Thursday, February 26, 2009

Burning the Midnight Oil

Montreal at night, 2006

Two nights ago I collapsed into bed after working until midnight. The rise of the sun that morning had coincided with the rise of my son which of course meant that I was awake for the day. He was in bed and asleep about two hours after sunset and that was when I started my other job. With the help of artificial light, I was able to work about 5 and a half hours past sundown.
As I lay in my bed, trying to silence my brain and relax my body in the light of my bedside lamp, I had an urge to be in the darkness. My body was sending a loud message to me. I need darkness. That was the first time in my life that I've actually considered the need that humans have for dark.
In an article entitled Our Vanishing Night by Verlyn Klinkenborg, National Geographic thought the facts of light pollution and our need for darkness important enough to put it on their November 2008 issue's cover. As the world deservedly concerns itself with global warming and it's repercussions, one rarely contemplates how so much artificial light affects us. Our biological urge to rest in darkness is as primitive as the rotation of the Earth itself. We can not see in the dark for a reason.
I can't help but wonder if our drive to fill up the night with street lights is not rooted in a fear of the unknown, an aversion to being still, quiet and to potentially being vulnerable. Humanity has declared: here we are, time does not slow, we will make light last 24 hours. Our minds will think perpetually, our systems will go full speed ahead, nothing can stop us.
I was curious to find out the origin of the expression "Burning the midnight oil" and found that way before we had electricity we were pushing these boundaries.

The English author Francis Quarles wrote in Emblemes, 1635:

Wee spend our mid-day sweat, or mid-night oyle;
Wee tyre the night in thought; the day in toyle.

In 1623 there was even a verb in the english language for working by candlelight: elucubrate

Henry Cockeram defined that in his The English dictionarie, or an interpreter of hard English words, 1623: "Elucubrate, to doe a thing by candlelight."

On my family farm in Quebec you can see the stars. They shine out in glory. The darkness there is deep and wonderful. Farmers also work into the night but there is a limit to what they can do and for how long. There is a kind of surrender to the darkness in this type of life, as there is to the weather. In Africa the sun is so hot at mid-day that the animals rest. They hunt or roam in the early morning, evening or of course at night. We have no real nocturnal abilities. We are vulnerable without our flashlights, lamps and fires. But if we surrender, truly let ourselves be in the dark, the silence....what is there to be afraid of?
A hope I have for humanity is that we can embrace the dark, cover ourselves with the blanket of quiet peace it brings and let go of our urges for dominion over the stars.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The View from Here

Well, I'm certainly not finding the time to post as much as I'd like to these days. With my outside work and mom work I am barely finding time to sleep. I've also been at a bit of a lull in my topic ideas, probably because my other creative endeavors are at the forefront of my thoughts. I hope you can all bare with me, I'm sure the juices will flow again soon. In the meantime I thought I'd just list the ever growing projects in my head. Most are in different stages of completion....

- Make Ky some bibs
- Finish Album cover for Matt
- Finish Winter Artful Pillows (hopefully before Spring Equinox)
- Finish "Memory Keeper" piece for 2009

Each project is listed in order of importance. I realized the other day that my bigger than average 14 month old was only being covered by a sliver of fabric in this 3-6 month bibs. Rather funny to behold really. Not to mention that he is covered in food after each I found a pattern online and have gone through my stash of fabrics and I hope to get 6 made. All I need to purchase is some bias tape. I will post some photos when they are done.
My best friend Matt is putting out his debut cd. Dave and I have been elected to make the cover art. I am gladly doing this project, even though the other day I felt that this was akin to deciding that it would be great to make my own wedding dress. The dress turned out in the end as I know the cover art will but I certainly had some melt downs in the process. Stay tuned for more info about Matt, his music and the cd. ( I smell give away! Very soon)
The challenge of course is to fit all of this in, amongst cleaning, child rearing and living.
I am going to do my best to get my posts back up to at least twice a week.
I am being paged at this very moment...mum mum...milk....duty calls

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Making Artful Pillows: Step 1

I've heard many say that they are not good at sewing or "crafty" things. Making your own throw pillows is a great project and is so straightforward that even the most challenged sewer can do it. With that in mind I thought for anyone who may like to try but does not know where to start, I would put up a step by step guide. You really can do this and here is how.

The first step is theme and fabric selection. My theme for the last year has been the seasons. I wanted to have visual reminders in my home of the changing seasons. These are pillows that we have in our living room. I change them for each season. When choosing your theme it can be as simple as a colour scheme and once you have an idea of what you are going to do you need to consider your fabric choices.
One of my criteria was that I had to use fabric that I already owned(I have two huge plastic bins of fabric). Since I was trying to reflect the seasons with my pillows I thought about the temperature it would be outside and how that would reverberate inside. The summer pillows were linen/cotton blends, nothing thick, nothing that would induce a sweat if leaned upon. For the Winter series (pictured above) I wanted fabrics that had texture, that would be warm and nice to snuggle up to. I choose a red, thick fabric with a berry and vine pattern. It speaks to me of the vines that survive through the winter and adds that hit of colour that will keep my spirits up in the gray winters we have. The green is a dark, rich and sturdy fabric. The vine pattern echos the red and brings the evergreen colours inside. I will do two pillows in the green, one will have "Winter" and a north star embroidered on it. And for the cozy factor I chose the camel fabric. It is warm and neutral so it ties into the pattern on the red.
I make the pillows with an envelope back which lets me switch them out at the beginning of the new season and lets me clean them. Consider how much you may need to clean them when choosing your fabric. Do you have kids or pets? Will these pillows be used for naps or watching movies? I use pillows in 16" square format. So when you choose what fabric you are using you'll need a 16" square piece or whatever size pillows you choose. Keep in mind that using the square format is easy and keeps your sewing straightforward. You probably already have some throw pillows that may need a new look, you'd be surprised how easy it is to give new life to pillows you were tired of looking at. The envelope backs will need to be longer to cover the opening. So allow 4-6 extra inches on one side, and 8" on the other. I will have more precise measurements in the next step. Have fun choosing your fabric. I will post the next step in a few weeks.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Pagan Podcasts

Last year I stumbled upon the world of Pagan podcasting (the Internet is such a wonder) and I wanted to write a post about this fabulous resource. If I didn't hate the sound of my voice recorded I would get into this type of communication but I do. I think I'll stick with the blog...and let the one's with the great talking voices do their thing.
As a solitary I find listening to the podcasts a great way to feel connected with the pagan community. Especially as a stay at home mom, I need to hear adult conversation and challenge my brain. I also find that listening helps me to keep momentum up in my spiritual practice. If I don't have time to meditate or celebrate the full moon, I can listen to a podcast while making dinner or folding laundry.
There are many great ones and probably a different podcast for every style and path in paganism. My first listening experience was with The Magical Earth. They are a quadcast, four Wiccans who circle together and are involved in the pagan community in Winnipeg Manitoba. I like their format and their banter, they are 5 episodes in so you have plenty of time to catch up. The blog A Pagan Tapestry has a great list put together, ( and is also a terrific blog in general) allowing you to surf around and check out some different options.
Greywolf Moonsong from A Pagan Heart in Maine podcast also has a great page on his website with links up to different podcasts. His podcast does many interviews with authors and other community members and he asks compelling questions.
The Dark Side of Fey is a great one. Fey is honest and very intelligent and she touches on topics that really challenge the brain. The Celtic Myth Podshow is a treat. Ruth and Gary take you through the Irish mythological cycle in a brilliant way. This one is so entertaining. It often makes me feel like I am going back in time, huddled around a bonfire wrapped in a pelt, or sitting in a mead hall while a storyteller enthralls everyone. It is the modern techy version of an ancient tradition. I have just started listening to A Witch's Primer. This one is great for anyone looking for a beginner's course in witchcraft. I'm enjoying host Ariel's exercises and ideas. I think it is always great to brush up on the fundamentals. Pagan Parents on the Edge has two parents' perspectives on the community. Fox and Arrowind talk about many topics besides parenting and their dynamic is nice to listen to. They are a couple that can take a step out of the mundane and relate their spiritual life in a very down to earth way.
Most of the podcasters spread the love around and promote each other's shows. They all seem to be fans as much as the listeners. If you are into itunes you can always go to the store and search for pagan podcasts in the Religion and Spirituality section. There are so many great ones out there it's hard to narrow it down. But I think that every one's personal tastes and paths will influence which shows you will enjoy most. So explore a bit and give these shows a listen. We are so fortunate to have such dedicated community members who contribute their time, money and wisdom for us to partake of. Lots of love to the podcasters! Finding you all has enhanced my spiritual self in the best way!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

18th Annual Women's Memorial March

Next Saturday I will be attending the 18th Annual Women's Memorial March in the Downtown east side of Vancouver. I have heard about it for years and feel grateful to have the chance to march this year. This march is held in memory and honour of the women who have disappeared from the area, as well as those who have been found murdered. For decades these women, the poorest and most vulnerable where not given the support, help or respect they deserved. The neglect of these woman's basic human rights were a result of the neglect of the poor and sexism that is still rampant in our society. Because they were sex workers, mentally ill, homeless, poor or drug addicts they were ignored. I feel such a sense of outrage that so many women were cast off, lost and so many mothers, sisters, fathers, grandparents and friends felt helpless in finding their loved ones. Despite the sad nature of this event I will be there, on Valentine's Day, to show my respect and love towards these women and their families. If you are in the area please consider joining me. If you can not please remember these women in your thoughts and even light a candle if you are so inclined. More information can be found here. You can also make a donation towards the expenses of the event at that link.

*Image found here*

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Waiting for Spring

Syrup coming out of the evaporator

My Dad keeping the evaporator fires burning

Our sugar camp, in operation since the 1950's

Sap dripping from a Rock Maple Tree

I hope that those who celebrate Imbolc had a great one. I had a lovely day. A bath, and a simple and fulfilling ritual with Heidi. Yesterday I planted four bulbs in my garden and noticed that some small green shoots are pushing up through the dark soil. What a wonderful time this is. We've even had two days in a row of sunshine. Very rare for our part of the world. The rain is returning tomorrow though, so today Kyan and I will get out and have a nice walk.
Life is moving along at quite a pace this year. With working from home and being a mom/homemaker my creative pursuits are suffering the most. I'm trying to find a balance and fit it all in, and trying to be easy on myself... no super woman complexes over here.
This time of year also tends to make me homesick. It starts now and climaxes right around Sugaring time. Sugaring time is when we make maple syrup in eastern Quebec, usually between the last week of March and the first and second week of April. It remains the most beautiful promise of spring... you can actually smell the earth stirring. The water in the earth rises up and pulses through the rock maple trees. Last year we were home for a visit at that time, I've posted some pictures so you can have a look. Keep the faith, especially if you are still under a blanket of snow.