Monday, April 30, 2012

Weekend Creativity + One Last Poem

Happy Monday morning! Lots of photos today, sharing some of what I was up to this weekend. First off, my younger son and I went to the Hera Gallery's Postcard Fundraiser, to which I donated two pieces. He's a good companion for these sorts of things. Together, we looked at all the art for sale; I decided we could each pick out one. We discussed and deliberated and came home with these.

My son picked out the one on the left, which is by Susan Hayward, an artist with the gallery. I chose the one on the right, a print by Mary Kudlak.

Also this weekend, my kids and I, inspired by William Steig's Rotten Island, drew some monsters of our own. Do you know the book? It's a fun read, with vivid pictures and description of the island and its inhabitants. I drew several monsters, but this one makes me laugh.

On Sunday, I took a found hour and made the most of it, bouncing between a couple of projects:

Ready to begin carving
Carving complete
Still not finished with this.
Yes, I seem to be a bit stuck on trees lately, even with the knitting:

This is a Branching Out mitt from Coastal Knits, using Cascade 220. It calls for a thinner yarn than that, but it'll work just fine. I knit a complete mitt (minus thumb) in some sport weight I've had lying around since last spring, but I don't. like. that. yarn. At all. I'm going to use it for felting, since it just wants to stick to itself anyway. (That's what I get for being kindly disposed to unknown yarn--it was bought at the silent auction at my kids' school.)

And finally, I'll leave you with some happy baby pigs (trust me, they're small; I don't have a mama in this photo for scale) that we saw when we visited a local farm this weekend. I could do a post just of animal pictures--sheep and lambs and chickens and the chickens' guard dog. It was very spring-y there.

But truly, the baby pigs? Were adorable. This picture doesn't do them justice. And for the month's final poem, I decided upon straightforward. Poetry Month makes me happy.

by A.A. Milne

John had
Great Big
Boots on;
John had a
Great Big
John had a
Great Big
And that
(Said John)

From When We Were Very Young.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Catching Dreams + Embroidering Trees

{Don't forget about the giveaway...plenty of time to leave a comment.}

This past week I was solo parenting again, and while I felt far more capable heading in than I did a month ago (thank goodness; I'm not used to feeling incapable), not much got done in the crafty/making department. I made lots of lunches, and dinners, and breakfasts. I made dirty dishes clean again. You know, that sort of thing. But I do have a couple of things to show you from the past week, both somewhat inspired by Mighty Girl Art activities.

First off, my daughter's dream catcher.

Many years ago, well before my daughter came along, I made dream catchers with my boys. They are still hanging over their beds, and they look remarkably like this one, because we used the same grapevine circles, twine, colored beads, and colored feathers. Not too natural looking, I know. My craft aesthetic may have been a little different then, or (I think this is more likely) I let the boys pick out the beads and feathers in the craft store.

When I saw the dream catcher activity as part of the Might Girl online course, I thought I'd bring it up with my daughter because it's probably time she has one, too. She's been in her own bed for almost a year now. But she brought it up first, and while Wendy's version suggests a pliable branch and natural materials, my daughter of course wanted hers to look like her brothers'. One day this past week we made it together, which her choosing beads and feathers as we went. She asked if she could add anything else. "Like what?" I asked. "A shell," she replied. Easy enough. I found my stash of small quahog shells with holes, she picked one out, and we added it. Then we hung it over her bed, of course.

The second project was inspired by the idea of a talisman necklace. This isn't truly a talisman necklace, but I had the idea of a meaningful necklace in mind when I decided to embroider yet another tree, this time a small one, with red buds. I was thinking of the red maple trees and the way their small red flowers, which bloom before the leaves bud, brighten up the sky in spring.

This is what I came up with, after several discarded attempts. It's hard to photograph because of the glass in front, so this first image has some glare.

But I included it because it shows the red rice paper I used as a backing. Here's another image. The background isn't as nice (the dining room table, thankfully out of focus), but there's less glare.

You can see, in this one, that I had some trouble closing the metal case flush. I think my piece was a wee bit too wide. Some of the glass crumbled a bit, but you can't really tell unless you look really close (or I give you a close-up photo and tell you about it). I don't have photos of my rejected versions, but I'll tell you about them.

(First, though, I'm using the pendant kids from Wendi Gratz, but my own stitching pattern. Also, I completely lost a split ring trying to get it on the top circle of the pendant, but I'm assuming I can easily find another one of those locally. That sucker flew.)

So, first I embroidered a tree using stem stitch, like this one. Or maybe it was outline; I can't ever keep those straight and am too lazy to look it up. Then I tried backstitch, but didn't like the look of it. Then I tried one in sort of long straight stitch, but I didn't like that as much either. So I went back to the first and added the buds with French knots, like you see here.

Then I had to get it into the pendant. Wendi uses spray starch to keep it stiff, but I didn't want to, for boring reasons. (I can't identify what kind of starch it is, don't want to spray wheat starch around, am too lazy to make my own. Anyone know what the starch in spray starch is?) (Also, someone once borrowed my iron, used spray starch, and ruined it. This was twenty years ago, but I haven't used spray starch since.) So I decided to try double sided fusible interfacing, but it was way too thick. I tossed the whole mess.

I rummaged around in my under-craft-table storage and came up with heat-n-bond. Tra-la! That stuff is awesome. I'd never used it before, but I'm making the next boy-knee patch out of this stuff. I embroidered a second tree and used the heat-n-bond, sticking the embroidery right to the rice paper backing, with the bond in between. The result seemed thin enough, and I don't think my troubles with the glass was due to thickness, but width.

Also this past week, I received my April Whimsey Box (love it), signed myself up for a summer weekend workshop on mixed media techniques through Rhode Island School of Design continuing ed, and read Tina Fey's Bossypants in no time flat, laughing out loud about 2.3 times per page. So all in all, a pretty good week, considering, if a little heavy on the dishes.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Poem In Your Pocket Day + Give-away

**Thank you for playing along! Naomi, commenter #9, came up on random. org. Congrats, Naomi! Check your inbox for an email.**

Happy Poem in Your Pocket Day! But first, a little offering from me to you, to mark one year of blogging in this space: a 5x7" embroidery piece.

My first thought was to sneaky-like enter everyone who's commented this month and then just announce who won, but then I thought, Probably not everybody would want this, especially considering the blue shape looks more like a dagger or an icicle because I did it first, before I got better at keeping my diagonals going in the right direction (harder than you'd think, against that fabric). So instead, if you would like a piece of original embroidery, by me, just leave a comment on this post and let me know. It's wrapped around a piece of bookbinding board; here's a back view.

I think you could probably slip it into a frame without glass, or just prop it up on a shelf--if the blue icicle doesn't bother you, that is. (I should just be quiet and say I meant to do it that way, maybe?) Since it's Poem in Your Pocket day, if you'd like to mention a favorite poem in  your comment, or link to a post with a poem, or tell me what you're doing to celebrate, I'd love to hear it. But you don't have to. You can just leave a regular old "hope you pick me" comment. I'll use to pick someone, you need to make sure there's a way to contact you (ie, leave your email address in your comment if it's not going to show up in the profile), and I will mail to anywhere in the whole wide world. Leave your comment by 8 pm EST on Thursday, May 3, which is a week from today. I think I covered everything?

Today, I'll be passing out copies of my favorite e.e. cummings poem as I go about my day. (I love the beach, you know.)

maggie and milly and molly and may
by e.e. cummings

maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach(to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn't remember her troubles,and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose(like a you or a me)
it's always ourselves we find in the sea

Copyright © 1956, 1984, 1991 by the Trustees for the E. E. Cummings Trust from The Complete Poems: 1904-1962 by E. E. Cummings, Edited by George J. Firmage.

...linking up with the folks at our creative spaces...

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Guest Poetry Post: Michelle

Michelle is another of my close, long-term blog-friends. Emails fly back and forth between Rhode Island and Louisiana; she's an integral part of my support system, even though we've never met in person. (Why is that? We need to work on that.)  I love that the poem she chose to share so perfectly reflects our shared habit of worrying a bit too much.

We all know of Ralph Waldo Emerson the Transcendentalist lecturer and essayist (of whom I'm a fan, most days), but Emerson the poet is less well known. I must admit, I can see why. But there is one little gem that I am always drawn to. It's a simple quatrain (four line stanza with a rhyming pattern), which appeals to my short attention span. Any time I'm feeling particularly anxious (particularly on...days that end in -y ?), I can read this poem and, while I feel I should be so darn angry at it for mocking me...I smile anyway. I think I might have to place this one on the cover of my planner or frame it above my desk.

Borrowing: From the French
by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Some of the hurts you have cured,
And the sharpest you still have survived,
But what torments of grief you endured
From evils which never arrived!

Don't forget that tomorrow is Poem in Your Pocket Day! And I'll be hosting a modest little give-away to celebrate one year of blogging in this particular space.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Yes, This

The red maple trees are in bloom. 
The towhees are back, right on schedule. This morning I stood still in the early morning quiet, full bird feeder in my hand, and watched a towhee in the tree hop and adjust himself. I waited and watched and hoped he would--yes--the joy and rightness of being alive in Spring bubbled over and out of him for both of us. His song was tentative at first--just the last two notes, your tea!, as if he were trying it on for size. Two, three times, then he flew away deeper into the scrubby. Before too long he was shouting out his full song, Drink your tea! And, not having the towhee's gift of song, all I could do was spin around, arms outstretched, happy with thankfulness.

A List of Praises
by Anne Porter

Give praise with psalms that tell the trees to sing,
Give praise with Gospel choirs in storefront churches,
Mad with the joy of the Sabbath,
Give praise with the babble of infants, who wake with the sun,
Give praise with children chanting their skip-rope rhymes,
A poetry not in books, a vagrant mischievous poetry
living wild on the Streets through generations of children.

Give praise with the sound of the milk-train far away
With its mutter of wheels and long-drawn-out sweet whistle
As it speeds through the fields of sleep at three in the morning,
Give praise with the immense and peaceful sigh
Of the wind in the pinewoods,
At night give praise with starry silences.

Give praise with the skirling of seagulls
And the rattle and flap of sails
And gongs of buoys rocked by the sea-swell
Out in the shipping-lanes beyond the harbor.
Give praise with the humpback whales,
Huge in the ocean they sing to one another.

Give praise with the rasp and sizzle of crickets, katydids and cicadas,
Give praise with hum of bees,
Give praise with the little peepers who live near water.
When they fill the marsh with a shimmer of bell-like cries
We know that the winter is over.

Give praise with mockingbirds, day's nightingales.
Hour by hour they sing in the crepe myrtle
And glossy tulip trees
On quiet side streets in southern towns.

Give praise with the rippling speech
Of the eider-duck and her ducklings
As they paddle their way downstream
In the red-gold morning
On Restiguche, their cold river,
Salmon river,
Wilderness river.

Give praise with the whitethroat sparrow.
Far, far from the cities,
Far even from the towns,
With piercing innocence
He sings in the spruce-tree tops,
Always four notes
And four notes only.

Give praise with water,
With storms of rain and thunder
And the small rains that sparkle as they dry,
And the faint floating ocean roar
That fills the seaside villages,
And the clear brooks that travel down the mountains

And with this poem, a leaf on the vast flood,
And with the angels in that other country.

Don't forget, Poem in Your Pocket day is coming up on Thursday. And I think I'll be ready with a give-away by then, too.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Guest Poetry Post: Bells

Bells is one of my oldest, closest blog-friends. I believe the first post of hers that I read contained photos of lovely growing things in her Australian garden, just as we were entering winter here in the Northern Hemisphere. I was hooked. Her photos have continued to delight, and she knits and sews and writes beautifully, too. I'm so glad she agreed to share a favorite poem here this month.

Judith Wright is a beloved Australian poet. She was a thinker and an activist - most notably for the environment and for Indigenous people. She began to go deaf as a young woman and was completely deaf by 1992. The last years of her life were spent living in the small town, Braidwood, just outside Canberra, where I live. She died in 2000.

I chose this poem a couple of weeks ago for Amy, but I realised as I re-read it that it tied in nicely with the the Mary Oliver poem that she posted a few days ago, highlighting the line, "Tell me, what it is you plan to do/with your one wild and precious life?"

In the autumn of their lives, these sisters are looking back on their own wild and precious lives and treasuring the richness of what is behind them.

The Sisters
by Judith Wright

In the vine-shadows on the veranda;
under the yellow leaves, in the cooling sun,
sit two sisters. Their slow voices run
like little winter creeks, dwindled by frost and wind,
and the square of sunlight moves on the veranda.

They remember the gay young men on their tall horses
who came courting; the dancing and the smells of leather
and wine, the girls whispering by the fire together;
even their dolls and ponies, all they have left behind
moves in the yellow shadows on the veranda.

Thinking of their lives apart and the men they married
thinking of the marriage-bed and the birth of their first
they look down smiling. “My life was wide and wild,
and who can know my heart? There in that golden jungle
I walk alone,” say the old sisters on the veranda.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Finished Knit: {A Better} Baby Yours

Two weeks ago I had just a back of a sweater; now I have the whole thing.

I don't usually photograph finished knits hanging up. But anyway. This is my second Baby Yours sweater (the first is here), and I'm much more pleased with this version, which has been modified all sorts of ways.

* I knit the six-month size in width, but to the length of the twelve-month size, and it looks way more proportional to me.

* I attached the fronts to the back at the shoulders using a 3-needle bindoff, wrong sides facing, instead of seaming. You can't even tell, because that portion is in garter stitch and it blends right in, but now the poky seam isn't on the inside where it can irritate sweet little baby shoulders.

* I picked up the stitches for the sleeves and knit them in the round, top down, eliminating the sleeve seam, which looked like it would irritate sweet little baby arms. I also ignored the pattern's instructions for increases (which would now be decreases) every four rows, and did them every ten, which worked out to every inch. The sleeves look better to me now.

They increase evenly, instead of weirdly. The pattern doesn't include a row gauge. The pattern doesn't include a row gauge. I paid $6.50 for this pattern, and I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that complete gauge information should be included with patterns, especially boughten ones. My stitch gauge was spot on, but I had to go down a needle size. Perhaps if my row gauge matched the designer's, the sleeves in the first version I knit wouldn't look so weirdly sloped to me. But I don't know if that's the problem. If I knew the row gauge, I could do a little bit of math ahead of time and make sure everything matched up but the pattern doesn't include a row gauge.

Anyway, this left just the sides from the bottom to the underarm to sew up, and that's not an area where a seam is going to annoy a baby. I prefer my modded-out version of this pattern to the original, but I am also happy to be done with knitting baby sweaters for a while.

A view of the back, just because. It's really a lovely cable.

It seems like ages since I've knit anything for myself. I've been knitting for Other People's Babies since December. So I began something for myself, using stash yarn that turned out to be annoying...but that's a story for another day.

Linking up with our creative spaces...

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Miles to Go Before I Sleep

If you'd never been to New England before and wanted to get a sense of it, Robert Frost's poetry wouldn't be a bad place to start. It's a certain New England, of course, not all-encompassing, but I do connect him thoroughly with this region of the world. That's not why I picked this poem to share, however. It's because the final words--miles to go before I sleep--very often run through my head in the evening. As much as I try to keep the evenings for myself, it doesn't always work out that way. The other night, after two of three children were in bed, I sat on the couch for a moment and thought, I have miles to go before I sleep. Laundry, lunches for tomorrow, patches to sew on knees, the final wake-up call for my daughter so she gets through the night dry... and it's even worse when my husband is traveling. And this is the poem that gives us this phrase.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
by Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Felt Flower Garland {+ Poem Link}

Our slider was desperately in need of some spring freshening; it was well past time for the Valentine banner to go. Somehow, I missed March entirely...which works out well, because these flowers are so seasonal!

This garland idea was inspired by the craft in the last Waldorf parent-child group that my daughter and I attend. The leader had materials to make spring crowns for the kids. Everybody's ended up looking different, of course, but the basic idea was to finger knit the base and then sew on felt flowers (whatever sort of flowers we wanted).

This crown has three flowers, but my daughter was wearing it jauntily, to one side. At any rate, I thought some green crocheted chains with sewn-on felt flowers would be just perfect for our window.

I wasn't going for perfection here. The flowers were traced around a cut-out paper guide, but they're cockeyed and lopsided in places. This came together very quickly; I'm not interested in trying to dress up this window in any manner that will lead to stress. It's fun, it's quick, and it's cheery. We have a little vine of flowers trailing atop the window molding, and I love it.

For today's poem, I turned to Mary Oliver. I am betting many of you have read or heard her quote, "Tell me, what is it you plan to do/with your one wild and precious life?" Knowing she's a poet, I was curious about the rest of the poem--I was sure I hadn't read it before. It's called "The Summer Day," and you can read it here. This quote is always used in an inspirational way, in a sort of "Get up and find your true self and passion and get going" sort of way, and I was pleased to discover that the speaker of the poem has spent the day being "idle and blessed," paying attention while she strolled and rolled through the fields. It's good to know the context, isn't it?

I spent today climbing big, rocky-shore rocks with my children; picnicking and playing at the playground; loading up on even more armloads of books at the library (we currently have a total of 51 books out between us, with ever-revolving due dates); and playing outside at home. They have the week off from school, and the weather is cooperating nicely so far. A fine way to spend a day of my wild and precious life.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Another Quick Poetry Post

White Apples
by Donald Hall

when my father had been dead a week
I woke
with his voice in my ear
I sat up in bed
and held my breath
and stared at the pale closed door

white apples and the taste of stone

if he called again
I would put on my coat and galoshes

From White Apples and the Taste of Stone. Copyright © 2006 by Donald Hall.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Poetry Forms for Kids + Other Curious Folk

One of the library branches we frequent had a nice display of poetry books in the children's room. Of course I grabbed several of them, including A Kick in the Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms by Paul B. Janeczko and illustrated by Chris Raschka. We all pretty much learn about sonnets and maybe odes in high school, and haiku and limericks in elementary school, and acrostic poems are pretty popular in the lower grades, too. But there are so many more! In between college degrees, I took some writing classes at a local adult learning center, where I had a fabulous instructor who taught me more about poetry than I'd learned in all of my schooling thus far. I learned about villanelles and pantoums in addition to sonnets and odes...and every form we encountered, we had to write one of our own.

I very much appreciated this thorough grounding in poetry types when I began my English degree. I also like the discipline required to try to write a poem with a strict form. Were my attempts great poetry? Um, no, I'm sure they were not. But attempting to take a thought, idea, or image, and fit it into a pre-set's good practice. It requires really thinking and distilling and I think that's valuable, even if the result is never shared (as I won't be sharing that pantoum I wrote circa 1996).

This book is a good introduction to poetic forms for kids and adults, too. Each form includes at least one example, a fun illustration, and a short, to-the-point definition at the bottom of the page. At the end of the book, you'll find longer explanations of each form. Some of them were new to me, such as the triolet, which has a specific rhyme scheme (abaaabab) and repeating lines: 1, 4, and 7 are the same, and 2 and 8 are the same. The poem I'm sharing today, which is from A Kick in the Head, is a triolet.

The Cow's Complaint
by Alice Schertle

How unkind to keep me here
When, over there, the grass is greener.
Tender blades--so far, so near--
How unkind to keep me here!
Through this fence they make me peer
At sweeter stems; what could be meaner?
How unkind to keep me here
When, over there, the grass is greener.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

4x6 Embroidery

First, though, I am loving the comments left about the poetry and am glad to hear that people are enjoying the poems. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the poetry~more to come this month!

I finally finished-finished the Irish moss embroidery that I finished stitching over two weeks ago.

As I did with the circles piece, I sewed this around a piece of bookbinding board. It was sitting around, waiting for me to finish another small piece, so I could truss them up at the same time. Here's the other one.

That's really just some trippy sort of fun I stitched up, just because. This time, my back labels are slightly better. Definitely more legible, I think.

I've considered using a piece of felt on the back instead, and gluing it on...and while that might be slightly neater overall, I wonder if the glue will hold, plus it would require a label sewn onto the felt, plus I think it would be thicker overall. So while this method is more time-consuming, because it's stitched on by hand, and slightly wonky in places (because it's stitched on by hand, and sewing against a hard board isn't so easy), I'm sticking with it for now.

I'm planning on dropping these off for a local gallery's 4x6 fundraiser. Hmm. I hope they're suitable. (All those insecurities, you know.) I'm liking this size, though. I think these could fit into a frame, no glass or extra backing necessary, just the embroidery around the board. Maybe I'll move up to 5x7 next and see how that feels.

I'm linking up with the creative folks again this week...

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

For the Love of Prufrock

I do, I do. I love The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. I've never analyzed it (either the poem or my love for it). I've never written a paper on it. I don't particularly care about the layers of hidden meaning or the allusions to other works of literature. I just like the way the words sound, the way it makes me feel, the certain phrases (I have measured out my life in coffee spoons). This is the source of the poetry I embroidered on my jeans (I have heard the mermaids singing).

I think I love it so because I came to it at around the same age Eliot wrote it. The voice in the poem seems that of an older man, and I was surprised to learn recently that Eliot was in his early 20s when he wrote it, but when I thought about it, it made sense to me. For some reason, some reason that seems irrational and illogical and probably dramatic from my nearly-40 vantage point, the early 20s are so tiring. Maybe it's just the way I did it, and the way most of my friends did it, working mind-numbing jobs none of us needed our college degrees for, because that's all we could find, going along paycheck to paycheck, wondering when would life start and had it started already and could we be doing more or was this all it was? When we were sober enough to think, that is. Inside, I probably felt like middle-aged Prufrock (I do not think that they will sing to me). At about the same time in my life, I was listening to Dave Matthews singing: Twenty-three and so tired of life...could I have been anyone other than me? (Dancing Nancies)

What is it about the early 20s?

So there you go, for the first time, I've partially analyzed my love for Prufrock. It's too long, I think, to post in its entirety here, so I've included a snippet. Follow the links to read it all for yourself.

From The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
By T. S. Eliot

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, "Do I dare?" and, "Do I dare?"
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair—
[They will say: "How his hair is growing thin!"]
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin—
[They will say: "But how his arms and legs are thin!"]
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

Do I dare? Do I? Do you?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Mighty Girls

You might have noticed the Mighty Girl Art button in my sidebar. I signed myself and my niece up for the e-session. It would be really cool if we could sit and create together, but she's ninety minutes away by car, so we'll have to settle for some distance sharing, which is also okay. Hopefully she doesn't mind if I share this little story about her and me. She's my older sister's first child, born a few months before I began dating my now-husband, in 1996. She was the first grandchild on either side of her family, and the next (on each side) was her brother, four years later. In 2001, when we let her know I was growing a baby, she got, well, upset. It turns out, she thought if I had my own baby, if I were a mama, I wouldn't be an auntie anymore--I wouldn't be her auntie anymore.

{Silly. I was her auntie first.}

I'm really glad she wanted to join along in this e-course, but I'll be honest--I'm doing it as much for me as for her! I think my girl-child self would have really enjoyed something like this, and probably needed it badly, although I can't think of any female adult in my life who might have wanted to do it with me at that time, with the exception of my older sister. And so, here is one of the many cool things about this course...Wendy has set it up so that one registration equals lots of girls doing it together. I'd checked with her about the distance: Would it be okay if my niece and I did it together but separately, or should I register us both? But no, one registration was still enough. And my niece is planning to do some of the activities with her younger sister, and I'm doing some with my daughter, and it's a Mighty Girl web just in our family, thanks to Wendy and her vision. Cool, right?

Wendy gives us art journal prompts each week. This is my response to the first one.

We were given the subject of a tree, I didn't choose it. Trees are just following me around lately.
This was created using conte crayon, ink and brush, and bleeding tissue paper. I will admit to struggling with the whole idea of art journaling in the past. Part of me just doesn't get it, probably because there are no rules at all. I tend to think of a journal as one thing, with words, and a sketchbook as something else, but slowly, I'm getting the hang of it. I want to get into an art journal habit, and I think with the help of this course, I just might. Here's my response to the second prompt.

The prompt was something along the lines of, What would your heart look like as it opens? I knew right away I wanted to start with a literal heart (found at The Graphics Fairy site, here). Oh, this was so much fun to doodle.

And here are a couple of the crafts. No forsythia blooms in our yard, sadly (I want some forsythia bushes!), but my daughter and I decorated a fallen maple branch with orange tissue paper--orange because it's currently her favorite color--and placed that in the center of our table. Below it is a wish bowl...along the same lines as the wish jar I put together earlier. I invited the whole family to write down any wish/dream/goal and add it. I'm not sure anyone will take me up on it...

...but it's a pretty little bowl, reminding us to wish. Those items inside right now? The heart-shaped polished stone, the rock that says "Dream," and the silver sand dollar were Christmas gifts to me from my oldest child. I picked up the pine cone one day because I really like its shape.

This post is already a bit long, so I will be back tomorrow with another poem post, sharing a particular favorite of mine. I hope you are doing mighty things, whether they be big or small.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Oh, Edna!

I really like the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay. I'll be back this week with creative-minded posts, I promise, but today, another (very different) poem about spring. Yes, sometimes April is just a wench.

by Edna St. Vincent Millay

To what purpose, April, do you return again?
Beauty is not enough.
You can no longer quiet me with the redness
Of little leaves opening stickily.
I know what I know.
The sun is hot on my neck as I observe
The spikes of crocus.
The smell of the earth is good.
It is apparent that there is no death.
But what does that signify?
Not only under ground are the brains of men
Eaten by maggots.
Life in itself
Is nothing,
An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs.
It is not enough that yearly, down this hill,
Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter

This being Easter and all, I thought I'd share a poem for spring. When I hear Gerard Manley Hopkins's name, I think language. According to his biography on (click the link on his name for the full bio), "In addition to developing new rhythmic effects, Hopkins was also very interested in ways of rejuvenating poetic language. He regularly placed familiar words into new and surprising contexts. He also often employed compound and unusual word combinations." So that must be why I connect him with interesting language.

I hope you are enjoying spring, if it is spring where you are, spring with "all this juice and all this joy." Isn't that a wonderful phrase?

by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Nothing is so beautiful as spring—
    When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
    Thrush's eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;
    The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush
    The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.
What is all this juice and all this joy?
    A strain of the earth's sweet being in the beginning
In Eden garden.—Have, get, before it cloy,
    Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning,
Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,
    Most, O maid's child, thy choice and worthy the winning.

Saturday, April 7, 2012


I've missed a couple days of poetry posting. I'm having a mostly offline weekend, but I'm here briefly to share this poem, chosen for no other reason than it leaped out at me today.

Not Waving but Drowning
by Stevie Smith

Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he's dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.

From Collected Poems of Stevie Smith by Stevie Smith, published by New Directions Publishing Corp. Copyright © 1972 by Stevie Smith.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Slow But Steady {Creative Space}

My husband arrived home Saturday night from his week in Belgium, and Sunday morning I woke up with a sore throat. A week of not-enough-sleep and feeling stressed, topped off by two hours outside on a raw, cloudy Saturday afternoon, could only result in a rollicking spring cold. The symptoms went downhill from there, which means not a lot of progress has gone on this week with anything creative, although I have consumed impressive amounts of lemon/honey hot water.

But I finished the back of the second Baby Yours sweater, thank goodness.

Besides being awesome open-ended play props, play silks make excellent backgrounds for photographs! The blue color is very true to life in this photo, and I'm wondering if that's because I chose an orange background (orange is blue's complement). I'll have to keep this in mind for future photographs of tricky-colored yarn. Back to the sweater: I'm knitting the 6-month size in width and the 12-month size in length, and I think that will make for a much more proportionate sweater. The shoulder stitches are on holders, awaiting their 3-needle bindoff when I finish the fronts. I really meant to be farther along on this by now, simply because I want to be done with it.

And that's it for this week's creative space for me, but you can find more creative souls right here.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

How To Read a Poem {and some links}

Donna Lee is also posting and talking about poetry this month (yay!). I came across this poem today and, thinking about something she wrote about this morning, wanted to share it. And before I do, a few more links to share:

Michelle just told me about bentlily, where Samantha Reynolds is writing and posting a daily poem.

Teabird posted about villanelles yesterday and included two. I was planning on talking about villanelles one day this month and including two examples. But she's already done it, so go read her post instead.

Here is my post from last April on Kidoinfo, sharing some of our favorite kids' poetry books.

And here is the link to the poem, for Donna Lee and all of you:

How to Read a Poem: Beginner's Manual
by Pamela Spiro Wagner

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Double Dog Dare DONE!

For the month of March, I decided my double dog dare would be to get my first winter tree embroidery ready to drop off in the Jamestown Art Center's Collaboration art show. (I kind of slid that information into this post here.) I dropped it off this afternoon.

A little bit of back story--I thought about entering something last year, but didn't. Both my boys did; my then-six-year-old won first place. This is an open show, which means what it sounds like--it's open to all, as long as you meet the criteria, which is 12"x12" format and a small entry fee. Any medium, as long as the finished piece is 12"x12" and ready to hang. So right from the get-go, this is about as low-stress an art show as you can get. In a juried show, you pay the fee, drop off your piece, and they may say, "So sorry, it's just not right for us," and your piece doesn't even hang. But this is truly open to all.

And still! I very nearly didn't get it done. In the end, the actual work to get it ready to hang did not take a lot of time, but it did take a lot of mental psyching up. I was just so afraid of messing something up along the way...but also, I was just sort of...afraid. I'm not sharing this to get lots of comments on how wonderful this embroidery is, but because it's so easy, I think, for most of us to see what somebody else is doing, whether it be entering a show, selling at a market, opening an Etsy shop, putting together a book proposal, and think, Oh, easy for her to do. Better that we realize it's not easy for most of us, so we don't think all that stuff is for those other people. It's for everybody, if that's what you want. (And really, I can at least be as brave as my kids, right? You can see their entries here.)

So some of the things that flew through my head (and, at times, out of my mouth)? Besides the fear that I would just plain screw up getting it wrapped around the canvas (here's a peek at the back side)...

...I worried I'd have to defend my choice of embroidery as art, that I'd have to explain it wasn't from a pattern (as if a painter would ever have to explain it wasn't a paint-by-numbers piece!), and, worst of all, Who am I to think I'm anything more than just a mother? You know, we'll just leave that right where it is for now. I'm just saying, I said it. And then later, I went and stapled that fabric to that canvas (the piece I embroidered on, by the way, is intact, except for very small stitches holding it in place behind the black piece) and told myself I SAID IT WAS MY DOUBLE DOG DARE AND I'M DOING IT.

Because, though it might just sound like a psychological mind-trick, I'd said I was going to do it, and I hated the idea of slinking in and admitting I hadn't. Because I'd have had to admit it, and the only reason for not dropping this off was fear. And I was driving there anyway, with my kids, to drop their pieces off, and I remembered the saying that you don't regret the things you do in life as much as you regret the things you don't do, and so I dropped it off.

The two women accepting the pieces really, truly seemed to like it. I did not have to defend my choice of medium (of course I didn't). It is sort of, um, obvious that it's not from a pattern. It's, you know, art, and just as deserving to hang on a wall in an art show as anything else.

The opening reception is Friday night. We're all going; I'm so looking forward to it. If you're local, it's at the Jamestown Arts Center in Jamestown, RI, from 6-8 pm.

Double dog dare DONE!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Day Two: Adrienne Rich

Adrienne Rich died last week at the age of 82.

(It's hard to write something to follow that sentence.)

A couple years out of college, I decided to go back and get a BA in English. I had no real plan with what to do with it; I just wanted to. Because I had so recently graduated, all my gen ed classes transferred, which meant I took nothing but English and art classes (I quickly added in an art minor) for two years (summers too). This was bliss. For my Contemporary American Poetry class, I immersed myself in Adrienne Rich's "Diving into the Wreck" for one of my papers, and this is the poem I'm sharing with you today. It's not an easy poem, but let the words wash over you. See what resonates. Think about what it means to carry "a book of myths/in which/our names do not appear."

Diving into the Wreck

First having read the book of myths,
and loaded the camera,
and checked the edge of the knife-blade,
I put on
the body-armor of black rubber
the absurd flippers
the grave and awkward mask.
I am having to do this
not like Cousteau with his
assiduous team
aboard the sun-flooded schooner
but here alone.

There is a ladder.
The ladder is always there
hanging innocently
close to the side of the schooner.
We know what it is for,
we who have used it.
it is a piece of maritime floss
some sundry equipment.

I go down.
Rung after rung and still
the oxygen immerses me
the blue light
the clear atoms
of our human air.
I go down.
My flippers cripple me,
I crawl like an insect down the ladder
and there is no one
to tell me when the ocean
will begin.

First the air is blue and then
it is bluer and then green and then
black I am blacking out and yet
my mask is powerful
it pumps my blood with power
the sea is another story
the sea is not a question of power
I have to learn alone
to turn my body without force
in the deep element.

And now: it is easy to forget
what I came for
among so many who have always
lived here
swaying their crenellated fans
between the reefs
and besides
you breathe differently down here.

I came to explore the wreck.
The words are purposes.
The words are maps.
I came to see the damage that was done
and the treasures that prevail.
I stroke the beam of my lamp
slowly along the flank
of something more permanent
than fish or weed

the thing I came for:
the wreck and not the story of the wreck
the thing itself and not the myth
the drowned face always staring
toward the sun
the evidence of damage
worn by salt and sway into this threadbare beauty
the ribs of the disaster
curving their assertion
among the tentative haunters.

This is the place.
And I am here, the mermaid whose dark hair
streams black, the merman in his armored body.
We circle silently
about the wreck
we dive into the hold.
I am she: I am he

whose drowned face sleeps with open eyes
whose breasts still bear the stress
whose silver, copper, vermeil cargo lies
obscurely inside barrels
half-wedged and left to rot
we are the half-destroyed instruments
that once held to a course
the water-eaten log
the fouled compass

We are, I am, you are
by cowardice or courage
the one who find our way
back to this scene
carrying a knife, a camera
a book of myths
in which
our names do not appear.

From Diving into the Wreck: Poems 1971-1972 by Adrienne Rich. Copyright © 1973 by W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. Copyright 1973 by Adrienne Rich.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Welcome to April

April is National Poetry Month here in the United States, and poetry, people, makes my heart sing. I'm really going to try to share a poem a day here, and some may be repeats of poems I've shared before, on other blogs, so may be familiar to some of you. But this is my little way of advocating for poetry; I hope you find something to enjoy here this month.

If you have a favorite poem and would like to write a guest post this month sharing it and why you like it, please leave a comment with a way to contact you, or email me at SalamanderDreams21 at gmail dot com. A couple other special April events:

* April marks a year since I began this particular blog. I'm really going to try to celebrate that somehow, which means I'm pondering a giveaway. My first post was published on April 9, but I'm giving myself the whole month to figure this out.

* Poem In Your Pocket Day is on Thursday, April 26, this year. Just, you know, letting you know.

On to today's poem--chosen because the right poem can make me feel like I, too, am about to break into blossom.

A Blessing, by James Wright

Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota,
Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.
They have come gladly out of the willows
To welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness
That we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
There is no loneliness like theirs.
At home once more,
They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness.
I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
For she has walked over to me
And nuzzled my left hand.
She is black and white,
Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is delicate as the skin over a girl's wrist.
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
Into blossom.

Copyright © 2005 James Wright. From Selected Poems.