Sunday, January 29, 2012

How Did This Happen

How Did This Happen?
How Did This Happen? Amaranth Road Studio. 2012

I recently made this needle felted bird family and the shocked looks on their faces pretty  much sums up how I'm feeling right now. My baby is due in two weeks. I've started my maternity leave. All of a sudden life is taking on this rather desperate feeling as I watch the days of solitude pass quietly away and watch my belly grow larger by the hour. There is something tectonic going on in there. It manifests as strange pains: stabbing, stretching, twisting, aching. My whole body is cracking open and it's both terrifying and awe inspiring to observe this huge physical event going on in my own body. It's been amazing to find that my body has contained dozens of dormant systems that are now all roaring to life in astounding ways. The complexity of human biology has never felt so concrete.

I'd like to share a poem today that is resonating with me as my baby's arrival approaches. I swear this poem is about pregnancy. Enjoy some ee cummings:

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
                                  i fear
no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want
no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Attentive Ghost

Early Spring
First Buds. Copyright Andrea Paterson at Amaranth Road Studio. 2012

Dear Reader

Baudelaire considers you his brother, and Fielding calls out to you every few paragraphs as if to make sure you have not closed the book, and now I am summoning you up again, attentive ghost, dark silent figure standing in the doorway of these words.

Billy Collins

In the short poem above Billy Collins addresses the reader who acts as a constant presence in the life of a writer. Collins suggests that a writer cannot function without feeling the presence of a reader in the shadows. The relationship between writer and reader is essential to the art of writing--there must be an audience, however amorphous or intangible. The reader bears silent witness to the writer’s craft, always acting as impetus to write and shaping the writer’s words by stimulating the imagination, forcing the writer to conjure up a particular sort of reader that they would like to engage with their work.

The reader standing in the doorway, casting their own shadow, alters what is perceptible in the work of the writer. The shadow cast over the words is unique to the reader and as such the reader integrates themselves into the production of written art. Meaning is produced through the interplay of dual presences--the writer and the reader together decide upon the final form of the work.

I have been thinking about the writer/reader dyad in relation to the way my own life is changing. For the past nine months there has been a strong presence at the corner of my world. This child within me, almost ready to be born, has already begun to shape my actions, my thoughts, my words because suddenly I am aware that I am never alone. Someone else, someone currently unknown and mysterious, lurks just out of reach, casting tantalizing shadows over the familiar edges of my life, transforming them into new shapes entirely. I cast this baby as a reader of my own existence, a being summoned up from nothing, yet profoundly affecting the unfolding narrative of my life. If I thought I was writing only for myself, that can never be the case again. This attentive ghost, who has been listening to the sound of my heartbeat and the rush of blood through my veins, wields extraordinary power to alter my perception completely. Anything I write in my life’s work now will be written with this child in mind.

And this tiny creature will come to be a writer in their own time, and perhaps I will be one of many readers in their life, quietly encouraging their own story to unfold. And as we read the wavering lines of our mutual existence, as the story bends around each of our bodies--flowing water around rocks in a narrative stream--we will compose a collaborative work. Two lives become three and the shadow currently standing in the doorway will take on an existence in flesh, punctuating our sentences with long vowels and the shrieks that precede language. We will see ourselves anew as we listen to this ancient voice singing the first song ever written. My awe stems not from the helplessness of my coming child but from knowledge of their extraordinary power. I am about to travel to the edges of pain, to the very limit of my own strength, and I will bring back a creature of myth--something magical, elemental, water-born. And when that first cry pierces the darkness my entire vocabulary will be changed forever and the trajectory of my story permanently altered to fit the curled form of a ghost brought to life, a witness summoned from beyond this world to reshape every notion I ever had about what it means to love.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Hugging Bears

Hugging Bears 3

Another project that was given away as a gift--needle felted hugging bears! I found this pattern in a bizarre craft book that was sent to me from a family member in Australia. Pass Me a Smile by Toyoko Sugiwaka is full of truly unusual felt and fabric projects including a one eyed cat tea cozy inspired by the author's beloved pet. The book is worth taking a look at if you can get access to it.

Note that this bear pattern is not my own but was copied from Sugiwaka's book. I'll be posting some new needle felting of my own design shortly as I'm in the process of working on a family of small birds.

Hugging Bears 2

Friday, January 13, 2012

Orkney Hat

When I travelled to Orkney last October I was determined to bring back something that was strongly tied to the land there. My mind immediately hoped for yarn--something aran weight, something deeply Scottish and reflective of remote island life. Imagine my joy when, after stepping off the tiny plane from the Scottish mainland, I found a display case in the airport containing skeins of locally produced yarn. I may have done a small dance of joy while M. looked at me like I'd lost my mind. I wrote down the address of the yarn shop and convinced M. to take a drive out there on a blustery afternoon.

Upon arrival I was able to speak with the shop owner who was passionate about local production and lamented the loss of local woolen mills. While Orkney still breeds a number of hardy, local sheep it's very difficult to have the yarn spun without shipping it to China. Chinese mills are taking over because they're cheaper than the local heritage mills. The owner of the Benlaw Woolshed has the fleece from her local sheep spun at one of the only heritage mills left in the UK, and located in Orkney. Her process is completely organic. Her sheep are well adapted to the harsh local conditions and produce a thick and warm fleece. The resulting yarn is rustic--it doesn't have the next-to-skin-softness of the merino and alpaca that is in such high demand in today's yarn market, but it does have the virtues of being durable and completely natural. The yarn came in only three undyed colours--oatmeal, light brown, and dark chocolate. I bought a skein of each and took home a pattern for an aran hat.

I finished the hat before the holidays and decided to give it away as part of a gift exchange. Here is the result--a labour of love from sheep to mill to finished product brought to you all the way from the Orkney Islands. I hope to make more hats with the remaining yarn as I definitely want one of these for myself!

Orkney Toque 2 Orkney Hat. Amaranth Road Studio. 2011