Tuesday, August 11, 2020

When The Well Runs Dry

Rarely have I had the well run dry of ideas for more textiles.  It was one of the things that drew me to weaving - I almost immediately saw the potential for unlimited creativity.  So much so that I became overwhelmed and my biggest challenge then became to choose what to do.

I did that by setting myself creative limitations or boundaries.

First was function.  What textile *thing* did I want to make?  What function did it need to have?  What choices did I need to make to create a textile with the characteristics that it would require?

Only after all those limits were decided upon did I begin to think about colour and design.

Once I had the parameters set out, I didn't need to think about the technical issues any more and I could just play with colour and design.  That was were the fun part was.  The scary part, truth be told, because I never was an intuitive colour user.  I had to work to get good colour combinations.  And sometimes I failed.

But I never let my 'failure' be the end.  It was just one more step in the process.

At times I would say that I was either too stupid or too smart to quit, never really knowing the answer to that.

People would assume that I was making a living at weaving when all I ever did was make an income.  By no metric in our society could the income I brought in be described as a 'living'.  But I stubbornly refused to stop.  To give up.

Because what I got was satisfaction from doing something that yes, challenged me, but that I also loved doing, on many different levels.  And just enough income to keep on, keeping on.

In terms of 'retirement', I could never just stop weaving - and I won't, until it becomes physically impossible for me to continue.  Even so, there are other ways to play with string, not just weaving on a big loom - knitting being one.  My mother carried on knitting until well into her 80s even though it had become painful.  She realized that when she stopped knitting, her hands seized up and she could do even less.  So she continued knitting for the hospital auxiliary gift shop, although her output was reduced considerably.

Right now I am working through some physical issues, trying to regain some function in this body.  My new massage therapist commented that it was time that I stopped pushing through, time I accepted when I was in pain, and let my body rest so it could recover.

I am already seeing progress in reduced pain levels, and am trying really hard to remember to do the exercises because they seem to be helping, as subtle as they seem.  Apparently that is what this body needs right now - subtle, not dramatic.

My goal each day is to spend about two hours in the studio.  Some days I manage a little more because prep work takes time, but not much physical effort.  Some days it is less.

Since the end of last year I have burned through I don't know how many pounds of 2/16 cotton weaving tea towels.  I'm down to the dribs and drabs of tag ends of tubes in most cases and coming up with colour combinations that appeal to me is getting harder and harder.  That particular 'well' is running 'dry'.  Stash busting - it's a thing!

Today I hit the halfway mark of the current warp and have four more warps waiting in the queue, with a fifth percolating on the back burner.  I think I might have enough for one more mostly beige warp.  Yes, I have lots of beige based towels, but I still have yarn, so...

But the well is running dry in terms of ways to use up more of this yarn.  Once I have the four warps in the queue woven, I can recombine those colours and perhaps come up with a few more warps.

I am focused and determined.  And I will keep weaving for as long as I can.

In the next week or so I will be posting photos of the latest towels.  More twill blocks based on a four shaft overshot, originally designed by Janet Dawson, edited by Tien Chiu, then converted to twill blocks and edited to meet my requirements.

No (wo)man is an island - we spark each other, and spur each other on.

Monday, August 10, 2020


In my lifetime I have seen attitudes swing from a focus on the Humanities to Technology.

Is this a good thing?  Not always, in my opinion.

Perhaps setting aside Humanities as an area of study has led to less humane treatment of others.  A lack of understanding of how human beings are all part of one race, one people.  All *human* in their diversity.

Ignoring Humanities means that we understand less about our own selves - and those around us.

Throughout the centuries artists and poets have tried to capture what makes us 'human'.  In high school English, we had a component of poetry, in all its forms.  In English 12, our teacher brought in current 'pop' records and we studied those songs for the poetry they were, set to music.  I still remember the day she brought in Simon and Garfunkle's latest lp with the song 'Richard Cory' and discussed life, success and even, yes, suicide.  How money doesn't necessarily buy happiness.

Many of our greatest story tellers put their poetry to music.  When I was a teenager, Leonard Cohen became popular, with his mystical lyrics, set to melodious notes that lifted and carried me along, wondering what he was actually trying to say.  Sometimes I thought I understood, others?  Not so much.  But the music kept me coming back to listen and listen again.

Gordon Lightfoot was another singer/songwriter that told stories with his music and words.  Joni Mitchell captured vivid images in her web of song.

Bob Dylan (taking his stage name from the poet Dylan Thomas - there's a clue!) also intrigued my generation and others to follow.

Many poets seem to be able to choose a phrase that suddenly illuminates something about being human.  If nothing else, poems frequently cause people to stop and think.

John Donne's assertion that 'no man is an island' struck me particularly as a teenager - I looked around the classroom and saw the group of us as one, yes, even those I didn't like much.  We were part of humanity, part of a collective story.

Words have always held power.  What we call myths frequently dig into what it means to be human - or not.

Right now I am reading The Wood Wife by Terri Windling.  It is a novel about a writer trying to understand the lives of a couple - he a poet, she a painter.

Other writers that I enjoy also pull from poetry, some writing their own, some referencing other writers.  Louise Penny has a major character who is a poet.  Ian Rankin frequently uses music lyrics as reference points in his stories.

And so many others, too many to name.

For me, a book needs to be written eloquently.  What does that mean?  To me it means that language must evoke something.  Look at the mundane in a way that is fresh.  Enlightening.

I rarely read poetry as such these days, but I find the thread of poetry runs through the books I choose to read.  And no, I haven't forgotten writers such as Margaret Atwood, Guy Gavriel Kay, Dorothy Dunnett, who was the queen of character development and the descriptive phrase that shone light on a person and situation.

Words matter.  

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Words Matter

long ramble today, not sure where I'm going with my musings - might want to grab a cup of tea if you want to come along for the journey...

As a child I learned the rejoinder "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never harm me".  (Yes, we had bullies when I was a child - seems there will always be bullies.)

As I grew older I began to realize that while words might not physically harm me, they could do damage in far less obvious, more subtle ways.

Words matter.

The words the world tells us about ourselves, about others, shape our attitudes towards the reality we live in.

As human beings there appear to be two major kinds of people - those who are essentially negative, those who are not.  Those who only see clouds, those who go digging for silver linings.  Those who are afraid, those who do something anyway.

Fear is not a bad thing, in and of itself.  My fear of injury has prevented me from having more injuries that I have had!  My danger radar is - and always has been - well functioning.

But sometimes I needed to do a risk assessment - how much would it hurt me to write and submit an article for publication?  If I got rejected, how much damage would happen to my ego? 

If I design and create textiles, classes, books and no one buys them, how much damage would I incur? 

At times I did suffer 'damage' - textiles not purchased.  Books ignored.  Classes cancelled due to lack of enrollment.

But I had a vision.  I decided to commit to that vision and work towards making it happen and that rejection was simply going to be part of the process, part of the journey.

Throughout my life I have loved reading.  My mother encouraged and enabled my reading habit from a very early age.  It was easy child minding for her.  She knew that if I was engrossed in a book I wasn't getting into mischief. 

I read pretty much everything I could get my hands on - comics, fiction, non-fiction, prose and poetry.

I learned to love a well turned phrase, a description that showed me the mundane in a new and profound light.

At 12 I discovered science fiction and away I went down that rabbit hole.  I'd already read the Alice books because mom had signed me up for a 'classics' book club.  And of course the 'fairy tales',  which opened up the world of fantasy and magic.

Books took me to different worlds and different times.  I explored how other people thought and the challenges they were faced with.

My horizons expanded and - I suppose - my empathy grew.

Most of the travel I did as a child was 'local' - as in within my own province.  At 16 mom put me on the train by myself to make the 4 day journey to Montreal, where I was hosted by my aunt.  None of my cousins then living at home spoke English so I pretty much had only my aunt to speak to.  Then at 19 it was another train journey to Montreal so I could board a freighter to sail to Norway, then train to Orebro,Sweden.  Again I was plunged into a 'foreign' country - different culture, different language.

It was that trip where I learned that I could function on my own, more or less, with the kindness of strangers.

I am not afraid of people from other countries or cultures, probably because I did so much reading I am no stranger to differences within the human race.

I don't know.

All I know is that Words Matter.  The words we use to speak to ourselves matter.  The words we use to refer to other people matter.

I sometimes stumble in the kind of self-talk I use.  Society has long ingrained in me attitudes towards the female body.  I have absorbed some of those negative attitudes and sometimes those words come out.  When someone else calls me out for using them, I am taken aback.  But when they do, it is a good time to examine my attitudes.  And try to change the words I use - to myself, and to others.

This time of pandemic is a good time to stop and think.  Think about the words we use,  how we perceive ourselves and others.  Think about how we can improve things for all, including ourselves.  As many people have pointed out, if someone has a problem, it is very rarely the fault of someone who has less than they do.  When we make things better for those who have little, we help everyone.

Rick Hansen has done a lifetime of work bringing the issues of people with disability into the light.  Breaking my ankle and being non-weight bearing for six weeks (and the months of recovery afterwards!) brought the issue of mobility home to me on a very personal level.  As I age and my mobility lessens, I have a heightened awareness of how things like doors opening automagically help everyone, not just someone in a wheelchair or using mobility aids (crutches, walker, etc).  They help the young mother with a stroller, elderly with bags and so on.

So many 'disabilities' are invisible.  If someone is healthy and physically fit, it is really hard to see how someone with a physical challenge may find it difficult to move in our society.  Building a ramp or having ground level access makes a building accessible to everyone. 

During this pandemic we may all be in the same rising sea, but some of us are on a raft or a leaky dinghy, not a yacht. 

In this time of self-isolation and self-care, I am finding it a good time to look inside myself and examine my reality. 

I am grateful for many things.  The life I have led - all of it, the ups and the downs - my friends/family who have taught me many lessons. 

I am grateful for living in a 'safe' environment for me, the privilege I have of being able to stay home and out of the line of transmission, but still be able to get the help I need with my aging body.  I appreciate the fact I can stay in touch with people via the internet, and that I have a small circle of friends willing to come here and physically distance visit in my carport.  Hopefully the virus will be vanquished enough that we will be able to meet inside in the winter!

But our province also seems to be having the predicted second wave.  Numbers are growing again, and too many people are complacent about taking appropriate safety measures.

Stay safe everyone, until we can meet again in real life.  {{{hugs}}}

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Safety First

It is confusing to me why anyone would reject wearing a simple mask to protect themselves from a virus that largely enters the body via the mouth/nose.

Especially when the objections are largely about body autonomy - of the 'you can't make me' variety.

Um, yeah, about that.

Cigarette smoking is now regulated because of health/safety reasons.  I well remember working at jobs where I was one of the few non-smokers in the place - how my clothing would stink when I got home, how my nose would run, the sinus headaches I would have - all because I'm allergic to smoke.  Airplane journeys were terrible with the majority of people smoking in the confined space and recirculated air.

Seat belts became a requirement after I had my first car.   When we bought our first brand new car with three point retractable seat belts in 1970 they still were not required.  It was our choice to buy a car with that safety feature (we'd just had our car totalled in an accident and safety was high on our minds.)

When Doug worked at the pulp mill he was required to purchase safety toe boots - and wear them at work.  Throughout his work life he routinely had to wear safety gear.

Numerous occupations have safety rules and regulations - high viz vests, hard hats, respirators, chain mail gloves, safety guards on equipment - the list goes on.

So why the fuss about wearing a mask now?

Female students are routinely sent home for violating dress codes (for being too distracting to the boys) so why can't schools mandate mask wearing? 

I don't get it. 

I live in a home that has been built according to safety regulations of my province, using electricity that has been installed using safety features such as grounded wires, drink water that has been treated to be safe to drink - straight out of the tap.  I drive on streets with lines on to indicate where my lane is, I signal turns and lane changes and use daylight running lights (have done since 1974 when I worked at the telephone company.  They had done a fleet study mandating some of the fleet use their headlights during the day and comparing rate of accidents to those that didn't.  It was overwhelmingly obvious that their fleet using headlights had fewer accidents than those that didn't.  It became company wide policy for every person driving a company vehicle to use headlights during the day.  In 1974.)

I receive health care from professionals who are regulated as to their education and best practices.

At every turn, I am protected by rules and regulations.

For those who complain they can't breathe, you might be wearing a mask that doesn't fit well.  There are various styles around, some with more space in front of nose/mouth.  (See the 'plague masks' they used to wear during the bubonic plague for extreme examples) 

For those who say you breathe in your own carbon monoxide - first of all you don't breathe out monoxide, secondly the mask is porous enough that your exhaled breath goes out and air comes in on your next intake of breath.  That's how masks work.  They filter out any droplets in the air you breathe in.  They prevent any droplets you exhale from exiting the masks.

Medical professionals wear masks all day and don't suffer from hypoxia so wearing a paper or cloth mask for a few minutes while you get your shopping is a small price to pay to avoid a ventilator. 

The virus doesn't care if you believe in it or not.  It will infect you if it enters your body.  Best way to avoid it is to avoid groups of people - because you don't know if they are positive for Covid-19.  They may not be aware that they are spreading the virus because they may not know they encountered someone who was positive.

Stay home if you possibly can (I know not everyone is able to).  If you must go out, wear a mask.  Try to maintain six feet distance between you and other people.  Use hand sanitizer if you have multiple errands to run.  Wash your hands when you get home.  Wash a fabric mask, using hot water and soap. 

Stay safe, everyone, until it is safe to meet in real life.

Friday, August 7, 2020


August and an all white warp is being set up.  There is nothing exciting about this warp.  All one colour.  No fancy colour combinations.  No texture.  Just Plain Jane 2/16 white cotton.

This warp is an effort to use up more of the dribs and drabs of tubes of yarn.  I had intended to mostly use up the bits of beige, but then got side tracked by the mid-range green that had been in the warp just cut off the loom and being wet/dry finished.  There wasn't enough yarn left to wind another warp on nearly all of the tubes, and there may well be some dye lot differences (but so slight as to be nearly impossible for me to see - damned cataracts).  Since I had just enough white left for at least one more warp, here we go...

Once I had the warp threaded yesterday, I muddled around with other colour combinations, eventually pulling yarn for two more warps on top of the two already in the queue.  Once those have been woven, I will reassess and see if I can re-combine any of those yarns.  I still have lots of that very dark blue/black so may wind up doing more of that.  In the winter. During the dark season.

Oh well.  It is what it is.  I have more lights I can set up if it is truly too dark to deal with.

I started seeing a new massage therapist this week and we had a good chat.  He gave me exercises to do and they seem to be helping already.

One of the things we talked about was my tendency to push through the pain and ignore it.  I think he realized how high my pain tolerance (ability to ignore my pain) was when he would press on a trigger point and ask how much pain there was and I would say nothing or that it was a one or two.  He said it was probably higher but I was shutting it out.

We talked about my years of being a production weaver with critical deadlines and the fact that I am now retired.  And he looked me in the eye and said it was time to stop pushing through.  Stop ignoring my body and my pain and help my body to get better.

This is a gigantic shift for me.  I have been physically fit for most of my life, but also fought through the pain that I was feeling.  He assured me that if I just stopped abusing it, it would get better.  That at my age (ahem) it was time to take care of it, as it had taken care of me and my crucial deadlines for so many years.

If I can isolate myself, maintain physical distancing, wear a mask, I can do the exercises and take care of my body.

It is time.  The time for 'excitement' and rolling deadlines is over.  It is time for a little 'boring'.

Thursday, August 6, 2020


Yesterday I picked up my new eyeglasses.  Today I am enjoying the feeling of additional clarity in my sight.

Things are very confusing right now.  The media has evolved (devolved?) into sections - some of the media is trying to get good scientific information out to people, some seems to waffle back and forth, trying to be 'fair', airing 'both sides' (even when one side is based on nonsense) and one segment is publishing flat out lies.

Yes, I am a left leaning 'liberal'.  But I am also an educated person, capable of analytical thought, have an understanding of how science works.

I have not been confused by the development of the pandemic because I know that a scientific approach is to try something that seems reasonable, then adjust the current thought based on the results of initial recommendations.  I am also old enough to remember SARS and have read enough history to be aware of previous pandemics throughout history.

I do not need a media 'talking head' with no scientific credentials to tell me what to think about an event or the results of a scientific study.

I do not subscribe to conspiracy tales.

I am guilty of projecting my hope and optimism on others.  I now know that some others are so far down the deep hole of the alt right end of the spectrum that they believe the unscientific ramblings of pseudo 'experts'.

I will not listen to anything published by Breitbart or OANN.

I will not listen to anyone suggesting that a drug being touted by a certain someone with no scientific basis whatsoever has any foundation in reality.

I will not pay attention to a quack touting 'magic bullet' solutions.

And I will not allow my social media to be used to spread disinformation.

Edited to add link to CBC

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Hope and Pessimism

I have been riding a rocket ship (or roller coaster, whatever) between Hope and Pessimism.

Just now I deleted a blog post because it was too pessimistic, too focused on the bad things happening right now.

As ever I go digging through the clouds to try to find the silver lining, look for the rainbows. 

Scrolling through Facebook this morning I came across another entry into Janis Ian's group project of Better Times Will Come.

This morning she shared a video of Lisa Bosman of Vancouver Island, reminding us that Better Times Will Come.

Janis wrote the song and encouraged other artists to cover it, then has been sharing those videos on her website.

On the one hand I see so many negative things happening during this time of pandemic, with so many people thinking that the simple act of wearing a mask is some kind of suppression of their 'freedom', the continuing racism issues that seem to be everywhere, and others standing up, not tolerating fascism, racism, all the other 'isms', trying to make this world a more inclusive place to live.

And then the earth itself groaning under the load, temperatures soaring, glaciers, melting, sea levels rising, storms becoming more and more explosive such that whole new categories have had to be made to explain the strength and potential for damage.

Yesterday Beirut - last count I saw was over 100 dead, hundreds and hundreds injured, homes destroyed or wrecked beyond being livable, the dock destroyed so that vital food shipments cannot be landed.

The list goes on...

So the song was a timely reminder to gather myself.  I am not in any particular danger.  I can extend a helping hand by sending a donation to somewhere it is needed (I would suggest Doctors Without Borders as a potential organization - they seem to be able to move to where they are needed quickly), and remind myself that I can send love and light if I can't send anything else.

And remain hopeful that Better Times Will Come.