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Yesterday was Ash Wednesday. At Mt Saviour Monastery the monks and others were blessed and in the old way, ashes were placed on top of the head rather than the forehead.

I could write a lot about the significance of the ashes and why Lent is 40 days, but instead I’m sharing a photo taken today.

A friend is moving from her home with the beautiful lake view to a new home in town. The new house is charming, with neighbors, no view, but manageable for this season in life.

So today, we have hauled away that which is no longer useful. Sorted through things to be gifted or packed. And then sorted papers and magazines. Some things will be recycled, but personal papers were burned in the fireplace.

Afterwards I noticed ashes had spilled out of fireplace and unto the tiles I like so much and was reminded of the ashes I received the day before. My friend came to look and said "Renewal" as if she’d read my thoughts.

While she is sad to leave this place with the gorgeous sunsets, she is looking to the future, a time for change.

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It was still dark when I noticed something through the leaded glass in the front door. Thinking it was yet another wild animal lurking about our house, I went out to see.. What a fun way to start the day. I’m still smiling. This is a fund raiser for a local church, you pay the teens to flamingo someone and the money goes to help with food ministries.

It’s been a foggy day, raining off and on. Before I was a serious gardener I didn’t care for rainy days for many reasons. My hair would frizz, I didn’t like to walk in it, I didn’t like to have to carry an umbrella or wear a raincoat…. my list was long.

When gardening became a passion I learned to enjoy what the rain had to offer. It makes me want to stay indoors, enjoy the sound of the rain, read, work on quiet projects, enjoy comfort food and sit by the fire with a glass of wine at the end of the day.

Today a friend stopped by and brought lunch to share. We ate it while watching the eagle that was watching the geese involved in a very loud discussion, much honking and fighting and finally they settled down.

Because it feels like early April even though it is only February, lunch conversation turned to garden plans. We both like to use plants for a variety of uses, food, medicine, dyes. I remembered I had some avocado pits that needed chopping and when I checked them later I found that one had hardened too much to dice for better drying. But it shows the color I’m going for rather nicely… shades of red.

My friend stayed an extra hour before going back to work keeping eye on the eagle to see if it would fly away. After she left it put on quite a show of fishing. I watched as I sat at my work table, trying to get some work done.

Finally getting around to the pits, chopped what I could and took a photo. In the lower right hand corner are the freshly diced pieces. Lower left some dried pieces. At the top a fresh pit for chopping. In the center the dried pit showing color. The process of using natural dyestuff can involve several days of simmering or soaking and the odor can be a bit much. So I do this kind of thing outdoors when the weather allows. If this weather keeps up I won’t have to wait much longer before I start outdoor fleece washing and dye projects.

Prompted by the poem Aimless Love by Billy Collins I thought about all the little things I love to do during a typical day. Simple things that I enjoy so much that at the moment I’m experiencing them think there is nothing I love more…. but the next moment there is something I love just as much. Many of these things not possible if I didn’t live where I do.

I am enthralled by the candlelight by which I pray each morning,
then a while later by the shimmering reflection of the moon on the water,
and again by the sunrise as I savor a cup of coffee.

A simple breakfast pleases me so
I eat slowly as I watch and listen to the song birds
as they enjoy the offerings at the feeders.

Old dog wags his tail wildly at my touch
dancing in excitement
like the puppy he once was.

Morning tasks done
house tidy
front walk swept.

In the garden watering
blooming, growing, thriving
dirt under my nails.

Up in the studio
creating
play/work.

Stopping to sit at the window seat
the view from the windows
the river valley.

Below squirrels chase each other
up, down, around the tree that grows through the deck
where I visit with dear ones on fine weather days.

Further below the feathered synchronized swimmers
stopping to feed in the shallow spots along the river edge
bottoms up!

Sometimes a glimpse of
colorful kayaks and simple canoes
bobbing along downstream.

Or people fishing
passing on to the children a simple pleasure
their parents passed on to them.

Brave crows
chasing the eagle
taking refuge in the old sycamore tree.

After lunch more work/play
listening to music
singing, dancing.

Long walk before dinner
connecting with neighbors
garden views.

After dinner prepared by another
time for reading/ writing
or short drive to the monastery.

Evening vespers or Compline
Monks singing, praying
Candles in the crypt.

Blessings before bedtime
Quiet
Rest

I love being Home
I am grateful

Maybe getting up at 4am every day has finally caught up with me and I’m just tired. Or maybe it was the poem prompt ‘Aimless Love’ that got me to thinking about different types of love. Or maybe it is because another anniversary is around the corner. Whatever the reason, I found myself tearing up as I watched Gizmo and Krystal this morning.

He will be 14 soon, she is 12 and they have lived together for 11 years. They are the same breed, Lhasa Apsos, both champions and there the similarity ends. He is a mama’s boy and a sweetheart. She is nobody’s sweetheart except maybe Gizzy’s, cause there is little he doesn’t love. He was never afraid of anything, she has always been afraid of everything. He was a therapy dog for more than 10 years, visiting nursing homes was his greatest joy. She seems to think humans are here to serve her. When I’d come home, he’d happy dance all over the place, she would check to see if I had something interesting and then stick her nose in the air and go away. Opposites.

Over the years he has put up with her antics. When they were young I’d let their hair grow to floor length. Often when Krystal was bored or feeling naughty she would grab Gizzy by his ear or hair and drag him. Gizzy would let her, laying on his back sliding across the floor, just happy that she was paying attention to him. I’d tell her to let him go and she’d give me a measuring look as if to gauge how long it would take me to get to her from where I was so she could drag him a little further.

Old age has crept in. Gizzy is blind and a little confused. Krystal has a few aging problems. He’s become a little insecure and will shake when afraid. She has mellowed only slightly.

This morning Krystal wanted to go out around 5:30. I told her no as she keeps pushing her ‘go out’ time a little earlier each day. They go out together because I like that she sees and hears what he can’t and since she isn’t brave, will bark at anything strange in the yard or down on the river bank. And so not taking my no for an answer… she went over and looked at Gizzy in his bed and who would rather sleep in, nudged him and nudged him again. A few more nudges and he finally got up grumbling and shaking. Successfully getting him up on her schedule, she came over and looked at me boldly as if to say… Gizzy needs to go out.

I watched them as I let them out.. she off to see what trouble she can get into but looking back to see if Gizzy was following.

I took a photo of them when they came in. Krystal is the one in front, afraid of cameras or anything that makes a clicking sound she bolted as soon as I took the photo. Gizzy in the background is trying to figure out what is going on. His ears pulled back expression is one we see a lot now but he is still a sweetie and still happy dances when anyone comes in the door.

They are sporting recent haircuts. They’ve known the groomer since they were puppies. Gizzy loves her and although now frazzled by car rides and noises, he did well. Krystal on the other hand tried to bite her.

I have a second kitchen in my home. It is upstairs, next to my studio space and I use it mainly for studio work, for extra equipment and for snacks and drinks for guests. It has a south facing high window and a skylight and at the moment it resembles more of a greenhouse than a kitchen, a variety of tender plants wintering over in that space.

Among other things, there are 3 Amaryllis bulbs in pots that I bought in from the cold sunroom downstairs. I got them going too late for Christmas blooms but they are growing nonetheless. One is ‘apple blossom’ and I’ve been watching it struggle to bloom for weeks now. Yesterday I decided that if it didn’t unfurl its petals because of lack of sun or lack of care on my part, it would be enough that it survived and multiplied as I can see by the tiny new plant in the pot. I stopped fretting over it, grateful that it shared my space and just let it be…

And so I moved it from the kitchen and put it where I could see it from anywhere in my studio, which is my favorite space in my home. When I came upstairs this morning I was greeted with this.

Last week the MOH Stepping Stones group started reading and discussing the Twelve Steps of Humility as per the Rule of Benedict. Since there is much to share and explore we will continue through the steps this week and maybe the next.

Simple version of the steps as I understand them so far…
– recognizing that God is God
– knowing God’s will is best for me
– being willing to receive direction
– not to grow weary
– acknowledge my faults
– be content with whatever I am given
– letting go
– learn from others/ community
– be silent and listen
– speak gently, avoid ridicule
– speak kindly
– be simple

Being silent, listening, being simple… those stood out for me, things I’ve been working on.

While looking for writings or articles on Humility, I took a break and visited one of my favorite blogs, Pilgrim’s Moon. And there I found a post on ‘Knitting Our Lives’ . I’ve been knitting since I was a young girl and found myself nodding my head in agreement as I read.

There I followed a link to a blog post ‘learning an old skill’ on a blog I’d never visited before but that I know I will visit on a regular basis. Again found myself nodding my head in agreement as I read.

There is just something about making an article one stitch at a time, be it sewing, quilting knitting, embroidery or other needlework and even things like spinning, needle felting, weaving, though not done one stitch at a time, they are done one step at a time, slowly. simply.

I am one of those that likes to hand sew rather than machine sew. I like to knit and weave using yarn that I’ve made starting with a raw fleece, skirting, washing, carding, spinning until I have enough for a project. I am also a gardener and enjoy the process of planting, digging in the dirt and tending to plants even more than I like to work with needle and fiber. All of these things grab me and help me to slow down, breathe.

One of my goals this year is to curb spending. Make do with what we have whenever possible. That includes working on projects using materials I already have, repurposing old materials no longer useful.

As an extension of this, I’ll be teaching others how to take unwanted clothing, fabric and turn them into useful items. The little basket shown in a previous post is one of those projects. We’ll also be working on other types of baskets, quilts, rugs, clothing… Each one of the projects will require handwork, nothing that can be rushed and I’m hoping others will come to enjoy learning old skills and finding new purpose for old clothing and other supplies, rather than throw them away.

I’m really looking forward to teaching these old skills, which will be new skills for some workshop participants.

Back to the Stepping Stones group. Several are knitters. Since we have the conference room for an afternoon each week, we can stay after we’ve finished our discussion. On nice days we can walk the monastery roads enjoying the view and the sheep or we weed one of the flower beds nearby. But when the weather isn’t so kind up on the hill, we pull out our knitting, writing, whatever, and work on them quietly or in silence. I’ve come to treasure that simple quiet time before having to head home.

On another note: I dropped my laptop, it won’t close properly and has developed an attitude. Using it is an exercise in patience. Today I actually wrote some things by hand! And enjoyed it… I see more hand writing in the works….

The title of this post might suggest a hat for a Poodle or a hat made of Poodle hair. In reality it is a hat made of wool from a Blue Face Leicester sheep name Poodle, one of the monastery sheep.

I started using some of the monastery fleeces for projects about 5 years ago but keep forgetting to take photos and add them to the Monastery wool project page. I’ve just completed a hat and remembered to take a photo of it.

Poodle is the only dark sheep among all the white sheep and so her fleece is always in demand. I was fortunate to get some of her fleece a couple of years and again last year, hoped to have enough for a thick sweater but her last fleece was quite small and I doubt there will be another since she is an old gal now. So, I decided to make some hats and other things and give them to those who might like to have something made of her fleece.

Here is one of the hats, a simple sack hat. After knitting it, I washed it and I could see a distinct change in color and texture when I finished one skein and started another. I often sort out fleeces by shades of colors to use in color patterns. It is visible in this hat but not enough that I noticed it when I knit it. I really like that it is unique, soft but will stand up to a bit of abuse. I hope the recipient likes it as much as I do.

While working on a sample basket for a workshop I’ll be teaching soon, I was reminded of something I read recently in a book about writing practices. The writer compares walking along a straight line and walking along the spiral. You are moving in both cases but in one you also go round and round in a circle.

Practicing anything is sort of like walking that spiral, you do the same thing over and over but learn something new and thus move forward every time you repeat the same thing.

The photo is of the basket finished yesterday. It is less than 6 inches across and while it is time consuming, I really enjoy working on this type of project. There is no way to rush the process. It is worked in spiral fashion, 1 wrap and stitch at a time.

I used yarn sold in the gift shop at Mount Saviour Monastery, soft enough for wearables but sturdy enough for this type of project where the tension is very tight and where I want it to hold up to a lot of wear, because after all, baskets are meant to be used.

Note: 12 year old Krystal was trying to get my attention so I could let her out. Bossy little thing!

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