I just found this embroidery I began years ago. Maybe if I take a picture of it, I will want to finish it. Or not. Maybe I can't remember how to work with ribbon embroidery. Maybe I don't have the time. I also doubt I could even find the ribbon, should they make it anymore. Maybe I like it unfinished to remember those days when I saw things like a dragon in the garden underneath the wisteria. I used to think it was important to finish things then.
I don't have to go out into the cities of industry with their opaque skies and brutal noise levels or to the mountain rivers where the salmon are dying to notice the changes in our environment which have taken place in, all things considered, only the few past years. I don't need to read the news about male small mouthed bass now having female characteristics, or the most recent addition to the endangered species list. Nor do I need to learn of yet another environmental violation to know there are many who think they can continue on in this ever escalating game of pillage for profit and remain unaffected. All I have to do is look out into my little garden and notice the redwood sorrel that now dies from lack of watering in the summer when a few years ago they needed no help from me to survive, or tip my head skyward to the diminished returning flocks of barn swallows and chimney swifts in the spring, or notice that the ever growing legions of cars has wiped out the sound of the ocean.
Every day, we loose something and what kind of void follows each loss? Every day excuses are made in the name of gain (who's gain?), and that which 'we' gain, what is it? A random void filler most likely. (The sound of cars where there once was silence? I'd call 'car noise' the void and 'noise stress' the void filler rather than referring to silence as a void, as some have been want to do.) As for random void fillers, I listened last summer to the recent novelty of hearing crickets chirping in dry soil which had always before remained too damp year round for their liking. I see this house being invaded by armies of piss ants looking for other than sugar, year round - this 80 year old house which has never seen colonies of ants within its walls before. What this house is experiencing is as nothing compared to other abodes out there in the world. Crickets are a sign of good fortune and piss ants are not venomous. Neither are toxic.
Whether we admit to it or not, whether those with the resources to do something about it acknowledge it or not, we have willfully engendered in our world too much loss and the effects of even the tiniest and most invisible of these losses touch every single person place and thing on this planet and beyond. Anyone who thinks otherwise is foolish.
This 'rose scented geranium' is not that common in the garden shops that sell scented pelargoniums. It has slightly wooly leaves and might be Pelargonium capitatum sometimes called "Attar of Roses". I doubt it is the rose scented Pelargonium graveolens which is much more common in the gardens of this geographical area, the Pacific north coast of California, as the leaves are not lacily lobed. When the leaves are distilled, they give up the most lovely rosy scented floral water, the hydrosol. Every winter when there is a bit of snow, many of them die ulesss we remember to throw a light tarp over them in the evenings.
After the really cold winter we had a few years ago, it's taken many cuttings and until now for there to be enough to distill in my funny old pot still that we set on the top of the stove - one large grocery bag packed full of leaves.
I've never tried growing this plant indoors, though some sources say they do fine in front of a bright window. I think I'll take some cuttings before the night freeze comes which means I should do this tomorrow as their has been frost in the mornings and otherwise quite cold.
If I am able to keep the bulk of the rose geraniums from freezing this winter, next spring we'll be able to distill some hydrosol, perhaps a quart or two.
In the fall, the garden is full of of large spiders, Pumpkin Spiders. This one made her presence known on her web beside the gate into the garden about two weeks ago. She has woven her web inside out beside the pathway. That's why we see her underside.
Every day she appears from her hiding place somewhere in the foliage at the edges of her web and sits in the sun for the entire afternoon. Every day at sunset, she disappears back into the leaves and makes herself very small. Anyone who has ever picked raspberries or blackberries knows how startling it is to reach for a berry and have one of these spiders run out from beneath the nearby leaf. Now that the weather has changed, she waits until the rain has stopped and then only comes out in the afternoons. Her place of rest during a storm is now in the salal berries growing behind the white wooden slats.
She has probably lived here all summer and we didn't notice her before because she would have been very small. In the fall, there is much more food in the greenery which these spiders inhabit, and the pumpkin spiders grow enormous at a very speedy rate. Since their sudden and amazing surge in size makes them more obvious around Halloween and since their body resembles a pumpkin, it is believed this is why they are called Pumpkin Spiders.
So, to not get them caught in our clothes or hair - they are everywhere in the shrubbery and plants and thus somewhat out of sight of the birds and those who come upon them unknowingly - and since they eat so many bugs, in the fall we take a break from working in the garden and leave the Pumpkin Spiders to do their business. When we walk through the gate, we are careful not to brush against her web. She ignores us.
No one I know would ever willingly kill a pumpkin spider and they are not feared for their bite as are our black widows and brown recluses and more recently, the hobo which is said to be migrating south from Oregon and Washington. Some even say they don't bite. I don't know about this for certain as they most probably are capable. However, I've gotten them caught in my hair and on my clothes many times and I haven't ever been bitten.
Any day now, she will have a name, should one come to mind.
Before us sky and a river of white smoke. We were looking for something to follow.
We looked behind us, more sky. We couldn't follow the sky. It circled back on us wherever we went.
We followed the smoke single file, one behind the other, the one behind stepping in the footprints
of the one before so we wouldn't know we were lost. When night came
we stopped and squatted where we stood to protect our imprint in the dust.
After two days of this the smoke dispersed. After that we knew not in which direction we travelled. They were all the same, across the dust.
On the third day a cloud passed. We were by now walking so slowly we moved as one,
one shifting mound of dust.
On the fourth day a drop of rain fell from the third day's cloud. It caused not one ripple in the dust.
We waited. Not another drop fell.
On the fifth day we were possessed by a whirlwind, a dervish.
It disturbed our footprints but kept us moving through the dust.
On the sixth day a wall rose before us. We went no farther.
On the seventh day we circled the wall until the footprints of the one behind became
the footprints of the one before, a hoop. We stopped where we stood.
All that flowed was our blood. There was no white smoke.
On the eighth day we raised our eyes to the sky and stomped our feet on the ground.
The wall crumbled into dust.
On the ninth day someone called out, "A gate opens, a gate opens, a gate opens!" three times.
We entered the gate, eyes to the sky, watching for smoke. Our footsteps were unruly.
The one before left no footprints for the one behind to follow.
On the tenth day we saw it, the river of white smoke, and followed it with our eyes
back down to the inner city where we now stood.
On the eleventh day we walked in circles toward the source of the smoke towards the center of the city, towards a mound of black earth.
On the twelfth day we stopped where we stood and sat - nine circles, nine times nine deep - around
the mound of black earth.
On the thirteenth day we saw on the mound of black earth, a pile of grey ashes.
Atop it, one red burning coal. Upon the red burning coal, one tiny twig.
"The last burning twig!" Nine times nine voices fell - nine ripples deep - in the dust
around the mound of black earth. Still rising, the river of white smoke.
In my weariness, I followed the tracks of a road thinking it would be less tiring than the trail. Later, I noticed walking within the ruts was more exhausting since I was neither a snake nor did I have wheels.
I was relieved to come upon a river which flowed sleek and long and obliterated the damn ruts. It was a wide river with slow moving waters and no bridge. I sat down to watch.
Everywhere I had traveled, I had seen signs of others but I had met no one. Perhaps if I stayed in one place, this place, and waited someone would come along - someone who had been where I was going, someone who knew an easier way.
I became uneasy and backed away from the river's edge. I was not certain whether the river or the road carried the source of my concern and I was caught between them. I stood and turned to watch the road. It was familiar and familiarity evokes a comfort, of sorts.
In my weariness, I slipped and fell into the river that had no bed. Nothing floated on it. It could be called empty, even unfamiliar.
Now, I am where I am going, wherever the river carries me.
As I've mentioned riding in Buddy's van several times, I thought I should put up a photo of the beast. Here's Errol Linton himself beside the van with a couple of band members. They've just arrived in York and are getting ready to set up for the night's gig at The Speakeasy. Buddy is probably in the driver's seat. Resting.
The following morning, Buddy drove the band to the Knockengorroch Music Festival in Scotland. And then, on the next following morning, Buddy drove the Blues Vibe all the way down to Chichester at the southern end of the land in West Sussex. Here's Little George Sueref asking the question the answer to which everyone wanted to know hours ago, "Are we there yet?"
After York, after Knockengorroch on the last Saturday in August, Adam goes back to California, borrows Lib's guitar, gets in Marlan's old ranch truck and heads down the road to Mosgo's. A London pub it's not - it's a cool little coffee shop complete with local artwork hanging on the walls, computers linked by wireless internet, lots of freshly baked pastries, and an efficient sound man. No beer, but nobody minds. The music is great and everyone enjoys themselves, Adam and audience alike.
In a few days Adam will be back in London and on his way to a music festival with Errol Linton and the Blues Vibe in Buddy's van, not Marlan's pick-up truck, but this night he's playing the Blues in a small town in northern California and they like it.
It was brought to my attention one day, that there were people who had not experienced playing a musical instrument, or experienced listening and dancing to live music made by people playing instruments, nor did they know what it was like to have or to hold something made just for them by hand - some of them, not even homemade food. Many people on the planet today in what was once thought to be the privileged world, live in fast paced surroundings with no time for any of the above. No time. When there is no time for something, that something becomes diminished in importance. Everyone knows how that feels.
So, I made dolls from antique fabrics edged in lace that had been knotted from tiny strings - tiny strips of lace that took years to learn how to make, months to complete. Did you know that of all the things machines can do, machines cannot tie a knot? I used fine spun cashmere and silk yarn I myself had spun for the dolls' hair. Everything I could find that I used for the dolls' garments was as close to handmade as could be. Even some of the fabrics were hand woven. And when the fabric was not, I hand stitched beads and colored threads to the finished garments. I made these dolls in the hopes a child would be given one and know what it felt like to have and to hold something handmade - and most all of the dolls were given to children. I also made fruit from colored velvets - golden apples, red strawberries, and green pears. This all took time, but not as much time as it would have taken 100 years ago.
Today, the time it takes to learn a musical instrument remains the same as it did 1,000 years ago.
When I embroider on velvet, it's the silk ribbons, the thread and beads and where the needle pierces the fabric that I pay attention to. Yet, while I am embroidering, it is that which I cannot see which comes to my mind and I begin to remember.
I remember my grandmother carefully teaching me how to thread the needle and draw the colored threads through the fabric so it will not pucker - all the while telling me stories such as how her mother divorced her father, moved to San Francisco and set up a tailoring shop in Union Square "when women did not do those things". And I remember other stories of women too, for sewing is more apt to invoke images of women than of men.
It's tricky, this kind of remembering. All these closely stitched threads intertwined into tapestries which are not unlike the unending ripples caused by stones dropped in ponds. The surface patterns and the ripples distract. It's the backside of the fabric and the stone itself I am interested in - the stories themselves, the stories we hold in our hands when we do something like incline our heads, take up a needle and a strand of thread, lay it down and fasten it to the fabric as women, mostly women, have done for aeons in all kinds of worlds for all kinds of reasons.
They're weary of it, sick of it, leaning in the corner, sitars and guitars, tired of it all. Waiting it out. Tired of the politics, weary of the fighting, sick of the worrying, the wondering what's coming on next. Maybe soon they'll get tired of the tiredness, the worrying, the fighting and the politics. Maybe they'll get restless from waiting quietly in the corner, waiting till someone, anyone, can agree on something and maybe they'll just start playing whatever they feel like playing. Maybe. Maybe. I wonder what song they will play?
It rained last night but now it's a good day for a wedding in the sun on the beach in the sand and surf. The large rock behind us protects us from the wind. Now, on to the the Hall to listen to music and eat, drink, and enjoy the company of friends some of whom have been away for the past few years. They will be here for a few days, then go away again.
It's a good day for a wedding in a good place to drum
There - the B key, the second white key from the left - is where you would begin if you were to play the Locrian mode in B on the piano. That's all the white keys beginning with B natural. As I understand it, if you start at B, when you go from E to F, you are going a half step rather than a whole step and thereby hitting a flat fifth (or augmented fourth. Also, flat fifth is more fun to say than diminished) and if you made a chord out of B, D, and F you would be playing a tritone and this is something you simply would not have done in the 1400's because you would stand accused of creating dissonance and dissonance was not okay in the 1400's in those places considered part of Western civilization, also known as the Middle Ages, for they believed dissonance belonged to the devil and thus the Lochrian mode notorious for its tritone, was called evil.
However, this 'diabolus in musica' wouldn't have been played on the piano in the 1400's. There were no pianos yet. They may have had hurdy gurdys. Perhaps it was the lutists who were strumming chords with a flat fifthe until they were chastised severely. By the way, when talking about western music it is important to remember that what we're talking about is only western music, not all music.
Many things were condemned as belonging to the devil back in that day. Astronomy and astronomers fared far worse than music and musicians in the realms of blasphemy though this ocurred long before the middle ages and well into the Renaissance, the 1600's (which wasn't always the rosy era it's occasionally made out to be). After that, about 300 years later and again in the west, the devil stood to blame for the Blues, Jazz, and Rock 'n' Roll without much ado about astronomy or the Locrian mode.
Recent discussions about the Locrian mode involve whether or not it truly exists or if its importance only exists in theory, or to state that its tonic chord, the flat fifth, is unstable and seeks resolution, that it cannot exist without something else to build upon. From the devil to dismissal, for centuries, theoreticians of all kinds have tossed out the Locrian mode and occasionally music other than western along with it.
Taken in this light, the Locrian mode is extremely poetic. And, considered visually on the piano as described and pictured above, its dastardly and diminished flat fifth'ed tritone is in perfect balance. It has the white D key in the center, a black key to each of the D's sides and white keys to either side of each of the two black keys.
Once, some people were singing their songs and dancing their dances while the last few who could speak the ancient language were alive. They were trying to record as many kinds of songs as they could - creation story songs, wedding songs, work songs, everyday life story songs. Everything went wrong the entire time they were recording. People disagreed on how to do the songs and dances, they had electrical problems, instruments kept disappearing. Finally, one of the elders called out "Stop, stop!" He said that the spirits were angry because there had been a death just days before and they were not singing the proper songs, funeral songs. So, the people stopped singing creation story songs, work songs and the like, and began singing songs of sorrowful happenings. Even when they didn't know the words to these songs, the people sounded out each of the syllables of each of the words in their singing and by doing so formed the lyrics perfectly.
These lost words which described the sorrow had turned into parts of words, "syllables of sorrow" and no matter the language, when we hear these syllables which usually descend in tone as does a major chord's slur downward into a minor third, we know that it is a "syllable of sorrow" even when we do not know the meaning of the words.
So, there's an Afro-Cuban music workshop happening and all the visiting musicians and teachers need to be driven to meals and to gigs and to classes and so, Adam's driver when Adam is in town, is now the Cubans' driver. Here he is after three days of staying up till 3 a.m. or whenever the musicians are ready to go to bed and getting up at 7:30 in the morning or whenever the musicians need to get to breakfast, brushing his teeth, trying to wake up before he drives off in the van. It is a white van, like Buddy's, but the steering wheel is on the left. Buddy's is on the right. The driver is beginning to look like the musicians he is tending to.
Before Knockengorroch, before York, Adam went to the tidepools of Trinidad in California where the sand is a fine, grey crushed gravel and the sky is a white foggy mist. When he returns, he will go there again and walk out onto the rocks that belong to the Pacific Rim. Adam doesn't bring his guitar on the plane, it's too hard on the guitar. There are guitars in California as well as in London.
This morning, another little bird, another Vaux's Swift came down the chimney. It is fat and healthy, so I did as they suggested in the Wildlife Care Center. I picked it up and I reached as far up the chimney as I could and placed it against the side so it would cling to the bricks and creep its way back up to its nest. It grasped onto the bricks when I let go of it. See Marley in the background? The little birds make him nervous. Either he is worried that this one is a rat - the little swifts screech and screech at times - or that he will get into trouble in some way to do with the little bird. This is a photo of the previous bird to fall from the nest. I didn't take a photo of the one that fell today because I wanted to get him back up the chimney as quickly as possible. Also, it isn't a good idea to handle them unless they need rescuing or feeding. If you look closely at the bird's tail (click on the photograph to blow it up), you can see little spines at the tip of each tailfeather that the chimney swift sticks into whatever it is clinging to.
I have gone back to the fireplace many times to listen and try and discern if the little bird is okay and will keep watch over the next days to make certain it has not fallen down the chimney. It appears that it has climbed farther up the chimney from where I placed it. Every day, we can hear the calls of the babies as their parents come down the chimney from above. So much so, you'd think they were inside the room.
We call them chimney swifts. Sometimes they are called 'faux swallows' or Vaux's Swifts. Without slowing in flight, the parents dive down the chimney to their nests which they had constructed out of sticks held together and stuck to the bricks with spit, much the same spit that holds together the bird's nests in China that become the Chinese delicacy 'bird's nest soup'. Bird's nest soup has not caught on here.
The chimney swifts cannot perch as they do not have the opposing talon - birds' versions of thumbs. They cling to things and are great at climbing up and down on vertical surfaces.
This year, the babies have been tumbling from their nest to the hearth below. When they are as old and fat as this one (I was told after I took it to the Wildlife Care Center), you can reach up into the chimney provided there is no flu or you can reach past the flu and set the baby on the wall and it will either creep back up to it's nest or the mother will come down to the baby to feed it. I decided to leave it with its 3 other siblings I had taken to the care center each of the three days before this one fell from its nest. This little one has a little bit of food on its beak as it was just fed emergency food to keep it from getting dehydrated (soppy dry dog food made into a pudding is one recommended formula) before I took it to the Wildlife Care Center. Today, the care center told me it has survived as did all of its siblings I had rescued, but one, who had also come down the chimney. Hopefully, it is the last one to fall. When these babies are ready to fly (perhaps in a week), they will be brought back, nearby my house, where they were born to be released.
After the nest or nests are empty and the birds have flown south, we must put a screen across the chimney once again. It is too worrying to have the little ones tumble down the chimney. Even the dog gets upset as he has been trained to not chase birds and when the little ones are cheeping and flapping about, he gets up and goes into another room.
It's a the "SpeakEasy" pub in York and it's a soundcheck. Jim, the drummer, travels with everything he needs to make a hot cup of tea on the road at anyplace with a level surface, at anytime the band has stopped. Everyone is hard at work, even though they've been sitting in the van since driving here directly from London and only stopped once at a service station (no, no time for Jim's tea kettle there) and everyone is hungry and tired, but that's what tea is for.
In the daytime, doors open and close. From the street, steps are most usually seen as something to walk up to get to the door.
In the night, an enclosed set of steps in front of a door could mean a place to sit out of the rain. Or, it could appear as a place to sleep somewhat protected from the cold and those who wander the darkness.
Or, a door above the steps could be an entranceway to a warm room with a table where you pay to be given a hot drink and a chair in which to sit and youwatch through the window as the rain falls on the sidewalks outside? Or, behind the door stands a desk and behind that sits a clerk to whom you pay for a place to sleep on a cold night?
It all depends upon who you are, what you are looking for, or if that door is locked.
We had the 4th of July here, on the Plaza. Ronnie put on his red shirt with the white sleeves, his green shoes and went dancing. There was no sunshine that day in this town so everyone put on sweaters and hoodies over their summer shirts and went to the game down at the ballpark, drank beer, ate food, set off fireworks without starting any fires and had a good time anyway, even though many wonder what we are celebrating, these days. So, on the 4th Ronnie went dancing and many watched and celebrated dancing.
That's a small glimpse of the back of Buddy the driver's head, up there in the front seat of his van. Buddy, the provider of home throughout the tour, has just finished picking up the members of Errol Linton's Blues Vibe, and has safely stowed their luggage, the amps, the guitar, bass, drums, and harmonicas and now he's following the bus out of London and is headed toward the M1 which travels due north to places like Northamptonshire, where Norman Of Catford was born. Soon, the band will be wishing they had food stowed in the van as well.
A photo from the summer's travels of Errol Linton's Blues Vibe on tour north from London, through the center of England to Scotland, then all the way back down to the southern coast of England. Here's 3 of the 4 members (not shown - Jim the drummer and, of course, Buddy the driver) at one of the stops on the trip - the Knockengorroch World Ceilidh Music festival in Dumfreyshire, Scotland. Shown, left to right, are Adam Blake, Errol Linton, Little George Sueref on an unusually, they say, sunny afternoon to a happy audience who loved Errol and the band. Nobody had to say this, it was obvious.