After retiring, time seems to take on a new dimension. There is no work scheduled, perhaps a few doctor appontments here and there, some vehicle maintenance, vet visits for the dogs, and the days tend to run into each other.
The pandemic was part of that—with few places to go and our world limited to on-line forums and our yard/house.
Our recent cold spell necessitating hibernation in our upstairs as the warmest part of the house has added to that timeless feeling.
Still I am very goal oriented and task dedicated.
This New Year, my first full year of real retirement is one for exploration and adventure. While I may be limited in some of the activities requiring physical endurance, my mind is still quite functional…although some of those daily jumbles make my brain scramble.
Some people choose a word as a focus for their year; others write resolutions that fill the gyms the first two weeks of January.
I haven’t figured it out yet.
My father had an old German/Czech proverb—-whatever you spend New Year’s Day doing, that will be what you do the rest of the year.
While there is a great deal of charm in a hundred year old house–built solidly to withstand hurricanes—there are also challenges.
The wall are thick–double brick, metal lath, plaster—a very quiet house—but no walls to move at a whim to accommodate access for large appliances or re-modetling.
Then there is the question of electrical outlets. Built in an era with few electrical appliances, an outlet or two in a room was an extravagance. And lights? When you went to bed with the chickens and got up when they did—not much need for more than one light in a room.
But then there comes the time in your life when you might want to sew during a rainstorm…..or early evening…and you don’t want to trip over electrical extension cords.
It is odd having an electrician not related to you in any fashion but yet feeling like an old family friend who likes old houses and the challenge of making things work.
I’ve been on his to-do list for several months—and yesterday was the day his son and helper appeared to put in outlets and overhead lights.
That necesitated moving a few things—and here is what I had to do to prep for the installation.
and perhaps the most important outlet of all—-I had been running my sewing machine, lamp, Alexa, laptop from an extension cord from the master bedroom.
And if you are thinking what a grand mess this is–and was before the outlet and lighting project–you are quite right. I had been trying to clear out projects needing just a bit more to complete====and happy to say much has been processed—but more remains—and it did not help to take on a new hobby with new supplies and now partially done projects.
For several years I have dutifully completed American Patchwork’s UFO challenge. The number of boxes and bags with abandoned projects, ideas that seemed great at the time, obligations, and dreams had begun to overwhelm my work-room to the point, I had a hard time moving around in it–let alone hauling out something to work on. Conquering the mess began with listing projects—or UFO”S—unfinished objects.
Some projects were workshops taken with the local guild in an attempt to support their efforts.
Some projects were begun with what I can only call wishful thinking—what was I thinking about a huge applqiue quilt?
And worst of all—some were my mother’s unfinished projects.
Then there are the WIP”S or the PHD’s—works in progress or project half done. It is hard to distinguish between these two—they tend to be the ones up on my design wall—and not in a box or bag.
For some unknown reason, I chose to begin the 2021 Block of the Month from the Quilt Show—before beginning I made myself complete the top for 2020–a Sue Garman pattern featuring tiny blocks and intricate applqiue—what was I thinking?
But here is Windows on my World…I am about at Month Four–meaning I am now one month behind with another month’s patterns posted today—but I am having a lot of fun with it. I am using my extensive collection of novelty prints—there are frogs in some of the trees, wild flowers in others, and some have Australian creatures–I don’t know why a kangaroo would be in a tree–but there he/she is. The houses are also composed of novelty prints and instead of several houses–there are hot air balloons and a fountain–and some cows grazing. Did I follow the pattern? Sort of–but not really—
And, yes, I have whittled down the number of bags and boxes including my mother’s projects—but still a shelf-full left to go.
What did you do last summer? Always a good essay for back to school and I still think of summer as time off and September as the start of the working year–even though it has been a few years since I have been in school. And now we can add—what have you done during the pandemic to stay creatively active and to survive the isolation?
After the initial random restlessness of figuring out what I could/should be doing combined with a canceled long anticipated surgery to repair my back, I hung around the internet scanning for something interesting. Besides the new challenge of figuring out what we would have for supper and what series we would watch on Netflix, I decided I would clean up my photo site, revamp my website, and learn more about blogging. I wanted to do a series of ‘something’ but could not really settle on anything. In the past, I had put together a series of farm buildings–barn, milk-house, grainery, corn crib, farm-house, windmill—and that was absorbing–and fun.
My blog is still what it is. And my website is still not up-dated. I’ve done half of the lessons in WordPress and worked on re-organizing my photos—i have a lot—so many! I’ve tried setting up schedules for the mundane in my life–cleaning the kitchen, workouts at the gym, art time–and so forth but it quickly falls to the wayside as someone calls me and asks me to work somewhere or it is raining that day and I can’t mow or it isn’t raining and so a good day to mow. And then there was the endless search for vaccinations coupled with the challenges of weather–floods, winds, and our big freeze a couple of months ago.
But all of that is not particularly news-worthy or interesting–other than as a historical notation.
I have always kept a file of images that appeal to me–color, shapes, lines, repetition–and now they mostly live on my photo site–but privately held as they are not meant to be good photos–but inspirational. My first series was farm buildings based on my photographs—finding an old fashioned corn-crib meant driving around rural Wisconsin and stopping at a farm, chatting with the farmer who gave permission for photography. While I’ve worked on some pieces that I would consider sequential—a study of color or design and composition exercises, the next real series was the Stations of the Cross.
After completing a big project, there is always a sense of restlessness—wondering what should come next–a time of being not focused but aimless…..until the next challenge or inspiration occurs.
While I am waiting for that to happen, I can sort through more photos–do I really need ten photos of azaleas? I can sort through my sketchbooks, put bindings on quilts, and if really desperate–clean the kitchen and do the laundry.
At some point in life, we tend to rely on our memories–some good and others more fun to remember than to live through.
One of my nieces dealt with a home renovation while they lived in a camper outside the house—and the weather at that time of year–was chilly at best. Water froze in the teakettle and they dressed like a cross between the Michelin man and Pillsbury Dough boy. We once lived in a trailer so cold at night we had to leave the faucet dripping with a pot placed under the drip to be sure the drain didn’t freeze.
But then I wanted a photo for a project. I remembered taking the photo but then I had to find it—-at one time my husband and I both shared a photo site. His interests are a bit different than mine and it took me some time to find my photos.
Next project was figuring out how to transfer all these photos to my smugmug account—and of course in the process review them all and relive the memories.
I have copied just one gallery–there are more to go.
Some think there is an end in sight to the pandemic. Like the events of 9/11, our lives will never be the same—and while others may post pictures of what might be considered vintage tools or a time when life was simpler and better—I still remember putting the pan in the sink so our drain wouldn’t freeze.
and this is the piece I made from the photo of the blurry windows outside my hotel room in Denver Colorado
This course has encouraged me to think about this blog and life in general. After thinking about why I wanted to have a blog—and in this time of isolation, it would seem I should have been eagerly plying the keyboard and clicking the camera shutter—-but I haven’t.
All of us handle stress differently; I see a lot of anger and finger-pointing and misconceptions—the idea that a different calendar page will change our life’s situation or ink on a piece of paper prevents hurricanes.
But I can only deal with the world around me.
If you know me at all, you will know I like words, weird words, specific words, unusual sounding words. When I came upon the lesson instructing me to change the tag-line of my blog—well—that is just plain fun and good for several hours if not days of entertaining hunts through dictionaries and thesauruses (I guess that is a proper word).
My new tagline is the title of this post.
So before you click to the search function to figure it out, here it is:
Spalls are the sharp bits broken off a rocky face. I don’t write or say all I think or know–but just bits and pieces. It cleverly rhymes with the next two words.
Scrawls probably needs no explanation–my hand-writing is not the best, better than some and much worse after the tumor on my brachial plexus was discovered and removed. (the brachial nerve is what runs your arm–one on each side)
Williwaws are quick outbursts of wind from a mountaintop toward an ocean. It was the title of Gore Vidal’s first book written at age 19 as a first mate; but as a pun of sort—I live in Beaumont—French for beautiful mountain–Beaumont is coastal and speaking/writing can be referred to as windy.
So there you have it—-a new tagline with a fantastic explanation.
Like a lot of other people, I dream about what I might like to accomplish in the New Year.
Like a lot of other people I wrote a lot of resolutions, tried the concept of focusing on just one word as the inspiration/impetus for the year-.
And then there’s the project idea with writing out the various steps needed for completion—a la Franklin planner—–which turns out is probably the way I work best.
One of my goals/projects has been to improve my understanding and use of Spanish. I learned a fair amount of Spanish ‘on the job’, took Spanish in junior high—a century ago—attended some church services in Spanish…practiced Spanish on mission trips and in restaurants along with taking a formal class in Mexico and in Arizona. Both fun trips with lots of sight-seeing on the side and wonderful meals and memories.
I am working now with Duolingo……muy facil except for learning what is masculine and what is feminine. Husband commented a Spanish noun is made of two parts—the article and the word–whereas English we don’t separate them—that makes some sense—but still it is rather humorous to think of testicles and scrotum as being feminine.
Another goal was to improve my web presence in terms of this blog. I’ve been writing on it for quite some time, not always so regularly and usually with photography. At first I would not write anything unless I had what I thought a spectacular photograph…..well, maybe not quite spectacular but certainly interesting and well composed. I also learned how to input them from my photo site—that site has grown unwieldy and I need to deal with that huge task.
I read several blogs and have been impressed by some of the mechanics and the look of their blog—and thusly this year I am taking a course in blogging hosted by WordPress.
My assignment for this lesson is to identify my ‘ideal reader’. And if that seemed overwhelming to take a look at the blogs I read and figure out THEIR ideal reader.
Slice of life
Not dismal or angry or angst driven but not sugar-coating things either.
Interested in observing life—but maybe that is the same as the first.
Process—not necessarily in something I do.
NOT interested in political commentary or proselytizing of anything
The above photo was taken two days ago in Shangri-la Gardens, Orange Texas. Due to Covid and the recent trio of hurricanes, much of the Garden is closed and there is a one way path through it. The fountains were not running and although a beautiful day perfect for strolling through the garden, there were few visitors and very little was in bloom. Gardening is always a game of patience; there was a lot of clipping and planting happening—promises for the future.
And now I will check off completion of this lesson, take the quiz and move on to the next lesson.
With the holiday season in full swing and people putting up Christmas decorations before the Thanksgiving turkey is thawed prior to roasting, people wishing the year would end, and rude comments made about the year’s events….I am being polite here; there are other words I would use to describe the commentary over the past few years and especially this year.
It seems that people are wishing their life away instead of looking at what they do have. Perhaps the long years of schooling have given me the sense of what delayed gratification looks and feels like; perhaps growing up on a farm where few things if any were instant click on an icon type projects; perhaps some of my artwork constructed one piece, one stitch at a time or perhaps my natural introverted nature puts a different spin.
I can’t say this year has been fun. I don’t enjoy wearing a mask; I don’t enjoy not seeing family or friends; I don’t enjoy virtual church, I don’t enjoy the most exciting project of the day being what shall we have for supper tonight, and then there’s scrolling through social media trying to find something that isn’t a nasty comment about someone or something.
But there is a comfort in routine and rules. Rules create boundaries that we may not like but are there to create order. While I may think stopping at the end of my driveway in rural Wisconsin is a foolish endeavor, it is meant for my safety and the safety for others—although those others may rarely drive past my house making the whole idea of stopping seem a frivolous and useless task.
Routines keep us moving and to use the old maxim-keep the world turning. Children and dogs—and us–thrive on routine. It is knowing what is expected and the predictable outcome that gives comfort when chaos descends upon us. The occasional outlier—a vacation; an unexpected gift or visit, a new job shake up our lives pleasantly—and then there are the others that are not so fun—and we are grateful to return to the humdrum of making coffee at 3:30 AM to get ready to drive to work at 4 AM.
Those days and weeks of work were tolerable because there was always some sort of reward in the offing—perhaps a wintery day spent on the beach or staying up late to photograph a lunar eclipse.
The motto of Wisconsin is ‘Forward’. I had not thought about it in some time as I now live in Texas but my oldest son reminded me when he remarked on the destruction of the statue and that of an abolitionist in the state capitol by individuals purporting to bring attention to race relations. I had thought people in Wisconsin were educated and practical.
Wisconsin was pioneered by immigrants from Germany, Poland, and Czechoslavakia–Bohemia as my dad described it. Small towns boasted a biermeister and a casameister–beer and cheese maker–the recipes and skills a family heritage. They had to be tough people to dig holes in the sides of hills to live in during those brutal winter months.
I always thought of Forward as being future thinking, not dwelling on the past, not dwelling on adversity but rising above it—something my parents and grandparents exampled along with others in the community. I have been fortunate to find a segment of Texas with a group of people similarly minded. I remember how furious a 92 year old woman was when I told her I could not just give her a shot for her broken hip so she could finish spading up her garden that morning—she had slipped on some grass wet with dew.
So today I will get up and go do stuff. I have a garden to tend, a kitchen to clean, some business and personal correspondence to complete and then I will work on some art. Work and responsibilities always come before pleasure–just like vegetables come before dessert.
**the photo above is in a gallery labeled Utah trip but is a view of the Mississippi across the river from Wyalusing. When I stop at this viewing spot, I know I am nearly home.
It has been awhile since I last posted here—and it hasn’t been for lack of time. Maybe it is because time hangs heavy these days and the idea I should be doing ‘something important’ is so overwhelming I spend countless hours trolling the internet hoping for inspiration. Instead I find anger which is just fear dressed in another color—anger at being asked to wear a mask to protect others, and anger by those who think mask wearing is an infringement on their ‘rights’. And then there are those who post funny/ wry commentary and some who post just ‘regular’ stuff like picnics with families, garden produce and so forth.
I have no excuse for not doing ‘stuff’; I am filled with an immense feeling of abandonment— my family is far away and busy with other family members. While husband is attentive and caring and the dogs are definitely loving—and mischievous at times, I have little motivation to DO something, anything. Each day is the same as the day before with the only challenge is ‘what to make for supper’ and ‘who is cooking’.
About ten years ago I nearly died from systemic disseminated histoplasmosis—a fungal infection that had a mortality rate of about 95% at the time—and I’m sure it would have been a higher rate if a massive does of steroids initially had been included. Each day while I was in the step-down unit was much the same as the previous with the only point of interest, the evening meal—such as it was. I am made of tough stuff—my sparring partners in karate…mostly young men…would stand back and say–you look soft but underneath you are as tough as nails…and I think that is probably true.
I recovered from that illness although I am left with reminders, reminders I need to be very careful regarding corona virus. I had to alter my work, my hobbies, and my life for the new way of life I now have.
I put one foot in front of another; tried hard although it is so tempting to not look back with regret of past abilities but to concentrate on moving forward.
I like to include photos with my posts–not everyone likes to read essays. During this time, I managed to finish the project my mother left for me—quilting all the tops for her grand-children. They have all now been delivered. In addition, I have been cleaning out her quilting supplies and put together this little lap quilt from triangles my dad cut out for her and the pieced flowers. I sent this to my sister=in=law who is undergoing chemotherapy for ovarian cancer–the cancer my mother dealt with for 13 years—its’ mortality rate was 95% in 2 years===so I am indeed made of tough stuff.
Blogging is a natural progression for someone who enjoys the written word and beautiful imagery. My photographs are hosted at sylviaweir.smugmug.com. I am slowly transitioning all my photographs to this site and will hopefully edit them to a manageable number. In the meantime, I have organized my blog photos by year and so you may wish to merely sample the blog photos
Feel free to contact me for any questions. My website here has not been fully populated but as I work on my smugmug site, I will update these pages.
My work begins with a word, a thought, an idea, or a bit of a poem. I search through my library of images mostly on Smugmug or sometimes I go out and photograph new images. A pieced quilt pattern is sometimes chosen, sometimes I use a piece of fabric I have altered in the past. The imagery is added on using hand applique and then thread is used to add details.
Each piece is meant to draw the viewer inward providing them with ample opportunities to add their own story to the piece. If the piece evokes the emotion or thought I wished conveyed, then I consider the piece successful.
Sometimes I play 'what if' with fabric and paint and imagery. These might be considered equivalent to scale work in music--something I always enjoyed.