Friday, March 27, 2009

The Eco-bat. Because sometimes I fold things other than laundry.

Meet the Eco -bat.  He's the second iteration of an origami pattern I found in this fabulous book:  Advanced Origami by Michael LaFosse.   His forms are so charming--it's inspiring.  Of course, my bat didn't come out as well as his, but after only a year of folding paper, I'm not all that advanced...

I love to play around with papers and fabrics--it's a texture thing, I guess.  For this little bat, I was going to use some luscious Japanese washi paper, but the color and feel of a brown paper bag struck me as an interesting compromise.   He's recycled, technically, so he's an eco-bat.

I have a ton of ideas for folding different animals.  I'm a long way from making my own patterns, but with each model I attempt, I know I am getting better at approximating the folds.   What is so exciting to me is the step-by-step nature of origami.  If you follow each step with precision, you can end up with something entirely different from the simple piece of paper you started with.  It feels like a kind of controlled magic.  

Eco-bat started as a piece of 8x8 paper from a grocery bag.  I steamed, starched, ironed, and re-flattened it, and then I followed the 49 steps to get his form.   I wish I could say I could do something like this in one sitting--but he served as a bookmark in the origami book in between several stages.   When I finally put the eyes in yesterday, I was pretty happy with the end result.  The first bat didn't take the folds as well.  If I had the patience, I would do a third and fourth, and each would probably be a bit better.

But my origami bat needed to be completed soon--he's a gift for my dad, who is a bat aficionado.   I'm sending Eco-bat off this weekend to his new home.  

DiggIt!Add to del.icio.usAdd to Technorati Faves

Friday, March 20, 2009

Spring Vacation

We are back from a lovely break to Miami.  Sun and sand, then some misty rain--good food, a visit with family, and it all equals a great break.  

We aren't habitual "spring-breakers," so even a three-day getaway was a real treat.   Not unexpectedly, the highlight was seeing the girls enjoy the beach and pool.   

Other highlights:

1.  Ada has turned into a little mermaid, swimming strong in the water.  She can float and swim well underwater!  A great accomplishment from a girl who couldn't get her face wet last October.

2.  Cuban food.  Plantains, rice, chicken, pork, garlic.  Ah!  I must try to cook some of this myself.

3. Esme surprised us with her language skills.   On our first afternoon there, Esme was approached by a little girl in the pool.  Somehow, Esme recognized that the girl was speaking French (she was!), and so Esme launched into French herself, saying, "Je m'appelle Esme."  (My name is Esme.) Baby French being what it is, the girl answered with "Quoi?" (What?)  Esme continued to repeat herself, and since her French is limited, so was the potential friendship.  Regardless, it was amazing to hear.   Especially because Esme changed the pronunciation of her name from our Anglicized (Ez-mee) to the French (Es-may).   
We have spoken a little French and Spanish with her, and she's picked up some phrases from Dora and from Hi-5.  But who knew she understood it this well?

4.  Our hotel, the Sagamore, bills itself as "an art hotel," and it is.  It's a gallery in itself, filled with provocative and pleasing displays of art in all media, from digital screens to sculpture to collaborative projects in the stairwells.    What a pleasure it was!  The picture above is of the girls in one of the many gallery areas of the hotel.

5.  I am not now the svelte creature I have wished to be, and yet, I had a wonderful time despite my misgivings about being in public in a bathing suit.   South Beach may be reputed to be home to the super-fit and glamourous, and there were some beautiful people around. But, as in all places, people appeared in all sizes and shapes, and they were all lovely in their respective confidence.   By the end of the trip, I was no longer expecting the thin police to step from behind a palm tree to ticket me for being fat and ugly.  In fact, instead of being disheartened about not being a skinny-mini, I feel excited about continuing my workouts and enjoying just being me.   This is progress, and definitely a highlight of the trip for me personally.

All in all, a wonderful trip!  Now, tell me about your vacations!

DiggIt!Add to del.icio.usAdd to Technorati Faves

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

An Irish poem for the day

In honor of St. Patrick's day, here is a selection from a fantastic collection I have called 1000 Years of Irish Poetry: The Gaelic and Anglo-Irish Poets from Pagan Times to the Present.  

This one is by a poet named Valentin Iremonger (1918-1991).  His poetry has a decidedly different feel from the ballad-type poems so often associated with Irish poetry.   His profession was official that of a diplomat, though his life as a poet was significant.  One source I found credited him (along with Samuel Beckett) with introducing modernism to Irish poetry.  I am so taken with this poem, and with several others of his in this anthology, that I am going to be on the search for his collection, Horan's Field, and Other Reservations, which is out of print.  

Here is his poem, "Spring Stops Me Suddenly," a poem full of sound, light, and layers.  I was so taken with the melancholy playing behind it, like a lilting Irish voice over the mournful pipes.    

Spring Stops Me Suddenly

Spring stops me suddenly like ground
Glass under a door, squeaking and gibbering,
I put my hand to my cheek and the tips 
Of my fingers feel blood pulsing and quivering.

A bud on a branch brushes the back
Of my hand and I look, without moving, down.
Summer is there, screwed and fused, compressed,
Neat as a bomb, its casing a dull brown.

From the window of a farther tree I hear
A chirp and a twitter; I blink.
A tow-headed vamp of a finch on a branch
Cocks a roving eye, tips me the wink

And, instantly, the whole great hot-lipped ensemble
Of buds and birds, of clay and glass doors,
Reels in with its ragtime chorus, staggering
The theme of the time, a jam-session's rattle and roar

With drums of summer jittering in the background
Dully, and deeper down and more human, the sobbing
Oboes of autumn falling across the track of the tune, 
Winter's furtive bassoon like a sea-lion snorting and bobbing.

There is something here I do not get,
Some menace that I do not comprehend,
Yet, so intoxicating is the song,
I cannot follow its thought right to the end.

So up the garden path I go with Spring
Promising sacks and robes to rig my years
And a young girl to gladden my heart in a tartan
Scarf and freedom from my facile fears.

DiggIt!Add to del.icio.usAdd to Technorati Faves

Friday, March 13, 2009


Maybe it's that we've seen robins in the yard, or maybe it's that I've been catching whiffs of warmer weather on the breeze from time to time.  Most likely, though, it's that we've collected the detritus of papers, toys, and whatnot that can accumulate when you spend all your time inside.    Whatever it is, I've been seized by the urge to clean, clean, clean.

I feel a bit like a flasher, showing you these unmentionables:  but here is just one tiny piece of my clutter: the cabinet in the study.  It may have been orderly in the fall, when school started, but entrophy has set in, and it's an avalanche waiting to happen...

In the process of cleaning, I'm turning up all sorts of doodads that I missed, and discovering that there are more things in this house than I have use for.   Old wires from dead and long-departed cellphones--what am I keeping these for?  Old sandals whose soles are worn to holes--what am I thinking?  It's as though I'm waking up from a clutter hibernation, and lumbering into the light, I'm seeing a feast of MESS.   I've thrown myself into cleaning it to the point of dreaming of how I can organize the attic, the cabinets in the bathrooms, the pantry. 

All of these are somewhat, if not completely, futile projects.  With a toddler following me most of the day, all organization is up for grabs.   And the off-limits places like the attic, well--to even think to organize that will mean a day of a babysitter.  I can think of a hundred other things I'd rather do while the sitter is here, couldn't you?

This is a long way of saying that I've not abandoned the blog, though I've only posted once this week.  It's that I'm up to my rubber-gloved hands in sudsy water and piles of recycling paper.  I will be posting again more starting this weekend!

DiggIt!Add to del.icio.usAdd to Technorati Faves

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Space Between

I took this shot from the bridge the other day, hoping to capture what I see as I drive off the island every day. I was surprised to see that the camera saw more bridge and less vista.  For the camera, the water is just an afterthought, the spaces between the railings simply placeholders.

Of course, I take the bridge for granted. I must, since I don't even notice the railings when I'm looking out.  What do I see is the shifting mood of the bay below, the craggy islands. On the rare occasion that I'm in the passenger seat, as I was on this day, I drink in the view and let my eye follow the bay as it runs back out to the shimmering ocean. I watch the strange map-like lines that the ebbing tide draws on the surface of the bay. I squint at the tiniest rocky islands, hoping to catch a glimpse of a sunbathing seal.

The space between the railings reveals so much, a whole world away from the soaring bridge itself, and it might as well be. God willing, the bridge and the water will continue to remain oblivious to the other forever. There is a space there between them that won't be crossed.

We live on an island, and the ocean is, clearly, the defining factor for our town. Given that, then, it's amazing how little contact we have with it. Sure, we swim and play in it, and fish and boat on it. We can even scuba dive and see up close those who live there. But all of our forays into the sea are, inevitably, only momentary daytrips, with no visa extended. As close as the ocean may be, it is other.

When we moved here, we lived closer to the bay, and I would sometimes lull myself to sleep by imagining all the life teeming beneath the water just a few blocks away. It was thrilling and a bit terrifying for me to think that deep at night, deep in the dark, dark water there they were--the tuna and the scup, eels and dogfish, the skipjack tuna, alewives, squid, herring, butterfish, occasionally a shark--these and countless others proceeding with their watery lives just steps from my door. Even my mammalian cousins, the dolphins and seals--even they couldn't begin to comprehend my life, or me theirs. We are, as they say, oceans apart.

That impenetrable distance fascinates me. What gets me most is that it's a distance not of space itself, which is physically crossable, but a distance of consciousness. I think that's what gives me the shivers. It feels dangerous somehow, to be dwelling so close to a deep unknown. If I dwell on it too long, I'm overcome with a feeling that must be something like a fear of heights--all that abyss looming. It makes me feel the smallness of myself, vulnerable and anonymous.

When I was a child, my mom took me to visit a college friend of hers. They lived on an open, windblown piece of land in Ontario, Canada. We were only there for an evening, as I recall, and the details have fallen away from me. But I do have a vivid memory of hearing their neighbors--a wildlife preserve. Actually, it was a sort of safari-type place, with all sorts of "exotic" (read: nonnative) wildlife. And as we stood on their porch, I remember hearing the roar of lions, who lived within shouting range of their backyard fence.

A simple thing, that roar. In a zoo, it's innocuous. When you hear it while standing on a front porch-- well, I was chilled by it. The funny thing is that it wasn't the prospect of a lion crossing the fence that was disquieting. Honestly, I didn't even imagine that fear. What got me was the same thing that gets me when I think too much about the mysterious lives that are lived under the surface of the bay--it's the vast otherness that makes me catch my breath.

You may know by now that I can get sucked into dwelling on something, and for some time, my thoughts will continue to go there. During those times, I welcome a distraction that brings me away from that edgy feeling of isolation. My mind does eventually quiet, of course, and runs on to other obsessions.

I think back on that visit to my mom's friend, and I wonder what it would be like with the constant presence of the lions, announcing itself again and again in the night. Would it be like having a relentless reminder of how small I was? Or would it fade into the distance like the static noise of the waves and the fog horn, the shock diminishing with exposure, until I would have to force myself into noticing it?

In reality, I know that life is balanced someplace, very neatly and incredibly, between noticing the spaces we live in, and noticing the spaces we do not occupy.  Were it not, we would all certainly be insane.  
My photo of the bridge reminded me of that so clearly. It is interesting and sometimes disturbing for me to shift my vision, as the camera does, from one focus to the next...knowing all the time that I will never really be able to see the whole perspective, that I, too, will always remain other.

DiggIt!Add to del.icio.usAdd to Technorati Faves

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

In Like a Lion

The storm of this past Monday (nicknamed by our local news people as Megastorm Monday) was a real nor'easter, and we got hit with some bluster. It brought us all a snow day, which we all enjoyed so much that Ada told me that night, "I hate to put this great snow day to bed." My thoughts exactly. Above is a shot of Esme contemplating walking into a snowdrift...

While we were watching the reports of the storm's approach, I told Ada that it looked like March was roaring in like a lion. She was puzzled and then delighted as I explained the old saying to her. She looked up and me with a big smile and concluded, "Well, Mommy, then March will end like a lamb. And it will be spring."

I love watching her discover the old nuggets of expression people have been using for years. Call them trite, but many of them give a sage order to the progression of life. Even if I don't embrace the social values embedded in a few of these gems, I admire how effectively they convey those beliefs.

My mom has a wealth of these, and they come to her (as most of these do) by way of a grandmother. Here are a few of my favorites:

"Rain before seven, sun before eleven." My August birthday is at the height of thunderstorm season, and as I child I would chant this to myself if I woke early to a rain shower.

"Whistling girls and cackling hens, both will come to no good ends." My grandma would say this to me, conspiratorially, as something that her mother said to her. But my grandma and I were kindred spirits, and superb whistlers, if I do say so myself. She was so amazing that before she got dentures, she could whistle two tones simultaneously. Ah! I still aspire to such a grand thing!

"An apple doesn't fall far from the tree." An oldie, and one everyone knows--but not as true as we imagine, which explains some people I know...
Wild apples, the kind grown from seed and not grafted, are notoriously heterogeneous. This means the seed that grows from a fallen apple is likely as not to be absolutely different from the tree on which it grew. It may not fall far, but chances are it will be something altogether other from its parent tree. Incidentally, this is why wild apples are so persistent. Consider for yourself how this might apply to the ways you differ from your parent tree...

What are some of the expressions that have been repeated in your family? Now's the time to delurk! Really, I'd love to hear I love your stories!

DiggIt!Add to del.icio.usAdd to Technorati Faves
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.