Study for Meditation Mat

Study for Meditation Mat
Handspun Tapestry Weaving

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Just Came Back: Adventures at Fibre Week 2014

It was a great week.  There were the usual minor glitches and hitches.  I was so tired after the first day of standing on concrete that I thought I'd have to crawl across campus to get back to my townhouse.  It's no fun sleeping in an unfamiliar, hard bed, but I'm getting better at that. (Take that as you wish.) None of the small problems one invariably encounters when teaching "away" affected the end result: Fibre Week 2014 was a great week.

My students, eleven of them, came from all walks of life and from all over. There was a high school student from Nanaimo, a nanny who drove from Hoboken, New Jersey, a vet from Saskatchewan. Someone travelled down from Yellowknife. Everyone was delightful; I spent the week telling everyone I met that I couldn't have had a better group of students for my first time teaching Level 1 if Olds College Administration had hand-picked them for me. None of them knew each other before the class. Long before week's end, they were a team and it showed in their work.  They were experienced spinners who were open to new things and those who were more familiar with some material helped others who were not.  It was a beautiful thing to watch.

I love teaching anyone and anything, but I especially like teaching people who are fairly new to whatever path they're walking because those people teach me the most about what I need to know.  I usually teach people who may not want to learn what they need to know, children and people who are brand new to the fibre world.  I talk a lot (which is the usual mode for me when I'm out in the world, but I talk more when I'm teaching) because I'm concerned that I'll miss something that people need to know and fully understand.  I jump in to solve every problem or anything that looks like it might become one. I micro-manage because my experiences have taught me that it's necessary given the material and people I teach. This class was not that.

I learned that I don't need to solve every problem NOW or even at all. I learned that students are perfectly capable of organizing themselves and working out solutions for what they need to learn and doing a better job of it than I can in many instances.  I am the facilitator with the basic knowledge, plan and guidebook.  I'm there to get them going, to provide the general map and to help them navigate the rough patches, but otherwise, I can step back. By mid-week, my mantra to them was, "You've got this."  And they did.

I also learned a lot from the Administrative Team which has taken over the Fibre Week programme. Zach, Kori, Judy and the rest of the team were new to Fibre Week and new to fibre, but they did a great job of organizing (herding cats, really) for both students and instructors.  If I had a problem, they helped me solve it as soon as possible.  They patiently did everything asked of them and more.  They cheerfully participated in the after class events when I'm sure all they wanted to do was go home and get some sleep.  Between their team and my class, they demonstrated how well things flow when everyone works together. That is a very valuable lesson.

What might my students have learned from me?  I will be receiving the evaluations from the class and I've asked them to be kind but frank because I need to know my strengths and weaknesses should I teach in this programme again, but I think I may have shown them that, as much as I love fibre and I'm passionate about what I do, not everything has to be SERIOUS BUSINESS. It is possible to laugh and study and work at the same time. (Except during the surprise pop quiz. Then it is not.)  It is important to do the required work to the best of one's ability, but the world will not end if you or I make a mistake.  I certainly made my share of them during the class and that's just fine.  All was well in the end and everyone still discovered what they needed to know. Sometimes, mistakes and accidents are learning lessons. (Ask me about the hands on lesson in HazMat Safety we had at the beginning of dye day.  I'm always happy to be the cautionary tale.) There must be Joy in whatever we do; otherwise, why are we doing it?

I'll end with a few photographs and a big "Thank You!" to my students, fellow instructors, Zach and his fine team, Olds College employees, volunteers and everyone else who made Fibre Week 2014 such a wonderful experience.  For privacy reasons, I'm not going to identify people in the photos, but you know who you are and what you did.  We've got this!

My poppy beds are still spectacular!

The view from my townhouse door, around 9:30 pm on Tuesday.  It stays light long into the night.

The campus grounds are beautiful.  This is a shot of one of the calla lilies.

Team work: sorting mordanted skeins.

More teamwork, more sorting.

How to dye safely
Bubble, bubble, this is no trouble.

From white yarn to this, using natural plant dyes!

End of dye day.  Note the difference between the colours in the middle bunch, which were handspun yarns, and the colours around it, which were commercial yarns.  All are beautiful, but the handspun yarns took the dyes far more intensely.

Last day: are we happy?

Friday, 20 June 2014

Well, My Bags Are Packed: Heading Out to Olds Fibre Week

We are on the road tomorrow, heading to Olds, Alberta, for Fibre Week 2014. I've been packing all week and I should be ready to go, but I'm sure there will be a bit of last minute panic as I check for an essential item I might have forgotten to tuck in a bag.  The amount of equipment and supplies I have right now is impressive.  There's this:

That's vacuum-packed fibre, kilos of it, along with a spinning wheel and my teaching tools. There is more (about 15 kilos of it) waiting for me on the campus.  (At least, I certainly hope there is!) I'm waiting for a supplier to bring me 5 kilos of Romney fleece this afternoon. There's also this:

The plastic tote contains my dyeing equipment, while the knitted bag holds my samples. We stay in student housing, so there's extra bedding required and some dishes.  Although I'm not teaching yoga and meditation at the conference this year, yoga equipment is mandatory.  One of my roomies, Jean, who is coming from Calgary, want to do a practice while we're there and I have heard from several former students who are hoping to join us in informal sessions after teaching is done for the day.  This may be a wee bit optimistic, because in addition to full day classes, there are evening events such as fashion shows, spin-ins and good old wine and cheese mixers, but I'm more likely to do something if I have a yoga mat tucked into my spinning wheel bag.

What you don't see is my personal stuff-my spinning and knitting projects, a good-sized suitcase packed with a range of clothing options to match the fluctuations in weather that occur during Fibre Week.  Last year, we arrived just in time for the floods.  Several of my students couldn't get through mudslides and the campus had to change housing arrangements to accommodate evacuees from Sundre.  Other years, it's been blazing hot, in the +30C range, which is interesting when you're teaching a class on wool in a classroom which isn't air-conditioned.  I'd prefer the rain, but not so much that anyone suffers from it. What we are guaranteed are mosquitoes, huge, voluminous, impressive swarms of them. They come out as soon as the sun hints at dropping.  Some years, they've been so bad that we've had to swaddle ourselves head to toe to cross the campus.

Despite the mosquitoes, the town is lovely and the campus is stunning.  It's an agricultural college, with a horticultural department, which means that staff and students take pride in keeping the grounds groomed and the flowers blooming.  I'll be looking for my favourite poppy beds.  (I almost typed "poopy beds" which is not far off, because there are barns and pastures containing cattle, sheep and horses right on campus.  We fall asleep and wake up to the sound of cattle lowing.)

It's a wonderful week and I'm looking forward to it, despite my nervousness at teaching in the Master Spinner Certificate Programme for the first time.  I know my stuff; I'm among friends and all I can do is my best.  All will be well.


Sunday, 15 June 2014

Go Back, Jack; Do It Again: Learning to Love Rejection

I just received a rejection via email.  It was likely the nicest rejection I've ever received, so kind and concerned about my hard work and the value of my ideas that I almost felt sad that I had been the source of such discomfort to the person who wrote the email.  Almost.

I am sorry that my proposal was rejected, but here's the thing: it hardly matters. Oh, sure, it would have been grand to see my name attached to an article in a prestigious magazine. I love to write and will continue writing no matter what, but it's also gratifying to have someone send you a cheque when your words hit the page. Our culture values money and payment for effort; rightly or wrongly, work plus payment makes you a professional. Money is an indication that someone is interested enough in what you have to say that they will give you cold, hard cash for the privilege of having you say it. It's quite an ego boost.

Most of what I write comes from research into questions which follow me around, questions which I feel compelled to explore, research and document.  I take that research and write about it. Sometimes, I'm excited enough about my discoveries that, when I put pen to paper or clank away on keyboard to laptop, I want to share what I've learned with a larger audience. Sometimes, those explorations lead me to dead ends. I write about that, too, because, in the long run, that's what's important-the exploration, the writing and the sharing. Everything else-recognition, monetary compensation and that "be-careful-what-you-ask-for-it-might-come-back-to-bite-you" ego boost-is really, not that important.

The brilliant idea I had?  The one that was rejected so kindly, so mindfully?  I'm going to explore it anyway.  I will likely post about it here at some point, but perhaps not.  I don't know and it really doesn't matter. What matters is that I have a passion which inspires me and I'm on a never ending journey. Doing what you love is a wonderful thing. So is a cheque in the mail. Sometimes, the two coalesce. Sometimes not.


Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Running: Just a Few Thoughts and a Bit of Self-Promotion

I've been swamped with things to do since we returned from our adventures.  I've taken and taught several yoga classes.  I teach tonight and then head out for supper with friends who are moving out West from Ottawa.  I've been friends with Jay for over 40 years (yikes!) and even longer with another friend who will be there, so this annual meet up is an important event for all of us.  We love catching up with all the changes which have occurred during the times we're not together.

I'm spinning and knitting samples for an upcoming article, with the copy due in July.  I'm teaching at Fibre Week at Olds College, Alberta, an event that I've attended for many years, both as a student and instructor. I've had a great time every year.  It's an intensive week of all things related to spinning, a time to learn new things, meet new people and visit with old friends. I will be teaching Level 1 of the Master Spinner Certificate Programme.  There is much preparation to be done, from gathering supplies and samples, to working out daily class plans and signing contracts, most of it done long distance, which has been interesting, especially since I have never taught in this particular programme.  Everyone has been very helpful and things are coming together nicely.

Then there's this project: Bodhi 101: Yoga and Meditation for Absolute Beginners.  (Click on the link for more information.) If you're in our area on Saturday afternoon, June 14, have an interest in yoga and/or meditation, but have no idea where to start or you've started and felt a bit awkward in class, these are workshops just for you.  Donna and I will walk you through everything you need to get started in a yoga/meditation practice.  It's a great way to start the summer and we hope you'll join us.

Meanwhile, it's back to sampling before I head off to teach Renew.  I'm running, but it's nice to feel the wind rush past me as I do!

The wind was wild the day I took this photograph, but the trees stayed strong and the water remained calm.


Saturday, 7 June 2014

Just Came Back: A Normal Life

Reality joined me yesterday.  Friday was a day of dealing with illness in the family, a potential marital breakup (not ours, we're too tired to bother) and various other dramas.  The cat has the runs, giving a new outlook on the phrase, "I'm so happy to see you, I could just shit."  Welcome back home to the DD's.

Isn't this always the way?  We move from highs to lows and back again, from profound experiences on mountain tops to trying to wipe a cat's filthy bottom, without that being the last thing you do. (Mick does not appreciate my efforts.) It's an endless, perfect cycle of the ordinary and it makes me laugh.

In the interest of life's basic silliness, I thought I'd offer a couple of fibre pictures.  This is a photo I took of my spindle and yarn in a meadow near our campsite in Kelowna.  I took great pains to wrap the yarn carefully around the spindle arms, creating an Oyo de Dios in the process.  It's beautiful, orderly, made with attention, a symbol of how we wish life to be:

The next photo is of the socks I knit on the road, socks knit while waiting at highway construction sites, or while hiding out from heat or rain in the trailer. They're knit with spare time, if such a thing can be said to exist. I broke my needles on the second pair and had to knit with mismatched sizes, so one sock is tighter than the other. Neither pair matches any closer than "fraternal twins." The tension is a bit sloppy. Young Ms. DD aptly named them "Dorky Socks." They're goofy and fun and they will do just fine. Such socks tucked into winter boots always make me smile, because we are so self-conscious these days that even our shoes and their liners must be either sexy or serious. Not these footies-they definitely don't fit in high heels, even if I owned such creatures:

And so it goes.  Everything in its time, all part of the process, from singing mountains and barking Ravens to cats who howl and slash at the indignity you are offering them, when you are only trying to help.  It's a beautiful day. Have a great one!


Friday, 6 June 2014

More Than This: Mountain Song

We made it back to the city last night, through a wild traffic jam and the madness of work day's end. Once we arrived home, unpacked the trailer, fed dog and cat, had a little supper, did a lot of laundry, it was time for bath and bed.  I'll need a day to recover from all the fun.

Although we did very little during our time away, much happened. We visited, shopped, read, rested.  I took photographs, painted a bit, wrote, spun a bit of yarn and knit two pair of what Young Ms. DD refers to as "dorky socks," with the first foot of a third pair now cast on and partially worked.  I was very busy, doing.

Everything I did while I was away pales in comparison to the experiences I had when I was simply Being.  I don't know how a born and raised prairie girl came to love the mountains and forests so much, but I understand why these places have always been honoured as sacred, healing spaces.  On our second last night away, sitting in a rundown camp on the outskirts of Golden, B.C., I had what I recorded at the time as "a deep, spiritual experience when the mountains sang to me and Raven came calling." I was sitting out reading a book (on yoga, no less), when this lovely creature barked at me:

We had quite a chat; he/she tolerated my attempts to capture a photo before Raven flew away to the top of a tall tree in a forested valley at the edge of our camp.  I thought, "What am I doing, reading, while there's a cliff in front of me, mountains in the distance, creatures everywhere and I may not pass this way again?"  I moved away from fellow campers to a quiet picnic table, taking my camera and paintbox with me.  Raven watched from her perch:

As I sat, and watched and listened, something strange happened: the mountains began singing. I can only describe it as a combination of intense, vibrant humming and a force similar to whales sounding, but it was loud and it was clear.  I'm sure there's a logical explanation for what I heard.  The valley was perfectly suited to echo sound, so perhaps it reflected back highway traffic and trains clacking along mountain tracks. In that moment, though, there was something much more. Whatever it was, I felt it to my bones.  

I'll leave you with a quote from my journal.  I have never shared my journal entries with anyone, but the only way to hint at my experience is to reveal what I wrote the next day. I don't know what any of this means, if there's meaning to be found, but what I had reinforced on this journey was that we live too much in our human made, material world. We ignore the natural world around us, a world that contains beauty and the power to destroy us at any time.  We don't need to worry about destroying Gaia.  It is She who tolerates our presence; it is She who will decide when her tolerance ends:

I felt at peace and understood how forests and mountains are known as healing places. In bed, I felt that this-this valley forest, these mountains-would be where I ended and I wept tears of joy, contentment and bliss. It was a rare, but increasingly less rare, moment of perfect unison-Me and the Universe. You had to be there. Namaste. (June 4/14.)


Monday, 2 June 2014

Only Words: Last Day in Kelowna

I'm sitting outside, in the shade of a faded lilac bush, as I hide from a big hard sun, before the afternoon clouds roll in and strong winds sweep the campsite, cooling everything down to give us a good night's sleep. Monarch butterflies, large enough that I mistook them for small birds at first, float around the apple trees. A bird of prey circles above us, chased by smaller blackbirds away from their fledglings. Morris sleeps at the camper door, his head resting near his water dish, after his mid-day snack.  It's a dog's life for sure.

I'm knitting the second sock of the second pair I've started since we began our travels  This pair will be finished today or tomorrow and I have enough yarn to work another pair before we arrive home.  Sock knitting is perfect for camper travelling: small, simple, interesting enough to spark conversations with fellow travellers or to attend to in those times when you wish to remain silent.  Despite intermittent traffic noise, it's remarkably quiet here, apart from the robins singing, insects buzzing and quails chittering as they dance along the top of the camper at 5 a.m.

When I've had quite enough of knitting, I spin or read one of the several yoga books I picked up downtown or at "Ted's Used Book Store," a remarkable treasure of a business.  With such a tiny storefront, we expected the place to hold a book or two.  Once inside, the place was rather like Alice's remarkable expansion, with room after room of carefully sorted books, including a small room packed with yoga practice and philosophical books, many in Sanskrit. I found a couple of treasures there and Mr. DD found enough to indulge his favourite hobby, reading, at least for the days he's been here.

One more supper with Young Ms. DD tonight and our visits with children are over.  Twice yearly visits with such wonderful people are never enough, but I'm always grateful for the time we have together.  Tonight, we'll share veggie burgers and perhaps a ginger apple cider or two ( a great discovery passed on to me by Young Ms. DD) before we say our goodbyes and head back out on the road tomorrow.  I'm on a mission to catch a quail with my camera, but the goofy birds refuse to cooperate.  Instead, they march right up to me, wait until I'm camera ready and then fly up into the nearest tree to hide, mocking me as they take flight, as if to say, "We're all here, right now."  Perhaps that's all I need.

Meanwhile, I think I hear a ginger apple cider calling me.