January 27, 2010

Crochet Designers and About Crochet Design (list)

Inspiration is everywhere! Explore the following links and see what is going on in the world of crochet design.

And finally, a search on Amazon this morning brought up this surprising book!

  • Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes by Daina Taimina
    "This richly illustrated book discusses non-Euclidean geometry and the hyperbolic plane in an accessible way. The author provides instructions for how to crochet models of the hyperbolic plane, pseudosphere, and catenoid/helicoids. With this knowledge, the reader has a hands-on tool for learning the properties of the hyperbolic plane and negative curvature. The author also explores geometry and its historical connections with art, architecture, navigation, and motion, as well as the history of crochet, which provides a context for the significance of a physical model of a mathematical concept that has plagued mathematicians for centuries."



After writing the post above, I ordered the following books on Amazon. Become a "follower" of Appalachian Morning and you'll find out when I post reviews/comments/work I've done from these books, including a long musing on my love of felt:

January 19, 2010

What Nothing Teaches

The following article was written in 2007, just after a very happy occassion--my second marriage, 16 years after the end of my first. I found it on an CD where I'd saved some of my writing and thought I'd share it. At this time of winter, especially after the nothingness of snow blanketing everything and really amounting to something beautiful, and the blank slate of a brand new year, it seemed apropos. I wrote the following with the idea of a larger piece, a book perhaps, entitled "What Nothing Teaches."

On Saturday afternoons when I visit my son Bryce, especially in the early summer months . . . especially when the air is just warming up, yet not laden with moisture . . . I keep the windows rolled down on the one-hour drive over and tune into “This American Life” with Ira Glass. I love the program, the way a story is woven, up down back forth, through the circumstances of an individual. Not dissected as in Vanity Fair. Not marketed and sensationalized like CNN or “Dateline.” Simply told, much like a welcome guest tells an interesting story. Think Meryl Streep as Isak Dinesen in Out of Africa: “I tell stories.”

A good storyteller invites, rather than seduces with sensationalism or bullies with fear. A great storyteller not only captivates with plot, but with the art of description. The words themselves and the sounds of the syllables create an audible prose that elicits a response from the reader: intrigue, disgust, anticipation, empathy, pity, anxiety, peace, jealousy, understanding . . .

Today is not a Saturday, but a Wednesday. And I am not Ira Glass; not a gifted storyteller, noted journalist, or best-selling author. I’m a woman who works with words and lines and color for a living. Who treasured books as a child and now more accurately values them as an adult.

I am a mother of two sons, a sister to two women, a daughter and, most recently, a lover and wife. I’m an editor, designer, friend, client, patient, painter, vendor, customer, consumer, crocheter, baker, movie watcher, dog lover, writer. I will be even more things as life continues to unfold itself before me and as I say yes to it.

I love flowers, houseplants, yarn, make-up, good stationary, my husband’s laughter, our dogs’ personalities, my younger son’s compassion, strength, brains, style, talent, skin, voice, and humor. My older son’s tenacity, creativity, sensitivity, eyes, eyelashes and quirky pragmaticism.

I treasure my mother’s encouragement and my sisters’ belief in my abilities. In my youngest son I see the future extending like gently rolling farmland on a spring day. I won’t live to know it all, but I trust it will be there and he will make it his own wonderful story. That alone makes me happy.

With all this, there are still a few times a year I must silence the ringer on the telephone, head to the couch or bed, and lie there for an hour or two (with two small warm dogs) stunned, thankful, and bewildered. Anxious – even fearful – a dozen emotions at once in a mix that gently blends as I relax. And all these feelings and thoughts and memories and hopes become one thing, but even that one thing is not my soul. It is, however, my story.

In my story I walk down the coldest, longest, concrete and marble corridor to a stark confining room of Plexiglas, metal, and stone; down a hospital hallway to give birth; down an aisle as a too-immature bride. I walk into a store, twenty-nine years later, a middle-aged woman who knows something about herself, and love, and who is found by a man who will love me, and who I can love and build another life with. I’ve walked into dog pounds, county jails, doctors’ offices, courthouses, X-ray rooms, psychiatric hospitals, operating rooms, banks, nursing homes, car dealerships, airplanes, and post offices more than I wanted to.

I haven’t painted, written, photographed, organized, questioned, or documented as much as I wish I had. But there’s still time.

I love this time in my life. I love my family and my place in it. How did I get so lucky?

Of course, I don’t like everything. Although I once wrote a poem with lines about my memories, which “tap, tap, tap with unselfconscious ease/until I learn to cherish every one/that’s made me what I’ve finally become/someone who though once seemed so small/saw herself and forgave all.” Now I can be more forgiving of others because I’ve had enough time with myself to recognize my imperfections. And, like choosing the right haircolor, Clairol Nice-and-Easy #105G, or the best dress length (just below my knees), I’ve learned how to recognize my assets.
But back to the couch . . .

When I am there, and the mix of happy and sad thoughts and memories begin, sometimes tears form and creep along my Cover Girl-covered face, and, moments after they wet the pillow I’ve rested my head on, I fall asleep. And in sleep there is no heaviness, no sense of dread, no fear of what I’ve done and what I’ve left undone. No pressure, no memory, no want, no regret. I walk down a mental hallway of nothingness, and, in that brief moment of time before my dreams begin, I learn what nothing teaches.

Nothing is the silence before you say words that will change someone’s life forever.
Nothing is the pause before someone says “I love you” back. It’s the lack in your bank account, or in your heart. It’s what you didn’t get from your parents. Nothing is the emptiness, but also space. It’s lack, but also freedom. It’s the opposite of more, but not the same as less.

Nothing is what existed before you painted that painting, wrote that letter, baked that pie. It’s a blank slate. Nothing can hold promise or acceptance. Nothing includes everything we could have said and done, but didn’t.

Nothing is not very memorable – we seldom remember what we didn’t do, unless we are filled with regret. Then nothingness taunts us like a schoolyard bully. But then it is more of a something than a nothing.

Personally, I have an affinity for nothingness. It’s everything I don’t need. The nothingness is the white space that makes everything else in my life appear more vibrant than it otherwise might.

In A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers by Xiaolu Guo (Doubleday 2007) Guo describes a Buddhist stra, given in the book in Chinese letters and explained in English as follows: “it means the emptiness is without form, but the form is also the emptiness. The emptiness is not empty, actually it is full. It is the beginning of everything.” When I read this I knew that I was not the only one to value nothingness (oh naive Midwestern girl still inside of me). Or to contemplate it.

Perhaps part of appreciating all I’ve experienced and “gone through” is valuing the
nothingness. I can only describe the nothingness to you by the something surrounding it:

The person who could have been angry at me, but forgave instead.
The not waking up on time and going to the World Trade Center on the morning of 9/11.
The date who said “I could rape you” but didn’t.
The man who said “I could kill you” but didn’t.

The letter I threw away before sending.
The candy I didn’t eat.
The slap I wanted to inflict on my child, but didn’t.
The hatred I chose not to feel.

The resentment I knew I couldn’t let take root.
The television show I didn’t waste my time watching.
The street I didn’t go down that might have taken me somewhere not best for me to be.
The harsh words I didn’t say.
The words I heard and chose to forget. When I forgot, there was nothingness, and that nothingness was good for me.

I don’t know where these thoughts of nothingness will lead, and how they tie in with the idea of a good story; but there’s something there that holds my attention. And like so many somethings and several nothings in my past, I feel compelled to look closer.

Have you thought of nothing? Do the things you haven’t said or done ever take on the same significance as something that existed. Did you ever find emptiness to be “the beginning of everything”?

Man is equally incapable of seeing the nothingness from which he emerges and the infinity in which he is engulfed. - Blaise Pascal

--Janice Phelps Williams. © 2007
Image at top of this article is a colored pencil drawing by Janice Phelps Williams, copyright 2007, all rights reserved. For similar images visit http://www.gallery.janicephelps.com/.

January 1, 2010

Winter Renewal

The holidays, for the most part, are over. Soon the 60% and 90% off signs will come down in retail establishments and heart-shaped candy boxes will appear way too soon. Credit card statements will come in the mail as well as year-end earning reports to nervous shareholders. Children will return to school, snow will fall, winds will blow, ice will crack, the days will seem way too short and the workday, if we are fortunate enough to have one, will seem too long.

Winter seems a season of not-enough and can be especially limiting to the elderly and those copiing with disabilities. The fear of falling or the difficulties of navigating a wheelchair on a snowy sidewalk loom large north of the Mason Dixon line this time of year. The lack of natural light causes many of us to battle depression; and it is a battle. We wield positive thoughts like a near-sighted man learning to fence. For some, it is easier to stay in and count the days until baseball starts. For others, who work outside, who repair our electrical lines, gather our trash, continue construction jobs that oddly-enough were started in November... well, we can say they are lucky to have a job, but the truth is I wouldn't want to work outside in February in Ohio, or Michigan, or upstate New York, or Maine, or....

So, winter is here, Christmas 2009 is now Christmas-past. What to make of baby new year?

From a creative standpoint, the first quarter of any year can be an incredible time. Here's why:

1) Last year is done, there's a sense of "oh well..." as in "I didn't get that done...oh well" (big sigh, deep breath). Whatever was not done, accept it. Recite the Serenity Prayer. Let it go. Forgive yourself. Move on. Get a new calendar and plan ahead.

2) Things seem quieter in this period of blanketing snow. Use this calm, quiet to bundle up and walk outdoors, if you can; but also to think on what you want to make of the coming year. What is important to you, really important? What three things would you like to accomplish or experience this year? Write them down, perhaps in a notebook. Write them in as much detail as possible.

For instance:
"I'd like to spend more time with my adult son."

Could be expanded to be:
"I'd like to get to know my son better as an adult. To do this, I will share more of myself as an adult in an open-hearted way. I will resist the impulse to give advice, to make judgments. I will try to learn about his work, his dreams, his life challenges in a way that is not intrusive but keeps a door open for him to enter when the time is right. I will find out what he thinks is fun and see if I might find it fun as well. I will embrace those he loves and give thought to what he believes. In doing this, I will learn who this man is who was once my little boy."

Or, "I'd like to go on a cruise with my husband."

This could be expanded to be:
"I'm imagining time where there are no interruptions to our togetherness. No phone calls or emails or text messages from family, friends, or clients. No deadlines. We'll sit on the ship, hold hands and watch the sun set. We'll eat new kinds of food that we won't have to prepare. We'll read books for hours, if we want, see some shows, dress up for dinner. It will be like a second honeymoon."

Whatever your goals are for this year, imagine them in as much detail as possible. Write it down. How will you feel losing weight, starting that cottage industry or home-based business, planning for college, seeing that child graduate and leave home in May? What good can come of it--focus on the positive not the negative. These are goals, positive musings. You can find at least one for the year, right? The are opportunities and hopeful things to plan for all around us, even when life is challenging, even in the middle of winter.

3) Not only is there a sense of quiet contemplation in winter, and a sense of "oh well" over things that were not done in the previous year, but the first months of a new year are fresh, new, like a beautiful snowfall untouched by anything. And if you believe you have the power to write what you want on those new days, you will discover an amazing thing. That you can reach your dreams. You can achieve more than you may have thought possible. Life can hold wonderful experiences that at this point, on January first, you have no idea of. A good and wonderful experience is just around the corner.

"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams," said Eleanor Roosevelt. It is one of my favorite quotes and so true. I put this quote right up there for me with "I must do that which I fear most," by the same woman.

When my soul and my life were in winter (and I'm not talking weather here), these two sayings really made a difference. Before I published a book, illustrated a book, published the work of 20 other authors, or edited and designed 200 books for other authors and publishers, I took out a red lipstick and wrote a hopeful sentence on a mirror in my bedroom that I looked at each day. It was my message to myself; it was the truth I told myself; it was my letter to myself: "May all your dreams come true." And while it takes some reflection to remember the things I would rather forget, it takes no time at all to bring to mind my dreams. I only have to look around me; they have all come true and now, in 2010, it's time to imagine new dreams.

For there are always new dreams to have, and this I have learned from my mother who, in her eighth decade of life, continues to dream. If she decided to take up a new hobby or return to college, I wouldn't be at all surprised. She is perpetual youth mixed with mature wisdom. Feminine grace and steely determination. How much I love her and admire her example.

So, let me let you go now. Go forward in this wonderful new year, holding in your hand a piece of paper or an iPhone with an electronic notepad or a laptop with a Word document that is titled "2010 Dreams." Write at least one dream down today, in detail. It will take you fifteen minutes at most. Save it to your desktop, put it on your refrigerator. Smirk at anyone who mocks it. Disregard anyone who judges it.

It's your dream, all yours. And the future belongs to you.

Happy New Year from the foothills of Appalachia this early Friday morning, January first.