Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Baby Quilt for our Baby Girl

For many months now, a focus for my creative life has been my new granddaughter, who I shall shortly meet!  After knitting and sewing many, many things for her,  I tucked them into a basket last week and on Sunday, presented them to her mama and daddy.

Included in this basket is a collection of standards (this and these and these), a garter stitch hooded baby sweater, and books.  I loved making her quilt, working with flannel for the first time and following a simple, brick quilt pattern.

I wasn't the only one who presented the joy-filled expectant parents with handmade gifts.  They received two other quilts, a beautiful ceramic piece of art to hang in the nursery, and a hand sewn diaper cover.

After the ceremonial opening of gifts, I sought out the other quilter in our group to ask her about hand quilting, something I want to learn.  Soon we were joined by a fellow knitter, and the three of us jawed on and on about our attachment to handwork.  Instant camaraderie forms with women stitchers who just know each other because we get our mutual drive to make things and then give away those things we make.   We talked about our process, how the work makes meaning of the day, and how each stitch taken is focused on the recipient, thus forming a fabric representing meditation and prayer.  For me, there is no better way to prepare for the birth of our first granddaughter than to hold her prayerfully in my heart and in my mind each day...

Monday, July 23, 2012

Love and Life

One of the best things about being human is celebrating within the circle of life.  This past weekend we did this double time.  We witnessed a beautiful and meaningful wedding...

...and we gathered at a baby shower, celebrating in anticipation and joy the upcoming arrival of our grandchild, a first granddaughter.

It is good to affirm love and life and the blessing and bounty of both.  Congratulations Heather and Jeremy! Congratulations Rob and Alexis!  Truly, we celebrate you.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Book Bag for Book Group

The women's group at our church has a book group: The Garden of Readin' it is called.  The cute play on biblical words is apropos for a church group of readers.  I go when I can and go when I think I may like the book selection well enough to read it.  Being an English teacher for so many years where reading is directed by the courses and the kids taught, I balk at acquiescing to others selecting my book choice.  I think I need to get over myself on this one.  I just read an article listing things to do to keep one's mind active and going to book group, a gathering of people talking about what they read, is mentioned.  It is not just reading that keeps those gray cells firing, it is the conversation and discussion that creates productive mental energy for us aging boomers.  

So I read The Orchid House, this month's selection.  I rated it two stars ("it was okay") out of five ("it was amazing") on Goodreads.   Billed as historical fiction, which I generally enjoy, it read to me more like a shallow romance novel. Maybe I still need to get over my English teacher self. I will be curious to hear what other people thought of it.  

Remember that fabric I was learning to quilt in the last post?  I used it to make this book bag.  I actually bought the fabric and pattern as part of a kit from Connecting Threads.  Quilting the fabric took three times as long as sewing up the bag.  It was fun to learn something new, and I used the leftover quilted fabric to make a few small zipper bags and a pouch.  Somethings also new-to- me to make, stretching my mind in yet another way. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Making Art (and Artifact)

This week our town and surrounds will be filled by an influx of artists and patrons of the arts coming to view, enjoy, and buy art.  I have loved the Central PA Festival of the Arts since its inception more than 40 years ago.  It is inspiring to consider what the mind can conceive and the hand can make.

Last night Jim and I walked to a small gallery on Penn State's campus to take in an intimate art show arranged by our son Matthew's art teacher.  Michelle teaches classes for people of all ages and abilities, but she has cultivated a unique talent for working with people with intellectual disabilities, assisting them to express themselves through painting, collage, mosaic, sculpture, dancing, and even cooking. These weekly sessions are an important part of Matthew's inner life and his outer life within his community.

What is it in the human condition that propels us to make things?  What innate need, compulsion, or desire ignites us to create?  I think about the things I enjoy making...

jars of jam...

a pie...

or the quilted fabric I have been learning to create these past two weeks.

I think for me cooking, sewing, jamming, knitting, and even writing this blog, fills a need to express myself, to indulge in personal enjoyment, to show love and give gifts representing intentional time and thought, to communicate in another way, to record time and place, and even to tell stories through words and artifacts.  One thing that sets us apart from other living creatures is our ability to make tools and things we need (or want).  Being able to create items of beauty beyond functionality perhaps comes from a yearning of the soul and prompting of the spirit.  I think we all have a need to do this, regardless of our abilities and despite our disabilities.  And whether or not the results of your creating sits in a booth on Allen Street, hangs in a gallery on Penn State's campus, or rests on the window sill of your mother's home, making things adorns our lives by stretching the ordinary into the extraordinary; it is one of life's daily blessings.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy 4th of July

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.."
                                                                                             --the Declaration of Independence, 1776

Over the mountain and through the valleys near our home in Central Pennsylvania sits a piece of Revolutionary War history. Fort Roberdeau, built in 1778 by Continental Congress member David Roberdeau, was established to smelt lead for bullets.  A fortress was needed to protect the mining and smelting of this essential battle supply, since loyal Tories and their Native American allies sought to thwart the revolution and the intrusion of colonial settlement in Sinking Valley.

The fort, never breached by attack, functioned until 1780 when lead supply lines to France were reestablished and the need for smelting Pennsylvanian lead no longer existed.

On this day we celebrate the fortitude and vision of our founding fathers (and mothers), it is interesting to note a lesser known slice of Pennsylvania's story. 

(Jim and I toured this fort yesterday, charmed and fascinated by this local history lesson.)