October morning

A waning sickle of moon
and a bright morning star
herald the dawn.
Jackdaws play along the horizon.

I love this time of year when we slide slowly and gently from the bright days of summer into the enveloping dark.

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Gonna leave this world for awhile

I got through all of the 2016 celebrity deaths relatively unscathed.  But when I heard the news  of Tom Petty’s passing last Monday, I was devastated.

Mourning a rock and roll legend in black leather

On Facebook when a musician passes, my friends write about how much they love or admire the person and post their favorite songs from a certain time period in their lives or the ones that have touched them.   I am always posting Tom Petty music videos.  I have most of his music on my MP3 player and regularly listen to at least one album a week on my occasional drives in to work.  At 39:58 minutes, Full Moon Fever lasts just about door to door.  We had a late night with friends a month ago and whilst veejaying I came across an entire hour long concert recorded in 1978 on BBC Television’s Old Grey Whistle Test.

I was really touched that a few of my friends wrote on my wall that they thought of me when they heard of Tom Petty’s passing.   You see, I’m not just a fan or a mere appreciator of Tom Petty’s music.  His music is woven into my life, beginning with the rowdy, rebellious rock and roll albums that came out when I was a teenager.  His music and my appreciation of it evolved as I grew older.   Tom Petty was a poet.  There are so many great songs about the people who fell into and climbed back out of the cracks, and those road journey songs which were never just about the road. His music has been speaking to something deep in my soul ever since I played Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers on my new turntable in 1977 at age 14.   Hard Promises (1981) and Echoes (2002) are two of my favorite Tom Petty albums which got me through hard times.

Hard Promises is all about doubts and dilemmas, infused with a grey mist of loneliness and a reluctance to let go of the past.  I wore that album out the year after my mom died from cancer when I was 16.  Similarly, Echoes is a very dark record in which Petty sounds broken, resigned and defeated.  I found out recently that we both lost our mothers in 1980 and both got divorced in 2002.

I’m really gutted that there won’t be the ‘next’ album.

I have nearly all of his albums, with and without the Heartbreakers.  Just for the record (no pun intended) I don’t have Southern Accents or Let Me Up I’ve Had Enough.  I had bought each one at some point, but returned them.  They aren’t very good and in fact the band feels that those two are mistakes.  They were made and released when Petty was at a low ebb personally and professionally.  It shows.

The two others missing from my collection are Mojo (2008) and The Live Anthology (2009).  I met and fell in love with my husband Steve in 2008 and a lot of world events that year passed beneath my radar, including the financial meltdown.  Just an aside, when we were  courting, I sent Steve a link to A Thing About You and he told me he had seen Tom Petty in Birmingham, UK in 1977.  I look forward to checking out Mojo and adding it to my collection.   Ditto with The Live Anthology.  I don’t normally like live albums, but it has Melinda on it, so how can I resist?  I’ve listened to a few of the tracks and it captures the energy of their performances.

I’ve seen Tom Petty in concert three times.  1995 at The Hollywood Bowl, 2002 in Raleigh, NC and 2012 in Cork;  from the Beautiful People to the Rednecks to The Irish.  That last one was amazing because it was their first European tour in well over 20 years.  I was lucky to see them on the first night of their tour in a relatively small venue in Ireland.

Tom Petty live in Cork, 2012

Ready to rock @ The Marquee. June 8th 2012

My Christmas 2014 haul brought me Hypnotic Eye and a Rolling Stone fanzine.

I’ve read the book.

Fangirl, 2016

And I’ll have to re-watch the excellent documentary Runnin’ Down a Dream by Peter Bogdanovitch sometime real soon.

So yeah, the music world has lost a legend and I’ve lost my poetic rock and roll icon, but the music of Tom Petty shines on forever, like a diamond.

RIP Tom ❤

Will you walk into my parlour?

This evening I watched a delicate aerial pas a deux, a dance of life and death outside my window.

The poem is a cautionary tale against those who use flattery and charm to disguise their true evil intentions.

The Spider and the Fly

Will you walk into my parlour?” said the Spider to the Fly,
‘Tis the prettiest little parlour that ever you did spy;
The way into my parlour is up a winding stair,
And I’ve a many curious things to shew when you are there.”
Oh no, no,” said the little Fly, “to ask me is in vain,
For who goes up your winding stair can ne’er come down again.”

“I’m sure you must be weary, dear, with soaring up so high;
Will you rest upon my little bed?” said the Spider to the Fly.
“There are pretty curtains drawn around; the sheets are fine and thin,
And if you like to rest awhile, I’ll snugly tuck you in!”
Oh no, no,” said the little Fly, “for I’ve often heard it said,
They never, never wake again, who sleep upon your bed!”

Said the cunning Spider to the Fly, ” Dear friend what can I do,
To prove the warm affection I ‘ve always felt for you?
I have within my pantry, good store of all that’s nice;
I’m sure you’re very welcome — will you please to take a slice?”
“Oh no, no,” said the little Fly, “kind Sir, that cannot be,
I’ve heard what’s in your pantry, and I do not wish to see!”

“Sweet creature!” said the Spider, “you’re witty and you’re wise,
How handsome are your gauzy wings, how brilliant are your eyes!
I’ve a little looking-glass upon my parlour shelf,
If you’ll step in one moment, dear, you shall behold yourself.”
“I thank you, gentle sir,” she said, “for what you ‘re pleased to say,
And bidding you good morning now, I’ll call another day.”

The Spider turned him round about, and went into his den,
For well he knew the silly Fly would soon come back again:
So he wove a subtle web, in a little corner sly,
And set his table ready, to dine upon the Fly.
Then he came out to his door again, and merrily did sing,
“Come hither, hither, pretty Fly, with the pearl and silver wing;
Your robes are green and purple — there’s a crest upon your head;
Your eyes are like the diamond bright, but mine are dull as lead!”

Alas, alas! how very soon this silly little Fly,
Hearing his wily, flattering words, came slowly flitting by;
With buzzing wings she hung aloft, then near and nearer drew,
Thinking only of her brilliant eyes, and green and purple hue —
Thinking only of her crested head — poor foolish thing! At last,
Up jumped the cunning Spider, and fiercely held her fast.
He dragged her up his winding stair, into his dismal den,
Within his little parlour — but she ne’er came out again!

And now dear little children, who may this story read,
To idle, silly flattering words, I pray you ne’er give heed:
Unto an evil counsellor, close heart and ear and eye,
And take a lesson from this tale, of the Spider and the Fly.

– Mary Howitt, 1829

 

Holding the balance

An equinox is the day when the sun shines directly on the equator and the length of day and night is nearly equal.  There are only two per year.  The equinox in September is also known as the autumnal (fall) equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, and is considered the first day of autumn.

For the past couple of weeks, I have observed  nights beginning to draw in, mornings beginning shrouded in mist and the subtle turning of leaves to brown, amber and other warm colors of autumn.

I love this time of year and look forward to making our home cosy and warm, and turning inward to find the light within.  I bought a gorgeous bunch of end of summer flowers and we had a  supper to welcome autumn of sausages, mashed sweet potatoes, haricot verts and onion gravy.  The lingering evening light came in through our living room window. but in a few short weeks, all of our suppers will be candlelit.

On my walk home from the gym yesterday, I noticed dozens of jackdaws and crows riding the updrafts in a certain spot.  By the time I fetched my camera and returned, they had flown elsewhere.  It was a place where the wind took turns arriving from the south, west and north bringing different air currents, temperatures and cloud formations.  I felt as though I was right in the middle of where things are changing.

This tree who has shed most of its leaves seems to be holding the balance between the seasons, just for a moment.

Like the trees, like nature, I try to find the grace to be with each passing moment and season.  To find equanimity and hold the balance in the midst of change.

 

 

 

 

Back to the beginning

Over the past five or so years that I’ve been on a hiatus from making fibre art, I’ve been doing a lot of reading about my Muscogee ancestry all the way back to the Mississippian period.  The Muscogee, also known as the Creek Confederacy,  are descendants of the Mississippian culture peoples, who flourished between 800 AD and 1600 AD.   The Muscogee were a confederacy of tribes consisting of Yuchi, Koasati, Alabama, Coosa, Tuskeegee, Coweta, Cusseta, Chehaw (Chiaha), Hitchiti, Tuckabatchee, Oakfuskee, and many others.  

I have been influenced by much of the artwork that has survived and been documented.  I have also read many of the stories and legends which have survived orally and were collected throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The Alabama Indians’ creation story tells of the beginning of things –

“Once, long ago, before the time of the oldest people,
water covered everything.
The only living creatures above the water
were some small animals and birds
who occupied a log raft
drifting about in the great ocean. . . . . . .”

First World, Neocolor crayons on paper, 25 x 25 cm, 2014

I began this acrylic painting last weekend on a rainy Sunday.  In the summer of 2015 I took a painting workshop led by Nocona Burgess in which we learned about painting onto a canvas primed with black gesso.  I found a couple of blank black canvases recently during a studio tidy up.

One of the tips I learned from Nocona was how to mask off the canvas to get a super straight and crisp line.

A crisp tip

I surrounded this first world with colors from the Medicine Wheel.

In the Beginning there was only Water, Acrylic on canvas, 40 x 40 cm, 2017

For my current work in progress I’m using Sennelier Oil Pastels on 250gsm mixed media paper.  I love working with my fingers and how the colors can be blended.

Water covered everything, Oil pastel on paper, 30 x 30 cm, 2017

I’m going to the art store tomorrow to get some turpentine so I can see what that does to the pastels.  I also plan to pick up some more square canvases.

I suddenly have a lot of ideas and images for paintings and works on fibre waiting patiently to come out.  It is as though everything I have been taking in over the past five years has had a chance to settle, find roots and is growing once again towards the light of day.

Sources:   Creek Confederacy  ::  Muscogee

On the road again

Well now, I thought I’d written about this next piece two years ago when I started making it.

Working title for a work in progress: The Road to Oklahoma
It is about being torn apart, partings from, partings through, bloodline, arrival, departure, the long straight road that cuts through the land.

September 2015

The base is made from undyed fleece from a Whiteface Dartmoor sheep needle felted onto black acrylic felt. Torn red silk dupioni stitched down with white bugle beads bisects the road.  I machine stitched a sinuous Mississippian riverine motif along the left hand side.

The back side tells a story too.

It has been hanging on my design wall since 2015.  A couple of weeks ago, I have come back to work on it.

I made some gorgets from paper clay.  The original ones would have been carved from whelk shells by the Mississippian ancestors of the Mvskoke.

I stitched them to the top right hand side of the piece with red thread,

but then decided to change to cream thread.  The metal disc is the cremation remains disc from my father’s ashes.

On the lower left side is another Mississippian gorget, printed onto organza of a Red Stick warrior.  This represents and honours my Mvskoke ancestors who lived in what is now the state of Alabama until we were ‘removed’ to Indian Territory in the 1830’s.  We were called Upper Creeks by the European invaders to differentiate us from the Lower Creeks who had settled in what is now Georgia.

This is also about my dad Frank Charles Schwakhofer, who was born in Muscogee, Oklahoma in 1919.  Because he was half Muscogee (Creek) and half white, he never felt like he fit in anywhere.  Both the white and the Indian kids called him a ‘half breed’. He never learned to speak Creek, but he could understand it.  He left home as soon as he could.  First, riding the freight trains out to California in the mid 1930’s when he was 16.  Then when he got older, he always had a car.  He drove off and never looked back.

I printed a map with the city of Muscogee in the middle onto cotton organza.  This map is from 1905, when it was still Indian Territory, soon to become the state of Oklahoma.  I hand embroidered the roads in red thread and sewed a gold bead right smack on top of Muscogee.  The photo of my dad, also printed onto organza, is from June 1955. On the road somewhere.

an Indian and his car