Seeing Patterns

April 23, 2014

I used to always go back and read old blogposts, especially from a year ago or two years ago at the same time of year, to try to remind myself of the fact that I’ve been there before, buried by school or grades, getting lots done over Winter Break, never getting anything done over Spring Break. It helped me see the patterns of my life and not be so hard on myself when I didn’t get everything done that I wanted to get done. I just wanted to improve the bad stuff each year, and I was doing an OK job with that.

But I can’t go back and read the old posts any more. They’re just upsetting. It’s a world that doesn’t exist any more. I don’t even want to read who I was a year or two years ago.

It’s too bad, because it was part of what kept me focused, grounded, at least in terms of making art. It helped me see what goals I was successful with and what goals needed more support. I was able to see progress over time, in the big picture. Now I can only see progress in little pieces. Today, my little pieces were all about the skeleton and the water.

The skeleton actually ended up needing 5 fabrics…

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I drew a more complicated skelly this time apparently. This drawing was in fact all about adding detail…to kind of a crazy level. That’s my life, though. All these tiny little details that I’m trying to keep track of, hold on to, and it’s by the skin of my teeth that I manage to get most of it done. It is crazy. But I do it. Not very well, I think, but it gets done.

I was pretty tired tonight, but wanted to get further along than just the bones, so I figured I would need about 10 water fabrics…I laid them out light to dark and started putting the appropriate Wonder Under pieces on top…

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but then realized that I meant to do darkest at the bottom, not the top, so I had to flip all the sections. At least I caught that before I started ironing.

The next step is seaweed and fish. I’ve ironed about 250 pieces down at this point, and am about 3 1/2 hours in. I had the same problems with the blue fabrics that I did with the browns…I needed to make sure I had a big enough piece to iron the wider pieces down. Luckily, I seem to have more large blue pieces than brown, probably because I often use blue as a background, and that leaves these random skinny yet wide pieces that work well for water.

Here’s all the fabrics I’ve used so far (well, all the grays and blacks are hiding underneath)…

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Doesn’t look like much right now. Fifteen hundred pieces to go! (god, that sounds awful)

Going-back-to-school tired is already catching up with me. I am already behind in everything. I can’t get caught up on anything. I make these silly goals to do 30 minutes a day of cleaning or yardwork, but can’t get motivated or I just forget by the time I get home. I did go to the gym. I went to the bookstore for the girlchild’s AP books. I meditated. I started ironing at a reasonable hour…I just kept going for longer than I should have. So now I am more awake than I was two hours ago, but if I were always going to bed two hours ago, I would make no art, my house still wouldn’t be clean, my yard would still be a disaster…so I would be well-rested, but a total crank.

Doesn’t seem like a good option. I dream of retiring (ha!) and just making art all day. Maybe volunteering somewhere. Maybe traveling. I’m so far away from being able to do any of that. Instead, I’m writing an essay explaining why I should get hired for a summer-school thing (I need the money). I’m paying bills. I’m running errands. I’m cleaning up the girlchild’s dishes yet again and trying to decide how to force the kids to take out the recycling (I put post-its on the TV and computer this morning before I left for school…STILL not taken out…am considering hiding the relevant cords until it’s done, like a crazy ransom thing…leave a note: Your cords will be returned when the recycling makes it out of the house!).

I am usually (in my former life) so much better at straightening up, staying organized. Right now, it feels like a giant flail. Arms windmilling around, trying to catch me as I fall. Hey, I think I dreamed that last night? Or it’s in the book I’m reading. Were there aliens? Too much TV, too many books, too many words.

Last summer, at the beginning, in like June, I ordered fabric and socks for dying. I ordered discharge paste to try a new process of surface design. They’ve been sitting on my office floor since then. It seems like that is my life at the moment, in stasis on the office floor, waiting for me to trip over it yet again, but never to have time to pick it up and DO something with it.

Too introspective for a peaceful night. I’m going to go to bed and read about some other people’s sketchbooks or art. It’s better sometimes not to look too closely at one’s own life. It can be too distracting, disturbing.

Let’s just assume all that bad stuff will just wander away if we don’t look it in the eye.


Fabric Meditation

April 22, 2014

I have to prepare myself mentally for picking fabric. It’s a big part of the process. I don’t color my drawings beforehand…I stare at the drawing and let it color itself in my head. I often have no idea of what it will look like until it’s ironed together. I trust my instincts, my years of practice, to put it together right, the best way. I do better when I pick fabrics in big chunks of time, hours at a time, like during Winter, Spring, or Summer breaks. It’s easier to keep all the fabrics and colors in my head if there aren’t big gaps in time between ironing sessions.

So I had planned to iron this sucker down to fabric over Spring Break. With that many pieces, almost 1800, it’s going to take over 20 hours of ironing. But it didn’t work out that way, so realistically, even with weekends (this weekend might as well burrow into a hole and die, because it’s buried already), it’s going to take me 2-3 weeks to iron all these down with school every day. Damn job. Gets in the way of my art career.

But man oh man, is it meditative. It lets me access that part of my brain that is pure art, pure alpha wave, deep and dark in my brain, where none of that stupid sad depressoid shit can venture. It kicks depression’s ass. It tells it to fuck off and find some other sucker. It is one serious bad ass.

Too bad I can’t do THAT full-time. OK, it probably wouldn’t work full-time. But it’s an interesting thought…that this state and the drawing state and the tracing state…these are places where my brain can escape all that stupid shit and just be at peace. Someone wrote to me today about that’s when I have control…when I’m in that space mentally. I can control the artistic process and nobody else can fuck with it. They can’t stop it, they can’t change it, they can’t make me do it their way or listen to their stupid lame rules. It’s mine. So no wonder I find it peaceful…calming.

One thing about Spring Break is I got very bad about meditation, the stuff on my app (Headspace) where the guy talks me through it. It’s hard to do on a plane or in a hotel room with the boychild. I just didn’t do it regularly, and I think that was part of the problem. I drew more, which does also help (another form of meditation), but I needed to focus on that process daily. So I’m back to that. Trying to be good about it.

I cleaned out most of my studio last night (by “clean out”, I mean straighten up and Swiffer…the room is still a disaster area and probably will be until both kids go to college and I have time and space to deep-clean…OR…I will succumb to hoarding tendencies and live in the glory of dust-bunny hell). Tonight I put away all the fabrics from the last quilt that were lying around, and then hung up the drawing for the current quilt…

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It’s LONG. Actually, when I started ironing parts, they were down at the bottom and I got tired of leaning over to see them, so I pinned the bottom part up to about eye level.

First I sorted the first 100 pieces into piles by 10s…

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It’s a very controlled process…I try to number them logically so picking fabrics can also be done logically.

I ended up thinking I needed 10 dirt fabrics in a run for the bottom section…

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Yes, that’s Dana Scully…X Files, Season 3. It’s easy to watch because I’ve seen them all before and I don’t have to pay particularly close attention, but it doesn’t fuck with my emotions either. That’s a plus, because some of the other stuff I’ve been watching lately just makes me cry, and I really don’t need more of that.

I actually changed some of these browns around in the end, because some of the pieces were quite long and the fabric wasn’t big enough (stupid fat quarters) to iron the one piece down…plus I think I needed 11 in the end. That number 4 fabric (from the right)? It didn’t work. It’s gone. I added two more in its place, one lighter, one darker.

For instance, this one needed to switch fabrics for one that had a full width.

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I usually buy 1/2 yards because it gives me the width I need, but not so much fabric that I will be using it up until the end of time (I have some from the early days when I used to buy yardage where I will probably NEVER run out). I like to have more variety in my stash…so I don’t buy huge pieces unless they are background or binding. Sometimes I have to buy yards if the quilt is really wide…usually that’s for the base pieces, the dirt and water. I like my quilts to be grounded…to have a base to stand on visually. In the dirt or the sand and in the water, they need to stand somewhere…so you will notice more solid sections at the bottoms of my quilts (and drawings). It’s not that I think about it while I’m doing it…it just happens. I don’t want you to think that I’m this artist who thinks every move, every line out. I don’t. It just happens.

This is not magic. I’ve been practicing art for years. Think about sports…how many years until you’re really good at it? You may have some raw, natural talent, but you still have to practice, to hone your art. I’ve been making quilts since I was 23; that’s 24 years. Holy god, I’m old.

I ended up having to pull about 10 pieces from the 100-199 bin, because they were in the dirt section and I wanted to do that all at once.

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I finished all the dirt pieces…about 70 or so. The skeleton (there’s always a skeleton these days…I don’t know what that means) is the other 50 or so pieces in the 0-100 section…and they’ll be pretty easy. I usually only use 2-3 fabrics for the skelly…I don’t cut them all out separately in Wonder Under…I group them together so that all the same color of bone are lumped together and only need to be cut out once. Saves time. Plus it’s easier to iron down one big piece with a lot of little pieces drawn on it. Takes less time.

So hopefully tomorrow I’ll finish up the skeleton and move on to water or seaweed or fish. I have a meeting on Sunday, and it will be good to have stuff to cut out at that meeting. I have another quilt I need to start working on, at least get it drawn and traced before summer, so I can’t be lazy right now. I know, I never really seem like I’m being lazy, but I did sit there and read for quite a bit tonight. I also graded, though, so I don’t feel bad. I try to explain to my students how to balance the stuff you don’t feel like doing (homework, they are big whiners) with the stuff you love to do (for them, video games or Facebook or mall). I tell them I do an hour (or so) of grading BEFORE I let myself do the stuff I like to do, like draw or whatever. My job isn’t my life. I walked in this morning about 30 minutes before school started…and I hadn’t been at school since the Sunday the first weekend of break, when I went in to straighten up for the cleaning team. My room was a mess this morning, so I had the kids help me put it in order. I had a lab planned for today, and I had lists of what needed to happen…I dealt with some of it on that Sunday two weeks ago and the rest during prep today. I’m learning to be more efficient. I’m learning to spend less time and energy on the job. I still am there for my students, I hear them, I help them, I tutor them, I work for them…I stopped a saber-toothed tiger today with my rolled tongue (genetics joke)…but I come home and try to live for myself. I have to have a life outside of the job. I have to have an existence that isn’t just work and the shit that follows it.

So I’m ironing now. The process of coloring that picture in my head and choosing the fabrics that match those colors…it’s supremely meditative. It’s peaceful. It fights the demons away, tells them to fuck off and find another place to reside. At least for a bit.

More tomorrow.

 


Holed Up in My Head

April 20, 2014

When I don’t write, why? Why am I not writing? I’m holed up in my head (hold up? That’s what I wrote the first time). I’ve obviously set a schedule for myself to help process my brain so it doesn’t fuck with me as much as it wants to, but when I’m really depressed, when I feel like I won’t be able to write anything but WAHHH, then I don’t write. I’m tired of feeling WAHHH, tired of thinking WAHHH, don’t want to be like that, but it doesn’t just stop because you want it to. Wow, the world would be a different place entirely if we could stop the bad stuff just by wanting it.

I think that’s where most of the world misunderstands depression the most. I do want it to stop. The counselor and I often talk about my attitude toward things making them more stressful or depressing, but then she admits that yes, your life is really stressful and suggests I distract myself more from the depressing things. So then I do that, I go on a hike, I go to a cocktail party, I go to an art exhibit, I read a book (or 10), I go to the gym, and the real problem is at the END of all that, then the depressing things, which have been hiding out in the corners of my brain, they come rushing out, ten times bigger and louder and scarier, like they were multiplying back in the shadows, and then I am alone, by myself, staring at them, and the WAHHH is bigger and longer. Plus last night, I was tired (hike plus jet lag, because yes, I’m still jet-lagged), so WAHHH plus tired is a nasty-ass duo that does nothing but fuck with your head.

So I went to bed, to sleep…which was fine until 3 AM when my brain couldn’t handle that state any more (I can’t tell you how welcome the blankness of sleep is sometimes, although the dream I had where I was on a Quilting Arts episode with my ex-boyfriend’s mom and she was trying to do this crafty thing and I was supposed to be helping her and I just couldn’t do anything right, wow, Freud, have a field day with that, eh?…well, that wasn’t really the blankness of sleep, was it?)…so at 3, I was wide awake. So that’s not so good. It was a rough night, so I’m still in WAHHH mode. Seriously. Sigh.

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I drew this one in Ithaca while watching a movie…I think…

So I wake up in analytical mode, how can I force the WAHHH back into hiding (the WAHHH is some version of the depression, the one that just makes me cry all the time and feel like my guts have been ripped out of my abdomen), how can I make things feel less raw, less painful? My brain is throwing things out there, things it thinks will work, but also reminding me that school starts back up tomorrow and grades are due and today is Easter (not a huge deal in our household), and my yard and house are a fucking disaster area, and if I were NORMAL, I would clean house and pick up things and sweep and trim and go buy some flowers for the front entry planters and all that might make me feel better, which isn’t WRONG, but I don’t think it works as well as making art. The Have-To and Should brigades are rearing their ugly heads and slamming in on all sides, and some part of me just doesn’t really care about all that. What’s the point of cleaning house? Of putting away the piles of books in my room? Of uncovering the table yet again? What is the point? It doesn’t really make me feel better. It’s pointless.

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I drew this on the plane home, upgraded to first class because they messed up our flights, while watching Ender’s Game, which I picked because it was least likely to make me cry. It made me cry. Just so you know. By the way, the movie kind of confused me for about the first 10 minutes, because it seemed to leave out a huge chunk of the story, enough that I wasn’t sure what was really going on (and I actually READ the book), but then the rest of the movie was fine. Strange. It didn’t really go into the deeper emotions of the kids either.

I wanted to be further along in the quilt, but that is always the case. I accept that I am always expecting more of myself than my self is apparently capable of providing.

So it’s morning now, and I still shouldn’t be writing, because the WAHHH didn’t go away overnight…around three in the morning, it turned into some force of nature that woke me up and slapped me around, and yes, I’m still tired and physically tired and mentally tired…did I mention tired?

I’m just going to save this as a draft and hope that the afternoon/evening brain is a more focused place, a less drowning-in-the-shit existence.

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Street art on the back wall of the Weber building, where I was going to an art closing reception…

So it’s night now. And I’m still tired. I’m maybe ready to start school tomorrow? Maybe not. It doesn’t really matter if I’m ready; I have to do it. So much of my life is that way. I just roll. I didn’t manage to make art today, which is too bad, but I did clean up the office/studio enough so that I can start picking fabrics tomorrow night, if I can find the energy. I just have to put some fabrics away from the last fabric-choosing event, and then I can start. It will take a long time; I know that. Plus grades are due soon, so I did spend time today doing that. It never puts me in a good mood to grade, I have to say.

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The other side of the mural.

WAHHH is still there. I exercised, but now am too tired to meditate. I know I will just fall asleep, so I’m going to finish this and then head for bed…yes, early! Apparently last night’s interrupted 8+ hours was not enough. Meds are still off, I think. Sigh. A body in balance…something I dream of.

I’ve finished a bunch of books this week…Delirium by Lauren Oliver…

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read on the first flight, from San Diego to Minneapolis…recommended by the girlchild. A solid YA dystopian novel where love is some horrible disease with a cure…her writing and world are interesting enough to keep you reading, even when you think you know what will happen next. I’ll definitely read the rest, as soon as I can get through some of the library holds that have recently shown up…all at the same time. This is the second Oliver book I’ve read. Plus the girlchild has the rest of them on her Kindle, so I just have to carve out the time to read them.

Then I started one that I read about on another teacher’s website…I was a little leery of it at first, when I started reading it, but quickly fell under its spell…The Golem and the Jinni, by Helene Wecker…

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This has fantasy and reality and intrigue and politics. It is LOOONG, and sometimes the story drags a bit, but the tale of how a jinni is trapped and a golem comes to life and both survive in 1899 New York City, combining folk stories of the Jewish and Arabic culture, is really fascinating. I enjoyed this book, although it did get noticeably long. I read it on three flights and in two airports and at two separate gyms. Impressed? Anyway. Definitely an interesting story.

The last one was kind of a last-minute choice of something I could get from the library (this is before all the library holds showed up), because I was afraid I wouldn’t have anything to read on the plane…Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn…

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This is sort of a murder mystery, but then again, maybe not, but then again, yes. The story of a married couple is told through the eyes of each partner as the wife disappears and the husband is investigated for her murder. This story does not go the way you think it will, which adds to the suspense. It was hard to put down, even though it was a little crazy at times.

Anyway, I have permission from my counselor to distract myself with books and art and exercise…she prefers that to any bad habits I might bring on instead to hide the depression. So although I am holed up in my head, rarely coming out for air, I’m not overdosing or gambling, so that’s OK then. Maybe the WAHHH will get bored with all the other stories I’m filling my head with, and it will wander off into the sunset to harass some other poor old depressed person. It’s good that at least a couple of the things I like to do will let me close the depression door and hide out for a while. I don’t know if I’ll ever get the door completely closed and locked, but…well, there’s nothing I can do about that except continuing to do what I do. Probably more sleep wouldn’t hurt.

 

 

 


Collected Threads

April 18, 2014

Sometimes I feel like I need to gather up all the bits of my brain at night so that I can try to function again (more) normally the next day. This post was originally called Collected Vomit, but I changed to Threads, because I think I’ve got a better hold on everything now than I did when I started writing this hours ago. I may feel differently in another few hours, but for now, let’s assume I have hold of all the threads, even though it may be a tenuous hold.

I’m obviously dealing with some form of exhaustion or jet lag still. My body doesn’t know when to be tired or when to be hungry. I’m trying to get it on a normal Pacific-Coast schedule. That said, my counselor says I sound exhausted and maybe I am. It’s hard to tell some days. I’m tired of trying to manage people and decisions. Being tired also makes it harder to deal with emotional crap, and there’s plenty of that around at the moment. End of Spring Break, college decisions, money issues, car dying, teenagers (that’s emotional crap all over the place right there).

The reason I was going to call it Vomit over Threads really came down to the fact that since finally getting home (only 12 hours late), I had cleaned up at least 4 instances of vomit (lovely things, cats). I killed one spider. Kitten killed another one, for sport, apparently, based on my watching her. I took one nap. I finished one book. I made it to the gym and to my last-ever quilt class at The Country Loft, where I’ve been taking quilt classes (or just showing up, because I don’t really need a class any more) for around 24 years. Their focus is changing, so we are not stopping our meetings…just changing the location to someone’s house…it’s change. Things change. It does feel like the end of something, though. A couple of these women, I’ve had them in my class for all 24 of those years. Yes, I was a baby when I started quilting.

I had hoped to have all the pieces of Wonder Under on the big quilt cut out before I left on the trip, but it didn’t happen. I did manage to get them all cut out at my meeting last night, though.

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Then I came home and retraced all the ones where the web and fusible had wandered apart. Actually, that’s not all of them. I know that now. There are about 20 more of them. Oh well.

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Then I cut those out as well…it took just over 12 hours to cut out all those pieces, some of them twice.

Then I had to find enough bins to sort the pieces out into 100s. That was more difficult; I’m not sure why. I think I’ve filled up more bins or something. Not sure. Technically, you need 18 bins to sort over 1700 pieces, but in the end, I only needed 17, because all the pieces with numbers in the 1700s were the same color as pieces in the 1600s (that damn octopus), so they were all cut out as one piece, to be cut apart when I iron them down because they are that damn tiny.

I lay the bins out on my light box (although I had to add another one here because I had forgotten the zero bin, for pieces 0-99. I always forget that bin.

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Then I had to sort them. I have to admit that this picture was taken last night when I decided I was too damn tired to keep standing (always a good indicator of bedtime), and since I had been awake 24 hours straight (minus a 20-minute nap) at that point, it seemed reasonable to go to bed.

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I finished the sorting tonight. It took about an hour and a half total to sort all the pieces into their respective bins. In the picture above, the bin on top at the back is the added 0-99 bin, and the big white one in front is all the pieces that still needed sorting when I gave up last night.

As I was thinking this morning about (1) what I wanted to get done and (2) what I needed to get done today (two conflicting lists, as always), I realized I did not have background fabric for this quilt. I also felt (1) too busy and (2) too tired to make a rational decision about that today. But if I waited until tomorrow, there would be a hike, and I’m not going to be LESS tired after that, and I have two other events I’m supposed to go to in the evening (knock on wood that I’ll be awake for those). So Saturday shopping is out. Then Sunday? I don’t want to wait that long, because if the events tomorrow night aren’t engaging enough (for me, not for normal people…they’re social events, and you know how badly I function at those…it’s nobody else’s fault that I won’t be engaged there), I would like to come home and start ironing fabrics. So not Sunday.

So, at that point it was late enough on Friday that I was scheduling things before and after counseling (scar cream for girlchild, Costco because when else will I get there)…I basically realized I had to leave in about 20 minutes to go buy fabric, which I did…choosing these two…

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No, I couldn’t decide. It’s OK…the other one will get used elsewhere or on the back. And they really don’t look like that. My camera doesn’t like the deep rich dark blues at all. They’re not even that different in real light. It’s a good thing I decided to go today, because the shop is closed Sunday (duh, Easter, says the pagan) and closes early tomorrow, and I wouldn’t have been able to get there at all after the hike. So fate, thank you for forcing me to be efficient today.

And because I like fabric, I also got these.

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Really, I try to stay out of the fabric stores for this reason. It’s been a while since I was there…like January. That’s not so bad, right? Has it been since January? I don’t remember. No, I got the background for the Mammogram quilt; I just don’t remember when. The staff was very impressed by the speediness of my shopping (hey, I had a timer on myself, and I still needed gas for the car, because it had been on empty for about 25 miles). And yes, that bottom fabric on the right? It does look like sperm. That’s why I got it.

Anyway, those are all washed and ready to go, and the pieces are all sorted and ready to go, and one of the to-do tasks for break, which was to clean up my office? Yeah. Not so much. Haven’t had the time or inclination.

Many times, when I sit down to work at the computer, there is a black cat behind me on the chair, but sometimes, if she’s in a mood, this is where she is.

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Notoriously annoying cat. Or she stands off to the right, but leaves her tail in a horizontal line right through the middle of the monitor. I bop her tail out of the way, she bops my hand and meows, moving her tail back in my view. Really, it’s easier to share the chair with her.

I already have over 39 hours in this quilt and I haven’t done anything with fabric except pick out the background. Anyway. Moving on to the next step, while trying to get ready for school starting again, while trying to figure out what to do about a car that basically isn’t worth fixing, and dealing with a bunch of college stuff. Everything’s gonna be fine.

Which reminds me, the quilt I sent up to San Francisco area had to be washed to try to get rid of cat dander. I’m hoping I was successful, but there will be only one way to know for sure. I washed it at my parents’ house, because they’ve never had a cat there…I was fairly sure it wouldn’t run, just based on the fabrics in it, but you never know for sure, so I was a little freaked out…but I know how to deal with running fabrics. So I put a little Ivory soap in water that was a little bit lukewarm, but not much. I agitated it a little by hand, and what was interesting is that the quilt was actually dirty. It has hung in about 8 or 9 exhibits, so that’s not surprising I guess. I don’t usually wash my quilts, though.

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Then I found all the light-colored towels I could and rolled the quilt up in them one at a time and squeezed the water out (remember doing that with your sweaters that needed hand-washing? Same deal).

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Once I’d done that about three or four times, I laid it out to dry on my mom’s studio floor with plastic trash bags and towels underneath. It took about two days to dry there, and then I rolled it up there for pickup, so it never went back in my car or my house. I’m hoping that did the trick.

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Anyway, it’s gone now.

I’ll write about the trip later, when I have time to deal with the photos. We do have a final decision though…he is going to Cornell in Ithaca, New York. It’s a long way, but I think he’ll enjoy it.

I’ve got two books I read too, but I’m too tired to deal with them right now. I have to get up early for a hike, so I’m going to succumb to my East-Coast-timed exhaustion now and go to bed. Hopefully I’ll wake up with a better mood than today’s, though…today has been full of tears (again, the counselor blames the tired…and the stress, which we talked about extensively and hopefully have plans for each bit of it, much as I can do that). I could do without that tomorrow.

In the end, I’m not sure how many threads I collected in this post. Not as many as I’d hoped. Oh well. If they’re collected, hopefully I can’t lose them, and they’ll show up later in a different post…or they really weren’t important enough to collect.


Where Am I, Part 2

April 16, 2014

I know where I should be in about 4 hours; unfortunately, Delta has once again messed up my flight plans, so I am stuck in a hotel in Syracuse, New York, ready to fly out at some ungodly hour in the morning. Last time this happened, I was headed to Quilt National in Ohio, and I missed the opening. I was really unhappy and stressed when that happened. I had to get a sub for my class and I was just messed up by the whole experience.

This time? Eh. It might help that it’s Spring Break, or it might be the influence of meditation or the distance depression gives me. I don’t really care. We got to the hotel and I went down to the gym and exercised for an hour. I drew for a while…

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This is actually a really confusing drawing…there’s a metal tube and someone is zooming through it. It got a little crowded in the end. Too many overlaps. Might do it again on a larger piece of paper. It was (strangely) inspired by the first part of Angels and Demons (the movie, not the book), which was vaguely entertaining me after dinner in the hotel room.

Things the boychild has learned from this delay that his mom already knew: hairdryers are useful for drying damp shoes and clothing, although my Uggs are still wet from Tuesday (it’s OK, I brought my flipflops…oh, and hiking boots); you should always carry extra pairs of underwear and socks, and a shirt if you can; hotel staff have bandaids and it’s OK to ask for one; and most importantly, the line your mom picks will always be the longest one, so get in a different one (seriously, I’ve always had this issue).

Our flight leaves early, so I need to go to bed soon, although I have a hard time getting myself to sleep, even though I’m not on West or East coast time. I have no idea what time zone I’m existing in at the moment. Kathy Zone.

Six hours later! Yup, I’m awake and in an airport. We don’t have seats, but we’re checked in…somehow, we get in to San Diego before lunchtime (probably because it’s early enough that I would just be going to bed if I were home). One of my students wants to know her grade…sweetie, you turned everything in late! Plus I can’t input grades from here. Work raises its ugly head. No! I have 4 more days! Holy crap, where did Spring Break go? Apparently it wandered off…with my brain. Need to put a leash on that thing.

I’m missing life drawing this morning. That sucks. I will have to persuade Calli (the Golden Retriever) to do some poses for me (asleep, asleep on her back, asleep in a ball…you get the gist).

So wish me luck…hopefully the next post will be from the comfort of my own home, where the cats have been ignored by the girlchild for days.


Agua Caliente and the PCT

April 16, 2014

Saturday found me on a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail with some of my regular hiking buddies…
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The weather was pretty much perfect, in the low 70s with a cool breeze…we’ll be dreaming of that in a month or so.
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The plan was to hike on the Pacific Crest Trail for about 4 or 5 miles, and then to follow the stream up as far as we could.
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The hike starts out in a pretty valley with lots of oaks and wildflowers…we even briefly saw a deer hiding in the brush.
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We crossed the stream multiple times…there was enough water for it to be pretty and make noise, but not so much that crossings were difficult.
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I’m writing these words without being able to see the photos…probably not the best plan, but I’m sitting in the Minneapolis airport waiting for our flight…I preloaded the pictures into the post, but the preview function is being funky, so I have no idea which picture is which. Annoying.
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This was a fast hike with not a lot of elevation gain.
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We saw some PCT through-hikers, including two women in their 60s.
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We also saw a bunch of Boy Scouts who were doing training hikes, with one group camping out.
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After walking through the valley for a bit, we started to climb a bit.
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You can see the valley for miles as you climb into the hills.
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I finally gave up on writing this until WordPress updated the app last night, so now I’m writing in the Syracuse Airport. We were about 11 people, a good size for this type of hike.
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There were lots of wildflowers among the chapparal.
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Lots of Yucca about to get serious about blooming.
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The mountains we were hiking towards…
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More mountains…
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And a look back at the valley…
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Ah ha! There’s the stream…must be Spring in California…there’s water.
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And more wildflowers…
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This tree was persistently growing out of that rock.
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There were plenty of oaks everywhere…
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In oasis-like environments where you could imagine setting up a campsite for a while…
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Or perhaps, like the Native Americans, grinding some acorns into flour in a mortero.
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At about the 5-mile mark, we went off the PCT to follow the stream. This required some minor bushwhacking, which might have been an issue if what we had seen by the stream had been poison oak. We didn’t think it was, and it’s been a few days since I got slapped in the face by one of the questionable plants, and I am still rash-free, so I think we did OK.
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We kept seeing more flowers…
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And some significantly large manzanitas with their gorgeous red bark…
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More flowers…
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And more manzanita…
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At this point, we divided into two groups, one that went further up the stream and one that went back to a beach area. Unfortunately, one of my group (the continuing bushwhackers) put her hand on a plant with tiny needles that got stuck and caused some swelling. Luckily, old people (like me) travel with a wide variety of drugs and equipment. Here she is being operated on with my tweezers, and later she got ibuprofen and Benadryl for the swelling. We recommended medicating with wine and a soak when she got home.
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We stopped here for lunch, perched on rocks around the stream…
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Enjoying it rushing around us…
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Sitting in the sun or shade, it was restful to listen to the water rushing by…
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I know the picture below is one of the frogs who joined us for lunch.
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More beautiful stream…
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There’s where the Boy Scouts camped out…
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And here we are heading back…
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There were many varieties of cactus…
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And no, I don’t think it was cactus that injured her…there were nettles too, and these were super fine and caused swelling.
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The wildflowers were plentiful down in the valley.
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The meadow with the grasses rustling in the wind…it was amazing watching each plant shift position in unison with the others as the wind blew through.
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Another flower-strewn meadow…
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The official PCT trail sign…
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And a big old dead tree.
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We did probably 11 miles…this trail isn’t difficult. It is an out-and-back trail, so you will have to hike back however far out you go…I don’t find that to be a hardship because I think it looks different as the light changes during the day. This would be easy to do with kids, especially with the water crossings, although summer may reduce water flow and heat will make it more difficult.


Where Am I?

April 15, 2014

Such a philosophical question. I am significantly damp, somewhat peckish, with blood sugar definitely dropping. I forgot an umbrella, I left all my snack food in the motel (brain not functioning), and I’ve been up since 3:30 AM Pacific time.

Where am I? Ithaca, New York, home of Cornell University, where the boychild will probably be spending the next 4 years of his life.

It’s a little mind-boggling and even sad to be here. I’m excited to send him here, to have him be moving on to being a college student…but with all the upheaval of the last year, it’s also really hard to be here.

Plus it’s pouring rain and getting colder, with snow expected this afternoon. In 5 minutes, I have to put all my wet outerwear back on and venture out to meet him at some info session, but right now, I am (shockingly) sitting in a nice comfy chair and drinking tea, texting the girlchild (who is not even up yet) about what color shirt she wants.

A few hours later…we did the info session and food and shopping for family, but by then it was hailing and windy and significantly chilly. On the one hand, worst day ever to visit this week, but he now has a better idea of what clothing he’ll need to live here. And he still likes it! Me, I’m happy to be living in Southern California. I spent a year living in Britain and constantly feeling damp and having my glasses fog up.

In San Diego, everything is green, that lime leafy green, right now. In a month or so, it will start to turn brown. Here in New York, everything is brown and dead-looking right now, with the exception of a few trees setting out buds. Spring isn’t quite here.

I’ve been reading a lot. It’s hard to stitch on the plane if you don’t know the people around you. They want to talk, or it just takes up too much room. It’s easier to read with headphones on so you don’t have to engage. Same with drawing…I did draw on the plane, but only when I got to sit with the boychild. Drawing is even more personal. I really don’t want to discuss it with strangers. But, yes, then I post it on the web…seemingly an incongruent act…but you are all out in the ether, not sitting next to me for four hours. No one can disapprove of reading, right? It’s an educated thing to do. We want our kids to do more of it…it helps us deal with the world, increases vocabulary, makes you more empathetic, protects against Alzheimer’s…hell, it’s unhealthy NOT to read.

I actually believe many of those things apply to drawing as well…it’s just harder to draw for many people…although no one doubts their drawing ability when they’re young. We haven’t mastered reading and we draw like little crayon ninjas, taking over the visual world with our interpretations. I have students who don’t like to read, who fight it, won’t look for key words, won’t practice. Sometimes it’s a language issue, sometimes it’s parents not making an effort to read TO their kids, to read IN FRONT of their kids (something besides Facebook status posts, folks…because that’s not reading unless you click through and read news stories and blogposts…and even then, your commitment was for a thousand words instead of pages).

I never had to make my kids read. But they saw both parents reading all the time and we read to them every day.

I wonder, though, what happens with the drawing? I wonder what kind of world this would be if we made drawing or visual expression (dance?) or even music as important and crucial, at home and at school, as we do reading? What kind of world would it be then?

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Certainly I would be able to draw on the plane then.


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