Saturday, March 19, 2011

dyed in the wool -- or, what does chaos theory have to do with chess?

I recently read a series of books by Connie Willis about time-traveling Oxford historians in 2060 who go back to the London Blitz, only to find themselves stuck in time.  They were great fun to read, and I liked them so much I even turned around and read the last one again as soon as I finished it.  Willis is a big fan of chaos theory (I found a terrific explanation of the concept here), and she wrote about an intricate web of random minor events with great big huge implications.  My take on this is that the seemingly unrelated events in our lives are imbued with meaning, and that we live in a vast network of interconnections.  The journal page I posted yesterday was inspired by the convergence of several such interconnected strands.....Traci Bunkers, Polka Dot, Carolyn Myss, the US Navy.... we live in a chaotic system, where you never know how you are linked to everyone else.  Just know that you are!  

Last night I decided to dye some wool.  I don't use a lot at a time for embroidery work, but I do love to use beautiful textures.  Buying full skeins of all the colors just isn't cost effective for me, so why not buy one skein of gorgeous fiber, separate it into smaller bits and dye them?  This is half alpaca, half silk, and has a sheen that doesn't show up in the photos.  The dyes are the ones I bought when I visited Peru two years ago (see these posts).  I'm traveling next week and I want a project for the road, so now I have some supplies.

peruvian dyes on alpaca/silk
Dyed in the wool = someone who is unwavering in their principles.  Getting back to Carolyn Myss, she writes that living an honorable life comes at a cost.  You must be willing to stand up for what is right, regardless of how it affects your comforts.  Disasters -- such as Japan's nuclear crisis, or the ruined levies in Hurricane Katrina, for that matter -- take place because corporations (or politicians) are willing to accept even catastrophic future risks rather than impact their bottom line today.  Carolyn's piece urges a sea change in that line of thinking.

And by the way, none of this has anything to do with chess (at least for now).

Friday, March 18, 2011

Visual Prayers for Japan

I am filled with sorrow for the troubles in Japan.  Today, many blogs have been calling for silence and prayers -- I join that effort.  I have been praying constantly for the people of Japan since the crisis began, and now I am adding a visual prayer :
prayers for japan 3.18.11

The thing I keep coming back to is that what harms one part, harms the whole.  So, we are all Japan. We are all Egypt, Libya, Haiti, Chile, Colombia, New Zealand..... Our similarities are greater than our differences.  One of my favorite poems is "No Man is an Island," by John Donne:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

On the subject of what we, as individuals, can do to help, I am hesitant to send cash donations to the American Red Cross even though the news channels all urge us to do so.  They have a relatively high administrative overhead, so less of the money you give will end up benefitting the people in need.  Personally, I give to Americares, which allocates about 99% of its funds to direct assistance, according to Charity Navigator.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Spilling over....

The theme for March over at the Sketchbook Challenge is "spilling over."  Unfortunately, it was all too prescient:  first revolutions spilling over in the Middle East, and now the triple threat of earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown in Japan.  It's ironic that this latest event happened in Japan, because it is the only country to know another kind of nuclear disaster.  I lived in Japan when I was a child, and I remember visiting Nagasaki and being overwhelmed by the extent of that disaster.  I can only imagine how the Japanese are feeling today.  My heart and prayers go out to the Japanese people.

Here are some shots my Dad took when we visited Nagasaki in 1968 (PS, I'm the one in the polka dots):

Remains of water tank, NagasakiRemains of Catholic Church, Nagasaki
Nagasaki 1968

Yesterday, it all just spilled over for me -- here's my "quilt in a day:"
improv quilt after world events
This is about 2' square, improvisational topstitching, with a muslin-based image of the Holy Mother, painted in watercolor and water-based oil pastels over gesso.  The technique is one I saw on Quilting Arts TV, by Julie Fei-Fan Balzer.  It's simple and a lot of fun.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Prayers for the Middle East

The democratic movement that has been sweeping the countries of the Middle East has been uppermost in my thoughts lately. I studied in Egypt, both as an undergraduate and after I finished graduate school, so I know first hand how deeply they yearn for freedom. Freedom to live without fear, away from the shadow of corruption, able to choose their own destiny, and succeed (or fail) on their own terms. With that in mind, I posted this on the sketchbook challenge page:
spilling over--middle east
The theme of this month is "spilling over," and I thought how delicate is this moment in time, when the urge toward freedom is spilling over in the region -- but like a seedling, it can all so easily be struck back by a killing frost, or trampled underfoot.  I pray that democracy is stronger than corruption, and I pray that our government here at home will pay more than just lip service to our founding principles.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Needle Weaving

My mother loves texture, and she has collected interesting textures all my life:  driftwood, rusty iron, fancy yarns, photos of things she's seen on her travels, among other things.  She is especially fascinated by weaving, and I think I've inherited her fascination.  But unlike her, I am not really interested in getting a loom and working large scale.... I prefer the intimacy of a small piece.  Needle weaving (the uptown word for the darning stitch) is a technique I think I can use.
needle woven fields