Tuesday, April 26, 2011

What the crow missed by dying today

Coming back from his regular pre-dawn walk the day after Easter, the hubby spied a sidewalk spectacle: a moribund crow with an equally dead crayfish still firmly clamped in its beak. Hubby tried to get me to go with him to photograph the sorry sight, but I convinced him he could do the job just as well. He came back with several shots, all good.

If you're like most people, your body goes through a predictable pattern when confronted with the unexpected sight of a dead body: recoil, look away, catch your breath, sneak another look. Then stare. The train wreck effect.

Then you try to make sense of what your senses are feeding you. Here's this being that once was and now isn't. In this case, there were two of them. 

Questions, questions. A duel to the death. Who died first, the crayfish or the crow? (Which came first, the chicken or the egg?)

How can I tell if this is a raven or a crow? Part of me hoped it was a raven so I could quote Edgar Allan Poe: "Quoth the raven: 'Nevermore.' " I had to look it up. Apparently, the bill on a crow curves downward. This must be a raven. It oozes dignity in death. And a little creepiness for good measure. 

How long could this bird have lived if it had lived its natural span? My online source records a raven that lived 40 years, although 10-15 years is more common.

This raven's eyes, shuttered now, had seen a few things in its time. For the rest of the day I took more than a passing interest in the sights still available to my eyes.

This blood-red bougainvillea clambers up a trellis outside the local Target store. Had the raven seen it, or was it always preoccupied with pursuing prey and evading predators?

I have a particular fondness for bougainvillea because my father grew them in an array of colors when we lived on an air force base in the Philippines. They're so sensitive to frost, which is why I haven't attempted to replicate Dad's garden. How does Target's landscaper manage to keep this healthy specimen alive?

In the wildflower patch that reseeded itself behind my house, the California poppies, calendula and other blooms are a riot of color. The wind was blowing full blast when I took the photos, so these were among the few without blur.

When the Mexican primroses are spent, I'll have to weedwhack the entire thatch to the ground. It seems a savage way to repay their valiant effort, but they must make way for new growth. I'm not sure this philosophy applies to the raven, though. Did the rest of the ravens benefit from his exit? (And oh! did you know the poetic term for a flock of ravens is a "murder of ravens"? Random fact.)

The johnny jump-ups had a near-death experience they lived to tell about. It seems the hubby went up on the roof to dismantle the anachronistic TV antenna. Rather than lower the entire assemblage to the ground, he flung it off the roof. It landed with a satisfying (to him) crash, barely missing their little purple and yellow heads. Here, they've settled down from asking each other "What just happened?"

I had no idea TV antennas could be so salvageable. Those aluminum rods are pliable enough to refashion into a trellis for this season's morning glories. Heaven-sent supplies! Or at least hubby-sent. I've soaked the seeds to prepare them for planting.

On our sunset stroll, the hubby and I came across the spot where the raven lay in state. It seems his passing did not go unmarked.

We ended the day as we began it: marking life, death, and everything necessary in between.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

They're just words—or are they?

Today, a young woman left a very thoughtful and thought-provoking comment in an earlier post on rose-colored glasses.
...I love writing and reading but at this stage of my life it really doesn't do anything to ease the injustices of global issues such as famine and poverty. Which is the same for everyone with creative pursuits (and often non-creative too)!  
I'm even considering giving up studying philosophy and literature to do something to help the world more directly, like somehow defending human rights without becoming a lawyer! 

Serendipitously, a friend of mine posted a link on Facebook that led me to discover this video.

When you watched it, did you notice the woman didn't give the blind beggar any coins? She has a gift for words, and she knew how to meet his need with it. She rewrote the man's sign, putting it in terms that pierced the consciences of passers-by and awakened appreciation for the sight they have that he does not.

"It's a beautiful day, and I can't see it."

That's what moved people and unclogged an outpouring of generosity. Did it cost the woman anything? Not in cents, but in the time she took to prepare her gift for that moment in time. Even when she had no way of knowing that one day she could be useful in just that way.

As a child I scoffed at "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me." Sure they did! A lot! They weren't "just" words. They got me in trouble. Still do. (In my dotage, of course, I realize that the sticks-and-stones strategy was meant to insulate a child from taunting meanies/older siblings picking on you. Not that it ever worked for me.)

I have this reverence for healthy fear of words. It's not unlike the respect a snake charmer has for the coiled critter. Maybe it's part of why I reserve my cussing for crisis-level situations. I hate to waste a crispy "FUCK!" when a soft-boiled "damn" will serve just fine. I can never figure out why my daughter (and a few friends) bust out laughing when I cuss. I think it's because I'm not very convincing, having had little practice.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

I'm writing this post in snatches of time. Every time my giant orange rescue cat dozes off, I snip off another chunk of his long, matted fur. He's been stressed by tummy troubles lately, and the matting is uncharacteristic but symptomatic.

I committed to this furry child five years ago. I cannot adopt every abandoned stray that shows up on my porch. But it's in my power to protect, love and make a difference in this one's life. The world has one less neglected cat.

When you're young and finding your place in life, the world seems gigantic and "out there." You doubt your power. You are unsure of its reach and its very existence—particularly when you're transitioning between your identity as a student and a so-called productive citizen. By the time you reach the middle of your life, the world, and your mark on it, will hopefully have become more defined. Your influence on the world is as much about the abstract concept of giving aid to victims of natural disasters half a world away as it is the squelched urge to flip off a driver who cuts you off. One less road rage incident. One act of sacrificial generosity, one act of self-control. They add up.

There are countless other ways one individual can conquer what plagues all of humankind, the animals we share the planet with, and the earth itself.

Raise awareness. Pray. Speak encouragement. Nurture yourself so you have the resources to take care of others. Fight your inner demons—daily, if you must, to be free to fight the demons external to you. And yes, WRITE.

I'm all for choosing a path based on how much it can help the world. But I've read far too many comments from people burned out from social work and similar helping professions. There is more wisdom in selecting a path that uses your gifts, as long as those gifts recharge rather than drain you. We are accountable not for everything that is wrong in the world, but for anything we can and are willing to do to brighten the world.

Raise awareness—of the sources of joy. Pray—in gratitude. Speak encouragement. Nurture yourself so you can by example teach others to nurture themselves instead of leeching out everyone else's joy. When you fight your inner demons, remember to leave time to dance with your inner pixies. And yes, for heaven's sake and the world's, WRITE.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

You have to start somewhere

Little cat, big dreams, originally uploaded by scrollwork.

You walk on all fours most of the time, scrounging for scraps and hearing "Scram!"

You're not the alpha cat, nowhere near an acrobat, but every day you talk to a pic of your hero, The Cat in the Hat.

If you stretch every muscle, you can just see over the wall. Someday you'll be out there. Everybody will know about you.

Today you'll practice. You'll fall. You'll fail. The alley cats will jeer. Give it up, they'll snicker. Settle in. Get fat. We're cats.

But Lady Gaga's words speak to your heart. "You will never forget me." And when those words came true for her, she added, during an interview, "So, haha." You're not above gloating. When the time comes.

What really scares you is mediocrity. What pisses you off is complacency.

Take this one, for instance. Nature bestowed gorgeousness in gobs. But does he use his gifts with gratitude?

You think not. He will never amount to anything more than a decorative pet. You turn up your nose, and practice some more.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Time for a little textile therapy

If enough of us misfits band together, we could get those uppity spa people to offer us textile therapy—when aromatherapy simply isn't enough. 

Oh, what Eve was missing, wearing her fig leaf uniform. I'm not sure it would've been Eden to me if I couldn't have my soft-to-the-touch, springy when crushed, wild, mysterious, shape-shifting fabric collection to stroke and stash in secret places.

OK, it's really just a pile of old clothes.

That's what the eye can see. My heart sees this: endless possibilities. Clay in my hands. Canvas to recolor in a hot bath of dye. Suncatchers to photograph as the warp and weft undress in the light. Rivulets and waterfalls of texture, barnacles, underwater stalactites, shark's teeth and sea urchins. Sources of inspiration that pierce my brain with startling suddenness.

Don't even get me started on embroidery, appliqu├ęs, pleats, pintucks and crocheted lace. An orgy of manipulation by the most skillful of hands. I am a wanton worshipper.

When you meet a garment for the first time, this is how you would look at it:

And you would be perfectly rational.

I don't see things that way. I see this piece the way that picture up top looks. Same shirt. Shot from below, close to the sleeve.

Here's this lovely lavender blouse, outdated in its shrinkydink style. It looks like a fierce warrior's armor to me. Or like the peaks that egg whites form when beaten into a frenzy.

It could find a new life as a scarf or the collar of a new (remade from old) top:

Look at the marvelous coral pink ruffle on this old T-shirt.  Such insouciance. Someday it will play a starring role on...I'll have to wait for it to coyly whisper the answer to me.

I found this forest green velvet skirt during my latest forage at the local thrift store. It could be an off-shoulder blouse...

Or a drapey bodice...

Pair it with this wide flounce of shimmery copper, and we have a gown.

A gown from a bedskirt and a people skirt. Scarlett would be proud.
One last picture:

This one really is from a curtain panel. Frankly my dear, it's the best damned use for it. Why waste it on a window that few get to see?

I don't even need music when I'm playing with my fabrics. They sing to me. I don't want to miss a single note. I am restored to wholeness.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Green is Universal Contest—How to vote

It never fails to light a fire under me—the opportunity to reimagine and re-create something as more beautiful, glamorous, useful and surprising than its current self. We take too much for granted. We settle for what is rather than stretch toward what could be. But all around us, secret spectacularity is waiting to be discovered. I am building a business around this passion—Swoosh by Scrollwork on etsy.com.

Now there's a giant opportunity to light a fire under more people! Etsy and the ReUser's Guide to Green Living have partnered to sponsor the Green is Universal contest. It's a challenge to everyone with an imagination. How could I pass this up? Entries are in; voting has begun. If you live in Canada or the United States, you can vote. Voting goes from April 9-15 only! You must register to vote so you can be entered for a chance to win a $500 etsy shopping spree. For my readers outside of North America—I would still appreciate your comments! Please click the link in Step #2 to leave a comment.

The website doesn't make it easy to figure out the steps toward voting, however. Lots of readers were under the impression that simply clicking the Facebook Like button counts as a vote. If only they had made it that simple!

I've put together a step-by-step below to help you out. Thanks so much for your support and patience!

1) Go to http://www.greenisuniversal-reuse.com/contest-rules and click on the Log in button in the upper right corner. In the screenshot below, I superimposed "Log in" in red because I'm already registered so that button now says "Manage account."

 2) After entering your email address and password, it's time to find me. I'm entered under the Fashion category of the projects, on page 8 of 10. Shortcut via this link:
3) Scroll to the bottom of the ballgown picture and click on the box that says "Cast vote in this category."

 4) You'll know for sure your vote is in when you see the button replaced with "You voted to this project."
And if you'd like to see this ballgown in action, here's the YouTube of the waltz performance:

Monday, April 4, 2011

I'll take the rose-colored spectacles, please

Showdown at high noon, originally uploaded by scrollwork.
Damn those glasses! They weren't rose-tinted enough for me.

Have you had enough reality for a while? Me too. I do the obligatory news scan online for a few minutes every morning, but that's it. The rest of my day, unless there's a global disaster, nothing is permitted to intrude on my equanimity.

It's a matter of survival: the survival of my delusion that all will be right with the world, and if it isn't, that I have a modicum of control over any part of the outcome. (I am not discounting prayer by any means! But it's still up to God, not me.)

If I don't subscribe to that outlook, how else could I go on stitching happily away at a frock to free it from its frumpy beginnings? How could I justify creating "art" that won't feed hungry children, only my vain, selfish soul? How could I have so much passion about teaching people to dance, to uncoil their inner springs and be surprised by how they can move?

I would be irrelevant to myself without my rose-tinted lenses. It would be a constant indictment of the hours spent blogging, photographing, dreaming, seeing what could be beyond what is.

But because I choose to keep those lenses firmly clapped over my eyes, I can take risks, make short-term sacrifices, air my shortcomings, stay the course, make peace with uncertainty, and love my spouse.

I can bear the garden's barrenness in winter, the shrunken pocketbook in lean times, the thickened waist in midlife.

I can choose what to build, what to grow, what to explore, never mind if the point isn't immediately apparent, if the checks aren't in the mail, if the blog comments are withheld.

I can finally stop seeking the counsel of others, and see in myself all the expertise I need for the task I've chosen for myself. And in this, I can be irreplaceable, no longer irrelevant.

Do you need rose-tinted glasses? Take mine; I have an extra pair.

P.S.  Commenting woes! I've gotten feedback from my dear readers that their comments have evaporated after hitting "Post." Some get through, some don't, no rhyme or reason. I've already turned off the Moderating feature and spam filter so all comments can post immediately. My apologies; I don't know what else to do. Please leave me a comment on my Facebook fan page via the link on the sidebar if you've had problems. I'll report them to blogger admin. Also, if you haven't already, I invite you to subscribe or follow this blog via one of the methods on the sidebar—e-mail, NetworkedBlogs or Google Friend Connect. Thank you!