Thursday, January 23, 2020

i wonder who made this tiny bicycle

i think about the person who bent and twisted this wire to make this tiny little bicycle. it's just one piece, so it's like one of those line sketches, where you draw the whole thing without the pencil leaving the page. it's slightly wonky, but it's also utterly wonderful in its tinyness and level of detail - the kickstand, the handlebars, the wheels and the chain, just a little wire doodle, but somehow perfect. i wonder if they made other things? i found this in a bowl of tiny things for 10kr. in a strange secondhand shop where we bought a little yellow boat. when i saw it, i knew i had to have it. it's very tiny, about 3cm is all. i keep it up on a high shelf, because i'm afraid the cats will play with it and then it will be lost underneath something or get vacuumed up because i don't see it on the floor. but it makes me smile whenever i see it. and i think about that person who made it, wondering how many attempts they made before making this perfect specimen. dozens? or perhaps they just got very lucky on the first try.

Monday, January 20, 2020

trying something new: life drawing

yesterday, i tried out croquis/life drawing for the first time. it's never really appealed to me before because i consider myself someone who doesn't draw people.

our local art group has started up a regular søndagscroquis here in the new year, ever other week, so i decided i'd go along to support it. i was surprised to find that i quite liked it.

as you can see, we had a male model. he was tall, middle-aged and totally naked. it was amazing how quickly you forget about that and just look for the shapes and the lines, sketching quickly. we did a number of exercises - warming up in the start with him changing position every 30 seconds, hence some of these pages having several versions on one page.

i actually liked the quick changing of positions better than when he posed for longer. i found that i couldn't keep drawing him in the same position for 10 minutes. or even 5. one minute was about right for me.

i think that all those horses i drew as a kid served me well in looking for the shapes and proportions. i don't think i ever completely let go of any tension i felt about drawing a person, but i stepped in that direction and i will definitely be going back again in two weeks.

Friday, January 17, 2020

on tricking myself into writing and finally reading ulysses

a big thank you to judith for turning me on to 750words. it's a site with a lovely blank canvas (weirdly less intimidating than an open, fresh word doc), where you attempt to write 750 words per day. i tried it out for the first time this morning and got to 557 words before it told me the day was over and i would have to start a new day. this, at 9 a.m. my time. turned out my time zone was set to pacific time in california, so i cheated and pasted my 557 words (which i had written in 10 minutes) into the new day (after all, it had been friday for me all along) and continued. my stats will be a little off, since pasting it in takes a bit less time than it did to write the words in the first place, but oh well. i found it surprising how quickly i got to 750 words. maybe this writing thing isn't so hard after all?  it was just a bunch of drivel, recounting my day yesterday, so there's that, but nonetheless, it was a start.

i'm finding that reading and writing go hand in hand. i knew this, but i think what with obsessively reading the news on my iphone since mid-2016, i'd gotten out of the habit of reading books. i've been fixing that thus far in 2020 and i've already read four books. i'm currently reading hemingway's moveable feast, which contains a lot of advice about writing. i've also joined a book club through the library. we will read just one book - james joyce's ulysses. i took a semester-long course focused on just that book and wrote a 25-page paper on it without finishing the damn thing, so i decided that now is the time. it's one of those you probably should read. but already i can feel myself thinking i have to read a bunch of other stuff first - like i really should refresh homer's odyssey before i begin. and maybe dante's inferno too. and that would lead to goethe's faust, wouldn't it? where will it end?

just get reading already.

Thursday, January 09, 2020

just get writing already

thanks to my old bloggy friend, lynne, of wheatlands, i read a magnificent piece by helen brain on her writing process of her forthcoming post-apocalyptic YA trilogy. it had me thinking all day. thinking about building imagined worlds in clay, or at least drawing them as a map, maybe drawing up a timeline on the wall. you see, lynne, judith (also from the old bloggy days) and i are working on a project together - a project that we hope becomes a novel.  or rather, not that we hope will become a novel - a project that WILL become a novel.

but for that to happen, we need to get writing and i'm weirdly struggling with that. it's strange, because i actually love to write and although i'm out of practice, i feel it's like riding a bike, i will be able to do it again if i just try. but, i'm having trouble sitting down and doing it. and i'm not sure why.

i listened to stephen king's on writing on audible and he basically says that you just have to sit down and do the work, day after day. and look at all that he's produced! and he did it drunk, high and hung over for many years, so surely i can manage when i'm none of those and have plenty of time to devote to it.

so what's stopping me? fear that what i write won't be good enough for my writing partners? fear that the words won't come? distractions - the internet, master chef, netflix, litterboxes to pick, laundry to do, dinners to make. i think, "today i'll be able to settle in after i make a nice coffee for myself. or just after i have some lunch." but somehow, the settling in doesn't happen. i get fidgety in front of the keyboard and the writing doesn't come.

i sometimes wonder if i'm in the midst of a mild depression. i'm not sure i'd be able to discern the difference between it and everyday life. january and february are the darkest, most dreary months in these northern latitudes and that doesn't help me. you'd think a steady rain outside would be just what i need to keep me indoors in front of the computer, but alas, instead it renders me sluggish and uninspired and a bit grey myself and as much as it should, it does not make me sit down and write. (that's not strictly true, as i am sitting down and writing this.)

i love the story we're working on - a story of a brave, amazing young dutch woman who sailed as a man with the dutch east india company, was exposed along the voyage and put ashore in the burgeoning cape colony. there she met abraham, an aging pillar of the new community, who married her and they had a child before it was revealed that she was already married and she was sentenced to bigamy and banished back to europe. and all of this is true! we just have to weave it into a historical novel and bring her story to life.

maybe it's there that the pressure lies - the idea of telling her story and doing it justice is a bit daunting. she must have been so brave and adventurous to set off on that journey, how do we find her voice?  all i know is that i certainly won't find it by sitting here, not writing anything.

and so i turn back to helen brain's good advice to herself..."Maybe all that was needed for my book was the courage to push myself into unknown territory. Maybe I could immerse myself in my subconscious, and let the book filter up from the depths, instead of trying to force it to conform to my conscious process."

or maybe i should just get writing.

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

it just takes the time it takes

i'm weaving a four meter long rag rug. i spent weeks searching out old bedding in red and black and white in second hand stores, carefully ripping it and rolling it into balls.

on october 19, i began my rug. the end product will be 4 meters long and it will have a place of pride in my kitchen. the warp on the loom had already woven two rag rugs and they were cut off and so i had to tie up my ends. i am very fortunate to have excellent help from the experienced weavers where i weave.

i started off with an edge of 8 rows of "fisherman's cotton," which is the same as my warp.

i began with plain black fabric, loving how it looks with the pattern that's set up on the loom. i press the pedals 1-2-3-2-1 and so on.

it looked so amazing with the plain fabric, that i decided, after weaving a few rows with some of the patterns i had collected, to remove them and keep it simple with plain colors.

i'm alternating between black, white and red, more or less as the spirit moves me. i'm using less white, since at 4 meters, the rug will be too large and heavy to fit into the washing machine very easily. 

i decided early on to measure each section, so that when i come to the middle, i can begin a mirror image. i think the finished rug will be more harmonious this way.

since the loom has been in use for awhile, strings keep hopping off. it's frustrating and slows things down, but i also learn a lot from it. and it's a good reminder that this is a slow project. there's no way to hurry it up. it just takes the time it takes.

and since i can only go weave every other wednesday when the group gets together, my progress is steady but slow.

but progress there is, and i plod along. it's even slower than it should be because i decided that the strips i originally made were too wide and so i have to tear them all in half. this means that i'm doing a lot of matching up of ends, which just takes the time it takes.

but things do move forward. and i'm pleased with my edges. somehow, i'm a natural at those. but, i'll admit that when visitors to the museum stop and talk to me, i make mistakes and i have to back up. making it again, just take the time it takes. i'm learning patience. and perseverance.

and i'm well over halfway as of this shot. when i start to make mistakes, i take a break, get a coffee, walk around and talk to the others, and look at what they're doing. or i help reach things that are up high or take a turn at the desk out in the museum. and i just remind myself that this just takes the time it takes.

and now, i have under a meter to go. i didn't finish it in time for my big thanksgiving with guests, but i will finish it early next year. and i will be so proud of this significant, beautiful thing i have made for my kitchen. and i will remember that things just take the time they take and how important it is to enjoy the journey along the way.

it's so much more than cooking

thanksgiving eve salad with sesame chicken for dinner
it's so much more than cooking. i read an article with this title a few weeks ago. with my very domesticated (and wonderful) danish husband, i had to laugh a bit at the issues the author faced. especially when her husband volunteered to make dinner and then didn't shop for any ingredients, but had expected them to magically be in the refrigerator. my husband would know that grocery shopping was part of the deal. without being told. but i will admit that we do mostly divide the cooking along gender lines in our household. especially as the home renovation falls almost entirely on husband's shoulders, it's only fair that i do the bulk of the cooking. and cook i did over the past few days. we invited 10 of our best friends to a thanksgiving feast and it was my best performance ever (all that watching australian master chef is paying off).

my biggest turkey ever! 11 kilos! fresh and delicious. it went into a brine for two days in preparation for its tour in the smoker - our new kamado grill. and yes, that's sabin's first bathtub i used to brine it in.

potted shrimp as an appetizer for people to munch on when they arrived, since that big turkey was going to take forever!

i modified a maple-nutmeg custard pie recipe i found by adding pecans on top. it was delicious! though i was so full, i didn't eat any of it until breakfast the next day.

after two rounds of smoking, the turkey was looking gorgeous.

the skin got a little bit dark and i haven't perfected crispy skin in the smoker, but the meat was juicy and meltingly tender and, if i do say so myself, perfectly smoked.

it was a proud moment as husband took the serving dish to the table. it was so much fun introducing my danish friends to my favorite holiday and sharing this beautiful food with them. it really meant the world.

before i added gravy and a spoonful of stuffing. thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and although it's a lot of work, it's worth every minute. and that nap i took on sunday afternoon was bliss as well. it really is so much more than cooking, it's love and culture and sharing and friendship and happiness as well.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Joan Baxter's tapestry series :: The Weaver


Det er en travl tid for mig. Nu med stærk blæst og snestorm er det altid en travl tid; væv en stoflængde i en fart, mand, ellers fryser vi, selv foran ildstedet! Der er ingen mangel på arbejde og handel nu. Jeg lader skyttelen flyve.

Jeg har en anden væv stående, tom. Jeg drømmer om i en ledig stund, at sætte den væv op, kostbar og smuk.

It’s a busy time for me. Right now, among tempests and blizzards, is always the busiest time. Weave cloth, my friend, hurry - or even indoors we will freeze. There is no lack of work and customers now, the shuttle is flying!

I have a second loom. It stands empty. In idle thoughts, I dream of the most beautiful and precious cloth I will weave there.


Fiskernes overtøj er aldrig tørt. Det hænger i sol og vind, indtørringen gør stoffet tungt af salt konstant. Skipperen fra ”Tern” banker på. Han standser op i døren. Han går ind. Han kan knapt se i mørket og tørverøgen. Han har brug for et kraftigt stykke overtøj til havbrug. Saltet har ædt det gamle. Havet udenfor mit vindue er som et uldskind af fråde.

Den anden væv er stadig tom. En skønne dag vil den stå med et strålende klæde.

A fisherman’s coat is never dry. It’s exposed to sun and wind and its very fibers are grown heavy with salt. The Captain of the Tern knocks on the door and comes in. He can hardly see in the smoky darkness. He needs a new overcoat, the salt has eaten away his old one. The sea outside my window is a wooly froth.

The other loom is still empty. One day, I shall weave a glorious cloth upon it.


Mit garn-lager er lille. Jeg må gå til husmands-stederne, hvor spinde-konerne sidder ved ilden. Plovmænd er ude på hver en mark, skriver fure efter fure. Ingen hilser på mig. Ingen har overtøj på. Det er hårdt arbejde at pløje.

Til minde om det unge mistede ansigt burde mine hænder have vævet gode billeder på den tomme væv.

My yarn supply has dwindled. I have to go to the spinners, as they sit by their fires. The ploughmen are out in the fields, ploughing furrow upon furrow. No one greets me. No one wears a coat. Ploughing is hard work.

In memory of the lost young face, my hands could have woven beautiful images on the empty loom.


Jeg kan ikke udholde at være udenfor i april. Det nye lys gør mig fortumlet, de glade lam, grøfterne med deres overflod af påskeliljer, den nytændte forårssol, det glitrende glimt fra havet. Hvor er jeg dog glad for at holde mig inden døre, mens jeg går mellem spind og væv.

Ved påske liljelys kan jeg se en halv snes spindelvæv og gråtonen i mit stof samt den tomme væve i hjørnet.

I can’t stand to be outdoors in April. The new light makes me dizzy - the joyful lambs, the ditches with their abundance of daffodils, the newly lit spring sun, the glittery glimpses of the sea. I’m so happy to stay indoors, keeping busy spinning and weaving.

In the daffodil light, I can see half a dozen spider webs and the grey tones of my cloth, as well as that empty loom in the corner.


Et stort skib ankrer op ved øen. Den høje fremmede kaptajn forhører sig hos fiskerne i land. Det er blevet mig fortalt, at du fremstiller meget smukt stof,” siger han. “Engang i min ungdom,” fortæller jeg ham, “vævede jeg andet end gråt klæde.” Men inspirationen forlod mig pludseligt engang for længe siden, jeg væver ikke mere det smukke stof, du har hørt om.”

“Gå ind på kirkegården, på vej tilbage til kysten og dit skib. Der vil du se en sten med navnet Inga af Garth indhugget.” Jeg åbner døren på vid gab. Jeg peger på den tomme væv. “Se der,” siger jeg.

A large ship rests at anchor off the island. The tall, foreign captain asks the fishermen ashore. “I’ve been told that you create the finest cloth,” he says. “Once upon a time, in my youth,” I tell him, “I wove something other than grey cloth. But inspiration suddenly left me long ago; I no longer weave the beautiful cloth you have heard about.”

“Stop by the cemetery on your way back to the coast and your ship. There, you will see a stone engraved with the name Inga of Garth.” I open the door wide. I point at the empty loom. “See that?” I say.


Balle efter balle af stof er blevet til i de lange midsommerdage. Jeg stabler ballerne på loftet. Rotterne og møllene har forsynet sig her og der. Tre stofruller er blevet værdiløse. Hvordan skal jeg stå vinteren igennem?

Jeg klatrer ned. Jeg hviler mit hoved på den tomme væv. Jeg drømmer om umulig ubestikkelig skønhed.

Bale upon bale of cloth has come to life over the long midsummer days. I stack the bales up in the loft. Rats and moths have feasted here and there. Three rolls are worthless. How will I make it through the winter?

I crawl down. I rest my head on the empty loom. I dream of an impossible, incorruptible beauty.


Denne sommer rammer storme skibe uden søkort og driver dem hid og did uden ror mod skær og klipper. I natten stimler lanterner sammen på klippetoppe og langs kysten.

Jeg drømmer, at min tomme væv er en harpe. En ung konge væver vidunderlig musik på den, og da han er færdig, tager han kappen af sange af væven, slænger den over skuldrene og går ud for at være sammen med prinser og adelsmænd i en stor hall langt borte.

Summer storms strike chartless ships, driving them here and there, rudderless, against reef and crag. At night, lanterns line the cliff tops along the coast.

I dream that my empty loom is a harp. A young king weaves marvelous music on it and when he is finished, he takes his cape of songs off the loom, wrapping it around his shoulders. He leaves to be with princes and nobles in an enormous hall far away.


En ung mand er i gang med at klippe Garth’s 20 får. Garths får har god uld. Det er vidunderlig uld - alt for god til bønders og fiskeres arbejdstøj. Jeg gnider en uldtot mellem fingrene. Det er den bedste uld i årevis. “Hvorfor klipper manden på Garth ikke selv sine får,” spørger jeg. “Han er syg,” svarer han. Den døde piges far er syg. Det er tid at bringe tavshed.

Der er uld af en sådan finhed, at den bør spindes af kvindes hænder til en ung brud. Min arbejdsvæv er for grov. “Sig til manden fra Garth, at jeg ønsker ham god bedring.”

A young man is shearing Garth’s 20 sheep. Garth’s sheep have good wool. It’s a marvelous wool - much too good for peasant and fishermen’s work clothes. I rub the wool between my fingers; it’s the best wool in years. “Why isn’t the man from Garth shearing his own sheep?” I ask. “He’s is sick,” he answers. The dead girl’s father is sick. It’s time for silence.

The wool is so fine that it should be spun by women’s hands for a young bride. My working loom is too rough. “Tell the man from Garth that I wish him well.”


Jeg har den særlige evne, at jeg kan se på en kvindes ansigt hendes livs afslutning og begyndelse. Engang så jeg et ansigt, der syntes altid at have et lys af højsommer.

Alle øboere er i slægt. Du kan se blik og bevægelser, som har gentaget sig gennem generationer - et særkende skabt af det slidsomme arbejde på denne ø, som har gjort det umagen værd at anvende under pløjning, ved fremstilling af fiskenet, under høstearbejde, ja selv i forbindelse med drukneulykker og brand. Hun er den ene, som tryllebandt mig engang for længe siden. “Jeg er væver,” råber jeg.

I have a special ability - I can see on a woman’s face the end and the beginning of her life. Once I saw a face that had the light of high summer.

All of the island’s inhabitants are related. You can see gazes and movements which have repeated throughout the generations - a hallmark of the laborious work on the island - developed during plowing, weaving of fishnets, during the harvest, even in connection with drownings and fire. She is the one who bewitched me once long ago. “I am a weaver,” I shout.


I oktober suser grå vinde omkring huset. Denne oktober føler jeg intens tørke. Det er tid til at tænde op. Hvorfor er ingen tørv sat i stak for enden af huset? Hvad skal jeg gøre for at fyre op i aften?

Der er den væv, den står ubrugt. Se hele trenden! Der vil aldrig blive arbejdet igen. Den vil kunne holde mig varme en nat eller to. Men da jeg tager øksen for at smadre væven, kan jeg ikke gøre det. Jeg støtter mit hoved på den tomme væv. Hvorfor er rammen våd? Kold rystende gråd fra en gammel mands øjne!

In October, the grey winds rage around the house. This year, I feel an intense draught. It’s time to light the fire. But why is there no peat stacked at the end of the house? What will I do for a fire tonight?

The loom stands there, unused. Look at that warp! No one will ever work there again. It could keep me warm a night or two. But, as I take up the axe to smash the loom, I can’t do it. I rest my head on the empty loom. Why is the frame wet? The cold shakes tears from an old man’s eyes.


Der er en mand, som fremstiller mere holdbart klæde end jeg kan klare. Han kommer til min dør om natten i det første korte snefald i november. “Den gamle mand på Garth døde ved solopgang,” siger han. “Det er din sag,” siger jeg. “Nej, de ønsker et liglagen. De har søgt på Garth højt og lavt, der er intet liglagen til ham.” Jeg bliver oppe hele natten vævende et liglagen til den gode gamle mand på Garth.

Jeg kunne have fortalt ham, hvem der blev svøbt i det liglagen.

There is a man who makes more durable cloth than I can. He appears at my door in the night of the first November snow fall. “The old man of Garth died at sunset,” he says. “That’s your responsibility,” I say. “No, they want a shroud. They have looked high and low all over Garth and there is no shroud for him.” I stay up all night weaving a shroud for the good old man of Garth.

I could have told him who was wrapped in that shroud. 


Det sneede hele natten. Luften knitrede af frost. Solens lys på sneen skærer i mine øjne som knive.

Jeg åbner døren. En vævning genspejlet i lyset fra sneen ligger fold ved fold over væven, som havde stået ubrugt i halvtreds vintre.

It snowed all night. Frost crackles in the air. The sunshine on the snow cuts my eyes like a knife.

I open the door. A cloth shimmering like the light of the snow is draped fold upon fold over the loom which stood unused for fifty winters.

* * *

These pictures aren't great, as the light isn't so good this time of year and perhaps the lighting in the space isn't ideal for displaying such gorgeous tapestries. They are by Scottish weaver Joan Baxter, based upon a short story by Scottish author George MacKay Brown. And I'm uncharacteristically using capital letters because I worked on the texts for each work and they, of course, had to use capital letters. That's also why they are in both Danish and English. It's quite a moving story and the tapestries are exquisite. They'll be on display this weekend (Nov. 23-24) at the magical little museum in Randbøldal.