Sunday, September 16, 2018

A Big Bag of Magic

Wednesday was the day of the quarterly meeting of the Columbia FiberArts Guild (CFG)—my last as president of the guild, a position I've held for the past two years. I was looking forward to the meeting, as I always do. We had booked a terrific speaker, Kerr Grabowski, who teaches around the country, sharing her innovative fabric printing techniques and unique design sense. On Tuesday I was awakened very early by a phone call from Maria, the program coordinator, calling to tell me that Kerr was in a hotel room in New Orleans, sick as a dog—no chance of her making the trip to Portland for our meeting and workshops. Poor Kerr!  Poor us! Not an auspicious sign for my grand presidential exit meeting, but just like my first meeting as president, when the digital projector absolutely refused to communicate with our speaker's slideshow, we improvised and put together a last minute plan for a program. Our historian had unearthed a video, made by our guild 24 years ago, about the Guild's first 25 years, which proved to be sweetly nostalgic and showcased early members and their work, teachers and workshops and exhibits. I think everyone loved it. I did. We elected our new officers and recognized the outgoing board members and, to my surprise, I was presented with a large bag containing some tokens of thanks for my service—a few "treasures from member's stashes" which I took home to peruse later, not clearly understanding what had been given to me. 

Later, when I was home and started pulling little packets and rolls and envelopes from the bag I began to understand that it was treasure, indeed, of the kind that only such kindred spirits as this group is made up of could understand and recognize. Fabrics—painted, dyed, stitched, bits salvaged from favorite garments or carried home from far-off places or simply gathered for their beauty and uniqueness, or fashioned into a lovely item of usefulness. 

 And "stuff"—beads and baubles and buttons and things that sparkle and jangle and delight...

Many bits came with beautiful cards or sweet notes and even a pair ocrazy scissors (!) for my wall, but many were included anonymously. 

I have spent hours poring over the contents of this magical bag. Never have I received such a gift. I don't know how I will ever thank them for this. It really represents all that I think and feel about this group of charming, crazy, creative people. It is a special joy to know these people of the vibrant clothing and wild jewelry and amazing skill and ready smiles, trailing threads and fibers and scraps and glitter behind as they move through the world.  I am so fortunate to have found them!

The week ended with CFG's big blowout, public exhibit, fashion show and art sale. It was pretty great!

This week also marked my blog's 13th birthday. It has been a good week. 

And, Kerr Grabowski, wherever you are, we missed you and fervently hope you are feeling better—

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Fifty years ago

1968 was a significant year in the history of our country and a significant year in my life. It was the year president Lyndon Johnson, thoroughly beaten down, declared he would not run for a second term. It was the year that, in April, Martin Luther King was murdered in Memphis. Two months later Bobby Kennedy was murdered in Las Angeles. The darkness and grief of that period are indescribable. It was that same June that I graduated from Idaho State University. Here I am in 1968, filled with hope, full of self doubt. 

I loved college. I loved my friends and I loved my classes. My grades were good, not great. My social life was great. One morning I came out of one of my final exams and walked toward my dorm and the enormity of it all crashed down on me. It was a crisis of confidence that just overwhelmed me. I would soon be a "college graduate" and I was not prepared for anything. I was, in fact, a fraud, not even deserving of a diploma, much less the pride and celebration of my graduation. I was duping my family at the very least and had squandered their financial and emotional support. I knew I hadn't done my best, nor appreciated the opportunities that had been put before me and now it was too late to make it right. It was a terrible feeling that didn't leave me for a long time. I never shared those feelings, however, and played the part of proud graduate. But I truly left college in a serious funk and without a plan. I had a degree in art. I had no job or even an idea of what I might do. On a whim I had applied for a job with the national organization of my college sorority, Alpha Omicron Pi. It was a real long shot, but amazingly I was offered the job. I would be one of two national representatives, visiting college chapters to advise and report on them. It was a great opportunity to see the country and it would buy me a year before I would need to decide what I wanted to do with my life. Little did I realize, at the time, what a view I would have of history as I traveled from coast to coast, nor did I anticipate the turmoil and change happening on college campuses across the country. 

I went to Indianapolis, in August, for training and met my counterpart, another recent graduate from Wisconsin, who I would cross paths with only a few times that year. Then 50 years ago this week I started my first "grownup" job. My first visit was to a brand new chapter in Ames, Iowa who were preparing for their first rush—that series of events and parties where sororities and fraternities recruit new members.  One afternoon we were in the dorm lounge, working on party favors and decorations when someone turned on the TV and what we saw was shocking. Anti-war demonstrations outside the Democratic National Convention, at first peaceful, had turned violent, with police attacking the demonstrators. It was horrifying. We watched, in real time, as police beat demonstrators with clubs and dragged screaming people to police vehicles. The scene cut to inside the convention where chaos ensued as the anti-war supporters of Eugene McCarthy clashed with the more conservative supporters of Hubert Humphrey, who would become the candidate. 

I sat in that dorm lounge and began to shake. I felt scared, I felt alone and vulnerable and unprepared, once again, for what lay ahead, but I shook it off and determined to simply keep moving forward into the unknown. It was quite a year, that year. I made great friends who I left behind over and over. I stood in Times Square the day Richard Nixon was elected. I rode the Staten Island Ferry and saw New Orleans for the first time and walked the steps where James Meredith had walked to enter Ole Miss as its first black student. I challenged one chapter's policy of denying membership to Jewish students, and lost that fight, but I wrote a scathing report that brought the issue to the attention of the leadership and led to eventual change. I presided over the closing of one of the sorority's oldest chapters as the university did away with the Greek organizations. I saw campuses in the grip of a revolution. 

With the advantage of hindsight I understand now how much I grew in that year and what marvelous and unexpected things I saw and did. By the end of the year I was ready to make a plan, buy a car and get a job. But that year was such a rollercoaster of joy, sadness, loneliness, confidence and its opposite, and existential questions. I called my mother often. I cried often, and I realized this experience was mine alone. I would never have anyone to reminisce about it with. So, alone, I now remember 1968—just before my real life began. 

Fifty years. It seems like yesterday. It seems like a million years ago. 

Monday, August 27, 2018

I seem to have taken the summer off...

It wasn't intentional. It just happened. I wrote my last blog post about our Morocco trip in May and then I haven't written since. I don't know what has happened with my blog. It used to be a big part of my life, but in the last few years, not so much. I started writing it almost 13 years ago and I was mad for all the blogs out there. Now there is so much content on the internet it's hard to keep up and so many of the blogs I read and loved have disappeared. In the early years I spent a lot of time thinking about "blog fodder"—stories to tell, observations to make. It seemed nothing was too trivial to immortalize on my blog –"look! I got new glasses!"  It's a little embarrassing. At the same time it was a good record of my life, what I was thinking about,what I was working on, where I'd been. I don't feel so inclined to record and share it all these days. These are different times and I am reluctant to use my blog to air my complaints and general sadness about so many things that have changed in the past 13 years. BUT, I do want to continue blogging in some form. So here's, maybe, a new start. Not so often, not so trivial, more art?  So this morning I looked back at the pictures I've taken this summer to remind myself what we've been up to. 

I think I post nearly identical photos of flowers and garden every year, but that's what sings me through the summer. Ray works really hard in our garden. I don't, but I appreciate the heck out of it. It has been a record-breaking hot summer and the last two photos were taken last week when Portland had the second worst air quality of a a major city IN THE WORLD. ugh. And it's not over. See the chairs on the front porch? They are new. In 2009 I blogged about an old chair I dragged home from a yard sale ( It has been on the front porch since, but it has gotten tired and faded and in need of paint.  It needed some love and attention and I put it on my mental list to tackle. I put it off. It seemed like so much work. Then in a moment of clarity I asked Ray to drag it down to the end of the driveway. We put a "free" sign on it and went and bought two new chairs and a little table. The old chair was gone when we got home. This is the new, "mature" me. I'm not so up for big projects as I used to be. Am I getting old? Probably. 

There are more photos and more summer posts, so I think I'm back. I was going to hit you with the whole summer in this one post, but I've thought better of that. We'll just deal with one thing at a time. Don't give up on me, yet! 

One more photo—

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Morocco: The food

One of the greatest pleasures of a trip to Morocco is the food. Moroccan cuisine is unusual and very distinctive, using a combination of ingredients and spices that are unlike any other I have ever eaten. The combination of sweet and savory, sour and spicy and that fragrant combination of cumin, turmeric, ginger, cloves, cinnamon and saffron is irresistable. If you need a little heat, harissa, a flavorful chili paste, is a common addition. The dish, above is lamb with dried apricots, prunes, almonds and sesame seeds. The flavorful broth is the stuff of dreams.  This, like many Moroccan dishes was cooked in a tagine, which is a ceramic vessel with a domed lid that catches the steam from the cooking food and redirects it back onto the dish, creating moist, tender meat and vegetables, bathed in mouth-watering flavor from spices, olives, preserved lemon, garlic and onion. Are you hungry, yet? The tagine is placed directly on the stove to cook, or, more traditionally, on a small charcoal grill. 

In addition to the tagine, other staples of the Moroccan diet include small salads, skewered, grilled meat, fresh fruit, olives, nuts and traditional bread. The bread is made using semolina flour which gives it a beautiful golden color, and is often flavored with anise seed. It is baked daily. Most communities have a community oven where people take their loaves to be baked. Some people have their own small clay, outdoor ovens. And, of course one can always buy fresh bread in the open air markets. The bread is wonderful. It's an easy recipe and I have been making it in my own kitchen since our return. 

In Morocco we ate in restaurants, mostly, but were treated to a dinner in a private home, prepared by a Moroccan family. A very special meal with lovely people.  

A highlight of our tour was a cooking class in Marrakech. The Lotus Cooking School was created to provide training for Moroccan women, leaving abusive marriages to prepare them for restaurant jobs as chefs, bakers and cooks. Our teachers, for the day, included some of these women. Our main teacher was our beautiful "Dada"—the word used for female chefs. 

For our cooking lesson we first learned about the spices and how the bread was made, then with the Dada's instruction, we prepared chicken with olives and preserved lemon tagine, two different salads, including one topped with a tomato rose (fancy!) and two different beverages. 

Then we ate. It was one of the most delicious meals of my life—truly!

We ate well. We ate often. Everything was delicious. I almost hate to admit this, but even the French fries were outstanding! We learned this with our travel companions and friends, the Olafsons, on the first day, meeting up for a drink and snack in the hotel bar. It became a special treat. After a large midday meal, dinner could easily be a glass of wine and fries. What made them so good?  We never found out. 

Have I mentioned that Morocco, as a whole, was a treat for the senses? Nothing more so than the food. 

Tagines cooking on individual charcoal grills, for our outdoor lunch at an herb garden..

Breakfast with dates, fig jam, thick, chewy pancakes and cafe au lait.

Dinner at a fancy restaurant

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Morocco: Blue

Morocco is probably the most visually distinctive place I have ever been. It is as though, at some point in their history there was an agreement made that everything made by human Moroccan hands must be beautiful. Perhaps it was the Islamic aesthetic of the beauty of geometry and the beauty found in nature. Perhaps it was inspired by the drama of the landscape of verdant farmland, snowy mountains and red Sahara sand. I don't know, but I was constantly aware of color and design being a core value of the culture, and that in their color-filled world it seems blue reigns as the cool, elegant queen. In February the skies of Morocco are a brilliant blue.

That blue sky color is reflected everywhere you turn in the cities. Nearly every door, window frame and shutter is painted sky blue. The fishing boats are blue.

There is a town in Morocco where everything is blue. We did not go there, but the Kasbah of the Udeyas, a fortified village near Rabat, was very blue.

And then—the bluest blue I have ever seen. In Marrakech, in 1923, the French artist Jacques Majorelle, built his home, surrounded by a beautiful garden. He painted scenes of life in Morocco.

Painting by Majorelle

After Majorelle's death the home and garden were purchased by the fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent, who lived there with his partner until his death when the property passed to the city of Marrakech. It is now a public museum and botanical garden. The buildings and many features in the garden are painted Majorelle's favorite intense blue.

This intense, pure blue has come to be called Majorelle Blue and the pigment is somewhat rare and not readily available, but the effect of it in that garden is electric! I confess I have never been very keen on bright blue as a color, but I am gazing into our subdued, rainy, Oregon garden today and really, really wanting to see a jolt of that miraculous Moroccan blue peeking through the foliage somewhere out there.

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