Letter to my 17 year old self

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My dear Laverne, 

Soon you will graduate from high school, travel to Chicago, live with your Polish grandmother and pursue a job downtown as a secretary. Daddy told you girls don't need college to raise babies and suggested you take shorthanded and typing. You were the the short hand wiz and received the secretarial scholarship after Daddy called the base commander because the school had given it to someone else and told us they wanted it for a town kid not an Air Force Base transient.

You also took pre-college class courses, just in case. All your friends were in those classes. You were smart and had no trouble getting good grades. When you never found a job in a law office you used your secretarial scholarship to take elementary ed classes at Wright Junior College. This was your first transgression. It began you're determined life to pursue dreams, no matter what the circumstances. 

You will continue to make unconventional choices beginning with your first divorce in 1976 and letting your children live with their dad. You will be judged. You will know you have done the right thing. That is what is most important to remember. When you make the right decision for yourself, it will be the best for everyone in the long run. Don't look back. Stand steadfast. Persevere.

Me receiving the secretarial scholarship, Rome Free Academy, Rome, New York, 1964

Me receiving the secretarial scholarship, Rome Free Academy, Rome, New York, 1964

Prayer to My Beloved

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Dearly Beloved,

I am bewildered by death. Who will go first and have the benefit of the other being there? The other then dyeing alone. Will you go first since you are older? You are so healthy.

Yesterday I got angry at you. I was afraid you were going to eat too much cheese. You put the whole chunk on a saucer. A special saucer that you got down from the cupboard. One for the cheese. One for the pears. I noticed because you never do things like that. Then I got angry and ruined it. "I thought we would share," you said in your defense. I am so sorry, my love.

Every year I love you more and more. You are near perfect. I have no complaints. You deserve to go first so that I may guide you. Care for you in the moment. In my meditation I see you move through your death with ease. Then I will be alone and bewildered. 

"Now I lay me down to sleep," is not a bad prayer, as one writer surmised. It is the ultimate request. "If I should die before I wake. . ." Yes, please. My dear, from this moment on, I shall be kind to you, as you are so kind to me.  

Image by Ray Zabielski

Image by Ray Zabielski

Creative Lineage

I'm not saying my mother didn't judge. She just never asked a lot of questions. That was her gift.

We lived in Perry, Kansas in a rented farmhouse when I discovered Laura Ingalls Wilder. Later we moved to Topeka. I rode the bus to the downtown library, spent hours perusing and choosing between Laura and Willa Cather. Then rode the bus home anxious to devour their stories. Laura lived in Kansas also. Therefore, in my mind, we were connected. In my mind we had a personal relationship. It was 1958.

Thirty years later I read Of Women Born by Adrienne Rich. Her edict for women to write the truth about their experiences no matter how painful became my mandate. I was validated. I wrote short, suscinct poems describing my life, then shared them in a community writing class taught by my feminist friend, Lucinda. Feeling Like a Shitty Mother. Discovering the Other Woman. Defining Rape to my Sixteen Year Old Daughter. Lucinda read my work and said, "this woman has something to say.

I read my first poems at an open mic at a bar. Since a number of my poems were about sex, I dressed sexy. Classy sexy. With a slight edge. Not trashy. I dressed to be seen and to be heard. Tables in the front circled the mic. A spotlight defined the stage. An audience gathered, prepared to listen. In the back, a silhouette of men sat at the bar engaged in a low chatter as the poetry reading began. I walked into the light, leaned into the mic and said in a clear voice, soft, yet firm, "this poem is on discovering the other woman." The entire bar fell silent.

I spoke. I was heard. I listened to the applause. I read more poems. I was serious, and yet I heard unexpected laughter. I paused, gazed at the women sitting at the tables in front of me. Why are they laughing? I asked myself, silently. This is my life. Then I realized it was a laughter of recognition.

Yes, this is my life and it is your life and in the absurd details, we are one. We are connected. We have nothing to fear. I let the laughter wash over me as one sordid detail after another revealed itself. After heartbreaking decisions appeared next to painful despair giving birth to a temper tantrum so outrageous there was nothing left but humor and laughter and the revelation of the degrees to which the absurd rules.

In 1989 I went to the Women Writers Conference at the University of Kentucky. I attended a Spiderwomen Theater performance. In a dramatic moment towards the end the women turned to the audience, pointed their fingers at us and said, "tell your own story." My mission was defined. In 1990 I organized poetry readings. I was seeking women with the courage to walk to the mic. I asked if they wanted to read their poems. I wasn't interested in credentials. There was no editorial intervention. I didn't ask any other questions.

Today, I create art to wear for women who don't need to answer questions.

Botanical Print Silk Devore Crop Top

Botanical Print Silk Devore Crop Top

Her Hippie Wedding That I Almost Ruined

Danielle wore a gold sari. Joel wore a loincloth, a crystal around his neck. The altar was across the pasture in a clearing under trees, between cow turds. Levi blew a conk shell to begin the procession of me and her father walking through the field to the altar where Joel's band played African drums. When Joel came out from behind the bushes to await Danielle's arrival at the altar, his 92-year-old grandmother, the mother of a Baptist preacher, said, in a loud voice because she doesn't hear too well, "Well I never thought I'd see my son dressed like that at his wedding!" Levi’s wife, Bluebird, wove wires in her long braids so they curled up. The rings were on each tip.

Keen attention was paid to food and flowers. No poison was served; no sugar, no alcohol. The bean soup was delicious, except, by the end of the day, since the weather was so hot, it fermented. The cake was delicate and the flowers were left overs from a florist where a friend worked. Danielle passed a stem to the main guests.

I was late in getting there. I was supposed to pick up the Indian woman at 10:30 to dress Danielle in the Sari. I had been involved in one of my mothering routines making sure everyone had a ride and knew the directions. By the time I saw everyone off it was almost 11 and the wedding started at noon. Stepsister, Rainbow, half brother, Donnie and I jumped in the car and rushed over to the Indian Emporium hoping she was still there.

"I'm here! I said as I burst in the door. 

"You're too late," she said in her Indian accent. 

"Too late? What do you mean?" I am confused.

"Oh, Danielle didn’t call yesterday. I thought the wedding is next week. My children have already gone to church. I can’t leave. They have no key to get in and I can’t leave the store open."

I try to stay calm. I have really blown it this time. My daughter asked me to do one thing for her wedding and I failed. I try to stay calm and express my disappointment.

"Here," the Indian woman says. "I’ll show you what to do. Then you can dress her."

Well yes, of course, if that's what it takes. I'll do it. That's not my style. I don't want to have to learn this in five minutes or less. I don't want to concentrate on having to get it right. But I will and she walks to the front display case and begins to pull out bangles and beads looking for the right ones and places them in a small brown lunch sack. What wealth, to be able to pull from such a large collection of jewelry. 

"What time would you bring me back?" She asks, suddenly. Startling me. I had already surrendered to figuring out how I was going to pull this off.

"What ever time you need to be back," I said. Anything, I thought, whatever you need, just so you can come. "1:30?"

"OK. I’ll go," she says and finishes stuffing the paper sack. She pulls “For Sale” shoes off a shelf and puts them on. "Just one favor," she says. "Will you take me to my church to get my children so I can bring them back?"

"Of course." I say, glancing at the clock. 11:20. No problem. Being Indian, the church is probably in a room at the University, I thought as I followed her dressed in her black Sari. Rainbow and Donnie were waiting patiently in the car. "Which way?" I ask.

"Rosemont Garden."

Rosemont Garden! I think. That's clear across town. I breathe deep. Don't say a word. Don't let on. Drive safely. I pulled up in front of Rosemont Garden Christian Church. Watched her flow up the steps, her black hair twisted up, remembering the bindi on her forhead. We waited a few minutes then see her come out with two tall children, a boy and a girl, dressed in the usual western fashion. They climb into the backseat. I breathe, we drop them off at the store and head out of town.

I can't resist. I have to ask. "So, what do you do? Blend your eastern religion with the Christian religion?"

"No, I am a Hindu and my religion teaches that you pay respect. So I am in America and I pay respect in a church here. Basically, all religions are the same," she says. "They all teach you to love, to be good to your husband, take care of your children, respect your neighbor, and support your country. So it doesn't matter where you worship. Just so you do it regularly."

"Why did you choose this church?"

"Because they accept us. Other churches we have gone to, the people were mean. Here, they accept us. I was sick last winter. I was in the hospital for one month. I had 700 visitors from this church."

Even though time is of the essence, there is no driving fast on this narrow, curvey, country road. 

"Why did you come to Lexington?"

"My son was sick. He needed surgery. They said go to the University of Kentucky Medical Center. Ten years ago we came. He got better. Never had the surgery. But we stayed."

Danielle was lovely and peaceful when we arrived. The heat was intense. The Indian woman dressed her, then was overcome by allergies. My friend, Heddy, took her home. It was a beautiful wedding. 

Getaway

I remember when we first moved to the country.  It was our getaway.

I packed silk and dye in preparation for my journey to the cabin. In small, incremental stages, we will put our life behind us, piece by piece. Each trip to the country I carry one belonging with me. Today I’ll take my flower-covered Sadler teapot. I’ll leave one artifact behind; the old wooden porch swing by the back door. I’ve asked each child to pick one thing and take it now; a piece of jewelry that hangs on my walls, a painting from my art class or one of my handmade artist books. 

Today it is my getaway. When I feel the wind on my skin there is an ache in my chest that calls to me, tugging at my arms, pulling me into it’s sensuous embrace. 

Last week we installed the wood stove. Larry sculpted a glistening copper chimney. Later we climbed the roof, nailed metal roofing down, then gathered wood off the mountain. And stacked a woodpile. 

During the evening I processed the silk I had dyed earlier. Wrapped in newsprint, heat set the dye as the silk steamed in the old canner on the wood stove. I love hanging the freshly rinsed silks in the barn, the contrast between the rawness of the wood, its roughness and the softness of the silk, sensuously moving as the wind blows through the cracks in the barn. I am in awe of the individually wrapped and twisted silks, saturated with dye that hang from nails spread across old planks— the way the dye drips on the paper beneath making another artwork all of its own from the colors that bleed and drip into curvilinear lines making soft amorphous shapes. 

It doesn’t matter that the barn is dirty. It does not interfere with the process. I have deliberately chosen a process that can be flexible. These are the things that make the rhythm of my art apparent. The way I swing the big barn doors open and prop them with an iron rod. The way I move up to the old table where tobacco was tied long ago. The way I envision silk eventually hanging like tobacco from the ceiling, blowing in the wind making a silent sound instead of the rustle of dried tobacco leaves. 

I stoke the fire while silk steams, setting the dye, keeping the color brilliant. The hues vary as the seasons change and I gaze through the open barn doors onto the valley and let the colors in the field, the trees, or the reflections in the pond guide me in the choices of colors for that day.

Now we live there full time. I have no need for a getaway.

Notice Everything

I made a fire this morning 

not that it's cold outside 

I just like the glow 

and the little bit of heat 

a small fire brings 

Shibori dyed silk jacquard poncho

Shibori dyed silk jacquard poncho

It is raining 

actually more like a drizzle 

I took Highlin' for a walk 

along the path 

into the woods 

it's our regular walk

the path is worn 

wet leaves have smashed into mud 

Botanical prints,  leaves on silk

Botanical prints,  leaves on silk

I am careful not to slip 

I have fallen three times

a warning to walk more carefully 

well of course 

isn't that what we are always supposed to be doing 

walk carefully 

not as in be careful you might say the wrong thing

make the wrong move 

as in walk carefully and notice

everything

During this morning's walk

there was broken glass 

on a green, moss covered rock  

it was placed there carefully

that is not uncommon 

broken glass on the trail

I frequently place chipped or broken dishes in the woods 

a form of installation

a dinner party 

Shibori dyed silk poncho

Shibori dyed silk poncho

This glass was more shattered 

than my usual place settings 

and it was on its own earthy green rock

I don't remember placing if there 

could it have been Larry

has he taken up my recycling, upcycling, repurposing penchant

Upcycled jean jacket with felted wool and silk

Upcycled jean jacket with felted wool and silk

Could it have been a guest 

should I ask 

should I seek an answer

could it have been a stranger on our path 

that would be disturbing 

I will wait and wonder 

ponder 

enjoy its beauty 

the contrast

That was the message in Catherine's photo blog

that is her mission 

to notice everything 

just outside her door 

and photograph it 

I will notice everything

just outside my door

I will see with my words

Take Me As I  Dress

Living a layered life is my modus operandi, M.O. By layering everything, as it occurs I let the thread reveal itself.  And it always will if I stay true to myself, my ideas. I embrace the mantra "go with the flow." As ideas arise, I layer them onto my many canvases; my work, my art, my writing. I allow them to be part of each composition. I trust the process. Amy Krause Rosenthal says, "Pay attention to what you pay attention to." (1) I listen to my body and pay attention. 

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes this flow in an interview with Wired magazine as, ". . . being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you're using your skills to the utmost." (2)

I made the decision to flow when I first discovered the art world. I didn't come from an artsy family. My father was a sergeant in the Air Force, drove a cab at night. My mother was a stay-at-home mom raising seven children.

Looking back, I see that my parents did have an eye for harmony and balance. A sense of personal style. I can see it in the the way my mother, Grace Laverne Tilson, set the table for Sunday dinner. Or in the dresses she sewed. Looking at her smile I can see that she was proud.

The photographs my father, Ray Zabielski, captured revealed his aesthetic intentions and his values; Japanese children posed in front of their home in an abandoned bomb shelter, Tachikawa Air Force Base housing in the background, Dad's shadow in the field.

My first exposure to visual art occurred right after I started writing poetry. I met a woman who was a painter. Recently divorced, she lived on a limited budget. She had a bohemian style, wearing flowing woolen skirts and long sweaters she had knit.  In her old two story house she kept the thermostat set at 65 degrees. It was chilly as I sat for the portrait she drew. It was different than a photograph. It captured a softness, a tenderness I had never seen in a photograph. It wasn't the reflection I would see in the mirror. I liked it. Her passion and expertise inspired me. 

portrait by Judith Kuehne

portrait by Judith Kuehne

"It takes time," she said, "a lot of time to be an artist."

I became discouraged. Time, I did not have, not with kids and a hair design business. Yet, I also had a"don’t tell me what to do" M.O. I would find a way. Writing was my art form. No matter what, I would write. Even if it meant I could only write short poems in ten minute spurts, waiting for water to boil. I had stories to tell. I was on a mission having read "Of Woman Born" by Adrianne Rich. Her edict was for women to write the truth about their experiences, no matter how painful. Through our words people will know the truth about women. Margaret Atwood call this "the literature of witness." (3)

Herstory

My great grandfather

converted over 500 Indians

to Christianity,

my mother said.

My great grandmother

birthed seven children

in eleven years.

My mother didn’t know that.

(c) 1989

Flow was clear when I opened Om Hair Designs in an old English Tudor building near downtown. Every view was a work of art. The leaded windows. Archways leading from room to room. We chose a color palette for the decor and for the designers. They made intentional, artistic statements in what they wore. Black, white, burgundy and silver. Our hair design team was cohesive. We studied hair cutting and styling techniques that produced effortless designs. Our clients left confident, our way of saying sexy, sensuous, unapologetically feminine. A look women want but won't admit.

My work was my life, my art. I dressed for the day. I was, as Viola Davis said at this years Oscars, "Take me as I am." I wore the same ensemble to work, to dinner, to meetings, to a party. There was no time for “freshening up.” Take me as I am was my M.O. I wore lots of black and layered it with a palette of colors that worked for me. They enhanced my stance. A stance made manifest in the way you walk, the way you set your eyes on the road ahead, your gaze, accompanied by a smile. A confident smile that says, "Hi." A tender smile that says, "Underneath, I know we're the same. Our hearts beat. Our heart peeks out." It was the same tenderness I saw in my mother's face after she put lipstick on right before my dad came home from work. 

Impression

It was the lipstick floating on toilet paper

that gave my mother away.

When she put that red across her lips,

it not only changed her face,

it changed her stance

when she stood at the stove and stirred.

(c) 1989

Even shoes became part of my art form. It didn't take long for comfort to drive every decision. Standing up all day was painful.

First came wedged heels followed by color coordinated tennis shoes. Next came custom cowboy boots, handmade in Matador, a small west Texas town. They were black and matched all my outfits. "Anything goes" became my fashion statement M.O. When I dressed for the day, I chose what to wear from the shoes up. Since I had already defined my color palette, it didn't take long for "anything goes" to always work.

Black polyester jump suit with a rhinestone zipper tucked into cowboy boots worked.

Burgundy red mini skirt, white peasant blouse, and straw hat with cowboy boots worked.

Tight jeans, black chiffon tunic and silver choker with cowboy boots worked.

When asked why he like New York City, German illustrator, Christoph Neimann said, ". . . there is only one city in your life you go to by yourself and you own that place. There was no uncle, no parents that paved the way. It was like my place." (4)

That was my secret ingredient for creating the world that I owned. I had moved to a city where nobody knew my name. I could be anyone. I never had to explain myself to someone from my past. That little voice from my childhood that asked, "Who do you think you are?" Was replaced with, "I know who I am. I am Laverne Zabielski, poet, writer, hair designer."

I embraced the concept: I own this place. Not as in I own the whole city. I owned my identity that inhabited this place. Take me as I dress. In winter I rode my bike with a baby seat on the back to work. I wore a down coat that covered my artsy haircutting fashion. During the summer I rode my bike to the farmer's market wearing a flowing white, gauze skirt. I dressed for the day.

Form followed function. 

Once, I went to a Halloween party after work. Someone said, "You're supposed to come in costume." 

I said, "I am in costume."

Take me as I dress. 

Take me as I am. 

(1) https://mobile.twitter.com/missamykr/status/312564535242395648

(2) Geirland, John, "Go With The Flow," interview with Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. WIRED, 4.09. September, 1996.

(3) Atwood, Margaret. "on What ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Means in the Age of Trump." New York Times, March 10, 2017.

(4) "The Art of Design." Christoph Niemann, Illustrator. season 1, episode 1. Netflix, www.https://www.netflix.com/watch/80093803?trackId=14170286&tctx=1%2C0%2C1451ee72-97c2-4f5c-b96e-fdc6e771d0d5-5264249

The Dress, The ER, The Intention

Recently, I read that we can set an intention without necessarily knowing how we are going to accomplish it. I have had that experience regarding dying silk. There has been considerable interest in creating botanical prints on fabric. I wanted to learn to formulate some of those colors. After several attempts that I considered unsuccessful, I tossed the pieces of the dyed silk aside and moved on. Recently a friend taught me how to do the botanical printing. Another intention I have had in the back of my mind is finding ways to upcycle clothing? After completing a botanical print on an old shirt, I saw the previously dyed silk and layered it with the shirt and was amazed that I had accomplished what I had envisioned without consciously doing it step-by-step.

I realize this can also apply to my writing. There is power in setting my intention of what I want to communicate. Then I let the path reveal itself while I keep writing. . . .

I can handle this. You can handle this. We’ll figure it out. Don’t worry.

These phrases seem to be a motif for me, and my children. Maybe it’s my inconvenient truth, the message that we can handle more than we think. Not that I haven’t crumbled. As I explore dress in my past and my present, I can’t help but think it makes a difference, not only for ourselves, also for those around us. On September 11, 1998, I specifically remember the part dress played as the day unfolded.

The Dress, 9-11-98

It was a long, black, rayon dress with a v-neck, tiny flowers scattered about and several buttons, each one different. A narrow ruffle edged the collar and down the front. Several gores gave it a flare, creating a swing with each step. I wore a simple necklace. I was implementing a recent decision to take my work, my life, and self-expression more serious and dress for the day each day.

There was flaunt in my walk when I arrived at the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning to teach my writing class, and there was satisfaction in my stride when I entered The Salon to cut hair. A message was waiting on the answering machine. I returned the call before I began my haircut. No big deal, I was sure. “Collapsed lung. Paralyzed. No brain damage.” The doctor said. I listened, calmly, even though. . . . I finished the haircut I had just begun. I had to. I knew I was strong and in control. At the hospital, I marched through those steel gray emergency room doors as if to say: Come on Donnie we can handle this, let’s go on home. Of course we couldn’t—not with all those tubes and that paralysis.

I can handle this. You can handle this. We’ll figure it out. Don’t worry.

My intention has been set.

 

 

 

Provocative

"Laverne, we would like to make a video of you reading your poetry on a horse farm." 

(note: there are no horses in this photo, only cows.) 

Of course, I said yes and dressed for the occasion. 

I always dress up for poetry readings. It is the most important work I do. I wore a black 40s style, cinched waist dress, heels and a hat, carried a backpack for my poetry and lipstick, and my music stand to hold my papers while reading. 

(note: wind) 

I read The Night I was the Woman in the Red Tights and Black Mini Dress, a poem about the pursuit of a one-night stand. It explores missed opportunity and the labeling of women who enjoy touch as a whore and a slut and I wonder, “What do we call such men?”

Several issues were addressed in the poem. In the video, “The Southern Sex,” they cut to the last stanza, a close up on my face where I say, 

"So I said yes
yes I want to
I want to be a whore
and touch
just pure touch
no dinner
no drinks
just touch.”

Frequently, people come up to me and say, "You know I was in a hotel in Kansas City (or somewhere) channel surfing and I saw you in a video." 

I smile. I know the choice for the close up missed the point of the poem. I am not flustered. I had said what needed to me said.

That was in 1983. I don't know if I feel like I still have the same freedom to be so cavalier with my words. Things have changed. I am more cautious in my golden years.

(note: I am hesitant to use the word golden) 

I prefer Christiane Northup’s suggestion of the ageless goddess; she who “rejects ageism and owns her beauty.”

I’ve become more aware of the power of statement dressing. Now is the time to claim our power with the stance we take. Words often have a limited audience. The poem stays tucked away, waiting for publication. When you dress to be seen, a statement is made as soon as you walk into the room. You know your statement because you have already written your story.  You have asked yourself the question, “Who do I want to be?” To publish is to make public. Your statement poem is published every time you are seen.

I am

who I am

is who I am. 

As I explore dress in my past and my present, I can’t help but think that it makes a difference, and that the way we dress is, not only for ourselves, it is for those around us. Be precise in what gets shared. Be unapologetic in your feminine expression from the inside out. Follow your natural curvilinear lines; eliminate crew necks, embrace v-neck or slightly scooped. Never apologize for who you are. Stand tall.  Every raw and ecstatic experience of life that has preceded this moment has created the women you have become.

Wear what you are afraid to wear. 
Your statement will be bold.

(Note: There was no dinner, no drinks, no touch that night.)

My mind had become my sex. My mind is what turned me on. I was in pursuit of a poem.

The complete poem:

The Night I was the Woman in the Red Tights and Black Mini Dress

“Good girls don’t”
so I did
I’m tired of being a “good girl” all the time

it was six years ago
he was the star
and he asked me
me? I had thought
not that I wasn’t trying to be attractive
even a little sexy
so I smiled
and he invited me to dinner

then I started thinking
you know how men are
they only want “one thing”
and “good girls” don’t give “it” to them
even if they wanted to
but I said no

I couldn’t
I just couldn’t
after all what would my mother say
and the priest
or my husband
heavin’ forbid?

they would all call me a whore
or even worse
a prostitute

what’s the difference?
a whore does it for fun
a prostitute does it for money

you know
sorta as in
being married
and he works hard for the money
and she gives him the “they only want one thing” thing

so I had to say no
and I’ve regretted it all these years

what would it have been like? I wondered
you know how it is
when there is something you really want
and you imagine it
and fantasize it
and then one day
the opportunity actually presents itself
and you turn it down!

the pits!

so last week-end
there I was
nearing the possibility
that the opportunity might present itself
one more time

I really doubted it
I was six years older now
he would certainly be more interested in the younger women
I wore my red tights and black min dress anyway

and then he did
he asked me

this is it
this is the “moment you’ve been waiting for” moment

so say it
say yes
you know you want to

“You asked me that same question six years ago”
I reminded him

“And what was your answer then? He asked

“I’d like to think you’d have remembered
if my answer had been yes”
I said and knew then where I was headed

so say it
say yes
you know you want to

“I don’t have any birth control,” I said instead
and he did

“I didn’t shave my legs”

“No problem”

so say it
just go ahead and say it
say yes
you know you want to

so I did
I said yes
yes I want to
I want to be a whore

and touch
just pure touch
not dinner
no drinks
just touch.

PS Nothing happened that night other than conversation. It was a poem I was pursuing.

Ripe and Tough

What pages were torn out of the journal? No one will ever know, tossed to the floor, not crumbled, no chance of going insane as Hemingway suggested. Do you think he began to crumble his pages before his depression and eventual suicide as implied in the movie we watched last night "Hemingway & Gellhorn." Being kind to ourselves, my husband and I are reading Hemingway out loud to each other. We skipped last night and watched a movie instead. Not sure it was a good idea. And, I'm not sure aboutNicole Kidman's bright red lipstick as she portrayed Gellhorn during her war correspondent days. Was it a fashion statement? Was it to imply that she was ripe in contrast to her later years when she wore no lipstick on at all? Or that she was tough, could handle anything? As an ageless goddess I am in my later years. I like to wear red lipstick. For me it's about color and balance and brightness. Today I will iron red fabric. A bright rusty red. Silk and linen. Ripe and tough.

2017 Palette

I explored the suggested pallet for 2017. Then I tried to formulate all the variety of colors. Added a little bit more black here, more water there. Every experiment became another shade to use in my collection. I love it.

This season I've create a pre-order opportunity. Instead of trying to anticipate what is needed and wanted, I'm dying lots of fabric so that I can create the piece you need. 

Bolero

Jacket

Poncho

Scarf

Shawl

Tunic dress

3EF7E95C-D47D-499D-B3EB-D080AEEDFA72.JPG

Poncho  

IMG_3610.JPG

Colors to choose  

IMG_3599.JPG

Seeking shape

What's Right

This is part of a two week online writing course with Jena Schwartz, January 9 to January 19, 2017.

“This is where we meet. We write alone, yes. But this is the space where we get to “see” each other and witness each other’s creative process as we move through the prompts and see what emerges.” Jena Schwartz

 

What feels right?

        My commitment, again, to write more regularly feels right. I cleaned my space for you, created your own little corner in the loft, where I sew, and sometimes sleep, when I fear my tossing and turning will keep Larry awake, which happens, actually, more often than not. In the early morning, I frequently crawl back under the flannel covers and nestle my naked body into the curve of his heat and softness. That feels right.

     The unclogged drain also feels right. It was a three day ordeal. The kitchen sink. Coconut oil, we are convinced, was the culprit. Google it.

     What feels most right was the lack of cussing. Larry is a gentle man, an awesome lover, a great cook, just to mention a few of his wonderful traits. But the cussing, has become more than I can handle.

     It was while Mary and I were hanging my show, "Ensemble, a Layering of Color," in her gallery that I recognized how much Larry's cussing has penetrated my body. Mary was on a ladder attempting to toss fishing line over a steel rod so I could drape fabric onto a pole. She missed. Instantly my body braced in anticipation for her cussing. She never cusses. There was no reason for me to react. It was a remnant reaction to Larry's reaction as he pulled the auger out of the pipe, filled the drain with water and nothing flowed. 

    When I got home and Larry showed me his new automated auger and plastic tubing for filling with hot water and detailed his next strategy for breaking through the coconut oil, I took a stand. No cussing I said. I told him about the incident in the gallery. I warned him. If he cussed, I would spray him with cold water. He was humble and nodded in agreement.

     He complied. When the auger got stuck, he paused, rested, tried again.

Speak What You Know

My 70th birthday.

From this point on I am an Ageless Goddess. I speak what I know, with authority. 

Back in the old days, (I get to say that, now) I invented the Garden Girls to accompany me on my quest to live the layered life of an artist.

What does it take to become a Garden Girl?

A desire made manifest, to discuss intimacy, passion, wisdom, and authority.

I like that word, authority: to recognize I am a competent force. There are some things I know, having lived a long life. I distinguish authority from arrogance. I do not believe that I am better or smarter or more important then others. Today, I revisit my Garden Girls. I listen to their wisdom as they explore authority.

The Garden Girls are at an early morning gathering in the woods. No one is clear as to the plan or the direction. Spider-woven fairy handkerchiefs sprinkled in grass lead the way as we follow the instructions on Honeyrose’s invitation: Listen to your intuition and breathe deeply. 

Each girl arrives in her own time. Wearing my straw hat I blaze a trail cutting away wineberry brambles. Rose, the writer, tucks red flowers in her mushroom hat. She brings dried apricots and almonds. Clove, the teacher, wraps a turquoise scarf around her neck and dons a ruffled headdress. Her gift is vanilla macaroon granola. Nettles, the gardener in a chestnut cap, arranges a bouquet of orange pansies.

Echinacea, the healer flaunting yellow in a button hat, supplies homemade croissants. Gardenia, the poet wearing a silk bandana, serves roasted dandelion tea. Lily, the silk painter crowned with yellow orange glitter, carries in paints. Lavender in purple braids is empty handed, of course; she’s the philosopher. And Artemisia, old, wise and playful in a bark beret, brings violets and greens. (The secret ingredient for achieving a powerful menopause). 

Honeyrose, the woman I am to become, says, “Our life is not our circumstances, our life is our story.” 

I gather the Garden Girls to discuss concerns significant not only to our selves but to every weed, tree and shrub that surrounds us. What I want to know is when does the voice of authority arrive, speculation end, and assertion begin?

Our altar in the woods is a large multi-level out-cropping of smooth rocks. We each find a place for the gifts we brought, then begin looking for our perfect spot to sit and speak and receive each other’s messages. As far as I can tell everyone is accounted for. 

Honeyrose reads from Sage, the thinker’s, latest letter. “Freedom is the ability to create passion,” Sage wrote. She had become a ritual queen in a colony of women up north. Rose has a picture of her back home on her own altar wearing a twisted green head band. “And our passion,” Honeyrose enunciates, “gets stirred every time we choose freely.”

“What does Sage mean ‘choose freely’?” Gardenia asks, cradling herself between trunks of sycamore trees, sipping roasted dandelion tea.

“She means,” Echinacea answers, breaking croissants in half, “we find passion when we take a risk and choose what we want.”

“When I grow up,” Rose says, “I want to be like Sage.”

“And how’s that?” Honeyrose asks. Reaching into a red velvet bag she pulls out small scraps of torn paper and places them on the altar. Then to keep them from blowing in the wind and in preparation for uncovering stories, she layers on pencils, one for each of us just in case we forgot to bring our own. 

“What is it about Sage you yearn for?” Gardenia asks.

“For one,” Rose says, “her authority. She speaks and she thinks and she lives with authority. I feel it in her words, I hear it in her tone, and when I look at her picture on my altar, I see it in her face. What I want to know is when did she begin to speak with such strength?” Using her walking stick, Rose pushes dried leaves, sticks and moss off a flat rock, creating the perfect place, with a view of the pond through the trees, on which to sit and ponder.

“For me,” Clove says, “authority begins when I listen closely to the feelings in my body, like when my heart pounds and I know that I must speak.”

Rose motions to Clove that there is room for two on her rock. They munch on granola, apricots and almonds.

“Feelings?” Lavender questions. “Are they intimate?” Lavender likes to ask philosophical questions.

“Of course they’re intimate,” Clove says. “When you’re close to your feelings you’re close to your body and when you’re close to your body you’re always intimate.”

“But first you have to listen,” Lily reminds us as she places her jar of umber paint among the gifts on the altar and lays a small sable paintbrush beside it.

“And be silent,” Nettles adds adjusting her pansy bouquet.

Fuchsia, my sensuous muse, arrives late to the gathering. Draped in feathers, she brings navel oranges. Her pink, flower-petaled drip is sensual, and her questions are always seductive. 

“Can intimacy occur without sex?” she asks, placing her oranges in a circle of small branches.

“Well of course,” Echinacea, Nettles and Clove respond quickly with authority.

“How?” I ask. “I know about intimacy in sex. That place of getting close, real close, face to face, where you can feel and smell the breath, where you can see the tiniest hairs on the stillest arm, where you can climb inside another’s rhythm, where you have no other thought but the thought of that tender moment. What I want to know about is what happens when ideas sift and filter, words penetrate the soul? Is that intimate?” Picking up an orange, I peel a slice then pass it to Clove. 

Honeyrose stares up at the trees. Her colors are brilliant, precise and in immaculate order. “When ideas sift and filter,” she says, “words penetrate your soul, the place where intimacy grows. Then you can . . .”

“Listen to your body,” Clove chimes in.

Honeyrose nods, “And speak what you know.” She affirms.

Sitting down on an old sycamore stump her voice softens. “Authority,” she continues, “is to articulate with passion—using your power tone—the stories only Garden Girls know.” Since Honeyrose is the woman I am to become, I listen very closely. 

Lily dips her sable brush into umber paint and places it on a scrap of torn paper. One by one we each make our own umber marks. In the rustle of branches I can hear the echo of Honeyrose’s edict, “Speak what you know,” as I close my eyes and see the darkness. In the light upon my eyelids leaves fall, one by one, each leaf floating as when a word comes for a poem. 

“Every time you tell your story,” Honeyrose begins to chant, “you create a stance and become the author of your life. But you must also surrender,” she emphasizes then pauses, “to the mundane. And remember. Your life is not your circumstances. Your life is your story. Your circumstances are the matter your stories come from. Author them.”

We all begin to write. 

My memoir, "The Garden Girls' Letters and Journal" was published in 2006 by Wind Publications

Memory of Color

Growing up, there were always flowers, as evidenced in photos or memories.

My mother, Grace, grew red roses in front of the two bedroom, added onto to make four, ranch, on Eveningside Drive in Topeka. Purple irises bloomed on the side and pale blue bachelor buttons gathered across the back along the fence.

In Tachikawa, Japan she learned Ikibana, the art of flower arrangement.  They graced the buffet and changed weekly.

A hedge of red roses framed the front yard of the old frame house in Roaring Springs, Texas where the man who invented the cotton gin once lived. As the years passed and the hedge thickened, cars passed slowly by just to see Grace's roses.

Suddenly, my cabin is filled with orchids. It just happened. All I do is place three ice cubes in each pot, weekly. It must be the light. Our cabin is filled with light.

Everything about me, all my memories show up in my shibori art to wear.  Today in velvet I see orchids and roses and green leaves.

Remembering the Past

Remembering the past, I review old journals. Circumstances may change. The process, however remains the same.

2005

I packed silk and dye in preparation for my journey to the cabin. In small, incremental stages, we will put our life behind us, piece by piece. Each trip down I carry one belonging with me. Today I’ll take my flower-covered Sadler teapot. I’ll leave one artifact behind; the old wooden porch swing by the back door. I’ve asked each child to pick one thing and take it now; a piece of jewelry that hangs on my walls, a painting from my art class or one of my handmade artist books. 

Today it is my getaway. When I feel the wind on my skin there is an ache in my chest that calls to me, tugging at my arms, pulling me into it’s sensuous embrace. 

Last week we installed the wood stove. Larry sculpted a glistening copper chimney. Later we climbed the roof, nailed metal roofing down, then gathered wood off the mountain. And stacked a woodpile. 

During the evening I processed the silk I had dyed earlier. Wrapped in newsprint, heat set the dye as the silk steamed in the old canner on the wood stove. I love hanging the freshly rinsed silks in the barn, the contrast between the rawness of the wood, its roughness and the softness of the silk, sensuously moving as the wind blows through the cracks in the barn. I am in awe of the individually wrapped and twisted silks, saturated with dye that hang from nails spread across old planks— the way the dye drips on the paper beneath making another artwork all of its own from the colors that bleed and drip into curvilinear lines making soft amorphous shapes. 

It doesn’t matter that the barn is dirty. It does not interfere with the process. I have deliberately chosen a process that can be flexible. These are the things that make the rhythm of my art apparent. The way I swing the big barn doors open and prop them with an iron rod. The way I move up to the old table where tobacco was tied long ago. The way I envision silk eventually hanging like tobacco from the ceiling, blowing in the wind making a silent sound instead of the rustle of dried tobacco leaves. 

I stoke the fire while silk steams, setting the dye, keeping the color brilliant. The hues vary as the seasons change and I gaze through the open barn doors onto the valley and let the colors in the field, the trees, or the reflections in the pond guide me in the choices of colors for that day.

Off the Beaten Path

Bourbon Barrel Table by Donnie Wittler

My dad was a T/sgt in the USAF. On week ends, when he was stationed in Japan, he developed photographs in his dark room in the closet.  He had a good eye, I now see in hindsight.    

"Take shorthand and typing," he said.  "If something happens to your husband, you can always get a job as a secretary." He was practical.

I got a job as a service representative at Illinois Bell Telephone in Wheaton, a wealthy suburb west of Chicago. The commuter train ran through the middle of town and quaint shops framed each side. They were the kind of shops you just knew were expensive. I was a Sears or JC Penny's girl. 

One day, on my lunch hour, I found myself, standing on carpet in one of those softly lit boutiques. There were perfectly placed mirrors and racks of color coordinated clothing, that draped. Being out of my element, I decided to try on something different. Linen pants. Two pairs. One in bright orange, the other, fuchsia with matching floral blouses.  I stared in the mirror, bright and sixties bold. I hate this, I said. And I bought both outfits. I knew if I chose what I liked, it would be more of the same, only expensive. 

My dad loved it! He's not one to usually comment on clothing. For some reason, his reaction affected me. It's not that I needed his approval. There was just something different in his intensity. I was never the same after that compliment. And neither was my style. 

Tachikawa, Japan, photo by Ray Zabielski

Vision Quest

The iridescent leaves shimmer in morning light 

moisture clinging to each dried leaf 

drizzling rain a soft serenade. 

the making of space for winter has begun 

the forest opens up 

more tall willowy tree trunks appear 

we walk deeper the dogs and I 

they ever grateful for this privilege they demand 

wagging their tails waiting as I arise 

the brandy of browns and deep burgundy 

await my vision quest for meaning of each new day 

affirming the love I have for life 

balanced between growing awareness as each day passes 

that every life has a beginning and end

a transition so subtleyet instant 

as in one day as I walk the trees are green the next Golden

how did that happen so suddenly, I ask

I must pay better attention, I warn

my footsteps are no longer spring soft on the path of grass and dirt

they crinkle, crunch a deep serenade 

the brandy of browns and deep burgundy 

await my vision quest for meaning of each new day 

You Will Love This

It may sound trite when I say I make my art for you. I don't know you personally. I do know about you. I know about your desire for passion and wisdom. To express your long earned authority. And for intimacy, those close connections you find in family and friends where you can just be you and express yourself freely with no concern for being judged or criticized or need to defend your beliefs 

In these ways we are the same. We have lived long. We have courted danger. We have loved life.

What makes us unique is our failures have not brought us down. We stand tall and walk forward knowing we have something to pass on. We have a legacy

So it is not trite when I guide my vibrant shibori silk under the needle, watch it ripple and gather graciously, marvel at its beauty, ponder how ravishing it is and know that you are going to love wearing the art I create. 

I am not praising me. I am praising the inner workings of my soul that has brought all the pieces of creating together to make this masterpiece. Yes, in that moment, when exquisite colors have found their way into my silk. I am thrilled and can't wait to share it with you.

A form of my inner life is embodied in the fabrics I take into my hands and shapes each piece. and I say, “you will love this.”

It is not trite 

You will love this!

You will love this!