Friday, September 16, 2022

Dance your heart out!!

This was the response from a friend of mine, when I said that I was taking a folk dancing class this Fall.

Well, I went to my first class today and I am in awe!! This is a class that has been together for 30 years. It has been taught by the same instructor, Olga, for all those years. There is obviously something very enduring about folk dance - trends come and go, but the truly memorable lives on.

There are 30 of us in the class. Most of the participants have been there for years - maybe even 30!! They were most welcoming - thrilled to be able to pass their love of folk dancing onto others. These are the gems of life that are often overlooked.

We danced four circle dances from eastern Europe - Olga's specialty is eastern European dances, which she has taught to Japanese dancers on several trips to Japan. This is a subsection of society that I have somehow missed. 

I won't bore you with the details of the dances except to say that there were four circle dances one each from Turkey, Croatia, Macedonia and Thrace.

I also found out that there was an International Folk Dance Association. Where have you been all my life!!

A quick Google search revealed many folk dancing groups in Toronto. I would love to do the one's associated with Ireland and Scotland, however they are mostly offered in the evening and I rarely go out at night.

So I guess I will dance my heart out on Friday mornings from 10:00-12:00 after a quick 15 minute walk from home. (OK, 30 minutes at a leisurely pace - but I was late.)

Where in the world can you find this type of international entertainment, walking distance?

It may ease my need to travel....for the moment.

Have an amazing day!!

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

The Thickness of Ply....

The word for our third memory challenge is "ply." It's a simple 3 letter word with a depth of meaning, no pun intended. "Ply," as a noun, means "layering." As a verb it is often defined as "pushing on," layering ones efforts repeatedly to achieve an end.

I have dealt with ply in an industrial sense for years. As a reseller of yarns, I had to know how many plys were in a strand of yarn and what was the thickness of each sub-ply which made up the final strand of yarn. It's a language unto itself. I would have to able to say that I needed 10s/2/4, which meant that I needed my yarn plied with 4 strands of yarn that was actually 2 plied strands of a 10 spun yarn. This would be the organic cotton that I ordered from the mills in both the US and Peru, years ago.

For my lace weight yarn, I could easily order 18/2, which would be 2 plied stands of a single yarn spun to the international thickness of 18. There are standard measurements for this.

I once visited a plier in Brampton, ON. The owner had inherited the business from his family, who supplied cotton yarns for weavers. He would buy single strands of a two-ply yarn. It always had to be two ply because that's how you deal with the bias. Two yarns plied together have opposing tensions, which, when joined, "settle" the yarn into a single relaxed strand. These strands are then plied to other similar strands to make - 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.....etc thicknesses (of plies). His facility was amazing. If you have ever had to untangle yarn, think of miles of yarn from huge cones being guided through eyes and pulleys to eventually be joined together in the required ply and wound onto smaller more manageable cones. The machinery might have taken up the space of 1/4 of an acre. God forbid that it should ever knot.

This was my business side of "ply."

My personal use of ply has to do with my embroidery. I am using my mother's embroidery thread, which was bought in production quantities, for hand smocking about 80 years ago. This yarn has names, such as, Clark's, Corticelli, Anchor. All the skeins are 6 ply 100% cotton and yes, I can take apart one of the plys and it has two strands of the finest yarn, I could ever imagine, plied together. I usually divide the thread I am using into 3 strands from the original 6. If I need a thinner thread then I use 2 strands. I have yet to use a single 2-ply strand. But I am planning to embroider over drawings. I can see using a single strand for eyes and their respective creases - life's layering.

Here "ply" is so much a part of Art. I add to my mother's colour palette, which has dwindled over the years, embroidery floss from DMC. I marvel at the extensive colour choices, the subtle nuances of shades and the variegated dyes, for those who don't create their own shading.

I have often said that I deal in the microcosm, the small under the microscope facets of life. Well yarn in its finest ply is right up there with the minutae of daily living. And to think that this obsession is supported in the mainstream by corporations that supply us with yarns plied in the colours and gauges of our wildest dreams. The needle arts have not died, they have been subdivided into plies of the finest threads to be used to weave, embroider, knit, crochet.....etc. the stories of our lives.

Not any particular isolated memory, more of a compilation of small moments, plied together to make a memoir.

Actually I will add here a personal note about my mother's embroidery thread. Each colour came in it's own box and each box held about 24 skeins. At one time there were almost 100 of these boxes stored in two large crates. They followed us everywhere. My father was in Real Estate and we moved house often. The yarn always came with us. When my mother died, somehow my sister inherited the boxes. I'm not sure why they didn't come to me, but my sister claimed everything she thought she could sell.

One day she sent me an email. She said that she had put the embroidery floss up on Kijiji and no one wanted it. Would I like it? I would love it! I couldn't imagine it falling into the hands of someone who, yes, might appreciate it, but not know of its history, its personal importance. That individual would not have sat for hours beside my mother watching her set up the bodices of dresses on her small makeshift embroidery frame. They would not have watched her gather the fabric into tiny accordions and stitch those pleats together in chevrons of back stitch or embroider small flowers in between the main designs. They would not have remembered the brilliant orange, red and pink broadcloths cut and sewn into Peter Pan collars and small puffed sleeves to finish the dresses. They would not have seen the look of peace on my mother's face. She was in another world when she smocked. I like to remember my mother this way. In fact, one of the boxes of thread had a half used skein of blue floss. The end was secured in a professional knot. I think that the last person to touch this skein was my mother. I'm keeping it that way.

The picture? Some plied beauty.

Have a many faceted day

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Height and the usefulness of ladders....

 The word for our second memory challenge is "ladder." Here's how I remembered it.

Given that my father was a silver medalist in Canadian diving, height had very little effect on him. Placing a ladder on the apex of a bungalow's roof so he could climb up and fix the orientation of our TV antenna was simply what he did to save money and improve reception.

One day, however, it was a little windy and I guess the weather had unnerved him. He asked me to stabilize the ladder, while he climbed up, yet again, to tweak the antenna. 

"You just straddle the roof of the house and hold the base of the ladder, while I climb up," he said.

Now let's put this in perspective. I was 12 years old, about 4'5" tall and 95lbs. My father was 42 years old,  5'7" in height and about 200 or more pounds. There was no way that I could prevent that ladder from toppling over in a sudden gust of wind. But, that day, I had become my father's keeper.

How he managed to get both of us onto the roof, pull up the ladder and then position it against the antenna was a feat in itself.

He climbed on the first rung. I inched forward to grab the sides of the ladder. He climber higher. I held my breath. Ladders shift with weight. I gripped the struts tighter hoping to anchor the ladder to the roof of the house with my fragile limbs. I couldn't fail. I had to keep him from falling to his death. The ladder shifted. I pulled tighter. How long does it take to adjust a wire or two? How long would I live with the guilt of his death. The wind blew up. I closed my eyes. I clenched my hands tighter around the base of the ladder. My knuckles were white. Surely this would be his Armageddon. Do all electrical engineers die by twisting the wires of Fate? 

Finally, the ladder shifted slightly with his decent. It was over. I was free and he was saved, for now anyway from a premature death. In fact, he went on to live another 62 years. His next house had an antenna with a built in ladder secured to the ground not the roof. I often think he had a Guardian Angel - Evel Knievel comes to mind.

At the time I never questioned his sanity in choosing me as his safety net. After all, I was the eldest, my mother's balance wasn't great, or she had more sense and the neighbour's had given up on him years ago.

In fact, this ladder incident was just one in a series of chores I was asked to do. Fortunately the other tasks were more mundane. I could jockey the car out of a snowbank while he pushed from behind. I was 13 or 14 without a license. This is second only to popping the clutch to start a car with a dead battery, while he pushed the car downhill, to get her rolling. Again I had no license. I could hold the solder while he used a blow torch in a tricky plumbing maneuver. This was easy I had done it before when I was 8 or 9. The list goes on. My father always wanted me to be a lawyer. No, I should have been an engineer.

Have a grounded day.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Sands of time...

My writing partner and I have reconnected and we have decided to write in a slightly different vein. Rather than simply giving each other words, as a challenge, we have decided to give each other "memory" suggestions. Yes, they may still be words, but they have to be connected to personal memories - definitely a challenge for me, as I tend to lock "things" away, avoiding the personal - so here I am baring my soul!!

Our first writing for this challenge will be on the memory of "sand." 

Well, my first recollections of sand are of a sandbox my grandfather made for me in our teeny-tiny backyard on Gladstone Ave. in Toronto. My grandparents owned an attached house that was 17' wide, so yes, everything physical was either very small or overstuffed and out of proportion. However, to a child, as long as there was love, harmony and a place to play, it was a perfect world.

My best memories of sand are also of summer. I vaguely remember a trip to Lake Erie, when I was very young. I remember losing a small wooden boat in the waves. Why there was not an adult there to retrieve it, is still a mystery. There were also more mysteries buried in sand, when my parents bought a small cottage on Lake Ontario in an area called Fairport Beach. This was not a holiday house, for us. It was meant to be our year round home, until the realities set in. There was -

1. No potable water. We had to fetch buckets of drinking water from our neighbour's well.

2. No flush toilet.

3. No bath and only one sink, which was in the kitchen.

4. My parents didn't own a car and the bus to anywhere was a two mile walk.

Although our indoor arrangements were limited, our outdoor amenities were amazing. I remember the long stretches of sandy beach, the endless sky meeting the boundless water, the piles of pebbles, the masses of driftwood, and the small pools of a million tiny minnows. This was nature's wealth to share with those who saw her riches. The beach itself was a playground of a different sort. There were just a few of us - my sister and I, the five Morrises, and the three Menarys, ranging in age from about three to eight. We climbed the cliffs, waded into the frigid waters of the lake, built homes of driftwood and lit small fires in the sand to smoke "punk" - small bits of driftwood that looked like cigarette butts - pretending to be adults. In fact there never seemed to be an adult around. Fathers were at work and mothers were at home. We roamed like the free spirits we were. 

However, not all was as idyllic as it seemed. On the steep headland that dropped down to the beach were pockets of clay. A clever trick the older kids played on the younger ones was to lead them across the cliff to a slippery patch of clay and let them struggle there, screaming for help. I remember it was terrifying. There was no foot hold and the drop to the rocky shore was at least 10 feet. Even if you managed to hang on to a weed or two the older kids would push you back onto the clay. My sister and I must have screamed so loudly that someone ran to get our mother. The others took off leaving us there looking like helpless prey. Fortunately, my mother, with a great deal of effort, was able to drag us off the clay and onto the rocks. She was not pleased. We, of course, were blamed for not being smart enough to stay out of trouble.

There was another nasty trick I remember, an older boy playing once or twice, as well. He was a fat-faced bully with squinting eyes and yellow teeth who would purposely start an argument with you near the edge of the cliff. He would inch forward accusing you of stealing or calling him names. Your natural instinct was to step back from his imposing figure. In the heat of the argument it was easy to lose your orientation and step back too far only to fall off the cliff. I think it was the sand that saved me. Yes, when I came home crying, I was punished for being stupid enough to put myself at risk. My mother's heart was made of rock not sand.

We didn't last long by the lake. I went back to live with my grandparents, when I started school and my parents moved with my sister to a small flat in Toronto, renting out the cottage to another young family. We traded the sandy shores of the beach for the concrete streets of the city, exchanging a wild and dangerous freedom for the confines of verandas, sidewalks and sandboxes. In my mind, I know that this safety was better, however, in my heart, I still yearned for the freedom of the timeless days, the endless reaches of the lake and the eternal stretches of sand with their breathtaking challenges.

Have a timeless day.

Sunday, July 24, 2022

My Kingdom for a Mermaid's Purse

 I know a little dramatic, but here's how I got there.

I'm in the process of trying to find ways of both appreciating and preserving artwork that I have done, my kids have done, and others, close to us, have done.

For the artwork in fabric, I have begun doing a series of quilts, as a way of preserving and appreciating some lovely pieces. This is a square from a quilt for a twin bed. Well, of course there will be two quilts, because they are for twin beds and have to be matching. Each quilt has 28 squares of appliqu├ęd and embroidered pieces of needlework that I felt had to be saved. These pieces would be crocheted doilies from my grandmother, a collection of silk and linen handkerchiefs from my mother and a "crazy silk" wall hanging I did years ago and never liked. I know the kids will just throw out the individual items as soon as I'm gone. In fact, they may still throw out the quilts, as well, but the guilt will be greater! 

Each square is joined to the next with a strip of fabric which in turn is embroidered. 

Here is one of the almost finished quilts. I have the other one close to being finished, as well, and I have hand stitched the fabric edging to the first one. I now have to piece together a backing for both quilts, embroider the edgings and secure the backing to the front with some quilting - evening activity for the "stuff" I do during the day.

...but I digress. I was talking about a Mermaid's Purse...we're close.....I don't do much gardening in July - it's either too hot, or I've given up, so I "putter" around adding something here, re-arranging something there...the list goes on. The other day I mounted several pencil sketches I did years ago. Yes, I actually found them in one of the 25 or so half finished sketch books scattered throughout the house. I also found sketches my eldest did when he was young - more ideas for quilts now that I know how to transfer pictures to cloth.

This isn't one of the sketches, but it's close enough. The framed ones are also of shells. This is where I needed help. I had two framed sketches, but needed a third for balance. I decided that I would do a new sketch, but it had to be of shells or similar beach finds. Well, we had kept a few treasures from our various trips to the sea and I was able to locate an almost intact Sand Dollar, a very small and totally intact Star Fish, but I needed a Mermaid's Purse (embryo case for a shark). We used to have about a dozen, but I guess I threw them out over the years. Suddenly, the idea of a beach trip started to materialize.

No, I couldn't justify spending a lot of money to go to the beach to collect a few shark cases. It was at this point that my daughter came home from work and asked how my day was going. I moaned about having thrown out all of our Mermaid's Purses and how I happened to need one right now!

My kids, for all I complain about their messy rooms, their tardiness in doing chores or their flagrant waste of food, time and/or money, are still very magical people. My daughter came downstairs a few minutes later with one almost intact Mermaid's Purse. This only happens in movies or in fairy tales, but it's what makes life precious.

I'm toying with the final arrangement for the sketch. I may show some of the crumbling edge of the Sand Dollar or the other side of the Mermaid's Purse, with its missing "arms" - a composition, perhaps, that comes closer to a statement on life itself. There will always be a missing tendril or two, some crumbling around the edges, beside one or two perfect accomplishments, all preserved in the treasures we decide to keep from the detritus of our lives.

Have a accomplished day!

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

I have lost count...

 ...which is better than losing face or maybe even Faith. I don't know if there are parameters for things like - too much snow, too much grey, too much idle time, too much dark.... the list goes on. In fact, I have lost count of the number of - 

1. Waves of this pandemic. I hear there is another to come, now would that be 5, 6 or 7?

2. OK, I haven't lost count of the masks, only about 5 or 6 that have been used. Maybe one for each wave. Yes, we are told to "ride them out", but we (I) are (am) not surfers and really no one wants to catch one of these waves.

3. The number of hours that should be daylight, which are not because the clouds are so thick they smother the sun and my soul.

4. The number of snowflakes that have fallen after the start of Spring. Yes, I know it can snow in May. Do I get clear passage to heaven for my penance of enduring more Canadian winters than I care to count - there's that word again.

5. The number of squares of an afghan I am crocheting - yes there are probably about 50 or more, but there is always one or two less than I think there should be. If I were paranoid, I would think that someone was stealing my granny squares. Yes, I have lost count of the number of times I think I have lost my mind.

6. The number of left-over meals you can make from one $12.00 chicken on sale at Metro. Maybe 5 or 6, if you count the lunches. If I did the math, that would be about $2.00 per meal. Then again one ham and cheese sandwich with coffee from Jules is a $12.00 lunch. Time to stop counting the calories and/or the pennies.

7. The number of times I check my e-mail for some enlightenment. I could count the spam, but that would be too depressing.

8. The number of plants in my house. I bought a few to ease the boredom of the lockdowns. However, they grow and breed and now I have so many that I have lost count....

9. The number of snowdrops in the garden that have come up through the leaves that have not been raked, because of the number of days that have been below zero.

10. The number of sighs breathed in an hour to fill the time waiting for something to happen, to count, to be an accomplishment, to be rapture!!

The pictures? Things that count.

Have an awesome day

Friday, February 25, 2022

Oceans of Snow

The Winter of 2022 might just go down as the Winter from Hell. Well maybe I shouldn't say Hell, because it's warm there (or so I am told, I've never actually been) and should, as a result, melt everything. This Winter is definitely right up there with the Winter of 1970-71 where I distinctly remember a country road with snowbanks so high they met at the top and created a tunnel, even for the snow plow - wow!

My mother would say it wasn't anything like the Winter of 1944 (I wouldn't know), when the milkman couldn't get his horse-drawn cart up Gladstone Ave. to deliver milk to my grandmother's house because she fostered babies (5 at a time) from the Infant's Home and they needed that milk!! Hence (love that word) the milkman walked half a fairly long city block, with at least six quarts of milk through knee-high drifts to make sure these babies were fed. They don't make them like this anymore!

So, here we are with white caps on an ocean of snow. Drifts like the breakers of a moody sea swell and swirl, eddy and heave with the wind and the changing light. They are pretty, if you don't have to navigate them. The view from the upper deck is just fine.

The pictures? I know a little repetitious - go figure.

Have a precious day.