Before we left, we made an inukshuk. The word inukshuk is from an Inuit language and means "human form". They were constructed in the frozen wilderness to let travellers know that someone had trod the same trail before.
July is over, August begins. I am having a wonderful summer.
It was a beautiful day here. I woke up with energy and determination to literally sweep away the cobwebs and start Spring cleaning. I used my usual technique of beginning in a corner of a room and sorting and organizing my way around the room. Things are also thrown away. The second trip around the room involves scrubbing every surface in sight. Step three is vacuuming the floor and the ceiling (remember the afore mentioned cobwebs?) and, because it was a desperate post-winter situation, the livingroom rug got a shampoo. I managed to get the entire downstairs cleaned.
To reward myself for a job well done, I took a walk in the sunshine. I was rewarded with this:
What a happy moment! This little crocus really made my day.
It has been cold on Gothic Hill. Here is a picture of my little house that I took this morning:
The cold snap has also caused me to take drastic measures regarding my chickens. I noticed that they (there are two of them) stopped eating for a day and their combs were looking as though they might be getting frostbitten. I brought them in to live in my cellar until the weather warms up. When I went to check them tonight, they had escaped the area I had tried to limit them to and were perched on the washing machine. I think this makes me officially eccentric.
My maternal grandmother was born in Albion NY in 1891. My mother and her sister have often mentioned that they would like to take the 90-minute drive to visit the town. Today was the day we made it happen. It was the very best kind of a day for a road trip. Western New York is having a string of perfect weather. The leaves are about half changed and not many have fluttered down.
Our first stop in the tiny town of Albion was the church my grandmother attended as a child. Back then, it was St. Joseph's. Now, after a diocesean re-organization, it was combined with another parish and re-named Holy Family. It is a beautiful church featuring massive amounts of pink marble. The alter is exquisite. Here is a picture: (credit Woj Photography)
This photograph makes it look considerably larger than it really is. Being that it is indeed a small world, the priest that celebrated the mass was my aunt's former pastor In Niagara Falls. Furthermore, this priest's father worked on the railroad with my grandfather. He even had a story he remembered about my grandfather, Daniel Buckley;
Dan Buckley and a companion were walking down the street. As they walk past a local gin mill, they notice a man stagger out and proceed to vomit. Seeking to comfort the afflicted, Dan Buckley lays his hand on the poor man's shoulder and says, "Better an empty house than a bad tenant".
And so it goes...
Late June can leave an educator in a tizzy. Organizing and cleaning are a big part of the end-of-year routine. I was weeding out some very old therapy materials in a kit called "Language Rehabilitation Program" that was designed to use with elementary schoolchildren. Keep that fact-a-roo in mind as you peruse these gems:
I love Mr. Lonelypants. The receding hairline, the mouth-watering feast he is preparing and the paunch he is sporting make him loveable.
This foolish, foolish madam gambled with mean ol' Mr.Gravity and lost big time. What are the odds that her hip will survive this tumble?
Mr. Drunkymonkey is pouring three fingers of cheap whiskey to start his day right.
My favorite illustration in this whole kit is this:
There is something vaguely illicit about this picture.
I can hardly wait for September to use these cards to help eight-year-olds expand their language skills. If nothing else, my class will be memorable for the little tykes.
I just returned from a two-day conference in Ontario, Canada. Like all of life's experiences, some of it was good and some not-so-good. It was an early childhood conference sponsored by the Waldorf School of Toronto. I'm glad I went but at the same time, in retrospect, I could have taken a pass on the whole thing. Here is how the weekend went according to nice me and crabby me.
Nice me: It was organized
Crabby me: Registration was supposed to begin at 6:45. The registrar was ready fifteen minutes early and there were a dozen-or-so folks standing in the vestibule of the school. The registrar actually insisted on waiting until the scheduled time to let people pick up their conference materials. She sat with her hands folded for the intervening time. Rigid people like this are the reason we can't have world peace.
Friday night keynote speech:
Nice me: It started with a sing-along. I love sing-alongs. We did a song based on a piece by Mozart and a Celtic chant. The audience of 200 was split into four groups and we sang rounds. Waldorf-ers have skill doing this sort of thing. Not a single person in that huge group bellyached about this activity. They all did it willingly and we sounded beautiful.
Crabby me: Midway through the keynote speaker, I began to feel unwell. I had chills and sweats and an awful ache in my lower back. I left the lecture hall before the lecture was done.
Nice me: A night in Toronto for $10.00. Even though it only amounted to camping out on a carpeted classroom floor, you can't beat that with a stick.
Crabby me: The ache became intense. I realized I had a kidney stone. It must have been a smallish one because although it was mighty uncomfortable, the pain was tolerable. One odd thing about kidney stones is that one can track the progress of the little bastard due to the localized pain as it travels to freedom. As I swigged massive amounts of water to wash the thing away I was able to find a couch in the faculty to sleep fitfully between trips to the washroom (ha! I speak fluent Canadian). By 4:00 am the stone was history and I felt LOADS better.
Nice me: This school has a farmers market featuring organic, biodynamic foods. Shopping at the market is one of the best things about this conference. I bought some turkey eggs I plan to use for an Easter centerpiece.
Crabby me: I bought a wildly expensive slice of a lemon loaf for my breakfast. "It's gluten free!" chirped the cute little vendor. I never experienced a gluten free product before. Didn't like it. Lemon-flavored sawdust.
Nice me: The presentors wanted very much to do a good job and give us as much information as possible.
Crabby me: I was looking forward to a presentation called "Gifts from the Garden". What it ended up being was a lesson on how to identify edible weeds. So far, so good. Her presentation consisted of having the group of fifteen participants huddle around a 15" laptop to look at pictures of the aforementioned weeds. I bailed on that workshop and joined in another that was only marginally better.
Nice me: The organizers put forth great effort to provide a beautiful vegan, gluten-free lunch.
Crabby me: Not to my taste.
Nice me: These people are earnest in their desire to raise children in an environment of love and peace. They are very ardent in the quest to establish family routines and avoid having "media-soaked" children.
Crabby me: These folks are slightly humorless. Very serious about the way they live. Very few of the ladies dyed their hair or used make up. I felt slightly to gussied up. I think it's fair to generalize that lots of these ladies did not have their children when they were young. What with the undyed hair, there were more than a few grey-haired mothers of toddlers.
I do enjoy the handmade toys and tablescapes that are part of the Waldorf pedagogy:
So... It was kind of a wash. On the way home I treated myself to a stop at Ikea and a grocery store. I picked up some lemon curd, arrowroot biscuits and some hot cross buns. I have next week off from work, so I have a few adventures planned.
I like this time of year. It harkens back to Medieval times in that the days are marked with saint's days and liturgical seasons. Starting with St. Valentine's, Ash Wednesday, St. Patrick's Day and St. Joseph's day, in this part of the country, anyway, all these days are observed. It all culminates with the Easter Triduum and, in Western New York, a Polish festival day called Dyngus Day. There is also a secular observance on March 14th which I celebrated for the first time.
The new holiday is Pi Day - 3.14. Linda of Raveloe (that sounds vaguely Medieval, doesn't it?) invited a group to come to her shop and enjoy pie and discuss the mathematical wonder that is Elizabeth Zimmerman's Pi Shawl. We had a lovely evening eating pizza pie and a variety of dessert pies. A few daring members of the group endeavored to sit in a circle and all knit on the same circular shawl at the same time. There were six knitters using circular needles and separate balls of yarn. We discovered that it can be done. Practice will make the process easier, but our experiment was very satisfactory.
A week ago Saturday was Cousin Bridget's fabulous corned beef and cabbage feast. The day after that was the St. Patrick's day parade in Buffalo. Bridget and I made a day of it. We parked our folding chairs on the corner of Delaware and Chippewa Street and enjoyed watching the parade and the parade go-ers.
There is a considerable amount of imbibing as a traditional element of this particular parade. This year was no exception. As the day wore on, it sort of devolved into a drunken brawl. Walking back to the car, Cousin bridget had to grab me by the collar and drag me away when I turned into a rubber-necker when a rumble started across the street from us. We did, however catch sight of a tree which only blooms during this parade:
Starting last Tuesday, I have the dubious honor of hosting my daughter's two dogs while she and her family spend a week in sunny climes. That brings the canine count around here to three. This is the legal limit in my community. That is, I have discovered, a good rule. My life has been letting dogs in and out and in and out. Today I took a picture of the three amigos. When I posted it on facebook I gave it the caption "There is not enough Febreeze in the world to make this couch smell normal again."
On Friday, after the obligatory Lenten fish fry, I went to a lecture by Edwidge Danticat. She is the author of Crik, Crack! among other books. Ms. Danticat is Haitian and much of her lecture was directly related to her background. She was very charming and likable. She is an alumna of Barnard College, as is my own sweet daughter. I brought my knitting with me and enjoyed the event completely.
Today I went to the opening of an art exhibit at the Castellani Art gallery on the campus. The exhibit was devoted to the art of Alice Bak. I knew Alice and always enjoyed her work. She worked very hard to preserve the Polish traditions and folk art in the community. The organizers expected about fifty people to attend the event and were thrilled to have over 200 people show up. Alice was a humble person in the very best sense of that word. She would have been delighted to see such a crowd. I particularly loved the Easter table that was set up with the pysanky eggs and traditional centerpieces. I feel very inspired to have a similar display in my own house. I also loved the sweet embroidery motifs on the tablecloths.
There is a tradition of paper-cutting in Polish folk art. Alice would consider a Polish proverb and create a beautiful papercut to illustrate it. After the show, there was the nicest dinner you can imagine hosted by Bridget and her mother Patricia. it was a Polish menu with pierogie and breaded porkchops. Delicious beyond words. So... That is what my early spring has been like. Busy and interesting.
July was a beutiful month around here. It must have been wearing roller skates because it went by in a flash. I did manage to capture a few images. One of the activities I've done involve wading pools. I had been taking the children to a local pool until an unsavory event occurred. After library story hour, we proceeded to a park. Swimming in the wading pool had been cancelled for the morning in favor of what was billed as the Goldfish Derby. Buckets of little fish had been dumped into the pool and the children were given cups with which to catch some fish to take home. When the event was over, there were a number of fish left. No problem, in the view of the park workers. They drained the pool and used push brooms and power washers to push the poor little fish down the drain. We don't go there any more.
On a happier note, a number ofthe knitters I hang around with on Wednesday nights went to Shakespeare in the Park. This is theatrical group has been putting on productions in Delaware Park in Buffalo for the past 35 years. The current play is MacBeth. The twist is that all of the cast members are female. It was a real treat. Together our group "knit the ravelled sleeve" and truly enjoyed the Scottish play.
Yesterday was another great day. I went to New York State's Amish country. The weather could not have been more perfect.
The Amish live in Leon, Cherry Creek and Randolph, NY about an hour and a half from me. It was a pleasant drive and we had a great time buying the goods for sale. The way it works is that you pick up a map of the area from one of the local stores and then drive to the different homes to shop. Families specialize in weaving rugs, basketry, furniture making, quilts etc. Our group boosted the economy very nicely. We ended our day with a stop at a cheese factory.
These bird houses are made from gourds. The shape and height are intended to attract purple martins, which eat tons of mosquitos. The small stacks of grain in the background are oats. They are cut and put into these sheaves and dried on the ground for two weeks. The oats are then used to feed the hourses for the winter months.
This is a workshop of a family that specializes in weaving rugs. I had a nice conversation with the lady who was in the shop. As she knotted the fringe on a newly-woven rug she described the materials she used and the patterns she enjoyed weaving. I told her about my rigid heddle. "One heddle?" She smirked, and tried not to laugh. I have officially been mocked by an Amish woman.
We had the nicest picnic you could image. (Picture individual blueberry pies, for instance) We foung the loveliest spot near a garden and enjoyed the birdsong and breezes the day had to offer. Hope you had a nice July, too.