Sunday, March 27, 2016

Easter Contemplation

I found a sack of burlap bags in my garden shed that were musty smelling, so, since it is a sunny day, I hung them on the fence to air out. The one above caught my interest, as all the others were for coffee beans from El Salvador. This one once held cocoa beans, and it twigged a vague recollection of how cocoa from the Ivory Coast was produced with child labour at the mercy of evil multinationals. Somehow the materiality of the burlap sack made the issue real and tangible for me, not just a shadowy image on a screen. That kind of information I rarely delve into, as it only reinforces my despair about the world.

But this time I did do a little research. The "CCA" on the bag is an acronym of the Cocoa and Cashew Association, which seems to be the marketing arm of the industry in Cote D'Ivoire. The website is full of business speak, and it's difficult to figure out whether the association supports child and slave labour, and deforestation, or not. ECOM Agroindustrial Corporation, Ltd., one of the major producers is based in Switzerland, and has a similarly mealy-mouthed website. Stories about how the cocoa industry destroys the habitat of primates are easily found, as are articles about child slavery. The cashew industry seems to be next up on the list of producers of first world treats that we get to enjoy at the expense of human lives on the other side of the world.

I have always chosen fair trade, sustainably harvested (at least it's labeled that way) chocolate just because it tastes better. And because it's also expensive, I savour it slowly. But today is Easter, the time of celebration of all things chocolate, and my conscience being twigged by the discovery of a sack that once held cocoa beans seems especially timely. I do hope that everyone enjoys their chocolate Easter bunnies today, but next year, please think about seeking out fair trade, slavery free, organic, sustainable treats.
I like Camino chocolate, and sincerely hope that their advertised ethical trade practises are for real.

And, I was going to say "on another topic entirely", except that both of these articles in today's NY Times are reviews of contemporary American artists who happen to be black, and whose work addresses issues of race and class that inevitably connect to the history of slavery and discrimination in that country, which of course has its roots in international economics and European imperialism in Africa.

Rodney McMillian uses discarded furniture to talk about race in the United States. The reviewer says:

Such work can be seen many ways, though one will inevitably be as a portrait of the fabric of contemporary American society. “It feels like that fabric is very fragile right now,” he (McMillian) said, “and all it would take would be one string to pull it all apart. But maybe that would be a good thing — a time that could lead to some kind of radical change.”

And the "genuinely political, the genuinely beautiful and the outrageously magical" work of  David Hammons shows him to be a shapeshifter and trickster in the best kind of way.This is exciting, dynamic, engaging art - I would love to see it in real life.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016


Embroidered pillow covers from Thailand. I got 6 for two dollars at the thrift store - they had been overdyed dark blue. When I washed them, a lot of the dye came out, allowing the details of the stitching to be seen.

 They fit in nicely against the bedspread from Maiwa that covers my couch.

I am sad to say the missing man has not yet been found.

One Day in Spring on Gabriola

This YouTube video was posted on our Community Bulletin Board. The orcas swam right past an area where Gracie and I regularly walk. But I have never seen an orca.

I wrote a poem tonight:

The Ultimate Gabriola Experience (#23):
a semi-mystical moment with the dog and the frogs in the pond across the road.

Gracie and I were in the living room, and there was something somewhere that startled her, so of course she had to go outside to check. When I opened the door for her, the frogs were singing SO loud, and I could see the almost full moon through the trees. It was just so beautiful I wished I could record it somehow. No cell phone, so I got the camera and did a video, just for the sound.

The frogs were in full throat,
the cedars were dripping and misting, the moon
illuminating all.
I sighed.

Except... .for the sound
of a
goddaM  un-Mufflered Motorcycle

Taken at the Gabriola Commons on March 21, 2016 by Keith Jellis

And I am also sending out love and hope to an island family in crisis tonight. Search and Rescue, and RCMP, have been searching all day for a missing senior who has been lost for 36 hours now. There have been some heavy rains and he is in a forested and steep area. Now I know why they always say, "We are all praying for his safe return."

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Bits and Bobs

Goodness, it's long past due for another post. As usual, I plead busy-ness. Too many meetings and projects and the call of the garden in spring. Here's a few random things that have caught my eye.
Front and back of an Oregon Grape (mahonia) leaf that I found on my driveway. I don't know what has got into it, whether disease or critter, but it is beautiful in it's decay.
I met my friend Elizabeth at the library to sit and stitch. All my stitching projects were scattered in various piles around the house, and I was running late, so I just grabbed a man's wool suit from the thrift shop that I meant to take apart.
Photo by Elizabeth Shefrin
The suit was a reject from the thrift shop where I volunteer. It stank of mothballs and tobacco smoke - we could never sell it, in spite of it being a high quality custom suit. It was fascinating to take apart, to see all the hand stitches and extra attention to detail, like the strip of cloth sewn into the inside of the the back of the hems on the trousers to protect against excessive wear.
Photo by Elizabeth Shefrin
I will put the pieces of cloth through the washer and dryer, and then they can be used for rug hooking.
Elizabeth, by the way, has a wonderful book coming out called the Embroidered Cancer Comic. She has stitched intimate and humourous comic strips about her and her husband's shared journey through his diagnosis with prostate cancer and the successful treatment. Find out more here:

Here's a vast, inspiring project led by Rosalind Wyatt: The Stitch Lives of London. Please take the time to read through her site - I love both the concept and the realization, the epic yet human scale, the inclusiveness, the connection to geography and history and human lives.
Image from Rosalind Wyatt's Stitch Lives of London website.
 Now it's back to the garden for me, where I am attempting to construct a screen for the big water cistern at the front of the house, using driftwood branches, wire and the twin powers of balance and gravity. Wish me luck.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Little Worlds

I found a fairyland yesterday on my walk with Gracie. It's been raining so much lately I think another dimension has opened up.
A portal.
Lipstick lichen and moss.
Mushrooms dancing a duet.
A mandala.
A cascade.
The hermit in his cave.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Quickie Quilt

 It only took three days to hand quilt this small piece (about 36" square). After choosing to quilt by hand rather than machine, I decided to use the curves on the blue patch to the left as a starting point, and just echoed from there. I did a self binding, folding the backing over the edge to the front, and slipstitching it in place.
 The back was also pieced, without much thought. It feels very calm as opposed to the front. The quilting stitches are like ripples left by waves on the shore.
There was a certain amount of conscious use of materials. The brown piece is a thin Indian cotton that came from the underside of a footstool that I had hooked a new cover for. I kept it because I loved the stamp on it that showed the mill it came from and the yardage - over 50 years old. It will probably be the first piece to wear out, but that's okay. It will have had its time to shine.

I also used pieces of a pink linen shirt, and deliberately used the placket and button bands to show where the cloth came from. I replaced the shiny plastic buttons though, after the whole thing was finished, with antique linen covered buttons. They sit more quietly amidst the chaos.

I'm glad I retrieved the piece from the bottom of the basket where it had languished for several months, and I'm very happy with how it turned out. As it happens, I will be leading a workshop on April 1 using the round robin piecing method (introduced by Sherri Lynn Wood and taught to me by Barb Mortell). It should be lots of fun.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Late Mid-life Crisis or Early Dementia?

It's not that I miss my youth, or would like to return to it. I just wish I had known then what I know now. Not to avoid the mistakes I made, as I think making mistakes is part of the process. I'm thinking of how much wiser I would now be, knowledge and insight accruing as they do.

What brings me to this philosophical juncture? Last night I went to see a couple of young female singer/songwriters at the pub. I left a bit early, thinking that although the performers were talented and thoughtful, they were covering territory I had been over so many times before. When I got to the car, I couldn't find my car keys. I found myself looking through my purse for them, not once, not twice, but four times, finally finding them in a safe inner pocket that I never use. Each time through I thought of all the possible scenarios: I had dropped the keys on the road; I would have to retrace my steps to the pub; did I leave the keys on the bar; this was my penance for leaving the show early; I would have to leave the dog in the car and walk up the hill in the dark to my house to get the spare set of keys. My anxiety was increased when I poked my finger on something sharp during my second rummage through, and rose further when I realized I had been stabbed by the unclasped pin of my Garden Club badge (expired.) It is a discomfitting thing when the detritus of the safe and tidy past draws blood. It made me think I am finally and truly in my dotage.

No, I'm not in the market for a red sports car.

But I did return to the Improv Round Robin quilt top I made last fall, which I was less than happy with. I've spent the last few hours rejigging some of the blocks, and pinning the layers of top, batting and backing together. I'm just dithering now on whether to hand or machine quilt it.
Not exactly revolutionary, is it? Oh well, at least I didn't poke my fingers with the pins putting it together.
That's the original quilt top on the left. I confess I actually took parts of it apart on the ferry on the way home from the workshop, somewhat remorseful that I was undoing the hard work of my fellow workshop participants, but not remorseful enough to relinquish my pathological need to control the fabric. To me, some of the sections were lazy or boring. It's hard to say if my revisions were anymore interesting or daring, but taking apart and putting back together was just the tonic I needed to get over the car key incident.