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Archive for September, 2012

Mellow Fruitfulness

This entry actually belongs on the Ekphrasis page.  But since the home page gets more visitors, here it is:

Ode to Autumn

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
        Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
    Conspiring with him how to load and bless
        With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
    To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
        And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
            To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
    With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
        And still more, later flowers for the bees,
        Until they think warm days will never cease,
            For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
        Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
    Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
        Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
    Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
        Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
            Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
    And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
        Steady thy laden head across a brook;
        Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
            Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
        Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
    While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
        And touch the stubble plains with rosy hue;
    Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
        Among the river swallows, borne aloft
            Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
    And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
        Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
        The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
           And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

John Keats (1795-1821)

(Painting, “Seasons of Mellow Fruitfulness 2” by M. Been–inspired by John Keats.)

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What a joy, to sit outdoors and spin in the September sunshine!  Just as wonderful as spinning by our (electric) fireplace, on a bitter cold winter day.  It’s a joy to spin, anywhere at anytime!

Our gardens made it through the drought, and are still blessing us with roses (blooming for the third time around this summer), foxgloves, hydrangeas, black-eyed Susans, echinacea, hostas, dahlias, and those ubiquitous and gorgeous ever-blooming snapdragons.  I spin to the ambience of a fresh and colorful garden—replete with the blended fragrance of herbs which thrived in the hot, dry summer:  lavender, mint, lemon thyme, sweet basil, oregano, sage, chives, and garlic chives.

I spin to the chirping of birds and the scuttling of chipmunks—one of whom pauses to watch me sometimes.  (That must be the little fellow who let me stroke his silky back a few weeks ago.)

I spin!  Now I have the most amazing source of dyed roving, ready to spin:  Psalm 23 Farm, near Kiel, Wisconsin.  The farm belongs to a family from England.  One of the daughters, Laura, is in charge of the sheep and wool—and this young lady is an absolute artist at dying and blending colors.  With Laura’s (pictured above) combination of Shetland wool and mohair (hair from Angora goats) I’m currently spinning the most incredibly beautiful yarn I’ve ever made in all of my thirty-two years of hand spinning on my trusty wheels.

As I spin, people walk by on our condo community sidewalk—or on the park path just up and over the berm.  Occasionally someone will pause and wonder what I am doing.  One woman walked by yesterday, turned around to take a second glance, and smiled.  She said, “My mother used to do that!”

More often, though, the walkers pass by in their “ingrown toenail world” created by cell phones, a Blackberry®, or whatever.  I hear the pedestrians talking, and I see them texting. 

Others jog past me, buffeting their bodies—with their hands cupped in front of them, exactly the way groundhogs wear their paws.  These hardy individuals look sweaty and miserable.  I have never seen a jogger who looked happy, and I always wonder:  do they hear the birds, and observe the awesome cloud formations in the sky?  Do they even notice the subtle seasonal changes?  Do they realize we are now in that poignant, bittersweet month of September—experiencing the dying gasp of summer? 

Normally the talkers, texters, and joggers fail to notice a contented old woman sitting on her doorstep—a living anachronism.  But I’m not sitting and spinning in order to “be noticed”.  I’m sitting and spinning in celebration of an abundant, hands-on life.  The yarn is growing on my bobbins, and turning into a sweater on my knitting needles.  What a joy!

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

NOTE:  Years ago, when Joe and I toured the back roads of Scotland, I expected to see spinning wheels everywhere.  Indeed there were sheep everywhere, but the absence of spinners was a shock to me! 

Then we stopped near Perth, to visit the factory which produced the spinning wheels I was selling in my home fiber arts business.  The owner of the factory treated us to tea and biscuits (cookies in our language). 

Over the refreshments, I asked him if there were any spinners left in Scotland.  He explained that, although traditional fiber artists were still spinning in touristy places like the Orkney and Shetland Islands, for the main part women in Scotland were too close to memories of abject poverty.   Most of the spinning wheels produced in his factory were sold to America and Australia.

For centuries, the fiber arts filled a need for survival rather than a penchant for pleasure.   A sobering thought!  How blessed we are in America to have the freedom, leisure time, and prosperity to live a hands-on life by choice!

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