Saturday, August 27, 2016

Diversions and Distractions

Summer always seems like it will be a good time to get a lot done in my studio. I can picture myself with a tall glass of iced-tea, sewing away in my cool, shady studio, surrounded by green and flowers in bloom and birds chirping merrily in the trees. And sometimes it is just that, but I forget how many other diversions and distractions summer brings. Good and bad.

One big distraction this summer has been this.

It is a large subdivision being built directly across the road from our house and studio. Here's the view from my studio window.

There will be 39 houses built here, but before the houses, the land was cleared of all but a patch of thick woods. The corner where two roads meet in a dangerous intersection will be realigned. There will be a huge new culvert placed under the road for "our" creek to run through before it reaches our front yard. Try to imagine the armada of machines, diggers and earth-movers that has invaded our sylvan little corner of the world.

And these are just a few of the ones left onsite over the weekend. During the week, the "beep, beep, beep, beep" of those backup warnings is incessant and could drive a person a little crazy. Just to give you an idea of the proximity, this morning we walked up through the site. Below, Ray is walking toward our house. See the blue porta-potty near the road? My studio is directly across the road, barely visible in the trees. That road, in front of our house is closed for the next month.

Oh, and I nearly forgot to mention that last Tuesday the diggers hit a natural gas line, sending gas whooshing (the sound was thunderous) into the neighborhood. Rotten egg smell had us all gagging as firemen arrived and told us to leave as quickly as we could. They stopped the leak and repaired the line, allowing us to return to our houses that evening.

Life has not been all noise and destruction. We have been enjoying our grandchildren a lot. We managed to get a fun T-shirt decorating project done before all hell broke loose, the day of the gas leak.

Last week one of the "twelves", Helen Conway, came to Portland and we had a wonderful get together, with Gerrie, Kristin and me, the 3 Portland members and Deborah, who came up from Texas just for Helen's visit. It was the first time I have met Helen in person and it was so lovely! It has been 9 years since we all met online and began our creative collaboration and that experience continues to enrich my life in so many ways.

Helen, Kristin, Deborah, Gerrie and me

I've spent quite a few hours this summer cleaning and organizing my studio. Soon I will post some interesting fabrics I decided I will never use and will be offering for sale. One day I felt I just had to do some sewing on my beautiful new sewing machine, and made this piece. It is small–about 6" wide.

Finally this week I felt ready to start something new. I've been going through travel photos and thinking about favorite places. Somehow a memory of Mexico feels like it might be right for a new themed piece for an upcoming show. And so it begins.

Just this week I got notice that two of my pieces were accepted for this fall's Beaverton Art Mix. My painter son-in-law will also have two paintings in the show—we are pleased!


Sunday, August 21, 2016

When I met Red

When we were in Pocatello last month, my brother said he wanted me to tell his daughters the story of my meeting our grandfather, Raymond "Red" Valkinburg. I would have been happy to tell the story, but time got short and we got busy and it didn't happen. So I thought I'd tell it now.

Grandma and Red in 1924

Red was our shadow grandfather. We never knew him, but cards would come at Christmas, signed by his wife "love, Dad & Jo." He had exited our Mother's life when she was 8 and her parents divorced. He left and never looked back. Once, when I was a child, he and Jo stopped in Pocatello, and spent an awkward hour making small talk and drinking iced tea in our living room. Before they left he gave my sister, brother and me each a dollar. "More than I ever got from him," I remember my mother saying. That was the only time I remember seeing him as a child.

In 1969 I was working as a traveling consultant for my sorority and was finishing up a visit in Texas. My birthday was that weekend, and since I was in the general area I called my aunt and uncle in Albuquerque to ask if I could come and spend my 23rd birthday with them. My mother's sister, Virginia, and her husband Fletcher (Uncle Fletch) were favorites. I adored them. They lived on a dusty country road in a little old adobe house with a corral and barn out back. They were horse people. By day Fletch was a fireman on the Santa Fe railroad, out of Gallup, but horses were their passion. Virginia was tan and earthy, dressed in Levis and turquoise jewelry. The morning of my birthday Fletch said, "Terry Ann, have you ever been to the horse races? I think we need to go!" Virginia stayed home to tend to horses and make a birthday cake, and Fletch and I headed for the racetrack in his pickup truck. It was a beautiful, sunny April day!

On the way Fletch explained how the races would go and how to pick a horse to bet on. First we'd buy a "tip sheet" giving stats and information about the horses, then we'd go down to where we could look at the horses before the race, and Fletch, knowing about horses, would teach me what to look for.

Outside the racetrack, as we walked toward the entrance, Fletch spotted an old guy selling tip sheets, in the crowd. He was old and stooped, with a bag like a paper boy's, filled with his mimeographed pamphlets. "That's what we need!" As we got closer, Fletch suddenly stopped short and grabbed my arm. "I'll be damned—it's Red. Your grandfather." At first I was confused. Then I understood—the old guy selling tip sheets was my elusive, absentee grandfather. Wow. Fletch approached him. "Red, remember me? I'm Fletcher, Virginia's husband." Red stared hard, then extended his hand—"Fletcher, sure—nice to see ya." Then Fletch turned to me. "This is Terry Ann, your granddaughter. Betty's daughter..." Red turned slowly toward me and looked me up and down. Finally he said, "Don't look much like Betty." Then he turned and shuffled away. I saw my uncle's eyes turn dark, then he gently took my arm and said, "Come on— its your birthday, let's go take a look at those horses!" We had good time and won a few dollars, but the mood had changed. In the truck, headed back to the house, Fletch was quiet, then he smacked his knee and exploded, "That son of a bitch! That goddamn son of a bitch! Don't tell your mother that we even saw him!" We got back and Fletch told Virginia the story, again cursing Red in even saltier terms. Virginia waved him off and told me not to mind him—Red wasn't worth getting upset about, and besides it was my birthday and we had some celebrating to do, but I could tell she was a little shaken.

Fletch and Virginia

Of course I told my mother the story and she just shook her head in disgust. About a year later Mom got a call from Jo. Red was dying. Jo wanted Mom to come. He wanted to see her before he died, or so Jo believed. Mom was kind, but firm. "I'm sorry. I truly am, but it's too late for any of that. It's too late."

I look back on that meeting, honestly, without emotion. What a coincidence. What a small world. A story to tell, for sure. And now I am a grandparent myself, and I see, finally, what a sad story it is, and undeserving as he probably was, I have to feel sad for Red and even sadder for my mother. My mother is gone. Fletch and Virginia are gone. I miss them all so much. Red? My grandfather. How could I miss him? I never knew him.


Monday, August 15, 2016

Houses, homes

On our recent trip to my hometown of Pocatello we drove by two of the houses I have lived in, and I stopped the car to take pictures of each. (Probably freaked out the owners if they saw me) I'll bet most of you have done this at some time. There is something so compelling about going back for a new look at a place you once called home. It is almost irresistible.

This is the house I lived in from age 4 to age 14, the first house my parents actually owned. 61 Maplewood.

It was a postwar house like thousands built quickly at the end of World War II all over the United States, in a neighborhood of street after street of identical houses, filled with kids—a great place to grow up. Unlike many of its neighbors, this house actually looks better today than it looked 60 years ago when I posed, miserably, on the front steps with my broken arm at the age of 8.

The iron railing my dad added to the house is still there, and, incredibly, the same screen door. The paint looks much better than it did back then. The only photos I could find of that house were of the front steps, where it seemed I often posed for a photo. Here I am at the bottom of the steps proudly showing off my stylish southwestern style dress, sewn by my mother.

No old photos of the whole house. I wish I had one for comparison.
The next stop was the cute Tudor revival house, that was the first house Ray and I owned. 912 West Wyeth. Sadly, it didn't look great to me. Somewhere in the years inbetween the Tudor details and old siding were covered over with barn-like vertical siding. This made me sad.

Like the other house, I have no photos of it when we lived there, only bits, like what you can see behind my son (wasn't he cute?!) in this old shot.

However, about 15 years ago I made a quilt with our long-gone Volkswagen for a guild challenge, themed "Firsts"—first house, first new car.

How I wish I had documented, in photos, all of the places I've lived. I would love to revisit each one and see how they have changed and remember what my life was like when I lived there, and somehow search for whatever mark I might have left on that house that has become the container for other lives, and see if I can detect any sense of me that might linger there. Humble, though most of them have been, I have loved every house I've ever lived in.

My son-in-law gave me a painting he painted of our last Portland house. I wish I had one of each house. I wish I had known how much I would enjoy looking back on those houses.

And today I took a picture of the house I live in now.

So here's an idea. Go take a picture of your house. Now. Do it. Someday you'll be glad you have it, I promise.


Saturday, August 13, 2016

On the Oregon Trail

Last week Ray and I went to Pocatello, Idaho where I grew up, to help celebrate the 90th birthday of one of my favorite people. It's a long drive, but we get back to Pocatello almost yearly, and I have to say I appreciate the beauty of the place much more now than I did as a child. The city sits in the Portneuf valley near the Portneuf Gap—an opening between the surrounding mountains where the Oregon Trail came through the mountains in the great western migration. In fact the highway we drive between Portland and Pocatello follows the route of the Oregon Trail all the way. As we drove home, earlier this week, I thought about what the trail pioneers were seeing as they traveled this last leg of that great journey. It is a vast, barren desert across southern Idaho and into eastern Oregon—a pretty discouraging place if you want my honest opinion, but then there are grand surprises, like the Snake River canyon and Shoshone Falls, near Twin Falls. Imagine stumbling upon this out in the expanse of flat sage-covered desert—but of course the bridge and the golf course weren't there yet...

When I posted this photo on Facebook last week a friend recounted a story of sitting in traffic on this bridge years ago, and watching, in horror, as a young man appeared on the roadway, placed a rose on that railing and then leapt over the rail to his death. Horrifying. Not the first death along the Oregon Trail. I have read a lot of excerpts from diaries kept during the migration years of the trail and was stunned by how many entries were simply, "passed 8 graves today..., " "passed 3 graves near the Snake River..." and repeated day after day. My great-grandmother came, as a child, with her parents, to Oregon on the Oregon Trail. I often think about that and try to imagine it. Years back I had surgery to have my ruptured appendix removed. As I was lying in my hospital bed recovering, the thought suddenly came to me— if I had been in a wagon coming west when this happened, I would now be in one of those graves alongside the trail. We probably can't really imagine just how hard that journey was.
Passing into Oregon, the scenery doesn't change much until you get to Baker City, one of the old pioneer towns along the trail, in a wide green valley, with a view of the Wallawa mountains in the distance.

Baker was our halfway point between Pocatello and Portland and we treated ourselves to a night at the historic Geiser Grand Hotel, in Baker City's charming, well-preserved historic downtown.

A relatively undiscovered gem, Baker City.

From there we headed into the Blue Mountains, which were treacherous for the wagon trains, especially in winter. Even now we are wary of driving through "the Blues" in late fall and winter. This time of year the drive is beautiful and in summer must have been a welcome relief from the desert for the pioneers, despite the difficulties of the terrain.

Coming down from the Blue mountains the land returns to desert, flat and desolate for many miles until you hit the Columbia River.

There you head into the Columbia Gorge, which slowly turns from brown, treeless slopes into wet, misty forest, tall, rocky cliffs and magical waterfalls—the promise of a new, fertile and verdant land that drew all those tens of thousands west. And I always feel what those pioneers must have felt when those cliffs come into view—almost home!

It was a fine trip. I spent time with old friends, dear family and visited my old neighborhoods, filled with great memories. Richard Neuberger, a former senator from Idaho, wrote a book called "They Never Go Back to Pocatello." But some of us do. We follow the old, hard-traveled trail back and forth. I suppose I always will.


Saturday, July 30, 2016

Why it matters to me


Here's me—1968, the year I graduated from college, ready to face the world in my beehive hairdo and unbounded optimism. When I was ready, a year later (I spent my first year out of college working for my sorority), to get out into the real world, after getting a job, my first adult decision was to buy a car, using the money I had saved for the down payment. My dad, of course, had to co-sign on the loan, because women could not borrow money or apply for credit before 1974. For the same reason, he co-signed the lease on my first apartment. If I hadn't had a Dad or husband, I'd have had to find some other agreeable man to sign for me. Really.

Over the next couple of years I had three different jobs. My first was in a fancy furniture store where I was training to be an interior designer. My pay, as a trainee, was very low, then when I moved from trainee to commission sales it dropped to practically nothing. The older men I worked with regularly managed to poach most of my customers and my commissions. When I complained I was told I had to understand that they had families to support. I didn't. And I was a terrible salesperson.

My next job was an utter disaster from the outset. I taught sewing at the local Singer Sewing Machine dealership. (I told the whole story here) During my training I learned that all Singer shop managers, throughout the world, were men. Women were deemed incapable of such a job— you know—managing people and "money stuff"! It seems laughable now, and felt outrageous even then. But, due to my shop's poor male management, business was so bad that my job was eliminated after only a few weeks, so I never had to ponder my lack of upward mobility within the Singer organization.

The third job was designing and creating window and store displays at the downtown Boise Bon Marche department store. In many ways I was born for this job and I loved so many things about it, but once again I had to swallow the knowledge that the men, who I actually supervised, made more money than I did, because—you guessed it—they "had families to support." There was also a small incident when one of those men asked to be given a different job because he could not deal with the idea of a woman supervisor. He was accommodated and my boss, apologetically told me it was because he was from a military family that the idea of taking directions from a woman was so abhorrent. We had to understand such things...

By now I had met and married Ray and, though I loved creating displays, it seemed my best option was to go back to school and become a teacher because that was one of the few professions where women enjoyed a measure of equity, though there were no female administrators and I was told, when I was hired that if I became pregnant I would have to quit. As it turned out, this policy was overturned that very year and I did get pregnant! But I had never wanted to be a teacher and I struggled.

I embraced the Women's movement that was coming into its own and little by little things changed. I worked and studied my way into other, better jobs over the years and life has been good. Change came, but only because women fought for it. I've never forgotten that. And I bless those women—Gloria Steinem, Bella Abzug, Shirley Chisholm, Betty Friedan, so many more... And now the movement is ancient history and most equal rights pretty much taken for granted, as they should be. Younger women didn't see the change happen, so I'm not surprised that they don't view the idea of the possibility of a woman president as anything any more unusual than the idea of a woman CEO of a Fortune 500 company (which didn't happen until 1972, by the way. Look it up. Katharine Graham) Our stories of how women were treated when we were young now sound antiquated and a little like the stories our parents told of walking 5 miles, through the snow, to school each day. Yeah, yeah, things were tough.....yawn.

So, now, for me, it all comes back as we nominate a woman—A WOMAN!—to run for president. A woman in the White House. A woman capable of the job. Not as a symbol, but as an affirmation of not just equal opportunity but equal ability, equal intellect, equal emotional strength. It could have been any number of such women over the years, but it wasn't, until now. We could actually have a woman president. It will happen, if not now, soon. Because now it can happen. And it still matters.


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Taking Inventory

It has been a busy year or so and I've had a lot of good things happen with my art. It has been accepted into a nice variety of shows and I currently have more art "out there" than I ever remember. It has gotten to a point where I am beginning to lose track of what is where, so I needed to take stock. I know I have shown some of this work before, and I know I have not shown some of it, so I think I'll just tell you all where everything is and maybe you will have a chance to see it somewhere!

I have work in two SAQA shows right now. These are really great shows and they are hard to get into, so I feel especially lucky.

"The Cloth Remembers" is part of SAQA's  REDIRECTING THE ORDINARY and has been traveling for more than a year now, to Houston, Chicago, Portland, Germany, France, Spain and Italy. Its final dates are:  
Original Sewing & Quilt Expo - Fredericksburg, Virginia, September 29 and 30 and October 1, 2016
Original Sewing & Quilt Expo - Schaumburg, Illinois, October 13-15, 2016
Original Sewing & Quilt Expo - Minneapolis, Minneapolis, MN November 10 -12, 2016

"Camus Prairie, Idaho" is part of SAQA's CONCRETE AND GRASSLANDS  and just started its journey at the Grants Pass Museum of Art in Grants Pass, Oregon, where it will be through the end of July. Other venues will be announced later.

"Rhythm of Rain" and "A Sense of Summer" are part of the High Fiber Diet exhibit MAKING OUR MARK, currently at the Latimer Quilt and Textile Center in Tillamook, Oregon. It will also be seen at:

Keizer Community Center Gallery - November 1, 2016 - December 30
Chessman Gallery - Lincoln City, OR January 13 - February 6, 2017

"Patterns of Mesoamerica" has been accepted as part of the Dinner at 8 PATTERNS exhibit and will be seen at the International Quilt Market and Show in Houston in October.

"The Moon is a Mirror" will be part of the Columbia Fiberarts Guild FABRICATIONS August 3 - 29 at the ArtReach gallery in Portland. Details here.

"Iris" and "Lily", along with several other pieces, are currently at the Twigs Gallery in Sisters, Oregon through July. 

"Basilica of Quito" and "Pollen" were both recently selected for the next High Fiber Diet exhibit, IT ISN'T EASY BEING GREEN. Venues have not yet been announced.

I also had work accepted for a really fun local project, which I will write about when it happens! I have also submitted several pieces for a favorite local show, including the recently completed "Roses." I will know within a week or so if it was accepted, but I'll show show you its official photo and you can keep your fingers crossed with me!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Phone photos from a bad week

Wow, what a sad, tragic, discouraging week. From shootings to terrorists to hate and nastiness, it has been almost overwhelming. And yet life goes on. The photos on my phone this week show little that relates at all to the heavy sadness and horror I've been feeling. The sun continues to shine, flowers bloom and summer finally is taking hold.

The lilies are grand and my beloved hydrangeas better than ever. This is the first time I have seen pink hydrangeas in our bed. The very pink ones in the foreground are growing in just about the very spot where we discovered a stinky, rotting dead possum a couple months ago. Coincidence? I think not. I know that the PH of the soil affects the color of hydrangeas. I think the possum leaked something transformative into the soil. Ray thinks I'm crazy.

The new High Fiber Diet show, "Making Our Mark" (we've been calling it "Mom") opened at the Latimer Quilt & Textile Center last Sunday and t looks good. If you plan to be on the Oregon Coast this summer, it is there through August.

We have had color themes for several years now and this show is "neutral" as you might guess from these photos. A small amount of color allowed keeps it lively and interesting.

We got back to Portland in time to meet friends for dinner and then go see Judy Collins in concert. Beautiful music is such gift always. I have loved Judy Collins since my college days, and in my, now, old age the music I loved then and now has such deep associations with my past, people I've loved, places I've lived. It moves me in ways I never would have expected. Seeing her again, older, but still lovely and in good voice and good cheer made the world seem not so tragic after all. Leaving the theater, I snapped a photo of the marquee and realized later, they had changed it during the concert and her name was no longer there. Oh well. It's a photo of happy people leaving the theater.

I finished the rose bouquet quilt this week and I'm pleased with it.

Got lots of feedback from the in-progress photos and nearly everyone agreed with adding the extra leaves at the bottom. A couple people thought it needed another rose or red petals instead, but that didn't work for me. Too much. There is magic in the number three, and three red roses seemed exactly right to me.

STASH (Second Thursday At Somebody's House) met at my house on Thursday. We filled my dining room table with papers and stuff and made collages, which was very fun. Then I served lunch on the deck and we admired our work.

A lot to process this week. Gratitude for friends and beauty and art and music, but still so much ugliness out there in the world. I've heard friends say they have quit watching and reading the news—it is too disturbing. I understand, but being oblivious doesn't stop it all from happening. I find myself reading it all, looking for meaning, waiting for solutions. I find myself searching my own heart and hoping others are doing the same and trying to face up to and understand the poison that is bigotry and injustice all around us and within us.

“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. ... We need not wait to see what others do.”

Mahatma Gandhi