Scrap Happy

“In it’s simplest form, a quilt is just some fabric and a little bit of thread. It’s up to you to decide how to put it together.” YLI ad in QNM, March 2000

Every quilter has scraps. We all have to decide what we are going to do with our leftovers. And this can be a challenge. Our favorite fabrics may hold dear associations and memories. It’s hardest to decide what we might do with those particular scraps. I created this design to feature fabric scraps I especially favored, and to deal with the limited use of my right arm and hand following my cancer diagnosis in early 2017. Playing with favorite fabrics always soothes me. I started this quilt in the spring to help distract me from the pain in my hand and arm. It helped!

Creating the diagonal lines allowed me to play with “value”, that is, the interaction of light and dark in the overall visual layout. I followed my mentor, Lila Rostenberg’s advice of placing the lightest values at the upper right hand corner and moved down to the lower left hand corner. Lila had explained, that since this is how we read a text in our culture, our eyes are familiar with this pattern.

For borders, I searched my stash for a fabric to add some personality to the composition. When I pulled my foxglove fabric from my stash, I knew I’d found the perfect border. Not so, because the foxglove fabric is a a “directional fabric”. I could not place the foxgloves laying on their sides as top and bottom borders.

The bottom corner shows the detail of the border and binding fabrics.

As quilters often note, this problem could be transformed into a “design opportunity”. I searched my stash without finding something I wanted to use for those top and bottom borders, so I headed to the local quilt shop. There I found the bold Phillip Jacob floral fabric for the top and bottom borders. I rushed home, cut those borders, sewed, and stepped back to admire my work. Yes, I saw personality there! The top was finished, but the quilt was only half finished.

In August 2017, all my quilting activities ceased while I prepared for my upcoming Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete, Greece in October. So it was not until early in 2018 that I finished the quilting. My binding choice of a fabric displaying much “inner light” was one of my final pleasures on this happy scrap quilt. I had pieced “Scrap Happy” on my ancient Singer Featherweight which has been my primary sewing machine since I bought it used in 1969. My vintage 1981 Bernina #930 is another workhorse that enabled me to do the free motion quilting I use on most of my quilts. Because I don’t see quilting as a “competitive sport”, none of my quilts will be subject to judging. For me it is the sharing of our quilts and our enthusiasms that creates community and the strong bonds quilters share with each other.

Scrap Happy is one of sixteen quilts (and five more in the small quilt auction) I’m displaying on April 5 & 6 at our big quilt show in Springdale sponsored by QUILT of Northwest Arkansas Please join us that weekend. With over three hundred quilts in the show and a special exhibit of hand quilted quilts, you can spend the day with us and enjoy a lunch from Spring Street Grill.

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Crete #6 Honoring the Holy Myrtle Tree

The glass jar of Cretan honey caught my eye that first morning and added a lovely amber color to the altar to honor the ancestors. One of our group dropped locally grown almonds into the honey.

My first morning on Crete, I went out before 8:00 a.m. in search of an offering for the altars we would prepare on later days. I chose this Cretan honey, in part, because it comes in this small shapely glass jar. Size was important–one more thing to add to my day pack. Cretan honey safely stowed, I mingled with the other women and tried to match names and faces to the biographies we had shared before the trip. We boarded our “luxury liner” bus. With expansive windows all around me, I watched as the capitol city, Heraklion, transitioned into curving mountain roads.(For details of that early morning search for libations, see my blog Crete, Part 2 posted on 2/21/18.) I could tell this early October day was going to be hot. I would be glad for the air conditioning on the bus later that day.

Each day we sang this morning blessing in the bus:

As this day dawns in beauty,
we pledge ourselves to repair the web.

Sometimes Karolina (Carol’s Greek name) would give us background about where we were heading to supplement the handout we received earlier. The bus was well equipped with a microphone and even a drop-down, overhead map so everyone could hear Karolina and see the locations of our day’s stops.

Paliani Monastery is one of the oldest monasteries in Crete. Within the walls is a large sprawling myrtle tree considered sacred (Holy Myrtle), and believed to be endowed with powerful healing properties. That day Karloina wanted us to discover the matrifocal subtext of Christianity at the Paliani Convent with its 1,000 year old sacred myrtle tree. Many visitors from around the world and over centuries have brought healing requests to this ancient sacred tree. The convent is at least 1,000 years old. Paliani has been destroyed several times by conquering invaders. And every time rebuilt, most recently in the late 1800s.

One popular Cretan travel guide explained, “The cult of Holy Myrtle is actually a survival of ancient religious habits and more specifically the worship of sacred trees in the Minoan religion.” More information from a website called Orthodox Crete: “This is one of the oldest convents on Crete, situated south of Venerato village and built on top of the ruins of an ancient temple, as confirmed by the capitals located in the courtyard of the convent.”

My carefully chosen sun hat had been packed flat for travel, but I wore it as we climbed the winding entrance to the convent that had been a sacred site for the ancient Cretan people who honored the Goddess in all her aspects.

Hiking up the hillside

Approaching the sacred 1,000 year old myrtle tree.

Lower Level

The Holy Myrtle tree can be approached on two levels. As the tree grew the convent courtyard expanded around the trunk. We walked with a few other visitors around the magnificent tree and silently took in our surroundings. A certain hush pervaded the space. The convent courtyard was carefully tended and bloomed with flowers on this hot October day.

Upper Level

embedded in limbs

Karolina gathered us around the Holy Myrtle on the upper level to consider all we had seen and felt in this special spot. Next we would visit with one of the nuns who has live here for over fifty years. I’ll have more photos and talk about our time with this amazing woman.

Pure mountain spring water!

Later in the day we would drive into the mountains to the town of Zaros known for its pure mountain spring water….

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Creating is About Alchemy!

Alchemy: a seemingly magical process of transformation, creation, or combination.

“When you love something like reading—or drawing or nature (Paula adds quilting)—it surrounds you with a sense of connection to something greater. If you are lucky enough to know this, then your search for meaning involves whatever that Something is.

Moisture, mist, fog, dew, condensation, humidity, snow, sleet, ice, and rain are magical transformations we know intimately.

It’s an alchemical blend of affinity and focus that takes us to a place within that feels as close as we can get to “home”. It’s like pulling into our own train station after a long trip—joy, relief, a pleasant exhaustion.”
From Stitches: A Handbook of Meaning, Hope, and Repair by Anne Lamott p. 22

Vibrant Orange Can Be Seen Everywhere!

After I requested friends send me examples of orange things that excited their senses, Carla G. was the first to respond. She sent me two crittters–her “cool cat” quilt and this bright giraffe which she described as a WIP or work-in-progress. The coiled fabric basket glows with vibrant energy. Carla wrote this about the gorgeous stained glass window that now abides in her house. “My husband and I commissioned it last year from stained glass artist Beth Erbe of Cutting Edge Glass Creations in Farmington. We didn’t use a color wheel or anything, but just played with colors in Beth’s studio until it “felt right” to us.

Here is another photo of Carla holding her just-finished quilt featuring orange and complementary colors.

Kathy G. jumped in with her usual high energy and sent photos and this message, “Is this top orange enough for you? The pattern is Modern Fans. Spread here is a quilt for a niece. Will get it quilted next week. My loveseat in the process of being reupholstered (by Kathy). Thought you might like the orange arms.” I do, I do! I’m fascinated with her color combinations!

What an ambitious project to strip her love seat down to the bones and create anew! This is “extreme alchemy”.

More creative explorations continued to arrive via computer.

Jan B responded at length to my post and wrote this about the three photos she sent, “Hmmm, I thought…what am I doing with “orange?” Not much, I think…but then I saw your point about orange juxtapositioned with turquoise/aqua, and had a little aha moment. I am probably more likely to resonate and use aqua in my quiltings, but together, orange and aqua make a lovely tune!

Here is a photo of a piece I’ll be putting in QUILT Guild of NWA Show (Apr 5-6, 2019). It has red-orange with mint-aqua, grays, butternuts and Kona snow and newsprint. Together the orange/aqua combination makes the piece very lively.

Another photo is last year’s Kona Color of the Year: “Tiger Lily” which was a gorgeous vibrant orange. I stuck some of it in several of my quilts last year…because you know, once Kona’s year is over, they discontinue that color. (I’ll share if anyone needs some Tiger Lily for a project.)

One more photo: I am using this lovely as a backing for a tree quilt. I love the play of the bright colors on the mud-gray background and the swirls kind of look like the cross-cut of a log. Iam really enjoying this fabric, especially with the batik trees and aqua grunge skies on the front.

So, you see, YOU have reminded me that YES, I am using orange. Thank you!”

Each of these communications was a gift to me!
Lila R sent these last two gifts. Abve, is a photo of a watercolor she did of blood oranges arranged on her table. The photo itself is an interesting composition with the jumble of brushes and the paints barely visible in the upper corners. The small creation below features her “signature” indigo bird and bright accents of green as well as orange on that tawny linen background. I believe Lila has made this for the QUILT guild small quilt auction inn April.

Thanks to each of you for participating in this community roundup of delightful orange projects or accents of orange. I’m going to close with a photo of tomatoes grouped by their shades of yellows, oranges, reds and greens. Creating vivid arrangements is a “magical” process that does not have to be complicated!

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Improvisational Quilts & You….

When Jeanie Wyatt taught an “Improvisational Quilting” class at the Fayetteville library, I signed up immediately! With her encouragement I selected scraps from the mountain of odds and ends of fabric she provided. After showing several examples of her own Improv quilts, Jeanie encouraged us to grab our scissors and to get started. An hour later we shared our small projects. Not finished, but most of us had made a good start. I spent several hours at home finishing my quilt. Yes, my previous experience was helpful, but the willingness to explore was the most important part.

This first “improv quilt” is small 17″ or so across.

What is Improvisation? One idea:

We are all improvisers. The most common form of improvisation is ordinary speech. As we talk and listen, we are drawing on a set of building blocks (vocabulary) and rules for combining them (grammar). These have been given to us by our culture. But the sentences we make with them may never have been said before and may never be said again. Every conversation is a form of jazz. The activity of instantaneous creation is as ordinary as breathing.
from Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art by Steven Nachmonovich

Playing with piecing curves is an easy way to start. This small quilt, Misty Morning will be auctioned at our quilt show in April:

Misty Morning front and back.

Not all improv quilts have to be small or using curved lines. This quilt started with the bright ombre strips given to me as a sample. Go play with your own odds and ends–there is a certain freedom in thinking about “What if….”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

My Fascination with Orange…..

We read symbols all the time–many even more potent than words! Television jingles from childhood still exist in our brains, corporate logos blanket our urban environments. Even blank walls carry their own messages. I found this photo of the orange wall online and added my message to you.

I want to involve you in this exploration of orange. Each color has it’s own personality. Orange has been neglected. Let’s change that! The range from pale peach to blazing orange offers unlimited options. Let’s communicate with each other. Three women have already sent me photos to include in the next post. Now it’s your turn! Send me your photos and your comments about your photos. I will share them with the group for ongoing comments and reactions. Do it this week! Get involved and next week I will post them.

Consider this! As a girl I traveled much of the U.S. on family camping trips. Kodak film signs greeted us everywhere we drove. Do you remember this, too? Kodak, the corporation, must have done extensive market research on choosing what the most effective colors to use for all their advertising. It was two shades of orange!

Kathy G mentioned that she had never known of other color wheels either. I was introduced to this unique color wheel when I read Joen Wolfrom’s book Color Play. Wolfrom sells tools to help use this vibrant version of the color wheel Herbert Ives (1882-1953) was a scientist and engineer who headed the development of facsimile and television systems at AT&T in the first half of the twentieth century.


Ives was also an accomplished photographer and inventor. He developed this color wheel based on physics and the true colors in nature. Reportedly, the Ives’ color wheel is the wheel of choice for all fabric, furniture, clothing, yarn and paper companies! Ives’ primary colors are Cyan (Turquoise), Magenta, and Yellow. Computers too, use this system. When you buy ink for your printer, note the C, M, Y designations.

Soothing Shades of Peach, Cantaloupe and Tangerine
I’m drawn to these pale, warm (not hot) colors too. Pale versions of orange are generally tinted with white or gray to tone down the “volume” of pure orange. Think sherbet. Picture antique apricot-color velvet curtains. Or picture a group of well worn vintage books. Next I’ve provided some examples of subdued, soothing shades from the talented photographer Chris Lawton.

This “Still Life” could hang above my mantel for years–then I could study the colors, the composition, and the energy contained in each detail. How soon would the bird take off? Would she stay and sing? Would the hibiscus flower bud open today? Is breakfast coming to this table soon? Lawton

The curves and cave elements draw me into this photograph. I’ve never seen a ceiling like this one before. Have any of you? The tree-like columns reference the “tree of life” symbol of ancient Crete for me. The play of light along the curved path is hypnotizing. The hint of green leaves in the distance is almost shocking. Lawton

The soothing colors of the foreground draw us into the deep blues of the distant sea. The grid of the black wrought iron gate adds unexpected punctuation. Lawton

Nature Demands Our Attention
Our everyday surroundings offer us amazing observations. Let’s pay attention to all we have to celebrate in the natural world of leaf and sky, sunrise and sunset.

Winter can offer a variety of spectacular images when we stay aware of nature’s offerings.

Is this leaf orange or brown? Possibly both! One of my friends, A.A., has a passion for brown. I consider brown a close relative of orange–think about the color “rust”. Is it orange with a lot of brown? Speaking of brown, all the traditional “color wheels” ignore so many fabulous options like black, white, brown, gray and chocolate! And taupe! Some of my favorite quilting time was spent exploring the possibilities of those subtle, but vibrant Diawabo taupe fabrics like those I found at Sager Creek Quilts This is a subject for another day!

Natural Sights: Look Around You
Photos of the sun or moon, rising or setting, over any puddle or other body of water, offers the observer many varieties of yellows and oranges evolving or dissolving into one another. Again, notice how the dark accents heighten the drama.

Closing this post with an attentive canine unaware of our admiration. The shaggy doggy fur in many shades of multiple colors contrasts with the harsh metal of a vividly orange vehicle. Contrasts are a central part of engaging the eye and mind of a viewer.

Posted in Color Explorations | Leave a comment

Exploring the Color Orange

“Compositions matter. Artfully arranged, anything can become a thing of beauty.”
designer Barbara Barry, House Beautiful, January 2013 p.79

Another photographer composed this picture demonstrating the range of colors in the orange family as they move into yellow. The composition of this photograph is worth studying. Note the neutral background and the play of shadows on the foreground subject.

The umbrella photo recalls my introduction to the variety of “color wheels” humans have created. I was under the illusion that there was only one color wheel—the one I was introduced to as a child with red, blue and yellow as the primary colors. As a quilter, I was finally made aware that the color wheel is merely a way to interpret the spectrum of light perceived by human eyes. A color wheel is like a language of color. Different groups can create and adopt different color wheels! Wow, what a revelation for me.

The Ives color wheel used by computers seems more accurate and accessible to me. The primary colors in the Ives wheel are: magenta, yellow and turquoise! One consequence of using this wheel is that orange is directly opposite of turquoise. That makes turquoise the complement of orange!! This explains to me why the terracotta roofs and pots look perfect against the blue doors and blue sky of the Mediterranean.

In studying the this photo, I notice all the curves. Starting with the arch and including all the shapely clay pots as well as the curved edges of the flagstone entry. The multiple curve shapes contrast with the square shapes of the door and elements of the building. The strong contrasts of light in the photo are central to the intrigue portrayed here!

Natural building materials of stone, brick and wood always benefit from accents of color and textures.

Here I’ve focused my camera on the display of island-grown oranges and tomatoes—artfully arranged! I took this photo of a taverna located near the Dictean Cave with a spectacular view overlooking the Lasithi plateau in central Crete, Greece. The artist who created this arrangement certainly caught my eye! The repeated dots of orange in a variety of positions demands our attention.

Orange is the only color whose name also describes a fruit! And not just any fruit, but a citrus fruit with a distinctive tangy and sweet flavor. To my mind the color orange offers similar qualities to our sense of sight! Orange can range from a warm subtle terracottta color to a bright screaming orange of traffic cones.

My desire to explore the possibilities of orange in my quilts and in my own wardrobe began a few years before my one woman quilt show at the Arts Center of the Ozarks in 2008. I know that because during that show I offered a workshop on using orange in our quilts. I believe that my interest in using orange was sparked, in part, by association with LoVina Payton, a prolific quilter in our quilt guild for years.

Another photographer exploring Crete discovered this simple and dramatic display. Here the textures of the different size baskets with the green accents of the orange leaves demands our attention. Notice how the one boat-shaped basket draws your eye. It is unusual, in a composition, to place the heaviest objects on the upper shelf.

Pleasing the Human Eye

Have you noticed how the human eye is pleased by moving across related colors? Because the vibration of orange is a strong sensation it is often better used as an accent color or as “punctuation”—my word for small amounts of a zinger color. Here are two examples with a range of related colors.

Both photographs above yield a smooth transition of colors. Yet there is enough variety in the complex fabric or in the leaves to keep our eye engaged! As quilters, this is a major challenge for us. We strive to keep the viewer’s attention. Revealing a too-regular and easily discernable pattern can be boring. Life is full of contrasts in shape, size, color and especially light. Our eyes desire engagement. My eyes appreciate the chance to fully explore both these photos each time I’ve encountered them. That’s why I’ve included them here.

Everyday artistry was obvious everywhere I looked in the small fishing village of Mochlos located on the north east shore of Crete. The Hotel Mochlos welcomed us with this arched entrance painted a warm terracotta contrasting with the natural stone, the green potted plants and a dash of brilliant blue. After long days on the tour bus I felt welcomed home.

My last examples of the versatility of orange all come from the natural world.

Butterfly weed thriving in our front garden here in Arkansas attracts the Pipe Vine Swallowtail butterfly clothed in dramatic black with iridescent blue shadings. Orange and black will always be a dramatic combination.

Orange Bougainvillea is a more unusual color than the magenta variety which is my favorite. This photo, too, was taken in Mochlos in the fall of 2017. The vibrant orange flowers remind me of growing up in Miami Springs, Florida in the 1950s because the neighbors who lived across the street from us had an out-of-control orange bougainvillea vine like this rambling over their garage. Here the backdrop of the blue sky adds to the appeal.

The early morning sunrise in Mochlos displays the subtle orange of dawn reflecting on the sea. Anyone who admires a sunrise or sunset knows that the colors merge and change quickly. I managed to capture the morning glow as the sun appeared from behind the mountain beyond the crescent shaped beach of the village.

Is it red or is it orange? Perhaps some of both as the colors merge and shift in the morning light. When I choose fabric I watch for a fabric that contains what I’ve called inner light. Below is an example.

The print with the shades of orange and peach is a perfect example of one print with a variety of colors and shades which keep the eye moving and engaged in seeing the pattern presented by the quilter.

“Grape Clusters” is an original design which started with the center embroidered piece worked on a fine quality linen that I discovered years ago at a thrift shop. Once I added my creativity with the framing borders, it became a TimeSpan quilt. I plan to finish this top for the small quilt auction at our guild show in early April.

This sunrise photo looks across the narrow channel to the islet of Mochlos where archaeologists continue to discover 4,000 year old artifacts from the early inhabitants of Crete. The peach sky and the variety of gray colors of the clouds and water present a peaceful scene. Perhaps peach and gray might be the starting point of your next quilt?

If you have examples of quilts or photos with an interesting orange theme or orange accents, send me a photo. Once I receive several items from you all, I will do another post using your photos and any explanations or comments you send me.

Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Adventures in Arkansas-Part 1

Three tables filled with locally collected crystals grabbed my attention! I stopped. This visit to the rustic shop on the drive down to Hot Springs was an unscheduled stop. The terrier was part of the charm. I looked for crystals that I felt called me to take them home with me. Then I poked around the dusty corners of the dark interior, and found several treasures to add to the crystals I’d chosen. Stopping on a whim is one of the pleasures of traveling solo!

In late July, 2018, I traveled to Hot Springs, AR to present a trunk show. The Hot Springs Quilt Guild’s warm welcome included someone using my camera to take photos during my presentation about memory and scrapbook quilts. Here is a quick replay from that presentation.

My display of memory and scrapbook covered the entire front of the room.

left, “25 Years of Quilting” honors 2019 as my 25th year! I used a commemorative fabric from Quilter’s Newsletter Magazine issued in 1994 (the year I began quilting) to honor the magazines 25th year of publication. The blue colorway used on the front inspired my original design. On the back I used the same commemorative fabric printed in the white colorway–I found this fabric years after I bought the first one at Lila’s shop Quilt Your Heart Out in 1994.
right, “Colorado Jay” is the result of our guild challenge to make a small quilt from a photo we had taken. This Stellar’s Jay is a raucous native of the Rockies–note the photo I’m holding on the far right.

I always take the time to create a display of the quilts knowing that quilters are “visual learners”. When I am in the audience, I always enjoy seeing quilts a speaker brings for more than one minute per quilt.

left, “Vintage Kittens” began as a quilt kit purchased in the late1940s by Jeanne’s mother who, at that time, lived near Cleveland, Ohio. Her mom asked me to finish it about 2005. I hand quilted it as a surprise.
right, “Basket of Dimes” is a TimeSpan quilt. The center black area with the basket made of tiny yoyos was probably stitched in the 1930s or 1940s judging by the vintage fabrics. I found it as a pillow at a thrift shop. I transformed it by adding borders and quilting. These are the smallest yoyos I’ve ever seen. Each is about the size of a dime–thus the name Basket of Dimes.

Quilter Becomes an Architectural Tourist, Again

This vintage green sign caught my eye as I drove through Booneville, Arkansas. I was anxious to get home after an overnight trip to Hot Springs to present my program Memory and Scrapbook Quilts. The presentation had gone well, but I had not slept well at the hotel. I was up early and on the road by 7:00. I ate breakfast, then drove north to one of my favorite quilt shops, Mama’s Log House Quilts, located three hours from home. I enjoyed a long visit with owner, Kaye Voss, and shopped her great selection of fine fabrics including a gorgeous silk and cotton blend in vibrant jewel-tone colors.

I had no intention of stopping as I headed home, but that green sign “Fresh Eggs”, snagged my eye in Booneville. Located in South Logan County at the intersection of Arkansas Scenic Highway 23 and Arkansas Scenic Highway 10, Booneville in not a booming town. But I discovered a treasure. The building I was looking at had large crystal clusters and unique fossils carefully built into the wall! I admired the creativity of the long ago artist who created this magnificent wall. Then I grabbed my camera–took lots of pictures.

“Fresh Eggs” sign made me stop here, but the crystals built into the wall (far left) made me glad I’d stopped to admire this unique sight!

I visited with the young woman who was running the consignment shop in the building. When I asked if she knew anything about how old the building was, she assured me it was really old–maybe built in the 1970s. Later, when I was paying for my purchases, I suggested that the building was probably much older than that–possibly built in the 1920’s or so. She pointed out that vandals had chipped away at many of the large crystal clusters located on the lower part of the wall.

Collage of local treasures,both fossils and crystals, embedded into the wall.


The higher groups of crystals were safe from vandal attacks. Look for the damages sections.

Two other historic buildings in Booneville. The Savage Theater no longer offers locals a chance to gather in their hometown.

As I was driving home I kept wondering if there were other vintage buildings with local crystals embedded in their walls. By searching the Internet, I did find a photo of one other building identified only as existing in Paris, AR which is a larger city located in the north central part of Logan County–see the color map above. Are there others? Did the same builder make both of these? Write me if you know anything about these buildings or their history.

Paris, AR building with a wall including more crystals and fossils. Note the unusual jagged roof line created by the rocks.

When I recently heard the term “architectural tourist”, I thought, “That’s me–that explains why so many of my photos over the years have focused on interesting houses and buildings!” When I lived in my 1888 Victorian house in Kansas City, MO I researched the original owner, subsequent owners and passed that information on to the person I sold my beloved Crescent House to in 1998. Once Jeanne and I created our own owner-built house my interest has only intensified.

Creativity comes in all shapes, form and sizes. One of my favorite authors, Margaret Cruickshank, reminds us, “Creativity is usually regarded as an individual attribute, but it depends on opportunities for expression and a receptive audience.” Decades later, I am pleased that a local builder had the opportunity to feature Arkansas earth treasures in these buildings, making me the receptive audience!

Subscribe to Paula’s Blog

Sign up to be notified of new blog posts:

Posted in Adventures in Arkansas, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Adventures in Arkansas-Part 1

What is a Pilgrimage? Crete, Part 5

Mysteries of birth, death and regeneration…

What is a Pilgrimage?
Carol Christ who was the leader of the Pilgrimage I embarked on in 2017, answered this question in her October 29, 2018 post: Goddess Pilgrimage: A Sacred Journey for Women.

A pilgrim leaves home and sets off on a journey, seeking healing, revelation, and direction in her life. She finds companions along the way whose stories reflect her own, validating her quest and shedding light on her journey. According to anthropologists Victor Turner and Edith Turner, pilgrimages have common structural elements. A pilgrim separates from family and friends, work and obligations. She steps across a threshold into “liminal space” in which daily routines are suspended, opening herself to discovering new ways of being and living.

For spiritual pilgrims, the goal is a place or places said by others to be a “sacred” because healing or revelation have occurred there through the intervention of a deity, a saint, or spirits. The place is often on a mountain, in a cave, or near a spring. Along the way, pilgrims meet and share stories as in the Canterbury Tales. Some pilgrims say that the experience of sharing community with other seekers is as important as the revelation gained at the destination. When the pilgrim returns home, she must re-integrate into the community she left behind or find a new one.

Goddess pilgrims visiting shrines of the Goddess are self-consciously challenging the religions they have inherited.

A contemporary Goddess Pilgrimage undertaken by culturally western women, differs from other pilgrimages in that the journey begins in dissatisfaction with or rejection of the dominant Christian religion or its antecedent, Judaism. Goddess pilgrims go to places known to have been sacred in the past, before Christianity proclaimed older Goddesses and Gods to have been surpassed and superseded by the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and reluctantly, Mother Mary and the saints.

The places visited by Goddess pilgrims may have been destroyed and now recovered by archaeologists.

Goddess pilgrims visiting shrines of the Goddess are self-consciously challenging the religions they have inherited. Goddess pilgrims seek healing from the “illnesses” known as patriarchy and patriarchal religions. The insights they gain may be considered “heretical” or “fantastical” by friends and families.

Contemporary Goddess pilgrims visit sites of pre-Christian worship in Greece, Crete, England, Ireland, France, Spain, Lithuania, Malta, Egypt, and elsewhere. While many pilgrims visit temples such as those at Delphi that were constructed in patriarchal times, others prefer to visit prehistoric sites such those in as Crete or Malta where the patriarchal overlay is absent.

The pilgrims I traveled with for the two weeks on Crete–late in our journey together.

Birth, Death and Regeneration
Our lives are full of “little deaths” followed by birth and regeneration. When the sun sets each evening the day dies. The night is born and will die at dawn. We rest overnight and greet the new day with energy. We regenerate. We know this cycle.

I wanted to refocus my attention on this reality of death and regeneration being closely entwined. Somehow I knew that this particular pilgrimage offered me the chance to grow and to learn what I needed to know. I’ve written in earlier blogs about my goddess connections beginning in the mid-1970s when I lived in Kansas City, MO. I know that at the root of all people’s cultures, if you dig far enough, is a reverence for Mother Earth and a celebration of the natural cycles throughout the seasons. Before leaving for Crete, I wrote “I want to remember who I am.”

Standing on the north shore of Crete in the tiny fishing village of Mochlos, I watched the changes in the sky moment by moment that brought the rebirth of another day.

Marija Gimbutus, draws on her own archeological findings as well as the work of others in her field, then considers folklore, historical texts, including images and texts from ancient Greece and the ancient Near East to describe the Old European civilizations. According to the evidence amassed by Gimbutus, the religious symbolism was based on the life-creating female body and the cycles of life. For thousands of years this was the central belief of all our ancestors! Gimbutus notes that in Old Europe (Neolithic Europe and Asia Minor, also known as ancient Anatolia, during the time period between 7000 BCE and 3000 BCE) “religion focused on the wheel of life and its cyclical changing”.1 Modern archeologists have gathered evidence from burial sites all over the region. Gimbutus writes about the strong womb and tomb connection known to our ancestors.

The womb constitutes one of the most potent funerary themes of Old Europe. In the old European cyclical view of the life continuum, new life arose from death in the spiraling pattern of birth, life, death, and rebirth. The Old European tomb is also a womb, from which new life emanates. Often as in the Maltese megalithic complex at Mnajdra, the tomb-shrine took the shape of the goddess. The shrines at Lepenski Vir were triangular, evoking the pubic triangle, an abstraction of the goddess. The floors were made of red limestone and clay mixture, perhaps reflecting the blood of life.”2

Where is Lepenski Vir?
The previous passage led me on a new avenue to explore! Where is Lepenski Vir? My internet search led me to these photos from Serbia. The site of this ancient village is recreated here.

At Lepenski Vir the floors of each dwelling were made of a red clay and limestone mixture, perhaps representing the blood of life.

Lepenski Vir was declared a Monument of Culture of Exceptional Importance in 1979, and it is protected by the Republic of Serbia. It was only in 1967 that its importance was fully understood after the discovery of the first Mesolithic sculptures. The excavations ended in 1971 when the whole site was relocated 29.7m higher to avoid flooding from a new artificial lake created in the Iron Gates gorge. The main contribution to exploration of this site was through the work of professor Dragoslav Srejovic of the University of Belgrade: 136 buildings, settlements and altars were found in the initial excavations in 1965-1970.

Yes, I’ve been directed to a new avenue to explore as I learn about Lepenski Vir, an Old European settlement in Serbia. This important Mesolithic archaeological site is located in southeast Serbia on the central Balkan peninsula. Here is the evidence of a civilized society built on the banks of the Danube River about 7-8 thousand years ago, but only discovered in 1965. The vast territory lying between the Black sea and the Adriatic sea comprising the modern states of Romania, Albania, Greece, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Slovenia, Serbia and Montenegro was known as the Balkans. Certainly this is part of the area Gimbutus calls Old Europe.

The living spiral starts with our birth.

Yesterday was winter solstice marking the longest night and shortest day of the year. Today begins the next phase of the sun cycle with each day slightly longer until the peak at summer solstice. After we cleaned the build up of sticky black creosote from our stovepipe, I’ve spent much of my day thinking about the ancient past and considering my own mortality. Marija Gimbutus tells me, ” Old European tombs reveal the holistic spirituality of the culture. The tomb was a place of healing, both of the living and of the dead, a place where the goddess not only held the lifeless body but regenerated the dead into new life.”3 I believe Marija Gimbutus was a wise woman and continue to read her words as one would listen to a mentor. I’m continuing to be excited about exploring the concept of the “tomb as womb”. My own pilgrimage continues into 2019 as I seek more revelations.

1 The Living Goddesses, p.3
2 Ibid p.70
3 Ibid p.71

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Following the Dream: Crete, Part 4

Last October I managed to transport myself from my everyday world to the Mediterranean island of Crete, Greece. How did I manage to pull this off? This is a question I ask myself. Sometimes, someone else asks me a variation of that question. I have been thinking about the many layers of answers which are accurate.

My wish to explore the ancient goddess civilization that flourished on Minoan Crete was deep and strong. I needed a stubborn desire because there were hurdles to my participating in the Goddess Pilgrimage. First hurdle was the financial consequences of withdrawing money from my retirement fund–not an easy decision. The health hurdle was a central consideration. In early 2017, I started chemotherapy to try to shrink the tumor affecting my right arm and right hand. By August, 2017 my energy was still good, but the long term exposure to the chemotherapy was an unknown. I signed up for the Goddess pilgrimage with high hopes. I believed this trip would “remind me of who I am”. And it has done that!

My belief in my creative self, and my trust in traveling with feminist women convinced me I could do the long flights and then fourteen very full days exploring Crete. The encouragement and support of both Jeanne, my life partner, and Martha, my friend of forty years, were essential. The woman who is my primary care physician also provided valuable advice and support. Many of my women friends cheered me on. As I prepared for the long flights, I consulted friends who have experienced the current airport security measures–this was a primary worry for me–how to navigate the Transportation Safety Administration rules and regulations.

The first step was obtaining a passport. I had only seven weeks! I put all my focus on gathering the necessary documents. Since Martha lives in New Jersey, I arranged the trip to spend one night with her each way. This would break up the trip from Arkansas to the east coast and then on to the twelve hour flight to Athens. Just in case the overseas flight arrived late, I needed to allow a long layover in Athens before the hour flight to Crete. I tried to figure all this out myself, but finally resorted to help from a travel service, i.e. Bank of America. (I was desperate for help.)

The woman assisting me was quite helpful and it took several hours on the phone–with lots of stress involved. Finding nonstop flights at the late date was almost impossible. I did manage to get a nonstop for the Newark to Athens leg at the beginning of the trip. But I did not understand the fare structure that the airlines had instituted to raise the prices of economy by offering a sub-economy fare with many restrictions. So for several of the flights I was on a sub-economy ticket and not permitted any carry-on luggage. Only a single “personal item” was permitted and within strict measurements.

This may seem like boring trivia, but I mention this because it can be a rude awakening at the airport. In studying the luggage weight restrictions, I quickly found that if your one checked bag weighs over 50 pounds the airline will charge you a $200 fee. To ease my mind I ordered, for less that ten dollars, a portable luggage scale which allowed me to weigh my luggage both going over and returning. A more expensive investment was our first smart phone–we were able to get a phone with an inexpensive overseas calling plan which let me phone home every day. This was a valuable lifeline.

Learning to think in Euros was another challenge. Twenty Euros was closer to thirty dollars U.S. dollars. I traveled to Greece with my cash already exchanged into Euros to receive the best exchange rate and to be familiar with the different currency. I would be illiterate in most ways, but at home I could learn how to use Euros to pay for necessary expenses.

Departure, Wednesday, October 27, 2017
The early morning drive to XNA to catch my first flight was harrowing because we encountered backed-up traffic on the interstate. We exited, but found that we did not know the best way to get to the airport. I was stressed and it was only 6:00 am! We made it. Then I survived my first security check, but was so up-tight I forgot to turn back to wave “goodbye” to Jeanne.

With a three hour layover in Charlotte, NC it became a long day on airplanes. When Martha picked me up at the Newark airport I was exhausted and felt lousy. Martha encouraged me to nap before we ate dinner. I still did not feel well on Thursday morning. I missed my flight to Athens that day because I was in the Princeton Medical Center experiencing dehydration! My dream trip began with a nightmare. After many tests and two units of IV fluids I began to feel human again. Martha, as an experienced nurse practitioner, was a great companion during those long hours in the emergency room. The other nurses took good care of me while I was there, but I wanted to go to Crete. Was my dream over?

Jeanne strongly encouraged me to not give up. Because the women organizing the Pilgrimage had urged each of us to purchase trip insurance, I had done so. (It had taken me two days to compare policies and to check ratings of various companies.) I did have a way to continue on to Crete at minimal extra cost.
Finally, Arriving in Athens
Saturday afternoon I left Newark at sunset and arrived in Athens twelve hours later at dawn. I requested wheelchair assistance at each stop for the rest of the trip.

Five hours spent in the Athens airport went slowly although I did have a friendly visit with a young woman from Puerto Rico traveling with her father.
We each guarded the other’s luggage for time to eat and use the restroom. Because I’d done my homework, I was even able to help her with her currency exchange situation there at the airport bank. I continued reading my thick paperback Maeve Binchy novel which had helped me pass the hours on the flight across the Atlantic.

Five hours later, on to Heraklion, Crete via Aegean Airlines

I’ve talked about some of the hurdles, but I want to include some of the thrills too.
I discovered with that first liftoff from Fayetteville how I thrilled at the miracle of each take-off and every landing. I felt so very “at home” inside each of the aircraft no matter what logo was painted on the outside of the aircraft. The narrow confined space with the tiny galleys and multiple port windows had been my workplace for sixteen years and five million miles. As we flew over the Mediterranean I admired the deep blue of the sea and reviewed my training about forced landings at sea.

My home-away-from-home in the 1970s & 1980s was the Boeing 727 Stretch model which carried 200 passengers. Those narrow aisles still felt familiar after being grounded for 24 years.

Thirty-seven hours after leaving Newark, I was finally checking into the hotel in Heraklion, the capital city of Crete. As I was rolling my luggage in the front door, I met three women exiting the building. We passed each other, but I heard them question, “Could that be our missing pilgrim?” They returned, and I met the other women who were all leaving for dinner together. I was pleased to meet some of the others on the tour, but declined the invitation to dinner. I was exhausted. I’d missed the first full day of the pilgrimage, but my dream of seeing all Crete had to offer was just beginning!

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Foxglove Viewing at Cedar Hill

“View the drama of hundreds of blooming foxgloves and tour the gardens. Weed if you want! We can use the help!” This was the invitation we handed to friends a week ago to announce our Foxglove Viewing event. Since we held it on a weekday this year several of our friends couldn’t come. I’ve put together this camera tour just for them!

Partial Garden overview

After a rough ride through the creekbed that passes as our road this was the view that greeted everyone–foxgloves ranging in color from cream to magenta.

Front walk leading to our front door draped in native climber Virginia Creeper.

At the main entrance to the terraced garden this Trumpet honeysuckle (another native) beckons the hummingbirds to drink:

Near the honeysuckle on an east facing wall I’ve massed many of my house plants that enjoy fresh air of living outside all summer:

Heading toward the west side of the house we are approaching my Rusty Rustic Shade Garden:

This is the view out my bedroom window as seen from my sewing spot with the vintage Featherweight perched for all my quilting projects:

Now we are circling through the rustic Shade garden with several stops. Here you must use your imagination to see the remnant of a wood cook stove I dragged back from an abandoned site in the woods. The section of the stove bolted to the base held a two-section warming oven along the top. I’ve turned the whole unit up side down to use to display plants. Can you see it?

In the shadiest corner two elegant Yellow Lady’s Slipper, a native orchid, demand our attention. Two decades ago we found a small colony of these fabulous flowers located behind our house only to have them chewed to the ground by foraging deer. We fenced that struggling colony and watched it come back over time. Our deer fence worked. About ten years years ago we noticed a single seedling escaping out from under the fence. We transplanted it to this spot just in case the deer destroyed the original colony. As you can witness, this Lady’s Slipper has thrived under the careful watch of the painted wooden swan I found beside a dumpster in Fayetteville.

A small glass topped table and three metal chairs stand at the center of the shade garden. At the lower right is a bed of wild ginger, bloodroot, trillium, tiny crested iris, woodland phlox and christmas ferns–all native to these Ozark hills.

This metal grate was a “found object” I was thrilled to find near our turn off from the White River road to our place. Because both this grate and the glass top table are see-through they do not seem to command too much attention visually or overwhelm this small space.

As you can see here, I find myself drawn to all the shades of terra cotta whether rich fabric tones for my quilts or clay pots in shades of terra cotta which can range from pale orange to browns and even reds. Terracotta, terra cotta or terra-cotta derives from the Italian: “baked earth” and from the earlier Latin terra cocta). This is an earthenware, clay-based unglazed or glazed ceramic, where the fired body is porous.

Passing the terra cotta grouping and circling back toward the entrance we’re approaching another set of found objects. Walk closer to see the misshaped enamel basin filled with river rocks, soil and a delightful native sedum named woodland stonecrop–love the little green rose-like leaves of this plant that stays green year round and blooms in the spring. Only last week in repairing the bamboo fence that surrounds the shade garden did I find this freshly discarded antler not fifteen feet outside this shade garden. My eye decided that it would be a perfect “handle” here.

We had a picnic in the shade of a huge cedar tree in the back yard. This metal sculpture of a Great Blue Heron from my long time friend Martha has lounged there long enough to allow the Virginia Creeper to crawl upward.

You’ve missed the tour of the native plant nursery and exploring the terraces of the vegetable garden, but it was hot and sunny that day so few ventured to those gardens. Therese snapped this photo of my Rat Terrier companion, Zora, as she climbed on my lap as the day ended.

Posted in Garden Tour | 4 Comments