New Directions – 10

Beach Hut 21

“SUNSHINE, NIGER SEEDS AND ISLANDS ON THE EDGE”

Watching the wonderful BBC series “Islands on the Edge” about life and wildlife on the Hebridean islands has been a very enjoyable experience. I learned a lot that I didn’t know about the birds and other creatures that migrate from Africa and Greenland, much like our tourist visitors from all over the world. Arran shares the history and the natural history of the islands, though we are much closer to the mainland, only a one-hour ferry journey away.

I was so pleased to see Alice Starmore featured in the programme. She is an amazing knitter and uses yarn colours which reflect the landscape around her to produce her work which is an echo of where she lives.

I like to think that I did this in my knitwear designs and in my weavings, reflecting the beautiful island where I live. The photo at the top is called “Beach Hut”. The instructions for weaving it will be in my book “Practical Weaving” to be published by Bloomsbury later this year.

One of my projects when I had my studio was to work towards producing a clear rainbow with natural dyes, not possible from the plants available round where I live. The goal was to produce a rainbow using non-toxic materials and processes that would not harm the environment. I spent a few weeks at the Art Center in California at Mendocino, learning about safe materials and procedures and incorporated the results into my knitwear. Totally the opposite of using the dyes and colours from round about, but equally exciting and satisfying

.Rainbow1

I had a lovely surprise this afternoon thanks to my friend and carer Fiona. Someone had done something lovely for her yesterday and as a thankyou that person said that she would love it if Fiona would do something for someone else. She knew that I had been looking for Niger seeds to attract the goldfinches to my bird feeder. Today she duly arrived with a packet of seeds which are now waiting enticingly to bring those gorgeous birds to my window. I’ve treated myself to “Bird Watching for Beginners” the beautifully illustrated book by Rob Hume. No excuse now for “finch confusion”.   And something else to think about besides ongoing health issues.

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To read about my art and textile work:

The Arran Knitting Company

Rainbow Textiles

Blogs I love:

Scottish Island Mum

Miracle Design

Angela Elliott-Walker

Nordic House

Simple Abundance

New Directions – 9

Finnieston Crane

Finnieston Crane, Clydeside, Glasgow

“THE “STEAMIE” AND OTHER SOURCES OF MORAL GUIDANCE AND SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR”

Change of weather today. No sunshine. A peaceful day nevertheless, just pottering about, sorting out 10 years of notes and manuscripts into some kind of order. In the process a new pattern emerges and I feel a book coming on that has nothing to do with the facts and figures I’ve collected and more to do with thoughts that are floating around, waiting to be put in some sort of order.

In the course of my sorting and fixing I came across a couple of verses from Proverbs which I’d written down years ago as a reminder and it struck me again how there are some things we can rely on in our lives as things inevitably change and we plot and scheme to go one way when there’s a better alternative.

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not to thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him and he shall direct thy paths.”

It seems to me now that this strikes a chord with the essential me much more than the me in the past who learned these passages by heart with no real understanding of what they meant. It also seems that wisdom such as this transcends institutional faith and is available to all of us if we sit still and listen.

It’s not easy to stay open-minded with the events such as those in Woolwich this past week where racial and cultural hatred resulted in the death of a young father, just because he chose to be a soldier. I have to be honest and say that I’m glad my sons never had to make that choice and I want to be tolerant and loving towards all, but I could feel anger and sadness welling up in me at this unnecessary loss of a good human being and his son who will never know his father. This is one of those occasions that I will not “lean  to mine own understanding”  because my own understanding takes me nowhere in coming to terms with incidents like this one. I can only sit still and listen and try to see the way forward through such horror, but then sitting still is still the biggest lesson I have to learn in my daily life. So far impatience takes over all too often.

Since I started to write a few minutes ago the sun has come out for the first time today and everything looks fresh and green and beautiful.

Tonight I’m in for a treat. I’m going out for the first time in ages to see our local drama association’s production of “The Steamie” a play written in dialect about the women who used to live in the tenements in Glasgow who used the same “Steamie” or launderette. The dialogue is hilarious and the author Tony Roper captures exactly the spirit of the women who were married to the men who built the ships and worked on the riverside. They had very definite opinions as to how things should be and the Steamie was not only the place where they did the weekly laundry. It was the centre of their neighbourhood existence and a font of gossip and humour to be ignored or underestimated at their peril.

I can’t wait!

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To read about my art and textile work:

The Arran Knitting Company

Rainbow Textiles

Blogs I love:

Scottish Island Mum

Miracle Design

Angela Elliott-Walker

Nordic House

Simple Abundance

New Directions – 8

“I SHOULD HAVE REALISED…”

Resin Furniture1

table and chairs in waiting…

Yesterday I wrote about the emotional rollercoaster that is recovery and recuperation, not even thinking that it was the full moon. Of COURSE it was an emotional time. I was sitting in my chair reading around half past ten, when out of my peripheral vision there was a bright light outside the window. For half an hour I was treated to a very large moon moving between the rooftops across the garden. The birch trees at the end of the lawn were lit from behind, standing tall and moving ever so slightly in the breeze. There were clouds crossing the sky at an angle to the trees, playing games with the moon so the whole thing was like a light show – one of those experiences that would be really difficult to capture in paints or pens but is crystal clear in my mind’s eye and always will be. Only a couple of times has the full moon taken me so by surprise, usually involving silhouetted birch trees like charcoal marks in the foreground, though there was one Hogmanay when we were walking the forestry track from Whiting Bay to Kilmory and the moon came out just as we got to the darkest part of the forest.

Needless to say, last night I was completely sidetracked from any thoughts other than in the moment and in the moon. It was a lovely experience.

Now this morning the sun is shining again so it’s time for sunblock and sitting outside for as long as possible, soaking up the healing that is part of our lovely garden. I’m sure the herbs and flowers had a party last night and gathered their own store of energy to help them grow.

Ok, that clinches it. It’s going to be a beautiful summer. I’ve just taken delivery of a garden set of green resin, with a lovely wee round table and 4 chairs. I’ve been missing my old one ferociously since I moved – it was at least 10 years old and much the worse for wear, but it represented parties and family visits  where we could sit out in between midges and enjoy the summer weather. I spent a lot of time writing at that table. Much of my book “Practical Weaving” was written out there when the weather was good and it brings back memories of papers fluttering under stone paperweights, bird song and the occasional mower from nearby.  It will be interesting to see what this new table and chairs will bring.

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To read about my art and textile work:

The Arran Knitting Company

Rainbow Textiles

Blogs I love:

Scottish Island Mum

Miracle Design

Angela Elliott-Walker

Nordic House

Simple Abundance

New Directions – 7

Blue Pots 20131

“WHIRLPOOLS AND SOAKING UP THE SUN (IN BETWEEN THE SHOWERS)”

This has been a week of paying attention to the small things and a roller coaster of emotion as my body heals from the recent onslaught. On the monitoring charts I’m winning and although I still feel a bit ropy from changes in medication I can get out to sit in the garden when the sun shines, something I couldn’t physically manage last year. The herbs that Julie planted last month in pots are coming on in good form as well as the marigolds and nasturtiums we planned for the underneath the shrubs to add colour to their wonderful green and white background.

I am working with a friend to design and build a window box structure of the sort that I’m always sneaking on to my Facebook page from “Two Women and a Hoe”. It’s amazing to see what we can do with a small space and VERY rewarding when I can sit outside and catch up with the latest developments.

I’ve treated myself to “Bird Watching for Beginners” to learn about the finches that frequent the bird feeders and hope for another visit from the goldfinch who stopped by last week. What an amazing bird. He wasn’t afraid of me sitting by the window observing his beautiful colours, but I have a feeling that if I’d taken my camera out it would have produced a birdless photo.

Lots of blessings including a very positive eye test – I don’t need new glasses – YEAH! and there is no diabetic damage to the retina, so my body is fighting back to health and that feels good.

Part and parcel of recovery is that you are bound to feel sad some days and this happened to me this morning. But you’re allowed to feel sad even when you’re well and the trick is to use the tools that you know work, like meditation and counting your blessings and gradually the sad moves away. If there isn’t a Sesame Street song about this, there should be!  “It’s not easy being sad…..” as sung by Kermit the Frog!!

I recommend Sarah Ban Breathnach’s website Simple Abundance  as a think piece to remember what’s good in daily life.

Got back on the manicure trail after the hospital break and Lynn and I devised a bright red, in-your-face colour to boost morale which cheered us both up enormously. Forgot to take a photo when she was here so I may end up with the camera between my teeth!

Sad today was also about not being able to go to my brother’s wedding in Seattle in August. He is marrying his long term partner Paul as part of a celebration that gay marriage is now legally recognised in Washington, and their 28 years together has been given legal recognition. I wish them all the best and I’m very proud of my “baby brother” for having the courage of his convictions.

So that’s all just part of the whirlpool that is my life at the moment. Sharing it with you is a privilege and a gift because it gives me an opportunity to put it all in writing, observe the issues that I didn’t even know were there, and move on to the next phase.

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To read about my art and textile work:

The Arran Knitting Company

Rainbow Textiles

Blogs I love:

Scottish Island Mum

Miracle Design

Angela Elliott-Walker

Nordic House

New Directions – 6

Nasturtiums

“FLOWERS  – A VERY PERSONAL MEMORY COLLECTION”

You can probably tell that flowers play a big part in my life, in bunches, in arrangements, my houseplants and in the garden. I’m reading a lovely book by Kate Morton called “The Forgotten Garden” which I highly recommend. Today was the preview of the  Royal Chelsea Flower Show with its stunning designs and inspirational plantings.

All this, plus the fact that I’m slowly filing photographs made me think of moments that REALLY stand out in my flower memory and how those flowers immediately trigger moments of beauty.

My first flower memory from about age 5 was helping my Grandma in her cottage garden to pick blackcurrants for her wonderful jeely pieces (jam sandwiches). The only rule she had was that it was impolite to put a knife in the jam, even in a jar and she had a collection of jam spoons as standard issue. In the garden the spicy scent of nasturtiums which hold the warmth of the sun  as part of the memory which I still experience today.

My other Gran had lupins in her back garden which ended in the back at the railway embankment. The first time I came back to Britain in 1966 after the emigration we stayed with my aunt & uncle at RAF Halton and on the train journey into London the embankment was FULL of lupins of every shade imaginable.

Lupins

Orange blossom, the heady scent of daphne and the beautiful snowball flowers bring back memories of Fair Oaks and the California sunshine. My mother used to send me a fragrant box of flowers to whichever cold climate we happened to live in. It was like a box of sunlight which helped dispel the cold and dark outside.

Daphne.jpgstock-photo-branch-with-flowers-of-daphne-mezereum-photographed-in-nature-90885161

I’ve always loved lilac which I first came across in the garden of an old Victorian house near where we lived in Fair Oaks. I used to walk down that street as a detour on the way home from school just to smell them in passing. I visited the home of one of the German delegates in Frankfurt during our meetings for the EU project “Changing Track at Third Age”. I walked into the living room and she had the most beautiful huge round handmade pot filled with lilacs which literally took my breath away. Since then I’ve NEVER had enough lilacs, although my white dwarf lilac did OK in our last garden, but I didn’t want to move it. 

Lilacs 2 stock-photo-collage-from-nine-lilac-spring-flower-images-124704766

Last but not least another California flower which brings back strong memories is the Mattelija Poppy. They were grown in the gardens of the Mendocino Art Centre up on the Pacific Coast where I taught textile arts and served as Artist-in-Residence. To me they remind me of the wonderful, creative atmosphere in the studios and gallery and the professional pride I felt at working there.

Matillja Poppy

As I wrote this I began to think of more examples where flowers are associated with events in my life. To be continued……..

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To read about my art and textile work:

The Arran Knitting Company

Rainbow Textiles

Blogs I love:

Scottish Island Mum

Miracle Design

Angela Elliott-Walker

Nordic House

New Directions – 5

IMG_0619

“THOSE TULIPS JUST KEEP GOING”

Oh finally! Enough sunshine to sit in the garden and soak up that Vitamin D, meditate with birdsong all around and my newly planted herbs celebrating and looking their best.

I’ve been home from hospital for a week and it seems like finally today my body recognises that it doesn’t have to be scrunched up in a hospital bed watching the weather through the window. It’s been a very peaceful week with a sense of relief that they were able to deal with the main problems and now I am starting to feel good again. I cherish that feeling. I managed out for lunch with my cronies Liz, Liz and Morag and had a lovely run to Sannox while we took Morag home. The water was still and every shade of blue imaginable all framed by the surrounding hills of Kintyre and Ayrshire. Yep, that very same Ayrshire that I flew over a few days before. Arran can really take your breath away at times and that was one of those times.

On Thursday morning I felt strong enough to go along to the lounge for coffee and it was amazing to realise that I had missed my neighbours and that they had been concerned about me. Then in the afternoon we had a communion service here with our local minister and all agreed that it was lovely to be round the table rather than in rows of pews.

I’m so grateful for my faith and the comfort it gives me, even though it’s been through many guises. But somehow during this illness I’ve realised that I can really let go and stop trying to do everything myself. Communion now is an opportunity for me to show gratitude for the support I’ve had in the last 2 1/2 years and an opportunity to ask forgiveness  for being such a worrier, often with “catastrophic expectations” when really things are working themselves out in spite of me.

The other reading which has been a comfort to me are Dr. Wayne Dyer’s “The Power of Intention” and his interpretation of the verses of the Tao-Te-Ching by Lao-Tzu “Change Your Thoughts – Change Your Life” something that I have had to learn during the recent past. It works.

For me combining this ancient reading with reading the Gospel gives me the inspiration and information that I need and want so that my spirit grows.

I love that quote: “Old Age – The time when you finally get your head together – then your body starts to fall apart” !!

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To read about my art and textile work:

The Arran Knitting Company

Rainbow Textiles

Blogs I love:

Scottish Island Mum

Miracle Design

Angela Elliott-Walker

Nordic House

New Directions – 4

SIMON'S GRADUATION 7

“MOVING ON”

Comments from friends and articles in our local paper “The Arran Banner” reminded me this week that many of our young people will be leaving school, setting off on new journeys and exploring new possibilities. Because my children were 7 and then 10 years apart, the “empty nest” happened slowly and I was able to absorb the changes quite easily until Simon finished his degree at Aberdeen University and headed for a job placement in Peru. That was in 2004, but I still fill up with emotion when I see the kids piling off the school bus.  I miss the treacle scones we made and the quick run down on the day’s events before they disappeared to find friends and after school adventures.

Hearing from friends on Facebook who graduated from my high school in California in  June 1963, I always get a bit nostalgic   as I remember some of the things that came to an end and the new experiences which took their place. Our school was a new build so we were the first graduating class.  Now this year will be our 50th reunion.

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I wrote this poem while Simon was travelling in Peru and Bolivia in December 2008, experiencing Christmas Day and Lake Titicaca..

Transported

The school bus stops in the village

Spills out its uniform clad contents

In all shapes and sizes

Exploding with relief, mischief and untapped potential

Oblivious to past or future

Wholly in the present

The only burden an overloaded backpack 
of books, homework, sweetie wrappers and smelly trainers.

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The white Nissan Micra stops outside the door.

Spills out its content of very long legs in uniform black jeans

Long, lanky bodies in red polo tops 
unfolding into responsible young prefects.

Oblivious to past or future

Wholly in the present.

The only burden a car boot full of backpacks
 full of books, sweetie wrappers and smelly trainers.

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The bus from Peru to Bolivia stops in La Paz.

Spills out its denim clad contents, T-shirts with slogans among the bright ponchos and native hats.

Rubbing weary eyes, after a night in pretzel formation.

Oblivious to past or future

Wholly in the present.

The only burden an overloaded backpack 
with Rough Guides, water bottles, food crumbs and smelly trainers.

Looking for the nearest Internet cafe

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To read about my art and textile work:

The Arran Knitting Company

Rainbow Textiles

Blogs I love:

Scottish Island Mum

Miracle Design

Angela Elliott-Walker

Nordic House

New Directions – 3

BRIGIT’S GARDEN, GALWAY, IRELAND

Galway May 06 017Bog Oak Sculpture and Round House

One of the most interesting aspects of changing direction is recognising how much information we receive from our own experiences and memories to carry on our journey.

In letting go, we don’t have to throw out the baby with the bathwater. In my case at the moment changing direction means finishing my “PRACTICAL WEAVING” book, turning 35 years of experience and memories into a guide for others who want to learn to weave.

I’ve just finished making another small book on- line which is a photo memory of a trip to Brigit’s Garden, one of my favourite places in Galway. Spread over a few acres with walking trails and woodland forages, the centre of the garden has a round meeting-house, a communion table and throne made from ancient bog oak and standing stones constructed out of concrete. I went there with my daughter and granddaughters – a true celebration of three generations of gorgeous girls.

Galway May 06 005 Galway May 06 006

 There are sculptures like this one in the Winter Garden made from coppered birch leaves of a woman bending in prayer.

Galway May 06 039

My favourite one is  called “Earth Mother”. You can’t see the whole sculpture (my helicopter would have been useful for this!)  from the path as it forms curves in the earth shaped like a woman’s body. You can walk round the shape of the woman’s body.  When we were there it was covered with primroses and cowslips. You can see part of the “Earth Mother” in the photos of the Gorgeous Girls.

Celebrations are held at the Celtic points in the year.

Samhain – beginning of the Year – Earth Woman Sculpture, planted with wild flowers. Time to be still and prepare for spring.

Imbolc – old Celtic name for the spring festival on 1st February, St. Brigit’s Day – Season of New Life

Bealtaine – May Day, Fire Festival – Time of Awakenings

Lughnasa – Early August  – Harvest and Time of Abundance – Time to Give Thanks and Celebrate

This day is part of the fabric of my past incorporated into the present. I can’t help thinking that in spite of myself I’m weaving again, this time a cloak that I can wrap myself in and remember the beautiful moments I’ve experienced in my life.

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To find out more about Brigit’s Garden see:

Brigit’s Garden

To read about my art and textile work:

The Arran Knitting Company

Rainbow Textiles

Blog’s I love:

Scottish Island Mum

Miracle Design

Angela Elliott-Walker

Nordic House

New Directions – 2

heli-300x215Daisies1

UNEXPECTED AIRLIFT

I love our National Health Service, warts and all.  A week ago Tuesday I popped up to Lamlash Hospital for a blood transfusion as I said before because my hemoglobin had been playing tricks on me. They discovered that I had a high temperature and my blood sugar had skyrocketed and neither were going anywhere. By Thursday there was no change and the Liver Unit in Edinburgh wanted me brought there for further observation. At 3:00 PM I found out that I was going by helicopter at 4:00 PM to Edinburgh, on a journey that normally takes 3 or 4 hours. We were to speed over Scotland in 1/2 an hour.

The medical emergency team arrived by helicopter, looking somewhat like the Ghostbusters with tubes, pipes and bags everywhere. Their efficiency was incredible and before you could say “Harold the Helicopter” I was at the take off point near the ferry pier in Brodick, with a small bright yellow helicopter waiting to load up. The stretcher with my legs was in the tail space, there was room for two pilots and the three members of the emergency team keeping an eye on me. The ride was very smooth and I could sort of sit up in the stretcher so I could see the spectacular view unfolding below.

I thought we were still crossing over Glasgow when I realised that it was the Royal Edinburgh Infirmary rushing up to meet us and we were about to land.

I came home the long way yesterday by road and ferry, but I’m spoiled forever by that speedy wee yellow machine. Everything is calm and balanced again and I feel as if I’ve had a dress rehearsal for the trip when my new liver becomes available and I am no longer anxious about that. I forgot my phone charger in the dash of collecting my suitcase, which thankfully was ready-packed.  Lo and behold the hospital had some spares due to people like me leaving them behind.

So my thanks in no particular order go to the helicopter and ambulance crews, staff at Lamlash Hospital and the Edinburgh Royal Liver Unit. I also have to say thanks to Jayne, my daughter’s mother-in-law who introduced me to red salmon sandwiches and came to the rescue when I discovered I only had nighties to travel home in. (Note to self: pack trousers and T-shirt in “ready to go suitcase” along with spare phone charger!)

Last but not least thanks to Anne and Alison for keeping my flat in order and ant-free. Have the little beasties finally got the message??

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To find out more about my art and textile work:

The Arran Knitting Company

Rainbow Textiles

websites I love:

Scottish Island Mum

Miracle Design

New Directions – 1

I wrote this just before I was helicoptered off to Edinburgh with a serious infection & complications. I’m OK and back home with a blog I prepared in hospital, so watch this space…

“BACK TO BLOGGING AND BUTTERFLIES”

Daisies1I’m blogging again. My hemoglobin got the better of me in the past few days for which the only remedy was sleep and a blood transfusion, but as usual during this break I’ve come back refreshed, finding that my creative life has taken a new direction while I was asleep and there are new experiences and contacts which I hadn’t thought of previously. It’s exciting when you can see a timeline progressing under its own steam. For me a new timeline started on Groundhog Day – February 2, no particular significance except for the new direction.

My book “Practical Weaving” has now gone to the publisher and will be released at the end of the year by Bloomsbury. In the finishing off, I contacted Fiona Doubleday who I’ve known for years to get permission to use a photo of her daughter Molly taken some 10 years ago when she was learning to weave.

Fiona and I had collaborated before when she lived on Arran and ran the Arran Trading Post. She sold my natural dyed rainbow wool and Weavelets as we christened my small works woven on willow hoops provided by Basket Maker Julie Gurr. Julie now looks after my container garden with just the right understanding of how I want to look. We’re plotting and planning for this year  to add some new herbs and flowers. Last years plants and shrubs are thriving.

Julie studies meditation as does Fiona, but they didn’t know this until I was thinking out loud on my phone call to Fiona and realised that she and Julie have at least two interests in common. Then along came Liz McCulloch who I’ve known for a few years when we met at a course at the hospital on managing long-term illness. Fiona was planning her first workshop in flower arranging and the week before, I was having lunch with Liz and she confided that she had signed up for a flower arranging course (with Fiona) and she was feeling a bit nervous because she didn’t know Fiona and she wasn’t sure she’d be good enough. I was able to reassure her on both counts and her stunning flower arrangement was a much sought after raffle prize at yesterday’s Butterfly Tea.

Which brings us nicely back to the timeline, represented here by the daisy chain which I use on my website to show how single incidents loop together to form a recognisable chain. Another bit of synchronicity occurred when Fiona and I, quite independently watched “Mary and Martha” with Pam Ferris and Hilary Swank which was shown on Comic Relief. I won’t spoil the story because the film is out on DVD, but both Fiona and I had the  knee jerk reaction “No more deaths from malaria.” Fiona contacted the Butterfly Project which raises money for nets for children in Zambia and the Arran Project was born.

So from one routine phone call, one  friendship was revived, three new local liaisons became possible, one anti-malaria project was started, a new studio was opened, and a Butterfly Tea and Cakes Afternoon brought 31 people together to raise £200 – enough to buy 40 nets.

One local young woman is filming the whole of the Project which runs to October and 2 very talented young Doubleday bakers baked 78 cupcakes which were appreciated by all.

We don’t know yet where the Butterfly journey will take us, but if it multiplies at the rate we experienced yesterday, we can encourage others to get involved and decrease the death rate of children from that pesky disease.

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Fiona’s Blog: Scottish Island Mum

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