Return to the Bonsai

We went to the Hidden Lake Garden in the Irish Hills section of lower Michigan with two primary intentions; to visit the bonsai display behind the Observatories and to have a picnic lunch. Thursday was the best day for us (no doctor/dentist appointment that day) and what a lucky choice that was as it is the day that the volunteers come in to prune and care for the bonsai trees.

The gentleman above was shortening/pruning the “candles” from this evergreen to slow growth and maintain shape. We made a quick duck behind some fencing to take a look at the plants they hold in reserve for rotation to the display. There were a couple of specimens that showed me what they look like before pruning.

My last post was of photos taken of this bonsai exhibit back in 2017 and I posted this next photo stating I didn’t have any information but thought it is an apple tree.

It is an apple tree, first potted in 1969 and at that time it was estimated to be 11 years old and a volunteer provided me the “rest of the story.” It was started by a farmer who potted it from his orchard and it bears apples about the size of a golf ball. If you look close you can see the fruit forming on the plant that was just past blooming at this visit.

There were at least six volunteers working, moving smaller plants into their work garage for trimming. They worked with great concentration, taking each snip very seriously although they were very eager to chat and answer questions.

Besides getting an inside look at operations, I also focused on taking photographs of trees I hadn’t previously seen because of the rotation of exhibits and collecting identifying information in anticipation of writing this post.

The above gallery of photos are the ones I found most interesting on this visit. You can see bigger photos and get information by clicking on any of the photos.

I think this post is a good one for the Lens-Artist Challenge #149: Cool Colours – Blue & Green. Not only is the foliage of most of these bonsai plants green (or mostly green) but I think this would be a really “Cool” hobby for someone a bit younger than I am. My part in bonsai growing will be as the appreciative spectator.

Another Finished Quilt

_DSC0012

My last post was about a quilt given to me by my cousin, made by either my grandmother or great-grandmother, and my thoughts about these two people as I was finishing a quilt for a recently acquired granddaughter by marriage. The quilt pictured above was make at the same time for Maggie’s brother, Tika. Jim will be delivering them on Saturday when he goes to Lansing for an outing with our son. Now every child, grandchild, and great-grandchild has at least one of my quilts.

Tika picked this pattern from Janet Goddard’s book “Simply Modern Patchwork Quilts” and it was fun and easy to put together, until….  I was really close to completing the quilting on my machine when I decided that the quilt needed to be longer. It just didn’t look functional for a young man so I decided to add another “sound wave” and after much thought decided on blue-greens. I found the required 8 pieces in my stash, realized I had to buy more background, and took apart the borders on the end. Then I realized that I didn’t have enough backing and couldn’t get more. That’s when I decided to do another sound wave for the back using 24 different fabrics across the spectrum inserting it in the unquilted end. Changing a pattern mid-process creates a lot of work but I am always glad I made the decision when it makes it more aesthetically pleasing and/or more functional.

It feels good having these two committed quilts finish – I enjoyed making them but I am now enjoying being able to focus on other activities, such as writing an occasional post or two and practicing free-style machine quilting. My morning coffee on my purple porch swing today was especially joyous because I used the early morning time to do some weeding and deadheading in my flower garden. Because of a very rainy May and a scorching June, we are just now getting the spring work done in the beds around the house. As I sipped coffee, I took great pleasure in looking at the blooming July garden without the pressure of seeing untended plants. For a day or two it is tidy and neat – I feel in control. Inside, I also have had time and energy to do some long-neglected nest-building and cleaning tasks. I have enjoyed feeling alive and full of energy, until last Wednesday.

Wednesday was one of those days when I couldn’t focus on any project long enough to make progress and I felt the familiar sadness behind my eyes – like the pressure of unshed tears. I was feeling a heavy cloud produced by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony before our Congress about the investigation of Russia’s interference in our past two elections and our president’s role in that interference and his obstruction of justice associated with this investigation. The behavior of our president has been a continuing source of stress because so much of his behavior has been either immoral or illegal and anyone ‘behaving badly’ in a way that hurts others troubles me. I also am stressed because I agree with so many professionals who have served in various roles in our justice system, our president’s behavior concerning Russia is a threat to our national security and our democratic form of government. I don’t have a crystal ball and I have heard no one who knows a whole lot more than I predict that justice will prevail and our country will correct course. But I want to hold hope that we can fix the deep seated problems in our government and our society that predate our current president but are getting much worse. I want to live in a country that is true to it’s founding ideals that includes elections that are fair and honest, opportunity for all people and not just for those with privilege, a justice system that treats everyone with equal respect and fairness, and compassion to help all our citizens, not just the ones who look like those in power.

Politics weighs heavy on my heart and I don’t feel like I have much control. My daughter is also in the middle of a divorce from a husband who asked for the divorce and is now making it very difficult – wanting above all else to hurt my daughter. I am feeling helpless as my daughter and granddaughters are being hurt by him and his mean behavior. Consequently I am spending lots of time doing the things that I can control – the things that seem to make my life seem tidy and orderly.

 

A Legacy of Quilts

_DSC0007

The temperature had dropped and I decide to sit on my purple porch swing to finish hand-sewing the last edge of binding on the quilt I’m making for the young woman who became my granddaughter four years ago when my son married her mother. Maggie is an artists so I had her pick a pattern from a couple of books of contemporary quilts. I am excited about getting it to her because I think she will love it. The name of this pattern is ‘Birds Migrating’ and it is from the book is “Quick & Easy Quilts” by Lynne Goldsworthy.

This morning I sit long-wise on the swing and the motion of my body with each stitch (or the slight breeze making a loop through the porch) keeps the swing gently swaying. My sewing is smooth and efficient from decades of hand sewing, automatic – so I have extra brain cells for thinking.

Today my thoughts are about the quilt my cousin gave me. She found it in a closet she was cleaning and she didn’t want it – she thought it was Grandma’s quilt (passed down through her mother) and she knows that Grandma and I had a very close bond during our shared lifetimes. I smile a bit as I think of the symmetry of my motions and Grandma’s as we both work on our quilts, with over 75 years dividing us. I wish that we could sit on a summer’s day and talk and sew and talk and be together. I think she would enjoy the new techniques of rotary cutting and chain piecing. She would marvel at modern sewing machines as she never owned an electric one. And I would ask her all the questions that I have now that I am older, about the same age as she was when she died.

_DSC0005

I have some questions about the quilt – ones I don’t want to ask because I want it to be Grandma’s quilt. On three or four places there is a name stamped with a rubber stamp and the little letters seem to read “Taylor”, the name of my grandfather’s mother’s second husband. She died in 1939 at the age of 90, five years before I was born. I I remember family members talking about her was alive when I was very young but I don’t remember being around her; I only know her from what I overheard the grown ups say about her.

My grandfather was a very impatient, surly sort of guy, not the kind of guy a person would want to cuddle up to, or even hug. But he showed a caring for me by doing things for me or with me. When I was small, he let me ride on the tractor when he cultivated his fields and I helped him plant and harvest potatoes in the muck. He also allowed me to learn to drive on his Cub tractor – big stuff for a thirteen year old. I remember being around him in the summer when we were outdoors doing stuff, but I sat on Grandma’s lap and cuddled into her ample body as she quietly rocked me as the blown glass in the front door made the telephone pole do funny things.

The word was that Grandpa’s mother was a difficult person that people didn’t enjoy interacting with. I’ve never thought much about my lineage coming through my grandpa and his parents. I came through Grandma and her mother Grandma Carry, who lived behind them and died when I was 6.

I’m struggling to get my mind around the fact that something of importance, be it a quilt or a part of who I am as a person, may have also come through that side of my father’s family. It feels strange to me that I struggle because I also treasure the parts of me that come from my mother’s mother and her sisters. I was around my mother’s father but I know very little about him because he only spoke Polish and I don’t remember him ever trying to interact with me. I find it strange that there are people that I have included as parts of my identity and those that I have excluded.

I’m shifting, though. Grandma will always be the central character in my life story but just as I have added important characters throughout the years, I can also go back and redefine the way people from the past fit in. In my world and my story I am in charge of most of what goes on and always how I respond.

Maybe this is a lesson for all of us. Inclusion and exclusion is not cast in steel and rock. We can become more open to people who are different. We can embrace those that other’s have told us are bad. And just maybe these new people, or new understanding of who they are and how they fit into our lives, may bring us increased meaning and joy. I am growing to love my new quilt and want to know more about the woman who pieced together each half-triangle square by hand, with tiny stitches.

A Goodwill Quilt

_DSC0002

I’ve been busy working on multiple throw-sized quilts that I’m making for family members who don’t have one yet and a few just because I wanted to try a pattern. This one I did because I fell in love with this pattern on a web site in flannel plaid. Flannel plaid is easy to find but I’m not fond of working with flannel and quilting broadcloth isn’t easy to find in plaids that would work for the quilt I envisioned. I was trying to find a solution as we were moving to our winter home in Florida last fall, knowing the greater Naples area has a shortage of quilting stores.

And then the fun began. I realized that there are a lot of rich old men living in Naples who die each year, and their clothing is given to resale shops. I’m guessing there are well over 50 resale shops for every shop that sells quilting fabric in this area. I found some resale shops who want $20 for a used man’s shirt but I also found that Goodwill had many high quality shirts for around $3. Over the period of a few weeks I found a big stack of shirts that I cut off seams and collars. I cut 3 x 6 inch blocks from all the shirt plaids and complementary blocks from prints that I had taken to Florida and some I collected there the year before. One of my goals of making throw size quilts is to use up some of the fabric I’ve accumulated over the years.

Our friends who gather at the pool every afternoon were intrigued with my shirt project, especially the two quilters. The men stopped wearing plaid shirts when there was a chance of being around me. I finished this quilt top before we left so everyone could see it because I decided it would be a perfect house warming gift for my grandson who just bought a house in Michigan.

I really like this quilt and wavered a little on giving it away, but knew it was my grandson’s when he and his live together partner both said that one of the red plaids was like the old undershorts he just threw away. I don’t think I’ve given a quilt to anyone that had “built-in” nostalgia.

And I still have a whole box of cut up shirts waiting for another project (and looking forward to getting back to Naples to see if I can find some more). I think I will make one with 6 inch plaid squares and 6 inch Ohio Star squares made from fabric stashed away in drawers. I will just dream of that one until I get the three done that I am currently working on. And just maybe I’ll use up the pile of extra bricks I cut out to make another “Plaid Brick Road” quilt.

 

The Excitement of Learning

_DSC0006

I’ve got that bit of nervousness that comes from taking in a lot of new, exciting information that I haven’t had much chance to practice or apply in my daily living. I think it is my old nemesis whispering in my ear – the one that believes I should be able to learn it well enough by reading to do it perfectly the first time. Time to change that message because I’m doing this for fun – and the pleasure is in the experimentation and the learning.

This new learning started with a book I ordered way back in March, Close Up Photography in Nature, by John and Barbara Gerlach. I had borrow some books from the library and decided that this one would be the one I would want to return to frequently in the future. It isn’t a thick book but I’ve been picking it up ever since and learning something new every time I do.

I love close up work but frequently (usually?) my images become close up when I crop them in post processing – probably something “real” photographers wouldn’t admit to unless their raw files were subpoenaed. I also had been thinking I would like a macro lens but really didn’t know what to buy and when I explored them on-line, they were pretty expensive. So I read my new book, and nodded my head a lot, and went in search of a highlighter, and went back again to reread some sections. Oh, the excitement of being able to do what I love with better results, maybe. And I went out in my garden to try some of the new skills they explain in their book. That was last summer.

_DSC0085

What I learned was that “close up photography” involves making images that fill the entire frame and there is a definite art and science to the process. I also learned what lenses produce the best results (those expensive ones) but they also suggested an alternative for those of us who don’t sell prints so can’t declare a lens as a business expense or take out a small business loan. They discussed a way to practice the science without spending a boatload of money. One suggestion was a magnification lens that screws onto the the front of a lens, like a filter. At less than $100 it was worth a try.

_DSC0028

_DSC0025

I am enjoying learning as a long, slow process. When I returned to the Naples Botanical Garden for me weekly photo shoots, I found that I was doing many of the things that I learned from the Gerlachs and the one that I am enjoying the most is using manual focus more.

I probably won’t be doing much macro photography when I am in the Michigan cold for our holiday season but I have a new toy downloaded on my computer and waiting for play time – a new learning curve. I’ll share that fun in another post.