Post #3147: This quieter life

We’ve finally got some snow on the west coast, which means it’s officially our one week of winter. We got a few inches last night, with more on the way today and tomorrow. There is very little moving around in my neighbourhood at the moment – I can’t even say that I’ve seen a single car go by since I started working a couple of hours ago. People here rarely invest in winter tires, so it’s really just for the best they stay home for the limited time we endure slippery roads. Lucky me, I work from home so I don’t have to go anywhere.

The quiet of the snow has me reflecting on the “boring” nature of our life here on Gabriola. Looking at the Facebook feeds of people I know, I’m struck by how frenetic some lives seem to be. I know people who routinely work fourteen hours days, take trips every other month, or who participate in competitive sport to the degree it takes up most of their time. I have friends who are travel writers, international facilitators, who provide executive services to politicians, and who are actually elected officials (provincial, municipal, and union).

In fact, it often seems like everyone out there is doing something more *meaningful* while I am just here at my desk working on strategic plans and looking out at the snow. I wonder at times if I’ve wasted the great currency of my privilege and education by checking out of the race and moving away from the city.

But then I remember my life when I was “in demand” for union and work positions – when I spent half my month on the road and was in a permanent state of exhaustion, when I was caught up in a false sense of importance, and when I was subject to all sorts of gossip and nasty politics because of my role (and boy, did I drink and cry a lot back then). While I’m sure I could have handled things better – I also know that the union movement (and political movements more generally) is no good behaviour picnic. A large part of what creates the illusion of “meaning” is the heightened emotional drama created by the participants.

I suppose also that because my life doesn’t have that emotional edge, I tend to downplay the activities I am engaged in – president of my union local, working full time, maker, writer, musician – as *not important*. You know – a sensible and manageable life just doesn’t hold any of the drama as one that is teetering on the brink all the time.

Now, I’m not suggesting that every person with a an in-demand life is on the verge of falling apart. I’m hardly a paragon of doing nothing. But my own reaction to these statuses makes me question why I ascribe meaning to one kind of life, one that is high pressure and leaves little room for oneself – while discounting my own experience (rich by any standards) as having *less* meaning. As far as I can tell – it’s the mind-trick of consumer-capitalism at work again. Or else it’s just a discounting of my own experience.

Either way, I will acknowledge my gratitude at the fact that during this snowy day, I do not have to run around doing a thousand things – but am in my quiet home office finishing off a planning document and thinking about what time I should take a yoga break. That’s really not so bad.

Post #3146: What am I doing here anyway?

I started this blog almost 15 years ago (May is my blogiversary) with the express intention of documenting the signs of environmental apocalypse that were apparent to me, as a communicator in a resource management field, but not really being framed in such a way by the mainstream media. If only I had kept to that theme I might now have a well-read blog, as the topic of apocalypse is so all the rage these days!

But instead, this became more of a personal space, though I have continued to write about environmental catastrophe and nature, I have also morphed out into other areas like sewing and knitting (and recipes!). I have a very small readership, as is the case with personal blogs like this one – but I do hear from those of you who read it that you enjoy it very much – and I am grateful for that! I don’t need a big audience, but I do like to know that I have a few listeners.

Last year I changed my tag line from “More apocalypse, less angst” to “Zen and fibre arts on Gabriola Island” because I wanted to reflect that I was moving away from one thing and towards another. I didn’t define that transition very well, and frankly, that move has always felt inauthentic. I think I wanted to make this blog space “friendlier” for the fibre arts community in order to increase my audience – but to what end I’m not exactly sure.

In any case, it seems to me there are two very different purposes at work here – one of them being Red Cedar, and the other being Birdsong Textiles. I’m not sure exactly what to do about that, but I do know that I’m doing neither particularly well at the moment. I also recognize that I don’t have all the time in the world for blogging, so two blogs might be a mistake.

At the very least I am re-engaging my tag line, because that’s always felt the most “me” about this blog through all the many years I’ve had it, and I am going to give some thinking to the content in the meantime. I know, it’s such a silly thing – the tag line – but I’ve always loved it and it is a real description of how I feel about this world.

What other changes will come I am still thinking about, but that for today is enough. I want to be really who I am online, and I’m not interested in monetizing anything that I do so “friendliness” isn’t something I have to worry about particularly. Still and all, one wants readers!

Post #3145: Sometimes it’s a struggle to show up

I overslept my alarm by an hour this morning – which is so unusual for me that I could hardly believe it when I woke up late for work. Fortunately, I work at home so it was quick business to get the coffee made and be sitting upright at my desk – but really! So unlike me.

I’ve had a bit of insomnia in the last week though, and last night was the first time I’ve slept straight through in awhile. I suppose my body was taking advantage while it could. Now I’m just feeling somewhat scattered as I unsuccessfully try to wrap my head around my work. I’ve got a number of big projects that I’m responsible for suddenly and I’m having a hard time getting started.

I’m still doing the daily yoga practice I set out at the start of this month. Today is day 22 and involved side planks. I really hate side planks – even more than downward dog – so it was a bit of a struggle to get into and hold the poses. However, like meditation, I see how this practice unfolds differently when you do it every single day – as opposed to just once or twice a week. The shifts are subtle yet continuous, and simply getting out the mat (or meditation cushion) every day is its own reminder of how we “show up” more generally in the world.

I have a number of projects half-way on the go in the studio at the moment, but I have a ton of momentum with anything (except for making a mess – this place needs a tidy). I’ve got a real desire to get a couple new garments underway, but am also consciously trying to do some small “art” pieces – plus I’m launching the Comfort for the Apocalypse newsletter later this week which has put a bit of a focus on writing instead of other creative work.

Basically, I’m back to being a bit short of time for everything I want to get done – which is my normal state of affairs and I’m learning to just ride that feeling rather than get overwhelmed by it. To be inspired, invited places, and interested in so much of the world is something I am grateful for – the question really is how to be fully present with each thing and so let go of the tug onward.

Post #3144: Announcing Comfort for the Apocalypse (a new project)

Hey Folks. I am introducing a new project for 2019…. A newsletter! I plan to send my first edition out next Friday.

Resilience, recipes, and cultural leanings

You can subscribe here.

This is a monthly newsletter for folks who feel as overwhelmed as I am by things like climate change, polarizing politics, and mass shootings, and are seeking not only comfort, but a way to be more resilient and connected in their communities.   

Each newsletter will contain:

  • a short personal essay
  • a recipe for comfort or times of crisis
  • cultural leanings—be it song suggestions inspired by the house concerts Brian and I host at our island home, images from my textile experiments, or a recommendation for a good read

Plus, you can respond to the newsletter and parts of our conversation may be included in the next issue (with your permission).

This content will be original to the newsletter and separate from the blog ( will continue to be what it is). Again, you can subscribe at if this sounds like something that would interest you.

Post #3143: Before cutting into the fabric

Last week I posted a picture of this fabric, but the photo didn’t really do it justice. I’ve just finished hand washing it, and it’s drying on the rack – so before I go any further in my quest to turn this into a garment I took a proper photo.

This fabric came to me through Heather Cameron – one of my island neighbours and a brilliant textile artist. Seriously – check out her work in translating the Codex Canadiana into stitches which you can find through her blog.

Anyhow – she generously offered me some vintage/antique Japanese textiles for a zen-related project I am working on and that included some yardage of the silk fabric you see in the photo. This fabric was reclaimed from a kimono, and the bulk of it is in three thin (12 inch wide) but long (3 yard) strips. There are a few other small pieces as well. I’ve just now handwashed the lot and it’s drying on a rack in my studio while I think about how to approach working with it. Even a good photo of the fabric doesn’t do it justice really – the flecks on the floral motive are an actual silver, the taupe background is more nuanced – you get the idea.

Looking at this fabric helps me realize how far I have come in sewing and making garments. If I had received such a parcel a few years ago, I would not even know how to begin to approach it – how to work with these strange cuts of fabric, how to ensure the antique material will hold up to wear and so on. Coming to it now, though – I have some ideas.

First of all – to find a pattern that will work. I am going to start with the Tea House Dress pattern because I’ve wanted to try it for awhile, and it should be do-able in narrow width pieces. I’m not sure about that yet of course – first I have to cut the pattern out and then lay it out on the kimono fabric to see if all the pieces will fit, and if not, where I might be able to stitch material together to make it work (the back will definitely need to pieced). If it appears that I can fit the whole pattern onto the silk, then I’ll proceed by making a muslin to work with the fit of the dress overall. I’ve not made this pattern before, but I did make the Mississippi Avenue dress last year by the same company, and I found the fit worked for me without any adjustments.

One thing I like about the Tea House dress is that there are no closures – button holes or zippers – to worry about. This mainly because I don’t want to overwork the fabric either in making or wearing it. This pattern is also a forgiving shape – no hugging seams – which means less pull on the garment when it’s being worn. I’m also planning to underline with a black cotton batiste which I hope will provide a bit more body without losing the drape of the original too much. Plus I’ll do french seams where possible for a nice, stable finish on the inside.

I expect it will be at least a month between now and this dress being finished because I want to make a full muslin (which I frequently do not do), and hand sew in the underlining, the hems and so on. If it turns out the pattern I have chosen isn’t the right one, it may be even longer. I want to be ever so intentional in using this fabric since it is truly a one-of-a-kind occurrence in my life.

The photo at the top of this post is from the Guo Pei exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery which closes this weekend. If you do not know about the work of this costumer and dress maker, you really have to do a Google search and see the wonders she creates with fabric and thread. Truly remarkable and I feel privileged to have seen these creations up close!

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