Monday, September 14, 2015

Wrap Skirt

It may have been the worst pattern I’ve ever seen, but it is one of my favorite skirts.

That’s the summary on the wrap skirt I made; my first fully-Bungalow project.  I don’t remember if there was one on display, or just the picture on the pattern envelope, but whatever I saw looked cute and I went for it.

The wrap skirt is reversible.  My goal was to make it something that would go with most of my blouses so that when I’d come home from work, I could take off my suit and have a house skirt to throw on over my slip instead of changing my whole outfit.

I chose black with medium-sized white polka-dots for one side and then looked around the store for another fabric for the reverse.  I found a fun print with lions and India-looking circles and leaves.  I thought the fabric was grey with black leaves (like it looks in the picture).  It certainly looked that way in the store light, but when I got to Mommy’s, I discovered it’s actually beige with blue leaves.  Blue and beige don’t really go with black and white.  I tried to remedy this by picking a sash fabric that goes with both.  I chose light grey and white chevrons, which I fear instead goes with neither side, but whatever.  It works well enough.

wrap skirt pieces

no seam allowances The “pattern” was a sheet of paper with two parts of a trapezoid printed on top of each other.  You can’t even cut them out separately and tape them together!  You’re  supposed to trace each seam size part onto freezer paper and then tape the freezer paper together.  On top of that, this pattern was designed by a quilter.  That trapezoid doesn’t include any seam allowances!  And, the instructions tell you to stitch half-inch seams.  What nonsense is this?!  I could have – should have – skipped buying the pattern and just drawn my own trapezoids on the fabric with chalk.

wrap skirt Ceci n’set pas une pattern

Being a garment sewer, I gave my skirt proper 5/8” seams when I made the skirt.  I also had to lengthen it several inches as the “tea length” version barely came to my knees.  Apparently this quilter is also quite short.  She may also be a little on the chunky side as this “one-size-fit-most” pattern gets just small enough for my waist when the ties are pulled as tight as they go, and at 5/9” and 165, I’m not exactly tiny

Crazy pattern and instructions aside, the resulting skirt is quite cute.  I don’t quite wear it the way it’s designed. The ties are super long so that the ends of your bow hang down almost to the bottom of the skirt.  I prefer to wrap the ties all the way around my waist.  That helps keep the skirt up.


wrap skirt in Canada (3)

Monday, September 7, 2015

Adventures Con Ivory: Costa Rica

IMG_0103 They say Costa Rica is beautiful, and it is.  But what they don’t tell you is the most beautiful part of Costa Rica cannot be seen.  From the moment you step your first foot outside, it is there.  Wrapping you, swirling around you from your ankles to your neck.  The thick air.  Draping over you, like a smooth cotton sheet, gliding over your shoulder and slowly dropping to the floor, brushing over every nerve, making even the tiniest hairs dance, warm as it touches you and cool as it glides away.  Neither hot, nor cold.  Dancing past you, over you, around you, tip-toeing across your back, whispering in your ear, sliding down your hair and tossing it free.

Sure, the scenery is gorgeous, too.  Tall palm trees reaching high into the sky.  Green fronds rippling before the stars, seeming to touch the tips of fluffy clouds whispering by.  Bushy trees with their wide leaves and squat, spread canopies of cover. 
Bromeliads peppering the ground, popping up among a group of ferns or grasses, piercing orange, hungry bromeliads.  Banana trees, mango trees, papaya trees, fruits hanging low on heavy branches, plump and waiting for the last days of ripening.  Birds soaring, perched on tree branches, spray-painting the sidewalk an unmistakable white.  Green feathers that disappear into the magic decor that is “green season.”  Black feathers, glistening like oil in beads of water splashed down their backs.  Tiny birds of the most royal blue.  And the chirps and peeps and the squawks.  Oh, the squawks!
Or the people, the welcoming, sweet, pleasant people, who seem only to know happy, at least to strangers, and are considerate and courteous enough to somehow make a pattern of wild, narrow roads with few traffic signals work.  Who greet you cheerily with a “Buenos Dias” or “Buenos Aires.”  Who smile patiently as you try to mutter through very broken Spanish and who respond to ever “gracious” with an enthusiastic “mucho gusto!”  These things are all wonderful, too.

But, to be still, to just be, wrapped in that blanket of air, is the most beautiful part of all.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Reflections upon finishing Spectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga

Sometimes I just hold the pen above the page and wish that it were possible for raw emotion to spill onto it without the need for words or letters or sounds or coherent thoughts.  I suppose artists can do that.  I am not an artist.  I am only human.  An empathetic human fighting to save her soul from the destruction of the masses.  Fighting to find truth despite “the way it is.”

Tears ring my eyes.  The soft patches underneath, beginning to droop with the signs of ma age and lessons of life, are hard with dried salt from tears that escaped some time ago.  Humanity—is anything but.  Cruelty.  Justification  Righteousness for us.  Condemnation for them.

If you want to kill someone, the first thing you do is make them “something.”  Savage.  Negro.  Jew.  Terrorist.  Enemy.  Fetus.  Animal.  Anything but “human.”  Anything but us.  And it is so easy to do.  So easy to draw a line.  So easy to say “me” “not me.”  “Me.”  “It.”  “Me.”  “Those things.”  And once it is done, once the line is drawn, once the leap is made, there is no barrier to the fierceness, the destruction, the uncaring, the harming, the ability to bring pain.

*     *     *

Pain.  Pain.  Pain.

It hurts.

It hurts to receive pain.  It hurts to recognize the immense depths of giving pain of which you are capable.

It hurts to look evil in the face and recognize yourself.  As much as it hurts to look at the broken lying in a heap and see your pain.

I am the broken and the breaker.

I am the shame and the shamer.

I am the victim and the victimizer.

We are.

We all are.

And we call this “humanity.”

And we justify the doing, even as we lick our own wounds.

And there is no end.  Only a new sense of us and them.  Only a new line drawn, even as we express horror at the old one’s place.

Spectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga purports to be an account of a young man exhibited in the monkey house at the Bronx Zoo in the early 1900s, but it is so much more than that.  It is an unabashed look at global race relations, America’s role in the rise of eugenics and the influence of her preeminent scholars on Adolf Hitler, a gasping account of King Leopold’s horrors in the Congo, and a brave attempt to make an “other” one of “us.”

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Buenos Días Bogotá

“Like someone had picked up Berlin and dropped it in Florida.”  That was my first impression of Bogotá.  But as we kept driving, that description melted away – every turn, every corner, the city seemed completely different and always new.  A giant city bustling with people and traffic.  Oh the traffic!

Bits and pieces of familiarity sprung out at me like neon signs; others were lost in the huge array of newness.  A speed limit sign reminiscent of the game, Mille Bornes, Alfred and I attempted to play as kids, made  me think of France.  A random cow along the side of the road and a packed minibus conjured up thoughts of Zambia.  The palm trees brought to mind a conflated mess of places I’ve lived and visited.  The large square between the Supreme Court and the Congressional building, filled with pigeons who didn’t even flinch when you stepped next to them, transported me to San Marcos Square in Venice.  Small pieces of familiarity floating in a sea of new.

Bogota Some things that ought to have been familiar mixed in with the overwhelming activity of the city in a way that prevented my mind from grasping the known-ness of them.  Bars on windows, garage-door shuttered shops, coach buses, plantains. 

A place so different from anywhere I’d been it could turn even the familiar into something new and strange.  At breakfast, I filled my plate with fresh fruit, eager to try all the strange things before me and ate my piece of watermelon whole, seeds and all.  It wasn’t until I was finished that I realized watermelon is something I know, that I never would have done that at home and probably ought to have removed the seeds.

Meals were a delight of adventures.  Fresh fruit of all kinds, blackberry juice, fresh strawberry juice in milk, varieties of cheeses I couldn’t pronounce tucked inside a crepe slathered in mushroom sauce, a drink made of mint and ice and apparently nothing else (a mint smoothie?).  There was some jam at breakfast that was sort of a yellowish-green.  It looked strange; I had no idea what it was.  So, of course, I had to try it.  It tasted like something I’d eat in art class.  (I didn’t have it again, though my juice at breakfast the next day was the same color.  It did not taste like art supplies.)  Scrambled eggs in sort of a day-glow orange hue, honey dripping off the honey comb into the serving dish, black olive jam (yum!), cornmeal cheese buns (almojábana, I think), flat pastries of all kinds, and the most gorgeous giant desserts that I never saved room for.

The menus were the only thing I could mostly handle on my own.  Thank you Mr. Trizzle and years of authentic Mexican restaurants and taco trucks in the Yay.  The rest of the time, I kept looking for the English signs that accompany the Spanish, or the small English print that is always somewhere on the signs on the bus adverts in the US.  I wasn’t looking because I expected it to be there.  I was looking out of habit.  I would find myself doing it and shake my head at myself.

I did manage to carry out one thing in Español without help from anyone: Fed-Exing Alfred and Nathy-Boo a postcard.  Either Colombia’s postal service is lacking or Colombia is lacking a postal service.  I’m not sure which, but Fed Ex seemed to be the only option.  The difficult part was spelling their address.  “Seite dos” – that part was easy.  “Te aye rrr rrr ah say aye.”  I couldn’t remember the vowel sounds at first.  Why didn’t I write it you say?  I was spelling it verbally because the clerk couldn’t read my handwriting.  Luckily she showed me the price on a calculator.  I can count to 10 and know 20, but once we’re in the thousands, I’m lost!

I felt awful about not being able to do more than greet - *sings* Buenos días, como esta?  Muy bien gracias y como le va? *done singing* and asking “habla Inglés?”  (Thank you again, Oakland.)  But the people were very friendly and helpful.  I guess I was expecting Paris, but Paris is, well, Paris.

Bogotá is in the mountains and surrounded by mountains.  There is one called Monserrate (which first I thought was Mount Serrate, and then when I saw how it written I kept picturing Moulin Rouge for some reason) that has a gondola up to the top – no believed me that this was the correct “English” word for the basket in the sky that takes you up the mountain.  Monserrate can also be climbed.  I must come back someday to climb Monserrate in my hiking boots like Table Mountain in Cape Town.  Or, if I am too old by the time I return, I’ll take the gondola up like at Banff in Canada.  And next time, I should come with someone who likes coffee!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Permanent Display

Stop it.

Stop calling me beautiful.

Stop saying I’m pretty.

In the middle of a conversation,

When I thought we were talking,

When I hoped you were listening.

Now I know,

You are not listening.

This in not a conversation.

I am talking,

But I might as well be squawking, chirping, growling, barking,

Like the other animals in the zoo.