This life is a wheel, I think, ever turning, sometimes it seems to slow but never stops. Recently there have been friends who have died in their elder stages of life, the wheel turns. Today photos of a new baby arrived in my inbox, smiling tired parents and sleeping baby, I knew this woman when she was just a girl and now she’s a mom…the wheel turns again. We received a wedding announcement for a young couple who found each other at the camp where we work what wonder this turning wheel brings. Is it the wheel of a traveling carriage on a long journey? Or perhaps the spinning wheel, turning fibers into threads to weave into the tapestry of life. I think that might be it, threads sturdy and strong, threads thin and tenuous. All to be dyed and woven into to the cloth of their purpose. A garment, a blanket, a shelter. Worn to tatters as is the way of the turning wheel never stopping, only slowing now and again for us to notice if we happen to be paying attention.
This is a fabric collage piece I just completed inspired by this moment of noticing the wheel. Thank you to Joan and Ralph who have recently died, thank you for showing me a bit of the tapestry of your life sharing your shelter, wisdom and comfort. Thank you baby Solomon and his parents Calen and Myron for reminding me that the wheel that turns to death also turns to life, and thank you Colby and Noelle for inviting us to witness the turning of the wheel once more, the twining of your lives from two threads to one that will be long, beautiful and sturdy.
A couple of weeks ago I showed you the first in my “Time Stamp” series. These are small meditations on a moment. I’m trying to capture the feeling of a particular place and time not a literal image. So here is my second in this endeavor. A morning hike through Gina’s Orchard here at The Bishop’s Ranch revealed a clutch of wild iris, a little patch of purple in a sea of green. Here is my fabric collage marking of that moment.
I went for an early morning walk today. I was on a mission to pick persimmons to make steamed persimmon pudding. There are several persimmon trees here at The Bishop’s Ranch and as always there was an abundance of persimmons. Yesterday I noticed that most were gone or fallen to the ground, or pecked to the stem by grateful ravenous birds; birds who can’t believe their luck to find such a treat just days from a solstice dark night. This frosty morning I realized that if I don’t get some now I wouldn’t be able to make my Aunt Lorraine steamed pudding.
My Aunt Lorraine turned 90 this October and I brought her some stone hard persimmons as a gift. As a thank you she sent me her recipe for steamed persimmon pudding… and in her Christmas card I got this week she asked me if I’d made it yet. So you can see I felt duty bound to honor this women with the making of a steamed pudding!
As I often do I started making the recipe before reading through the entire directions. My batter was made before I realized I’d need a “6 cup greased metal mold” – opps – I could picture what I think I need, my grandma had all these copper decorative pans with fluted sides – I think that’s what I need – all I have is a Bundt pan – it will have to do. As I read on I realized I need to fit this Bundt pan into a large kettle – it just fits! Uh oh how do I get it out? I need to put water in the bottom of the pan… with a bit of kitchen twine and some knotting skills I managed to rig a string lift to check the water. Now I’m ready to go! What? “Steam for 2 ½ hours”. With time on my hands I did this little painting of some persimmons waiting on my windowsill. Still more time and I’m writing this blog and connecting with you… still 59 minutes to go, I guess I should clean the kitchen now. But not before I give thanks for persimmons, and family recipes, and the gift of time for this disorganized cook to paint and ponder and reach out to you.
Be well this holiday season and take time, however it presents itself, to give thanks for all the beauty and love swirling around the long dark nights and short crisp days of Solstice.
Spring brings blossoms, summer brings fruit, and fall brings libations!
Last weekend some friends invited us to help them pick and press apples. We picked pounds and pounds of apples, brought by the wheelbarrow full to the press. Then we washed and dropped the apples into a mechanical chopper. The chopped apples were then put into an old-fashioned crank juice press. We took turns washing, chopping and cranking – filling jugs of apple juice to freeze for drinking later. Then we juiced more, about 20 gallons more in fact. This juice is now bubbling and brewing and becoming hard cider. This process is way beyond my skills, I’m leaving it up to a master mixer, but since I volunteered to pick and press… this fall I’ll get to taste. Not bad pay!
I have a years worth of workshops lined up on the calendar go to my website to see what’s happening and how to sign up! http://lisathorpe.com/classes.html
I was out at our house in the redwoods this week for a little respite and of course with home ownership come chores. There are some things that must be done and my ongoing battle with three fierce enemies is a summer ritual. My battle for dominance is akin to the Game of Thrones series. For those of you unfamiliar with Game of Thrones, there are multiple competing forces all vying to rule a fantasy world. I can’t really keep track of who’s who most of the time; and there really doesn’t seem to be a clear good guy, but there are clearly bad guys….any how, I took on my annual battle with the forces of nature like Khaleesi fighting the despicable slavery lords. My three opponents are these: One- the wily Poison Oak, clever at disguising itself – it can be a shrub, a vine and often likes to hide among other plants lying in wait to spread it’s itch inducing oils. Two- the spiny Blackberry, armed from leaf to root with thorns and able to amass a great, vast, impenetrable army of shrubbery to defend itself. Three- Scotch Broom, an invasive species that shoots up everywhere, really everywhere, like the Zombie White Walkers in the afore mentioned fantasy world; and left unchecked can take over a hillside in a year or two. So those are my enemies, and while the weapon of a hoe is honorable and effective, it is no match for these voracious foes. Don’t hate me for bringing out the big guns, Round Up and a two-gallon hand pump sprayer is my bazooka, or to keep the Game of Thrones metaphor going the Round Up is akin Daenerys Targaryen’s mighty flying dragons defending her territory from all comers. Fingers crossed I have kept my rivals at bay for another year, but never fear, season 12 is just one rainy winter and sunny spring away.
I went for a hike along the trails here at The Bishop’s Ranch yesterday morning. The sun was bright and warm, tempered by a brisk spring wind. As I walked through the heirloom apple orchard the nearly century old trees, twisted and bedraggled with dead branches, persisted in blooming, they resist the urge each year to give in to winter and choose instead, with what energy they have, to embrace spring. Thanks to the abundant winter rains this year the trees are surrounded by carpet of green dotted with delicate, bright yellow buttercups. As I bent down to pick a few a sweet memory flooded through – forty-five years or more ago I bent to pick these same buttercups. That day I stood in a meadow with my sister. The meadow had a little creek that ran through it and housed two fat ponies and a burro. While they grazed idly by we picked buttercups. We picked buttercups not by the handful but by the armful. We truly filled buckets with buttercups to bring to the house. We filled every nook and cranny with buttercup bouquets.
Yesterday I brought my bundle of buttercups to my studio. I am preparing for a mixed media nature journaling class I’m teaching in May here at the Ranch (class info). I have been experimenting with printing organic objects. So I inked up my printing plate and placed my buttercups down, laid the paper on and rubbed. When the print is lifted what showed is the negative space around the buttercup. Then I gently peeled up the buttercups and made what is called a ghost print of what was left behind under the buttercups. I found these negative space prints and their ghosts to contain a simple quiet beauty and while I was making them I began to think of my father who passed away last fall. I have been working on a slide show for the celebration of life we are having for him next weekend. While I have done the best to find images of him throughout is life from birth to death, to somehow encapsulate who he was in one slide show, I know is folly. There are gaps of course, missing pieces things he loved not captured in film, people whom he loved and loved him not pictured. The gaps and missing pieces in this slide show are like the negative space buttercup prints- they depict the presence of absence the space around the life. And like the ghost prints it is just a whisper of the vibrant life he led. I am grateful that his memory comes to me in many ways through photos and celebrations, and quiet buttercup prints reminding me to leave space for the presence of absence.