Archive for September, 2011

One Thing Leads to Another

Last weekend we had a garage sale.  I wanted to get rid of items that have taken up space in the garage for years – bicycles, skis, birdfeeders, cans of oil, pots and trellises – things that will never be used again by us.  There also were clothes that no longer fit, household items that are no longer interesting and cameras and equipment that have been replaced by digital.  I also wanted to sell some magazines I have collected over the years.

The first day was slow and rainy, so I spent the time looking at back issues of Piecework, a magazine about the history of textiles.  I loved Piecework when it first came out and then not so much when the editors changed … what?  Honestly, I do not know what changed that I no longer liked.  My collection of Piecework went back to the beginning in 1993.  Flipping hrough eighteen years of magazines, I ran across a couple of surprises, not surprising since many issues arrived when I had too little time to read them.

One surprise was learning about needlepoint artist Stephen Beal, who wrote 24 poems to his embroidery floss.  For the uninitiated, embroidery floss colors are identified by number and there are hundreds of colors and numbers.  Beal uses floss manufactured by Dollfus-Mieg & Co. (DMC), Paris, France.  His poems are collected in a book, The Very Stuff.   The five poems reprinted  in the January/February 1995 issue of Piecework are each accompanied by a small stitched book mark-shaped piece.

The poems are charming, and include lines like, “This chrome is a yellow you could walk to China on.”  And this, dedicated to the 350’s shades of coral:  “350 the eldest, a big strong girl…351 and 352 are the sisters who get called each other’s names…”  There are more samples of his poetry on the DMC website at ttp://

The other surprise was an article about Poetry Mittens from the 1995 November/December issue.  The article discusses the history of a single mitten from 1780 that is stitched with letters and words from a poem titled “Trouble.”  The Smithsonian has a pair of mittens with the complete poem.  The words start at the wrist and wind down the hand.  The article includes directions for knitting a pair of poetry mittens with the following poem by Veronica Patterson: When snow swirls / we begin to dream / of dancing firelight / and hasten gaily home, / clapping hands / and words to / warm them.

I pulled a couple dozen of the best issues of Piecework to save for myself and passed the rest along to my Textile Study Group.  All the back issues will be passed along and along and I feel good about that.


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Frog Pot

I found this frog at Clinton Street Antiques in Milwaukee.    Here’s a link to a photo of the shop:   Clinton Street Antiques has a lot of garden related bits and pieces.  The back door leads to a sweet little urban garden with a koi pond.

Interestingly, the shop is not located on Clinton Street at all.  It’s on South First Street, which is in Walker’s Point, where the Allen-Bradley Clock Tower is  located, listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s largest four-sided clock.

The frog, which I’ve named Lizzie, has kept me company on my deck all summer.  I’m sure it’s a frog and not a toad because of her sexy smooth green skin.  I was hoping the plant would look like a bunch of wild curls coming out of her head.  I think it succeeded pretty well.

Now it’s nearly time to put her away for the winter.  Or perhaps she’d prefer to hibernate in Stricker’s Pond across the street.  I’ll know where to look if she goes missing!

Lizzie, where are you?

Have you gone to hibernate?

See you in the spring….

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Monkey Mind

I am reading Rilke’s Book of Hours:  Love Poems to God, translated by Anita
Barrows and Joanna Macy.  These poems were for private use, like a Medieval breviary from which the title is taken.

According to Barrows and Macy, Rilke received.. “inner dictations, words that came to him mornings and evenings and that struck him with their force and persistence.”  This poem struck me:

If only for once it were still.

If the not quite right
and the why this

could be muted, and the neighbor’s laughter,

and the static my senses make –

if all of it didn’t keep me from coming awake.

Then in one vast thousandfold thought

I could think you up to where thinking ends.

I could possess you,

even for the brevity of a smile,

to offer you

to all that lives,

in gladness.

The italicized words “not quite right” and “why this” remind me of Monkey Mind, which I learned about from Natalie Goldberg, a writer, teacher and artist.  Monkey Mind is a Buddhist term meaning restless, inconstant. Goldberg considers writing and painting a Zen practice:  it settles the mind.   Perhaps writing the poems in The Book of Hours was Rilke’s form of Zen practice, circa 1899-1903.

Many of Rilke’s poems describe or refer to “things” as inherently wise.   He says:

I want to utter you.
I want to portray you

not with lapis or gold, but with colors made of apple bark.

I want, then, simply

to say the names of things.

For you are the ground.

The ages to you are only season.

In her book, Living Color: A Writer Paints Her World, Goldberg says, “Everything is speaking if we listen.  A rock just talks slower.  It takes a hundred years for it to say one syllable.”

Here is my somewhat  humorous take on Monkey Mind, with thanks to Natalie:















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Heads up, Sunflower:

the world is turning, and soon…

snow will cover you!

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