Back to the big city and cell phones, traffic and noise

This is our last morning in Door County. It's been a great trip. Not only have we all been productive, 

we went to a wonderful play (Tom Stoppard's Heroes) visited two spectacular gardens and spent some time at Kathy's house in the woods. Only Sandy, Jan and I came up this year; Sue couldn't make it. Kathy joined us part of the time, but she hasn't been well and didn't have energy for all of it. So this year it was three of us and Anita, our hostess.

We went back to the Garden Door, the master garden we visited last year, but the really spectacular treat was Overbeck's, a nearby private home and garden. This is a living work of art; the garden and the house being embellished with mosaics, stained glass and carved wood in amazing, tasteful ways, not at all exemplified by that website. 



Between the book workshop last week and art camp this week it's been the best two weeks I've had all year. Nothing like a little stimulation to make me forget all of my health problems. My week in Chicago should be equally good.

Report on book workshop

This was a workshop to learn techniques and make product. All of our materials were provided, mostly cut to size with only a few adjustments necessary. We began on Monday making four small books, using folds and tabs with no adhesive necessary. Signatures were stitched into the book creating different patterns on each spine. This technique really interested me; it’s much better for me than using glue. I plan to explore further. In the afternoon we made a soft cover Japanese stab bound book. This is the method I’ve been using to bind my books, although I never use soft covers. The interesting part, for me, was making book cloth for the covers. At the end of the day we had five books. I normally work very slowly. Just had to finish the butterfly stitching and stitching on two of the.small books. I went home completely exhausted and crawled into bed by 8:30.

Tuesday we began with a book with a butterfly binding. Again this is a stitch that becomes a decorative statement on the outside of the spine. Boards for the spine and covers were precut for us. We had our choice of bookcloth, endpapers, and linen thread for the stitching. Text block papers were provided precut. We folded and punched holes. In the afternoon we did origamizo, folding and dying papers. It’s an interesting process, but you never know exactly what will result. I can’t say I was happy with anything I made; maybe in time I’ll feel differently about it. I wasn’t so tired Tuesday night and was able to work on my unfinished books at home.

Wednesday was build-a-box day. Pam provided precut, thick boards for top, bottom and sides. We had to make size adjustments on the sides, giving us the opportunity to cut the thick board. Then we chose 10 different papers to cover the box, inside and out, top and bottom. We also received instructions and materials for making a half-size box. This is one of the projects I will work on when I return from Chicago. 
Thursday we created a bradel book: an old-style, fully bound book with a curved spine. The text block was made from watercolor paper, eight sheets cut from three full size sheets then folded and punched for stitching. The book has that fancy tape on the edges of the spine, heavy board covers and beautiful end papers. It’s obviously too precious to use. This was another wipe-out day; I was very tired all day and also had afib all day, making me feel really awful. I’m still trying to figure out what sets off the afib; maybe tired had something to do with it. I doubled the meds in the evening and have been OK since. Again, I don’t really know if this is a fix or maybe a placebo effect. 

Friday we began with some single page, folded books. You can download and print some artist designed papers here. Using the same fold we made pages for a journal in a box. The box was made from a recycled cereal box. I have all the folded papers but didn’t finish cutting and gluing; another project for when I return. We finished the day folding a blizzard book and a crown book. I didn’t do a good job folding so I have to try again. Both books really interest me.

I was really sorry when the week ended. I loved the workshop and would happily do it again. I was hoping for a little more emphasis on technique; my craftsmanship leaves much to be desired. But I think there are no secrets; I just have to be more careful. 

On the road

Sunday June 20

Another beautiful, sunny day. Yesterday was a nostalgia trip. Some of my visits in Chicago concern the here and now, but often they dip back into the fathomless past. I spent the night with Joan, Richard’s cousin. I’ve known her since I was 20, and even though I am no longer Richard’s wife, she remains my cousin. We deal with the here and now, but the past sits just behind an open door.  We talked non-stop, all through dinner and on to a visit to Linda and Tom, who live in a house filled with art. Tom is an amazing, highly productive artist. I ache for him, that he does not get more recognition.

I am sitting in Joan’s kitchen watching the birds at the feeders, the squirrel under the feeders cleaning up seeds the birds dropped and a chipmunk that steals seeds and darts away. 


We went to see more of Tom’s art: sculpture being installed on the Purdue campus; 


Linda, Joan, Ed and Tom 

a wonderful mosaic with 150,000 tiles at Andrean High School. 

 I am overwhelmed by this man.

More talk, then into Chicago with traffic as bad as I’ve ever seen it. If this happens on Sunday, what must Monday be? I made a quick, unsatisfying stop at Paper Source, then out to Arlington Heights to meet with Sandy and Jan over a wonderful dinner. We looked at the books from the workshop, which inspired Sandy to add more tools and materials to the supply we are carrying.  Tomorrow morning, after quick stops at Trader Joe’s for snacks and Office Depot for more paper, we’re off to Door County.


The drive to Door County was largely uneventful–only about 10 minutes of heavy rain as we left Illinois. We arrived about 3, unpacked the car visited over lemonade and then another show and tell for Anita and Kathy. We are now suitably inspired and ready to go to work tomorrow.

Cardio update

Wearing the monitor, last Thursday, nothing happened until early Friday morning. Then I was back in afib for the day, but it was never as bad as Wednesday had been. I went back to rehab and exercised in spite of the flutter. When I woke up Saturday morning, still fluttering, or fibbing as they call it, I took the old dose of my meds. By noon I was feeling good and have been fine ever since, even though I immediately went back to the reduced dose. I tried to ask the doctor about it, but his staff just told me to do what he had said and wait to hear from them. (Remember, he has the personality of a drill sergeant.)

I've been waiting all week; in fact, I'd pretty much given up. Since I was feeling good, I didn't care. Today was the big day–they finally called, not with an answer, but an order to come in again, possibly on June 29. Obviously, this is not an emergency. I made the appointment for July 6. I have a busy three weeks coming up and I won't let them spoil it.

Next week I'm taking that book making workshop at the Society for Contemporary Craft. Then the next day, Saturday, I'm driving to Chicago then on to Door County for another art camp. Back to Chicago the next week to visit with friends and relatives and attend a nephew's wedding. I'll get back here July 5. But I promise I'll post again before that.

Tunnel books

I finally made a tunnel book from my pictures of the tunnel under the convention center. This is the second incarnation; the first was terrible.

Here it is from the top:

It's OK, but it doesn't convey the feeling of the tunnel, which is long, cool, dark, and a little eerie. I'll try again with more space between each of the pictures; maybe that will work better.

Here is the tunnel book I made in the workshop.

We were given the handmade paste papers, so we worked with what we had. In two weeks I am taking a week long book making workshop with Pam Sussman. I don't think it will be this kind of book, but I'm hoping to sharpen my skills.

New project

The next book I make will be about Japanese Gardens, at least the ones I've visited. I'm still enchanted with the gardens. I would like to return to Japan and remain from October through April or May so I could see the gardens at the most interesting times. It probably won't happen, but working on another book lets me enjoy the photos and memories all over again. Here are three collages using some of the photos from Rikugien, the Tokyo garden where I met the origami lady. Most of these photos were not posted before.




I never took multiple Gigapan-like photos as I did in my backyard, so I can't make that kind of collage. Only the one immediately above comes anywhere close to it. I want to immerse you in my view of the garden. I don't think any of these are really successful; I'll keep trying.

Looking back

Just finished Barbara Kingsolver's newest, The Lacuna. Her fictionalized protagonist interacts with the real history of the early twentieth century: Russian revolution, Trotsky, Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo and finally, the anti-communist witch hunters in Washington. I don't know much about Russian history, but the witch hunters had a profound affect on me. I was 16 years old and started college in 1950 at the height of all the madness. The college seemed to be noted for its communist sympathies (the chancellor was one of the few who stood up early on to the various investigations), and my father was worried about what this would do to me. He made me promise not to get involved and not to sign any petitions. Did I know any Communists? Maybe. Was I afraid? Absolutely!

I obeyed him until I finished school, after all he was paying the bills. Then I decided I would never act out of fear again. I sign any petitions that sound reasonable. I write my Congress people often, and tell them exactly what I think. But I have given up marching. After months of marching against the Vietnam war, and being photographed (by the FBI) so often I have no soul left, I decided the whole thing was useless. 

All during the Bush administration I felt we were headed back to the same mentality that made Joe McCarthy and J. Edgar Hoover into heroes. I still feel like we're going there when I hear Glen Beck, Sarah Palin, etc. expounding on patriotism, being an American and denigrating Obama and the Democratic Party.

Going over the Constitution with my Somali refugee I realized we have diluted the power of that amazing document. How about the first amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or
prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of
speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to
assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

We have made religion a major concern of government, freedom of speech and freedom of the press into a mockery of rational thinking and reasonable ideas. And here in Pittsburgh we have more than a few questions about the right of the people to peaceably assemble. My student has many questions about our right to bear arms. He's afraid of his neighbors and their guns.

Have you read the preamble:

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect
union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the
common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings
of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this
Constitution for the United States of America.

Sometimes I think it should read: We the lobbyists of the United States, in order to pursue more perfect profits, …And how do you insure domestic tranquility when you don't know who is carrying the submachine gun? Explaining all this to him was not easy. I'm glad he passed the test and we can go on to something easier.

Book review, my first and probably last

Sometimes, when I have taught classes with an inspirational component, I have recommended books that excited me but never touched anyone else in the class. I suspect the recommendation to read My Stroke of Insight may have been one of those. It is a memoir, but of a highly complex event requiring a lot of sophisticated, technical information. Although the technical part is well written, there is also a fair amount of self-help and spiritual stuff, only loosely connected to the real topic of the book.

Since I have been warned about strokes many times, I found the description of having a stroke and the rehab process to be useful, When I had my heart problems last year I first suspected I was having small strokes. And I have often wondered about the rehab process, which Taylor criticizes.

In 1980 my father had Guillain Barre syndrome. After seven weeks on a ventilator he began to recover and was sent to a rehab facility where they treated him like a stroke patient. The prevailing belief at that time and probably into the present, was that stroke patients had to be continually prodded and motivated to do things. Taylor questions the prodding and the methods of motivating. In effect she says each person should be individually evaluated and treated for their own needs, not by an overall generalized protocol.

Guillain Barre is not a brain disease but rather a disease of the peripheral nervous system. I was told at the time that patients needed only to recover and heal the damaged parts of the nervous system. There was no other treatment. Therapy at the rehab center was devastating for my father. He never trusted doctors and hospitals and was always a little paranoid. Unable to perform as expected he decided the rehab staff was antisemitic and was out to get him. He checked himself out of the hospital, although still unable to walk, and went home to my mother's care. Both were in their 70s at the time. Taylor was fortunate: her mother cared for her and managed her rehab fully cognizant of her needs.

All of this, except for an overdose of adjectives, was the good part of the book. What bothered me were later chapters dealing with right brain-left brain issues and how to connect with the inner peace of our right brain. I could see the publisher leaning on her to make the book a little longer (it's only 183 pages), add some self-help stuff–that always sells.


I almost turned off the computer without posting. I guess it wouldn't be a tragedy, but I'll try to hang in there.

No classes today. I took a two mile walk. It was beautiful when I began then the sky slowly began to cloud over and it got cooler. I wasn't properly dressed, having decided I'd be warm enough without a coat. When the bus conveniently arrived I got on, cutting a mile off my walk.

I've gone through about six chapters in My Stroke of Inspiration. I can't say I love it; I'm not sure why it was recommended, but it has an excellent description of a stroke. Since this is what my doctors are always warning me about–high cholesterol and afib–and since I frequently don't understand what constitutes a medical emergency, it's good to read about this in detail. After I fell a couple of months ago I realized it had never occurred to me to use my cell phone and get help. It didn't matter, since help came my way fairly quickly, but I feel remiss that I never gave that phone a thought. I'll write more about this book when I finish reading it. I feel like there are important lessons to be learned from it.

Tuesday–still posting

Here it is 10:46 pm and I don't know what to write. I left the house before nine this morning, drove my car over to Robin's then walked to the bus, where it seemed like I waited forever.

This was my last memoir writing class. I've invited the class to send stories to me and I'll post them on Silver Streakers. Check in tomorrow for the first one. I met Linda for lunch. Haven't seen her in a long time, so that was good. After a quick visit to the library I went to my audit class where I learned a little more about women in Asian art. I thought I was going to love this class, but it hasn't worked out that way. I went back to Robin's and walked Darcy for her. Finally home and dinner.

I now have five books on my night stand, probably four too many. I've been working on Ted Kennedy's memoir, which I'm not enthralled with. Some of it is interesting but I really don't enjoy books that begin with birth and work their way slowly and steadily through the subject's life. I prefer messier efforts. I have two books about Robert Flaherty, which I will just skim. At the library I picked up two more books: Jill Bolte Taylor's memoir, My Stroke of Insight, recommended by my memoir professor, and the best, The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. His previous book, The Shadow of the Wind is one of my all-time favorites.