What I have been up to

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Healing love sent out into the world

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The other side

Oh, there is just not enough time in my days! Yet I believe I have never put my days to better use than I do now… 

Rare is the day on which there is not a dye pot simmering on my stove, on which I do not take thread and needle to fabric, on which I do not put pen or brush to paper or find another way to express my soul-expanding joy at having unlocked the gate to my creativity and artistic expression. I had no idea how narrow my life had become until it opened up again.

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Boro stitching on denim, using Japanese sashiko thread and a piece of eucalyptus-printed silk

I seem to have stepped into a fractal labyrinth, where every step opens up an infinite number of new paths. Trouble is, I want to follow every one of them and preferably all at the same time – but there is just one of me. Which leads to another lesson: learning to pace myself, something at which I have never been very good. I keep telling myself: You don’t have to do all this now – there is a whole life ahead of you yet, you can do this next year or the year after. After having looked backwards and inwards for so long, I see the future opening up and presenting a joyful array of opportunities once again. I may be growing older (just a little) but inside I seem to have found the fountain of youth. 

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What can I say? I love feathers.

One thing I have decided for this blog is that I will post more often but spend less time on the individual posts. I tend to brush and polish and check and double-check and I post less often because I know how much time it takes me. So: more posts, less time.

I’ll leave you with these images of an old cotton T-shirt ecoprinted with eucalyptus, which I simmered in an iron bath for a while… 

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How it came out of the dye pot. The string has since been used to make iron marks on a piece of wool.

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Unwrapping the magic…

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Glowing…

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I love how the string resist shows up in flowing white lines on the heavily iron-marked fabric. This part of the tee was in direct contact with the iron bath, unfiltered by layers of fabric. It makes me think of seaweed floating in water.

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One of the things I most love about eco printing is the huge array of colours it produces. While you can influence the outcome, you have no absolute control over the results.

It may be raining cats and dogs outside but in here the sun is still shining…

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Fall weekend at De Uelenspieghel

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With fall coming to a windy end, I thought I should share these pictures with you now or forever hold my peace. I always have so many things I want to post here but somehow too rarely get around to it. My current obsession being textile dyeing, most of my free time is spent doing witchy things with pots and pans, plants and flowers. And knitting, painting (still planning to post those photos, too), writing letters (more photos I owe you), and so on and so forth.

The pictures above show the last borage flowers fallen from the plant, which caught my eye last Ocrober when we spent a weekend volunteering at the beautiful Uelenpieghel. The old farm was converted to a cultural and spiritual centre and welcomes visitors throughout the year. In summer I spent an elfish art weekend there with the children and we had the most wonderful time. This weekend in October, however, was spent collecting apples…

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And more apples…

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After which we had the privilege of sipping freshly made apple and elderberry juice, still warm, tasting like a divine gift from the earth.

We also went mushroom gathering in the beautiful woods surrounding the farm’s grounds. My girls call it the fairy forest, with the pines rising from mossy soil, so soft and springy you wish you could lie down and have a nap. All of it studded with jewel-like mushrooms in so many colours, a light shroud of mist, and such peaceful quiet… 

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Although the picture is not sharp, unfortunately, I still wanted to show you these ‘dead man’s fingers’ looking like bits of charred bone sticking out of the forest floor. Pretty creepy, aren’t they?

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A beautiful little fairy circle or, as the Dutch call it, heksenkring (witches’ circle).

In front of our house there is a small field of grass, a fairly steep slope that runs up towards the road. It is lined with beautiful big trees that have lulled me to sleep with their swishing wind dance many a night. Every fall and sometimes in spring, too, a wonderful witches’ circle arises magically from the grass. As if this earth already knew what took me so many years to figure out and issued a standing invitation…

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This pretty little thing occupied a mossy old tree stump all on its own, while those below seem to cluster together in a fairy village…

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Catching the light and drawing attention in her beautiful autumn frock…

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These, apparently, make a wonderful dye bath for textiles. I wish I’d known earlier although I’m not sure I could have torn them from their perch on this lovely silvery tree trunk… 

Below is a pretty yellow stagshorn (Calocera viscosa), which the Dutch call ‘sticky coral mushroom’. Doesn’t it make you smile just looking at it?

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In the evening the girls were exhausted from their day outside and fell asleep within minutes, giving me leave to join the tango workshop downstairs. I took some lessons years ago and amazingly much of it was dredged up from my body’s memory banks very quickly. It was lovely to dance, I’d forgotten how much I love it. Even better to hear the teacher say I should to take up dance again because I have a dancer’s body (underneath those childbearing pounds I never managed to shift, at least…). It was one of the loveliest compliments I’ve received these many years.

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The place is permanent residence to a changing group of sculptors, healers, seekers and finders, all gathered here by the lovely Annette whose parents believed in self sufficiency and walking lightly upon this beautiful earth, raising their children here. Annette lives in the original farm and has turned it into a welcoming sanctuary for the weary of heart and soul as well as a gathering and replenishing well for those who have already found their natural place in this world.

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This beautiful apple tree looks like it would up and walk away if it ever got bored in its current sunny spot.

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It was a magical weekend. There are places like this that make your heart peaceful and your head quiet, that heal your aching heart with every moment you spend there. The Uelenspieghel is such a sacred place to me and I already know that I will return there again and again…

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http://www.uelenspieghel.nl/

Love as a medicine

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Early this year, when we found out my father’s prostate cancer had metastised to his bones, we were shocked. Just three months before he had seen a neurologist for his back pain and been sent home with pain killers for a hernia. He suffered enormously through Christmas and the first months of the year, only to be told his cancer had metastised and, well, sorry for the mistake. Fortunately his oncologist was truly shocked at the neurologist’s negligence but that did not really help to soften the blow, of course.

A series of chemotherapy treatments was prescribed. Palliative, as my father was beyond the stage of healing at that point, but it was hoped the cancer would go into remission.

My fourteen year old son lost his father when he was six and his grandfather became the man he talked to, so he was devastated at the news. I wanted to do something with him that would help him feel a little more in control of the situation. So we decided to make my father a medicine bag filled with the love and encouragement we wanted to send him.

My son took an old leather bag we had bought on a wonderful family vacation with my parents and siblings and all our children. He set to work with scissors, a needle and thread and painstakingly and lovingly made a small leather bag. We picked a mother of pearl button from my collection, which I inherited from my favourite grandmother, and I braided some of my favourite wool into a necklace from which to hang it.

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He also carefully filled a little glass bottle with gold flakes and mountain crystal. I sewed a little pillow from fabric cut from a nightgown worn by both my daughters and filled it with lavender flowers and attar of rose.  A little string of seed beads from my grandmother was remade with a silver bead my daughters used to play with. We each picked a stone at a mineral shop and wrapped it in a pretty scrap of golden fabric. And finally, each of us wrote or drew something on a colourful heart symbolising our love for (grand)father.

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I am not sure what my father felt when he received the bag through my mother because he never told us. He is not very good at expressing his emotions. But the bag went with him to every chemo session Obviously he was not healed but several months onward he is doing well and his doctor is happy with the results.

Now the cynics among you may ask: Did you really think he would be healed? And I can honestly answer: No, I didn’t. My intention was not to heal him, but to make the whole ordeal of going through chemo and illness more bearable for both him and my children. It was to sustain my father and give him hope, to offer him something to hold on to while he was allowing the hospital to poison his body so that he might live longer. And to help him accept that he is not going to be healed, but that he will be loved and cherished throughout the time that remains.

My intention was also to allow my son to put his love and immense pain into something beautiful and constructive. While he may be helpless in the face of disease and death, he has all his love and his wonderful creativity that can help him express, and work though, these feelings. I hoped to help him understand that he is, therefore, not helpless in the face of his emotions.

I believe in the healing power of love. I also believe in accepting what comes with as much dignity and love as we can muster. This is what I learned when I became a widow at 34: Sometimes we must fight with all the force we have in us, and sometimes we must bow to the inevitable. The only thing we can really control is the way we ourselves deal with our experiences, and we must do so with all the kindness, love and gratitude we can muster.