Bud And “Lesser Known Monsters”

A girl who grows wings from her ankles and a woman who can only sleep when she is visited by the Sandman who does more than sprinkle sand in her eyes.  I haven’t finished it yet, but I’m completely enjoying Kim Fu’s book of short stories, Lesser Known Monsters Of The 21st Century

Each story so far is slightly off, without reaching too far out of reality so that it’s still recognizable.   The language is often poetic and I’ve found a piece of myself in each of them.

Childhood Trees


One of the trees I visit in the woods

I sat in the chair waiting for Amy.  The doctor’s office had one window, a Venetian blind covered it, the slats open enough to let light in. I could see a tree trunk, its bark familiar, between the slats.

As I searched my memory for where I had seen it before, I landed on the sidewalk in front of the house I grew up in. In the backyard were two giant Oak Trees.  One had the date 1888 carved into it.  They were the oldest, the rest of the trees were planted when my grandparents and father built the house.

Next to the oaks was a mulberry tree with white, berries.  Small unruly evergreens lined one fence.  And in front of the house,  was a maple, a catalpa, and a Rose of Sharon.  A wisteria vine grew on the roof and two sides of a covered patio.  And a Rodadendron reached out from under its shade.  A  fig tree, which was wrapped in burlap every winter to keep it from freezing,  taught me to love fresh figs.

I haven’t thought of all those childhood trees in years.  Most of the houses in the post-WWII suburban neighborhood had a maple tree or two on the strip of grass between the sidewalk and street.  But now that I think about it, our yard was like a little arboretum in comparison.

And even though no one ever talked about it, I’d guess it was my grandmother who planted them. Mostly because in my lifetime knowing her, she seemed to have the first and final say about most things.

Although my grandmother lived upstairs in our two-family house, I was not close to her. She had a hard life and was a difficult person, not the kindly grandmother of so many stories.

But, I realized today as I waited for my doctor, she must have loved trees.

So I wonder, is this where I got my love of trees from?  From this woman who I saw every day but never talked to.

What would have happened if we did talk about the trees? Would she have told me stories, in broken English of how they reminded her of her home in Italy?  How did this woman who sewed in a factory in NYC for most of her life, come to plant all these different kinds of trees?

There is no one to ask these questions anymore.  But I do like the idea of having something in common with this person who I never loved or even liked.

It feels hopeful. Like maybe there was something we shared.  It feels like a gift.  The best one my grandmother could possibly give me.

Sheep Potholders Right At Home

Linda’s Sewing (plus) Room

It was Linda who sent me the fabric that I made so many Sheep Potholders from.  Now she has two hanging in what she calls her “Everything But My Office” room.

That room where she spends time creating also holds some of her favorite animals, including sheep and border collies.  So my potholders fit right in.

The Bear Dream And The Pine Cave

Last night I dreamed  I was walking my dog though a neighborhood without houses.  There were trees and sidewalks and streets.  I saw a black bear crossing the street ahead of us. So I turned around and walked the other way.  But then the bear started to follow us.  So I walked down another road and suddenly the bear was in front of us again.

Then I woke up.

Susan sent me the Animal Medicine cards.  I didn’t choose a card, I just looked up the message of the bear in the book that came with the cards.  Then I read about Bear in Animal Speak.

Jon and I went to see the movie Avatar on Sunday.  We saw it in 3D and there were some beautiful visuals in the movies. But the story was lacking and there were too many explosions for me.   The movie was almost 3 1/2 hours.  Too long.  So for the last hour or so I closed my eyes and meditated.

First I imagined myself flying out of the theater.  But it was dreary out so I went to my pine cave instead.

I saw myself sitting in the cave.  I brewed a cup of pine needle tea over a small fire.  When it cooled it sipped the tea.  Then I took some of the ashes and rubbed them on a small ringworm rash on my arm.  ( I was horrified when I first realized I had ringworm.  Only when I looked into it did I see it has nothing to do with worms and is the same fungus as athlete’s foot.  I probably got it from one of the animals).

I stayed in the pine cave till the movie ended, sipping tea and being still, only vaguely hearing the noise from the movie.

When I read about the meaning of the bear, both books referred to the hibernating bear.  They mention the cave as a place to go for calming the mind, being in silence and going inside ourselves. This time is important for bringing forth our truth and putting it into the world.

I feel like finding the pine cave and going there in my mind and the bear dream are all reinforcing the idea that I need to make more space in my daily life for quieting my mind, for meditative moments.  That this is something I need right now.  That it will benefit me personally, but also creatively.

I don’t usually think much about the New Year.  I never make resolutions or set goals for myself. But any new year, no matter the culture it is a good time to start anew.  And since the cave and the bear have come to me at this time of year, it seems another sign for me to take it seriously.

It’s so easy to forget a dream and its meaning.  But I do have the pine cave, which is a very real reminder.  And now I can go there whenever I want, where ever I am.

Meditation In The Pine Cave

I went back to the Pine Cave today.  Zinnia and Fate came with me.

I crawled under the pine boughs and found a comfortable seat on the fallen branches and pine needles. Facing the opening in the cave, I set the timer on my phone for 15 minutes.

I wasn’t sure what the dogs would do. We were close enough to the farm that Fate might run back to the sheep.

The first thing I noticed when I closed my eyes was how noisy it was. I could hear a constant stream of cars on Route 22.  I can often hear the sound of a car when I’m walking in the woods, but this was constant and louder than when I’m just walking.

At first, I was annoyed, it was not what I was expecting.  But after a while, I decided that it was just a part of my meditation and the sound became less important.  Zinnia came up to me and gave my hand a lick then I could hear her settle down next to me.

Quiet came with the rain.

Not a lot of it, just a few drops making their way through the pine boughs, touching me lightly on my hands and face. The sound of cars stopped and I could hear the rain around me.  But that lasted only a minute or two.

I don’t know why the two coincided.

Although we were in the woods, the pine cave isn’t far from the farm and suddenly one of the donkeys started braying. Her voice carried clearly to us and I heard Fate whine just the slightest.

It already seemed a busy meditation when I felt a tickle on one hand, then the other.  I opened my eyes and plucked a tick from the back of each hand.  When I closed my eyes again I wondered if it wasn’t foolish to be sitting in a fallen tree top when it was warm enough for the ticks to be out.

But I decided as I did with the unexpected traffic sounds, that I would just take notice and let it go.

When my timer didn’t got off, but I suspected the fifteen minutes was almost up, I opened my eyes.  Zinnia was still sitting next to me and Fate was sitting at the entrance to pine cave, her back to me looking out, waiting, watching.

I pulled out my iPhone and saw that I hadn’t turned the timer on.  My meditation lasted a little longer than I’d planned.

I couldn’t say that my meditation in the pine cave was better or worse than if I’d been meditating on the couch or on a log in the woods. It was all so new and there was so much going on. It kept my mind busy.

So I’d say it was a different kind of meditation. One where my senses took notice of what was happening around me. Maybe next time I’ll leave my eyes open and watch as well as hear, feel and smell.

The Pine Cave

Looking out of the pine cave

It was one branch from a White Pine that broke off from the tree in the snowstorm. But it was as thick as a tree itself.

I saw that it formed a cave the last time I was in the woods, but it was covered in snow then, and the zero-degree temperature kept me moving.

But today it’s warm.  Just above freezing with a bright sun and blue sky.  The ice and snow are melting. The dogs ran past the fallen tree, but I stopped and peered in.

The pine fell on a slope which probably helped create the cave.  The opening in the boughs is big enough for the dogs to easily walk into.  I crouched, looking for signs of other animals, Droppings, feathers, hickory and acorn shells.  But saw none.

So I crawled in.

The smell of pine surrounded me. As I moved further back under the tree, the snow was replaced by a cushion of pine branches and needles.

I sat down, settled in.

I thought of how in the 1800s, people with Tuberculosis used to go to the Adirondaks to breathe in the fresh air.  I’m not sure if the doctors who started those first sanatoriums knew that pine needles are good for the respiratory system.

But I didn’t have to know that either to feel that the pine cave is a healing place.

It didn’t take long for Fate and Zinnia to find me. They came in slowly, taking in the smells. They left, then came back again eager to move on.  I wanted to walk too.  I needed to move my body after sitting on the floor of my studio all morning painting hankies.

I took a deep breath, looked around me at the soft deep green walls, and promised to come back.

I often fantasize about having a small shelter in the woods.  What a wonderful place to meditate the pine cave is.  The needles won’t stay green forever, so I want to take advantage of the cave as it is, while it lasts.

It’s starting to get dark and I’m in the house, sitting in the stuffed chair in the corner of the living room writing this.  I pause and raise my hand to my face.  I can still smell the pitch on my hand though it’s no longer sticky.  Soon the smell will be completely gone.

But for now, I close my eyes and breathe it in.  I’m back in the woods, in the pine cave, the sun glistening off the snow at the entrance, the shaggy green walls embracing me.

inside the pine cave


Taking Time Off

Merricat and Issachar

Jon and I are trying to extend our night away by taking some time off this week.  We’re still discussing what that will actually mean for us.

Working at home, the lines between working and not working can get fuzzy. We’ll both still be blogging, but we have some things planned like going to a movie one afternoon.  Jon is having lunch with a friend and I’m hoping to get a couple of long walks in with the dogs.  We’re also talked about quitting work early and making sure our evenings are free to read, draw and relax. (I’m reading Kate Atkinson’s Shrines Of Gaiety which has me hooked.)

I have a good feeling about it, we’ll see how it goes.

Almost Sold Out Of Lulu and Fanny Magnets

I can hardly believe it.  I have only four Lulu and Fanny magnets left.  In the past couple of days, I sent out almost 100 magnets and many Lulu and Fanny Stickers too.

In each of my packages, whether you buy one magnet,  two potholders or a quilt I put one of my postcards.  Today I used up all my Heron and Nourishing Tears postcards.  But I still had about twenty magnets to send out.

So I looked through our cabinet and found a postcard with a picture of Fate, Bud and Red that Jon took a few years ago. They went in the rest of my packages and will be the card I use until I get more of my own.

I did plan on getting to my studio and making more Sheep Potholders.  I have some more people who want them and I have more fabric.  But my shipping took longer than expected.  And then I went to The Mansion with Jon and Zinnia to visit some of the people in Memory Care.   A few of them are regulars in my art classes.

We stopped at the Co-op to get some onions so I can make soup (split pea and lentil) during the storm that’s on its way.  We also stocked up on sand (we use that instead of icemelt) and birdseed and ran a few other errands in town. After that I had to tend to Lulu who has been limping.

By the time I got done feeding the animals and bringing in wood, it was dark and I hadn’t even blogged.

So the potholders will have to wait till tomorrow. I’m looking forward to getting back to my studio.

Jon and Fate waiting in the car for me while I ran some errands this afternoon.

Winter Solstice

The sun coming in the living room window this afternoon. Drawing by Donna Wynbrandt

On this Winter Solstice, Jon and I won’t have our bonfire as usual.

Instead, I’ll be dancing with the other women in my Bellydancing class.  Tonight is our Hafla.  That’s our yearly celebration where we dance and eat and dance some more.

So our Solstice Bonfire will be postponed by a day.  Tomorrow we’ll celebrate the days getting longer again.

The Undefended Heart

I can still remember pulling the book off the shelf in the library.  That’s how I know I was in elementary school.  I don’t remember how old I was, but I know I was in the school library.  I have a vague memory of the cover too.

It was called “Z” is for Zachariah.  The first post-apocalyptic book I ever read, although I’d seen  enough movies about the world after nuclear war by that time to have a feeling for the subject.

I don’t remember much about the book, it’s more a feeling of emptiness and some hope.

I read many other novels and watched more movies and TV shows on the subject after that.  Like these days, it was a popular subject in the 1970s and early 80s.

Now I understand why I was drawn to them.

I was gathering information, trying to figure out what it might be like to survive a nuclear war.  And if I did, how I would go on living.   In my mind I was always alone, everyone I knew would have died.

After a while, I stopped reading apocalyptic books. I guess I had my fill, felt as if I had learned all I could from them.

Of course, now the apocalyptic threat is no so much from Nuclear war but from Climate Change.

And there are once again plenty of books, movies and TV shows on the subject.  I have resisted most of them, but when Jon told me about the book The Light Pirate by Lily Brooks-Dalton it caught my attention.

I’m glad I read it because ultimately, it was a hopeful book, full of the humanity that only such a story can bring to light.   It seems when we are faced with the destruction of not only the human race, but the earth as we know it, it can help us understand what is really important.

That is how this genre has always taught me about myself in everyday life when there are no immediate threats of war and natural devastation.  Because how we survive is not only about our physical bodies, but our emotional ones as well.

“This is survival.” Brooks-Dalton writes.  “This is how the vessel protects the mind, how the mind protects the heart, how the heart goes on forgetting that its calling is to be undefended, that being broken is part of being whole.”

I have a friend who says she was born with the “happy gene”.  Even in the worst times, she looks for the moment when she can smile, can laugh.  I feel like was born with the “hope gene”.  I can’t imagine living my life without hope. I think, in a way, hope is my faith.

I have no doubt that we are in the process of The Sixth Extinction and this time it’s our fault.  But I still have hope, if not for humanity, for the earth and the life forms to come.

Full Moon Fiber Art