Getting out of the suburbs and into the beauty of the created world is inspiring and refreshing! We saw many marvelous sights on our West Texas Journey, including an expanse of the heavens in Marfa with no city lights obscuring the incredible starry skies, beautiful and wild blooms, and the gorgeous granite batholith called Enchanted Rock between Llano and Fredericksburg, Texas.
Jeremiah 51:15 says, “He made the earth by His power; He founded the world by His wisdom and stretched out the heavens by His understanding.”
Standing at the top of Enchanted Rock and looking out across the rough beauty of the Texas Hill Country makes me feel the truth of this verse in my bones. And it awakens a hunger for knowing God more personally and intimately.
We get so excited to meet our favorite artists–whether they are musicians, actors or other creatives–how much more exciting to get to hang out with the creator of the entire universe? It’s stunning, really. And a bit scary!
My, my, my … how the time does get away. Life intervenes with plans … and even hopes and dreams. The necessity of earning a paycheck often takes up the time we romantics would rather spend spinning, knitting, creating, or otherwise engaging in activities for which we do not get paid. Thankfully, we have friends who can drag us back into the worlds we love!
Arabella encouraged me to go with her to Mary Berry’s Fiber Retreat over Valentine’s weekend. I am so happy that I went! The entire experience was such a reminder how much I need creative input into my life — and I believe this is true for all of us, whether we realize it or not. It can become difficult to set aside the time, but the peace that a creative experience can bring into your life is so worth the effort.
I LOVE spinning! But I haven’t done much of it in the last two years. The weekend was an immersion in luxurious and delicious fiber–so many types of wool, silk, camel, alpaca–it felt so good to get them running through my hands again. The retreat also included a multitude of workshops on knitting techniques, spinning, weaving and even dyeing. It was a lovely group (I think around 90 women) with knitting needles, spinning wheels and portable looms.
I was able to spin this gorgeous teal skein (top of pic) that I purchased from Christine, who owns Spinning Straw into Gold. It is a 50/50 blend of silk and a material called tencel, which is fascinating! Tencel is a fiber made from wood pulp, it absorbs dye beautifully, blends well with others, has natural breath-ability like cotton but can absorb a lot more moisture, AND it makes beautiful yarn!
The silk/tencel was wonderful to spin!
Over The Rhine — if you haven’t met them yet, go introduce yourself; they are quite friendly, and extremely talented.
I have to leave the city now, she said,
Or dash my soul against my will instead.
I do not wish to have the quiet part of me
That once could rest (the part
That could just be) tossed
Aside and left somewhere
Tonight it seems to me
That what some friends call energy
Is nothing more than a phenomenon of nature known as
“Incurable Whirling Disease.”
Please, take me far from here, she said,
The buildings sting and echo
With the fumy cries of yellowjacket cars.
I took her hand in mine and said,
I’m thinking of a place now
Where I used to have to tell myself
Those are not clouds,
Copyright 2007, Linford Detweiler
Last summer while working in Plymouth, Mass., I visited Plimoth Plantation, a living history museum set up as it would have been in the year 1629. I walked into one of the tiny Pilgrim cabins and saw the above, pretty much exactly as you see it here. I entered through the door just as the sun was pouring into the otherwise darkened cabin through the narrow chimney shaft, focusing the concentrated light on this small bottle of oil. So striking!
I’ve thought of this image many times over the last eight months or so since I took this picture. The thoughts generally focus on the question of gains and losses…since 1629, we’ve gained so much. A nation! Democracy! Medicine, technology, science…so much! I wonder why I keep returning to the other side of the coin (so to speak)–what have we lost?
We’ve lost the pace of peace, to be sure. All of our modernity, each item eagerly trumpeted as “the latest and greatest time-saving device” has not given us more time at all. As we have regulated all that used to regulate us–harvest, seasons, night and day–we’ve removed the natural barriers that kept us separate from the now constant-fast pace at which we hurtle through the days.
We’ve gained medicine, but lost health through our demand for processed foods and our unwillingness to unplug and slow down. Even when the doctor says to us specifically, “You have to reduce the stress in your life, or you will have a heart attack,” we don’t really believe him.
Nostalgia can be a dangerous drug. I want to be careful not to pine for what’s past as a retro-version of “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.”
In a sense, though, that IS what we do with our present and future–striving forward with technology and other “improvements.” Once I get a SmartPhone, I can keep up with email when I’m in the carpool line or waiting at the post office; once I get and iPad and subscribe to the newest airplane wireless technology, I can stay in contact with the office even while I’m in the air; once I get the new 2011 Ford, I won’t even have to parallel park by myself! Once I get…
How do we break the cycle?
“Good,” Arabella told me, “you understand the basics. Now what you need is time at the wheel. Nothing else can teach you what you need.”
As I come to the end of the marvelous green bump that MonChere brought me on Mother’s Day, I have tangible evidence of the truth of Arabella’s statement. The green bump (that’s what a large roll of roving is called) spun into about 9 skeins. Oh, the difference between the first skein and the last!
As beginning spinners, we are inconsistent in the size of yarn we are spinning, and also in the amount of twist we are adding to the yarn in the spinning process. The result is a finished yarn that is really too curly and twirly to be usefully knitted. (Which is one reason why you shouldn’t spend a lot of money on the wool you are learning upon!)
In this first skein, notice the uneven strands–some are “skinny” and some are “fat.” This occurs when the spinning of the singles is uneven–of course, the hallmark of a beginner! This is one of the skills that can only be gained by “time at the wheel.” Spinning such a large bump of wool gave me enough time at the wheel to really improve on my consistency.
Another issue for beginners is “overspinning,” which is also a consistency issue. It happens when too much twist is added to the single during spinning. When plying two singles, spinning in the opposite direction from which the singles were originally spun “balances” the finished yarn as they are twined together–except when both singles are inconsistently overspun. Then you just get what’s pictured here–evidence that this spinner needs more time at the wheel!
It does happen, though. The improvement does happen. Compare this last skein (hooray!) with the first above. Notice the evenness of the strands compared to each other, and the evenness of the whole skein compared to the first. This last skein even felt completely different in my hands as I wound it–lighter, fluffier, balanced.
As for the improvement, I can’t tell you what to do specifically, except keep spinning. It’s very strange, really. A spinner begins as an uncoordinated, goofy, stumbling upon oneself, uncertain being, but sticking with it, somehow she manages to bring it all together by not thinking about it, but simply doing it. Time at the wheel, says wise Arabella.
Arabella has also invited me to her spinning group, The Texas Twisters, which is a fabulous group of fiber-spinning, artistic, and lovely women who get together once a week and spin for hours and hours. It’s heavenly. Today we were a fairly small group (about 9), and we spent several hours together laughing, sharing, and sometimes just quietly spinning.
It occurred to me again today that although I am glad spinning is my hobby and not a requirement of my daily life, we have definitely traded something valuable for our freedom. Community, intimacy, slow hours together instead of a full-bore constant pace….these are the gems we have traded for our modernity. On any given day, we might shrug and move on, happy in our freedoms. But sometimes, just sometimes, I get a glimpse of the beauty of a slower-paced, less materialistic, more careful life, and I think I miss it.
I love visiting my mom’s house in the beautiful Texas hill country. There seems to be a peace in the hill country all its own–the many clear rivers, the luscious greenery, interesting caves and hills and canyons–the area is a treasure. My mom’s house is a treasure too, a tiny 1911 cottage with a huge yard that she has completely transformed in the twelve or so years she’s lived there.
I see now that my mom is truly an artist. She’s also a mom, and a professor, and a friend, and a colleague, and a writer, and a speaker. I respect and admire all those things about her. But one huge reason I like going to her house is to be in the middle of her artistic expression, and to feel the way it makes me feel. Engaged. Interested. Peaceful. Happy, even. Surrounded by beauty and art.
None of it is “museum art”. You won’t be impressed with famous names or even pieces that look like they should be in a museum. Her art is truly expressive, mostly folk art and functional art. I mean, she has an antique doll head on top of a plant in a teapot. Who does this? Well, she does, and it’s fabulous.
On the long drive back to my home, I started thinking about how I feel in her house, and why I like her particular style so much. Maybe partly because she’s my mom, and I seem to have inherited her “quirky” gene. But I think it’s mainly because everything in her house feels intentional. Every beautiful or even strange object (like the doll’s head) is placed precisely where she wants it to be, with intent. This feels substantial to me, and I like it. It is artistry.
Functional art intrigues me very much because it represents the creative spirit in all of us (see Angus’ post about Art.) Shaker furniture may be the most recognized example of the best of functional art–pure beauty in its simple lines and curves, the best artistry and craftsmanship in its making, and an enduring statement about incorporating art and beauty into our daily mundane tasks. My mom has a lot of functional art in her home. The plastic cups we drink from are even artfully colorful in her exposed cabinets.
But there’s a reason they aren’t just plastic cups, but are instead colorful, textured, and perfect for the spot. The reason is because she’s an artist, and her home is her canvas.
I want to grow up to be just like her.