what is a miracle

Today?

The scene: grocery store parking lot. Two days before Thanksgiving. Sixteen hours post-failure to indict Darren Wilson. White woman loading up her groceries. Black man walking in uniform from his place of employment — to his car, perhaps, or maybe, just to move his body during a break. He is beyond athletic looking, with a giant tangle of braids pulled back at the nape, reaching below his waist.

White woman dumps her clementines. “Fuck,” she says.

He passes.

“I should have real problems, right?” she says. Not in apology for the swear word — goodness no — but to acknowledge grievous recent events.

He returns. Gets down on his hands and knees. Looks under the carriage of her car. They conclude in unison that the errant clementine — having rolled to the near exact mid-section of the car — cannot be reached.

That, today, feels like a miracle.

Global Africa, Fitchburg Art Museum, Ife Franklin

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me with Ife Franklin and Catharine Sasanov

In spite of terrible weather and competition from an afternoon Patriot’s game, the Global Africa opening reception at the Fitchburg Art Museum two weeks ago was wonderful and well-attended. The three of us above, plus the reporter Clennon King, were present — representing a mini-reunion from the Slave Dwelling Project‘s overnight at the Royall House Slave Quarters a month back*. Ellen Watters Sullivan would have been there too if the Cape hadn’t been suffering gale-force winds.

musician Solomon Murungu

musician Solomon Murungu

GLOBAL AFRICA: Creativity, Continuity and Change in African Art, an exhibition of classic, contemporary and commissioned art objects including masks, masquerades with videos, photographs, carved portraits, textiles, metal arts as currency, and an interactive Learning Lounge for all ages.” [From the Fitchburg Art Museum’s website].

In the foyer, Solomon Murungu’s music filled the cathedral-ceilinged space with haunting melodies which I later learned were traditional Shona ceremonial songs (read more about him here). It was amazing to me how much mood and sound came from his single instrument — the mbira.
african textile-elephant-indigo-deemallonThere was a buffet of delicious Brazilian food (my favorite? the fried plantains). And, African fabric was draped around almost as an afterthought.

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Ife Franklin double exposed with shaman

What follows are pictures from the day** mixed in with other images that I took back in March at a Boston exhibit of Ife Franklin’s incredible work.

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Ife Franklin emerging from Slave Cabin, Boston

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this is the piece purchased by the Fitchburg Art Museum

The Boston Globe has featured Ife’s work many times. One particularly nice article is here.  I won’t try to describe the spirit and integrity and visual pizzazz of her work, or I will never get this post up, but I encourage you to read about her. Not surprisingly, her indigo pieces are among my favorites.
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IMG_6064 IMG_6070 IMG_6073The ‘Masquerade Ensemble’ by Cuban artist Nelson Montenegro (2013), has visual and ritual ties to Nigeria. I was taken by the patchwork, of course, and learned that the rafia cuffs and neck adornment ‘refer to sacred forests’. The bells at the waist were to dispel negative energy. The visiting shaman in the gallery also wore bells — around his ankles.
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Ife Franklin. Look at those textiles!

yours truly in Boston

yours truly in Boston

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* My reflections on the Royall House Slave Quarters overnight are here. The Slave Dwelling Project founder, Joseph McGill, Jr., Catharine Sasanov’s and Ellen Watters Sullivan’s reflections on the night in Medford are here. Clennon King was handing out copies of his newly printed article about the experience, featured in that Sunday’s Boston Globe.

** Sorry to make you suffer through my enthusiastic experiments with the DianaPhotoApp. I think I’d had it about a week at the time.

Saturday

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A very cold day that included a brisk walk, raking (and more raking), and cleaning out some duct work. Polishing glass. Writing and sewing. Decapitation.
IMG_6377.JPGThat’s right: decapitation. I took the head off one of my figures. More on that later.

Meanwhile, Boy Mouse has his skates. His grey scarf is another one of my size zero knitting needle adventures. He’s more ready for winter than I am!

IMG_6375.JPGWhen I lamented to my husband that Boy Mouse’s skates were a little too big, he quipped, “That’s okay. He doesn’t have feet.”

IMG_6374.JPGThe pipe cleaner on his back is for hanging. He can go on a wall or a Christmas tree. His jacket comes from old pjs and old (clean!) socks.

IMG_6373.JPGI made a substantial salad with blue cheese, bacon, apple, romaine hearts and bitter greens for lunch. It was satisfying.

IMG_6370.JPGI’ll sign off here. Stay warm if you are in cold temps! IMG_6371.JPGDanny comes home tomorrow and there’s chili on the stove in his honor. Later in the week, I’m cooking for Thanksgiving, but only for seven, so I hope to check back in here before then!IMG_6376.JPG

Barley yummmmmm

How could I have forgotten about barley?! Having chef-extraordinaire, Elizabeth Germain, visiting for two weeks upped my game in the kitchen some. I learned that my burners don’t get quite hot enough (who knew?). That I wasn’t cooking my chicken thighs quite long enough (sorry, guys!). And that barley is terrific for cold weather eating.
wintersalad-barley-deemallonThis salad is an adaptation from an America’s Test Kitchen recipe. Their’s featured oat berries and feta cheese. I used barley and pomegranate seeds instead.  I think pine nuts would be good here, too. Here’s the recipe.

Two handfuls arugula
1 c. cooked barley
2 roasted peppers, skinned & chopped
14 oz. can of chic peas
seeds of 1/2 pomegranate
2 scallions, chopped

Dressing:
1 lemon, squeezed
splash of rice vinegar
about 3 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic
S&P
dash cayenne
1/8 t paprika
1/8 – 1/4 t cumin
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This salad is terrific the next day, which leads me to think the arugula should be added in by plate. Barley is not gluten free but may be less aggravating to some with sensitivities.
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loveability and usefulness

die-worn-deemallonAmong the things I can count as accomplishments this week: cleaning ten years worth of broken plates and pottery. In the mix, I found this worn die. I will admit that I love this small object. And it makes no sense. Does it have to?
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I picked out my favorite bits. I don’t know how to mix up grout or cement or how to rim these shards with metal so as to turn them into jewelry.
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I can thank them for reminding me that being loveable is not the same as being useful.

These shards showed me something else (this goes to the nature of clutter):  sometimes the acts of touching and sorting through a pile of things that have not been touched or sorted in years brings satisfaction. This is really true. And it’s really true even when it is done without the aim of making things neater or producing something.
ragdoll-handmade-deemallonI continue to make figures. Mice, girls, cats, rats, and boys. As soon as I finish here I will put together a pair of felt ice skates using paper clips as blades, because one of the boy mice has requested a pair. Doesn’t even have arms yet, but wants to go skating! He has no patience with parties or worse, girls getting ready for parties. Like Ms. Shoelace Hair, above. I knit the front of her bodice (on like, size 0 needles!) and machine embroidered her face. If she weren’t so shy, she might show a little more excitement, but make no mistake — she is one excited party-goer! I wonder who her present is for!

Raining yellow

Yesterday there was snow on the ground. The sun was out. And the wind made golden yellow leaves rain down. It was something else.

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Most of the giant catalpa leaves are down now.

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And I’m happy to report that the lavender-filled sachets for some kickstarter donors are stitched, stuffed, and sent!

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I like the idea of a bowl full of joy!

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November clouds and sounds

window-shadowMist this morning. Rhythms shift as the days diminish. Some things stay steady or grab ahold. Others seem to fall away. I don’t quite feel in control.

Frustrations — the ongoing irritation of yard crews buzzing, seemingly, through my skull — sometimes four a day, sometimes the trucks blocking my road. An expensive ‘upgrade’ with Verizon that not only DID NOT increase our speed, but created the lovely new quirk of dumping our devices off-line even when sitting within several feet of the (brand-new ‘upgraded’) router. The prospect of switching providers is on the horizon. While it will be good to do something about deficient service (especially when that ‘something’ might include two years of free HBO — a real prospect to a 57-year old who has NEVER had cable), it is nevertheless the case that switching a decades-old email address can only feel like a nightmare in-the-making. Ya know? And I hate how even the ‘easy stuff’ never is — fellow oldsters know what I mean! — how you get that four step list and the first three super-simple steps do not take you to the tabs or settings they say they will and you have to walk away or start over, all the while assuming there is something seriously wrong with your brain?!
clouds-wires-horizon-deemallonAnd then there’s WordPress, which misbehaves regularly. This week? Random new default settings for picture justification and the lovely (revisiting) trick of rearranging the placement of a photo if I add a caption after insertion. That neither of these things were happening last week and that neither seems amenable to my attempts to correct just add to their power to annoy the crap out of me.

I’m not done yet — every other picture I shoot on my phone produces the “NO SPACE” message, even though I only keep about 250 AND I keep deleting apps AND I have very little music there. Since recently discovering the DianaPhoto app, it suddenly matters to me, meaning that what was an inconvenience two weeks ago, feels like a creative constraint today.

The PC where I type now presents its ongoing inefficiencies with photo tweaking and storage (my friend the Blue Spinning Donut). Any rearrangement of pix (say to a separate hard-drive) risks losing the trails and producing a gallery of question marks (it’s happened!). I actually feel sick thinking about all of this.

All fixable problems, of course, but not without outlays of cash for expert intervention or, in the case of the phone, massively upgraded monthly service. OK, I’ll learn about the cloud. OK!! OK!! I’ll go talk to one of the fucking geniuses at the mall.

But more money? No and no.

No wonder this little girl cheers me so!! She’s immune to these maddening issues. Completely Old World (which, let’s face it, might be 1991). She doesn’t even care that the hem of her pink silk skirt is ripped.
felt-mouse-christmas-deemallon-pinkShe sports her imperfections with elan! She eagerly greets every morning! All she needs for a happy day is someone to share her seasonal gifts with. Today, she’s my role model.
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IMG_6280I think when I get back from Salem today, I’ll have a nice long chat with her.

Maybe her name will come to me on the drive North.

For now, let me beg forgiveness for the complaining (and by the way, for those of you who know me better, you know this is NOT a rant… more like a Report of Defeat).

Let me also apologize for the possible incoherence. I am typing to Alison Krauss (followed by Amy Winehouse) played a little too loud. This, to obscure the sound of two trucks somewhere nearby that seem to have nothing to do but BACK UP.

Beep beep beep beeep beeeep beeep. And now the street sweeper. Oh god, this is making traffic on 128 actually look appealing!