Word and Works

Today I got to write with the writer’s group I used to spend time with and it was just delightful! Schedules change and things happen to make it impossible to go… but then schedules change again and make it possible once more!

The writing prompt for today was Word and Works. The group had been writing using a work of art as a prompt, but I kinda missed that bit, so I did it a little differently. However, they were, as they were in the past, kind and supportive. Looking forward to doing this again and hopefully on a regular basis.

 

Word and Works

The line between didn’t really exist. The line between the word and the action wasn’t really a line at all. It was the breath; that is all there was. A breath between the word and the work. The breath made word into work. Word made flesh and blood and bone, working together. Breath made static word into kinetic work of body.

But first
Breath and word became the perpetual motion of light; working, pressing back the dark. Always birthing, bringing the new.

Then
Breath and word became the work of flow. Flowing water and air. The work of ebbing life, the work of growing green, the work of shinning blue. The in and out of breath was the flow of word into work.

At last
Came the flesh and blood and bone. Finally, came the vessel to carry the breath. Word and work joined in breath became the beat of blood and heart, the soar of the mind, the lift of the hands.

Breath wove through words and became the fabric of work, wrapping up the vessel in life. Filled up the vessel to the brim, seeped into every moment, filled and stretched and pushed outward to overflowing; till overflow was inevitable.

The word rode the breath through the vessel, up and up and out of the mouth and the work was love. And the vessel was love.

But all of this
This was before. Before we drew a line between word and work; before we held our breath and separated the doing from the being; the bold, wide line that cuts us in two.

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End Of Summer Canning

Well, I want to be canning but it seems that I can’t get there from here because my schedule is overflowing with work things to do. However, it appears there may be canning opportunities next week!

What to can? Well, I’m not completely sure what will be on the menu, though apples are likely. Barber’s Orchard is just down the road and they’ve got some delicious apples! I found this article about what kinds of foods are in season in North Carolina throughout the year and it seems, logically, that what’s in season is what’s eligible for preserving. I’d like to freeze some things but I have extremely limited freezer space so I couldn’t really do much with that.

Although I’d be happy to not deal with apple sauce for a while (due to the relatively recent apple sauce extravaganza at the church with over 21 gallon bags to freeze), I’m still quite likely to do something or another with apples. I’d like to make stewed (not sauced) apples or something like I usually put into apple pies so that I could have canned apple pie filling. I’ve still got some of these spiced apples that I canned a couple of years ago and they’re pretty yummy but not exactly what I wanted to do.

Hopefully more posts and photos of fruity veggie goodness will follow soon!

Freezing Fresh Basil

Last week I joined several ladies at the church for a “Canning Bee” as we sliced, cooked, squished, and bagged countless apples into over 20 gallons of applesauce. It was all spooned into plastic bags and frozen and it made quite a windfall for the Community Table! While I think it is really great to give food to community organizations that provide meals to those who need some assistance, I also think it’s pretty awesome to give them really GOOD food–good tasting and good for you, too!

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That same day, the woman with the proliferation of apples brought an equally abundant harvest of basil. In fact, it was so much basil that the whole church smelled deliciously of basil even the next day long after the apples were gone.

Ultimately, I was the recipient of the lion’s share of this harvest (two gallon sized bags crammed full!) and was delighted but clueless as to what to do with it all. My hope was to make pesto at some point but that point was not any time soon, so the only option I could come across was freezing.

However, I’ve never frozen basil before. One suggestion I had been given was to place them flat in a ziplock and freeze them that way. Then they could be crushed when frozen and wouldn’t have to be chopped. I was pretty worried that they would turn brown or black if I did that. I did a small sample of leaves in this way and while it was super easy to “chop” them by simply squishing the bag, they did indeed turn quite dark.

Even though I was willing to use a small portion of the enormous bounty of basil for that test, I wasn’t willing to risk it all, so I found a solution on Pinterest. (see my Pinterest page for my boards.) Here’s what I found and it really does a super job and it’s part way towards the pesto I want to make, too, because it involves olive oil.

You will need: fresh basil, olive oil of your choice, some kind of container to freeze it in that is (my suggestion) no larger than a 1 cup size.

Wash the leaves, trimming off any flowers and long stems. Let them air dry on a paper towel or clean dishtowels. This took about 20 min for me and I wasn’t super patient about the drying part! It was really late at night and I’d been chopping and squishing apples all day!

There seem to be several options at this point.

Chopping: fine or coarse. I chose coarse because, as I said, I was tired. Plus, my little tiny food processor would have taken FOREVER to do this much basil–if, of course, I could find the blades!

Containers: some people choose to freeze the basil in ice cube trays. I thought that was a brilliant idea! I didn’t have any, though, and I did have a few of those ziplock type small plastic containers. I think you could use anything you wanted but I’d guess it shouldn’t be more than about a cup size since you’ll have to thaw the whole container when you’re ready to use it.

Pour a layer of olive oil in the bottom of the container and swish it to cover the sides. The OO is what keeps the leaves from turning dark, so you want as much of everything covered as possible. Pack in the leaves, covering with the oil, and stick in the freezer. I did mine in layers since it was a rough chop: put in a bunch of basil, pour in some OO, squish, repeat.

Yummmy! I’m looking forward to making pesto soon!

Creative Impulse

Often, we seem to think that creativity is an uncontrollable impulse. It seems that all kinds of creative endeavors, from photography to painting or fabric arts to sculpture or writing to metalwork, are dependent upon the fickle and capricious appearance of this impulse. It comes and goes as it will and we are at this muse’s whim.

However, this may not be exactly as full an understanding of creativity as we might think. I’m not convinced that we are utterly at the mercy of creativity’s impulsive nature. Ray Bradbury’s book, Zen In the Art of Writing,  gives many good ideas on how to tame the muse or, put another way, find ways to stimulate creativity and not be continually at the mercy of its appearance (or absence).

A recent post on a chainmailing blog I follow has some fantastic ideas as well. Actually, they are ideas that come from some seasoned artists. The post summarizes the various suggestions and recommends some good books to read. It’s an excellent post and well worth the read! And these are good ideas and suggestions whether your vocation includes a creative component or if you need creative sparks in any area of your life.

For me, the very best things that have helped me remain creative personally and professional are simple: write every day even if it is a seemingly uninspiring journal entry, read both fiction and non fiction as much as I can, put intentional focus on the details, patterns, colors, people, animals and natural elements of the world around me, and when I realize I am stuck with a project(which usually occurs about 3 hours into stuck-ness) I get up and do something completely different for a while.

Of course, sometimes creativity simply won’t flow. There’s a reason why people sometimes equate a time when they cannot get moving creatively as dry and desert like. It seems that these times are a little like the times when people come to see me for pastoral care. In a crisis, even a mild one, our vision becomes narrowed. We see fewer options, see less support, help, and connections to our world around us. It is as if we are seeing, thinking and feeling with blinders on.  We remove those, or at least shift them out a bit, when we move out of ourselves and broaden our vision. The same is true for creativity.

Got ways you spark your creativity? I’d love to hear about it!

New Blog and New Mini Obsession

Oh Instagram (and associated apps) where have you been all my life???

Well, I think it and they have been on all the i technology which I have avoided like the slimy plague. Recently, however, I got an Android phone and have been inducted into the world of Instagram and Pixlr-o-mat and I LOVE it!

I would have seriously turned up my snobbish photographer’s nose a few years ago at the idea of using a camera in a cell phone much less using digital manipulation software to distort images making them appear, in some cases, of lesser quality than they actually are and, occasionally, in some state of decay. Yet, here I am! And I’ve even added another blog to my blogset: The Mental Instagram Scrapbook.

For some time, I’ve had The Mental Scrapbook, a location for my photography. Even with my new found love of the gram/mat style, it didn’t seem to be quite right to add these new images to that blog. A bit like eating salt and vinegar potato chips alongside a piece of chocolate cheesecake. Both yummy in their own way, but somehow inappropriate on the same plate.

So, visit if you wish and here’s a little set of some snaps:

Chainmail

In April I finally got a chance to do something I’ve always wanted to do: learn how to make chainmail*.

For most all of my life I’ve had a fascination with warriors and particularly the warrior girl/ warrior woman archetype. Some day I will have my own suit of armor! Unfortunately, for all kinds of logical and rational reasons, that day is not today. However when that day comes, I can now make the chainmail portion myself if I wish!

Actually, chaimail is a bit more than just that. Historically, it played a significant role in warfare and the survival of battle participants including dogs and horses as well as humans. It’s also the grandfather of Kevlar and other kinds of modern day body armor used by military and police.

And it’s awesome.

Tiny rings of hard metal woven together into something fluid and as flexible as cloth. Little insignificant round bits that are worth next to nothing alone become strong and beautiful together. There is something a little magical about it. There are tons of different kinds of chainmail and all are based on the small jumpring; a little link of metal.

When people think of chaimail, they usually picture something they’ve seen in a movie. Think Lord of the Rings, Kingdom of Heaven, A Knight’s Tale, or even Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Usually (though not always) this is traditional European 4 in 1 mail. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg!

These are images of things I’ve made. On the whole, it’s jewelry and I’ve really enjoyed making it. There’s even a little bit of scale mail! By far my favorite piece is the dog collar! Doesn’t she look like a regal little warrior girl? I’ve even opened an etsy shop which can be found here.

The thing I like the best about the chaimail is it’s interdependence. That’s its strength. Remember that old saying about how a chain is only as strong as its weakest link? For the most part, that’s not true for chaimail. With so many rings linked, no single ring holds the piece together. There’s always a back up link. They always work as a team and so the strength of the piece is greater than the sum of its parts.

The guy who taught the class I took at the Jackson County Green Energy Park was Brock Martin. Brock is a blacksmith and all around awesome person with infinite patience even with people like me. He owns WarFire Forge and makes amazing things! If you’re interested, there are often chainmail classes at the larger craft stores like Michaels or A C Moore and a search on their sites will point you to classes in your area. Also CG Maille and Maille Artisans International League are both full of great information and The Ring Lord is the best place on earth to buy supplies.

*Or you could say chain mail or chainmaille. It’s all the same thing, just different spellings.

Folk School Week!!

This is the week of Folk School! I’m attending the John C Campbell Folk School and taking a class on woodturning. In the multitude of crafty things I have dabbled in over the years, woodturning is not among them.

Plies of fine sawdust like angel hair lie in heaps on the floor. Every shade of blonde brunette and red. Some are ringlet Shirley Temple curls, some little more than dust. Like some strange beautician with unfamiliar tools used for wooden angels, we trim and trim down bit by bit.

Just a little off the top, please!

All of the Folk School seems other-worldly in some way or another. Some of it is a bit of time transport to another age when people were required to create things “by hand”, one at a time, each piece bearing an intended (or unintended) signature. Blacksmiths and woodturners, jewelry makers and quilters, wood carvers and woodworkers. That is something I have learned here. Many crafts that we assume go by one heading are very much not the same.

Woodcarving, woodturning and woodworking are not the same thing at all. My suspicion is that the relation is like knitting and crochet. Same materials, similar looking tools, very different skills and very different craft. Metalworking, blacksmithing and jewelry making seem to share a similar relationship.

It also feels otherworldly because of the rural setting. I live in a semi rural small town, so it isn’t too out of the norm to be far away from the closest Target store. Still, there are fields of gold and green, purple and white clover, cows in the distance and behind them rise this edge of the Appalachians. Wooded areas are dense and protected here. Birds abound.

Ultimately, the otherworldliness seems to come from the whole notion of learning from a crafts person face to face. A master of their craft. Not just a you tube video or a demonstration at Michaels or a website or even a book. All those things are great! Don’t get me wrong here, I have learned or taught myself many things in those very ways. But the whole concept of this is different. Here, we are working with someone who has mastered the craft.

There is something arcane about it all.

It is more like a classroom, obviously, but no assumption is made that you’ll know it all in a matter of hours. Here, a craft and its mastery are taken quite seriously. Of course, there is also the assumption that you are not going to master the craft in a week either, but it is a unique experience to learn and create something, gain the beginnings of a skill and do so within the watchful eyes of someone who knows massive amounts about the work and who is there to correct, re-correct and refine your work.

And yet, there is no sense of arrogance or an insulated or unattainable knowledge, which makes it all the more amazing and hypnotic. You are drawn in to what you are doing in a manner unlike any other.

Most of the time, we don’t do things this way. We want flat abs in 15 minutes, fast food, weekend warriors and one-day workshops. We want on-line classes so we don’t have to be bothered by other students or actual professors critiquing our work. We want to reach black belt status with minimal time investment. Above all else, we don’t want to disrupt our daily lives, our regular commitments, our precious schedules.

But this place is all about interrupting the regularly scheduled program. It is nothing if not separate from what most of us have as our daily lives. Here, there are no commitments BUT here, and for a few short days, we live as though all that matters is this learning and this project.

Perhaps there is something to that very thing, even apart from the actual skills gained. Over the past couple of years I’ve tried to intentionally live in such a way as to make space for creative things. It started with Tuesday knitting group and has grown quite a bit. It seems that my life is better and less stressed than it could be. Regardless, I’m convinced I feel my life more deeply and enjoy each moment more even when I’m not engaged in a specifically creative activity.

I’m certain that when I return from this mysterious otherworldly place, I will not be a master wood turner. I will also, most likely, not be missed nearly as much as I might think. Rumor has it that the world is still turning out there beyond the boundaries of field and workshops and forest. And that’s not so bad, really. It is quite possible that a good number of things that get in the way of this very same mysterious and amazing life we get a taste of here at the Folk School are not really that much in the way after all. Perhaps this is one of the best crafts here; crafting life.

For now, I’m going to soak up this fantastic place, take a million photographs, walk a lot (which I almost never do), try new things and have an all around wonderful time!