Retreating

….two long weekends in row.  It was pretty wonderful to have these days away from the pull of house and garden chores, and even the decision  about how to spend my creative time.  While both retreats had themes–one was weaving and the other was bobbin lace–we had the option to bring whatever project we wanted.  Whatever my choice, I’d then have the ability to focus on that one thing for three days at the first retreat and four days at the next.

The first retreat took place in a small town in northwestern Connecticut.  It was a woodland setting that made me think we’d gone deep into some forest, when in actuality we were on a large property at the end of a couple of mostly residential roads.  This retreat took place at an Episcopalian center called Camp Washington.  The photos on my phone tell me I was in Lakeside, Connecticut, but my google maps directions took me to the little town of Morris.

There were seven of us, so we were quite an intimate group.  We stayed and worked in the smaller lodge that is nestled into the woods across the street from the larger campus shown in the photo above.

The main room is where we worked and ate and gathered together in the evenings for conversation. There is a dining table off the right of the photo, and in the evenings we pulled the couches closer together to have wine and camaraderie before dinner arrived.  All the looms are spread out behind me and to each side (so not in the frame) to make use of the great light coming in a wall of large windows.  Note that balcony upstairs! — a great place to enjoy watching the activity!

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Our chef Ben delivered meals to us three times a day, and they were way beyond what you’d expect to get at a retreat center.  Take a look at this–grilled shrimp and grilled zucchini.  To the right is grilled polenta topped with pesto and grilled peppers and onions.  YUM!

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It was a great way to kick off the weekend! (Now you can see a bit of our equipment set up in front of the windows in the background.)

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Here’s Ben setting out the goodies. He took such good care of us all weekend.

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Even breakfasts were a large spread.  This was Mother’s Day brunch.
Thank you, Ben!

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And lest you think we did nothing but hang out and eat, I did manage to get one photo of progress on a loom.  This Marjie’s project, a multi-colored warp in cottolin with a twill design that represents fish scales.

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I was so busy working on my Robert Frost text that I neglected to take photos of the work others were doing.  Clare and Julia were working on braids on their takadai, and the other three women were weaving on floor looms.

Here is my progress.  Good stuff/bad stuff.  I’m disappointed about the rippling in the area of the ‘F and A’ of fact, but I got control of it by the end of the word.  Hopefully it will steam out when it’s off the loom.  I am happy with the the ‘T and H’ of the next word…which is the.  I am enjoying the process of weaving this simple phrase that’s so poignant. I’m not telling what it is.  If you love Robert Frost’s work, you already know where this is headed.

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After getting home late on Sunday of Mother’s Day, I had a busy three days to unpack, do some chores, and welcome Bob home from his long voyage from Antigua back to the Connecticut River!  Then Thursday morning I hit the road again, this time with my friend Janet–off to spend four days doing bobbin lace north of Boston.

This was a much bigger gathering, although I can’t tell you how many of us were there.  We were at a new retreat location this year–Rolling Ridge retreat center in North Andover, Massachusetts.  It was quite a different setting than the previous weekend!  This is a Gilded Age mansion on a large property near a lake.

I couldn’t get a shot with the entire place in the frame!  We stayed in the larger section on the left.  There was a round courtyard to drive in to unload our stuff.

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Happy arrivals to the retreat!

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The dining room with beautiful views into the woods near the lake.  Each table had a vase of flowering branches of dogwood and appleblossoms.  The food was far better than standard institutional fare.  Lucky!

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My room was at the top of the main staircase–so grandiose! My actual room, not so grand!–but plenty comfortable.

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What did I work on during the four days?  I tried my hand at a Torchon edging.  This is my beginning attempt at a cloth stitch trail with a rose ground filling.

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I learned such a lot over the weekend, under the guidance of Holly VanSciver.  For one thing you may notice that I did not start at the point suggested in the background pricking. There are several new techniques for me in this pattern.  The best thing I gained was a better understanding of Torchon in general so that I can make my own decisions about how to do the lace.

The last dinner of each retreat is a fancy affair where those of us from Connecticut wear our tiaras and our lace sashes. We hope this will eventually impress the rest of the New England participants to follow our lead in future years.  So far, they resist!  This year the dinner happened to occur as the newly married royal couple, Harry and Meghan, were attending their evening bridal reception. Let it be known that a number of us rose at 5 am that morning to watch the wedding event live on a big screen in the conference room!

We have a man in our lace group, and he needed something more appropriate than a tiara. Those are printed lace panels on his shirt. We do love to get in the spirit at this dinner each year!

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I certainly had a great time over the past two weekends!  And now it’s Memorial Day weekend, and Bob and I are home together to celebrate. The gardens are calling!

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Small Wonders

The next two weeks have a lot in store, and I’ve been looking forward to these events all winter! First is my local weaving guild meeting tomorrow.  I haven’t been able to get to one of these meetings since last September, so this is a big deal for me!  We are taking a field trip together to the Rhode Island School of Design to see an exhibit of Mayan textiles.  Isn’t that a wonderful way to get back in the groove of weaving?  The exhibit is called “From the Loom of a Goddess: Reverberations of Guatemalan Mayan Weaving.”

Then, on Friday, I will attend the Connecticut weaving guild’s annual weaving retreat.  I’ve never been home in time to participate in this, so I was ecstatic to learn that this year’s retreat was moved to May.  Even better, the retreat takes place over Mother’s Day weekend.  That was probably a non-starter for most of our members, but I’ve now been alone on Mother’s Day for six years–with my kids living far away these days and Bob far offshore sailing home at this time of year. I wanted to find something fun to do, and this fits the bill perfectly.

The following weekend I’ll go to another retreat, for bobbin lace. It’s almost too good to believe, having three wonderful events all in a row!

I finished a small tapestry yesterday that has spent two winter seasons onboard Pandora in the tropics.  It feels like quite an accomplishment to get it done.  Deciding that it was, in fact, done was one of the hardest parts of working on this small piece.  That is often a problem for me.  It would be awful to cut a piece off the loom and then wish I’d woven another 2″ or so before calling it quits.  On the other hand, I am usually so thrilled to finally finish, it’s quite a chore to stick with those last few inches before the end.  By this point all the ‘important’ decisions have been made, and I’m usually just weaving background.  Then I realize that deciding where to end is a pretty decision in its own right.

Yesterday I had a very small ‘cutting off’ party–just me and my iphone camera.  I figured if I could send a few friends the photo it would be almost like having them with me for the event.  All along I’ve been saying that I rather like this piece as long as I see it in dim lighting from about 10 feet away.  In other words, I don’t really like it.  So, I was a little relieved to find that I don’t hate it, now that it’s off the loom.

I could not see the whole thing as I wove it because I decided to use as small a loom as possible, since it was going on our sailboat.  Around the halfway point of the design I had to advance the warp around to the back.  Yes, I could still see it if I flipped the loom around…but I could not see the two halves together, and that made me wonder if I would like the thing as a whole.  Also, the often-changing humidity onboard wreaked havoc on the warp tension.  The selvedges got incredible loose while the middle remained tight.  There were probably other factors than just change in humidity contributing to this problem. A boat is not the best to store a loom.  I am happy to discover that the selvedges don’t look nearly as bad as I predicted.  Note the scissors in the upper left.

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The whole thing.  It is 21″ h x 7″ w.

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This afternoon I tried a couple of edge finishes for the warp threads, finally deciding on one from Peter Collingwood’s book that he calls “Indian Edge,” a variation of half Damascus.  I will now tack down the warp threads that have been moved to back of the piece after finishing the edging.

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I don’t know anyone who likes the long process of finishing.  I have to force myself to do it, and today I also realized that while it feels like such an accomplishment to finally complete a project, it also feels a little sad.  It’s a little like death.  My relationship with the piece is over, and we will never interact with such intensity again. It is also time to tackle the next big idea, and with that comes a fair share of insecurity about a whole new set of important decisions.  No, it’s not rocket science or brain surgery, but these decisions are vital to the success of a piece.

So, on Friday I’ll be off to Camp Washington Retreat Center in the beautiful Litchfield area of Connecticut.  I’ll spend Friday through Sunday working on my text tapestry that is a favorite line from the Robert Frost poem “Mowing.”  The finished piece will go to our younger son.  Think of me sitting here when I’m in my room (I have no idea if this is actually what my room will look like, but I hope so!  This photo from the website looks so inviting!)

Meanwhile, every chore completed (the Indian Edge finish) needs a little reward!  Don’t you agree?  I spent the late afternoon spinning on my brick terrace, with a great view of gardens and woodland and with the sound of about 1,000 song birds all competing to be heard.

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And I learned that spinning from a rocking is not that comfortable OR easy!

Today a friend of mine helped me realize that I am always happiest in May and June.  I hope these two months don’t fly by too quickly.  I want to savor all the wonders of this season.

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Home for Spring in New England

It’s the first week of May, and I’ve been back in my ‘real’ world for about two weeks.  It’s been glorious here, in spite of the cold and all the rain.  We’ve just passed through two days of insanely hot temperatures, but as of today it’s the real deal, gentle spring temperatures and gentle rain.

I got home just in time to make it to the fiber art exhibit in Jamestown, Rhode Island, called “Con/Textile/Ized. ” My friend Jody came with me, and we both thought the show had a successful range of works.  We both found that there works that sang out to us–by artists Mo Kelman, Kate Barber, and Valerie Ann Phoenix.  Then there were works that I would not have put in this collection at all, and works that feel in between these extremes.  I think the sharp contrast between the works on display made it a success.

Valerie Ann Phoenix’s work in this exhibit was a dress made of interesting materials that I cannot name.  Some of it seems to be thick mylar.  There are strings of lights wrapped around the dress that respond to noise.  The louder the noise, the brighter the lights.  Well, who can resist that?  Both Jody and I spent time making soft and loud noises, and I tried singing some high notes.  It was a fascinating piece, and it required that I venture out of my comfort zone in order to interact with it!

Here is Jody talking to the dress! Note the purple lights.

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There was a second exhibit at the JAC, that filled the large entrance and the hall leading to the main gallery.  As we entered the center, we were greeted by two large walls filled with small white garments, like the plain underslips of  christening gowns, overlapping and filling the walls.  It was a mass of small white slips in varying fabrics.  There was a vintage 1970s Singer sewing machine on a white-draped table in front of the larger wall of tiny garments. The name of the exhibit was “Re-Dress: On Memory and Being Remembered.”  Each little underslip represented 1,000 Korean babies and youth who were adopted by US citizens over the past decades–sorry, I missed some of the details. There were more than 250 little white dresses. I have just done a search for the info I saved from this exhibit, but I did not come up with the name of the woman who made all these tiny dresses/slips, and who is herself a Korean American adoptee.

I’m so disappointed that now I do not have her name, even after checking on the art center’s website and doing a Google search. Each dress had two tags attached it.  One was an official tag that had the administrative number of the adopted child, and then there was also a plain 3×5 note card on each slip that had a handwritten memory about a child’s birth family.  Many children were adopted at such a young age they have no memory of their family life before coming to the US.  And that was the point of the exhibition–that our memories of family are so important to who we are, and yet many children don’t have that.  It was a moving installation, done by…. I seem to have lost the information about the woman who made this installation.  I took her card, but that was now two weeks ago!

Here is a quote from the artist’s introduction to the exhibit:

I am often asked whether I have memories of Korea, ald although I have a few fleeting images of a dusty courtyard, a chain-link fence, being fed sweet persimmon on a spoon–I don’t know whether these are real or imagined, and there is no one currently in my life who can verify.  These images remain in the province of dream.

Beyond my own memories, I often wish for the stories of being remembered as a child in Korea.

Being remembered is a way of being loved.

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Near the end of the exhibit there was a table with note cards and safety pins for writing down your earliest memory and pinning it to a table draped in white cloth.  It was a moving installation.  I wish I could find the information about it, because the artist has also written about book about on this subject. (I searched for that as well, with no luck.)

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Jody and I capped off the day with a visit to a well known Rhode Island nursery called The Farmer’s Daughter.  What a place!  If you are within driving distance of North Kingstown, you must go!  They have unusual varieties of common plants, they have UNcommon plants, and they have masses of creative ideas of what to do in containers, in the garden, in the house.  We spent more time and money there than we meant to, and we’re not sorry!

 

This trip to Rhode Island was a wonderful way to kick off my season at home–getting back in touch with the things I love and have missed in the Caribbean.  Just this weekend, I enjoyed another such day out and about, in Vernon, Connecticut.  It was the 109th annual Connecticut Sheep and Wool Festival.  Wow!  109 years!  It was my first visit to this small event.  Small, but definitely memorable.  There was an array of fleeces that had been judged and were now for sale.  I could actually walk along the tables and look at each of them without being crushed in a human sea of shoppers.  In fact, it wasn’t even the first stop on my tour of the event.  At Rhinebeck and Maryland, if you don’t get to the fleece sale at the crack of opening you might as well forget it!

The vendors were fascinating! –mostly small operations focused on beautiful yarns and fibers, or creative, hand made things.  I bought this elaborate orifice hook from the Red Hart Bunnie Farm who obviously also sells angora fibers.

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I bought some bamboo buttons with a design of knit stitches burned into them at this booth, Katrinkle.  What a great name, and clearly it was a fun shopping experience.

ColeMama Creations is a one-woman operation making different styles of coiled rope containers.  I fell in love with the bucket, and had such a dilemma choosing a color.

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Great vendor displays and easy crowds made the day so enjoyable!

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One of the owners of Aisling Yarns makes Shaker boxes out of fallen trees that would otherwise get burned as logs in his fireplace.  He had a selection of sycamore boxes that were my first choice, but since those were already sold out I easily made peace with this honey locust box. It has beautiful patterning on it.  It’s a small box, which this photo does not really show.  It now holds small embroidery scissors along with my small bobbin lace tools.

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I also succumbed to some things that don’t fall into the fiber category.  I came right home and crocheted this necklace of fresh water pearls and Swarovski crystals.  It was almost instant gratification.

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I also found my 10 sheep gifts for the December party of the Flockettes!  But I’d better not show what they are….just in case….

I drove up there by myself, and ran into lots of people I know from both my weaving guild and my bobbin lace group.  I didn’t see anyone from my local area there so I didn’t feel guilty about driving that distance alone.  I was able to see the entire show in somewhat less than a full day. You can’t say that about Rhinebeck or Maryland!  No, there weren’t drop spindles perfectly balanced to spin for several minutes, and there was only one vendor selling one brand of wheel (Kromski, I think), but the wealth of fibers on display,  the creative use of fibers, and handmade items to help make your own fiber experience better was plentiful.  It was a good day!  I’ll go again next year!

At home things are progressing too.  I am so close to finishing my small Portuguese Man of War tapestry.  I have refrained from photographing it.  It is the one of the first times I have made a warp that has to advance around the copper frame, and I am not happy that I cannot see the whole work at once, now that I’ve pulled the piece around to weave the 2nd half of the image.  I have no idea if the piece will work as a whole.  I just can’t bring myself to photograph a partial piece, even though I do it all the time when I’m in progress on a tapestry that doesn’t get pulled around the loom.  It just seems weird not to be able to get an image of what I’ve already woven, along with what’s in progress now.  I will be cutting it off soon and then there will be photographs.  I have a strong premonition that I am not going to like it.

I’ve been spinning.  It was one thing I missed this winter while I was away.  So I’m getting that out of my system.  I bought some cashmere and mixed fibers at the festival last weekend, so of course I am spinning that.  I bought a 1/2 ounce each of 100% cashmere, 50/50 blend of cashmere and merino, and a 50/50 blend of cashmere and silk from Boreas Farm in Vermont.  I’m finishing up the last of the cashmere/silk and will probably ply that tomorrow.  So far I think I prefer the two blends to the pure cashmere.  I am thinking about how these fibers might take dye…..how they might knit up….what to knit.  If something calls out to me, I will buy more! What a coincidence that the woman who owns this farm used to work with Jody before retiring to raise cashmere goats in Vermont.

It was a lovely day for spinning on the deck, and I managed to make it fairly comfortable since I cannot get out the summer furniture on my own.  A few cushions, a small table, and a big water bottle.  The black flies are a bit of an annoyance this year, but mostly the breeze kept them at bay.

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A close up of the singles 50/50 cashmere/silk.  Yum…

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It’s quiet here without Bob.  Luckily we have gotten to talk at least once a day during this time we are apart.  He sailed from St. Lucia to Antigua with a friend after I left, and they made stops in Martinique, Les Saintes, and Guadeloupe on their way to Antigua.  After that he had a week alone before his crew arrived yesterday for the trip home.  They are enjoying some late season events in Falmouth and English Harbour, and will leave for home on Sunday morning.  There will be a mandatory stop in Bermuda to wait for better weather to make the trip up to Connecticut.

I’ve been to Baltimore to see my son and his family–and my adorable 15 month old granddaughter.  She is about to be a big sister to twins, so things are busy at that house! Our younger son turned 32 in early April–I don’t understand how he could have reached such a mature age….. what does that make my age?  He was supposed to visit at the end of April, as part of a business trip to New York,  but the plans changed.  I licked my wounds last weekend by indulging in a few souvenirs from the sheep and wool festival. I have puttered a bit in the garden, and I’ve got some seedlings hardening off outside during the day and still  living indoors for the evenings.  It won’t be long before they go into the ground.  All in all, things are very good–it’s May, and I’m home!

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Short Time in Bequia

It’s April now, and at home in Connecticut, it’s yet another snow day.  That has to be some kind of record!  I’ll be back there in 11 days, snow or no! It’s cruiser lingo to say “short time” when you are about to leave a harbor.  We might get a bit further south by the end of the week, or we might end up going directly back to St. Lucia, from where I’ll fly home.

I’m beginning the process of figuring out what I can take home with me, because I sure cannot take everything I’ve put onboard.  This is a dilemma!  Whatever I do not take with me will be inaccessible until late May.  When you add the fact that I had to put these projects onboard back in October when I didn’t arrive until January, and now won’t have them again ’til late May, it does take its toll on getting work done on these particular projects.  So what to take, what to leave?

I always think I’m going to get more done than I do each year.  There are major distractions every place we visit! –like here, at the Pitons on St. Lucia, where we stopped for one night before heading on to Bequia.

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This resort terrace was a perfect spot to view Petite Piton to our left and Grande Piton to our right.

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I enjoy taking pictures of Bob taking pictures!

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Cocktail hour arrived as the sun moved lower in the sky.

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Then look what appeared from behind Grande Piton as the sun was sinking.

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But….back to packing! I have two tapestry looms onboard, a band loom, two lace pillows, that silly Harrisville potholder loom which I never touched (!), and a bevy of knitting and embroidery projects.  I have two small carry on bags I can take home, one of which will get checked.  If I can get one tapestry finished in the next 10 days I can cut it off the loom and take it home with me!  That is a priority!  I’d like to bring three of my knitting projects home, since they are for Tori and the twins, and the smaller of the lace pillows.  That will have to go in the checked bag since it’s got about 1000 pins in it!  I may not get to take any clothing home!

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I’m taking a hiatus from that pattern before starting the next blanket.  I wound the yarn for a sweater/tunic I want to make for Tori. It’s a luscious blend of merino, silk, and bamboo.  It’s also a luscious shade of red, since the three different fibers take the dye differently. There is a lovely halo to this yarn, and it’s so soft.

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Are you thinking that’s the worst center pull ball you’ve ever seen on a nostepinne?  I certainly am thinking that!  It was a bear to wind that ball.  I use our wheel to for winding hanks of yarn into balls.

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To wind balls, I stand behind the wheel on the helmsman pedestal.  In a roll-y harbor, such as here in Bequia, I need one hand to hold on to something to keep from falling, but I also need two hands to wind that ball.  So it’s a messy job, and I was a tad seasick by the time I finished.  Then, I decided to save this project for the future anyway.  Oh well.

So I have turned my attention to a dress for Tori that I put aside a couple of months ago. The design is by Christa Becker, and it’s a top/down lace dress that she calls “Song of the Spruce.”  I am further along than my photos show. I have the shoulder stitches on cables because I plan to knit sleeves when the rest of the dress is complete.

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Isn’t the lace pattern in the printed directions delightful?  I am now finished with that first large spruce tree pattern that you can see on the print out.  I can’t photograph it because my needles are too short!  My knitting is completely bunched up on my short needles, but there is no place to buy knitting needles down here!

This is just the beginning of the large spruce pattern section, when I could still spread it out a bit between my fingers.  I’m using Dale Baby ull for this to make a sturdy fabric for Tori to be able to wear without snagging.

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Okay, well, I couldn’t resist trying.  So, excuse how rumpled this looks.  It’s way too crowded on the needles.  And, again, photos are struggling, so you cannot even see the spruce pattern that was the entire reason for taking the photo under less than ideal circumstances.  Internet here is unreliable, at best!  I supposed it builds patience, but that is NOT my forte.

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I can’t help thinking that in finer white merino, this pattern would be a wonderful christening dress. Can you tell where I’m going with this.? A knitted christening dress would sure  progress faster than bobbin lace and sewing!  I think I might be just a tad obsessed with knitting for grandchildren….Just saying….

This is Bequia.  The hills along the harbor are dotted  with colorful houses.  Today is Holy Monday, and there will be a festival onshore today with games and activities. It is a tradition here to have boat races all through Easter weekend, and this will be the last day of the Easter regatta.

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Bob and I walked up to the 18th c. English garrison for the best view of the regatta during Saturday’s races.  We were so high that the frigate birds were flying below us!  We are always trying to get a photo of a frigate bird in flight, and you may notice that I’ve never posted one before.  Bob got this shot, after both of us have spent six years trying! The photo does not do justice to showing how large these birds are.  They have the biggest wingspan of any bird, and they can glide for hours.  Since they fly far offshore, but cannot actually land on water, they can sleep while flying.

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The hillsides are full of flowers too.  Doesn’t this field look like an Easter bouquet?

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Some of the charming buildings along the waterfront of Admiralty Harbor. This bookstore wins the prize for most charming!

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There are plenty of spots to have a meal while looking out over the harbor.

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And there are a number of art galleries like the local doctor, Patrick “Doc” Chevailler,” who has his medical office and art gallery together in one charming building, with its own dock!

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I particularly enjoyed a visit to Oasis Art Gallery, where I bought a small painting done on canvas that has fringed edges and is painted with a thickened mixture of, well…something!  L. D. Lucy said she feels she is making tiny tapestries with this technique, and that is exactly what attracted me to these works! Here is the one I chose. I put the little woven fish on a stick with it, made by Tom the basket maker in Marigot.

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With our short time left, we will visit the Easter festival today.  A local told us that one of the highlights of the festival is a contest called “Crying for Nothing.”  We needed an explanation, and he said that people cry on demand and win a prize for it.  Hmmm…. I hope I get photos of that!

 

 

 

 

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Colorful Martinique, St. Lucia, Bequia

As I write this, I am sitting in the harbor on Bequia, and we’ve now visited several islands since I last wrote about living onboard in the Caribbean.  I was surprised to learn that my sister and a few friends have visited St. Lucia.  It’s so nice to share our experiences!  And St. Lucia was one of my favorite islands this winter.

Before that, we spent about a month in Martinique, between three harbors:  Fort de France, a moderately large city that is the capital of Martinique, followed by St. Anne and Le Marin.  We rented a car twice during our long stay in Martinique and enjoyed driving around different parts of the island.

There was plenty to do just walking around in Fort de France. The morning produce and spice market in Fort de France was pretty exotic.  I would love to have bought some of everything–well, maybe not everything!  I still have spice blends I bought in St. Martin last year, so I hesitated to give in to everything colorful bottle and jar that tempted me!IMG_8746

Since it was early February, it was getting close to Carnival, and the various fabric shops in Fort de France were busy selling bright, shiny fabrics and lots of feathers and glittery trims to customers.  I was lucky to wade through the crowds to find a beautiful linen/cotton blend fabric with a subdued floral print in muted greens and creams on a pale periwinkle ground. So French…  Meanwhile, you can see what types of fabrics attract the locals!

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There is a beautiful public library in Fort de France designed by Gustav Eiffel and named for the man who abolished slavery on Martinique–Schoelscher.  We passed this library on every walk through the city we took, and I spent a productive afternoon inside the library doing work on the Archie Brennan Project.  It was the fastest internet I’ve had all winter!  It’s a bit shocking that the interior of this building is completely different from the exterior.  Inside the rooms are institutional and drab!

We also walked up to the bus station to catch a bus to the well known Ballata Gardens.  This botanical garden was the private home of the grandparents to the designer.  He spent his childhood in the simple, traditional syle house, and when he chose gardening for his vocation, he spent a great deal of time and resources turning the surrounding area into a remarkable place.

Just outside the back porch of the house, that has a deep overhang on the roof shading the verandas on each side of the house, there were nectar feeders that attracted quantities of hummingbirds. Bob got this shot with our digital SLR–it would have been nearly impossible for either of us to catch this moment with our iphones, but plenty of others were trying!  When the sun catches them, they are so iridescent!

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Later in St. Anne, Carnival arrived and Bob got this shot of a very pretty little devil!

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While we were in St. Anne, there was a barbecue for cruisers every Friday at noon.  We met in the shade of trees along a beach, and the couple on Out of Africa brought a grill and charcoal ashore, in their dinghy (!), to share with anyone who wanted to cook a hot meal.  The rest of us brought something to grill and another dish to share.  Some of the cruisers brought their musical instruments to play, which made the event quite festive!  As you can see, these were quite the gatherings each Friday.

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I doubt there was ever a more entertaining musical duo than these two with their accordion and little horn.  Is that a cornet? I love accordion music! So French, so Italian, so Polish…..so many cultures have terrific accordion music!

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Here’s a view of the anchorage at St. Anne from the beach where the cookouts took place.

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A couple of times we enjoyed a sundowner from this perch overlooking the harbor in St. Anne.  Pandora is one of the dark hulled boats near the center of the photo.

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This is the sight that greeted us each time we came ashore in St. Anne.  It is literally right at the end of the dock.  There was a service everyday at 6pm–Catholic, since this is a French island– and the service always drew a large crowd.  During the service you could hear the music from anywhere along the main street. (Sorry the photo is crooked!–it’s the photographer, not the church!)

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A few weeks later, we drove further up the road in a rental car, past Ballata Gardens to a nature preserve that has well paved paths through the rainforest.  That day was the highlight of our stay on Martinique.  It was a long day, walking on trails in the rainforest, visiting the highest road on the island, partway up the volcano Mt. Pelee that erupted in 1902, and destroyed the town of St. Pierre right below. I wrote about this day a few weeks back,  but to recap I’m including a few more photos.

Here is the beautiful trail into the rainforest.  The entire walk was paved, and all the cement was brought in by men only–no pack animals, and no modern equipment.

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In the rainforest.

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Tiny pink bananas.

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After our morning walk, we decided to drive up Mt. Pelee as far as the road would take us.  You can hike up the rest of the way, but I bet it would be challenging!  And on the day we visited the top of the mountain was well shrouded in cloud.  While just a bit lower, in the rainforest, we had glorious sunshine, this is what we found as we drove to higher elevations.

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After a short stop here, we drove back into the sunlight and stopped at the Depaz rum distillery, which is one of several historic sites on Martinique.  I’ve already mentioned how memorable a visit that was!

It began to feel like we might never leave Martinique, and there were still plenty of things do there.  But, after a month, we pulled anchor and sailed to St. Lucia.  I was openly nervous about this since we hear of dinghy thefts there almost weekly, and also some occasional crime  involving bodily harm.  Hmmm… We had been assured that we’d be safe enough in Rodney Bay, but it is a crowded harbor with dirty water.  We often like to swim in the late afternoon and we usually make water every couple of days. This would not be possible in Rodney Bay, so we chose to take our chances anchoring just outside the harbor.  I never felt threatened there, so it was a good experience.  We pulled our dinghy up into the davits every night, and when we went ashore, Bob always locked the dinghy to the dock with a heavy cable.

Outside Rodney Bay, we were anchored just off a couple of popular resorts.  One of them was Sandals, where my sister stayed with her husband back before she had her first daughter who is now almost 13.  It was fun to reminisce with her about her vacation there. I sent her photos.

For Bob and me, the highlight of St. Lucia was Marigot Bay.  It is a tiny teacup of a harbor, with a wonderful resort on one side of the harbor.  By taking a mooring in this little pond, we had access to all the resort facilities.  Boy, did we have fun with that!  We spent several relaxing, lazy days under an awning at the pool, writing blogs posts and reading books, and spent evenings in the beautiful open air restaurants.  One night we had a compressed melon salad topped with feta cheese and mint and a lemony vinaigrette, followed by tuna tartare which has been my favorite dish to order throughout these islands.

Here is Pandora, framed in the entrance to the resort. She’s the dark hulled boat to the right.

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Each morning ‘boat boys’ row or paddle out in the skiffs or on paddle boards, laden with fruits and vegetables.  We can buy fresh fruit every morning, along with tomatoes, cucumbers, onions….  Today we were visited by a basket man, who weaves baskets from coconut palm fronds.  His baskets are beautiful, and while I was looking at a couple of them, he made me a little ‘fish on a stick’ as a present.  While I realize this is a great ploy to get me to buy a basket, I still think it is a generous thing to do.  It only took him a minute, but it just reinforces my belief that weavers are often such generous people.  I still have the little snake and bird that the Cuban basket weaver made for me a couple of years ago. It was so nice to start the day talking to a weaver! His name is Tom.

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This was our most colorful visitor!

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And look what we got!  I’ve never seen a lemon that big– and it was full of juice!

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It was hard to tear myself away from Marigot Bay.  It is so well protected that much of our time there the water was mirror calm, and I haven’t seen water that calm since we left the sheltered waters of New England!  But off we went, as we had planned to get further south this winter.  We spent so much time in Martinique and then Marigot Bay on St. Lucia, that we are short on time to get as far south as Bob had planned.

So, here we sit in Admiralty Bay on Bequia (prounced “BEH quay, for those who are not familiar with this tiny spot in the Grenadines).  The harbor is called Port Elizabeth (for Elizabeth II), and the nearby beach is Princess Margaret Beach.  Long live the Queen.  This is a lovely spot.

Bob has found quite a cache of talented boat workers here in Bequia.  There is a canvas maker whom everyone raves about for his well made dinghy chaps.  I didn’t even know we needed such a thing until  just a couple of islands ago. Bob is ashore now, waiting for the template to be made.  The chaps will be ready sometime tomorrow.  There are good woodworkers here who do refinishing and varnishing.  The island is known for scrimshaw carvers, potters who make contemporary items in the style of the Arawaks, and even a couple of painters who do enticing work.  Bob and I each bought a bit of scrimshaw made from the teeth of pilot whales.  It is legal here to hunt whales, and they do it from traditional row boats, no motors.  And they have to use hand-thrown harpoons.

This is something you don’t see too often.  A colorful building with its own little dock, and a sign announcing you have arrived at the medical office of the local doctor who is also a well known artist with a gallery adjacent to the examing rooms.  We stopped in yesterday–to the gallery, not the medical office.  The doctor was in, the gallery that is, and he was as colorful to talk to as his building is.  What a life!

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This is something you don’t see too often.  A colorful building with its own little dock, and a sign announcing you have arrived at the medical office of the local doctor who is also a well known artist with a gallery adjacent to the examing rooms.  We stopped in yesterday–to the gallery, not the medical office.  The doctor was in, the gallery that is, and he was as colorful to talk to as his building is.  What a life!

 

 

 

 

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Remembrance

Today is the first day of spring.  It feels like hot, midsummer here in Marigot, St. Lucia, and I’ve heard that New York/New England will get one more big snow storm today.  March came in like and lion and  is going out like one too!

A number of weavers I have loved and admired passed away recently.  I know as we age our older friends beginning moving on, but this year the losses took me by surprise.

Losing friends is hard, but particularly hard among weavers, who I believe are more generous and caring than the average person.  My dear, dear friend June passed away in mid February, and I was fortunate to be able to get home for her service, a wonderful celebration of June’s life as well as a terrific gathering of weavers who were also long-time friends of June.  It’s a wonderful way to remember someone, surrounded by all the other age old friends you have in common with the one who is absent.

Then so shortly afterward, I opened the NY Times one morning (March 12)  to find a wonderful obituary on Ethel Stein.  She lived a productive 100 years, and created so many beautiful works of textile art.  She definitely made the most of her time here, but that doesn’t mean I won’t miss her any less.  I cannot be counted a friend of hers, but I visited her beautiful studio in Croton on Hudson, and enjoyed her generous attentions in showing a small group of us her her works in progress, the draw loom she adapted herself, and a wonderful series of  black and white opphampta pieces she had displayed on one long wall in her house/studio (I’ve got a photo of that somewhere).  Her gardens were so lush; it’s hard to imagine anyone  weaving such complex and difficult pieces with such dexterity while also having time to garden.  And she was not young when I visited her.  It was probably 20 or so years ago.

There is a wonderful video of Ethel winding  yarn, dyeing it, and then weaving with it, posted by Eric Schrotenboer .  She’s doing a wonderful clasped weft piece in this video using her dyed yarn.  It is a treasure!

Over the weekend I learned that the Jockey Hollow weaving guild, one of my guilds from New Jersey, is having a sale of Andi Trasborg’s equipment and fibers from her extensive collection of weaving, bobbin lace, spinning, and dyeing stash.  I was shocked to learn that she had passed away in December, especially since she should have had years left to pursue these passions and share her knowledge with the rest of us.

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I spent a week with Andi at Vavstuga.  We had long days weaving and learning Becky Ashendon’s Swedish weaving techniques, and each evening we indulged and relaxed over a glass of wine and conversation, after the other participants went to bed. It was a short but memorable time together.  She continued her studies at Vavstuga and learned to weave damask and opphampta on a draw loom.

But I return to my dear June.  She had a long life, but not long enough! At 88, she is survived by her two older sisters, who are 91 and 94.  I wanted  June to make it to 100. She began weaving at 16 years old, which would have been in the mid-1940s, and she spent a year in Sweden (where she had plenty of relatives) learning Swedish techniques in one of the state craft schools.  She continued her art and textile studies when she returned by attending Alfred University in New York State.  When I met her in the early 1990s, she could proudly say she’d been weaving for 50 years by that point–longer than I had been alive.  She was so enthusiastic and so willing to share all she had learned over the years.

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This is just about my favorite photo of June!  It captures her personality, which was always optimistic and enthusiastic through both good times and challenging times.  She had her fair share of challenges, but you might never guess that if you didn’t know her well.  This was taken at a family gathering on her 85th birthday.

And forgive — I can’t resist! — here is a photo of June and I together at another celebration of her 85th birthday.  Our small group of weavers from the Hudson Valley area took June on a boat tour of the Hudson, from Kingston, down past West Point and Bannerman’s Island.

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When I went to June’s service, I wanted to share a moment in time with her friends and family.  I knew that whatever experiences I had with her would be similar to any experience others had with her.  This won’t mean much to those of you who never knew yer, but if you did, and if you did not hear me tell this story at her service, read on.

Remembering June

Over the past couple of weeks, this story about a day I spent with June keeps running through my mind. I feel compelled to share it with you. It is like so many days I spent with June, and I bet the same is true for each of you.

I met June through weaving, but very soon became acquainted with her many interests and talents. However we each knew June, she brought us into her fold…. her design and compositional gifts, her musical talents, her weaving and painting talents, her storytelling.!

Several years ago, June was beginning to de-stash her house on Deer Track Lane in preparation for moving. She had assembled several boxes of books, which she wanted to donate to a weaving school in Rhode Island, run by her friend Jan Doyle.

June planned to drive to my house in Connecticut to spend a few days, and during her visit we would drive together to visit Jan. We were headed to South Carolina, Rhode Island–I’d never heard of a town with such an odd name!

I’m the type of person who likes to organize a trip, putting my destination in my GPS, calculating what time I should leave home, and contacting whoever I plan to visit to let them know what time to expect me to arrive. This is not how June operates. Although I asked her a few times for the address of the weaving school, she put me off, saying not to worry, she had it. On the morning we headed out, she told me not to worry about the address, she knew where we were going…..and she did! We got there with no trouble.

We carried in the boxes of books, and Jan and June and I had fun unpacking them and looking through some of them. Some of Jan’s students came to look too. Then Jan took us on a tour of the school, which is in the rather well known Octagon House. There were looms in every room except the kitchen and one parlor, upstairs and down, and every loom had a project underway on it. June struck up a conversation with every student, wanting to know how and when they learned to weave, and what project were they working on right then. She commented on every project! Then Jan took us into one of the large parlors, the one room without looms, where a group of creative writers were holding a regular meeting. June had no problem mingling with the dozen or so people there. She asked them each about what they were currently writing, and she told them about her desire to finish writing a memoir. She had such a gift of gab — I felt like I was clutching her apron strings to keep up.

After our visit at Jan’s weaving school, we drove into Wickford for a quick tour and lunch. June had a story about each of the historic houses along the main street in town. She pointed out a house where she had spent a few summers many years ago. Although my husband and I had lived in Wickford aboard our boat for several summers quite recently, June knew more about Wickford than I’ll ever know. We had a late lunch there, and during lunch, June decided that we had time to visit a very old friend in a nearby town on our way home.

I don’t remember the old friend’s name, but I’m going to call her Muriel. I know June called her by a name I thought was somewhat old fashioned. If I’ve got it right, some of you might know the friend I mean. I have no idea what town we were headed to, but again June knew how to get there, and of course we got there with no problem.

Muriel lived in a charming New England shingle house, with large gardens around the property. We rang the front door bell, no answer. We knocked on the back door and got no answer. So June told me stories about Muriel while we walked around her gardens. She had not seen Muriel in many years, maybe forty years, although June and Muriel continued to stay in touch with holiday cards. Muriel happened to have a wonderful hedge of hydrangea in bloom that day, with flowers in that deep blue shade so like the early night sky, just after dusk has passed, that is so common in coastal areas in New England and Long Island. June decided that we needed to take home some of these hydrangea flowers to make two arrangements as a memento of this day together. Well, now I was completely out of my comfort zone!—but June knew I had a small bucket and garden shears in the back of my station wagon. So…. we cut an armful of beautiful, blue hydrangeas and began the drive home. June had no problem directing me back to Rt. 95, and we had an easy trip back to my house.

Back at home, June and I picked greens from my garden to add to our hydrangea. June chose greens of different colors and textures to enhance the hydrangea. She had such an eye for composition and color, didn’t she? We made two very pretty arrangements, and the next day June headed home with hers.

A couple of weeks later June called to tell me that she had called Muriel’s house several times and eventually gotten through to someone. She had spoken to Muriel’s daughter who said that Muriel had been in the hospital for some time, and that Muriel would enjoy hearing that June had tried to visit. The daughter said that Muriel would be happy to hear that we were making good use of her hydrangea flowers!

So here’s the thing. This is my take away from a day spent with June. A day with June always became an adventure, and the day became legendary–epic!—almost before it had ended.

June touched each of us. She molded each of us. In some cases knowing her changed us. She certainly changed me – in good ways for which I’ll always be thankful. She is the reason that the ‘thing’ we used to call “six degrees of separation” has become somewhat closer than six degrees. As we move into the next room for a time of fellowship I think we’ll find that gap of separation getting even closer. June would love that.

 

 

 

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Unplanned in Martinique

As New England faces another big snowstorm today–the 3rd in only the first half of March!– Bob and I have been tied down in Martinique due to the sea state that results from storms in the North Atlantic.  That’s okay.  This is a beautiful island, so it’s not a bad place to be ‘stuck.’

This morning I saw in the NYTimes that Ethel Stein passed away at 100 years old.  What a wonderfully long, creative life she led.  What amazing influences from other artists she experienced in her long journey of creativity!  I visited her once with a group of weavers who, like me, lived along the Hudson Valley, just north of New York City.  She was probably about the age then that this photo was taken.  I was smitten with her beautiful surroundings in Croton-on-Hudson, by her draw loom which she adapted herself, and of course, by her woven pieces. I was with good friends that day, who remain good friends all these years later.

I can’t help thinking of the recent TED talk I saw about what it takes to live a long a life.  It’s not what we all expected–eating well, not smoking or using recreational drugs, drinking moderate alcohol if any, getting physical exercise.  No!  It turns out that while those things certainly help, it’s more important to have close relationships, to be engaged in the world, to be intellectually active.  Ethel certainly filled all these requirements.  My friend June did too, and although she did not make it to 100 years, she lived an active and vital 88 years.  In fact, she was on the short side to turning 89.

But back to our unintended extra time in Martinique.  We have been back in the islands for a week, and while we thought we’d be on our way to St. Lucia shortly after arriving back here, the weather has not cooperated.  And sometimes, that’s just what we need–a forced detour from the plan– to learn a bit more about things.  We rented a car on Saturday, our 2nd car rental during our long stay on Martinique, and we explored the northwestern part of the island.  Mt. Pelee, the big volcano on Martinique is in this part of the island, as well as a national park that has trails through the rainforest.  It was the highlight of our stay in Martinique, so we are both glad for the extra time here.

Mt. Pelee has been known to erupt every 100 – 150 years.  Since its last eruption was in 1902, when it wiped out the entire city of St. Pierre (only two people survived), it could gear up any time now for another event.  Nowadays there are ways of monitoring these things that were not even ideas the last time Mt. Pelee erupted, and at the moment the volcano is silent.  But if it continues as it has for previous eruptions, Mt. Pelee could wake up any year now.

All the volcanic islands in this part of the Caribbean are known as the “islands that kiss the clouds.”  They are certainly big mountains–Mt. Pelee is 4,000 ft high, and that does not take into account what lies below the surface of the sea.  I just asked Bob to check his charts on how deep the ocean is off the coast where Mt. Pelee sinks into the sea.  It’s about 8,000 feet there, so that makes Mt. Pelee 12,000 feet high.  I have come to think that these mountains attract the clouds down to them, wringing out moisture that nourishes the rainforests, rather than rising up to ‘kiss the clouds.’ I am using a photo from the internet because the day we drove around Mt. Pelee and up the winding road as far to the top as it went, there was far more cloud cover.  St. Pierre is shown in the foreground.

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The rainforest we visited on Martinique is the most beautiful we’ve seen so far in our travels.  Here are a few photos.

There were so many trees that must be carrying their weight in other plants along their trunks and branches.  This trunk is covered in bromeliads.

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I enjoyed watching Bob take photos.  Here he is crossing a small bridge over a crystal clear stream.

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And here’s that stream–

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Out in the gardens there were some broad vistas where perhaps you can see Mt. Pelee on a clear day, but  I’m not sure there are any clear days for the summit of that mountain.

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Also, the entrance to the rainforest is a well designed museum with gardens to tour.  I loved the various displays in the museum and the gardens around it almost as much as the trail through the forest.  I loved this view through an opening in the museum building.

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There were so many tree ferns, orchids, bromeliads, and vines growing deep in these woods.  It was breathtaking.  There is such a variety of life that I hardly ever think about unless I’m confronted by it!  Oddly, we only heard one bird call in these forests, a large, robin-sized songbird, with an orange/red breast and mostly black/brown body. Later on our walk we saw two light green parakeets take flight across one of the planned gardens outside the museum.  It was eerily silent in the forest, and  I saw no bugs, no snakes, and only two types of bird.  Yet there was so much flora to support what I bet is a multitude of creatures!

Bob took a photo that is calling for my attention.  I think it has great potential for a tapestry design.  I look forward to playing with it.  There is so much possibility for a limited color palette with lots of texture….and those tiny leaves!

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On our way down from Mt. Pelee we took a different route in order to drive into St. Pierre to see the city that was destroyed in the 1902 volcano. Before that eruption, St. Pierre was known as “the Paris of the Caribbean.”

Along the our route we passed an historic rum distillery, and Bob can never pass up the chance to taste rum.   I am also glad we stopped because the original owner’s house and gardens have been well maintained over the centuries.

Giving in to my love of photographing windows surrounded by flowers, I think this might be the most opulent one I’ve ever encountered. It’s the north wing on the front of the house. I can’t stop thinking about throwing open those shutters early in the morning to watch the beaugainvillea bend in the breezes off the Caribbean while the sun rises at the back of the house–with a cafe au lait, of course!

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This magnificent tree dominates the entrance to the house, near matching relfecting pools with fountains that flank the front walkway.

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Here’s the view from the front north corner of the house.

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The back of the house has nice views and gardens as well.  Not surprising.

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The siting of this distillery has plenty of water to run the operation.  This is the spillway for the runoff on the day we were there.  That’s a lot of water over the bridge–or the road, so to speak.

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All that rushing water runs this wheel–

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Along with the well preserved history here, you can even have lunch here in a beautiful restaurant that overlooks the fields of sugar cane and out to the Caribbean Sea. The view is similar to the one from the front of the owner’s house.

I shamefully photographed my salad, and then became so engrossed in this exceptional meal that I forgot to take a photo of the main course, and believe me, it was a work of art and tasted as good as it looked!

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So, after the extended visit to the Depaz Distillery, we headed into the center of St. Pierre. There are ruins of the 17th c. French fort still in the main part of the city, and the only currently inhabited buildings were built in the 20th c., after the last eruption.  The church dates back to 1659, although it was damaged on numerous occasions during the 17th and 18th c.’s, during battles between the French and English for naval supremacy of the Caribbean (and the world).  It was rebuilt in the mid-19th century and afterward changed from a neo-classical facade to its current Baroque facade.  It is a beauty!  Of course, I much preferred this view from the side, so you don’t even see the front facade.

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St. Pierre is now a charming seaside town. The beaches along the water’s edge in St. Pierre are dark grey volcanic ash, which is somewhat visible in the photo.

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This is the explosion (bad word choice perhaps) of bougainvillea on the balcony of the orange building in the previous photo.

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We hope to leave for St. Lucia in the next day or so.  More seasoned cruisers to this part of the world have assured us that the further south we go, the more lush and beautiful the islands are.  We are looking to that and to seeing what mother nature throws in our path when she ties us down in other places.

**note–due to weak wifi I had a devil of time getting photos to load.  Some of the appear to have not loaded well, and when I have better internet I will fix these problems!  I hope you’ll check back here!

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Weaving, Here and There

It has been quite a hiatus since my last post. A lot of water has gone under the keel since I met the mother/daughter weavers on Montserrat. We all know life can be full of curve balls, plunges down the roller coaster, and untimely surprises. That’s what’s been going on in my life lately, and I have been a little too shell shocked to write.

Along the way weaving and knitting lent a normalcy and calmness to surprises that popped up in my path–health issues while in a foreign country and the loss of a dear friend. Both weaving and knitting lend enough calm to deal with any roller coaster. I have better access to knitting while onboard than weaving, and the repetitive motion of making one stitch after another— dec right, YO, knit 5, YO, dec. left, etc., etc.—is a wonderful antidote to all kinds of ups and downs.

On the UPside, there has been some tremendously good news since I last checked in here. Our older son’s wife is expecting twins this summer! Yes, twins! They’ll arrive when our dear Tori Tiny Super Moon is only 18 months old, so that house will be full of chaos and magic. I hope I get to spend plenty of time there soaking it all up!

In preparation, I am knitting two baby blankets in the same pattern that I made for Tori , just a little over a year ago! And I’m thinking about matching Christmas sweaters, and a cute Christmas tunic for Tori…and… and…dare I think about lace?

This is Tori’s blanket being blocked back when I finished it, before the baby shower that was held in her honor.

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We have just spent two weeks back in the US, and one of those weeks we spent visiting this growing family. Tori is getting cuter and cuter!   Communicating with her has become so much fun for me! She has a sign for ‘more’ which is really the sign for “again.” Isn’t that interesting? She doesn’t know it’s the sign for ‘again;’ it’s really her own invention. I am infatuated by that! She also has her own version of the sign for ‘please.’ She says ‘pay’ for ‘play,’ and she reaches for our iphones all the time while saying, “Pay! Pay!” She does lots of puzzles and has become shockingly good at them. Even though Mom brings home new ones all the time, it only takes her a few moments to figure them out. She does them so quickly, and then turns them upside down to send all the pieces scattering which makes her laugh. So her mother puts them away in a place that Tori cannot reach. So, when she says “puh” a few times, I will ask her if she wants to do a puzzle. When she nods yes vigorously, I ask her if she needs ‘help’ getting one down from the dining room sideboard. To this, she replies, “Hep! Hep! ”

I have to listen carefully for the difference between ‘buh’ (book) and ‘puh’ (puzzle). She loves to look at books. Puzzles and books are her favorite toys, followed closely by stuffed animals. Here she is sitting on her dad’s head, reading a book. Don’t ask—I have no idea why she likes this position for reading!

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She is also quite good at pulling stickers off a sheet.  In this photo, she is has already finished off a sheet of stickers and has now decorated herself with all the background sticker bits–in case you’re wondering what’s on her shirt!

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During our 6-day visit Bob took hundreds of photos of Tori. He took so many in burst mode that we have several sequences of photos that show her doing such adorable things. Doting grandparents!

While I haven’t done much weaving lately, I spent part of a day working on the ‘Text’ tapestry that is a line from a Robert Frost poem. It felt so good to be picking the warps and inserting the weft again, now sitting on my highest stool since the piece is growing ever so slowly. One more word and I’ll be advancing the warp around the copper frame. I also got the last piece of IKEA shelving unit (Kallax) for my herculean project of reorganization. Goodbye, big ugly bins that were caving under the weight of how many I had to stack against the wall in the room next to my studio. Now I have closed bins with labels to hold almost everything I need. The bins fit into a wooden shelving unit that keeps everything tidy. It looks so much calmer in this room now. I even decided to put my smallest loom in here. I still need a solution for my bins of fabric, so I have my thinking cap on about that. Ideas are greatly appreciated, if you have any please share! (They are sticking out from the counter top in the far right of the 3rd photo, looking quite unsightly in the midst of such great organization!)

From this beginning back in August….

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….to this!  Finally!  IKEA was always out of stock on various pieces we needed to complete the project.

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Just before our trip home I discovered that Laverne Waddington has a new instructional video on backstrap weaving. Take a look! I still believe this is the perfect loom to have on a boat. Well, that is if I can find a good way of tying myself fore and aft; last time I tried I could only find ways of tying up my loom port to starboard and that causes all kinds of trouble for anyone else trying to get anywhere while I’m weaving! Weaving on a backstrap loom can be as simple or challenging as I want, so it ought to keep me occupied and well engaged during the months without my floor looms. I have not had enough good internet to watch the whole video, but I’m sure I will learn a great deal from Laverne, and make some progress in tackling this technique!

Closer to home (New England) I’ve learned there is an exhibition of weavers’ work that includes Kate Barber, one of our guild members.

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Artists Working With Fiber
 
March 9 – April 28, 2018
Jamestown Arts Center
 
Opening Reception: Friday, March 9, 6 – 8 pm
Gallery Hours: Wed – Sat 10 – 2

So I haven’t exactly given you fair warning to get to the opening reception, but there is plenty of time to get the exhibit if you are in the area.  Luckily I’ll be home in time to see this show.  You can see more of Kate’s work here.

And during my short stay in Connecticut, I found that a fellow fiber artist who works in paper has opened a studio right in the center of my little village. I first crossed paths with Ben Parker at a show of works in fiber a couple of years ago. After that I saw his work, and talked to him as well, at an open studio event for all kinds of artists in Hartford. I’ve been on his email list for notices of his upcoming shows and the workshops he has begun to teach. His studio is just that, a place where he works, rather than a gallery. He will be using this space to teach workshops, and I’d LOVE to get a group of weavers together to study with him this summer. Weavers, you know who you are, so let’s make a plan when I get home!

These are the things that make life so interesting and get us through the rough spots, aren’t they? My online guild from the UK is spending the month of March studying tapestry techniques under the guidance of Matty Smith. I can’t always get online down here in the Caribbean, but when I can, the ‘lessons’ will likely spark some good ideas for me.

I have gotten email notices that my local weavers have had to cancel meetings for two months in a row, due to the winter weather. And doesn’t the weather in early March often throw more at us New Englanders than the whole month of February can muster? On the one hand, a snowstorm in March never lasts long, but on the other hand, the power outages always last longer than the snow in March. Our house is currently without power, and most of my friends are in the same boat (bad pun!)—except they are living there right now.

Tomorrow is my older son’s birthday. He is the father of dear Tori and the soon-to-be father of the twins. He was born in the midst of a wild snowstorm 34 years ago. That snowstorm came with plenty of thunder and lightning. The delivery nurses were more interested in watching the storm out the window than paying attention to this brand new mom. A foot of snow fell in only a couple of hours that night. Over the years since then, Rob has had more snowy birthdays than not. So, I always enjoy a big March snowstorm. It heralds another birthday and makes me take a look at how much life changes as the decades slide past.

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As you can see, I am clearly on a smooth path again—thanks in large part to knitting — and weaving.

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Two Weavers of Montserrat

It was a banner day when we got ourselves back to Montserrat and managed to visit the Sea Island Cotton studio. First, it was my birthday. Second, Montserrat is not an easy place to visit, even by ferry as we’d done the week before. It was a miserable sail there, and I suffered a bad case of mal de mer. Predictably, the anchorage had some waves rolling through, and getting on the small dock with our dinghy was less than ideal. But once I stepped ashore the possibility of getting to meet the mother/daughter team of Sea Island Cotton buoyed my enthusiasm!

Look what a charming place it is!

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Hey, Baltimoreans and bird lovers! Take a look at the local oriole.

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Anne Davis, the mother of the weaving duo, started this business in the early 90s, when her studio and home were in Portsmouth, the capital of Montserrat that was destroyed in the eruption. After that eruption, she lost everything and had to relocate and start again. About two-thirds of the inhabitants who lost their homes decided to take advantage of government funding to move to the UK. The island population still has not recovered from this large exodus. Anne never considered leaving the island. Her studio and house are now located in the small village of Salem, which is not particularly close to where tourists arrive by ferry or by their own boats.  You’d have to know about her from guidebooks and get a cab to visit.

Back to the start—Anne learned to weave from a local weaver resident who was originally from Canada. The government provided funding for this Canadian weaver to teach local women to weave. I didn’t get many of those details about that project, but Anne said she is the only student who continued to weave after the course finished. Anne and her daughter Lovena now have two looms: a LeClerc counter balance loom with a weaving width of about 36”, and what looks like an ancient 4-shaft Baby Wolf by Schacht. The identifying herd of sheep that is branded into the castle on the loom is mostly gone.  Perhaps it’s just the tropical climate that makes the loom appear older than it may be! Both looms were empty when I visited. Anne was planning to put a warp on the LeClerc in the next day or so. Lovena weaves on the Baby Wolf.

Only Lovena was in the shop when we arrived. I called ahead, using the phone that the cab driver offered when I told him where I wanted to go.

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The hanging rods had many beach cover-ups, scarves and shawls, all woven in what looks like a gauze structure to me.

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Then there are shelves and shelves of table linens in many different structures. It was hard to choose, but I was not going to leave empty handed. All the table linens are finished with fringe, which is a bit of pet peeve for me. But they were all so beautifully woven, with great selvedges and in beautiful weave structures and colors, I had to overlook the fringe. I’ll deal with hems when the fringes begin to wear out.

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Unfortunately, there is no longer any sea island cotton to be had. The cotton industry died along with many other things after the eruption. Anne and Lovena order cotton yarns from Camilla Valley Yarns in Canada. Wow!—same company I’ve used on numerous occasions! Small world. Lovena didn’t seem to think shipping from Canada took long, but I imagine she has a more easy going outlook than I do! We have exchanged email addresses so I think I will give her links to a few of the larger US weaving suppliers– and maybe some of the not so large vendors that I enjoying using.

Bob surprised us all by inviting Lovena to come out to Pandora for a glass of wine when she closed the shop. She accepted the offer and decided to close early and get her mother to join her. I wasn’t sure what they’d think when they arrived at the harbor in Little Bay and saw how large the waves were coming through the bay. Anne showed some concern and wanted assurances from Bob that the dinghy would hold all of them! I’m impressed that both women braved the unknown to visit us.

The most interesting part of our conversation was when we told both women that we’d been on Montserrat about a week earlier and mentioned our disappointment that our tour guide would not stop for a visit.  Lovena remembered seeing both our faces in a passing van!  She remembered mine from the middle of the van–a woman who looked bugged eyed at her as we passed.  And she remembered Bob in the very back of the van, looking back at her as we passed.  She told her mother she was certain that they were about to get van full of customers….and then they didn’t….

I’ll post a photo of my treasures if I can get them loaded.  Everything about this post has taken ages (speaking of

We’ve definitely started an acquaintance, and I’m looking forward to a budding friendship with both women. What a birthday treat! It doesn’t get any better!

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St Kitts, Thomas Jefferson, Batik

That’s an odd assortment of names in the title, yet that is the diversity of what we have seen on this island!

The weather has us pinned down off the southeast coast of St. Kitts. There are no harbors here for protection, which is the case for many of the West Indies islands in the Caribbean, and boy do I miss the protected harbors on Antigua. After sailing from Antigua last Saturday, we attempted to anchor off Nevis, but the best anchorage area was too rough! It was only 2pm in the afternoon, so we sailed about seven miles further to White House Bay on St. Kitts, and then had to move again for more protection. We were finally settled, although not comfortably, just before sunset. The winds have been quite strong, which is typical for this time of year. They are called the Christmas winds and usually last until the end of January.

The capital of St. Kitts is Basse Terre, and in the center of the city is a roundabout with a clock in the center called Piccadilly Square.

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Cruise ships arrive almost daily in Basse Terre, and we can see them come and go from our anchorage, a few miles to the east. There is a hospital ship in the same area that has to leave every time a new cruise ship arrives. We learned that this ship is a medical school and that since the destruction of the medical school on Dominica this ship has taken on the faculty and students from that university. We watch it come and go every day to make room for the large cruise ships. I wonder what the faculty and students think of that. I’m trying to wrap my head around the students practicing surgical procedures on a vessel that has to be rolling around even slightly, in spite of having stabilizers.  I contemplate over each evening as we watch the sunset from Pandora.

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Yesterday we hired a tour guide to drive us around the island. Normally Bob and I detest this kind of touring, but this island has many windy roads and switchbacks that lead through the mountainous terrain, and driving is on the left. It was a smart decision not to tackle it ourselves!

Alexander Hamilton was born on nearby Nevis, and Thomas Jefferson’s great-great grandfather had a large plantation here on St. Kitts. The plantation has become a historic site here, no surprise, as well as the site of a botanical gardens and a local business of women who make batik fabrics. I’m quite fascinated to learn—so late in life!—that some of our founding fathers had such exotic origins! Years ago I visited the home of George Washington’s family, Sulgrave Manor, that seemed to be ‘right down the street’ from Princess Diana’s ancestral home Althorp. Both these family manses are in Northamptonshire, in the UK, so not so exotic. Still, I was well into adulthood before I ever gave a thought to exactly where our founding fathers originated. I just vaguely thought of them all as English. History is far more interesting in the details, isn’t it?

Romney Manor was first the site of gardens for a man named Tegereman who was chief of the indigenous tribe of Caribs. By 1625 this site had become a beautiful Euorpean style home for Sam Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson’s forebear.

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The gardens are good mix of natural landscape and cultivated gardens.

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It would hard to ever leave a spot like this…..more lemonade, please!

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Along with the gardens, which are well cultivated and include beautifully landscaped areas of quite a variety of tropical plants, a group of women also run a textile business on the property of the plantation. The women make wonderful batik fabrics and their business, which started in 1976, is called Caribelle Batik. After 40 years, they must be on their 2nd or even 3rd generation of women keeping this technique alive and well. I’d say I was watching the 2nd generation of master batik makers demonstrating for the tourists, since all of them were about my age.

The shop was full of about anything you can dream up to make with batik fabric.  There were wall hangings, clothing, all kinds of little containers, pillow covers.  I bought a nice selection of things to bring home for friends and family.

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The designs are drawn with a stylus filled with melted beeswax.

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They do intricate designs, and the best thrill of all was walking through the gardens, surrounded by exotic plants, views of the ocean, and lines and lines of batik fabrics drying in the breeze. I think this will be the highlight of my winter!

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In addition to a rainforest full of exotic native and not so native plants that have found there way here, St. Kitts also has a large colony of green monkeys. They are everywhere! Our guide told us that they were brought to the island by the French, who brought them on their ships from Africa, along with their human cargo destined to be slaves. Some islanders have taken young monkeys for pets. I got accosted by a heckler, who came up from behind and just put this monkey into my arms. I didn’t mind, but I would have preferred to be asked. I guess he knows well that if he asks, most people will say no. It’s better to just throw a monkey into your arms and grab your phone before you have a chance to think. It’s the way of life in this part of the world, so it’s best just to go with it. Cute monkey, isn’t it?….wearing a diaper, thank heaven!

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We had stopped for this view when the ‘monkey man’ approached me.

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How about a monkey in its natural setting.  They are pretty shy so we haven’t gotten close to the wild ones.

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In the middle of our day our tour guide took us to a local restaurant–just a couple of picnic tables under an awning, with a ‘kitchen’ in an attached shed.  No refrigeration.  Our guide said all the food was prepared daily so no need to refrigerate anything.  Well, hmmm.  The choices were pretty varied, so it’s hard for me to imagine that they used everything up everyday.

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Yeah, I know!  It looks pretty rough, and I’ll admit that I was nervous about the food.  It was all delicious–barbecued pork ribs, rice and pigeon peas, green salad, and Caribbean mac n cheese.  Others had baked chicken, or baked mackerel with same side dishes.  No one got sick.

I am staying onboard today. The wind has abated, although our weather guru says it’s best not to change locations until the weather is more settled at the beginning of next week. Sheesh! It’s only Wednesday! I plan to spend some time working on a small tapestry that is getting embarrassingly old, and then I will spend some time on my little Norwegian woven band. Later we will meet our cruising friends for sundowners at the beach bar, SaltPlage, where the view of the sunset will extraordinary!  Well, as you can, we already had our sundowners…I could not get this post online yesterday.

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So, that’s my report. St. Kitts is an interesting and unusual mix of history, lush flora and fauna, and beautiful local textile work.  All good for me.

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