Post #3261: Spoiling the Party

You can always tell when you’ve thrown a wrench into someone’s plans.

This morning I was reminded of someone who came to visit a few years ago. She pretty obviously had a bit of a thing for Brian (my partner); they had met elsewhere and she was coming to stay for a few days. On her first arrival it was clear she was not warm to me, and over the course of the next few days her body language (and the fact she would not meet my eye when I spoke) belied a dislike, or at the very least, a discomfort around me. She was polite enough, but reserved when I could see she wasn’t that way with other people. It was odd, and at first I reviewed our interactions to try to identify what it was I had said or done to provoke this reaction. I can be a bit abrasive, forward, difficult – and I know this – but nothing I had said or done was anything but polite conversation. I couldn’t track exactly what was going on until it dawned on me that she had come a very long way to visit Brian after only knowing him for a few days in some other context. Call me naiive, but I hadn’t thought anything about that because I believe that we can have strong/close friendships with people whose gender we are attracted to. One of my best friends for the last twenty years is my pal Aaron who lives in New York. We regularly fly long distances to visit one another and there is no sexual subtext at all.

But in this case, I came to realize that the problem with me was nothing I had done, but the fact I had become real. As in, no longer the theoretical “wife”, but a real other human occupying a central role in the life my partner and I have created together.

To be clear, I do not believe she came here with the intention of breaking up our home or anything like that, but I do think a part of her imagined that perhaps I was on my way out, or maybe that we had a more flexible marriage. We all do the thing where we are interested in something and so we imagine it to be what we want, and we aren’t even conscious that have created a fiction until it is laid out for what it is. And there I was, laying it out for what it was.

There was no drama in the visit, the issue of my existence never came to a head and never created any particular problem. Brian wasn’t even sure that my read on the situation was the correct one (but the fact she never really contacted him again after the visit speaks volumes). But it sits with me as one of those moments, as in childhood, where you’re in trouble but you don’t really know why because no one makes their intentions or aggravations explicit.

I’ve been feeling this frequently over the last several weeks, though unlike this interaction from years ago, I know it’s related to some underlying anxiety that has been eating at me all summer. My senses are off, and I feel like I’m always saying or doing the wrong thing. Deep down, I’m sure it’s not the case, but that’s the problem with anxiety (and depression, for what it’s worth) – it occludes the truth with its very presence, making it hard to read the room. Perhaps this episode has come to mind because it was a trigger for social anxiety, and I’m feeling that same kind of social anxiety now, the kind where I only want to be around my safe people. Or perhaps my anxiety is related to the pandemic and general climate-change disturbance and that is really the wrench in everyone’s plans! Or maybe it’s that my meditation practice has been off-kilter for most of the summer (that’s very likely the culprit now that I think about it).

But for what it’s worth, every visitor leaves in the end, no matter what intentions (conscious or otherwise) they arrived with. Anxiety, people, daily practice, the conditions of our survival – they all come and go. A wind in the trees, a wave on the shore. We ride these moments out until our perspective changes them, allows us to see what was really happening all along.

Post #3260: The promise of Rain

The weather forecast keeps promising rain, but every day it’s supposed to come, the prediction is moved forward for a day. This results in a lot of frustration around here when we have decided that today will be the day the garden won’t need so much watering, but then it does anyways. Not to mention the whole drought thing that has everyone worried about their wells. I look now and see that what was supposed to be 2 days of rain is now 1 (a 60% chance of showers tonight and tomorrow) followed by what looks like another heat wave later next week. At the moment, the weather is feeling very reasonable and almost cool, so I’ll take what relief from the heat I can get!

The start of August marks a shift for me. Even though fall is technically weeks away – the month of August begins the dying time, a time of cutting back and simply maintaining what continues to thrive (like the dhalias). In a drought year, I feel it even more, with the lawn reduced to brown dust and the smoky skies. It’s still beautiful here on Gabriola Island and many good swims and outdoor dinners (and concerts) are ahead of us before we truly slip into fall, but it’s dark when I get up in the mornings again and I can’t help but notice the sharpening edge of autumn in the warm air.

I notice too how my projects shift without much planning. I found myself making a list of sewing projects for the first time in months, noting the gaps in my wardrobe to fill before the weather gets cold again, and buying some new patterns to try. I never want to sew in the summertime, but I can’t ignore the back-to-school energy of autumn that brings to mind new clothes and stationary supplies!

So after months of no sewing, I’ve got a muslin for a shirt in the works! It’s a pull-over top with a tunic option which are the kind of garments I need more of in my wardrobe. My body shape has changed a lot since I started lifting weights two years ago, so I’ve got some sewing to do to catch up with my fall and winter needs (I made a lot of summer things last year) – and shirts is where I am starting, to be followed by at least one dress and a couple of skirts and pairs of pants. Sewing is time consuming, so I don’t expect to get twenty new garments before the winter, but a few new things will help expand out the wardrobe.

For those who don’t know the lingo: A muslin is a way to test a pattern without cutting into the “good” fabric – I try to make my muslins out of thrift store fabric that I like, so if works, I have a wearable garment at the end. If it doesn’t, I don’t fret about the $2 on materials I’ve spent (the two thrift stores here sell fabric for next to nothing). Making a muslin isn’t mandatory, I don’t make one all the time – but shirts can be tricky for me (breasts!) so I often muslin dresses and shirts. I never bother to muslin with skirts or pants (I know the main alteration I have to do for every pants pattern and start there).

I’m still dyeing and weaving though! The dyeing will continue through until the end of September (or whenever the weather gets stinky) and weaving is year-round. I just need to somehow shoehorn in a little bit of time for garment making. No problem right?

In other news, I’m still waiting on paperwork for the new job so I can’t talk about it quite yet, but I have been assured that it’s happening. I just don’t know exactly when. My regular work continues apace in any event, and I’ve taken on a small accessibility project for August which will round out my summer of bits and pieces.

While July was pretty busy, August will see me at home for the whole month and not hosting nearly so many people! We do have house shows the next three weekends in a row, but beyond that I am looking forward to hunkering down in the studio and getting the house in order for the fall. There will likely be some canning activity this month (there has been remarkably little so far), but I’m not feeling uptight about filling the shelves or anything. I do have some limes leftover from our August long weekend party that I’ll be making some lime pickle with this weekend! But besides that I’ve got no plans in the near future and that feels pretty great right about now.

Post #3259: Summer Textile School Weeks 7-9

The last few weeks have been really busy with vacation and then the big annual party we throw on the August long weekend – so I’ve been behind in documenting my process here, and not able to spend as much time in the studio as I would like. I will be around for the whole month of August and intend to spend lot of time in the studio before my next vacation break in September. 

Dyeing Activities

  • I was running low on sample skeins so I mordanted four more skeins in alum and wound three of those into mini-skeins. The winding was a perfect project to take on vacation to Cortes Island. 
  • Added marigold and pomegranate to the dye stash. Love the marigold on yarn! Used the pomegranate to create an olive grey with iron.  
  • I am still trying to find a true red and along the way have made a plum colour, brown, and another burgundy. Today I’m trying cochineal with cream of tartar. We’ll see how it goes.
  • I dyed a cotton shawl with Brazilwood and am quite unhappy with the colour – it’s so muted that I think I’ll have to dye again. 
Brazilwood, marigold, madder and cochineal in various combinations.

Weaving Activities

  • Warped and wove samples from the Colour and Weave Gamp (Project 2 of Season 2 of Jane Stafford Weaving School)
  • Watched more of the Season 2 lessons including Colour Theory – much of which was repeat from other courses I’ve taken. Honestly, the best colour theory crash course has been the natural dyeing work.
  • Had a big realization that I was treadling and beating in a less-than-optimal order. I had fallen into a weird habit and fortunately managed to click out of it which immediately improved my weaving.
  • Agreed to a weaving commission which is the first time I’ve felt confident enough around my work to sell it. I’ve been resistant to selling my work for reasons other than confidence but I wouldn’t mind another small income stream and I have a pretty good idea of how much time something will take and how that translates into what I should ask for a custom piece. 
Pattern sampler.
Tea towel in five colours.

Post #3258: Party Time

I’m posting my weekly re-cap a day early because I will be party-hosting for the next few days, starting pretty early tomorrow. It’s our annual “August long” party at Birdsong! Though we’ve scaled back quite a bit due to Covid (way fewer people staying here or invited), we are going ahead with weekend festivities for the sixth year in a row. This is an all-outdoor affair, with everyone attending double-vaxxed, so the chances of a transmission event are slim-to-none even with the Delta variant circulating.

Even though I try to keep our pre-party week low-key, it’s been pretty busy around here! After returning from vacation, we had a visit from my parents, hosted a house concert, got our new outdoor kitchen installed (with water hookup), and went to the Wednesday farmer’s market to have dinner with friends. I’ve managed to get the Julia loom warped and am weaving on it, as well as puttering around the dye studio. Also, working. I still can’t share details about the new job but things have started rolling on it and I am simultaneously winding down my current projects while getting briefed on the new one.

The new outdoor kitchen. Behind one of the cupboards is a mini-fridge and propane is stored beneath the stovetop.

On top of all that, I’ve been having some trouble sleeping this week. I can’t pinpoint the cause, though likely it’s related to getting ready for people to descend on my home. As much as I love hosting, there is always a little anxiety leading up to things. This year we have left a lot of the party food up to guests because I just didn’t have it in me to spend weeks prepping food. Fortunately, our friends are all DIY-ers and they *want* to contribute, so when we put the call out it was well met! I’m looking forward to eating other people’s food at my house this weekend!

Post #3257: Catching up

Whenever I go on holiday, I tell myself that somehow I’m going to keep up the writing, blogging, posting – because why not? Vacations are all about free time, right? Except they aren’t, because wherever you go you want to experience that place – hike, kayak, walk about, eat ice cream – all the things! And so as much as I would like vacation time to be productive creative time, it usually isn’t. You would think by now I would have learned that. As much as I love a break, I always come home feeling the need to get caught up, which is the state I’ve been in the last couple of days.

I returned home from Cortes Island on Thursday evening, and spent much of yesterday running errands and cleaning my kitchen (scrubbed the fridge top to bottom!), because my parents are coming today, we have a house concert tonight and our long weekend party starts next Friday (plus I have to go to Victoria for a union-related matter in the middle of the week). That’s a lot of coming and going in the next ten days! Fortunately, we are very adept at this hosting business, and the friends who come for the long weekend are all DIY-oriented so we’ll make it happen no matter how behind I’m feeling at the moment.

I’m catching up in the studio this morning a bit with some writing and fibre in the dye pot (overdyeing madder with cochineal, then doing a skein with marigold in preparation for indigo dyeing in August). I’ve got my small loom almost dressed (just a little more to go and I’ll start weaving again), and a couple of knitting projects nearing completion. Towards fall I’m going to have to start sewing some clothes, since I’ll need a few things for the city now that I’ll be heading back there more regularly. I haven’t spent any time in Vancouver since March 2020, which feels strange after a lifetime spent there.

I’m heading out to the farmer’s market this morning to pick up my weekly veggie box that I missed on Tuesday, and then my folks will arrive and we’ll spend the day visiting and eating before tonight’s show. Going away is a lovely break, but I’m always so glad to be back in the flow my life – even the chores are part of what sustain my feeling of place in the world. I sometimes think this home-body-ness is a kind of weakness, as I’m clearly lacking the spirit of adventure so many people have, but I can’t ignore what my nervous system so clearly tells me about what feels right.

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