Action Shots

I am finding that it is kind of hard to get good pictures of birds. Or of other creatures for that matter. They seem to be busy, not hanging around to pose or otherwise do what I want. Funny that! A friend who is a birder told me that when you are out birding you can take a camera, or you can take binoculars and watch, but in her experience  it is hard to do both well. Either way, one needs to be pretty still and not scare off the creature one is observing. There is of course the exception – when you go somewhere and the animals are aware that humans are a food source.

IMG_0750This raven came to within a couple of feet of where I was eating my sandwich. Unlike the crows I have tried to photograph, this fellow was unfazed by the camera lens, focussing more intently on my sandwich than anything else. Still careful, he did a side step  over to us, ready to fly at a moment’s notice but coming very near. Aren’t those feathers beautiful? This was in Manning Park, on a motorcycle ride last week. Usually it is the grey jays and the nutcrackers who have taken food out of our hands, this was a first, having a raven so near. It creates mixed feelings – wonderment at seeing a creature this closely, a bit sad to see how acclimated to human food these guys are.

IMG_0758And this fellow, well it must be early in the season, or maybe he was wary of the ravens, because he (or she) was a bit careful to not get too close. At this park sometimes the chipmunks will run up your leg to grab a piece of bread or trail mix. But perhaps he hasn’t yet learned that humans fall apart when confronted by the cute, and that he can take advantage of it. It is very likely better to be wary, for all concerned. We don’t tend to feed the animals when they come near as a rule, (other than the insistent grey jays)  nonetheless it is  kind of thrilling to see them up close. My summer plans include trying to get some bird and wildlife photos when we go hiking and camping later this month. With some luck and patience.

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On the weaving front, the ruana is finished. The Quebecoise yarn drapes wonderfully when washed, and I am really pleased with the result. This will make a great winter coat. (A bit incongruous posing in the sun with this thing, but oh well.) I am really grateful to Unni for all the help on this, there are a number of good lessons contained in this piece. Not the least patience and perseverance!

The silk and hand-spun scarf is also completed. I ran out of the light brown warp so the edges don’t match, but you can’t tell when it is worn. My gosh is silk lovely to work with. Kind of crazy as a beginner to use such materials I suppose but again, oh well. This really inspires me to keep weaving with my hand-spun too.

IMG_1684Reasons to be glad for rudimentary crochet skills – those somewhat wonky selvedges on both pieces. Hides a multitude of sins!

Weaving in the Woods

Well, really in the aspen parkland, which I believe is one of the technical terms for the geography I was in.

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 Trollheimen Weaving Studio, run by the lovely Unni, was where I spent a five-day mini vacation/weaving retreat. 70 Mile House is the closest settlement, about a five or so hour trip from the lower mainland. It is a spectacular drive to get there, through the Fraser Valley, then the Canyon and on into the interior of BC. The road follows the old gold rush trail and the settlements along the way hearken back to that time. The names of these places give a bit of an insight – 70 Mile House, 100 Mile House – these were stops along the way for the throngs that came to find gold. Many stayed, given the richness of the land, or given the hardship of getting to the gold fields. Every settler has a story.

Anyhow, the weaving. Unni very capably helped me put a sectional warp on a 60 inch Leclerc Jack loom. That was quite the workout, both physical and mental. We put on 456 ends of some lush quebecoise yarn, known for its strength and lack of pilling. We did a 3 and a half yard warp so I could make a ruana, and I had chosen to work in Rosepath, as I had done that before and really liked the look. What a far cry from my Jane – this was heavy lifting at times, my first time on a floor loom. Great fun. I went to bed at night with my head spinning, but in a good way.

IMG_0682I learned an enormous amount, and much of that was from observing Unni work. There is an economy of movement when someone has been doing a task well for many years. Where I fumbled and dropped yarns, her hands knew precisely where to be at what time. An instinct for what the tension issues would be, where the knots were hiding. I learned to repair broken warps, to utilize ends in such a way as to conserve yarn. (I have discarded so much and wished I knew how to use what was lost.) Unni is a very good teacher, in that she makes the student feel like a success.  The weaving itself only took a day, though a full one. Being me, I had to be a bit different in my approach, and rather than the initial thought to make the rosepath an accent, I loved the texture so much I used it, in different colours, overall. I am insanely pleased with the result, though there is a lot of work ahead. My selvedges are a tad amateur, so I will do a crochet edge, and there are lots of ends to weave in, washing and fulling – a few more hours indeed.

IMG_0675Pressy Lake, from the wharf on the property. My morning and evening walks were a treat.

No finished objects yet, though the silk/handpsun scarf is close and hopefully I will have the ruana done by next week. It is good to meet other people who share one’s loves. I was glad to have the time to myself too – it was a retreat, not like our times at the monastery or sits at our house, but I had many opportunities to be still, and to be appreciative. It did me a lot of good.

A Beautiful Turn of Phrase

A friend gave me a subscription to the Sun magazine after I taught her to knit. The magazine contains examples of personal writing, some of it highly skilled and deeply moving, some that might fall into indulgent but it always provokes a response.  I really appreciate it and look forward to it every month. In the latest issue, in the body of an interview which was itself quite interesting, I read a phrase that has been rolling around in my mind as a result. The phrase refers to another writer as an “explorer of the undiscovered country of the nearby.”

This phrase made me stop and re-read it, again and again. In our practise we often talk about “sanctifying the mundane”.  Not the same thing exactly, but pointing in the same general direction.

Nearby – what is nearby? In the context of the article the writer spoke about getting to know where we live, and not making nature “other”.  “Nature” is not somewhere we go to, from somewhere else. Something separate, a concept in a box. I am not paraphrasing well at all, but it is quite an idea isn’t it, to think that the natural world is the patch of grass in front of our parking lot here in the city where the coyote strolled by the other day. The spider in the house that terrifies the neurotic cats.  We do live together, skillfully or not.

Our teacher was in our home today and he spoke at some length about our ethical relationship with all things, including the objects of everyday life. He reminded us that the inanimate object deserves our respect and care as do animals and the environment we live in. He spoke about listening with our hearts.

IMG_0639It is unlikely the photo will give more than an impression of this project but I am besotted with it. It’s a silk warp, dyed with some kind of natural dye, and the weft is handspun BFL/silk. Handspun has proven to be wonderful with this kind of weaving. Despite being a firmer cloth than knitted, despite the wool being trapped within the warp threads, there really is life to it. It is straight twill – I wanted the weave to be simple enough to let the yarn shine, but something a wee bit more complex than plain weave.The selvedges are a bit bumpy but I will see how this finishes up off the loom before I judge it. Just a scarf, but when I was seated in front of the loom yesterday just looking at it, I think I got it. The “click” when it all comes together. I like this. Very much.

“Nearby” my house.

IMG_0621Still trying to look with fresh eyes, this place we live.

(Oh and a quick note to the person who wondered about how the number 10 crochet cotton wove and finished. It worked just fine! Not the most thirsty towels in the world but they softened up beautifully. I will definitely use it again for this kind of project.)