

yummy yarn stash
elizabeth brought a wonderful gift that's meant for the next blog camp, which is fitting, since it was one year ago today that we were enjoying the first blog camp! and the sun shined the whole time! so the danish summer is capable of being a good one. and i was supposed to have learned to crochet already back then.

back row: polly (who isn't polly) and marie (who isn't blogging anymore)
front row: b, me, sabin and extranjera
thinking of all of the good and creative people and things the blogosphere has brought to my life and feeling pretty grateful.  i think it's going to be a very good week.

* * *

oh, and since it's father's day, i wrote a little something to my dad over here.

Friday, June 18, 2010

copenhagen dreaming

i wonder if i appreciate copenhagen even more now that we moved to the other side of the country or if it just had on its best face (aside from that freak thunder/hail storm just as i wanted to get out of the car) on tuesday when i was there for meetings. happily, one of them was on this gorgeous little charming street (sankt peders stræde), where i went a little nuts with both digital and analog cameras.

no boring chairs in this country and no boring lamps.
i so wish i'd had one of these bikes when sabin was little. why didn't we ever get one?
i love the mix of shabby and gentrified.
that stormy sky hadn't completely passed yet, as you can see.
i want a shop like that! one off - so you just make what you want and feel inspired to do.
they take their flags very seriously. 
such a fetching scene. made me wish my city bike was a little more retro.
happy weekend to one and all, even if your path doesn't cross copenhagen, at least you've had a little taste.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

growing up is a painful process

molly mentioned recently how painful it is to watch your children wrestle their demons and come to terms with the world. i've found myself thinking about that quite a lot over the past couple of days. as you know, i have just the one rather spoiled perfectly lovely child. there are, however, two other almost-not-children-anymore in my life because husband has two daughters from a previous marriage. they're 18 and 15 and they come to our house every other weekend. they are adored 100% by their little sister, who gets the benefit of being both an only child and a little sister, and they seem to adore her back in equal measure. we're very lucky.

i'm fortunate to have escaped the drama i hear that other step-parents experience. i think because i never tried to be their mother. as i see it, they have a perfectly good mother of their own, so my role is something else. authority figure in our home, certainly, but more of a cool (in both senses) aunt than a parent. and that has worked very well for us. mostly because husband is very good at handling it and takes my side in matters of discipline. but there haven't really been matters of discipline, so that's helped it be a good situation now for more than a decade.

but even tho' they're not my children, they are an enduring presence in my life, so it's a bit hard watching them in their struggles. the older one has had a hard time with school. she switched gymnasiums and has repeated the first year. she seems to be doing better this time around, but there are signs of an inner struggle for her - she's gained weight and she's visibly lost confidence in the past year. instead of growing into a more capable young adult, she in many ways seems to have regressed a bit and needs more support rather than less. we're pushing her out on interrail this summer so she can experience getting along on her own (well, sort of, since she's going with a friend) a bit. we think it will be good for her.

the younger gets top grades in school, but lives like a vampire. not in dress, but in her habit of not being seen during daylight hours. she'll sleep 'til 3 in the afternoon and she doesn't seem to want to do any form of physical activity or anything other than watch television. her sisters shamed her into going outside on one occasion this weekend. sadly there was a downpour while she was out and she came back soaking wet since she was inappropriately dressed for the weather, but still, she did finally go outside. and her iPod didn't zap the hell out of her when she got soaked, so that was a plus. luckily for her vampire ways, the sun was behind clouds the whole time, so she didn't turn to dust.

what's worrying about the younger is that she doesn't seem to have any interests in any extracurricular activities (unless you count shoplifting, which isn't the healthiest of those and which she won't be doing again after getting done for eight counts of it a couple of months ago - or at least that's what we all hope). she was sent to dance as a child, but never really liked it the way her older sister did. she's tall, thin, willowly and beautiful (aside from some typical teenage incidents involving cheap hair color), so it's not that we think she needs to watch her weight, but we just worry that she doesn't have something she is into, something she burns for and is focused on. sabin has her horse. big sister has sports and dance, but middle sister doesn't have any visible interests.

when they come, i encourage creativity by providing materials and tools to support it - we've got loads of how-to-draw books, good pencils, fabric, sewing machine, stitching - everything you could want. and sabin and her oldest sister are often found sewing up monster dolls or designing costumes in sabin's top model books or building a shelter out of old boards and branches down by the lake. but it's difficult for us to pry middle sister away from the television and her facebook on sabin's computer.

i can appreciate that it's hard when you're a teenager to spend every other weekend away from your friends and your own everyday stuff. they have their own rooms at our house, but with the move, everything is still chaos. we've living out in the country and it must generally be rather "ew" for a teenager in her prime, especially one from a copenhagen suburb. but that's what's painful about watching it. the lack of engagement. i wonder what she'll remember when she looks back? will it be how she slept through it or how miserable she was, or will it be that they ran around outside and got soaking wet and came laughing in the door? it's hard being a teenager, but it's also hard to watch the process as a parent (or even as a cool aunt). you want to ease the bumps and blows that inevitably come of it.

i have different expectations for husband's daughters than i have for sabin (princeton undergrad and the danish olympic riding team are not too much to ask for her are they?), but i would love to see them discovering and then unfolding their talents and coming into their own. i see lots of young people both in real life and around here in the blogosphere who seem so much more mature and worldly and seem to be pursuing their passions, be it photography or art or rocket science or politics or whatever. i wonder what we can do to encourage that when it's only every other weekend we can exercise our influence. don't get me wrong, i'd go crazy if it was more often than that. and frankly we couldn't afford the grocery bill long term. but watching this process of becoming is, as molly said, a painful thing indeed.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

stitch: waiting

i bought one of kaye turner's lovely pieces a couple of weeks ago and it arrived early last week, but with the dreary weather, i never felt the light was right for properly photographing it. it's a piece that kaye made last winter and she called it waiting. and at the point where she was making it, i was also waiting. waiting for my new job to begin, waiting to see what kind of a farm we would find, waiting for our house to sell (still waiting for that, tho' there is a glimmer of hope at the moment)....waiting and waiting and waiting. and so when i saw the piece on her big cartel site, i snatched it up. i'd been wanting one of her pieces and this one just felt like the perfect one for me.

i've been fascinated by the so-called slow cloth movement and i wrote last winter a few times about the slow cloth facebook group, which i felt both strangely compelled and repelled by - because it seemed like it was an awfully hard group to break into and be welcomed. especially if you, like me, are rather into contemporary fabrics and have a great deal of affection for your sewing machine. you'll be glad to know i've largely stopped checking out what's going on in the group gotten a life and moved on. but i'm grateful to the group because i think it's how i met kaye (who is really named karen). i've been reading her blog and she mine and she's a flickr contact as well. and i love the insight that gives into her process and her art.

i'm showing you bits and pieces of the piece because the detail is what drew me to it. there's a house. there's a compelling and rather map-like symbol that may have eyes on it and a nordic sun symbol. the tones are muted and fit that march period in which it was made. there are some vibrant orange and burgundy threads in it, adding splashes of color, but for the most part, it's quite neutral in tone.

earlier this year, i bought a beautiful stitched piece by jude hill, who may be the very soul of the slow cloth movement. that little cloth, with its flying trees, is magical. but karen's piece is magical in another way. while i feel privileged to own one of jude's works, this piece by karen feels more like it was meant to be mine. like it was made for me and has now found its way home to me. karen is also waiting to sell her house and move, so in a way, we had parallel story lines at the time it was made.

the piece holds up well to scrutiny and the more i look at it, the more meaning and symbolism i see in it that i feel applies so much to me and my life. the little colorful bed of X-es makes me think of the garden we've begun here at the new house. and my eye is drawn back again and again to the map-like circle, with its different landscapes and that peninsula in the center. i love the luminous little stretch of brilliant red.

when you pull back from the map-like circle, it resembles a head as it has a neck and "body" below - and the shape of that body reminds me of the driftwood people that husband and i have made. it seems to be peeking in from the side in a way, as if popping in from the future to reassure that what's ahead is colorful, since that side of the piece has the most color. the nordic sun symbol within a square is something my father-in-law would have appreciated, so it makes me think of him. there's just so much here. and i'm sure it all meant something else to karen, but it's just so dense with meaning for me. i just can't escape the feeling that it was meant to be mine. there are details that i don't know yet what they mean, but i feel certain it will become clear to me as time goes on.

i'm getting quite a few stitched pieces now - sophie callaghan's beautiful petra doll (thanks spud!), my beautiful stitched pillow from elizabeth. my own breakthrough eye pillow that resides on our bed. i'm not sure yet how i want to display karen's piece. with the house half falling down, i think a proper place for it will have to wait, which is probably just fine in light of its name...waiting.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

update on my art journal calendar

as you know, i embarked on a daily art journal calendar on january 1. i started off very enthusiastically and really enjoyed the process. i wasn't sure where it was taking me, but i liked the ride. february went well and i began to get into a groove. march, with our impending move, got a little more rocky, but still i persevered. and now i'm here to admit that it kinda fell apart for me in april. although i made a little mini-stash in an old suitcase, and had all sorts of good intentions, my daily art journal was what had to give.

the portable stash in a modified (by me) vintage suitcase
april 1 - 2, 2010
april 1 - was when i photographed paul's beautiful rug for british home & garden
april 2 - i was on a weaving kick, so i wove fabulous washi tape (bought here). i love that stuff.
april 3 - 4, 2010
april 3 - still on the washi tape thing. i'll admit sabin inspired this.
april 4 - washi tape tree (also copied from inspired by sabin).
that's pretty much as far as i got in april - wrote this note of assessment may 1.
may 1 - 2
may 1 - new house, new resolve. so i started with a little sketch of the new plants in the garden.
may 2 - had discovered loads of rhubarb in the garden and was holding out hope there would be asparagus (there isn't).
may 3 - watching one of those fabulous BBC nature shows with sabin.
may 19 - was the day i discovered that gorgeous little nest in a bush in the yard.
and that's as far as i got in may. restarting my daily practice proved difficult in the new surroundings. and it's rather ironic, because i think that with the stress of moving, i have more need than ever for a daily creative act. there are so many adjustments at once - house, job, routine, kitchen, garden, sabin's school, caring for a horse - and so many new demands on my time. but i haven't given up on myself and have decided that looking back on these couple of months (let's hope it doesn't stretch into june as well) of empty pages will also be a record of the time and place i was in. they say when you fall off the horse, you have to get back on, so i'm trying to persevere with june's little moleskine. i'll be back with more on that when the month is over.

chasing light

it feels a bit like all i do these days is chase light. i'm either longing for it, or when it comes, i'm following it around the yard, looking for the best angle. i guess that's what photography's all about...a heightened sense of light. when it finally comes, it's spectacular and worth the wait.