Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Woodland Faries and the "Nature Table"

I have always collected bits of nature, rocks and shells from the beach, pine cones, interesting driftwood and lately, roots and twisted branches. I usually place them around the house in baskets or on a shelf, but I was inspired by the Waldorf style nature tables I have been seeing in blogland lately and decided to create my own version.

Mai and I made woodland faries out of clothspins, tulle, ribbon and pipe cleaners. We gathered up our various collections of leaves, sticks and pine cones, rocks and tree blocks and made a miniature woodland. Maia's sand-paint artwork in greens and blue worked well as a pond and grass. The "nature table" continues to grow each day with the addition of nuts, seeds, dinosaurs, the very hungry caterpillar and some fisher price little people. I am now just waiting for the Thomas the tank engine to make his way into the forest. Rudolf Steiner be danged!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Wring, Squeeze or Press

I put my cloth through a couple of dye baths last week and am beginning to clarify what direction I am going in this semester. I love the process, the crisp white cloth, the buckets of warm water, the apron and rubber gloves. Using wood blocks, rocks, rubber bands, thread, clamps and bubble wrap to create pattern. Watery marks left on the cloth, like Rorschach blots, colors mixing in the water, or layer upon layer on the cloth, like watercolors. I was happy to see the cell-like forms rocks created (on green cloth left) and have been looking at the shapes and patterns of magnified plant cells, tree rings, roots, onion skins and tubers. I'm also experimenting with pole wrapping, binding, folding, and stitching - traditional shibori techniques. It is a beautiful art form and I am amazed by the imagery, depth and color that can be created on cloth through these methods. And, it is addictive. "Never throw a piece of cloth out, ever, no matter how much you don't like it!" declares my instructor. "You can always do something more to it." And it's true: dye, discharge and repeat. Many happy accidents await!

Little harvest, big taste

We attended our first block party in the new neighborhood last weekend, which was Olympic themed. Each household chose a country and was to bring wine or beer and a dish from that country. We chose South Africa, why, I really don't know, other than we got our form in late and knew the big ones were taken. Anyway, John has been to southern Africa and I have a friend I could consult with who is from Pretoria. The flag making was easy and the wine tasting fun. We loved the Roodeberg wine which M. recommended. But, the food, where to start? A sticky cake called a "koeksister," a "bredie" (stew) or "boerewors" (sausage)? I ended up starting with what I had in plentiful amounts: tomatoes, hot peppers and some coriander seeds from the garden which became a Cape Malay Chicken Curry. It was so full of flavors that it disappeared shortly after I set it down on the potluck table. It had ginger, fennel, lemon, coriander, cumin, garlic, cinnamon, and lots more curry spices. I also made a sweet South African yellow rice with cinnamon and raisins. Not bad for someone who ain't exactly thrilled about cooking and often sees it as a chore. And next year? As newbies, we have been conscripted into organizing the next block party. Yeah thanks and welcome to the neighborhood!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Swimming: a reflection

Swimming down the lane, after the initial shock of the cold water and the goggle and cap adjustments, the breathing beginning to become regulated, the cramps and soreness of the new strokes worked out. Twenty minutes into the swim, and I feel as if no effort is given, no thinking is being done. I feel as if I should be doing nothing else, that this is all I should ever be doing. Swimming. Through the lighted, blue smoothness, rocking back and forth in bilateral breathing, swishing at the turn, kicking off and gliding, reaching again for water and breath. The kick behind me, a thump, thump of some heartbeat rippling through the water, like amniotic fluid. I swam when I was pregnant, I remember. It has been that long. But here is my same blue swimsuit and red kick board, the dry sauna and hot showers. Here are the lane makers and the underwater bodies, distorted and reaching, the colorful caps bobbing in and out of the water, and the life guard. The bored-looking young life guard, staring past the swimmers, hypnotized by the warm air, the motion and the shimmering water. The water. Warm now, warmer than the air. I don't want to stop. I may not stop. I remember.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Back at it


Mai and I visited the ecology center this last week and played with the magnet/sand table (pushing little boats around from underneath the table with magnetism... magic!). She was able to pet a garter snake and a salamander (two fingers only), hold the ex-exoskeleton (carapace) of a turtle and watch the frogs and turtles swim around in their tanks. Outside and down the hill by the bike trial we visited the community gardens and saw delicious patches filled with tomatoes, cucs, corn, lettuce, peppers, cabbages, carrots and lots of flowering vine veggies. Maia met a little caterpillar and tried to pet its fuzzy back. We walked home and noticed a hint of crunch in the leaves under our stroller and a few spots of color (other than green) in the fallen leaves. Autumn, fall, harvest, cooling, why? why? why? she asks. The air is a cool relief; the energy buzzing around me. I walk slowly, breathing in, taking in the opening act of one of natures more flamboyant shows.

We are up early last week, walking and biking, commuting to school. Mai and I to my art classes/children's center and Juj over to a friends and then the few blocks to the middle school. We load up the panniers, the backpacks, the stroller as if we are leaving for a mini camping trip; lunches, water bottles, stuffed animals, rain gear, books, wipes and a frozen yogurt to go. So far so good for the first week, but to keep the commitment of no driving will be a challenge come the cold Wisconsin weather. But thats a long way off, isn't it?