Category Archives: nature

rain memory

feel smell remember

silently falling earthbound

we rejoice again

I was struck by a nostalgic feeling this morning as I went out to retrieve the paper. I love that. I couldn’t quite pinpoint the place or time but it was a good sense-one of those ones that can transport you places. I tried to hold on but it was fleeting. It rained in the early hours before I awoke and left silently.

I have been working hard getting out ribbon orders ahead of the trip to Japan. No recent indigo to report but all the rain has me wishing a bit that I had planted some.  I make do with the edible greens in all practicality. They are delicious! We eat them every way imaginable and more.

Hirata san sent me a map of our upcoming adventure. We always stray a bit as occasions arise but maybe you would like to see it? This does not include the the trip to Yokohama and Kamakura.

we will see so much!

I am still stitching on the traveling moon piece. The little indigo I have been dyeing has centered around overdyeing vintage indigo scraps.  Really enjoying the serendipity of that. I just bought a vintage cotton yukata bolt from Richard’s etsy shop that had some interesting patterns I might do some overdyeing with.  Additionally interesting to me was part of his description:

This is a vintage bolt of yukata cotton, a printed indigo. It is unused and still bound up. There is a rather cute vintage tag on the front, an image of a young lady wearing the yukata that this fabric is dyed to become, basically, modeling it. On the tag, the name of the fabric pattern, shio matsuri, or tidal festival. The pattern seems to be a bit of a play on Hokusai’s waves, which are ubiquitous throughout japanese aesthetic.

This is enough fabric to become a yukata, which means it is at least 11 meters of fabric. As is sometimes the case, this fabric has markings and lines to cut along marked on it. It is printed so each piece is obvious and separate, there is not much guesswork involved. The way to make a yukata is pretty standard, so it makes sense, to print it like that , make it easy. Each section has the name of the piece it will become along the very edge. See the fifth photo above.

In any case- I look forward to examining it.

And before I end this, we went to see the poppies…it was glorious! Even inspired a new base dye session…

 

day trippin’ in the poppies CA style

the rain will surely extend the poppy season…weekdays are the best as big crowds on the weekends.

fragments

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This little moon fragment carried me north recently to lead a shibori and indigo workshop for the Central Coast Weavers. It was a wonderful group of women who weave and share an enthusiasm for fiber in many forms.  The workshop space,  a large private studio affectionally known as “The Barn” kept us warm with a wood burning stove in one corner, fed with a kitchen area stocked with home baked breads and more, and busy with a large working area. Rosemary and Kay, the owners and creators of The Barn, have the second floor space lined with rows of large floor looms- maybe 15-20. I don’t think I have ever seen such a variety of large working looms in one location.
Previous to the workshop day, I gave a lecture on silk at their monthly  members meeting where they have a “show and tell”. Some of the things that they brought to share with members included this wonderful rug that was woven by one of the women. I think it was my favorite!

hand woven wool rug by Central Coast Weavers member

hand woven wool rug by Central Coast Weavers member

I can’t remember her name but she is the one holding the rug at the far end. They also had a little fundraising raffle at the meeting where members bring something fiber related they no longer need and if it is something you would like to re-home you can put some of your raffle tickets in the cup for that item.  Everything found a new home-plus the guild got some money for new books for their library. Lovely to see and thoughtfully purposeful!

The Barn workspace

The Barn workspace-a half-view

There is a new package being prepared for Wendy.  It will contain a set of needles and indigo threads.Someone might have a desire to add to the cloth in their own way, to hold the needle in their hand and feel of the thread as it is pulled through the cloth. It might just start someone wondering.

Right now though, the 3rd storm of the week here is drenching us-as if trying to wash away and clear out all the drama of this past week.  I welcome it.  I just hope all my monarch cats are finding refuge out there somewhere.  And that the sun will come out next week and dry out my poor flooded studio space!

newly emerged before the storm

newly emerged before the storms

 

‘Tis the Season- Solstice

Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gain’d,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be asham’d,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.

I was reminded of this song (by Joseph Brackett in 1848) when I was on Facebook this morning and Maura posted some photos of Christmas making at a mental hospital in Calcutta, India.  They were making holiday cheer from colored paper- the paper chains being my personal favorite. They were sharing some sweet treats and gifts thanks in part to Mustard Seeds Kolkata.  The photos immediately gave rise to the first line of that song. (Judy Collins has a nice version of it here.)

I post this today as we turn the corner on the shortest day of the year to see the days grow longer. Thankfully, for there is much to be done ahead of us.  Simplicity might just be one of the answers don’t you think?  In that simplicity perhaps we can become freer, turning, turning and in the end, delight in the coming ’round right.

I think Joseph Bracket was onto something here.  Of course we are all familiar with the Aaron Copland version of this in Appalachian Spring.  Another favorite. And speaking of Spring….

It seems a good day to plant another kind of seed.  A sweet friend gifted me some of her native California milkweed seeds. (thanks Colleen!).  Meanwhile, outside in the garden I think the last monarchs are finishing their meals and heading for their transformations.
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A seed is like an idea- it needs planting and nourishing, sunlight, warmth, and sometimes protection. I will never forget my visit to Luther Burbank’s historical home in Santa Rosa. I posted about it here in December of 2012 and have gone back to this post many times. Take special note of his “seed vault”.

Luther Burbank's seed vault

Luther Burbank’s seed vault

As we move into the coming year, I think there will be some need for “seed protectors” in our communities. I wonder what you want to protect? A few things come to my mind…

Life, health, and human dignity are a few of the things that come immediately to my mind.  This will take a community of protectors.

On a personal level, I want to protect wonder, compassion, beauty, love and peace.

I will find these things in small corners.  They will be found in the piercing of a needle through cloth with hand dyed thread. I will find them in the tip of a brush where it meets with paper.  I will always find them in the small and large details of Nature where ever I am. I will find them in the people I surround myself with, the actions I take, the words I hear, write and speak.
I will find wonder, compassion, beauty, love and peace -and protect it.
Yes, I will.

Happy Solstice!
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seeds, seedlings, seeded

Back to seeds

The beauty of seeds is that they can become.  What?  Something of beauty perhaps. Many seeds are beautiful themselves. Today I was noticing the seeds in the yard.

I will save some of the sunflower and poppy seeds. That sunflower plant had over 70 flower heads all at once. There are so many.  The birds love them too and we share them.  The poppies were so successful this year and gave much delight to all who saw them.  And so easy.  I really didn’t have to do anything at all except cast them out at the right time. Nature did the rest.  Next year, if you drive by you’ll know the house for all the poppies.  The seed heads for both the sunflowers and poppies are in the drying and maturing stage. Some will just drop on their own and surprise me next year. Faithful volunteers.

Yesterday, I went to present myself and my “career”  for Career Day at a South LA Elementary school.  First, I want to say that the kids were great.  They are like little sponges that soak things up.  They were enthusiastic.   Turns out- the school does have two mulberry trees on its campus.  Just no memory of why.  I think I can solve that. Next year, I will get some silkworms started early- just when the mulberry leafs out.  Plant some silk seeds and water them into fertile ground there.  As for explaining my “career” to the kids-it was challenging, funny, and informative.  I only had 30 minutes with each of the 4 classes. Most of the time was spent talking about silk and silkworms.  I brought a tray of them-still so tiny. We cut open the cocoons and saw the pupae inside. I passed around a hank of reeled filament silk, mawata, yarn, kibisu and more.  I showed them the cocoon frames-both straw and cardboard. They all took home a cocoon and a square of silk. Three classes were 3rd graders and one was 4th grade. Trevor had 4th and 5th graders and did 5 sessions. His kids learned to play a couple of rhythms with straws at their desks with him playing bells. This K-5 has no dedicated art or instrumental music teacher.

Unfortunately, I must report that the silkworms are not thriving.  This is the latest I have ever started them. I really wanted them for the career day event and was taking a bit of a chance.   Although there is green mulberry leaf here it is not new and succulent. It is just too dry. We had rain earlier this season but has been very dry for over a month now. El Nino did not arrive in the south this year as predicted. Moving on…sadly.

But fortunately, my friend Nobue Higashi in Annaka, Japan is having a very successful cocoon rearing season. I recently watched this NHK short video on a visit to her place there.  I couldn’t find one video of the entire episode and this one repeats but you can see the portion of the show in which they visit her.

A long hot dry summer is ahead. Water will continue to be precious.
so many poppy seeds

There are a few openings left for the indigo and shibori workshop on June 18 & 19. Contact the Japanese American National Museum to sign up. I will have some indigo seeds to share as well.

demonstrated at the workshop

 

my what a proboscis!

Metamorphosis, transformation, balance, grace, and the ability to accept change. The monarch butterfly offers itself as a beautiful example of such ideas.  We have yet to know if the changes we humans are imposing on the world will end their beautiful illustration of these useful qualities.

You likely know that for the past few years I have been growing milkweed in the yard to tempt them into laying some eggs here.  Finally- this year, success!

monarch laying eggs on backyard milkweed!

monarch laying eggs on backyard milkweed!

on tattered wings...

on tattered wings…

this was in March..then, on June 21st (summer soltice!) I found these guys munching happily…

cat detail

cats munching on milkweed in yard

cats munching on milkweed in yard

Unfortunately, they ended up being overtaken by by other pests.  Some kind of orange bug. Even their friends the ladybugs couldn’t keep ahead of the deluge. But I am not daunted! Another spring awaits!

And in the meantime I went to Houston to do the show and teach and when I returned I had brought back a couple of friends-two to be exact.  They had been hanging out in the garden across the street from the Hilton. They were fine travelers.

one of two friends...

one of two friends…

By the next day the first one had exchanged his skin for a chrysalis and 24 hours later so had the second one.

monarch chrysalis

monarch chrysalis

I was in awe…such beauty to marvel at.  To observe…
The gold “beads” that developed intrigued. They were like real gold. More beautiful than any gold ever seen.  I wondered at their relevance (as if beauty needs relevance to exist).  I searched google trying to find an answer… almost glad not to find any real consensus.  Ahhh…beauty just because.

But reading that it took 10 -12 days for the butterfly to emerge I waited-the kitchen table once again the scene of discovery, science and nature observatory.  Finally, one morning I came into the kitchen and discovered that one of the two chrysalis’ had turned black! Horrors! What had I done?  I was a monarch killer.  I decided to go look it up online and see what had happened.
Delightfully, I read that this is what happens when they are about to emerge!  So for the next two mornings I dutifully watched the two beings emerge.  It was amazing, gorgeous, inspiring and riveting…soon, the chrysalis turned more papery and transparent and you could see through-

prior to emerging

prior to emerging

and then…

it begins

it begins

feet first!

feet first!

head down!

head down!

almost...

almost…

a monarch emerged!

a monarch emerged!

-kind of fat and wrinkly, all this from inside that small chrysalis.  Liquid in the plump abdomen gets pumped into the wings and they hang, dry, and rest.

my what a proboscis!

my what a proboscis!

So off to the backyard they went to finish resting, first one, then the other.  When they met it was nothing short of a joyous reuniting! (see the video for how exciting…)

we meet again

we meet again!

the full monty

the full monty

almost a full 4″ fully spread!  they played together a bit in the lemon tree where I draped a few blossoms from around the yard.  They were all excited when I placed the flowers near them and immediately they rushed toward them to nourish themselves.  It had been a very long trip…

Eventually, after about an hour they flew to the persimmon tree and one at a time after circling above they headed over the back fence and away.

I also did a short video of the emerging monarch-

Monarch habitats continue to be in decline significantly in parallel with the rapid adoption of glyphosate-tolerant corn and soybeans and, since 2006, the rapid expansion of corn and soy acreage to accommodate the production of biofuels (Brower et al, 2011a,b, Pleasants and Oberhauser, 2012 and Taylor, 2012). Additionally, roadside spraying of pesticides and herbicides impacts monarchs and their habitats.

What else can we do to improve monarch habitat? We need to change our mowing practices. Protect our roadside native vegetation. Stop spraying herbicides, and mow less frequently or not at all. Speak up and tell city officials that we do not want them to mow or spray, and pat them on the back when they listen. Ask local plant nurseries to carry milkweed and native plants that are pesticide-free. Volunteer on nature preserves and at city parks—encourage management to plant milkweed. Collect milkweed seeds. Monitor a milkweed patch. Educate the public—through school programs, talks at local libraries, displays at nature centers, articles in the newspaper or on radio—by any means we have at our disposal. Realize that no one person can do it alone, we all have to pitch in—and every one of us has a voice that is valuable. (from monarchwatch.org)

Alone, we cannot do much. but each of us in our small part can together do a lot. This year, I am devoting the back corner of the yard to milkweed.  And I’m planting more butterfly friendly plants.  I already have milkweed sprouting up everywhere in the yard.  (Once you start growing it, it just keeps on coming back…the seeds are windblown and prolific.) I even gathered some seeds from another type of milkweed when I was up north this year.  I wonder how they will do down here…

Want a job related to preserving and monitoring monarchs?

more info and a great interview regarding the current state of monarch population.

a video on monarch migration

(having a little flu-induced down time and feeling a bit better today.  cleaning out some photos and writing a bit…back to it in a day or so me thinks…)

mata ne!